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Alternate history

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Michelle Jahn
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« Reply #15 on: August 18, 2010, 01:15:55 pm »

Many works of fantasy posit a world in which known practitioners of magic were able to make it function, and where the consequences of such reality would not, in fact, disturb history to such an extent as to make it plainly alternate history. Many ambiguous alternate/secret histories are set in Renaissance or pre-Renaissance times, and may explicitly include a "retreat" from the world, which would explain the current absence of such phenomena.

When the magical version of our world's history is set in contemporary times, the distinction becomes clear between alternate history on the one hand and contemporary fantasy, using in effect a form of secret history (as when Josepha Sherman's Son of Darkness has an elf living in New York City, in disguise) on the other. In works such as Robert A. Heinlein's Magic, Incorporated where a construction company can use magic to rig up stands at a sporting event and Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos and its sequel Operation Luna, where djinns are serious weapons of war—with atomic bombs—the use of magic throughout the United States and other modern countries makes it clear that this is not secret history—although references in Operation Chaos to degaussing the effects of cold iron make it possible that it is the result of a POD. The sequel clarifies this as the result of a collaboration of Einstein and Planck in 1901, resulting in the theory of "rheatics". Henry Moseley applies this theory to "degauss the effects of cold iron and release the goetic forces." This results in the suppression of ferromagnetism and the reemergence of magic and magical creatures.

Alternate history shades off into other fantasy subgenres when the use of actual, though altered, history and geography decreases, although a culture may still be clearly the original source; Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds and its sequels take place in a fantasy world, albeit one clearly based on China, and with allusions to actual Chinese history, such as the Empress Wu. Richard Garfinkle's Celestial Matters incorporates ancient Chinese physics and Greek Aristotelian physics, using them as if factual.

A fantasy version of the paratime police was developed by children's writer Diana Wynne Jones in her Chrestomanci quartet (1977–1988), with wizards taking the place of high tech secret agents. Among the novels in this series, Witch Week stands out for its vivid depiction of a history alternate to that of Chrestomanci's own world rather than our own (and yet with a specific POD that turned it away from the "normal" history of most worlds visited by the wizard).

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« Reply #16 on: August 18, 2010, 01:16:07 pm »

Terry Pratchett's works includes several references to alternate histories of Discworld. Men At Arms observes that in millions of universes, Edward d'Eath became an obsessive recluse rather than the instigator of the plot that he is in the novel. In Jingo, Vimes accidentally picks up a pocket organizer that should have gone down another leg of the Trousers of Time, and so can hear the organizer reporting on the deaths that would have occurred had his decision gone otherwise. Indeed, Discworld contains an equivalent of the Time Patrol in its History Monks. Night Watch revolves around a repair of history after a time traveler's murder of an important figure in Vimes's past. Thief of Time presents them functioning as a full-scale Time Patrol, ensuring that history occurs at all.

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« Reply #17 on: August 18, 2010, 01:16:42 pm »

Radio
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In 1953, the NBC radio network aired a show called Stroke of Fate that posited different point of divergence creating an alternate time-line for each episode and dramatized the results along with commentary from various historians. Episodes included changes in the American Civil War, Alexander the Great surviving his illness, an alternate fate for James Wolfe at Quebec City, no Julius Caesar assassination, a different outcome of Aaron Burr's duel amongst other stories. All episodes have been preserved.

The idea of an alternate history was used for satiric and comedic effect in the BBC Radio comedy Married. The protagonist, a confirmed bachelor, awakes one morning in a world where he has a wife and two children, and people familiar to him are radically changed. One historical divergence in this world, exploited mostly for comedy, was the decision of King Edward VIII not to abdicate in 1936. His heirs were a King Richard and a King John, the latter of whom was openly homosexual.

[edit] Films
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Several films have been made that exploit the concepts of alternate history, most notably Kevin Brownlow's It Happened Here (1966), depicting a Nazi-occupied Britain. Other alternate history films include the HBO TV movie Fatherland (1994), set in the 1960s in a world where Germany won World War II. Although foretelling a world where Germany is poised to be defeated in World War II, Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds offers a satirical revenge fantasy where a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler succeeds.

