Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Discussions on alternate history, including events up to 20 years before today. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
Avalancheon
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Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by Avalancheon » 01 Jul 2021 12:32

Alternate history is a genre that is neither wholly historical, nor wholly fictional. It treads on the territory of both while belonging to neither. Historians often treat the genre with hostility and suspicion, because their profession is to examine the world as it was, not to explore how it could have been. They are not in the business of counter-factuals. On the other hand, fiction writers are generally uncomfortable with the genre, because the fixed settings can stifle their creativity and create story obstacles. The need to research obscure and tedious details in order to write a convincing story is also challenging. But at the same time, alternate history is a genre with enormous potential to explore our own world. In principle, it can be extended to the entirety of human existence. It can span subjects ranging from the mundane (What if you hadn't gotten into that car accident?) to the profound (What if the Nazis had won WW2?). It can span from events that happened recently, all the way to events that happened eons ago.

Alternate history is an arena that can be thought of in terms of 'possibility space' (a wonderful concept from AI theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky). Imagine an enormous space that is filled with every possible world that could have existed if some chance event had played out differently. It is a space congruent with the 'many worlds theory.' When an author chooses to write an alternate history story, he is reaching into that enormous space of possibilitys and selecting one single world that he considers worthy to write a story about. Even after hundreds of authors have written their own alternative history storys, the true depths of that possibility space remains completely unexplored. You can think of it as a basket filled with lottery balls: But instead, the basket is the size of a planet and is filled with trillions of lottery balls! Thats the kindof arena that authors are playing in. The room for artistic expression is virtually unlimited. The true limit is not in the possibility space, but in the imagination and creativity of the writer.

possibility_spaces.png

The 'what if' forum of AxisHistory is dedicated to exploring the possibilitys of recent human history. As we all know, the course of history is not deterministic; the world we live in today is the accumulation of millions of chance events that could have gone any number of different ways. This applys not just to the recent history of our own species, but to the entire history of life on Earth as well. The Paleoanthropologist Stephen Jay Gould had a very strong regard for this 'chaos effect.' He believed that if the tape of life were rewound to the time of the Cambrian explosion and played again from that same starting point, the chances are very small that human beings would appear on the world stage again.

When taking a broader perspective, alternate history isn't conceptually limited to just modern history: It can be extended to medieval history, ancient history, and far beyond. With this heuristic, the probability of just about anything that ever has existed can be questioned. We can question the probability of the Industrial revolution occurring when and where it did, of the Agricultural revolution occurring when and where it did. We can even go back into primordial time and question the probability of the Sun and the planets evolving in the precise manner they did billions of years ago. (And indeed, Astronomers and Cosmologists have many competing ideas on how our own solar system evolved)

Alternate history can only truly be appreciated once we understand the existence of 'historical contingencys', an idea popularised by Stephen Jay Gould. This is the notion that evolutionary pathways are constrained by events that are often random in nature. Take for instance, the asteroid that struck Earth 66 million years ago and wiped out the Dinosaurs. The world we live in today is dependent upon that historical contingency. But the odds of this asteroid strike having happened in the exact manner it did are astronomically small. In a BBC Documentary, scientists calculated that if the asteroid had hit just 30 seconds later and landed in a different continent, the Dinosaurs may not have went extinct.

asteroid.jpg

So with all this being understood, it should be clear that the 'possibility space' for alternate history is unimaginably huge. Our reality is just one of trillions of possibilitys that could have been realised, if historical contingencys had been slightly different. Our reality is a unique accumulation of millions of chance events. But of course, just because something is possible does not mean it is probable. It would be incorrect to suggest that all possibilitys were equally probable. Clearly, some are more unlikely than others. And some are so supremely unlikely that they could never have happened, without some extreme set of circumstances. These extreme circumstances are the providence of a different kind of alternate history. They fall under the category of speculative fiction, I.E., scenarios that involve time travel, parallel worlds, and future foresight.

