Back to: Zombies at the door | Forward to: Books I will not write #6: Halting State Variations

Books I will not write #5: Floater in the Sea of Time

There is nothing like getting everyone mad at you simultaneously, is there? Personally, I take it as something of a challenge. And so, for the past few years I've been sitting on this book proposal for a highly commercial alternate history/time travel novel, fixed firmly in that sub-genre whereby $CONTEMPORARY_WARFIGHTING_UNIT is magically teleported back in time.

You probably remember the movie The Final Countdown (USS Nimitz magically teleported back to 1941, on the eve of the Pearl Harbour attack), or John Birmingham's highly successful "Axis of Time" trilogy (NATO carrier battle group, circa 2020, teleported back to 1941 ...) or the cultural variant novel "Island in the Sea of Time" by S. M. Stirling (Nantucket Island circa 1990 is teleported back in time, complete with inhabitants, to the era of the Trojan war) or "1632" by Eric Flint (mining town in Appalachia is teleported back in time to ...)

I have a shit-stirring variation ...

Let us contemplate the state of Israel, as it existed at 6pm on the evening of October 5th, 1973.

Today, more than a third of a century after the Yom Kippur War, Israel's military pre-eminence in the middle east is taken for granted; this is by no means an obviously vulnerable nation. Today, Israel's neighbours are effectively neutralized (lest we forget, Iran is roughly a thousand miles away: anti-Israeli rhetoric is cheap currency in Iranian politics) and for the past twenty years we've been treated to a very different picture of Israel as regional military hegemon.

In 1948 it was very easy to perceive Israel as a small, put-upon, embattled lifeboat, a last chance at safety for Jews at large in a hostile world that wanted them dead. By 2008, well ... not so much. TV news footage of soldiers shooting at stone-throwing kids, bulldozers demolishing houses; Arab leaders wringing their hands and making excuses for their own inability to do anything. When did things change? And how, and why?

1973 was very much a pivotal moment in the history of the middle east. And so, as a thought experiment, it makes a lot of sense to look at the political dynamics of Israel plunged into a different context: without explanation, transported back in time to June 20th, 1940.

In 1973, things were very different strategically. Israeli GDP has grown enormously since the lost decade of the 1970s and early 1980s, and Israel's population has more than doubled since then. Back in 1973, Israel had on the order of 3 million people and about a quarter to a third the per-capita GDP of the USA (at the same time). The IDF was highly effective, but the post-1967 arms embargo threatened to strangle their modernization program. Large numbers of WW2-era Sherman Firefly tanks and barely more modern Centurions made up the backbone of the armoured corps; the Air Force relied heavily on French Mirage III and V fighters (and indeed the arms embargo led directly to the Israeli theft of the blueprints for the Mirage V, resulting in the design of the Nesher and later Kfir). While it is believed the IDF possessed atomic weapons by 1973, their actual numbers and effectiveness would have been tiny — on the order of four to six Hiroshima-sized atom bombs, delivered as free-fall bombs by F4 Phantoms or A4 Skyhawks. Finally, there's the huge issue of the occupation: post-1967, Israeli forces occupied not only Gaza and the West Bank, but the strategically important Golan Heights and the Sinai peninsula, with defensive fortifications (the Bar Lev line) drawn up on the north bank of the Suez canal.

But I'm in danger of succumbing to techno-wank at this point, a besetting disease of wargamers past and present. And that's not my intention.

Let's take a look at this preposterous scenario and contemplate the consequences ...

It's 6pm. All the international phone and telegraph lines go dead; all FM radio traffic from outside the country dies: lights across the border go out. It's going to be glaringly obvious to the soldiers on duty on the Israeli border that something is wrong.

In Cairo, word is received that the railway line to Haifa is blocked and the phone lines to Palestine have been cut. Then very disturbing news will come in from the Suez canal; soldiers in foreign uniforms are seen on the north bank. Egypt and Palestine are both under British rule at this point, and there's a war on: it's highly likely that British soldiers, sent north to find out what's going on, will assume it's a Jewish or Arab uprising and an exchange of fire will take place, with devastating medium-term consequences. The situation in June 1940 is confused, panicky, with word of the French collapse feeding a perception of crisis throughout the British Empire. A hostile uprising that threatens the Suez canal — the lifeline linking India and the east African possessions (not to mention Australia and NZ) to the Mediterranean — is a nightmare scenario for Britain.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, the Israeli government and military are fresh from meetings to establish whether a multi-nation Arab attack is imminent. Both sides are extremely jittery; the only question is who pulls the trigger first.

Immediate consequence: a sharp border war between Great Britain and Israel.

Longer term ...

The sudden eruption of 1973 Israel into 1940 isn't going to end the war. Despite having a nuclear stockpile, Israel isn't in a position to end hostilities in Europe. Firstly, the strike radius of those weapons is comparable to the one-way flight range of a late-1950s jet fighter. They can hit Moscow, or Berlin, on a suicide mission. But six atom bombs won't stop the Third Reich in its tracks. Nor would they stop Stalin's Soviet Union. (The Israeli nuclear arsenal of 1983 or 1993 would be a whole different matter — but make for a much less interesting story.)

There is some prospect, in 1940, of a temporary treaty of convenience with the Axis powers — with Italy, at least. While the chances of Moshe Dayan sitting down in a smoke-filled room with Joachim von Ribbentrop are tiny (but what a tense scene that would be!), Golda Meier's government is trapped between a rock and a hard place — they're now under an effectively 100% impermeable blockade, and confronting a hostile British army to the south. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for the Jews of Europe, a significant political consideration for Israel in ~1973 (many of whose citizens are either refugees from the Holocaust, or first generation descendants of refugees). There are going to be negotiations (in bad faith, on both sides) leading to the exchange of refugees for resources such as oil. Followed, of course, by the inevitable double-cross.

Going forward, there are a couple of other scenes I wanted to write.

In 1973, El Al had taken delivery of its first Boeing 747-200. (And the IAF was receiving early C-130 Hercules transporters, but wasn't yet in a position to contemplate long-range operations such as the 1976 Entebbe hostage rescue.) Threatened by the British in Egypt to the south, by the Axis powers to the west, and potentially by the USSR to the north-east, there's one possible place for the Israeli government to look for help — Washington DC. And if there's one thing that's definitely going to yank Roosevelt's attention away from the deteriorating situation in the Pacific, it's going to be the sight of a gigantic airliner roaring over the White House, to land (probably wrecking its undercarriage in the process) at DC's airport with a diplomatic and military delegation on board, bearing an urgent plea for help and offering design blueprints for super-weapons.

And then, two years down the line, with the messy misunderstanding with the British more or less sorted out, there's a climactic sequence I really wanted to put on paper. It's an account of the First Battle of El-Alamein — the one in which General Rommel's Afrika Corps runs up against General Ariel Sharon's First Armoured Division, with messy consequences ... as witnessed from a dug-out by an absolutely terrified Gunner Spike Milligan.

(There are copious additional background notes. The Israelis, circa 1973, would not have been aware of the ENIGMA rotor machines or the Polish/British success at cracking the German military cyphers — this was only declassified in the UK in 1974-75. There was no computer internetworking outside the US (and a research environment in the UK) in 1973. Israel had on the order of a thousand computers by 1973, mostly mainframes and minicomputers; however, they'd likely have been able to manufacture transistors and possibly simple integrated circuits without too much difficulty. The nuclear establishment at Dimona is believe to have possessed some hundreds of tons of uranium ore, to have working military reactors, and a small plutonium stockpile. The blueprints of the Mirage V would have been available, albeit not yet in factory form — and they may well have been able to reverse-engineer the originally British-built Centurion tanks owned by the Israeli Army. And so on.)

But alas, this is another of those novels that isn't going to get written.

The research workload for doing an alternate history of this kind is murderous, as I think I implied in the first essay in this series. Moreover, this particular scenario ... let's just say, it's a great way to generate controversy! Death threats too, most likely. (In a scenario of desperation such as this, combining the darkest days of the second world war with a national battle for survival, nobody is going to come out covered in roses. In fact, it's going to resemble a cage match in a sewage farm. With alligators. Rabid alligators.)

I kicked the idea of doing this as a collaboration around with Steve Stirling; after all, if you're going to dip a toe in a sub-genre you're inexperienced in, why not look for a writing partner who's been there before? Unfortunately, the trouble with collaborations is that they're not a simple matter of each writer doing half the work; it's more like 66% each. We concluded that we simply wouldn't be able to get a big enough advance out of a publisher to make it worth our while. I'm almost relieved ...



I think the problem with a scenario like that is that it's going to look like the whole point of the book is to kick a few political anthills. Whether you intend it to be or not would be completely beside the point. Any qualities as an actual piece of entertainment would be pretty much irrelevant; in fact, writing it could be a fair bit easier than you think since making it good, solid and well-researched would be a waste of time.


It's a controversial idea (which is good) but for some reason not that appealing to me. I agree that it "out of the box" interesting but at the same time I'm not sure what could be "learned" from such an experience. The difference (33 years) is not that much and while it would be interesting to see how it would play out geo-politically it still doesn't really intrigue me (too much controversy, as if the author on purpose tried to hard to be confrontational). Also with all time travel of people back in time it would also be interesting to know "why" they where transported back in time and "how". That part of the story doesn't seem to fit into the alternate geo political history.

That said I don't read alternate history involving sending a group of unprepared people back in time. It's not my cup of tea


"But six atom bombs won't stop the Third Reich in its tracks"

Why not? I'd argue you could get away with one, on Berlin, so long as you get Hitler and the other crazies at the top, and ensure a large enough chunk of the OKW (who were based some way outside of central Berlin I believe) survive, plus possibly one more - perhaps to take out the British GHQ in Cairo - just to show you weren't lucky and have a whole bunch more of these things. After all it's only the Israelis that know they've only got four more left - they could tell the world that they've got thaasands ov 'em - who'd be willing to call their bluff?


It's interesting to see that the first three comments (me included) are negative. The other ideas you have shown seemed more intriguing...


