Dewey Defeats Truman

Sometimes, a writer inadvertently creates an Alternate History, which causes problems when referencing later events. The reason? Real life has simply progressed beyond the fictional events, meaning that the work suddenly becomes inaccurate. Adventure thrillers are especially vulnerable to this, as they are often written Twenty Minutes into the Future. Sometimes, the writer will refer to later events such as 9-11, In Spite of a Nail. In other cases, what was a series of adventure novels experiences a Genre Shift and becomes some kind of science-fiction or true Alternate History.

Anything that doesn't have The Internet is prone to this, which is everything written before the mid-90s but set after. Anything vaguely similar to the 'net as we know it, tends to be limited to looking up a remote, probably centralized, database. The idea of it being a many-to-many medium doesn't seem to have occurred to many people until it actually happenednote . For examples of fictional not-quite-Internets, see The Alternet.

Ironically, the title of this article and the accompanying photo are a downplay of the trope. The initial run was immediately intercepted and destroyed, but not before one of Truman's cronies got a hold of one, providing for the famous photo op. The fact that the Tribune was an arch-Republican paper hostile to Truman didn't help any matters.

The science-fiction version is a special case, where dates or rates of technological advance become invalidated by the march of time. Zeerust is an aesthetic version, where "futuristic" designs wind up dated.

The title comes from a famous newspaper headline. The Chicago Tribune printed the predicted winner of the 1948 presidential election on its front page. By morning, the headline was proven wrong.

See The Great Politics Mess-Up for a particularly frequently encountered example.


Comic Books
  • Martian Manhunter was originally from a thriving and prosperous Mars. After space probes found Mars to be barren, a Retcon was introduced to explain what had happened to J'onn's people.

  • Back to the Future:
    • We'll see in just about one year after this edit what did and didn't come to pass as predicted in Part 2 - not that the film had any pretensions of prescience. So far it's predicted flat screen TVs and hundreds of channels and the increase in popularity and decrease in cost of plastic surgery among a few other things. Oh, and paper newspapers look like they'll still be around too, if only just. On the other hand, we're unlikely to have flying cars, hoverboards, realistic holographic displays, dust-repellent paper, and 80s cafes. And unless the U.S. dollar goes completely screwball in the next year, it won't cost $50 for a Pepsi. Lawyers will probably get to keep their jobs, too.
    • Also, a Cubs-Miami World Series in 2015 will be impossible as long as both franchises remain in the National League. (Of course, the fact these teams had the two worst records in the NL in 2013 would've made a World Series by either squad unlikely, anyway.) Good job predicting there'd be a Miami team though (the Florida Marlins were formed in 1993 and became the Miami Marlins in 2012), even if they got the name wrong — the logo implies that they would be the Gators, unlikely in any case given that there was already a well-known college football team by that name.
    • In one that crosses with "Funny Aneurysm" Moment, "Queen Diana visits Washington". Not only Princess Diana left the royal family through a divorce and died tragically, but HM The Queen looks like she'll still reign in 2015.
    • One of the more amusing mispredictions: The continued existence of Pontiac. Why they even decided that a Toyota dealership would switch to selling American cars in the first place is a mystery, especially since '80s futurism was heavily inspired by a Japan Takes Over the World mentality.
  • 2012 predicted...well...

