|"Down in the Bottomlands"|
The New Hugo Winners, Volume IV
|Publication date||January, 1993|
Down in the Bottomlands is an alternate history novella written by Harry Turtledove, first published in Analog's January 1993 issue. It was reprinted in The New Hugo Winners, Volume IV: Science Fiction's Roll of Honor (1997), edited Gregory Benford; in Down in the Bottomlands and Other Places (1999), and; We Install and Other Stories (2015). It won the best Hugo Award for Novella in 1994.
The novella is set in a world in which the Atlantic Ocean did not re-flood the Mediterranean Sea 5.5 million years ago in the Miocene Epoch, as it did in our history. The Mediterranean Basin thus remains dry to the present day in this timeline, as a vast sunken desert called the Bottomlands, averaging nearly two km below mean sea level, with summer temperatures reaching well above 40°C and with little or no rainfall.
Among the many consequences of this change is the continued survival of Neanderthal, and its coexistence with H. s. sapiens. By the time of the work's setting, roughly the 1990s, the two rival species have established substantial nation-states on a Great Continent that is made up of Eurasia and Africa, with the Neanderthals, called "Strongbrows", having two rival kingdoms in OTL Europe;: the Hereditary Tyranny of Tartesh, which is centered on Western Europe, and the Kingdom of Morgaf, located on the British Isles. States populated by modern humans ("Highheads") include Principality of Lissonland, which appears to be centered on North Africa; Duvai, which seems centered in sub-Saharan Africa; the Krepalgan Unity, which is located at least in part on the Arabian Peninsula, and; the Empire of Stekia located across the Western Ocean (the Atlantic Ocean) on the Double-Continent (North and South America).
Tarteshan Radnal vez Krobir, a tour guide in Trench Park in the Bottomlands, becomes embroiled in political intrigue when Dokhnor of Kellef, a citizen of the rival Morgaf, is killed during the tour. The investigation reveals that the murder is just one part of a broader scheme involving the fate of the Bottomlands.
Similar Themes by Other Writers Edit
A section of David Mason's "Shores of Tomorrow" also depicts an alternate timeline where the Mediterranean is dry, though in this case due to a giant dam erected by a highly technological culture .
Poul Anderson's story "Gibraltar Falls" depicts the adventures of time travelers who go back to the prehistoric time when Atlantic waters were flooding the hitherto dry valley which would become the Mediterranean, creating a magnificent km-high waterfall.
Turtledove also contributed "The Mrem Go West" to the mosaic novel Exiled: Clan of Claw whose setting is a fantasy world equivalent to the flooding of the Mediterranean after Gibraltar opened to the Atlantic.