Harry Turtledove

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Many things are possible. Few things are certain.

Harry Norman Turtledove (born 14 June 1949) is an American novelist, best known for his works in several genres, including that of alternate history, historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction.


  • I see people who write characters who are loonies and make them convincing and believable, and I envy them tremendously. I don’t really understand them. It’s funny, because I’ve created my own monster. In the ‘Great War’ and ‘American Empire’ books, I’m writing the person who is the functional equivalent of Adolf Hitler. I’m inside his head — and that’s a very strange place for somebody who thinks of himself as a fairly rational fellow to be. That’s alarming
  • I suspect S.F. has an individualistic, antiauthoritarian trend to it not least because so many of the people who read and write it (not all by any means, but quite a few) are innerdirected introverts who make neither good leaders nor good followers. Am I talking about myself? Well, now that you mention it, yes. But I ain’t the only one, not even close.

The Guns of the South (1992)[edit]

  • Robert E. Lee paused to dip his pen once more in the inkwell. Despite flannel shirt, uniform coat, and heavy winter boots, he shivered a little. The headquarters tent was cold. The winter had been harsh, and showed no signs of growing any milder. New England weather, he thought, and wondered why God had chosen to visit it upon his Virginia.
    • p. 3
  • Keeping the Army of Northern Virginia fed and clothed was a never-ending struggle. His men were making their own shoes now, when they could get the leather, which as not often. The ration was down to three-quarters of a pound of meat a day, along with a little salt, sugar, coffee- or rather, chicory and burnt grain- and lard. Bread, rice, corn... they trickled up the Virginia Central and Orange and Alexandria Railroad every so often, but not nearly often enough. He would have to cut the daily allowance again, if more did not arrive soon. President Davis, however, was as aware of all that as Lee could make him. To hash it over once more would only seem like carping.
    • p. 4
  • A gun cracked, quite close to the tent. Soldier's instinct pulled Lee's head up. Then he smiled and laughed to himself. One of his staff officers, most likely, shooting at a possum or squirrel. He hoped the young man had scored a hit. But no sooner had the smile appeared than it vanished. The report of the gun sounded- odd. It had been an abrupt bark, not a pistol shot or the deeper boom of an Enfield rifle musket. Maybe it was a captured Federal weapon. The gun cracked again and again and again. Each report came closer to the one than two heartbeats were to each other. A Federal weapon indeed, Lee thought: one of those fancy repeaters their cavalry like so well. The fusillade went on and on. He frowned at the waste of precious cartridges- no Southern armory could easily duplicate them. He frowned once more, this time in puzzlement, when silence fell. He had automatically kept track of the number of rounds fired. No Northern rifle he knew was a thirty-shooter. He turned his mind back to the letter to President Davis. -Valley, he wrote. Then gunfire rang out again, an unbelievably rapid stutter of shots, altogether too quick to count and altogether unlike anything he had ever heard. He took off his glasses and set down the pen. Then he put on a hat and got up to see what was going on.
    • p. 4
  • Bureau of Ordnance, Richmond
    January 17, 1864
    General Lee:
    I have the honor to present to you with this letter Mr. Andries Rhoodie of Rivington, North Carolina, who has demonstrated in my presence a new rifle, which I believe may prove to be of the most significant benefit conceivable to our soldiers. As he expressed the desire of making your acquaintance & as the Army of Northern Virginia will again, it is likely, face hard fighting in the months ahead, I send him on to you that you may judge both him & his remarkable weapon for yourself. I remain,
    Your most ob't servant,
    Josiah Gorgas
    • p. 5
  • Walter Taylor asked, "Mr. Rhoodie, what do you call this rifle of yours? Is it a Rhoodie, too? Most inventors name their products for themselves, do they not?" "No, it's not a Rhoodie." The big stranger unslung the rifle, held it in both hands as gently as if it were a baby. "Give it its proper name, Major. It's an AK-47."
    • p. 13
  • Lang kept at it until everyone had had a turn shooting an AK-47. Then he said, "This weapon can do one other thing I haven't shown you yet. When you move the change lever all the way down instead of to the middle position, this is what happens." He stuck a fresh clip in the repeater, turned toward the target circle, and blasted away. He went through the whole magazine almost before Caudell could draw in a startled breath. "Good God almighty," Rufus Daniel said, peering in awe at the brass cartridge cases scattered around Lang's feet. "Why didn't he show us that in the first place?" He was not the only one to raise the question; quite a few shouted it. Caudell kept quiet. By now, he was willing to assume Lang knew what he was doing. The weapons instructor stayed perfectly possessed. He said, "I didn't show you that earlier because it wastes ammunition and because the weapon accurate past a few meters- yards- on full automatic. You can only carry so many rounds. If you shoot them all off in the first five minutes of battle, what will you do once they're gone? Think hard on that, gentlemen, and drill it into your private soldiers. This weapon requires fire discipline- requires it, I say again."
    • p. 31
  • "It is an evil, sir, an unmitigated evil," Lincoln said. "I shall never forget the group of chained Negroes I saw going down the river to be sold close to a quarter of a century ago. Never was there so much misery, all in one place. If your secession triumphs, the South will be a pariah among nations." "We shall be recognized as what we are, a nation among nations," Lee returned. "And, let me repeat, my being here is a sign secession has triumphed. What I would seek to do now, subject to the ratification of my superiors, is suggest terms to halt the war between the United States and Confederate States." Lincoln refused to call Lee's country by its proper name. As a small measure of revenge, Lee put extra weight on that name. Lincoln sighed. This was the moment he had tried to evade, but there was no evading it, not with the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia in his parlor. "Name your terms, General," he said in a voice full of ashes.
    • p. 176-177