Examples of this include the 1632 series, Guns of the South, The Proteus Operation, and the Axis of Time series. These storys feature the arrival of time travelers (or reality jumpers), whose presence throws reality off into the far end of the probability slope. This plot device enables the world to go into really uncharted territory and experience things that are just plain bizarre. Most alternate history storys are based on a world where one historical event went differently, thus leading to a point of departure (POD). This results in the timeline evolving in a limited, incremental fashion. But with speculative fiction, that entire template is altered, because the point of departure itself is of a nature beyond the ordinary range of historical contingencys. This leads to storys that are different in kind to things like steampunk set in the Napoleonic wars, or dieselpunk set in the U.S. civil war. Its more like an eschatological free for all where the entire historical paradigm can be upended.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2021 04:56

Excellent post.
Avalancheon wrote:Historians often treat the genre with hostility and suspicion, because their profession is to examine the world as it was, not to explore how it could have been. They are not in the business of counter-factuals.
In many cases they only think they aren't concerned with counterfactuals. When they write that "X caused Y" they implicitly state "if no X then no Y." In virtually every other field of human inquiry, the counterfactual plays a central role - such as the scientific method's emphasis on controlled experiments. Even in "softer" fields of the social sciences such as economics, "natural experiments" figure in the literature to test the counterfactual. https://link.springer.com/referencework ... 1-5_2006-1
Avalancheon wrote:The need to research obscure and tedious details in order to write a convincing story is also challenging.
I suspect this underlies a lot of historians' resistance to counterfactuals as well. It's difficult enough to write a history book; to write that one that also analyzes feasible alternate courses could easily double the work load. Plus counterfactual reasoning is cognitively demanding, as I've pointed out elsewhere.

I sometimes criticize the history profession for avoiding these questions but, really, it's understandable. Most want to read "what happened" rather than a full account why things happened; getting the extra "why" from counterfactual reasoning would require >twice the work for <twice the marginal benefit. What's unforgiveable is the occasional hostility to others who willing actually to do the hard work and thinking of counterfactual analysis.
Avalancheon wrote:Our reality is just one of trillions of possibilitys that could have been realised, if historical contingencys had been slightly different.
Aside from WW2, my favorite topic is the Age of Exploration. What if the Spanish expeditions into North America had found gold? Instead of an anglophone USA, we'd have seen a Catholic superpower empire - possibly fragmented later. Had the Spanish started settling North America in the early 1500's, the compound population growth rates of settler-colonial societies* would imply an "Estados Unidos" population of perhaps one billion. Does Spain, bolstered by its empire, conquer all of Europe as well? Does a Super-Inquisition wipe out Protestantism across the globe? Does a French crown supported by reactionary Catholic Habsburgs suppress La Revolucion durably?

*While Spaniards had a lower propensity for settler colonialism, there was a core who did so and they underlie the ruling class of most of Latin America. We'd only need a few thousand settler Spaniard in NA during the early 1500's to have hundreds of millions by the 20th Century.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by Avalancheon » 02 Jul 2021 09:08

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Jul 2021 04:56
Excellent post.
Thanks. I thought you'd like it :)
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Jul 2021 04:56
In many cases they only think they aren't concerned with counterfactuals. When they write that "X caused Y" they implicitly state "if no X then no Y." In virtually every other field of human inquiry, the counterfactual plays a central role - such as the scientific method's emphasis on controlled experiments. Even in "softer" fields of the social sciences such as economics, "natural experiments" figure in the literature to test the counterfactual. https://link.springer.com/referencework ... 1-5_2006-1
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Jul 2021 04:56
I suspect this underlies a lot of historians' resistance to counterfactuals as well. It's difficult enough to write a history book; to write that one that also analyzes feasible alternate courses could easily double the work load. Plus counterfactual reasoning is cognitively demanding, as I've pointed out elsewhere.

I sometimes criticize the history profession for avoiding these questions but, really, it's understandable. Most want to read "what happened" rather than a full account why things happened; getting the extra "why" from counterfactual reasoning would require >twice the work for <twice the marginal benefit. What's unforgiveable is the occasional hostility to others who willing actually to do the hard work and thinking of counterfactual analysis.
James G. Blight has alot to say on this seemingly-taboo subject of historians. He wrote a book about what might have happened if JFK had survived his assassination, and has a section explaining his thoughts on why historians are so suspicious towards counter-factuals. Interestingly, Blight himself seems to subscribe to a mild form of historical determinism, in the sense that he downplays the influence of chance events on the course of history.