I seem to remember Steve kicking around a similar idea, the two of you working together would have produced a fun read! But you're right that it wouldn't have been worth it compared to what the two of you do on your own.

It's an interesting idea though, one I've kicked around for fun. There's a strange appeal to the ".... in the sea of time" idea. One I really like is taking a university and throwing it back in time -- either a pivotal point in history or just to the year of founding. Imagine the University of Edinburgh showing up in 1582, for example. :)


add me to the "meh"-pile as well, but then I've never been that interested in AH settings. Some of them might be intriguing to think about, sure, but mostly I don't want to read them.

Although I have to admit my main thought whilst reading the above was "wait, is that a 'copy' or a 'move' operation? and if the latter, what happens to the 1973 world from which Israel has just disappeared? I there a black hole where it used to be? Water? nothing? Did it never exist? And if it is a copy operation, how does the copied instance affect the original one that stayed in 1973? AARGH MY HEAD HURTS". And so on.


Japanese manga has "Zipang", a reverse Final Countdown scenario with a JMSDF Aegis cruiser dropped into the beginning of the battle of Midway in 1941 (you might consider it as Japan's Pearl Harbor where the sneaky Americans launched a devastating surprise airborne attack on Japan's supposedly invulnerable aircraft carriers...)

Oddly enough it's not a triumphal "Splash the Zeros!" rah-rah story but rather a straightforward look at the problem, both logistical and personal. The ship, the Mirai (Japanese for "future") is a wonder to 1940s eyes but there are no spare parts or replacement ammo available for any of its systems and weapons -- the most powerful tool it carries to change the course of the war (not necessarily in Japan's favour) is its library of technical and history books. The ship's personnel break in different ways and causality is violated in at least one Palimpsest-like instance.

The first few books were turned into an anime series but it ended on an inconclusive note. The manga continues to be published.


So can you throw it in with the rabid alligators to rip bits off it and get the long novelette version out of it? :)


Dude, it was cruel to lay this all out and then pull the rug out from under us. This sounds like a book that would be right up my alley. Wow, thanks for the case of literary blue-balls.


The scenes where the Holocaust survivors from 1973 interact with themselves in 1940 would be an interesting (and perhaps contentious) read - on one hand you have (if you will) the action scenes where Israeli commandos storm a camp to rescue ... themselves! And on the other hand some very tricky scenes where 1973 family members meet younger, but long dead relatives in the 1940s. One for the reader, but a nightmare for the writer?

How would you deal with the similar FLT / travel-time problems that surface in Space Pirates of KPMG? Different SF sub-genre, different rules?

I'm almost relieved ...

And me, horribly disappointed.

of course, I'm leery with the alt-hist specialists. I wish Turtledove would stop redoing the history of the US and go back to more interesting eras (Basil Argyros, where are thou?). And I do want to bury Eric Flint and his collaborators. And hire zombie slaying specialists to make sure they don't escape the grave.

But I do like some good trashing of history. And yes, I consider (so far) Birmingham as a Good Author To Watch®

The pitch sounds horribly tantalizing. Notably (something Birminigham steered relatively clear off, even if he did allude to it at a few places), the interaction with 1973-survivors who are going to get rabid at saving themselves from the death camps. No matter what the costs.

Steve (Stirling) should probably wrap his post-Nantucket storyline real soon, before it goes to hell. Care to persuade him to do this on his own, even if you don't?

(ps: no comment on the blog title allusion. none)


I think people's reaction to your idea depends in part on how much they like "X in the Sea of Time" in the first place (moderately, in my case). To me, any scenario where people are going to meet younger versions of themselves is too big a can of worms. Scenario where they are likely to meet young versions of their own grandparents is far more fascinating -- and one thing which disappointed me abough John Birmingham is that he spent far to little time on that. (And in general on how 21st-century people integrate into 1942-society. But I guess it means I wanted to read a different book than what Birmingham wrote!)


I wonder, what potential there is for something to be brought from the past into the present/future and dramatically affect things? A military unit/force/dominion would find it hard to be a strategic player unless it had some chance to catch up, technologically speaking, but something cultural or religious might have a huge impact.

Perhaps there could be some back-and-forth swapping going on with all the causality problems that poses.


Your post reminded me of a fun read from my mis-spent youth: The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 ( Written in 1974, so it might share some cultural background with your outline. Not the same thing, of course: this novel is a post-apocalypse setting. Still, one finds fun where it lies. I'm enjoying this series: thank you for taking the trouble!



(And in general on how 21st-century people integrate into 1942-society. But I guess it means I wanted to read a different book than what Birmingham wrote!)

This reminds me of one book I really, really wish Larry Niven would write -- alas, he never did: a story showing what happened on pacified, brainwashed, everything-censored Earth when the news of hostile alien Kzinti can no longer be denied or suppressed. How 18 billion people raised to recoil at the slightest notion of violence -- heck, raised incapable to even think of violence, -- cope with this rude awakening?

One of Man-Kzin Wars stories ("The Wunder War") did basically that with Kzinti invasion of Wunderland, but circa 2360 Wunderland is not nearly as pacified as Earth -- indeed it is socially backward compared to modern-day West, as it is essentially feudal. The adjustment is not nearly as radical. (Also I found a set-piece conventional arms land battle in that story implausible.)


If you mean Stirling's "Dies the Fire" series, it is his best selling series of books to date. If anything there is likely to be more of them thanks to reader demand.


I've heard the Holocaust memorably described as the third rail of historical fantasy (a million volts, don't touch it or you'll get fried), even moreso for someone writing as a descendant of Holocaust survivors.

One question for you though - what happens to 1940 Palestine and all the people in it? Are they displaced to 1973?


Add me to the list of "I'm glad you didn't write this one". The problem with this type of fiction for me is that it always breaks down to the "unexpected" problems of people with knowledge of the past not being able to do what you think they could or should do. It's just too predictable. You can dress it up with as much detail as you like, but it always seems to come back to this basic idea. I fundamentally don't find this puzzle particularly interesting. Of course I never understood the appeal of war gaming either, especially those of my youth replaying Waterloo with expensive, hand painted metal soldiers.


Way to push my buttons!! ;-) I'm afraid I disagree abut just how effective the 1973 Israeli war machine was.

1) The outline made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, all the way down to my wrists and waist (if you think I'm joking I'll spare you the TMI), so it's another one the 2010 me would buy (and the "several years ago me" would probably have picked it over a semi-random Glasshouse had the althist not been bought before that brief meeting in an Eastercon dealers' room). 2) You're not a tankie as well as an aviation buff, are you? By the Yom Kippur war, the Israeli armour Orbat included lots of M48 and M60 Patton variants (I make it at least 10, ignoring upgunned and re-turretted versions and the M60-A2 which I don't think was ever in Israeli service), several of them upgunned with the L7 105mm, and upgraded Centurion variants, as well as the M-50 and M-51 Isherman (upgraded Sherman sure, but using the "Easy 8" as a base, and again with the L7), and I think some AMX-13s and possibly AMX-30s. Also, we're talking about an armoured force which already had minced Arab forces equipped with WW2 armour (Ex-german Panzer 3 and 4s, and Stugs on those chassis, ex-Soviet T34-76 and -85s, IS1, 2 and 3s, SU and ISU -85, -100, -122 and -152, and possibly T-54, -55 and -62s). Cetainly tanks as late as the T-62 were used by the Arabs during the Yom Kippur, and were captured intact or at least repairable, as well as being destroyed. 3) Part of the reason for the Israeli army's success was the fact that the IAF (I'll agree with your asssessment of their Orbat, other than noting that the Nesher [licence-produced Mirage V {I checked} with upgraded avionics and heat-seeking AIM capability]) did gain fairly much complete control of the airspace over the main battlefields. One estimate (and the lowest for Arab losses at that) says the Arabs lost 340 aircraft and the Israelis lost five!! 4) Pretty much all of this despite some fairly crushing early defeats, but note that the Israelis were not mobilised at Yom Kippur.

Oh yeah and I like the "Ring of Fire" series. It works with a mining town, not a military encampment, and Eric Flint has stuck to a decision that there was not a convoy of SEALs, Scout Snipers and the like passing through town at the time of the event, so basically they got what they got, and know what they know based on a town of about 2_000 with a High School in it.


I agree that this would not be worth the political controversy.

If you ever do a ISOT, I'd prefer you take the James Nicoll path (There's Something about Titan) of extrapolating an interesting future polity and ISOTing it to the Present. SF could use more fiction from the viewpoint of the colonized.


Um, the blitz didn't stop London, the Allied bombing of Germany didn't stop the Nazis, and the US firebombing of Tokyo arguably extended the war until the nukes were necessary, because in each circumstance, the destruction made it harder for the war leaders to back down and negotiate a surrender. On this basis, I'd argue that nuking Berlin probably wouldn't stop the Nazis or the holocaust.

That said, I wouldn't buy this book, whoever wrote it. But then again, I've mostly stayed away from the alt. history section of the bookstore aisle. I don't play fantasy football, either, for similar reasons.

Now, if Jasper Maskelynne was a truly magical illusionist, well, that might be a more interesting WWII story. I enjoyed Ghosts of the ETO, and some chunks of the story of the US Ghost Army haven't been declassified yet. Nor have those of Maskelynne's British unit. Just my personal bias, mind you.


I've always yawned at the "soldiers with cool toys beat up soldiers with less old toys" genre. But I guess "pew!...pew!...pew!...POW!!!" is what sells books in the US.

What's more interesting is how a sudden infusion of science, even science just thirty or forty years later, could change so much. The little things that everyone knows and don't know that they know could have profound implications. Just knowing about Velcro before the 1950s, TRANSIT navigation satellites and the multi-stage rockets that carry them, "DNA, isn't that a double helix?" or the broad outlines of the Green Revolution and mentioning them casually could have really interesting effects.


