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Literature: Decades of Darkness
Decades Of Darkness is an Alternate History timeline originating on AlternateHistory.com. The creator, Jared, got the idea from a contest to create a historically plausible version of S.M. Stirling's The Draka series: a mega evil slaver doom empire, built on opposition to the very values that the Western world holds dear, takes over the world. "DoD", as it's commonly abbreviated, deviated considerably from this origin, which is just as well for that part of the world's population not living under said Empire.

In a dark twist on the values which America was built upon, this empire is in fact the United States. The tale begins as a strategically timed heart attack kills off Thomas Jefferson at the worst moment of the historical New England separatist movement in 1809. The bumbling James Madison, his successor, gets into a war with Great Britain and the New England rebels in 1811 and loses handily. Half the Midwest is lost, and furthermore, in the course of the war Madison alienated New York and New Jersey and caused them to secede and join New England as well. Since the former Northeastern states that make up the new Republic of New England were the heartland of the abolitionist movement in our world's US, their secession from the Union swings the political balance in favor of the Southern states, whose economies were built upon slave labor and which were fiercely defensive of their "peculiar institution". From here on, the timeline somehow manages to become broader in scope until it is global, while at the same time getting more and more detailed.

It ends in 1935 as the world seems to be settling into a four-way Cold War (called the Silent War) between the four world-dominating power blocs, the USA (known, owing to its evil, as "Alt USA" or *USA), the German Empire (a mostly monarchist federation under the Hapsburgs), the Russian Federation (an enormously complicated Czarist-federal-democratic... thing stretching from Constantinople to Beijing), and the Restored Empire (an Indian Rim-centered, Australian-led alliance) and its main ally, Nippon. Needless to say, much has changed in the intervening time.

Decades of Darkness is one of the most influential AH.com timelines, and its style of presentation has inspired many others. It is often cited alongside earlier works from soc.history.what-if such as For All Time as among the classics of Alternate History Web Original work. It was concluded on January 20, 2009. A series of vignettes and a novel exploring the future of this world remain in the works.

You can read the completed story here at the AH.com forum or here or here.

Provides examples of:

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    General Tropes 
  • Asperger Syndrome: Some Dr. Hans Asperger appears in an Allohistorical Allusion and becomes the namesake of a medical condition in this world as well. But instead of an autism spectrum disorder, he described full-blown AIDS.
  • Cool Ship: The battleships, with 18-inch cannons - bigger than almost anything in our world, except the Yamato.
  • Darkest Hour: The appropriately-named chapter Midnight.
  • Downer Ending: The ending of the North American War.
  • Doorstopper: The finished timeline is longer than 1800 pages.
    • One troper, with the tenacity of a true sociopath, managed to lovingly craft, edit, and format the entire timeline into a print-worthy book. Single-spaced and with a 12 font, it comes to over 2,400 pages.
  • Egopolis: In the *USA some states (Washington, Jackson, Wilkinson) and many cities are named after presidents and other high-ranking politicians.
  • Fantastic Slurs: *Americans are often referred to as "jackals" by their enemies.
  • Gratuitous German: Radio is named "funk"; and since Germany has become one of the superpowers, German (or rather, neudeutsch) phrases tend to crop up.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Quite some, since *American English contains very many Spanish loan words.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: Subverted. It's New York that becomes famous for its Mardi Gras celebrations. As for New Orleans itself? The financial capital of the *USA and the Western hemisphere, with Canal Street becoming the equivalent of Wall Street. In other words, New Orleans became New York, and vice versa.
  • Istanbul Not Constantinople: Knoxville is Columbia, Equador is in northern Brazil, New England is a much more extensive term, and colonial cities across Africa, Australia, Asia, and the Americas have different names.
    • Inverted: The government of His Majesty the Czar of All the Russias would like to make perfectly clear that it's Constantinople, not Istanbul.
  • Loophole Abuse: Everything that the Vitalists did while in charge of New England was technically constitutional. After they're overthrown, the new leaders write a new constitution to close all those loopholes, remarking that, even though the Vitalists technically followed the letter of the law, they had utterly betrayed its spirit.
  • Lovecraft Country: While the Republic of New England itself isn't portrayed as such, its literary scene produces an analogue of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos in the form of L. H. Phillips, who is far more successful in life than his inspiration was. While Phillips doesn't share Lovecraft's virulent racism (the *US' monstrous behavior having discredited white supremacy in most of the world by the 1910s), he does have an equally virulent anti-*Americanism — one of his most popular novels depicts, in vivid detail, the collapse of the *US. Given New England's then-recent and humiliating loss in the North American War, comparisons can be drawn to German expressionism and Weimar art.
  • Night Swim Equals Death: *US president Donald Bellamy. He was deep in debt after a big recession, so he made a secret agreement with a fascist leader from New England to have him picked up on the sea, with a submarine. It didn't work out. The details remain a mystery.
  • Reassignment Backfire: Being the *American Ambassador in Liberia (see below) improved Edgar Langley's life and helped to liberate many slaves from *American slavery.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: The transfer to Whydah, an isolated *American colony in West Africa if you belong to the *American military and to Liberia if you belong to the *American State Department.
    • Subverted: A decorated Jaguar veteran is handpicked for the prestigious mission of planting the *American flag in Antarctica, symbolizing how *America now stretches not only from "sea to shining sea," but "pole to pole" as well.
  • The Roaring Twenties: The Golden Years, which occur in the 1910s, are the rough equivalent.
  • Scrapbook Story
  • Shout-Out: Many, given to Call of Cthulhu, Alanis Morissette, a group of popular rock bands, and more.
    • A Crowning Moment of Funny goes out to a 1908 Hartford Journal of Literature article which lambastes an avant garde play whose subject was the meeting of a worker's union to discuss the removal of certain medical benefits from their contract. The reviewer notes that it is impossible to derive this from the dialogue, in which the entire first act consists of two actors repeating the same two lines over and over:
    Lennard: Dental plan.
    Lennard: Dental plan.
    Carlson: Lisa needs braces.
    • Then there's the opera singer Bianca Reinblume.
    • There's a huge one to Star Wars. The three subchapters are named "The Start of Wars: A New Hope?", "The Reich Strikes Back" and "The Return of the JD-Is"note  respectively. And then we meet two pilot volunteers for the republican side, named Hans (who flies solo in his Jahrhundert Falke / Century Falcon) and Luke, who earns the Badass epithet Cloudstalker. There's even an alleged quote of "I have a very bad feeling about this...".
  • Spiritual Successor: Or how should you call it? The author wanted to make DoD essentially "The Draka, but done right".
  • Take That: In-story. The Latino revolutionary theorist who calls himself "Eunuco Mitchell" used his pseudonym for this trope. It means "the eunuch Mitchell" and refers to the *US president who conquered Colombia and Venezuela.
  • The Virus: Unfortunately, *HIV-outbreak occurred much earlier.
  • Worthy Opponent: Juarez, the last Mexican General, was respected by the American Captain Fisher who hunted and killed him.

    Alternate History Tropes 
  • Allohistorical Allusion
    • Japan launches a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor… in 1892, to kick out an attempted American filibuster of Hawaii.
    • The description of the plans for Germany's invasion of Britain contains a lot of detail about just how many years of planning and preparation went into them. This is a reference to the real-life Operation Sealion, Hitler's plan to invade the UK, which is a Running Gag on AH.com due to how monumentally stupid and poorly thought-out it was, and how it would have been a total disaster if executed.
    • Operation Sealion was never meant to be carried out, as Hitler repeatedly offered peace negotiations to Britain, which he had always respected, and never wanted to invade it (it was Britain and France that declared war on Germany, not the other way around). Sealion was therefore only the beginning of a plan never meant to be used.
    • A French general asks to be allowed to lead the army of the Somme, so his name won't be connected to a huge bloodshed.
    • *US general Custer managing to shift blame, so his name won't be connected with disaster.
  • Alternate History: Well, that's rather the point.
  • Alternate History Wank: Played somewhat straight where the *U.S. is concerned. YMMV, but the *USA's expansion starts to become a bit on the implausible side towards the end of the story. Russia also has a few issues in this regard.
  • For Want of a Nail: That was one significant heart attack.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Napoleon I manages to win the battle of Waterloo, only to lose against the Prussians under Blücher afterwards, making "Waterloo" in this world a phrase meaning "a victory claimed too early".
    • And most people in DoD think that the secession of New England was inevitable, going as far as stating that *Americans and Yankees are different people. This is also pointed out within the story itself as well.
  • Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility: Though some of its more devoted aficionados may want to disagree, DoD is definitely quite a bit more soft than hard AH; more plausible than Turtledove's "Timeline 191" or Stirling's Draka
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Used to great success in the North American War. Later deconstructed when they are put to use in the Brazilian Civil War a few years later, where they make easy targets for the new anti-air weapons and fighter planes, causing them to be replaced by conventional bombers in later wars.

