Created By: Koveras on July 11, 2013 Last Edited By: Koveras on July 21, 2013
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Point Of Divergence (trope repair)

When a split between alternate history and real life can be traced to a single historical event.

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This is an example-collecting (and possibly description-improving) drive for the Point of Divergence entry that has been gathering dust since 2011.

A point of divergence is a specific event in an Alternate History Back Story that occurs differently than it did in Real Life. Most alternate history authors will change a single event, creating a "ripple effect", however, the point of divergence may range in importance and realism from a missing horseshoe nail to Time Travel and Alien Invasion.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • In The New Universe it was supposed to be exactly like reality until the White Event. The slogan was "the world outside your window."

Film
  • In the Super Mario Bros. movie, the prologue explains that the alternate reality of the Mushroom Kingdom was identical to ours until the Chicxulub meteorite impact: in our timeline, the dinosaurs were killed off; in the Mushroom Kingdom, they weren't.

Literature
  • In Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, World War II is interrupted by a fleet of lizard-people from outer space (a.k.a. The Race) in 1942. This is both unlucky and lucky for the aliens: if they'd shown up 50 years early they would've swiftly annihilated a planet who had yet to discover military flight, rocketry, and the basic building blocks of nuclear weapons. If The Race had shown up 50 years later they would have been soundly defeated by humans with modern technology that matched The Race but with much greater understanding of tactics and strategy, not to mention several nations having massive nuclear weapons programs.
  • The Years of Rice and Salt: The Black Death extinguished the European civilization.
  • Seekers of the Sky: Jesus was killed by Herod's troops and the Redeemer took his place as the the Messiah.
  • In Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy series, history was changed when Richard I of England was not killed by the crossbow wound he took during the siege of Chalus-Chabrol. He returned to England and John never became king. Richard died in 1219 and his son Arthur took the throne.
  • L. Neil Smith's North American Confederacy series has the divergence as the result of a single word added to the Declaration of Independence, "governments derive their just power from the unanimous consent of the governed." Somehow, as a result, the Whiskey Rebellion was successful and the entire continent became a Libertarian utopia.

Live-Action TV
  • Sliders, which deals with parallel universes on a regular basis, often has its main characters deduce the point of divergence between the universe they are currently in and their home universe (Earth Prime). In the pilot, the point of divergence between Earth Prime and the Communist-ruled USA world is the outcome of The Korean War (loss for the US as opposed to a draw).

Video Games
  • In the Fallout series, the PoD is World War II. The transistor was never invented, leading to desktop computers and robots that use vacuum tubes instead. This also had the world stuck in the social norms of the 1950's, for some reason.
  • In BioShock Infinite, the divergence point is the 1893 World Fair, or rather, the construction of the floating city of Columbia for said fair. More precisely, the divergence point is the baptism of Booker DeWitt, which created Father Comstock and ultimately made Columbia possible. In-game, Elizabeth has the power to use "tears" as divergence points to enter alternate timelines.

Should go under Alternate History Tropes.
Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • July 11, 2013
    StarSword
    Film:
    • In the Super Mario Bros movie the prologue explains the split to have occurred because of the Chixculub meteorite impact. In our timeline, the dinosaurs were killed off; in the Mushroom Kingdom, they weren't.
    • Star Trek films:
      • In Star Trek a "particularly troubled Romulan" time-traveling to the past split off an alternate timeline from the main franchise.
      • The Mirror Universe is established to have been created by a decision made by Zefram Cochrane at the end of Star Trek First Contact. In the prime timeline, he didn't tell the Vulcans about the Borg, whereas the mirror universe version did.
  • July 11, 2013
    DAN004
    Related to For Want Of A Nail?
  • July 12, 2013
    Arivne
    Literature
    • In Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy series, history was changed when Richard I of England was not killed by the crossbow wound he took during the siege of Chalus-Chabrol. He returned to England and John never became king. Richard died in 1219 and his son Arthur took the throne.
  • July 12, 2013
    Koveras
    @Star Sword: The Star Trek examples would fall under Alternate Timeline, not Alternate History. I am not sure I should include them.

    @DAN 004: I think so, yes.