''Having examined in some detail what JFK did and what LBJ did with regard to the war in Vietnam, we now turn our attention to what might have been - to virtual JFK, Vietnman if Kennedy had lived. In doing so we enter into what is traditionally, for historians a methodological no-mans-land. The problem, typically, is not that historians find alternative pasts, also called 'what ifs' and 'counterfactuals', inherently uninteresting. On the contrary , there is no reason to believe they find them any less intriguing than the rest of us, who tend to find questions of 'what might have been , if only ...' quite fascinating. But professional historians have developed an aversion to sanctioning this particular pursuit as real history because of their inability to rigorously distinguish between counterfactuals that are plausible from the presumably infinite number that are just fanciful. Believing it is impossible to distringuish the relative plausibility of counterfactuals, historians by and large have adopted a procrustean, take-no-prisoners approach: counterfactuals are off-limits.''
...
''Why the methodological bias against counterfactuals? A one-word answer is: fear! The craft of writing history simply must, according to the great majority of historians, be limited to an account of what, insofar as can be determined, actually happened. To assume otherwise is to confuse history with historical fiction and is as illegitimate as failing to observe the fundamental difference between science and science fiction. Both scientists and historians endevor to operate within the constraints of what they believe to be a preexisting objective reality (however complex, however unfathomable it may be), while practitioners of science fiction and historcal fiction are free to launch into all sorts of fantastic possibilitys, constrained not by reality, but only by what the authors believe their readers will let them get away with. The use of counterfactuals, in this view, reduces the craft of history to show business and 'showing off.' It is a betrayal of the historians responsibility and commitment to try to understand the past - the past that happened, not one or more of the infinite pasts that did not happen.''

-Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived, by James G. Blight.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Jul 2021 04:56
Aside from WW2, my favorite topic is the Age of Exploration. What if the Spanish expeditions into North America had found gold? Instead of an anglophone USA, we'd have seen a Catholic superpower empire - possibly fragmented later. Had the Spanish started settling North America in the early 1500's, the compound population growth rates of settler-colonial societies* would imply an "Estados Unidos" population of perhaps one billion. Does Spain, bolstered by its empire, conquer all of Europe as well? Does a Super-Inquisition wipe out Protestantism across the globe? Does a French crown supported by reactionary Catholic Habsburgs suppress La Revolucion durably?

*While Spaniards had a lower propensity for settler colonialism, there was a core who did so and they underlie the ruling class of most of Latin America. We'd only need a few thousand settler Spaniard in NA during the early 1500's to have hundreds of millions by the 20th Century.
I've recently (in the past 2 years) taken an interest in the centurys long conflict between Europe and the Ottoman Empire. This was a real clash of civilisations in every sense of the word, West vs East, Christian vs Muslim, freedom vs slavery. I am very surprised at how this massive conflict is almost completely ignored by pop history. In many ways, the war against the Ottoman Empire was one of the defining events that shaped Europe into what it was and is. This was an Islamic Caliphate that occupied the Balkans for centurys and threatened Europe; the scene of unimaginable crimes against humanity. The Ottoman Empire was the greatest threat ever faced by Western civilisation. []

One of my ongoing projects is to identify instances when the Islamic Turks were vulnerable to catastrophic defeats that could have resulted in the reversal of their invasion of Europe, or even the destruction of their entire empire. The Ottomans despotically and brutally occupied lands in Europe for a total of 568 years, one of the worst crimes ever in the history of civilisation. This occupation lasted from 1354 to 1922, and only ceased when the grotesque monstrosity of an empire finally collapsed. It is a great tragedy of history that they were not destroyed centurys earlier, if only to bring the generations of human suffering to an end.


[] With the possible exception of Nazi Germany itself, although this is complicated because they were a European power that rejected some tenets of Western civilisation (namely, the principles of equality and democracy).

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2021 09:47

Avalancheon wrote:Blight himself seems to subscribe to a mild form of historical determinism, in the sense that he downplays the influence of chance events on the course of history.
Blight is dealing with a situation that, IMO, would have made little difference anyway. Both JFK and LBJ were Cold Warriors - mainstream liberals who thought (perhaps correctly) that if they wanted to achieve certain leftish domestic goals (e.g. Civil Rights Act) they needed to flex their muscles against Communism abroad.

IMO Kennedy would have personally executed 1mil Vietnamese children if it won him re-election. Functionally, that would have been his choice and he would have acted just like LBJ did.
Avalancheon wrote:The Ottoman Empire was the greatest threat ever faced by Western civilisation.
I have some qualms with this, depending on what you mean. Nothing in Ottoman Islam was as threatening to so-called Western values (actually universal human values, I'd argue - probably you don't disagree) as, e.g., the Inquisition and whole-sale expulsion of Jews (many of whom found refuge and enormous productivity in the Sultan's realms). Areas under Ottoman domination were not compelled to Islamize (Greece, for instance, stayed Christian for centuries), whereas the Reconquista and Inquisition were pre-modern religiocides.

