On Newt Gingrich’s 1945

I own Newt Gingrich’s 1945.

Confession time.

I paid full price for it. On the day it came out.

1945. It’s legendary in science fiction circles. Then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich made a deal with Baen Books for a series of alternate history novels. Co-written with William Forstchen, 1945 posited a world where Adolf Hitler never declared war on the United States after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, so that the US never became involved in the European War. Now, it’s several years after Germany has finished their conquest of the (former) Soviet Union and the entire weight of the United States military crushed Imperial Japan, and matters are afoot. Germany is armed to the teeth, the United States is wary, then Britain is invaded. The Germans launch a commando attack and long-range bombing attack on Tennessee. A new war is at hand, and only one country will stand the victor.

And that’s how the book ends. It’s a cliffhanger, and nearly fifteen years later, the story of this science fictional saga hasn’t been finished.

But that’s not why the book is legendary.

No, the legend of 1945 has more to do with how it went over in the marketplace (early excerpts were roundly mocked), reviewed (universally panned), and sold (which is, it didn’t; it nearly crippled Baen Books and 1945 was a fixture of bargain book sales for a decade).

Today, io9 makes an impassioned appeal — finish the story, Mr. Former Speaker. :)

I enjoyed 1945. It’s not a great novel. I was in an alternate history phase in those days; I think Harry Turtledove’s World War finally killed that in me. I remember that 1945 had interesting ideas, however, and I described it at the time as the sort of alternate history World War II novel Tom Clancy would have written.

Oh, have no fear. The world is safe from 1946 (or whatever the next book would have been called). Gingrich and Forstchen are still writing alternate histories — they wrote a Civil War series, and they’re in the midst of an alt-World War II saga — but there’s no chance that a publisher would say, “Yes, let’s publish a sequel to one of the most-mocked science fiction novels of all time.”

Still, it amused me to see someone yearning for a sequel to this novel. Fun times. :)

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