  • The crowd of ragged Confederates on the White House lawn had doubled and more since he went in to confer with Lincoln. The trees were full of men who had climbed up so they could see over their comrades. Off in the distance, cannon occasionally still thundered; rifles popped like firecrackers. Lee quietly said to Lincoln, "Will you send out your sentries under flag of truce to bring word of the armistice to those Federal positions still firing upon my men?" "I'll see to it," Lincoln promised. He pointed to the soldiers in gray, who had quieted expectantly when Lee came out. "Looks like you've given me sentries enough, even if their coats are the wrong color." Few men could have joked so with their cause in ruins around them. Respecting the Federal President for his composure, Lee raised his voice: "Soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia, after three years of arduous service, we have achieved that for which we took up arms-" He got no further. With one voice, the men before him screamed out their joy and relief. The unending waves of noise beat at him like a surf from a stormy sea. Battered forage caps and slouch hats flew through the air. Soldiers jumped up and down, pounded on one another's shoulders, danced in clumsy rings, kissed each other's bearded, filthy faces. Lee felt his own eyes grow moist. At last the magnitude of what he had won began to sink in.
    • p. 180
  • "With these victories to which you refer, the Confederate States do seem to have retrieved their falling fortunes," Lord Lyons said. "I have no reason to doubt that Her Majesty's government will soon recognize that fact." "Thank you, your excellency," Lee said quietly. Even had Lincoln refused to give up the war- not impossible, with the Mississippi valley and many coastal pockets held by virtue of Northern naval power and hence relatively secure from rebel AK-47s- recognition by the greatest empire on earth would have assured Confederate independence. Lord Lyons held up a hand. "Many among our upper classes will be glad enough to welcome you to the family of nations, both as a result of your successful fight for self-government and because you have given a black eye to the often vulgar democracy of the United States. Others, however, will judge your republic a sham, with its freedom for white men based upon Negro slavery, a notion loathsome to the civilized world. I should be less than candid if I failed to number myself among that latter group." "Slavery was not the reason the Southern states chose to leave the Union," Lee said. He was aware he sounded uncomfortable, but went on, "We sought only to enjoy the sovereignty guaranteed us under the constitution, a right the North wrongly denied us. Our watchword all along has been, we wish but to be left alone."
    • p. 182-183
  • "And what sort of country shall you build upon that watchword, General?" Lord Lyons asked. "You cannot be left entirely alone; you are become, as I said, a member of the family of nations. Further, this war has been hard on you. Much of your land has been ravaged or overrun, and in those places where the Federal army has been, slavery lies dying. Shall you restore it there at the point of a bayonet? Gladstone said October before last, perhaps a bit prematurely, that your Jefferson Davis had made an army, the beginnings of a navy, and, more important than either, a nation. You Southerners may have made the Confederacy into a nation, General Lee, but what sort of nation shall it be?" Lee did not answer for most of a minute. This pudgy little man in his comfortable chair had put into a nutshell his own worries and fears. He'd had scant time to dwell on them, not with the war always uppermost in his thoughts. But the war had not invalidated any of the British minister's questions- some of which Lincoln had also asked- only put off the time at which they would have to be answered. Now that time drew near. Now that the Confederacy was a nation, what sort of nation would it be? At last he said, "Your excellency, at this precise instant I cannot fully answer you, save to say that, whatever sort of nation we become, it shall be one of our own choosing." It was a good answer. Lord Lyons nodded, as if in thoughtful approval. Then Lee remembered the Rivington men. They too had their ideas on what the Confederate States of America should become.
    • p. 183
  • The Federal commissioners sat down across the mahogany table from their Southern hosts. After a couple of minutes of chitchat meant to be polite- but during which the three Confederates managed to avoid speaking directly to Butler- Seward said, "Gentlemen, shall we attempt to repair the unpleasantness that lies between our two governments?" "Had you acknowledged from the outset that this land contained to governments, sir, all the unpleasantness, as you call it, would have been avoided," Alexander Stephens pointed out. Like his body, his voice was light and thin. "That may be true, but it's moot now," Stanton said. "Let's deal with the situation as we have it, shall we? Otherwise useless recriminations will take up all our time and lead us nowhere. It was, if I may say so, useless recriminations on both sides that led to the breach between North and South."
    • p. 226
  • Judah Benjamin said, "The nations of Europe continue to abhor our policy, try as we will to convince them that we cannot do otherwise. Mr. Mason has written from London that Her Majesty's government might well have been willing to extend us recognition two years ago, were it not for the continuation of slavery among us: so Lord Russell has assured him, at any rate. Mr. Thouvenel, the French foreign minister, has expressed similar sentiments to Mr. Slidell in Paris." Slavery, Lee thought. In the end, the world's outside view of the Confederate States of America was colored almost exclusively by its response to the South's peculiar institution. Never mind that the U.S. Constitution was a revocable compact between independent states, never mind that the North had consistently used its numerical majority to force through Congress tariffs that worked only to ruin the South. So long as black men were bought and sold, all the high ideals of the Confederacy would be ignored.
    • p. 234
  • President Davis said, "The 'free' factory worker in Manchester or Paris- yes, in Boston as well- is free only to starve. As Mr. Hammond from South Carolina put it so pungently in the chambers of the U.S. Senate a few years ago, every society rests upon a mudsill of brute labor, from which the edifice of civilization arises. We are but more open and honest about the nature of our mudsill than other nations, which gladly exploit a worker's labor but, when he can no longer provide it, cast him aside like a used sheet of foolscap."
    • p. 234
  • Lee wondered how Jefferson Davis had ever managed to inveigle him into accepting the Confederate Presidency. Even without counting the armed guards who surrounded the presidential residence on Shockoe Hill, he found himself a prisoner of his position. To do everything that needed doing, he should have been born triplets. The one of him available was not nearly enough; whenever he did anything, he felt guilty because he was neglecting something else.
    • p. 458
  • "But there is no such thing as possessing a little freedom," Lee mused. "Once one enjoys any whatsoever, he will seek it all."
    • p. 512