I'm not saying, btw, that everyone could lie back with their feet up under Ottoman rule. But neither could Irish under British rule, Poles under Prussian, Ukrainians under Russian, Protestant under Catholic, etc. It just doesn't seem obvious that Ottoman conquest is worse than conquest by another Western power.
Avalancheon wrote:With the possible exception of Nazi Germany itself, although this is complicated because they were a European power that rejected some tenets of Western civilisation (namely, the principles of equality and democracy).
I'm mostly with Tooze in judging Nazi foreign policy as the ultimate form of Western colonialism brought home to Europe (the Nazis, of course, denying that their Slavic targets of colonization were Europeans, let alone that the Jews were). Western Civ always contained room to label someone non-/sub-human (Africans, Muslims, Native Americans).
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by Avalancheon » 02 Jul 2021 10:39

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Jul 2021 09:47
Avalancheon wrote:The Ottoman Empire was the greatest threat ever faced by Western civilisation.
I have some qualms with this, depending on what you mean. Nothing in Ottoman Islam was as threatening to so-called Western values (actually universal human values, I'd argue - probably you don't disagree) as, e.g., the Inquisition and whole-sale expulsion of Jews (many of whom found refuge and enormous productivity in the Sultan's realms). Areas under Ottoman domination were not compelled to Islamize (Greece, for instance, stayed Christian for centuries), whereas the Reconquista and Inquisition were pre-modern religiocides.

I'm not saying, btw, that everyone could lie back with their feet up under Ottoman rule. But neither could Irish under British rule, Poles under Prussian, Ukrainians under Russian, Protestant under Catholic, etc. It just doesn't seem obvious that Ottoman conquest is worse than conquest by another Western power.
In the unlikely event that the Ottoman Empire had somehow conquered all of Europe, that would have been the end of Western civilisation and of the European people themselves. They were one of the worst tyrannies to ever arise on the earth. The Turks imposed Sharia law in the lands they ruled, and forced Christians to pay the Jizya tax or be conscripted into military service. They ruthlessly exploited the populations they ruled over and used them them for slave labour. The Ottomans took young boys and forced them into service as Jainissarys, who were castrated, abused, and brainwashed into becoming fanatical soldiers. In the occupied territorys, they brutalised and murdered people at will for any reason at all, and abducted women into harems where they were forced into sex slavery.

The Ottomans committed atrocitys and massacres everywhere they went, wiping out entire villages as a show of force. They frequently confiscated the harvests of villages before winter and left the people to starve. They ran a massive slave empire that eclipsed anything ever seen in the world before, with the exception of the Roman Empire. The Ottomans took slaves from Africa, Europe, the Levant, and the Caucasus, and traded them in huge numbers each and every year of their miserable existence. They invaded all of their neighbors and were a constant threat to the existence of all sovereign states; even other Muslims were not safe. The Ottomans were the scourge of humanity.


Christians living under Ottoman rule were subject to an astonishing number of restrictions that made them into virtual slaves.They were not forced to convert to Islam: Instead, they were forced to endure a living nightmare:

''Christians did not have the right to build new churches or renovate ruined churches, they were obliged to allow Muslims to enter their churches at any time of day or night, to keep the doors of their houses open to passing Muslims, to receive them as guests even in the middle of the night and to feed them, not to harbour spies, not to teach their children the Qu’ran, not to make open spectacle of their religion and not to preach it, not to prevent those wishing to convert to Islam from doing so, to respect Muslims and to offer them their seats, not to dress like Muslims, not to use either expressions or names used by Muslims, not to use Muslim saddles on horses, not to carry weapons, not to engrave anything in Arabic on signet rings, not to openly sell wine, to shave their heads at the front, not to change the manner of their clothing under any circumstances or wear girdles round their waists, not to carry or wear crosses or holy books in public, to sound the bells or simandron in the churches only quietly, not to raise their voices in churches when Muslims are present, not to wail at funerals, not to carry palm fronds or sacred images in public, not to carry fire in Muslim districts, not to bury their dead near Muslims, not to take slaves belonging to Muslims, not to look inside a Muslim home, not to build houses higher than Muslim houses, not to beat Muslims, not to purchase captive Muslims, not to take on Muslim servants or employees, not to criticise the Qu’ran, Muhammad or the Islamic faith, not to marry Muslims, to allow Muslims to settle in Christian areas, not to openly keep pigs, to ride only donkeys and mules, to attach beads to their saddles, to wear a stamp on their necks (proof of payment of taxes), when entering the bath house to wear a bell, to sit side saddle, not to sit in seats reserved for respected persons at meetings, not to initiate greetings when meeting Muslims, to give way to Muslims; finally, any agreement is nullified if a Christian should strike a Muslim.''