Oh yeah and I like the "Ring of Fire" series. It works with a mining town, not a military encampment, and Eric Flint has stuck to a decision that there was not a convoy of SEALs, Scout Snipers and the like passing through town at the time of the event, so basically they got what they got, and know what they know based on a town of about 2_000 with a High School in it.

In "Ring of Fire" Grantvillers are incredibly, utterly fail-suspension-of-disbelief LUCKY. Their plans always work out, their enemies plans always fail -- often for no reason other than bad luck. Mike never makes any mistakes, Melissa never makes any mistakes, Abrabanel family never makes any mistakes. In the first battle of the first book Grantvillers pick up what must be most capable, most charismatic woman in all of Germany. Etc. All of this is less likely than a convoy of SEAL's passing through town at the time of the event. And speaking of SEAL's, landlocked Grantville "discover" speedboats and scuba gear when author decided they need it.

In short, I hate it.


People overestimate the military utility of first-generation nukes -- possibly because Hiroshima and Nagasaki were medium-sized cities picked specifically because (a) they hadn't been fire-bombed and (b) they were geographically ideal targets.

Berlin is big. Very big. A 10-15Kt nuke would trash one of the suburbs or burn out a large chunk of the centre, but even half a dozen of them aren't going to flatten the metropolis or render it entirely uninhabitable.

(The doomsday scenarios of the cold war were predicated on much larger devices -- in the 200Kt to 10Mt range -- raining like snowflakes. At one point, there was a standing joke that the USAF and USN had bombing maps of Moscow that targeted individual post offices with megaton-range H-bombs.)


"James Nicoll path (There's Something about Titan)"

What's that?


The real game-changers that Israel circa 1973 could dump on the USA circa 1940? They'd be fork-lift trucks, wooden shipping pallets, containerized transport, and bar codes. Hell, just the idea of universal shipping containers (with rail, road and shipping interchanges) tagged with punched cards would have revolutionized logistics.

And let's not forget in-flight refueling and the importance of radar (not obvious to the US military in 1940 -- viz. note how the defences near Pearl switched their early warning radar off on December 7th, 1941 and didn't bother to follow up the sighting of the incoming attackers because they mistook them for a training formation of B-17s).


Charlie: Although to be clear, There's Something About Titan was a wank, and I'd prefer you not do that.

Ilya: "There's Something About Titan" was a ISOT in soc.history.what.if that took a terraformed Titan from 2500 and dumped it in 2000. (You can dig it up on Google groups.) Their economic and social development was about as far ahead of ours as ours is above the Earth of 1500, with some interesting quirks. It was, IMHO, about as hilarious as you can make a blatant liberal wankfest.

Note that 2000 is a blatant liberal wankfest from the POV of 1500, so it's not an unrealistic device. It's just that there is a certain lack of ... tension. The alien overlords are not assailable, and their intentions are clearly more noble than we could reasonably expect from modern governments, and the results are kind of inevitable.

James: I know you read this blog, so, um, "hi." More Green Door any time soon?


Hell, just the idea of universal shipping containers (with rail, road and shipping interchanges) tagged with punched cards would have revolutionized logistics.

Once you'd rebuilt every port, ship, railway station and crane in the US to handle them, that is. And in the UK, for that matter, once you start shipping cargo overseas.


Though I know next to nothing about Israeli history, you had me at 'a gigantic airliner roaring over the White House, to land (probably wrecking its undercarriage in the process) at DC's airport'.


In "Ring of Fire" Grantvillers are incredibly, utterly fail-suspension-of-disbelief LUCKY. Their plans always work out, their enemies plans always fail -- often for no reason other than bad luck. Mike never makes any mistakes, Melissa never makes any mistakes, Abrabanel family never makes any mistakes. In the first battle of the first book Grantvillers pick up what must be most capable, most charismatic woman in all of Germany. Etc. All of this is less likely than a convoy of SEAL's passing through town at the time of the event. And speaking of SEAL's, landlocked Grantville "discover" speedboats and scuba gear when author decided they need it.

In short, I hate it.

Clearly we read different books. Mike not making any mistakes? He acknowleges making several in the novel, in particular thinking that Grantville could defend itself, just before the Croats go through. Gretchen the most capable woman in Germany? Perhaps at rabblerousing, but there are several other women more capable in other areas. Rebecca, well, I agree you have a point about Rebecca. :)

Yes, you might argue a that a story where the Grantvillers were all captured by Tilly's army the day after they arrived and burned at the stake as witches might be more plausible, but would you or anyone else want to read it?

P.S. As for the speedboats and scuba gear, Grantville is a fictious town based on a real town. The current rule if you can't find it in Mannington WV, it isn't going to be in Grantville.


My understanding of the worries the British had with the Axis forces coming in from Libya to Egypt, first the Italians and then the Germans, wasn't so much that they'd lose the Suez -- since Italy joined the war traffic wasn't going through the Med, it was going round the Cape. It was the fact that if Germany got through Egypt then they'd have access to the oil fields to the East -- the one resource they were really short of. And one of the reasons they were going round through southern Russia and such - to reach them that way.


Rebuilding ports isn't that complicated. The cranes and lifts for semi-automated cargo handling are well within the limits of 1940's tech. Nobody bothered with doing it because labor was still so cheap.

Bar-code scanners are a much bigger stretch, as they rely on a database, which needs a general-purpose computer with a disk drive. Tape isn't fast enough. Punch cards would work. There were enameled-metal version read with pins in some industrial applications.

Transistors instead of tubes would put Allied communications, navigation, radars, and guidance systems way, way ahead. Inertial navigation systems for submarines and missiles. Pershing missile gyros were used on the NASA Shuttle...

The service ceiling of a 747 is 45,000 feet. Did the Germans have anything that could have reached that in 1940? And while a small nuke certainly isn't a city-eraser, what are the odds of an Israeli sucide team getting it within striking distance of Hitler and a measurable portion of the German high command? It's not like there'd be a shortage of volunteers for that mission.


Yes, you might argue a that a story where the Grantvillers were all captured by Tilly's army the day after they arrived and burned at the stake as witches might be more plausible, but would you or anyone else want to read it?

Actually, I would not consider that very plausible either. Grantvillers are far too heavily armed for that -- even if Tully's army happened to be just across the border, and walked into town within hours of Transition, it would end up running.

What I would consider plausibe -- and yes, would want to read, -- is a story where after several initial military successes Grantvillers are essentially locked in Turingia. Gustav behaves more like a feudal monarch he actually was (throwing in with inveterate republicans in not part of it), Committees of Correspondence never materialize (through lack of organization), Abrabanel family is horrified at the idea of Rebecca marrying a Gentile (as they would), at least some of Richelieu's assassins succeed, small but significant number of Grantvillers go into depression, denial, commit suicide, or throw themselves into religious fundamentalism (i.e. act like people), and at least a few Grantvillers commit atrocities themselves (don't tell me a WV mining town lacks in individuals so inclined, and they would see A LOT of example). End result -- a well-defended but widely feared/mistrusted, and not terribly influential 20th Century enclave.

And don't even start me on the idea of king Christian using his daughter to seduce Eddie Cantrell. Trying to convert Eddie with carrot rather than thumbscrews is barely plausible; the nature of "carrot" -- NO WAY.


Charlie, do you visit Israel is ISOTed to the past at least once a week over there, I think. It`s not interesting anymore. 8-)

IMHO, fresher idea would be to ISOT $CONTEMPORARYWARFIGHTINGUNIT or $CONTEMPORARYCOUNTRY into the _future. It works particularly good in the period of time before the industrial revolution. You could transfer some Roman legions thousand of years into the future, and they would still be effective...

One particularly good idea I read about was an experienced Red Army unit returning from the battle of Berlin, circa 1945, and finding themselves in Moscow of 1991, during the collapse of USSR. Which they try to stop...


I can't find the thread. Can you tell me what it is called?


you could always invert the idea. have a mad scientist from circa 1890 and his army of zepplin borne minions isot'd into the modern world.. could be good played for laughs..


About Israel or about USSR? The latter is from the russian forum, so unless you know russian, you can`t read it... 8-) As for Israel, just search for "Israel" in the ASB section.


About USSR. Yes, I can read Russian, but was not aware that Russian version of even exists. Can you just list the URL?



Hey, join the club: But I don`t remember the name of the thread, sorry.


Registration is not working.

I did a search on "Перенос 1991" and did not find it. Found tons of other stuff which might be worth reading.


I've read Stirling's Islands in the Sea of Time series and I'm not convinced that it's actually alternate history - it reads more like post-apocalyptic fiction to me. The lone outpost of civilization has to survive when surrounded by savages. In the 1632 series (which I liked at first, although I think it went off the rails pretty quickly), the villagers have to deal with and trade with the locals and actually integrate into and alter the existing society. They actually involve themselves in the history of the time. In IitSoT the Nantucket islanders just try to stay alive and make sure the zombie (uhhh, Greek) hordes don't eat them.

Which isn't to say that I didn't find them reasonably entertaining.


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Meanwhile what happens in 1973?

When I was 2 years old with a one-eyed teddy bear named Moishe. Guess who he was named after.

I'm not a real fan if Alternate History stories. Usually too much "What if X won The War?" and don't care for military SF either.

However, Three alternate Israel story ideas I've had; 1952, Einstein realizes that he's not making progress on a Unified Theory and accepts Ben-Gurion's offer of the Israeli Presidency. However he's a bit of a socialist and egalitarian and gets assassinated (or attempted) by fanatical ultra-orthdoxim. And on from there, trying to fit WEIZAC in somehow.

Or, The Herzl/WZO a hundred years ago (or so) accepts Argentina as a new homeland. No idea for actual plot.

Then there's what if Yonatan Netanyahu survived Ebtebbe, eventually getting into politics, and his younger brother keeps his furniture factory job. Again, no idea for story, and writing alt-history about living people is probably a bad idea. And politics, feh.

Am now going back to read the comments.


I believe Niven covered at least some of what happened when news of the Kzinti reached Earth in Madness Has Its Place, which is online thanks to Webscriptions.