  • Deliberately spoofed in More Information Than You Require, which is apparently set in some kind of Alternate History where, among other things, Dewey Defeats Truman, and in the follow-up volume, That Is All, we learn that Hitler drowned while on vacation during the 1930s. Roosevelt was right there and he allowed it to happen.
  • Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series gradually developed from a series of "Well, it could have happened in real life" techno-thrillers into a full-blown Alternate History.
  • Lord of the Flies features a nuclear war breaking out sometime in the late 1950s, making it this trope if you block out all the heavy-handed symbolism.
  • Sometime Never: A Fable for Supermen has a nuclear war where there shouldn't have been, though Roald Dahl is just looking for a convenient time to kill humanity.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey.
    • And now, its sequel, 2010.
      • Someone needs to set an alarm to come back and edit this page in 51 years.
    • All of the Space Odyssey series have already been invalidated this way, one way or another. For example, the first three books all feature a still-existing USSR; the backstory of 2061 involves a revolution in South Africa in the 2030s which overthrows the apartheid regime; then of course there's the invention of HAL...
  • Isaac Asimov's novels have Ridiculously Human Robots, but no personal computers and (in most novels) even no television.
    • His short story History, published in 1941, mentions that Hitler died on Madagaskar.
  • Averted in a Mark Twain short story.
  • Larry Niven's Known Space has humanity midway through colonizing the solar system and beginning to get slowboats to nearby habitable systems ready by this point in its history, as well as widespread death penalties to force organ donation.
  • 1984 predicts a decidedly dystopian '84 that did not come to pass. Not that we wanted it to anyway. Although it did predict iPods and flatscreen TVs. And the NSA's warrant-less surveillance of everything on the internet. Of course, it wasn't specifically said that the book takes place in 1984 (Winston explicitly says he's not sure what year it really is) — Orwell simply flipped the last two digits of the year it was published (1948). The book was originally going to be called "The Last Man in Britain"; a trace of this remains when O'Brien tells Winston that "if you are a man, then you are the last man". And given Big Brother's ability to lie about everything to the point of altering the definition of "truth," there's no way for anyone in-story to be sure what year it is, either.
  • Dream Park by Niven & Barnes has California decimated by an earthquake and associated tsunami in 1985. The second sequel bumped this to 1995, after which the authors threw up their hands and let it stand as an alternate-history Verse.
  • Robert A. Heinlein is often credited with inventing the idea of an author linking his works into a single timeline and coining the term "future history." None the less, he eventually had to declare his Future History to be an alternate universe (and he then introduced inter-universal travel so those characters could visit worlds more like our own).
  • Brilliantly averted in G. K. Chesterton's The Napoleon Of Notting Hill. After an introduction in which he pokes fun at authors and pundits who make authoritative-sounding predictions about the future only to inevitably run afoul of this trope, he announces that he is setting his story the better part of a century in the future, and that apart from one major, and deliberately silly, change to the operation of the British government, he is assuming that the future will be exactly like the present. The marvelous thing is that, a hundred years later, his book actually does stand up to this trope far better than most of his contemporaries. Make of that what you will.
  • The Man Who Brought The Dodgers Back To Brooklyn was written in 1981, but largely takes place in 1985-88. A few of the changes are necessary for the story to work; for instance, the LA Dodgers' mid-Eighties stats ended up being pretty good in Real Life, but had to be abysmal in the book to help the characters buy out the team.
    • A minor aversion occurs with the 1988 World Series; the Dodgers make it to the Series in the book, just like they made it to the actual '88 Series.
    • Played straight with the book's central premise, though. As of 2014, the Dodgers are still in Los Angeles.

Live-Action TV
  • 24. Season 1 was written and filmed pre-9/11 but was set in 2004. By the second season, 9/11 had happened, and the Department of Homeland Security suddenly existed when it hadn't before.
  • Space: 1999, like Arthur C. Clark, was covered later by stating it had taken place in an Alternate Universe.
  • Star Trek:
    • The franchise initially had the Eugenics Wars occurring in the 1990s. There were a couple attempts to fix this one. DS9: "Dr. Bashir, I Presume" claimed that it actually happened later sometime, while a series of books suggested that they were "secret wars" where the actual historical events were being manipulated from behind the scenes. One series of comics just says "screw it, we're going all in" and has Khan destroying Washington D.C. and Moscow in 1992.
    • The Fix Fic Reimagined Enterprise states that they did happen, and they were open wars, but that a lot of it was our-universe conflicts and incidents that here had a connection to the Augments (for instance, there was an intervention in Somalia in 1992, but here it was an intervention against the Khanate).
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch spoofed the famous Dewey Defeats Truman moment when Jenny won the race for Class President against the popular cheerleader, Libby.
  • In the Live Episode of Roundhouse, the dad (John) insists that the family eat out to celebrate the son's (Ivan) victory at the Anytown little league tournament, which was to happen the next day. When Ivan corrects John, the latter states that "tomorrow Anytown will beat Rivaltown just like we've done for the past 30 years. Don't you read the papers?" He then whips out a newspaper where the top headline is "Anytown Defeats Rivaltown". Ivan goes, "Hey why did they print that already?!?" to which John replies that they'll have something to shred for the ticket day parade. Bonus points for the newspaper having the trope name as the second headline.

Video Games
  • Modern Warfare predicted a civil war in Russia by 2011 which obviously did not come to passnote .
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 predicted that David Petraeus would be Secretary of Defense in 2025. Given the fact that Petraeus was caught up in an extramarital affair in late 2012, that seems really unlikely.
  • The original Ghost Recon predicted a third world war between the U.S. and a resurgent Soviet Union would break out, and opens with the Russian invasion of the Republic of Georgia in 2008; while such a conflict did indeed occur in Georgia that year with Russia, it did not escalate into the larger conflict that is the focus of the game.
  • Zig-zag on Freakazoid!: When Freakazoid goes back in time and averts World War II, he returns to the present and sees things have changed: Sharon Stone can act, Rush Limbaugh is a bleeding-heart liberal, and thumbing through a newspaper: "Cold fusion works...Euro Disney packed...No more Chevy Chase movies!"

Web Original
  • Fenspace has made it an official editorial policy that no real-world elected officials from after 2006 will appear to avoid bringing partisan political squabbles into the process of creating a shared universe. One story does mention Edward Snowden in passing though, and establishes that he did basically the same thing as in Real Life except for seeking asylum in near-Earth orbit instead of Russia.