''In addition, on the basis that a Christian cannot hold a position of authority over a true believer, Muslim law deprived the Christians of the right to occupy any position that might put a Muslim into a position of legal dependence on them. Thus Christians do not have the right to become secretaries or chief clerks, to be guardians of a Muslim, his judge or administrator. Worse still was the fact that Christian witnesses were not allowed to give testimony against Muslims no matter what the circumstances, the injustice, or the numbers of Christians involved. As for political rights for Christians, there was certainly absolutely no possibility of that.''

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2021 10:52

From Google it appears your source is a 1904 Russian text, "The Church of Constantinople in the 19th Century"?

Again I'm not denying the Ottomans were harsh rulers but consider the cultural context of 1904 and Russian statements about Ottoman treatment of their co-religionists...

Look at the behavior of contemporary Christians/Westerners, many of whom allied with the Ottomans against various Christian powers in various wars.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2021 10:55

...anyway this isn't an area in which I'm deeply read. I am deeply suspicious on other grounds, however, of trying to portray the Ottomans as significantly worse in, say 1550, than, say, Spain. Indeed I suspect they were significantly better for many classes of people (most prominently Jewish people and Christian heretics).
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by OpanaPointer » 02 Jul 2021 11:12

The only real difference between, say, Niven and Pournelle's "A Spaceship for the King" and a novel about the USA and CSA reuniting to help fight the fascists in WWII, is that one is in the future and the other in the past.
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2021 11:13

Avalancheon wrote:The Turks imposed Sharia law in the lands they ruled
There are many versions of Sharia though - it's always a matter of interpretation. Perhaps we can agree that another "What If" might have had interesting Sharia-related results:

If the other side had won either world war, then the Hashemites would have ruled Arabia instead of the British-allied House of Saud. Ibn Saud and his house came to power by accommodating ultra-fundamentalist Islamists and his regime propped up their teachings thereafter (though probably never believed any of it). Later, Saudi oil wealth enabled these ultra-fundamentalists to spread their version of religion across the world by funding madrassas. Depending on how history goes, our descendants might end up viewing this intra-Arabian struggle as the main outcome of an otherwise relatively insignificant European bloodletting.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by Avalancheon » 02 Jul 2021 11:56

To return to the topic of speculative fiction. One interesting possibility is how the strategic circumstances of a war can be changed when the combatants gain access to information from the future. Including information about how the war they are currently fighting will progress.

Obviously, the impact of this plot device rests on alot of variables. There is the who, when, and what. To understand these variables fully, lets apply apply them to WW2.


1) Who receives the future information? Do the protagonist and antogonist both acquire this gift? Does the protagonist alone gain it, or the antogonist alone? Do their Allies also receive information?

-If Germany alone gains future information, then that gives them a major advantage (depending on the circumstances). If Germany and Britain both gain future information, then that neutralises their advantage somewhat (again, depending on circumstances). If the Allied and Axis nations all gain future information, then what would give the Allies a disproportionate advantage.


2) When is this information received? Is it during the beginning of the conflict, at the end of the conflict, or somewhere in the middle? Are the protagonists or antagonists winning at this stage of the war? Who holds the initiative?

-If Germany acquired future information in early 1944, it wouldn't help them that much. They would still lose the war in all likelihood. But if they acquired future information in early 1941, then that would completely change the equation. They would almost certainly be able to leverage their knowledge enough to score a decisive victory.


3) What is the nature of the information itself? What is its content, quantity, and quality?

-If Germany gains an entire library of books providing a comprehensive overview of the war from start to finish (along with books on a variety of other subjects), then that would give them the greatest possible advantage that information can provide. If they gain a single book about the Sherman or T-34 tank, that would give them very little advantage. The value of information is relative.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2021 12:39

Avalancheon wrote:To return to the topic of speculative fiction.
Avalancheon wrote:What is the nature of the information itself?
tbh speculative fiction encompassing time travel isn't in my wheelhouse. I read this quote as raising something more fundamental/epistemological, absent the "the":
What is the nature of information?
Kant distinguishes analytic and synthetic truths. https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/vi ... 7-0044.xml

Analytic truths don't require having additional (e.g. future) experience, they only require thinking more clearly.

In the context of ATL's, opportunities for the main protagonists to realize analytic truths abound: the Germans realized that a submarine with bigger batteries is better; in feasible ATL's they do so earlier. Or the Allies realize in 1939 they should get Stalin on their side rather than fight a one-front war with Germany.

