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Lois: Peter, what exactly are you worried is gonna happen because of this?
Peter: World War V.
Peter, we've been over this...there has to be a World War III
and IV first.
Oh no, that's the beauty of World War V, Lois. It's so intense it skips over the other two.
When World War III
is not far enough into the future, writers tend to make mention of later World Wars. This often used to to show how mankind is doomed to repeat its past mistakes. Generally, they will be the explanation for a Crapsack World
/ After the End
setting, or just a nasty blot in human history.
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Anime and Manga
- Appleseed includes a World War IV in its Back Story, which was said to be conventional (after WWIII exchanged a number of cities for suspiciously round lakes).
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The series mentioned World War IV, a series of several guerrilla conflicts and minor land wars six years before the start of the series around 2030.
- The Earth of Dark Planet is currently engaged in World War VI, also called the Cleansing War. Due to a bizarre interaction between a couple of WMDs, it's going to be the last one: it set off a plague that is rapidly sweeping across the planet.
- In A Boy and His Dog, World War IV is the apocalyptic conflict. World War III is identified as an alternate name for the Cold War.
- The Day After has Professor Huxley (John Lithgow) quoting Einstein regarding World War IV (see Real Life below).
- Robert A. Heinlein's The Star Beast mentions a "tank killer" gun that was a relic of World War IV.
- In The Kid Who Became President, the eponymous 13-year-old chief executive is challenged to a World War Four video game, in which World War Three eliminated all nations except a tiny dictatorship, where the game was made, and its enemy, the USA.
- The short story "The Last Flower" by James Thurber starts with World War XII having brought about the collapse of civilization, which only begins to rebuild when someone expresses concern for the world's last flower. The story ends with the next world war destroying everything in the world except for one man and one woman—and one flower.
- The Survivalist series is about a war set in the future. References are made to past wars particularly the Cold War during the 1980s.
- Cinder makes an offhand reference to World War IV.
- One of the sequels to Enders Game references at least one additional World War that ended with Mecca getting nuked.
- In the backstory to the Star Carrier series World War III was set off after Islamic terrorists nuked several major cities around the world. Then there were two Sino-Western Wars against the Chinese Hegemony, which ended with China setting three asteroids on collision courses with Earth. One, dubbed Wormwood, got through and killed half a billion people when it struck the Atlantic. As a result the Islamic states are barely tolerated by the Terran Confederation of States and China is denied representation altogether. World War VI starts in the fourth book of the series between the United States of North America and some of the other Confederation members, but is interrupted when the Sh'daar Masters break their armistice with Earth and attack.
- In The History of the Galaxy, World War IV is briefly mentioned to have been brewing around the time the first extrasolar colony ships began to set off for other stars. On the other hand, the name is an artifact, as the war would involve all the Solar System.
- In World War Z, it's right there in the title, with "World War" being used to demonstrate the wide-reaching nature of the zombie outbreak (as opposed to the "first two" World Wars, which involved multiple nations fighitng each other). Alternate in-universe names include "Zombie World War" and "Zombie War I" (the narrator dislikes the latter because it implies more zombie "wars" to come).
- Doctor Who:
- The villain in "The Talons of Weng Chiang", Magnus Greel, is a war criminal from World War VI.
- The Ninth Doctor once mentioned World War V.
- Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele's earlier Thrash Metal band, Carnivore, had a song about World War III (and IV), even called "World Wars III and IV".
- Battlefield 2142 had World War IV (assuming nothing happened between Battlefield 2 and 2142) between a futuristic European Union and the Pan-Asian Collation.
- World War IV
- E Republik has World Wars I to V, completely unrelated to historical ones.
- In one episode of Family Guy, Peter said that the event happening would cause World War Five. Lois mentioned that there would have to be a World Wars Three and Four first, but Peter quickly dismisses it, claiming that the "beauty of World War Five is that it is so intense that it just skips over Three and Four."
- Some politicians and authors are under the impression that World War III was the Cold War (including the Korean War and Vietnam War) and World War IV was The War on Terror.
- There's also the Seven Years' War (the North American theater of which was called the French and Indian War), which shared many similarities to what we now consider World War I. For this reason, many historians consider it to be the actual first world war, so if you consider them all together, we've already had five world wars.
- A popular quote, often attributed to Einstein but possibly originating elsewhere, goes, "I do not know how the Third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth — sticks and stones!" This also gets referenced in Deus Ex.