    @Arivne: Thanks, that's great!
  • July 12, 2013
    mack
    • Worldwar: The point of divergence is when the The Race, a reptilian alien species invade Earth in 1942, during World War Two.
      • This is both unlucky and lucky for the aliens, if they'd shown up 50 years early they would've swiftly annihilated a planet who had yet to discover military flight, rocketry or the basic building blocks of nuclear weapons. If The Race had shown up 50 years later they would have been soundly defeated by humans with modern technology that matched The Race but with much greater understanding of tactics and strategy, not to mention several nations having massive nuclear weapons programs.
  • July 12, 2013
    zarpaulus
    L. Neil Smith's North American Confederacy series has the divergence as the result of a single word added to the Declaration of Independence, "governments derive their just power from the unanimous consent of the governed." Somehow as a result the Whiskey Rebellion was successful and the entire continent became a Libertarian utopia.
  • July 12, 2013
    Duncan
    Is the basis of the film Sliding Doors: a character's entire life changes depending on whether or not she caught the early train home.
  • July 12, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ That's Alternate Timeline again.
  • July 12, 2013
    StarSword
    I really don't see that there's any difference in function between a point of divergence for an alternate timeline and a point of divergence for an alternate history. The only difference I can see is that with an alternate timeline both tines of the fork, if you will, are In Universe.

    Also, I misspelled Chicxulub (the c is before the x, not after).
  • July 12, 2013
    Koveras
    Alternate History is about history, long-term consequences of major events. Alternate Timeline is about individual plots. The Point Of Divergence in AH is a historical event that alters the setting, while in AT, it's a plot event falling within the timeframe of the all-fictional story that alters all following events. I think there is a major difference there.
  • July 18, 2013
    dvorak
    Video Games
    • In the Fallout series, the PoD is world war 2. The transistor was never invented, leading to desktop computers and robots that use vacuum tubes instead. This also had the world stuck in the social norms of the 1950's, for some reason.
    • Bioshock Infinite has these in the form of "tears" that allow you and Elizabeth to enter alt timelines at specific points.
    Literature
    • Disc World refers to these as "The Trouser Legs of Time", the point where one timeline splits into two Alternate Timelines, which looks like a pair of pants on a graph. Occasionally, one may end up going down the "wrong leg" and feel quite out of place. One novel had Vimes' Magi Tek palm pilot doohickey do this.
  • July 19, 2013
    Koveras
    The Discworld sounds a little too meta to me. I get it that it discusses the Alternate History concept of PoD in-universe, but since it's a Constructed World, it falls under Alternate Timeline by definition of that trope...
  • July 19, 2013
    windower
    TV Series: In the TV series Sliders, which deals with parallel universes on a regular basis often has it's main characters deduce the point of divergence between the universe they are currently in and their home universe (Earth Prime). In the pilot the point of divergence between Earth Prime and the Communist-ruled USA world is the outcome of the Korean War (loss for the US as opposed to a draw).
  • July 19, 2013
    hevendor717
    I think the Metal Gear series has one, but I'm not really sure. What I do know is that reality is basically the same as ours but with several covert individuals and battles, up until the events of MGS 3 in 1964....after which U.S. presidents change from our reality, different nations are made, Metal Gears become part of the world's conflicts, etc.
  • July 19, 2013
    DAN004
    So this trope only counts divergence with real-life events?
  • July 20, 2013
    Koveras
    Yes, I've specifically defined it as an Alternate History trope, as stated in the laconic, the first sentence of the write-up, and the suggested index.
  • July 20, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Then I want a better title.
  • July 20, 2013
    RandomSurfer
    In The New Universe it was supposed to be exactly like reality until the White Event. The slogan was "the world outside your window."
  • July 20, 2013
    Koveras
    ^^ Feel free to suggest one. Just keep in mind, that this is a example collection drive for an old existing page.
  • July 20, 2013
    Specialist290
    ^^^ I'd also like to note that "point of divergence" is a preexisting term used in academic discussions.
  • July 20, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ Not sure how academic that article is (no sources), but even The Other Wiki's article has this title.
  • July 21, 2013
    DAN004
    I'll give it a shot: The Historical Nail? (though I think it's a bad snowclone)
  • July 21, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ I think of Jesus' crucifixion relics when I hear that.
  • July 21, 2013
    DAN004
    Historical Horse Nail would be even worse, so... maybe Fantastic Historical What If?

    BTW is this trope related to Historical In Joke? Or just What If in general?
  • July 21, 2013
    Koveras
    Not to the Historical In Joke, that is about finding alternate explanations to historical events, not changing them. But definitely to What If, as the entire Alternate History genre is based on What If ideas.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=eayr7y0tmeam99g31u5jkblv&trope=PointOfDivergence