Ruled Britannia (2002)[edit]

  • Dying Boudicca managed a feeble nod, and sent her last words out to a breathlessly silent Theatre:
    "E'en so; 'Tis true. Oh!- I feel the poison!
    We Britons never did, nor never shall,
    Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,
    But when we do first help to wound ourselves,
    Come the three corners of the world in arms,
    And we shall shock them. Naught shall make us rue,
    If Britons to themselves do rest but true."
    She fell back and lay dead. Shakespeare strode forward, to the very front of the stage. Into more silence, punctuated only by sobs, he said,
    "No epilogue here, unless you make it;
    If you want your freedom, go and take it."
    • p. 375
  • And then, to Shakespeare's amazement and dismay, Burbage and Will Kemp tramped forward together, both of them plainly intent on marching on the Tower of London, too. Shakespeare seized Burbage's arm. "Hold, Dick!" he said urgently. "Let not this wild madness infect your wit. Can a swarm of rude mechanicals pull down those gray stone walls? The soldiers on 'em'll work a fearful slaughter. Throw not your life away." Before Burbage could answer, Will Kemp did: "The soldiery on the walls may work a fearful slaughter, ay, an they have the stomach for't. But think you 'twill be so? A plot that stretcheth to the Theatre surely shall not fall short of the tower."
    • p. 376
  • But no line of ferocious, lean-faced, swarthy Spaniards appeared. Shouts and cries and the harsh snarl of gunfire suggested the dons were busy, desperately busy, elsewhere in London. When chance swept Shakespeare and Richard Burbage together for a moment, the player said, "Belike they'll make a stand at the tower." "Likely so," Shakespeare agreed unhappily. Those frowning walls had been made to hold back an army, and this... thing he was a part of was anything but. Up Tower Hill, where he'd watched the auto de fe almost a year before. A great roar, a roar full of triumph, rose from the men in front of him as they passed the crest of the hill and swept on towards the Tower Ditch and the walls beyond. And when Shakespeare crested the hill himself, he looked ahead and roared too, in joy and amazement and suddenly flaring hope. Will Kemp had been right, right and more than right. All the gates to the Tower of London stood open.
    • p. 379
  • Someone bumped into Shakespeare: Will Kemp. The clown made a leg- a cramped leg, in the crush- at him. "Give you good den, gallowsbait," he said cheerfully. "Go to!" Shakespeare said. "Meseems we are well begun here." "Well begun, ay. And belike, soon we shall be well ended, too." Kemp jerked his head to one side, made his eyes bulge, and stuck out his tongue as if newly hanged. With a shudder, Shakespeare said, "If your wind of wit sit in that quarter, why stand you here and not with the Spaniards?" "Why?" Kemp kissed him on the cheek. "Think you're the only mother's son born a fool in England?"
    • p. 394
  • For the Spanish Armada to have conquered England in 1588 would not have been easy. King Philip's fleet would have needed several pieces of good fortune it did not get: a friendlier wind at Calais, perhaps, one that might have kept the English from launching their fireships against the Armada; and a falling-out between the Dutch and English that could have let the Duke of Parma put to sea from Dunkirk and join his army to the Duke of Medina Sidonia's fleet for the invasion of England. Getting Spanish soldiers across the Channel would have been the hard part. Had it been accomplished, the Spanish infantry, the best in the world at the time and commanded by a most able officer, very probably could have beaten Elizabeth's forces on land.
    • Historical Note, p. 457