Basically: you take the subset of the population who are taking long-term psychological treatment, adjust their autodoc prescriptions a bit, and then work up (or down) from there...


Yes, I read "Madness has its place". But that's when existence of Kzinti is still known only to ARM. I was thinking about when population as a whole can no longer be kept in the dark.


"in which General Rommel's Afrika Corps runs up against General Ariel Sharon's First Armoured Division, with messy consequences ..."

That sound like a very cool matchup, but I've got to go with "meh" for the rest of it.

As for alternate history, the most interesting battle I can think of is the Battle of the Somme, in which the British Army gave the tank its debut. They had 49 tanks, (though only 32 were mechanically sound enough to engage in battle) and the tanks almost made enough difference to break through the German lines... It's really too bad that the Brits didn't have a knowledgeable, experienced tank commander to help them, (Sharon, Patton, etc.,) or even a good cavalry commander like Nathan Bedford Forrest...

IMHO, the generals of World War I were a pretty incompetent bunch on both sides. I think you could get a really interesting story out of sending any really good general either backwards or forwards in time and putting them in charge of one of the armies.


The GWR was using shipping containers before the Second World War (1931?), for such things as furniture removals. Sized to fit on the railway and delivery wagons of the time, and able to be hoisted off of one and onto the other by the railway yard cranes.

The modern, standardised, container came out in the mid fifties. The road trucks by then were much bigger.

Don't expect that sort of traffic to appear. But a smaller container, scaled to the road haulage of the time, would be possible. Look at the trucks the US Army were using to haul cargo across France in late 1944.

We possibly are underestimating what the railways could do. In the UK, the RCH had standard specifications for types and sizes of wagons, so a 10-ton coal wagon was effectively interchangeable. While a particular colliery might own a particular wagon, they might be loaded and unloaded almost anywhere.

It was quite common for the same truck chassis to be fitted with several standard types of body for the army. A wireless truck needed other design features, so that the chassis was different, and the body patterns were never quite identical.

The basic problem is that ammunition is heavier than furniture. A dockside crane could handle a container off a ship and onto road or rail, but the next step in the process is the difficult part. Yes, the docks were the bottleneck before the container, and getting ships in and out of port more rapidly would make a huge difference. But imagine how much damage a squadron of Heinkels would do to the stacked containers of Felixstowe.


Not only more tanks, properly used, but there at the start of the Somme battle. And you can't delay that because the French are dying at Verdun.

The tanks were not there until mid-September.

Also, with the tech of the time there were some intractable problems. Most significant, tactical command and control on the battlefield. The only way of getting portable wireless depended on vehicles. What made the Generals of WW2 so much more capable was that they could know what was happening, and issue new orders. The gunners could use the same systems, and since they didn't depend on telephone wires, they could fight in a mobile battle.

Oh, and the trench warfare meant that the logistics of sustaining an advance sucked.

But, looking at what happened in 1918, both sides attacked, both sides broke through the front line, and both made huge gains. The Generals did learn.


I remember watching that 'goodnight sweeheart' bilge- so the guy can go back to 1940 and what does he do with this? he has an affair. awesome


Quick initial thoughts on the American involvement section: it would be interesting to wonder how well the Americans might recognize a future Boeing craft, and what that might say to them being in the hands of self-described Isrealis. You could have an interesting time protesting the American Zionist movement of the time, and particularly those that would see events as a sign of the apocalypse. (Apologies if already mentioned; jotting this on my phone while thinking about it.)


Heh. Given all the discussion about Eric Flint here, I find it amusing that he wrote exactly that story of a Roman legion transplated forwards in time, in Carthago Delenda Est, included in the anthology Foreign Legions as a follow-up to David Drake's novel Ranks of Bronze:


Not enough potential readers, I think. The prevalent opinion in the UK, at least, seems to be "stay as far away from Israeli politics as possible".


Doesn't do much for me either, but you don't mention any protagonists apart from Gunner Milligan. If the rest of the cast list had matched that I could be tempted.

I prefer the alternate history to be changed into our own.

Einstein is working in the Great Iranian Empire's Office of the Index of Prohibited Inventions. His wife is abducted and killed by the Shahenshah's evil Vizier. Pushed beyond his limit by the evils of the ancient empire, Einstein (probably by another name) cobbles together a one-way time machine. Sitting on a hillside above the Thermopylae pass with an assault rifle and half a ton of ammo he carefully picks off any credible warriors approaching the Spartans, Thespians and Thebans, giving them time to recover their strength enough to die as supermen.


Funny you should mention this, some thus-far-unpublished meeting minutes have recently come to light from the morning of Yom Kippur War:,7340,L-3965041,00.html


If we're going to do that, I suggest merging the Laundry and the Palimpsest books in a sarcastic way. Suppose there's a huge bureaucracy that controls time travel (badly), in a multiverse where the fractal dimension is about 5.73 (in other words, there's an ultimate upper limit to the number of multiverses that can be split from a universe at a particular point).

Combine that universe with Dilbertesque bureaucratic infighting, overall lack of organizational resources (because they have to scrounge everything, lest some mundane dictator find out who they are and attempt to seize them), and have the organizational equivalent of Siberia be making sure that critical disasters (KT asteroids, Precambrian oxygen explosions, etc) happen according to schedule, whilst real screw-ups get to help measure the rectal temperatures of a statistically significant sample of Brachiosaurs...

Add alcohol, shake, and play it for laughs.


The big risk with the Israelis using nukes in this scenario is that they just piss off the Nazis even more, and the Final Solution gets sped up. Unless they're lucky enough to take out Hitler and the leadership, using them is very risky...


It's far more interesting if it's 2010 Israel. You avoid the awkward issue of Holocaust survivors meeting themselves (or saving relatives whom they've never known - I'd be going from a family of twenty to God knows how many if this happened.)

And quite honestly, it has more to say if it's about the mixed feelings most Jews (even in Israel) feel about how the proceeding sixty years since the Holocaust have changed us rather than 1973.


I think WWI generals, particularly British ones, get something of an undeserved slating, still, despite the efforts of revisionist historians. Compare the British Army (and Air Force) of 1918 - effective, efficient, robust, with strong command and control, using combined arms tactics and direct and indirect fire support both tactically and operationally - with either the 1914 BEF or their German opponents at the time. The British/Commonwealth military leadership had adjusted to a technological revolution in military affairs, had developed a doctrine to exploit the new technologies and had trained a huge army to execute that doctrine. Just a shame they forgot all about it by 1939.


or maybe the island of atlantis appears,, and starts trying to civilize this world of barbarians


I remember an RPG scenario I ran once < many moons ago > where it turned out that the dinosaurs had a technological civilization in the end, and they used a time travel technique to dodge that incoming rock. they thought that the best ' distance ' to move would be about 65million years. imagine the travellers surprise when...


Another thing to consider: 1973's Mossad is up to its eye-balls in planning retribution for the Munich Olympics. Now they're back in 1940, and their old targets are beyond their reach, but a whole new slate of war-criminals-to-be are suddenly available. What impact would a Mossad armed with histories and WW2 analyses (not to mention detailed accounts of the Nazi high command's travel during said war) have on the Nazis?


At one point, there was a standing joke that the USAF and USN had bombing maps of Moscow that targeted individual post offices with megaton-range H-bombs.)

Well, I don't know about post offices, but did get a SIOP-introduction briefing a few decades ago that said that major telephone exchange buildings were on the hit list.


they thought that the best ' distance ' to move would be about 65million years. imagine the travellers surprise when...

That's funny. And beautiful. "Great Zort! The tree shrews took over while we were gone!"


I can think of two individuals who, brought from the past, might have a large impact: Karl Marx and Jesus. At the least, they would be inconvenient to the moderns who claim to be following them.


the sight of a gigantic airliner roaring over the White House, to land (probably wrecking its undercarriage in the process) at DC's airport

No, National's runways are very short -- a gigantic airliner would end up in the Potomac. We had that happen once in the winter on take off, lots of things went wrong and the plane didn't get high enough because of the short runway -- most people died. (And notice, National is in Virginia.)

Western congresspeople are trying to make National even more dangerous -- they want to clear it for larger airplanes so they don't have to go out to Dulles to fly home.


We concluded that we simply wouldn't be able to get a big enough advance out of a publisher to make it worth our while.

This is a totally crass question, but what's your price?

I.e., assume you have a concept that you could write, maybe are interested in writing, but the usual publishing economics aren't going to let you do it.

Assume that an ardent Stross/Stirling fan with a few billion dollars/pounds/euros in the bank would really love to see such a work be written.

How big would the advance check have to be?


Should, maybe, read Stephen Fry's Making History.

In a slight alternate of our world a scientist comes up with a plan to prevent H. from being born. It works, but he's replaced in history by someone more subtle. No WWII, or civil rights movement in the US among other changes.


I was thinking about how religion would play into this. Pearl Harbor gave Roosevelt the excuse to enter the War (Jan. 7,1942). The average American back then lived in the country was Isolationist and didn't like Jews. Calling Israel's appearance an "act of God" could be great Propaganda!


How about a reverse alt.history say the enitre continental USA got sent back to an alt boston tea party, and the revolutionary thirteen colonies + various native american and various colonial posessions occupying the corresponding territory appeared in the present, complete with all the resources then unexploited in the 1770s. Set the novel present day and watch the fun.


Immediate consequence: a sharp border war between Great Britain and Israel.

Small point, as a minimum Australia and New Zealand are also involved in the border war. It was in June 1940 that several thousand AU and NZ troops were sent to the UK rather than Egypt due to the Italian risk from East Africa. Several thousand more are already in Egypt completing their training.


Not too long a war though, both sides speak english and Israel has a pretty damned good idea which side they WANT to be on in this case. You posulate moving the entire state so chain of command etc is in place and can react quickly (proven to be able to do so in fcat give the proposed switching date)

There are radio communications so Israel works out when it is very quicky by listening to the air waves and they have radios so there are high level talks under way in literaly a day, and there isnt time for a border war to escalate beyond a few "unfortunate incidents" of "freindly fire".

