A desire to really piss off the mundane sf-ists got me thinking about the possibility of scifi written under the assumption that some significant scientific fact were otherwise.
We are all familiar with "alternate-history" novels in which the South won the Civil War, the Nazis won WWII or the Bills won Superbowl XXV (okay, Scott Norwood and I are still waiting on that last one). Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt, in my opinion the best alternate-history novel ever, assumes that the Black Plague, rather than killing 30% of the population of Europe killed 99%, resulting in a world dominated by Asian, Middle Eastern and Aboriginal American cultures.
But what about a novel/story in which the Michelson-Morley experiment confirmed the existence of the Luminous Aether?(Pynchon toys with this idea in Against the Day, but doesn't take it very far.) Or a story in which Goethe's well-reasoned but discredited theory on color turned out to be correct?
For this to be any good, you'd want it to be based on a theory or hypothesis that was plausible based on what experiments had suggested at the time it was made, but was then superseded by a better theory based on an important experiment or experiments. So for a scifi author to just say "lets' pretend Einstein was wrong" so that he can have his starship go 200c and get to alpha centauri in a week would represent laziness, not alternate science, unless he was basing his physics on some other well-reasoned but discredited hypothesis.
And for it really to be good, you'd have to explore the social consequences of what the confirmation of that theory would mean. Over time, understanding of a theory seeps into popular culture, and changes how people think. The aether was once jokingly called "The British Theory." How would the confirmation of it (as opposed to competing German theories) affect the coming world war/wars?
What other "alternate science histories" could be the basis of a good story?
ps. I remember vaguely that TSR created an offshoot D&D universe in which interstellar ships sailed on Aether winds, and British colonialism extended to an indigenously inhabited mars. Does anyone else remember that?