Thursday, June 13, 2013
Fun with Altered Timelines
I’ve been pretty thoroughly neglecting this blog. I can sense your outrage (not really). But I have a good reason: I’ve been writing another book. Aside from the time required to actually write it. This particular one involves an altered timeline, which takes a ridiculous amount of research and speculation.
Anytime you opt to change history, there is an inevitable ripple-effect from that point. We know this, because every science fiction series that has had an episode where this occurs has exhibited this phenomenon. Often the world is drastically changed. Major organizations/nations have different names, often several major characters are now on opposite sides in some conflict, and typically the female character(s) have different hair-styles.
I’m not doing a one-off time-is-changed-then-fixed thing (No, this is not in any way related to my first book, Twin Suns). My whole setting is a world that, from a specific point, developed along a different track. Fortunately, that point is about 150 years ago. If it were a thousand, I’d still be doing preliminary research and possible institutionalized as a result of the strain. 150 years is doable, or as doable as the task of predicting the actions of several generations of humans all across the globe can ever be. Fortunately, accuracy isn’t really the goal, plausibility is enough.
For the big events, it requires the analysis of a variety of linked events. For example, as those of you who can do math realized, my change in the timeline occurs at the end of the American Civil War. The results are far-reaching. By 2013 in my timeline, Israel, Cuba and Pakistan aren’t nations, but California is; India is Communist, and China isn’t. How, you ask? It’s complicated.
In my timeline there is a Confederate victory at Gettysburg. This doesn’t win the war, but results in Lincoln narrowly losing reelection. The McClellan administration signs an armistice with the CSA, and hostilities cease. A few years later, it’s not unlikely that California (combined with the Oregon/Washington territories) would secede. By this time the CSA has taken possession of the territory between California and the USA, which basically guarantees California’s right to secede. At that stage there would be little reason for it to remain in the Union, when the majority of their contact with the USA is sending them gold. At the same time, they would have little use for joining the CSA.
Jump ahead to the Spanish-American War. The CSA supports the Cubans in their fight for independence and Cuba joins the CSA as a state along with Puerto Rico (Guam and the Philippines would have been left alone since the CSA would lack a Pacific port at this time.)
World War I begins in much the same way, but the ending comes quickly. The CSA relies much more heavily on trade with the allies, and is quicker to enter the war. A quicker end to that war would have a wide array of effects. Most significantly, there would be less debt on both sides, and thus lower reparations demanded by the Treaty of Versailles. A less financially devastated Germany makes it impossible for Adolf Hitler to seize power.
There is a good chance that World War II, as we know it, wouldn’t have happened. As a result, the British Empire would have had the strength to hold on to their colonies like India and Pakistan, Mao Zedong would have been defeated by Chang Kai-Shek (The Japanese invasion saved Mao’s ass) and Israel would have never been formed in the wake of the Holocaust (because it no longer would have happened).
A likely result would be the early battles of the Cold War occurring on a much larger scale. Without the strong imperative to avoid “World War III,” (because much like Terminator films, two is simply enough) the Cold War becomes World War II, rather than a series of smaller wars. The allies are the European nations (and probably Japan) struggling to hold on to their colonies, and the axis is the USSR and the rebelling colonies. As a result, India gains its independence with Soviet support, becoming Communist, and isn’t partitioned to create Pakistan.
Because of my prediction that the USA would embrace a philosophy of greater central control, while the CSA would move in the opposite direction, I think it’s likely that the CSA would have closer ties to the Allies and the USA would likely support the USSR. However, I doubt that either would get directly involved, though perhaps they’d fight each other a bit.
I also predict that the Balkans will still be a confusing mess, purely because the Balkans have always been a confusing mess.
So that’s just one example highlighting a few major changes, to create consistency when off-handedly mentioning the rest of the world. The story is actually set in the USA and CSA, so all of that is just peripheral data that occasionally gets mentioned (or may never get mentioned).
The level of detail for events occurring in the USA or CSA requires a greater level of research. In order to have my protagonist buy something, I had to devise a new economic system independent of the government, which led to a lot of reading about the Free Banking period in Scotland, the Gold Standard, Reserve Banking, prominent Southern banks during the Civil War, etc. By the time I finish the damn thing I expect to have a bibliography longer than many works of non-fiction.
On the plus side, I think it’s pretty damn good so far. If you happen to be interested in reading the first few chapters, communicate these desires using some method of communication.