El- Amain ends after about 10 min when a lone (lone) jet screams out of the heavens and the Afrika Corps are engulfed in a small but very effective mushroom cloud.

(ok so it doesnt take them all out but the other side still have all their tanks (and logistics support) etc)


Ah, now. See? This isn't 'Books I will not write', this is '10-page screen treatments I will write once someone options them.'

(At least I hope so, because when that 747 skidded off the end of what would become the runway at National once they got around to paving it later that year, I got chills...)


Uh... I think you're half right. They did eventually come up with a decent doctrine, and they did win the war, and I'm sure they were better in 1918 than 1914. But I still can't get enthusiastic about any of them, with the possible exception of Joffre, who might rate a footnote someplace on the list of great generals, mainly due to character rather than any brilliant strategic qualities.

That being said, imagine any of the better generals from the American Civil War sent forward from 1861 to 1913, given a year to get technically and tactically current, and put in charge of the BEF of 1914... I dare say The Battle of Marne would have gone much differently. (I'm using 1861 rather than 1865 to be fair to Moltke - the Robert E. Lee or Ulysses Grant of 1865 would have made chowder of the Germans.)


-How big would the advance check have to be?

Most writers temd to earn less than you think so to employ writers on a 6-12 month contract to produce your book you'd be looking at a minimum of maybe 50K each, adjusting upwards depending on how badly the impact of doing something else for that time would effect said writers relationship with their agent and publishers. Taking a break can be the worst thing a writer can do.

Then you'd have a manuscript which you could try to sell to a publisher - good luck with that.

On a alt hist note, even getting involved in discussing Isreali politics is a no no. Too many heated opinions.


If we're going to do that, I suggest merging the Laundry and the Palimpsest books in a sarcastic way.
A few months ago I made a bunch of notes and a first chapter for a somewhat harebrained story idea that was essentially a mashup of H. Beam Piper's Paratime stories with his "Ullr Uprising", in which the hero's part is played by a young, and highly incompetent, G. W. Bush. He's stuck out in the boonies because no one wants him anywhere near any strategic location, and then the native troops take a dislike to the colonial command structure they've been working under for several generations, and of course none of his junior officers or noncoms have any faith or trust in his abilities ...


Occam's Meataxe @22, if I'm reading the post correctly, Charlie had chosen the Israel of 1973 rather than that of 1983 or 1993 precisely because he thought that the Israeli Military's toys in 1973 weren't that far beyond World War 2 yet.

Pat @53, I'm not sure that I'm getting your point. Are you suggesting that he'd change his timeline, in which the Spartans and their allies were resoundingly defeated at Thermopylae, into our timeline, in which ...the Spartans and their allies were resoundingly defeated at Thermopylae?


They probably wouldn't have gotten any of their nukes into Berlin. I'm not sure what the state of German anti-air capabilities was in 1940, but I doubt that even a bunch of 1973 aircraft could have easily penetrated German airspace that far. Also, yeah, range.

The more interesting question would be, what would the psychological consequences have been of the Jews killing about a 100k Germans with an a-bomb or two? I'd say, not pretty.


I guess it would work better if it's not the island/state movement (to much utopian ballast etc.), but only some people (in that way, also coming closer to clichee ...), i.e. some group of Mossad agents or the like (maybe everyone in a fixed circle around the handwawing machine, including a number of agents and some unwanted time passengers).

79: 23 - Ever heard of "dramatic suspension of disbelief", or do you watch "action flims" saying "that fall would have broken every bone in his body, and given him irreversable brain damage"? ;-)

Some of my colleagues in Malvern are members of a Scuba club.

It used to be quite common travelling down the M74/M6 on holiday Fridays to see powerboats being trailered from Manchester to the Lake District or Loch Lomond.

So one of your criticisms was dramatic necessity for Grantville to survice 1632, and the other 2 I've just demonstrated to be invalid.


The service ceiling of a 747 is 45,000 feet. Did the Germans have anything that could have reached that in 1940? I'm not sure if the Germans had anything armed that could get that high that early, but they did build some aircraft that could get up there during WW2. However, given that the 747 will have a higher ground speed than anything from period except maybe the Me262 (pure day-fighter versions) the only way the Germans could make an intercept would be to launch aircraft into the predicted track, and those will get one head-on firing pass at a closing speed of 800 to 1000 mph.


1973 is littered with aircraft that could penetrate German airspace. The Heyl HaAvir had F4 Phantoms with a service ceiling of 60,000 ft. The Luftwaffe's main fighter, the Bf 109 had a service ceiling of under 40,000 ft.

Range will be a little more of a challenge, and a quick search isn't revealing when the IAF first implemented in-flight refuelling, although they had Boeing 707s from 1972, and that was the type used for refuelling during the 1985 raid on Tunisia.


On 9 August 1939, Hermann Göring boasted "The Ruhr will not be subjected to a single bomb. If an enemy bomber reaches the Ruhr, my name is not Hermann Göring: you can call me Meier!"

As early as 1940, British aircraft raided targets in Germany.

Copied from Wikipedia since I had to check the exact date and quote, having mis-rememebered (or possibly remembered a misquote from a film, quite possibly "The Batlle of Britain") the quote as being "If a single bomb falls on Berlin, you may call me Meier".


given air to air refueling (for range) virtualy any 1973 jet aircraft would go through 1940s air defence "like prunes through a short grandmother".

IAI Nesher top speed mach 2.1

If you mean Stirling's "Dies the Fire" series, it is his best selling series of books to date.

Yep, that's the series I meant. But, by experience, if you let an author go beyond 6-8 books in the same series, the results are... sub-optimal.

(except for a bunch of rabid fans)

The esteemed Mr Stirling (hi!) can write very well, and his series is all good and well (and I'm going to pick the lastest installment in a week or so while in the US, since Amazon didn't deign ship me my copy after over a month, so their order got cancelled). I mean, I like Rudi, but his series is starting to feel stretched already by The Sword of the Lady. The CUT-story would make a good trilogy, but 6 books?

At one point, you end up with Wheel of Time syndrome: each book is worth 100 pages of interesting development, padded to X hundred of useless fluff.


Using nukes on Nazi Germany could easily backfire: as Charlie pointed out, half a dozen nukes would provoke rather than destroy German resolve.

At 1940, the Germans didn't take atomic weapons seriously; most thought they wouldn't work (even many american military). Setting off a nuke would be a proof-of-concept that it could work ... the Nazis might have got nukes working before the Allies.


How much it would cost:

Think in terms of a reasonable middle-class income for a family of two for a year (which represents the time it'd take me to get the job done and/or the opportunity cost of lost earnings from writing for my other publishers). Then add an indeterminate amount to compensate for the uncertainty that my taking the job would introduce into my career track -- I'd effectively be going a year without producing a visible book (or producing one that doesn't sell to my regular market), and my visible shelf-space in bookstores would therefore diminish, taking my back-list sales down somewhat.

For a collaboration, you can multiply that by two. (Two people working on a job do not each take half the time.) Then bear in mind that Steve is a best-seller these days and out-earns me by, probably, a factor of 2-3.


Most writers temd to earn less than you think

True, but we're not talking about "most writers" here.

Novelists incomes follow a power law, not a normal distribution. According to a society of authors survey from 2000, the average British novelist earns £4500 a year. According to a more recent survey, if you're in the top 20% (80% of the way up the ladder) you earn £18,000 or more a year. In fact, the top 20% take 50-60% of all earnings in the field. And at the very top, about 5-6% of total earnings for the entire field go to Terry Pratchett, Jenny Rowling and Stephenie Meyer.

My individual titles don't make the national bestseller lists but my aggregate sales are probably close and I do very well in translation. I'm not giving the game away if I say that, if I was earning only £18,000 a year, I'd have to go back to freelance journalism (at which I was earning roughly double that). Steve Stirling is an out-and-out bestseller in the US market and I'd be surprised if he'd consider a book deal where the advance was in less than six figures. So if you wanted to pay us to take a year out to write a book together, you'd better have a well-padded wallet.


Occam's Meataxe @22, if I'm reading the post correctly, Charlie had chosen the Israel of 1973 rather than that of 1983 or 1993 precisely because he thought that the Israeli Military's toys in 1973 weren't that far beyond World War 2 yet.

Correct. In 1973, things had the potential to be interesting. By 1983, not so much: mushroom clouds over Berlin, game over. Rewind to 1963, though, and Israel didn't have the infrastructure to be a significant player out-of-area.


I'm not sure the British Army forgot by 1939. They knew that they had a winning system, and they'd even improved on it.

The German Army had lost. They built on all their experience, and came up with a new system.

If you want somewhere that individual knowledge could make a difference, it might be amongst the British developers of tank warfare between the wars. And it might all be for nothing because of political decisions.


Ah, at that rate I'll agree wholeheartedly (earlier comments notwithstanding), for values of "Israeli Military's toys" which refer to strategic capabilities rather than battlespace tactical capabilities.


Out of curiosity, do you have rough figures for how many novelists there were in that survey? Obviously if there were only a few dozen (to pick an absurdly low figure), for PTerry, Stephenie and JK ('Jenny'? I thought she was a 'Jo'/Joanne) to accumulate 5-6% of total wouldn't be so remarkable.

Also, is your average the median, or the mean? I could quite easily believe 4.5K as a median, because that only requires one struggler to balance a PTerry, but as a mean, it'd mean that he was outweighing scores.

Which he probably does, come to think of it.


The implications for premillenial dispensationalists would have been INSANE. People who turn on the news and watch it to see if events in the world match up with the book of Revelations probably didnt really become a big thing until at least the 50s with the evangelical revival in America but having Israel just pop out of nowhere in the middle of the largest war in human history would have driven them up the wall. They might be seen as lunatics, jumping on any radio station they could to tell everyone the Book was true but I can't imagine them not getting a shitload of baptist converts and rural types signing up. Might even have become a major political force. Shit, the Tea Party 70 years ahead of its time.


