Today we've got another interview coming your way on Knowledge, Adventure and Wonder. He's the creator of The Alternate History Weekly Update, an alternate history aficionado and a good friend of mine. He's Matt Mitrovich and he is our guest for the day. So without further ado, let's get on with the interview.
1) In your own words, who is Matt Mitrovich?
What a surprisingly difficult question. There are a lot of words that can be used to describe me: blogger, author, attorney, alternate historian, husband, son, brother, American, etc. I think a simple explanation is that I am just nerd who really enjoys alternate history.
2) When did you first discover alternate history?
It had to happen early in my high school career. I remember going to the local book store and stumbling upon a paperback copy of Worldwar: In the Balance by Harry Turtledove where Hitler and Churchill are standing next to each other on the cover. Knowing a thing or two about World War II already, such a pairing was definitely a head turner. I bought the book and the rest, as they say, is history.
3) What inspired you to start The Alternate History Weekly Update?
It's complicated. I started blogging during a time in my life when I was at my lowest. I felt my career was going nowhere and despite the number of times I told people I wanted to be a writer, I never actually wrote anything. Blogging was a way of letting off some steam from work and proving to myself I could write on a regular basis. Choosing what to write was difficult at first. I wanted to write about alternate history, but I needed a certain angle. Anyone could write their own alternate history timelines or scenarios and post them on the web, but I wanted to do something unique.
That is when I realized that most alternate historians don’t know a damn thing about the genre. Most knew the major authors and a few of the major sites, but topics like the Sidewise Awards or more obscure creators were mysteries to the fans. I decided then that I would write about the genre itself. I would cover the news and educate people about the history and people behind alternate history.
With Alternate History Weekly Update’s five year anniversary coming up next June, I think I made the right decision.
4) I've heard that you've published a bit of fiction yourself in the past. Can you tell us a little about that?
As mentioned above, part of the reason why I started The Update was to practice my writing. Once I became more comfortable with blogging, I decided to take a crack at writing fiction. I chose to write a short story first because I wanted to be pragmatic and didn’t think I could produce a novel just yet. My first short story I ever finished, “Collapse Theory”, has yet to be published. Although I was pretty proud of it, most publishers I submitted it to passed on it. Eventually I became frustrated with it and moved on to something else.
My first short story to be accepted by a publisher was “The Enchanted Bean”, which was a steampunk retelling of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale. You can find a copy of it in Once Upon a Clockwork Tale. I published several other shorts after that: “Road Trip” (Forbidden Future), “A Perfect Hell on Earth” (Jake’s Monthly: Recollection) and “Revenants of Warfare” (The Were-Traveler).
To be honest I haven’t written much fiction since. When I was able to officially say that I was a published author, I lost interest in writing anything else. I really enjoyed blogging so I focused on that instead. Recently I have been feeling the urge to write fiction again and might even try for a novel, but we will see what the future brings.
5) Now, I'm not personally a fan of the favorites game, but do you have a favorite work of alternate history?
I really have a soft spot in my heart for Worldwar: In the Balance, because it was the first alternate history book I read, but even I think “In the Presence of Mine Enemies” (the short story, not the novel) is my favorite Turtledove work. I enjoy the works of SM Stirling as well. He is probably one of the best world builders in the genre and knows how to write a series. Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula books are great as well if you like dark humor and pop culture references. Even though his writing is a little old fashioned, I always enjoy reading anything by Harry Harrison. Newer authors I have enjoyed include Michael J. Martinez and Tony Schumacher. Stephen Baxter isn’t a new author per se, but I only started diving into his bibliography recently and I am happy to report I have enjoyed every minute of it. So to answer your question: no, I don’t have just one favorite work of alternate history
6) You used to be an admin for the AltHistory Wikia, before it went down hill, what was that like?
It was fun while it lasted. I got the job because I’m pretty sure I annoyed the other admins with my constant reports of vandals and spammers. They will deny it, but I am pretty sure they made me an admin just so I would take care of those issues myself and not annoy them anymore. To their eternal horror (I’m guessing) I was a very active admin and pushed for reforms and created written guidelines for what were previously unspoken rules. I made a lot of good friends and I think even gained a level of respect.