Alternate histories in film are sometimes presented as mockumentaries to provide verisimilitude to fictional events, including C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004), a satirical look at the history of an America where the South won the Civil War.

Other examples of cinematic alternate history are: 2009 Lost Memories (2002), a Korean film supposing that Hirobumi Ito was not assassinated by An Jung-geun in Harbin, China, in 1909; and Timequest (2002), in which a time traveler prevents the assassination of John F. Kennedy, resulting in an altered subsequent history.

A few movies about alternative universes focus on individuals rather than historical events, for example, Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, and more recently the Back to the Future series of films, Blind Chance, Sliding Doors, Run Lola Run, Me Myself I, The Butterfly Effect, Groundhog Day, Frequency and Inglourious Basterds.

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« Reply #18 on: August 18, 2010, 01:16:58 pm »

Television
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Several TV series also exploit the concept of alternate history. The science fiction television show Sliders presented alternate histories under the science-inspired guise of quantum-navigating the multiverse. The vast majority of alternate Americas in most episodes are nasty dystopias, although sometimes this is not evident at first.

In Lost, the characters time travel to 1977 past and attempt to create an alternate history. However, while the only intended ramifications were for Flight 815 to land in Los Angeles, instead, it is revealed that their actions were the cause of the crash, ultimately.

Other non-alternate history television shows have explored the concept. Star Trek has used the theme several times. Examples include: TOS—"The City on the Edge of Forever" (alternate World War II outcome); Animated Series—"Yesteryear"; NG—"Yesterday's Enterprise". Also, the universe of "Mirror, Mirror", while in the original episode was just implied to be a parallel universe, was in later episodes shown to have an alternate history.

The British TV series Doctor Who had a few episodes that involved an alternate Earth where Pete Tyler, father of Rose Tyler, was alive, successful, and rich, unlike the Pete Tyler on the original Earth, who died when Rose was a baby and had been unsuccessful in business. The Tenth Doctor, Rose, and Mickey Smith visited the alternate Earth by accident in "Rise of the Cybermen" and "The Age of Steel". The second season finale "Army of Ghosts" and "Doomsday" also involved travel to the same alternate Earth, and the series four episode "Turn Left" showed an alternate history where the Tenth Doctor has been killed. During the Third Doctor's tenure he visited an alternative Earth with a fascist-style British Government (and fascist counterparts of His friends/companions Liz Shaw, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Sergeant Benton) in Inferno.

In the seventies SF children's series The Tomorrow People, "A Stitch in Time" (1974) depicted an attempted historical change by time travellers from an alternate-universe Roman Empire that developed steam engines in the first century CE, never fell as a result, had a fifteen hundred year technological head-start over our own world and by its 'twentieth century', controlled a galactic empire.

In the Twilight Zone episode "The Parallel", an astronaut is transported to an alternate Earth where history plays out differently, but no-one believes him when he discovers this.

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« Reply #19 on: August 18, 2010, 01:18:11 pm »

Various anime productions have also used the genre:

Zipang (based on a manga of the same name), involves a modern Aegis class destroyer of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force being thrown back in time to the Battle of Midway in 1942. The presence of the ship and its crew, their advanced technology and knowledge of the future, change the course of World War II and create an alternate timeline.
Code Geass depicts an alternate history in which a western empire known as Britannia has conquered and colonized Japan in a near-future setting.
Konpeki no Kantai (lit. Deep Blue Fleet) depicts a hyper-advanced Japanese navy defeating the United States in World War II. Subsequently, Japan, Britain and the United States join forces to defeat Nazi Germany.
[edit] Role-playing games
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The dramatic possibilities of alternate history provide a diverse genre for exploration in role-playing games. Many games use an alternate historical background for their campaigns. In particular, the fourth edition of GURPS uses a setting containing multiple different alternate histories as its default campaign setting, with the supplement GURPS Infinite Worlds detailing a large number of alternate worlds included in the setting, many of them carryovers from the third-edition GURPS supplements GURPS Alternate Earths and GURPS Alternate Earths II.