    National And Political Tropes 
  • 100% Adoration Rating: Some Canadian republicans in Wisconsin (part of Canada in this story) are so popular, they could have demanded the annexation of Wisconsin by the German Reich, and people would have brought flags with the three-headed eagle. At least that's what they say about themselves.
  • The Alliance: The Restored Empire and the South American Amistad (against the *USA and Imperial Brazil).
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Discussed. In our history, the attacking powers in World War II were defeated and all their conquests undone, so there's the general idea that countries aren't allowed to just attack and conquer each other. In Decades of Darkness, the attacking country (Imperial Germany) successfully turned France and Great Britain into lots of tiny little puppet states, and annexed lots of France's territory. As a result, there's the general idea that countries attacking and conquering each other is just perfectly normal.
  • American Political System: One of the central, recurring themes is the evolution of the political systems of the *USA and the Republic of New England.
  • America Saves the Day: While the *USA is The Empire in this world, it still makes a point about helping out its (decreasing number of) true friends.
  • America Takes Over the World: Not quite the whole world, but they're trying to take over the Americas and they've very nearly finished. Given what the *USA is like, this is not even remotely a good thing.
  • Balkanize Me: The USA (only at the beginning of the timeline), Spain, China, France, Britain, Italy, Brazil, and some other nations as well.
    • Averted for Germany and Russia.
  • The Barnum: Phineas T. Barnum, who becomes president of New England.
  • The Beard: Julia Gordon's husband, who's gay himself (quite practical).
  • Bittersweet Ending
  • Black Shirt:
    • The redshirts of the New England Vitalists.
    • Also, the blackshorts (yes, you read that right) of the English nationalists.
  • Born Into Slavery
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Averted. France doesn't end well in TTL, but fights hard. In particular, the trope itself is inverted because for much of the 19th century, the USA considers France to be one of her closest friends and allies.
  • Civil War: Starts with a much earlier The American Civil War, then continues with civil wars in Brazil, Canada, etc. The last days of the United Kingdom may also count as one.
  • The Commonwealth of Nations: the Restored Empire is a closer version. Interestingly enough, Australia and South Africa have not only replaced the United Kingdom as leading nations, but the fragmented Britain is not even a part of the organization.
  • Cult Colony: The Nephites (alt-Mormons) use Vancouver Island, British Columbia as this, in place of Utah. It becomes an independent country, the Nephi Free State, after Canada loses British Columbia and Alaska in the North American War.
  • Divided States of America: New England and *USA, the latter complete with an obviously different flag: seven stripes and an ever-increasing number of stars... or, at least, for now.
    • Some have speculated that Canada might possibly end up as a divided nation: One scenario includes a republic in the west, an independent Quebec in the east, and a rump kingdom in Ontario. What happens to Wisconsin here, however, hasn't been addressed.
  • Dirty Communists: In Newfoundland!
  • Drink Order: "Vodka's for Russkies, wine's for Poms, rum's for Jackals, sake's for slant-eyes and beer's for men", one Australian claims.
  • Eagleland: The *USA incorporates some of the darkest elements of flavour #2.
  • Elves VS Dwarves: Not literally; two factions among the Canadian republicans bear these nicknames.
  • The Empire: the *USA, the Brazilian Empire, and both French Empires.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: It starts with black slaves as in our world, after the Mexican conquest more and more mestizos and indios are added to the pool, and after the North American War even anglos (read: Canadian resistance fighters) get enslaved.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Justified, since the early part is in the time when royal marriages were real diplomacy.
  • Expanded States of America: Of the United Americas variant.
  • The Federation: the Russian Empire actually becomes this, while Germany and especially the Restored Empire fit the trope neatly.
    • The Restored Empire is rather more The Alliance than The Federation, see chapter #189 for details.
    • Subverted, like The Empire, since the The Empire, that is, the *USA, is of course an actual constitutional federation.
      • While the *USA is a de jure constitutional federation, it is unfortunately, in all reality, largely controlled by horribly immoral wealthy planters and unscrupulous industrialists; both of these elite groups, btw, were the key to the ultimate preservation of U.S. slavery.
  • Fictional Political Party: The major parties of the United States are the Democrats and the Patriots, who are later replaced by the Unionists, and the major parties of the Republic of New England are the Federalists, Radicals, and Republicans.
  • Generican Empire: the Restored Empire and Amistad (spanish word for friendship).
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: So averted: The *USA conquers and enslaves half the world, while the British, German, and Russian empires are all comparatively nice. Played relatively straight in Brazil, where the monarchy is pro-*US and pro-slavery and the republic is pro-German and immediately abolishes slavery, but it becomes a dictatorship.
    • Another straight use of this trope was France, where both French empires and the later French republics (third and fourth) smoothly fit.
