There is a certain allure to telling historical tales based on years, either one year as in “1983,” or multiple years as in “1877-1881.” We use years to locate events in the past, as if to locate them in a greater series of situations and events in order to make them more understandable. Years mark reference points to some greater social situation, to enmesh our stories in some social situation that explains them, gives them greater meaning. This also makes many situations somehow excusable because it was “what everyone was doing at the time,” “what was expected at the time,” and so on.
If years play this role, resistance to this kind of excuse-making or cheap history would either avoid using years or attribute years to situations that do not fit. This is done in the kinds of stories using what is commonly called “alternate histories.”
In the ruins all our own all history is alternate history.
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