American Empire: The Victorious Opposition (2003)[edit]

  • Manicheism, n., The ancient Persian doctrine of an incessant warfare between Good and Evil. When Good gave up the fight the Persians joined the victorious Opposition.
  • Clarence Potter walked through the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, like a man caught in a city occupied by the enemy. That was exactly how he felt. It was March 5, 1934- a Monday. The day before, Jake Featherston of the Freedom Party had taken the oath of office as President of the Confederate States of America. "I've known that son of a bitch was a son of a bitch longer than anybody," Potter muttered.
    • p. 1
  • "I'm Jake Featherston, and I'm here to tell you the truth."
    • p. 274
  • Jake jerked a thumb at the door. "Al right. Get the hell out of here, and take all your pictures of naked women with you." "Yes, sir." Chuckling, Potter scooped up the folder of reconnaissance photos and started out. He paused with his hand on the doorknob. "Good luck," he said. "You've done everything you could to get us ready, but we'll still need it." "I'll put in a fresh requisition with the Quartermaster Corps," Jake said. Potter nodded and left. Jake shook his head in bemusement. He might have made stupid jokes like that with Ferd Koenig and a couple of other old-time Party buddies, but not with anybody else. So why make them with Potter? But he didn't need long to find the answer. He'd known Potter longer than he'd known Koenig or any of the other Party men. They'd both hung tough when the Army of Northern Virginia was falling to pieces all around them. If the president of the greatest country in North America- no, in the world!- couldn't joke around with the one man who'd known him when he was just a sergeant, with whom could he joke? Nobody. Nobody at all.
    • p. 533
  • Lulu made most of his telephone calls. He made this one himself, on a special line that didn't pass through her desk. It went straight from his office to the War Department. Men checked twice a day to make sure the damnyankees didn't tap it. It rang only once before the Chief of the General Staff picked it up. "Forrest speaking." "Featherston," Jake said, and then, "Blackbeard." He hung up. There. It was done. The die was cast. Whatever was going to happen would happen... starting tomorrow morning, early tomorrow morning. Summer had just come in. Jake worked through the rest of June 21. He ate supper, then went right on working through the night. Lulu brought him cup after cup of coffee. After a while, yawning, she went home to bed. He worked on, behind blackout curtains that kept light from leaking out of the Gray House and showing where it was from the air. June 21 passed through to June 22. All that coffee made Jake's eart thud and soured his stomach. He gulped a Bromo-Seltzer and went on. At a quarter past three, the drone of airplane engines and the thunder of distant artillery- not distant enough; damn those Yankee robbers!- made him whoop for sheer glee. He'd waited so long. Now his day was here.
    • p. 534.

The United State of Atlantis (2008)[edit]

  • A horsefly can't do a horse much real damage, but it can drive it wild anyhow.
    • p. 127
  • People you don't like are pigheaded. Your friends are stubborn, or hold to their purpose.
    • p. 184

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