The consequence of history books showing up prematurely in 1940 might be the biggest card. Germans, seeing 1945, would turf Hitler themselves (leaving a Mossad team all dressed up with no-one to kill). They'd probably negotiate a ceasefire with Britain and France, too. With the Americans seeing how it started and the Japanese how it ended, the Pacific war won't happen at all.

At that point history goes off in an entirely different direction, which might involve Joe Stalin moving against Germany, Britain, France, and Israel. Picture Sharon and Rommel working together, for example.


Well, when Terry was diagnosed with an early onset Alzheimer's variant, he donated £1000000-00 from available capital to Alzheimer's Research.


Picture Sharon and Rommel working together, for example, and Montgomery doing their logistics. Part of the reason that El Alamein worked so well was that the 10_000 guns had enough ammo that none of them ran dry during the battle.


£0.5 million - there was a fan initiative to raise a matching half million.

But he's undoubtedly not only the wealthiest person we have ever had visit our house, but the wealthiest who ever will.

As for Rowling, she's made some impressive donations too - £10 million for MS research a few months back.

That level of income is extremely unusual. Among our friends who are writers in this field, two live in a tiny two-up-two-down in rural Ireland, and another had to move across Ireland because she could not afford to live where she had been. In the writing field, if you can live comfortably with no other income coming in, you're a roaring success.


I could have sworn it was the full mill. Either way, I was not only aware of "Match It for Pratchett"; I contributed.

And that level of income being unusually high (for any occupation) was very much the point I think.


You may have been confused by the way that it was listed as $1 million in some places.


Or by never having seen it in print; just been told verbally by Britons who said "one million" (and hence implied pounds Sterling).

I think we'll all (including our host) agree that Terry and Joanne (even ignoring income from film/Tv deals) both make enough each to distort the arithmetic mean of a UK fiction writer's "writing income" upwards, yes?


When I am bored, I sometimes think about what it would be like if Roman legion pops from the past to inside modern day city. In roman eyes the city is undefended (no walls) and easy to travel. What kind of suprise they will get when they get gased, tazered or shot. Also they would speak latin and could not understand our language. So we would neet to use a doctor or professor to speak with them. At first in our eyes the romans would appear crazy. (maybe :P)

About lone timetraveller and his history changing info. My dad told me a story about a man inside a funny house (asylum), who sit on the bench and press his thumb on a palm and laughs occasionally. This was before television. I sometimes think about it when I sit on my sofa and use my remote to change channels and laugh at some sitcom....


Is 1973 Israel's electricity all home-grown? Some brief research on the intertubes says that in 1973 they were producing 280k barrels of oil and 2000 MMCF of gas a year, whatever an MMCF is, and the current CIA Factbook says they don't import any electricity now, so that does sound fairly reasonable.

That means that when the macguffin hits they don't get any of those convenient blackouts to confuse the issue. Chain-of-command should remain intact --- it ought to be possible for the border guards to phone Jerusalem and have it all work (assuming landlines. Satellites would, of course, be a no-go, unless there happened to be a satellite immediately above the country at the time. I wonder if this could be exploited?).

Another interesting question is --- what would happen in 1973 when a deeply confused 1940 Israel suddenly appears in a thoroughly destabilised middle east. This is, after all, the year of the Yom Kippur war with Egypt, mutual assassinations with Palestine, and the destruction of Libyan-Arab Airlines Flight 114 by Israeli fighter jets over Sinai...


Mean, not median. I don't have the survey to hand but it covered several hundred authors.

The Gini coefficient in this profession is 0.71. It makes your average African kleptocracy look like a communist vision of utopia.


#23 - Ever heard of "dramatic suspension of disbelief", or do you watch "action flims" saying "that fall would have broken every bone in his body, and given him irreversable brain damage"? ;-)

Actually I do, and that's a major reason why I do not watch action movies any more. If I want to watch this sort of stuff, I will watch unabashed fantasy, as in Harry Potter slamming into ground on his broomstick and getting up as if nothing happened.

I am NOT a fan of "sunny books" (Eric Flints expression); I much prefer Birmingham to Flint precisely because he is not afraid to have major characters have seriously bad luck and/or kill them off. Nor do I like overly noble heroes, such as King Gustav. To follow with fantasy examples, I much, much prefer "Song of Ice and Fire" to "Lord of the Rings" -- if you know what I am talking about.


"mushroom clouds over Berlin, game over."

If your goal is to write El Alamein from the point of view of Gunner Milligan, sure.

But the postwar settlement is where things get interesting. Are the Low Countries liberated? What becomes of Vichy? Alsace-Lorraine? The myth of the stab in the back returns to Germany with a vengeance, not least because seemingly super-powered Jews have brought about the end of the war. What about Poland, divided now between Reich and Soviet Russia? Southeastern Europe is all jumbled up as well.

The most interesting conflicts and characters might actually be far away from an ISOT'ed Israel. Or interacting with it in unexpected ways, some years after the end of the conflict. Wilhelm II had another year to live, would he have been offered the throne by whatever German government followed the Nazi downfall?

Stopping WWII in Europe before Germany invades the Soviet Union is an interesting way to run an alt-history, and Israel-from-1973 is a means for doing it that opens up lots of possibilities. But the fact of the ISOT'ing is not as interesting as the other things that world has to offer.


Which means the median is even further down.


I shall stop here, since this is off-topic for this thread.


Don't you need the Eschaton to show up on page three to stop the causality violations?


Fair enough. I've not read "Song of Ice & Fire" (too many books, too little time and money), but I'm happy to take your word for it about what it's like.


I dunno, but I wouldn't want to be a German waiter anywhere near 'em.


To make a quick summary: Song and Ice and Fire series has no traditional fantasy division between good and evil. People generally act like people -- or more precisely, as people acted during Middle Ages, which is pretty abominable by modern standards. There are sympathetic characters, but again, by the end of book 3 at least half of them are dead. There is relatively little magic and supernatural -- it's more of "magic mostly went away, and is returning" story, which makes parts of it read almost like actual history of some European country I somehow never heard of. There is Ancient Evil of which reader learns right from the start, but by the end of book 3 most characters are not yet aware of it -- and might not actually care, as they are so busy being evil themselves.

Looks like there will be no happy ending -- the best one can hope for is things getting a little better for principal good guys, but readers mostly expect that world to continue on its corrupt course.

Four books were published so far, I only read first three.


I read a book once about a Roman soldier, executed by freezing in the Arctic, who gets thawed out (without catastrophic cell/tissue damage) in modern times, and is therefore a deeply traumatised, accidental time traveller, speaking a Latin which nobody else can understand (nobody knows how it was originally pronounced)

Anyone else remember the title/author?


There's also "Land Under England" in which a whole Roman population retreated to caves under Hadrian's Wall, and couldn't find their way out. Their descendants threaten to emerge in the 1930s - they turn out to be Not Nice At All...


Philip @ 111 : The book you are thinking of is Sean McMullen's The Centurion's Empire.


"Some brief research on the intertubes says that in 1973 they were producing 280k barrels of oil and 2000 MMCF of gas a year, whatever an MMCF is"

I'm currently working for an American oil company so I'm happy to take a stab at this one and feel like I'm actually contributing!

Produced gas is measured in cubic feet (the CF portion, of course). Unfortunately, ages ago, at the dawn of the industry some genius decided since a single cubic foot of gas is really not a whole heck of a lot, that it would make sense to measure it by the thousand. Actually, that does make a lot of sense. The true misfortune is that he or she decided to use the Latin thousand "mille" as the prefix (leading to MCF for thousand-cubic-feet).

Personally, this drives me nuts, especially given my education in physics as opposed to petroleum engineering. For even in the subsequent decades since the American cohort of this industry has made NO effort to move to the much more common SI prefixes (kilo, mega, giga, etc.).

Israel's 1973 gas production of 2000 MMCF is therefore read as 2000 thousand-thousand-cubic-feet. In a sane world that would be 2 GCF or 2 billion CF (a sane America at any rate as I suspect other countries might actually do this).

A final bit of trivia: those "barrels" mentioned in the fact sheet are almost certainly only 42 gallons (American, of course), known within the industry as blue barrels rather than the 55 gal. steel drums one sees most often in media and real life contexts. That really confused me at first.

And that is way too much useless knowledge for a Time-Traveling-Israel-Story thread. Back to the real discussion!


Every time you mention this I tell you I'd buy it and enjoy it. I wouldn't want this time to be any exception.


Was it Rommel who wrote “The battle is fought and decided by the Quartermaster before the shooting begins” ?


Absolutely. I'm just saying that the military toys are the least of it. Even a few decades' headstart in casual knowledge during a time of rapid change could have tremendous effects. Some of them would be very hard to predict. The ones we're sure would make the most difference would almost certainly be less significant than seemingly little ones we take for granted.


Re: "But six atom bombs won't stop the Third Reich in its tracks" --

I've had several conversations with Freeman Dyson, who worked for the RAF in World War II. One set of conversations was what-ifs regarding who get the first A-bomb. His position was (I'm compressing merely one of several scenarios we discussed) Heisenberg et al. build a Nazi Bomb before Alamagordo. It's physically huge, a scaled up supercritical reactor, no implosion or gun (i.e. neither Little Boy nor Fat Man). They float it to London or New York or Washington D.C. by barge, and blow up the city.

He asserts that this would have virtually no effect on outcome. If anything, it would stiffen Allied resolve.

Not your Israeli scenario, but a wise work from a superphysicist who knew how things worked before I was born.


Okay, the yield on those old bombs is low - but might they have applications other than killing civilian populations? That's generally not an effective way to win a war anyway.

You could probably get a long way by blowing up a dam or a major military base, then finish the war with conventional troops.

(Of course, once you've worked out the tricks to refining uranium, there's really no barrier to building more and larger bombs. That's probably the point which kills the concept. A military industrial complex that knew what it was doing could turn out thousands of the things in a year)


Dear Mr Stross

I address you with respect because i think of you with respect (I have to admit i've never thought of you as Charlie, it smacks of a familiarity I would not readily aspire to), in addition I also admit I have never emailed another author (Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein and Farmer being dead - although I do still respect Baxter and Stirling).

