What might life be like if the Old World had never discovered the New?
July 17, 2010 12:21 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend fiction set in a world where the New World (i.e. the Americas) had never been discovered by the Old World? I am trying to envision what Native American culture might have evolved into, and what a present-day Europe might be like sans American cultural influences and with much greater population pressure.
posted by skidoom to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't read it - and it is not quite what you are looking for - but one chapter by Stephen Baxter, "The Unblinking Eye", in this recent anthology of short "what if" stories apparently imagines a world where the Incas develop a technologically superior culture and subjugate Europe. It has had some reasonable reviews: 1, 2.
posted by greycap at 12:50 AM on July 17, 2010

The 1996 novel Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card deals with this to a degree. Scientists from a futuristic Earth crippled by pollution and overpopulation travel back in time to manipulate Columbus in order to strike a balance between European colonialism and some of the more bloodthirsty empires of Central America. One of the timelines explores what might have happened had the Americans modernized and discovered Europe first (it's not pretty).
posted by Rhaomi at 2:10 AM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson is an alternative history in which the plague knocked out 99% of Europe. It's not *quite* what you're looking for -- the population pressure in Europe is, of course, not a factor due to the devastation of the plague -- but Native American culture does evolve and is influenced by the arrival of Chinese explorers.
posted by woot at 4:16 AM on July 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

Also not quite what you're looking for, Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker, a novel set in a post-apocalyptic future that imagines what society might evolve into after nuclear destruction.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:04 AM on July 17, 2010

Robert Silverberg's The Gate of Worlds is about a world in which the Aztec Empire is a major world power.
posted by maurice at 5:11 AM on July 17, 2010

Thomas Harlan's Wasteland of Flint and House of Reeds are set in an interstellar empire governed out of Anahuac (Earth), dominated by Aztecs (and Japanese).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:39 AM on July 17, 2010

Coming to also recommend Years of Rice and Salt. Fabulous book.
posted by purenitrous at 8:12 AM on July 17, 2010

S.M. Stirling's "Conquistador" has exactly this premise. It's an entertaining story, but the man's prose is pretty horrible at times.
posted by 256 at 10:20 AM on July 17, 2010

Not quite alternaative history in the sense you ask for, but it sounds like the novel Manituana (review) by the Italian collective Wu Ming might be right up your street.
posted by Abiezer at 3:19 PM on July 17, 2010

For whatever it's worth, it wasn't ever a question of "if" the old world and new world would learn about each other. It was only a question of "when". Advancing technology made it inevitable. (It's kind of hard to miss a continent when you're looking at satellite surveillance photos, for example.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:35 AM on July 18, 2010

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