  • Government in Exile: after the North American War and the following occupation of Venezuela, Australia harboured the Venezuelan government-in-exile.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Debatable. Though not much has been discussed in the way of slave rebellions, the belief that slaves and peons would simply 'accept their fate' on the part of some AHers hasn't been proven, and in fact, it's almost inevitable that at least a few major rebellions would occur from time to time.
  • Hegemonic Empire: Germany and Russia, and Australia and South Africa within the Restored Empire which dominates the Indian Rim.
  • Hopeless War: The futile but heroic struggles of Latin Americans against the *USA… though not always.
  • The Kingdom: The kingdoms within the British and later Restored Empire fit this trope more or less.
  • La Résistance: Various, like the Velvet Underground in Pennsylvania, Mexican generals like Juarez, and Eunuco Mitchell. Unfortunately (and realistically), none have prevailed.
  • Made a Slave
  • Mary Sue Topia: While not really implausible, the Kingdom of Australia and its people are too perfect and successful to be a realistic country, in the eyes of some.
    • Actually, they're still not as good as the real Australia is. Just kidding. I'd like to point out this may be a case of Author Appeal(as is the case with many other things in the TL). Not to mention that real problems in the country have been talked about, including not having enough water and extreme environmental degradation.
    • Liberia fits this trope squarely, the land of former slaves from the Americas. Contrary to real-world Liberia, where different factions have fought one another in one of Africa's longest and cruelest civil wars, it is peaceful and prosperous, with leading figures declaring that race does not matter in their eyes. Even more remarkable when the citizens come not only from the United States, as in the real Liberia, but also from all over the Caribbean, yet still enjoy enlightened fraternal harmony. With no enforced servitude, contrary to black history in real-world Africa. Certainly a case of Author Appeal.
      • Not quite. It experienced a coup d'etat in the last phase of the Great war. *Liberia's status as a model nation is the result of a more favorable location and greater immigration and investment into the new nation.
      • While there is a coup d'état toward the end of the story, there is nowhere near the brutality of the real Liberia, or the strife and corruption in most African nations. Likewise, tribal divisions are mostly non-existent in Liberia, making it highly distinct from real-world Africa.
      • It fits for the story Liberia to be highly distinct from real-world Liberia. Real-world Liberia was founded by a little over ten thousand voluntary emigrants to an unwelcoming environment, while the story Liberia was formed by over a hundred thousand people expelled from the United States because of their race, and moved to a different climate. The story Liberia is essentially part of the United States transplanted into Africa.
  • Military Coup: Happen in Great Britain and Liberia at the end of the Great War because the civilian leadership is unwilling to leave the war.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Vitalism. Fun fact: The New England Vitalists' paramilitary wing wears red shirts.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: But of course. James Madison causes the USA to break up. Jefferson Davis also becomes one. Abraham Lincoln and Martin Van Buren become presidents of New England instead. As do Phineas T. Barnum and Daniel Webster. Ulysses S. Grant even is a reporter.
  • Peace Conference: The First, Second, and Third Congress of Vienna and the Dublin Conference are the most important.
  • Regent for Life: John Blackwood becomes the Lord High Steward of England at the end of the timeline.
  • The Republic: The Republic of New England and the later French republics.
  • Rising Empire: The rise of the three superpowers who dominate the world from the 1930 onwards is a central part of the timeline.
  • Sex Slave: One *American is pretty shocked when he finds out that the Latina "dance instructors" are prostitutes in all but name. He founds the anti-slavery "Society for the Ethical Peon Treatment" (SEPT).
  • Slave Liberation: One slave, who later calls himself Romulus Courtenay, runs away with his wife and daughter. Fortunately, he gets help fleeing to Canada - by a white racist, who just happens to hate big slaveholders.
  • Space-Filling Empire: The South African-ruled Central Africa is the most obvious example.
  • Take Over the World: Taking over the Americas becomes a major aim of the *USA.
  • The Theocracy: The Nephi Free State is a theocratic Nephi republic. Non-Nephis are disenfranchised and encouraged to migrate.
  • The Troubles: The term used to describe the civil war in Canada, fought between the socialist, republican west (which is largely Irish-Canadian) and the monarchist, authoritarian east. Ireland itself, oddly and ironically enough, manages to avoid the Catholic-Protestant tension that plagued it in real life, and remains relatively peaceful.
  • United Europe: The German-dominated Greater European Economic Union unites most of post-Great War Europe outside the Russian Federation.
  • United Nations: The Council of Nations is the in-universe counterpart.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Restored Empire is a positive version.
    • Subverted by the Portuguese kingdom. It seemed to be heading into becoming one after losing its closest ally, Imperial Brazil and being forced to sell most of their overseas empire ...only to gain a large colonial empire in West Africa at the beginning of the post-Great war era.
  • The White House: Burned down by the Halifax Powers (Britain and New England) and rebuilt in Knoxville, renamed Columbia.