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« Reply #20 on: August 18, 2010, 01:18:30 pm »

Video games
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For the same reasons that this genre is explored by role-playing games, alternate history is also an intriguing backdrop for the storylines of many video games. A famous example of an alternate history game is Command & Conquer: Red Alert. Released in 1996, the game presents a point of divergence in 1946 where Albert Einstein goes back in time to prevent World War II from ever taking place by erasing Adolf Hitler from time after he is released from Landsberg Prison in 1924. He is successful in his mission, but in the process allows Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union to become powerful enough—as a direct result of not having a strong rival dictator like Hitler to keep his power in check—to launch a massive campaign to conquer Europe, sparking an alternate (and ultimately costlier) version of the Second World War and, eventually, World War III not once but twice: one where the USSR invades the continental US in the 1970s, and a second where a small group of Soviet leaders, attempting to preempt their defeat, go back in time and eliminate Einstein but end up in a conflict with both the West and a third Japanese side.

In the Civilization Series, the player guides a civilization from prehistory to the present day, creating radically altered versions of history on a long time-scale. Several scenarios recreate a particular period which becomes the "point of divergence" in an alternate history shaped by the player's actions. Popular examples in Sid Meier's Civilization IV include Desert War, set in the Mediterranean theater of World War II and featuring scripted events tied to possible outcomes of battles; Broken Star, set in a hypothetical Russian civil war in 2010; and Rhye's and Fall of Civilization, an 'Earth simulator' designed to mirror a history as closely as possible but incorporating unpredictable elements to provide realistic alternate settings.

Crimson Skies is one example of an alternate history spawning multiple interpretations in multiple genres. The stories and games in Crimson Skies take place in an alternate 1930s United States, where the nation crumbled into many hostile states following the effects of the Great Depression, the Great War, and Prohibition. With the road and railway system destroyed, commerce took to the skies. Great cargo zeppelins escorted by fighter squadrons are the targets of many ruthless air pirates and enemy countries. This world has featured in a board game, a PC game, an Xbox game, a collectible miniature game and various promotional novels, comics and short stories.

The game "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" shows an alternative history in which Russia was in civil war between Loyalists and Ultranationalists, with the Ultranationalists ultimately winning. This is continued in the second game of the series when a group of Ultranationalist terrorists, with the help of a deep cover CIA agent, massacre an airport, the leader, Vladimir Makarov then kills the agent, Joseph Allen, so when the Russian authorities find the body, they are led to believe that the attack was carried out by Americans, this leads to Russia launching a surprise invasion on the United States. The game Freedom Fighters portrays a situation similar to that of the movie Red Dawn and Red Alert 2, though less comically than the latter. The point of divergence is during World War II, where the Soviet Union develops an atomic bomb first and uses it on Berlin. With the balance of power and influence tipped in Russia's favor, history diverges; brief summaries at the beginning of the game inform the player of the Communist bloc's complete takeover of Europe by 1953, a different ending to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the spread of Soviet influence into South America and Mexico. The plot of the game revolves around a Soviet invasion of the United States and the resistance fighting in New York City.

Similarly, the 2007 video game World in Conflict is set in 1989, with the Soviet Union on the verge of collapse. The point of divergence is several months before the opening of the game, when Warsaw Pact forces staged a desperate invasion of Western Europe. As the game begins, a Soviet invasion force lands in Seattle, taking advantage of the fact that most of the US military is in Europe. The game is divided into three parts: the first focuses on the fighting retreat from Seattle towards Fort Teller in the Cascade Mountains; the second is a flashback to the recent fighting in Europe, which culminated in a Soviet attack on Manhattan; the third chronicles the fight to retake Seattle before a Chinese fleet arrives, which could force the US President to destroy the invaders with a nuclear strike.

Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, released in February 2008, is an alternate history first person shooter where Winston Churchill died in 1931 from being hit by a taxi cab. Because of this, Great Britain lacks the charismatic leader needed to keep the country together and Nazi Germany is able to conquer Great Britain with a successful Operation Sealion. Germany later conquers the rest of Europe and North Africa while mass-producing their wunderwaffe. The Axis launch a surprise invasion of an isolationist United States in 1953, which cripples the country to surrender under a puppet government. The game's main character is a member of a resistance force against the Germans.

Another alternate history game involving Nazis is War Front: Turning Point in which Adolf Hitler died during the early days of World War II and thus, a much more effective leadership rose to power. Under the command of a new Führer (who is referred to as "Chancellor", and his real name is never revealed), Operation Sealion succeeds and the Nazis successfully conquer Britain, sparking a cold war between the Allied Powers and Germany.

Another example of alternate history is the Resistance series of first-person shooter games. The point of divergence is in the years following World War I, where an isolationist Russian Empire-and later, Western Europe- is conquered by an alien race called the Chimera. The aliens later invade the United States.

The Fallout Series of computer role-playing games is set in a divergent America, where history after World War II diverges from the real world to follow a retro-futuristic timeline. For example, fusion power was invented quite soon after the end of the war, but the transistor was either delayed or never was developed. The result was a future that has a 1950s 'World of Tomorrow' feel to it, with extremely high technology such as artificial intelligence implemented with thermionic valves and other technologies now considered obsolete.

Iron Storm is a first person shooter set in 1964, where the Great War still continues and international corporations sell stocks as if "betting" on an outcome. Since profits are so great, they continually press for stalemate to keep the conflict in an ongoing cycle of minor advances and losses.

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Michelle Jahn
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« Reply #21 on: August 18, 2010, 01:18:43 pm »

Comic books
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Alternate history has also appeared in comic books. An early example is Captain Confederacy, which is set in a world where the Confederate States of America won its independence and has created a Captain America-type superhero for propaganda purposes.

Influential comic writers have also used an alternate history as the background to their story. Alan Moore's 1986 comic series Watchmen is set in an alternate United States that not only has costumed adventurers as commonplace fixtures within American society, but also contains other alternate history elements including an American "victory" in the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon serving five terms as president. Warren Ellis' 2001 comic mini-series Ministry of Space features a British space program that had its foundation in the United Kingdom's recovery of scientists and technology at the German rocket installations in Peenemünde ahead of the US Army and the Soviets.

There have also been alternative history webcomics like Roswell, Texas, which diverges when Davy Crockett survived the Alamo, leading to the expansion of Texas.

Marvel and DC have their own titles where they can tell alternative stories based on their own characters (What If...? and Elseworlds, respectively). Most set the stories in different times or base them on different genres with some based on a divergence in their fictional history.

However, some are genuine alternate histories, with Batman: Holy Terror based on the premise that Oliver Cromwell lived for another decade. Some of the newer DC Multiverse alternate Earths could be legitimately described as alternate histories. On Earth-9, the emergence of metahumans led to a limited nuclear exchange ("the Cuban War") in 1962, leading to the destruction of Florida and Cuba, US intervention during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the survival of the USSR into the nineties (see Tangent Comics.). On Earth-10, Nazi Germany won the Second World War. On Earth-17, the United States and USSR fought a thermonuclear World War III in 1986, with some human survivors. On Earth-30, the Soviet Union won the Cold War due to the technological boost provided by Superman, whose vehicle landed in the Ukraine, instead of Kansas (see Superman: Red Son).

In 2009, Bryan Talbot created Grandville, a graphic novel set in a world mostly populated by anthropomorphic animals, in which France won the Napoleonic Wars, invaded Britain and guillotined the British Royal Family. Grandville also features elements of steampunk.

In 1978, "The Sentinels", one of the first serials in UK Misty (comics), featured an alternate reality where Nazi Germany conquered Britain in 1940, and it interfaced with the mainstream universe via two apartment blocks.

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« Reply #22 on: August 18, 2010, 01:29:19 pm »

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Speculative_fiction
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