Then things started to go down hill. People I knew left and a new group of editors joined. Many were good, but a lot had more snark than skill. I soon just became exhausted with the constant arguments and challenges. I also realized I spent more time policing the wiki then actually writing anything. This was around the same time I started The Update, so I “retired” as an admin and threw myself into blogging.
Although I did eventually return to the AltHistory wiki in a limited capacity, I was soon put off by the current user base. Again, there are still a lot of good editors working there, but they are being overshadowed by the people who are dragging the wiki down. I hope one day the AltHistory wiki can improve, but until then I will remain a lurker.
7) So you're serving as a judge for the Sidewise Awards. Can you tell us a how you were selected, and for readers who may not have heard of them, tell us a bit about the awards themselves.
The Sidewise Awards for Alternate History is an annual award given out at Worldcon for the best alternate history novel and short story. It was founded in 1995 by Steven H Silver, Robert Schmunk and Evelyn Leeper. Since then many judges have come and gone. Steven is currently the only original judge still serving (although Evelyn helps out behind the scenes and Robert still hosts the awards’ page on his website, Uchronia).
There really isn’t much of a story to how I was selected. Steven emailed me asking if I would serve a judge. After I finished squealing with geeky glee, I emailed him back saying I would. The next awards are going to be presented in 2016 at MidAmeriCon II and I hope to be in attendance. If anyone else is going, let me know and maybe we can meet up to talk alternate history.
8) You recently started your own YouTube channel. What inspired you to do so, especially at a time when many users feel that YouTube has thrown them under the bus.
I enjoy experimenting with new mediums and YouTube was something I felt was deficient when it came to alternate history. Don’t get me wrong, Cody Franklin’s Alternate History Hub is something even people who are not fans of the genre should check out, but besides him, there really aren’t any other channels I can recommend.
Creating my own channel is my own effort to rectify that situation. I am still set in “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” mode, so I can’t really talk too much about what I am doing. I can say I am approaching alternate history on my channel, The Alternate Historian, the same way I did it for The Update.
9) Are there any non-alternate history books that you happen to be a big fan of?
1984, Fitzpatrick’s War, The Lost Fleet series, World War Z, Theodore Rex, Vortex, The Dark Tower series, The Zombie Survival Guide, Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, Starship Troopers, Mythology, “The Good War”, Lies My Teacher Told Me, Starfighters of Adumar, The Jungle, Revelation Space, Marvel Zombies, The Kingkiller Chronicles...the list goes on.
10) Besides your own blog you're a frequent contributor at Amazing Stories. How'd you get started with that, and what's that like?
Again, not a very exciting story. Before Steve Davidson, the editor of Amazing Stories, relaunched the magazine, he was looking for contributors. I filled out his form and he contacted me back and offered me a place on the staff. I tried various different ways to write for the magazine and eventually just said “screw it” and wrote about alternate history.
Steve has been one of the best editors I ever had and he has been very supportive, especially when I asked to go from a weekly to a bi-monthly schedule. He is passionate about Amazing Stories and I look forward to seeing all of his hard work pay off.
11) What does the future hold for Matt Mitrovich?
Well I want to write more fiction and produce better quality videos for my channel. I also want to encourage more guest posts to The Update to give me time to do both of those. We shall see though. I try not to plan too far in advance.
In truth, 2016 will be the year where my wife and I focus on bringing home Baby Mitro. We are planning to adopt and if you would like to learn more, check out our blog or are GoFundMe page.
12) Any advice for aspiring bloggers and alternate historians?
For bloggers (and writers in general) my advice is to start writing. There is a 99% chance that you are not a genius, so don’t worry about whether your content is “good”. Just write on a regular basis about something and share it with others. You will get better as time goes on and hearing criticism, even if it is not constructive, will help you improve.
As for alternate historians, always always always do your research. If I ever have to read about another British North America (in a world where the Americans lost the Revolutionary War) having to buy Florida from Spain, I will teleport to where you live and beat you with one of your Turtledove books (don’t lie, we all have at least one).