     Character Tropes 
  • Ace Pilot: James Ingersoll.
  • Agent Peacock: A Portuguese guy only known as "Alberto". Not very "bishie", but even described as a peacock (he likes expensive clothes).
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Played straight (Empress Maria) and averted (Baron Kelvin).
  • Benjamin Disraeli is British PM in a pretty bad moment - his country loses a war against the *US.
  • The Casanova: President Hugh Griffin.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Hong Xiuquan, the "son of Christ" and leader of the Taiping rebellion.
  • David Lloyd George manages to become PM of two countries - first of Britain, for Labour, later of independent Cymru (Wales).
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil:
    • The *US makes a point of assimilating those Latinos in the conquered Mexico and Latin America who can either pass for white or are rich enough to buy their citizenship. According to some, this could the ironic effect of making the ruling upper and middle classes of the *US, a nation built upon white supremacy, look rather swarthy and Mediterranean in comparison to their lily-white rivals(though it is highly doubtful that the WASP elites would just stand by and allow this without a fight).
    • Abraham Myers, first Jewish president of the *USA, also deserves mention.
    • Some Latinos also manage to rise to the top in *Fascist New England, General Rodney Ironfist (Rodrigo Heredia) being a major example. Of course, many of these Latinos are Dominicans, with views similar to those of Cuban exiles in our world's US — viciously anti-American and itching for revenge after the occupation of their homeland.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Many stories are about members of the Jaguars, the *American elite troops / jungle fighters.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The reason for the support of Alvar O'Brien by his archenemy Plutarco Bautista against presidential candidate Jefferson Caden, who is an extreme (WASP) racist and warhawk.
  • Famous-Named Foreigner: Karl Marx's co-author Adenauer(!), banker Escher, professor Disraeli, French president Marceau, German colonist Schweitzer, British writer Clement Churchill, Italian general Verdi, a St Petersburg publishing company owned by "Ulyanov and Trotsky" (Ulyanov was Vladimir Lenin's original surname), German (left) politician Blucher, SF author Grillparzer, let alone the composer Schicklgruber, which is, as some may know, the birth name of Adolf Hitler's father.
  • A Father to His Men: General Helmuth von Moltke, who even gets nicknamed "Vater" (father).
  • Heel-Face Turn: Done by Edgar Langley, the first *American (Deputy) Ambassador in Liberia.
  • Intrepid Reporter: The Grant family: Ulysses, Jesse, Diane.
  • Ironic Nickname: Handsome Pete, also fighting in the Brazilian Civil War, a guy who's described thus: "with a face which wouldn't look out of place on a horse's backside"
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Julia Gordon. And First Lady Anna Mitchell.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Hey, it covers more than a hundred years of (alternate) history, and events from all over the world.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: The *American philosopher Amber Jarrett. She gets some really juicy lines, too:
    In war: determination. In defeat: malice. In victory: vengeance. In peace: preparation.
    Perpetual peace is a dream, and not even a beautiful dream. War is an integral part of the ordering of the universe. Men love peace as a means to new wars.
  • Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman: William Randolph Hearst is a general… and there's other examples, too.
  • The Stoic: Canadian general Ambroise Riel. He's nicknamed "the iceman" and his adjutant claims that Riel only smiled once in four years.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Amber Jarrett.

The Dead SkunkAlternate History Web OriginalDecisive Darkness
The Dead SkunkWebsite/Alternate History.comDecisive Darkness

alternative title(s): Decades Of Darkness
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