This is not related to your current thread of "Books I'll never write" which I am currently finding very informative and enjoyable,although hopefully this will not include the future of Freya Nakamichi-47 (heroine? of the finest post-humsn robotic-life-form novel I have ever read (Asimov and R. Daneel Olivaw - you may now weep.)

Essentially I am 1/4 of my way through a bottle of scotch and find your blog the perfect way to admit an admiration of authorship.

I was originally introduced to your works through your Laundry novels and HPL techno-geek warrior Bob Howard (whatever his real name is (Phil Erwin ???)) (with the coming of the Elder Gods surely it can't end well. "Because the truth is that my god is coming back. When he arrives I'll be waiting for him with a shotgun. And I'm keeping the the last shell for myself") I'm hooked. I'll buy.

I was somewhat surprised to discover that both you (as author of the Laundry novels ) and the author of "Saturn's Children" were the same individual. (yeah you and all all the other Charles Strosses) That's when I started looking on the net for your other works (praise be Amazon and wiki). I may not buy all your books(sorry about that!)but I loved "Glasshouse" and can't understand any criticism (Not that I've read any (back-pedal lower digital extremity from oral orifice)) but at least (ouch) you are one of the few authors I tag for checking out every publication.

Well I've sobered up enough to be midly embarressed but not enough to erase this email. You must excuse me, I must now return to my Anne Parillaud DVD double bill ("La Femme Nikita" and the highly under-rated "Innocent Blood" awaits)

Thank you for sacrificing your life to the muse of SF/pop-fiction/fantasy.


A few comments...

1) IMO there will be no exchanges of fire on the Israeli frontiers.

At Suez, the British are separated from the Israelis by the Suez Canal - and all the bridges have disappeared (or the eastern halves disappeared and the western halves fell in the Canal). What's appeared instantly on the east bank is not just some soldiers in strange uniforms, but an entire line of fortifications. (It consists in large part of enormous earthen berms.) Whatever's happened is far stranger than some local uprising.

There is a comparable separation along the Jordan River. (The Allenby Bridge was was destroyed in 1946 and 1967, though rebuilt each time.)

The Golan Heights would be trickier, as this was French territory in 1940, and the 1967 truce line follows no natural division or historic border. However, by 1973 the Israelis had fortified the east side of the Heights, and I can't see the local Franco-Arab constabulary doing more than phoning Damascus for directions. The Lebanese border was also lightly fortified on the Israeli side, and was an international border, so the 1940 French won't come across.

2) FM radio signals disappear at X-hour, but shortwave and AM signals are replaced by 1940 signals. If it's 6 PM, lots of Israelis will be listening to the BBC or Voice of America. It will take maybe an hour to recognize what's happened.

3) Israel will take immediate steps to contact the neighboring authorities and reassure them. Jordan will be an interesting case: Mrs. Meir has "previously" met with King Abdullah (in 1948).

4) Israel will also move to establish relations with the contemporary U.S. and UK. The U.S. and UK embassies in Israel will be part of this - and I see no reason why it shouldn't succeed. Israel will no doubt send emissaries to the U.S. and UK by air ASAP. (Missions to Cairo, Amman, and Damascus will be by helicopter.) Not by 747, of course, but by some prop transport - say, C-97s or C-130s.

4) WW II is over in a month. France is already on the brink of surrender and Italy has declared war... but the demonstration of even one atomic bomb will be enough. Israel's aircraft can treat German air defense as negligible, unless they are attacking ground targets at low level. For one thing, this is 1940, and Germany's air defense is far inferior to that of 1944: no radar, no nightfighters, no jets, far fewer AA guns. Israel may have only a handful of bombs ready to go, but no rational German would take that chance - and even a handful of bombs would be colossally devastating. One might argue that the astounding success of the novel German "blitzkrieg" would make Germans too confident to submit to the threat. But I would say that it could make the Allied/Israeli threat more plausible: if "we" can quickly invent a decisive new military technique, then so can "they".

5) I question your assertion that Israel had only "4 to 6" atomic bombs in 1973. Once the technique is achieved, production is rapid. The U.S. in 1945 could have produced 3 to 5 bombs per month. Israel supposedly first had the bomb in 1967, and supposedly could produce 4 to 5 a year. That would give an arsenal of 25 to 30 bombs by 1973.

5) As noted, this will produce an understandably explosive wave of religious excitement. The effects in Israel will be perhaps the most intense. This apparent Divine Intervention will shatter the atheistic consensus of the dominant Labor Zionists - but will equally devastate the Zionist-rejection position of the ultra-Orthodox.

Israeli demographics will be topsy-turvy, with great numbers of diaspora Jews wanting to migrate to the miraculous Zion - and Israelis in demand all over the world for their future knowledge. The division between sabras and migrants will be to say the least acute.

6) Israel will not be able to control the spread of future knowledge. Any foreign embassy with an encyclopedia can spill it, and several will.

What happens in the next generation is inconceivable.


I've heard a story that Heisenberg's design for a reactor lacked any way of damping the reaction. (A quick google on my phone has failed me). Which suggests a scenario where the Germans nuke themselves a bit before learning how to nuke someone else. A costly learning curve.

I think by 1973 HEAT rockets were on helicopters and killing tanks. Armour and ways to pierce it came on a lot from WW2 to 73, while I know little about this area I suspect the IDF would rip through any tanks in their way. Even rifle-mounted grenade launchers might ruin a tanker's day?

Laser blinders were well-understood by 1973 and I doubt a transplanted Israel would feel bound by that bit of the Geneva Convention.

Just a few toys, but I suspect that compared to WW2, 1973 Israel is advanced in so many military areas that the actual fighting would be the shortest part of the book.

If you want to maximise the number of controversies, why not introduce 1973 Kashmir as well? Oh, and Taiwan? What the hell, might as well throw in Albania?


Wow, not a single comment on the use of the word 'floater'.

Can't say I am too enamoured of the alternative history approach.


The US was producing very few bombs in 1945. They had scaled up considerably by 1949.


Inasmuch as one can generalise about these things I think that the British Army of 1914-18 gets unfairly criticised, and that of 1939-45 unfairly praised. The Battle of France in 1940 saw the world's only fully mechanised force sliced, diced and owned by a German Army that moved infantry by marching, towed guns using horses and was equipped mainly with tanks stolen from the Czechs. Truly "all the gear and no idea".

It's a touchy subject even now, the anti-intellectual streak and piss-poor knowledge management that characterises parts of todays's British Army being a continuation of the problem. This is currently the subject of much debate, comparisons between ourselves and the US in responding to recent conflicts having revealed some ugly home truths.

A proper examination of 1914/18 in contrast reveals a never-ending stream of tactical innovations and initiatives. Most didn't work of course, but criticising the man on the spot for lacking just under a century of post-war operational analysis is a bit unfair.

Not that it was just the British Army in 1940, the French Army suffered from similar institutional issues, coupled with a national desire to do anything rather than suffer through the 1914/18 demographic meatgrinder again.


But after the failure of 1940 didn't they relearn everything again and get their act together enough to succeed in north africa, Normandy and elsewhere? That is the impression I have gotten from reading first hand accounts of these theatres.


WWII, such an implausible fictional setup :D


No, I'm pretty sure that's not it, actually. Thanks for looking though. The book I'm thinking of I read sometime in the 80's, and this was published in 1998. The synopsis doesn't sound familiar either - the Roman in 'my' book didn't travel to other eras, just ended up shivering and alone in ours, due to one weird accident. Any other ideas? Don't you just hate it when you can't remember the details of a book you'd like to re-read?


Found it! Thank you,

It's "The Far Arena" by Richard Ben Sapir. Published 1979 and now out of print. Actually a gladiator, apparently, but my other memories are correct.


I've heard a story that Heisenberg's design for a reactor lacked any way of damping the reaction.

I don't know the details, but that seems implausible. If you know enough about the way a reactor works to get one to go critical in the first place, you know how to damp it.


Any displacement of Israel in time would lead to severe reactions.

I'm thinking of a displacement (or exchange) of year 2010 Israel to year ten. It would be interesting because having atom bombs would not make a difference given the lack of industrial concentrations. Everything would hinge on Israel's capacity to keep on making automatic weapons and diesel trucks and keep an industrial base intact despite the absolute absence of an industrial world around them. It would be a mad dash for oil fields and a race to build drilling equipment before the Romans and the Persians realized how fragile an industrial nation can be.

The fun thing is that all the so-caled christians in the US would be howling and zionists would not be exactly silent. The thought of one of the apostles getting a job at a McDonald in Tel-Aviv? Then there's this carpenter and his son...


He knew how to damp it -- but Heisenberg botched his criticality calculations: thought the critical mass for U235 was on the order of 1500Kg, and that criticality in a heavy water reactor would be so sluggish that if it got a bit frisky you could just throw a handful of barium beads in.

As built, it's a bloody good thing that they never got around to ramping up their reactor. It was basically an open cauldron of D2O with uranium metal chains dangling in it: a criticality accident waiting to happen.


@ 114

cubic feet

Thanks considerably for the explication, and I'll ask for another.

There's a recent report(*) on world He-3 supplies. (Yes, that He-3! But not for ginormous fusion power reactors, just neutron detectors and miscellaneous medical and scientific applications.)

One of the things that it complains about is that various sources reporting supplies in cubic whatevers don't seem to adhere to the STP convention. STP is Standard Temperature and Pressure, 0 C (273 K) at one atmosphere (103 kiloPascal). This matters, as the ideal gas law shows:

So do natural gas numbers always get reported in cubic feet at STP?


The Helium-3 Shortage: Supply, Demand, and Options for Congress Congressional Research Service September 21, 2010


He knew how to damp it -- but


a criticality accident waiting to happen.

