althistory's Journal

LJ Alternate History Community
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alternate history, speculation, extrapolation, imagination

“For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two o'clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out... and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet... and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think, This time. Maybe this time - with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble…”

William Faulkner

“There are worlds of probability, divergent in the streams of time, but identical almost, until the branches diverge too far…

“Worlds co-existent in time and space - but separated by another dimension, the variant of probability. This is the world that might have been yours had something not happened, long ago. Originally the Dark World and the Earth-world were one, in space and time. Then a decision was made - a very vital decision, though I am not sure what it was. From that point the time-stream branched, and two variant worlds existed where there had been only one before.

“They were utterly identical at first, except that in one of them the key decision had not been made. The results were very different. It happened hundreds of years ago, but the two variant worlds are still close together in the time stream. Eventually they will drift farther apart, and grow less like each other. Meanwhile, they are similar, so much so that a man on the Earth-world may have his twin in the Dark World… The man he might have been, had the key decision not been made ages ago in his world…”

Henry Kuttner, “The Dark World,” 1946

What if?

It's the great question, the intellectual puzzle and soul-searching question that everyone has pondered. If the events of the past had gone differently - how would the present day be affected?

If your first, lost love had grown up to become your wife - if that shattering traffic accident you remember had not missed you - or perhaps, if it had... George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life was shown the world that could have existed if he had not been there to shape the lives of the people around him.

This community looks at “What if?” as a larger question. What if Bronze Age Carthaginians had discovered the New World in 1500 BC? What if the Black Death had simply obliterated Christian Europe? What if Oliver Cromwell, Protector (and dictator) of England had gone instead to Massachusetts Colony, as he intended to do? (His bags were already on board ship when he changed his mind!)

Time and again, the course of history has hung and swung about on the narrowest of pins. If Lee's Special Order 191 had not fallen into Union hands - might the South have won the War of Southron Independence?

If Vladimir Lenin had died in poverty in Zurich... If Giuseppe Zangara had hit his target, and Franklin Roosevelt had been killed in 1933... If the atomic bomb had not been developed in time - if the Cuban Missile Crisis had been miscalculated, or if Exercise Able Archer had happened five years later, when the Soviets were badly destabilized and already crumbling...

We live today in only one possible world. This community explores the others. Come and spin the Wheel of If - see where you land!