The Sidewise Awards for Alternate History were conceived in late 1995 to honor the best alternate history genre publications of the year. The award takes its name from Murray Leinster’s 1934 short story “Sidewise in Time”, in which a strange storm causes portions of Earth to swap places with their analogs from other timelines.
The 2021 Sideways Awards was given to Laurent Binet for his book Civilizations.
Freydis is a woman warrior and leader of a band of Viking explorers setting out to the south. They meet local tribes, exchange skills, are taken prisoner, and get as far as Panama. But nobody ultimately knows what became of them. Fast forward five hundred years to 1492 and we’re reading the journals of Christopher Columbus, mid-Atlantic on his own famous voyage of exploration to the Americas, dreaming of gold and conquest. But he and his men are taken captive by Incas. Even as their suffering increases, his faith in his superiority, and in his mission, is unshaken. Thirty years later, Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor, arrives in Europe in the ships stolen from Columbus. He finds a continent divided by religious and dynastic quarrels, the Spanish Inquisition, Luther’s Reformation, capitalism, the miracle of the printing press, endless warmongering between the ruling monarchies, and constant threat from the Turks. But most of all he finds downtrodden populations ready for revolution. Fortunately, he has a recent bestseller as a guidebook to acquiring power–Machiavelli’s The Prince.