The analytic/synthetic dichotomy can break down at its boundaries, as many philosophers point out. Giving the Germans knowledge of the specific Hiroshima blast in 1939, for example, is arguably synthetic while giving them awareness that fission can make a bomb is, given the state of knowledge in 1939, arguably analytic.

I prefer to stick to analytic ATL's where the protagonists make different - hopefully feasible - mental calculations. That's just a personal preference for delimiting the infinite space of alternate histories, not a critique of the speculative/sci-fi approach.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2021 12:55

Avalancheon wrote:If Germany acquired future information in early 1944, it wouldn't help them that much. They would still lose the war in all likelihood. But if they acquired future information in early 1941, then that would completely change the equation. They would almost certainly be able to leverage their knowledge enough to score a decisive victory.
On brief reflection, I see that your point is a lot deeper than I initially thought. Please excuse my reflexively dull initial take.

As I read it, you're doing a thought experiment that would, as one output, ascertain the moment when contingency disappears from the outcome-based narrative of WW2: If the Germans make a few more correct decisions in 41 they win; by 44 they lose even if they make all the correct decisions. Somewhere in between is a point where German victory requires such comprehensively correct decisionmaking that, even if victory is analytically possible, it's infeasible as a matter of general human fallibility.

Do you have a verdict on the thought experiment? I don't. I lean towards believing the feasibility window for Germany closes no later than June '41 when they invade the SU with fatuous planning and preparation but am open to arguments that the window was open into mid-'42.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 02 Jul 2021 16:40

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Jul 2021 12:55

Do you have a verdict on the thought experiment? I don't. I lean towards believing the feasibility window for Germany closes no later than June '41 when they invade the SU with fatuous planning and preparation but am open to arguments that the window was open into mid-'42.
I'm gonna go with 1914. Once Germany violated Belgian neutrality, they were doomed to becoming a vassal state for the Anglo-Americans.

Actually I'm gonna go with 1776. Once America became independent, all the old European powers were doomed to becoming subservient to American interests.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2021 17:36

historygeek2021 wrote:
02 Jul 2021 16:40

Actually I'm gonna go with 1776. Once America became independent, all the old European powers were doomed to becoming subservient to American interests.
Obviously wrong.

1606 - once Britain chartered the Virginia company with nascent trans-oceanic autonomy she unleashed the material conditions for her demise and her continental brethren as well.

Actually 1215. Once Britain arranged its society on the basis of legally delimited spheres of autonomy/rights rather than the unchecked power of the sovereign within his domain, it was inevitable that any British offshoot would devour its progenitor. Given that Britain was destined by geography to have transcontinental offshoots, it's inevitable that Britain would spawn Europe's eclipse.

Actually 410. Once the Roman Empire withdrew from Britain, it was inevitable that the island would retain a native population conscious of the concept of legal rights, but also inevitable that it would be conquered by the Germanic powers rising in the vacuum left by Rome. This dynamic made inevitable a legalistic compromise between ruler and ruled that the Magna Carta finally embodied (though it took the Normans to work out the settlement).

So actually the German mistake was conquering* Britain in the Dark Ages.

*Shout out to the Welsh, Scots, and Irish, who longest kept out the Germans and their mongrel language.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 02 Jul 2021 18:24

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Jul 2021 17:36

Obviously wrong.

1606 - once Britain chartered the Virginia company with nascent trans-oceanic autonomy she unleashed the material conditions for her demise and her continental brethren as well.

Actually 1215. Once Britain arranged its society on the basis of legally delimited spheres of autonomy/rights rather than the unchecked power of the sovereign within his domain, it was inevitable that any British offshoot would devour its progenitor. Given that Britain was destined by geography to have transcontinental offshoots, it's inevitable that Britain would spawn Europe's eclipse.

Actually 410. Once the Roman Empire withdrew from Britain, it was inevitable that the island would retain a native population conscious of the concept of legal rights, but also inevitable that it would be conquered by the Germanic powers rising in the vacuum left by Rome. This dynamic made inevitable a legalistic compromise between ruler and ruled that the Magna Carta finally embodied (though it took the Normans to work out the settlement).

So actually the German mistake was conquering* Britain in the Dark Ages.

*Shout out to the Welsh, Scots, and Irish, who longest kept out the Germans and their mongrel language.
Then we're agreed that American ascendance was inevitable and none of the European powers stood a chance.

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