Ah. I didn't know that he'd gotten things that wrong. I wonder what data he was working with.

Chernobyl am Rhein (or wherever they would have built it.)

thought ... criticality in a heavy water reactor would be so sluggish that if it got a bit frisky you could just throw a handful of barium beads in ...


It is possible for a neutron to wander around in heavy water for a very long time, compared to the time it would survive in light water.

As in any reactor moderated only by water, a temperature increase reduces reactivity.


I can't find the photos but the Germain reactor was just cubes of uranium hanging on chains in heavy water.

Operation Big

The play by Michael Frayn is available as a book and on DVD.

Copenhagen (play)


Well, first off, the 747 could be easily converted to a bomber (well, of the drop one nuke flavor), and with a normal 5-6k mile range, the less than 2000 miles to Berlin would be an easy round trip. At 550 mph and 35k feet, sure, the Germans had fighters that could get that high, but maxed out at under 400mph, an intercept would be tricky, and frankly not doable for for them in 1940.

I would bet a C130 could do the trip (one bomb, all fuel), but in theory, it could be intercepted, max ceiling in the 20-30k foot range (depending on load and model), air speed around 300MPH, so a tricky intercept, but it could be done, but they are not practiced for it.

Other notes are that up through 1943, Hitler spent a fair percent of his night in his old apartment in Munich, with one guy on guard. So Mosad at that point had plenty of people familiar with the city, motivated, and capable enough.

Does Israel want to stomp Germany for what they did to them, or stop the Holocaust? The camps were still mostly forced labor at that point, the straight killing camps had not gotten into high gear yet, so a limited option might work (especially with Hitler nuked, and it clear that Israel has more bombs).

Shaped charges were showing up up, but were not well understood, or that widely deployed (the US 2.35" Bazooka, the English PIAT, the German Panzerfaust). The big tank killing tech is the sabot, I bet the crappy short barreled 75 on the Sherman will knock out a King Tiger if it is using sabot rounds with a tungsten penetrator (or depleted uranium, which is a better and cheaper materiel).

Why not work things out with Italy, they were never enthusiastic about going after Jews, and while the Brits were against Israel, presented with a done deal, I'd figure they would want what they could get of the super tech for them selves.

One thing being, they are going to be with Paton on the idea of keeping going to the Pacific after the Germans are down.

The other question, is Perl Harbor? Do the Japanese still attack, and can Roosevelt get away with playing dumb about it, given all those history books that talk about the attack? No Perl Harbor, no US entry into the war, perhaps we get volunteer brigades, horrified by seeing "Night And Fog" and such? Israeli super tech (shades of the Draka series?) carving out an empire, and as I suspect much of Israel's stupidity post '73 was because of all the Eastern European Jewish immigrants, with out those, who knows how things go?


Israeli presidency is almost totally a ceremonial position, the two actual powers the position has are:

1)choosing the first faction to try and create a coalition, always done after consulting with all faction heads and checking which one has the widest support.

2) granting or denying requests for pardon by criminals, the tradition is that the president follows the recommendation of the Justice Minister on that, although there were exceptions.

So I'd not expect anyone to consider Einstein important enough to assassinate.

Two other things you would want to consider are:

1) at the time the actual man in power(Ben Gurion) was atheist-socialist. economically the government was "somewhat moderate left" by European standards, and the Kibutzim were the "ruling elite"

2)The Ultra Orthodox society of the time didn't feel strong enough to try and impose on the secular culture around them. They were closing into seclusion after the way the Holocaust traumatized them- they were centered in East Europe before it, and most of the important centers of learning there were simply wiped out.


Obviously they sell well (and what better reason to write?), but I find "what-if" historical fiction to be on par with Star Wars, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms and Star Trek novels. It's escapism without the escape. Clearly YMMV.

Having said that I did enjoy Turtledove's World War series immensely (space lizards invade Earth during WWII) but at the end I found myself wishing John Christopher had written it instead...


Hell, just the idea of universal shipping containers (with rail, road and shipping interchanges) tagged with punched cards would have revolutionized logistics

As well as the GWR, the LMSR and the New York Central and the French railways had containers. There was even an International Container Bureau as a combination lobby/standardisation committee. The railways didn't get around to standardising, though, and the shipping lines didn't use them.


Shipping around the period of WWII was done using quite small ships by today's standards. There were no ULCC or VLCC supertankers and general cargo ships were a few thousand tonnes draft at most. Crews were cheap and the steam propulsion engines available for cargo ships were quite small; the liners and large warships of the time used turbine propulsion for speed which cargo ships didn't really have a need for as their economical cruising speed was 10-12 knots (on a good day).

Shipping using standardised containers didn't really take off until purpose-built ships came off the slips after the war; re-equipping a regular WWII-era cargo vessel's holds to take containers would actually reduce its total carrying capacity somewhat.


It called fiction. You're taking a story idea (that I have no intention to actually write) way too seriously.

I think at that time Einstein was still respected enough that he would be taken seriously. I mention egalitarian to suggest that he might (hypothetically, of course) have supported Palestinian legal equality, which would be opposed by certain groups, or individuals (think Meir Kahane or Yigal Amir, more recently). Also Ultra-Orthodox anti-zionist groups have existed in what is now Israel since the well before the 1940s, Neturei Karta for one, who were and are vocally anti-secular enough to cause trouble. It only takes one unstable person to take things too far.


Or you might be thinking of Richard Sapir's book, the Far Arena(which is what came to my mind):



145: 110 - Thanks Ilya. 121 (4 [the second 4]) WW II is over in a month. As I already observed; if 1940 Germany could achieve the height to intercept Israeli jets (F-4E and/or 747s) cruising at FL430, Mach 0.85, they still have place their aircraft in the bogey's track, on a reciprocal, to make an attack intercept, and then only get one firing pass.

Meanwhile the IAF orbat contains all cannon-armed fighters and ground attack aircraft, mostly (Mirage/Nesher apart) with an ability to load additional M-61 pods and/or rocket pods.

122 - You may be correct about the uniquity of HEAT rounds in 1973, but HEAT was developed during WW2 (don't know exactly when, but this is why we see the increase in typical tank main gun calibre from 6lb/500mm shot to 75..88mm guns). Actually, I think APDS was WW2 as well, but not until 1944.

Can you comment at all on the concept that he botched the calculation on purpose?


No, because as far as I know all the participants in the Nazi bomb project are dead (or were too junior to know anything significant -- remember someone who was 18 years old in 1945 is now 83) ... and what we're talking about boils down to claims about the internal state of mind of a man working under the surveillance of a police state.

We know Heisenberg got the calculation wrong. The question of whether he did so on purpose is impossible to answer in the absence of witnesses. Doing so would have been tremendously risky during the war -- it would have been mercilessly punished as an act of sabotage -- and certainly not something to have been discussed openly at the time. Meanwhile, claims lodged after the war have to be considered as potentially self-serving.


Not only might it have been punished, but the knowledge would have led to the calculations being redone, which would have been counter-productive.

Whether anyone else could have done a better job is another question.


THE FAR ARENA by, er, ben Sapir, I think (remember the hero being quite horrified at people who wore crucifexes, and realizing the people he woke up to were Romans when he saw the research frogs on ice, not to mention the Russian scientist on the wake-up crew who had clearly read MANDINGO too many times).

I also remember when he saw current Rome and wasn't a bit surprised. Roman architecture is still over the top, and he was used to that.


hmm, readinf the dies the fire series I was struck by one thought, these 'entitie' whatever they, are need destroying. By the change they have declared war-


Very nice idea, but I agree with several people above, that it wouldn't play out the way you describe.

The rest of the world would take a while to figure out what had happened, but Israel could do so pretty quickly - radio broadcasts, position of planets, etc.

Once they did that, their no. 1 priority would be to STOP HITLER, and they wouldn't want a minor war with the UK in Egypt to delay things. They could make contact with the UK pretty fast - radio, air drop of letter to the UK commander in Egypt (whose name they would get from the history books) etc. So within 2-3 days they should be able to make contact with the UK and begin negotiations. In June 1940 the UK was pretty desperate, so would be unlikely to turn down an unexpected ally.

I agree with you that stopping Hitler by military means would still be a problem, in spite of the A bombs. But remember Fred Hoyle's book "October the First is too late". No onewould know what technologies Isreal had, or how many A bombs were available. In addition, early on there would be the advantage of surprise - no one would know what was going on.

Here are some ideas on how to do it quickly:

  • Using historical records, they would know where Hitler was on any given day. (Until information from the Middle East caused the timelines to diverge.) Use an A bomb to wipe out the Nazi leadership. (The A bomb could be flown to the UK then delivered from there.)

  • Go public with everything, and hope to unite the world (and maybe some Germans) against Hitler. Problem: who would believe what had happened without really strong evidence...(and who can blame them really?)

  • Use the A bombs to wipe out parts of the German military infrastructure, and hope that bluff and fear would do the rest. Two A bombs were enough to utterly demoralise the Japanese in 1945 - though they were facing defeat anyway.

  • 153:

    (late to party but)

    Estimates of Israel's atomic weapon inventory in 1973 run from 15 to 25 weapons, based on MW-day operations at Dimona reactor since it went hot and the resultant plutonium output rate. Plus 3-5 weapons/year ongoing output.

    At that time, they were probably roughly Mark-12 bomb equivalents (500 kg, 12-15 kilotons).

    F-4E ferry range with 3 external tanks is 2,600 km one-way. That's not enough to reach Berlin from anywhere within Israel (about 3,000 km). But it's enough to reach landing sites in Greece, or in extremis later in the war Malta with enough range to do a Malta-Berlin-east coast of England flight of about 2,650 km one-way distance.

    Also, it appears that (though not commonly done) the F-4E could use both inner and outer wing pylon fuel tanks, they were all plumbed. So maximum range would be slightly more with 4 drop tanks (centerline, 2 on one wing, 1 on the other wing) plus 1 bomb (on the wing with only 1 tank), enough for a slight range margin on this theoretical mission.



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