''Pastwatch'' is a 1996 novel by Creator/OrsonScottCard combining elements of ScienceFiction and AlternateHistory. The novel is set in a future where a past-viewing technology has been perfected, most of the main characters are historians who use this technology to observe and analyze the totality of human history. Over time, they come to see European conquest of the Americas as a destructive turning point in Earth's history. They come to the conclusion that, if they can observe the past, maybe they can alter it as well.

Card apparently planned the book to be part of a series, but the sequels (announced in 1999) have yet to be completed.

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!!Provides Examples Of:

* AfterTheEnd: The world has just gone through a period of calamity that has reduced the world population to under a billion and necessitated great efforts to repair the ecology.
* AlternateHistory: The main plot of the novel is around the characters trying to ''design'' an alternate history which they can then create. [[spoiler:They also learn that we are living in alternate history created by beings who changed their own past.]]
* AlternateHistoryWank: Given that Orson Scott Card is an observant Mormon, what else could his creation of a peace-loving ModernMayincatecEmpire that embodies an anti-racist, egalitarian interpretation of Christianity be?
* AnachronicOrder: Told with chapters alternating between historical fiction of Christopher Columbus and far future science fiction about the Pastwatch project. Eventually the two plot lines merge due to TimeTravel.
* ApathyKilledTheCat: With a past viewing device available, it seems likely that the first order of business would be to investigate every major religion, either confirming or debunking the accounts in each book of scripture. There's no mention made of this, and there are still explicitly Christians and Muslims around in this future. (This despite the fact that one character became famous by discovering the historical event that became the basis for the Great Flood).
** Presumably, doing so would result in massive riots and condemnations that the past-viewing technology is evil and is, therefore, untrue.
** Somewhat handwaved away when one character mentions in passing that every religious vision observed has been too subjective to tell what really happened.
* {{Atlantis}}: Thanks to Pastwatch (and one obsessed meteorologist), it's eventually discovered that Atlantis is the name later given to an ancient civilization at the end of the last IceAge. It was the first civilization to organize into urban-like groups and set up (more or less) permanent structures in the Red Sea. The melting of the ice caps has resulted in the rising of the ocean levels and a destructive tidal wave wiping out the entire civilization. Only a man named Naog, foreseeing this outcome, builds a sturdy wooden boat, just big enough to hold his family and the families of his slaves. After making it to shore, he becomes a shepherd, telling the story of his lost homeland to all who would listen. He advocated two things: slavery (as replacement of human sacrifice) and a nomadic lifestyle (believing God was against cities). It wasn't until Babylon that large cities were again attempted. What all this means is that Noah was from Atlantis.
* BackToFront: In universe example. One of the pastwatchers has a habit of watching the lives of individual figures starting at the end and working their way to the beginning.
* BigBrotherIsWatching: Everyone knows about the time-viewing technology, but they're not worried about it being abused by those in power, as it can only go back no closer than a few centuries ago. It's later revealed that this is a blatant lie, and the tech can actually view anywhere on Earth as near as 15 minutes ago. Of course, the only ones who are aware of this are a group dedicated to ''exposing'' the governments' lies.
* BoldExplorer: The famous {{Historical Domain|Character}} explorer-protagonist himself, of course.
* TheCakeIsALie: [[spoiler:Despite what the politicians are saying, human civilization is doomed, as the ecological damage will not be reversed in time to save humanity from being thrown back to the Stone Age]].
* DeadGuyJunior: Tagiri names Diko and Acho after ancestors she discovered with the Pastwatch computer systems and Diko's daughter that she has [[spoiler:with Columbus]] is given the middle name Tagiri after her mother. Additionally, her first name is [[spoiler:Beatrice]], though her father never makes it clear ''which'' of [[spoiler:his two beloved Beatrices]] he named his daughter after.
* DiseaseBleach: After Columbus has a near-death experience and a vision from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit [[spoiler:that turns out to have been sent by people from a previously existing timeline to create the one that led to the 23rd century setting of the novel]], his hair starts rapidly turning white.
* FlingALightIntoTheFuture: Knowing that people of the 15th century wouldn't able to understand, they left their history as a sealed record that would be found only when society had the technology to detect it.
* GodGuise: [[spoiler:Hunahpu]] pretends to be a god in front of some Zapotec villagers as part of his plan to remake history. It helps that he's a full head taller than an average Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican.
* HitlersTimeTravelExemptionAct: Averted. It turns out it is possible to change the past, but we can only speculate whether previous iterations were better or worse than our own timeline.
* IncestIsRelative: Having had much experience directly watching Columbus throughout his lifetime, Diko describes him as being an older brother, father, and grandfather to her despite never actually interacting with him [[spoiler:and later ends up marrying and having a child with him]].
* ItMakesSenseInContext: Hunahpu sticks six needles through his penis, shows up [[spoiler:at a Zapotec village]] with his bleeding and freshly-pierced junk exposed, and entreats six people to each pull one needle out of his penis and wipe the blood on themselves [[spoiler:as part of a GodGuise]]. Try explaining this to someone who hasn't read the book without getting weird looks.
** Even more, one of the people is a slave from another village. Hunahpu demands that she be freed and asks her to take one of the needles, just like the others. She takes the needle from his penis and sticks it through her tongue. The others are shocked... but not for the same reason as a modern-day person would be. In that culture, this is something only a wife would do, and for a slave to do that to a [[spoiler:messenger of the gods]] would be extremely shocking. Later, [[spoiler:he ends up marrying her]].
* JustBeforeTheEnd: The characters realize that the earth is in the throes of an ecological upset that will probably cause the downfall of human civilization. This figures heavily into their desire to change the past.
* ModernMayincatecEmpire: The Tlaxcala apparently took over the world in a previous iteration of the world's history. The people of that timeline [[spoiler:apparently considered it such a catastrophe in the long run, they changed history (and prevented themselves from ever existing) to avoid it, resulting in ''our'' timeline.]] [[spoiler:Ironically, the CosmicRetcon created by our timeline ''restores'' this trope, but in a more peaceful incarnation as the result of Diko, Hunahpu, and Kemal's work in changing the past.]]
* MortonsFork: What spurs the decision to change the past even though it'll erase our timeline and existence is the fact that [[ApocalypseHow Earth is doomed]] to an even ''worse'' apocalyptic scenario than the one they've already experienced. The human population will be reduced to under 10 million, and humanity will be plunged back into the Stone Ages with little hope of ever rising to civilization ever again.
* NobleSavage: Played straight and averted. The characters watch the slaughter and plunder of peaceful American tribes by European invaders. This is initially seen a simple good vs. evil conquest, but they later realize that, left to themselves, the post-Aztec kingdoms would have created an even worse empire based on conquest and human sacrifice. They seek to find a way to [[TakeAThirdOption bring the cultures together and prevent their worst excesses]].
* NoEqualOpportunityTimeTravel: Averted. The three time travelers are a Mayan, an African and a Turk. Only one was the 'appropriate' race for that time and place. [[spoiler: One of them ''intended'' to be killed because of his race.]] Of course, advanced technology and a detailed knowledge of future events can make you more acceptable to any society.
** Even the Mayan time traveler is stated to be a foot taller than the Mayans of that period. This only serves to help him to pretend to be a messenger from Xibalba (the underworld).
* PokeInTheThirdEye: When the characters watch shamans of a Taino village, they are spooked as the shamans describe having a vision of being watched. They watch them twice, decide to do so once more, and freak out because now the shamans speak of being watched three times.
* PoliticallyCorrectHistory: Averted in that Orson Scott Card portrays everyone who is native to Columbus's lifetime as realistically prejudiced, racist, sexist, etc. for their time and it takes the intervention of time travelers from the twenty-third century to facilitate any changes in these attitudes in the alternate history that they are sent back to create.
** Notably, not just the Europeans--the native Taino and Zapotec tribes the protagonists interact with have plenty of their own problems with sexism and racism to fix too.
* RetGone: It's clear that changing the past will wipe everyone on earth out of existence, except those who are sent. Everyone would have to accept having never existed in order to (hopefully) make the world better.
** This is also stated to be one of the reasons why [[spoiler:Diko doesn't want to start a romantic relationship with Hunahpu and have a child that will end up being erased]].
* SetRightWhatOnceWentWrong: On a historical scale.
* TeacherStudentRomance: [[spoiler:Diko ends up romancing and marrying Christopher Columbus himself]] after acting as a mentor to him.
* TemporalMutability: Type 5. The characters make clear that, as soon as they enter the past, they'll begin to change it. Even contact with one of their dead bodies would introduce future bacteria and viruses into the past ecosystem, altering the entire timeline.
** There is some variety -- basically, of the events happening before the time travellers act, those based more-or-less on random chance get a "re-roll" (sailors pick random girls to sleep with), while those based on conscious and informed decision proceed roughly the same way (a ship's captain's concerns stay the same and so does the ship's course).
** This is also why the scientists painstakingly work to make sure that all three get sent back. If even one of them is sent back a second before the others, then the other won't be there in the already-altered future to be sent back. This means that all the distances must be measured down to microscopic measurements, and all wires cut to exactly the same lengths. Even in the end, the lead scientist states that it all comes down to chance and his hope that the universe will expand the "moment" to allow for all three to make it through.
* TheTimeTravellersDilemma: Used to excellent effect. The characters agonize over whether changing the past would make things better, and whether it could ever be justified. Even when they learn that an ecological collapse is inevitable, they're concerned about taking on that kind of responsibility. It's especially hard considering [[spoiler:the world we're living in now is the result of time travelers from an alternate future changing ''their'' past. Whether it made things better or worse can only be speculated on.]]
** It's conveniently resolved by [[spoiler:revealing that the ecological damage is irreversible in time to save human civilization]].
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