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Double-Blind What-If

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In a What If story, an In Universe What If asks "What if the original What If were reversed"?

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Proposed By:
Balmung on Jun 21st 2018 at 10:06:13 PM
Last Edited By:
Balmung on Jul 12th 2018 at 3:22:02 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

In a normal What If? story, it is asked "What if something went differently?". For example, "What if the South won the Civil War?". In a Double-Blind What-If, it is asked, from the perspective of people in the What If? scenario, "what if things went they way they did historically/canonically?", which can produce a scenario that, while seeming plausible to the people of the What If? and superficially similar to the real outcome, also very different than the real course of events despite the key event turning out as it did historically.

Much like Alternate History as a whole, Double-Blind What-Ifs can be employed to try to assess just how likely our own history was without hindsight making the history we know seem nearly inevitable.

Sub-Trope of What If?


Examples:

Literature

  • In The Man in the High Castle, wherein the Axis won World War 2, there is an In-Universe book entitled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy that asks "what if the Allies won World War 2?", and even concludes that it would be followed by a Cold War... between the USA and UK, the latter of which has become an incredibly racist dictatorship.

Live-Action TV:

Video Games

  • In Kaiserreich: Legacy of the Weltkrieg, wherein Germany won the Weltkrieg, events about In-Universe novels present two reversals of its initial what-if of "What if Germany won World War One''.
    • In the first, Erich Maria Remark (known to many in the west as Erich Maria Remarque) writes a book entitled A Third Reich, which asks "What if the Entente won the Weltkrieg?". Among the first differences is that, since it is common knowledge in Kaiserreich that Woodrow Wilson was a staunch isolationist who would never get the United States involved in a European war, it has Theodore Roosevelt, a well-known interventionist, win the 1912 elections and bring the United States into the Great War on the side of the Entente. After its defeat, Germany eventually is taken over by an extreme nationalist party called the Valkists headed by a (fictional) Great War veteran named Adam Dressler, who are much more socially progressive and inclined towards neo-paganism than their historical counterparts and in which Adolf Hitler (who died in Kaiserreich's timeline) is a mere economic minister of dubious competence. Furthermore, since Huey Long wasn't assassinated in Kaiserreich and Franklin Delano Roosevelt died of polio in 1921, Long is still a prominent politician in the United States, while Roosevelt's rise to power hasn't been quite as rapid as in our timeline and he is making his first presidential bid in 1936. Also, without Wilson's insistence on national self-determination, Italy was able to claim the spoils it wanted from the Great War and doesn't feel it has suffered a "mutilated victory" as it did in our history, thus preventing the rise of Italian fascism. The book has also been defictionalized as the mod Führerreich: Legacy Of The Great War, named after the title of Remark's book in an earlier iteration of the event.
    • In the second, The Red Flood by Lithuanian author Ignas Å einius, the What If? is reversed instead as "What if Germany lost the Weltkrieg?". In its course of events, Russia overperforms history in the Brusilov Offensive and France launches a massive attack at the same time. However, the French offensive fails and the losses mount on the western front, even though Russia manages to avert revolution. With no end in sight on the western front and no hope of American entry to revitalize the lines due to Woodrow Wilson's well-known isolationism, France and Germany in fall to revolutions at home, with France being taken over by ultranationalists and Germany by socialists. With the largest players in the war removed by way of revolution, the war ends with no real victor. Come 1936 and the French nationalists are itching for a rematch and the German socialists and their Hungarian allies want to spread the revolution around the world. Russia, having sacrificed so much in the Great War for no real gains, has subscribed to a national myth similar to the Italian "Mutilated Victory" myth and has seen Admiral Alexandr Kolchak assume dictatorial power of a new ultranationalist government that seeks to reclaim Russian glory and the spoils it feels it was denied. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom wants to maintain the balance of power and hold on to its colonial empire. Like A Third Reich, it is being defictionalized as the Game Mod Red Flood, which adds the additional points of divergence of Japan underperfoming at Tsushima Straits and Dmitri Bogrov missing his shot and shooting Tsar Nicholas II instead of prime minister Pyotr Stolypin, contributing Russia's increased endurance in WWI and giving more room for different outcomes in the far east, which isn't detailed in the event.

Web Original

  • Double-Blind What-Ifs are a moderately common genre on Alternate History boards, such as AlternateHistory.com and the older Soc.history.what-if. It is often phrased as "DBWI [historical event]?" (eg. "DBWI Rome defeated Carthage?") without a specific pre-existing What If? work, inviting responders to create or imagine their own What If? setting from which to write the double-blind what-if.

Feedback: 12 replies

Jun 22nd 2018 at 7:42:42 AM

^The current description seems to be more specific than that. It's not just any In Universe What If, but specifically one intended to reverse the What If of the encompassing work and parallel the Real Life path (in cause, if not outcome). E.g., if the premise of the work is that the Confederacy won the Civil War, then an In Universe What If about the Union winning would be an example, while an In Universe What If about "What if Canada took advantage of the war to invade and conquer the USA?" would not be an example, because it's not reversing the original What If back to the Real Life outcome of the divergence point. If that's what's intended, I think it's definitely a tropeworthy variant. It is fundamentally distinct from all other in-universe what-ifs in that we actually know what the real outcome of reversing the initial what-if would be from Real Life, whereas any other what-if in the story would just dive deeper into speculative territory.

That being said, I'm not sure that's what the 2nd Kaiserreich Legacy Of The Weltkrieg is doing—it's definitely an In Universe What If and it sounds like it toys with a different outcome to the divergence point, but not in a way that reverses it back to the Real Life outcome.

Jun 22nd 2018 at 2:36:56 PM

Fair. Red Flood is less a reversal of the What If itself and more a reversal of the outcome thereof (the original What If results in a much more evenly matched WWII) - rather than recreate a specific turning point in history, it recreates a specific historical outcome of Germany (and a handful of less powerful central European countries) finding itself at war with nearly the entire world.

Jun 23rd 2018 at 2:29:40 PM

TV:

Jun 24th 2018 at 6:09:33 PM

This is mentioned on the Allohistorical Allusion page as a subtrope of that.

Jun 26th 2018 at 1:49:23 AM

In Lavie Tidhar's novel The Violent Century, World War II is fought using superhumans on both sides and is even nastier, as a deconstruction of neo-Golden Age comics that treat superheroes and villains in World War II as Rule Of Cool hi-jinks. At the climax of the novel, during the Cold War, some of the characters try to retroactively avert the Mass Super Empowering Event that created all the superhumans, believing that it sent them into a uniquely dark timeline. The irony for the reader is that in fact the presence of superhumans did nothing at all to change the larger-scale history of the twentieth century as it happened in our mundane world.

Jun 28th 2018 at 8:08:09 AM

That The Violent Century entry seems more like Set Right What Once Went Wrong, only for it to be Subverted by the fact that "what once went wrong" didn't actually matter.

Jul 5th 2018 at 11:09:26 AM

Thinking about that Red Flood (second Kaiserreich DBWI) and I think it may fit a slightly different phrasing of reversal of the original What If. Kaiserreich Legacy Of The Weltkrieg asks "What if Germany won WWI?". Fuhrerreich/A Third Reich asks from within the Kaiserreich universe "What if the Entente won WWI?". Red Flood however, asks in-universe "What if Germany lost WWI?", which is somewhat more open-ended and creates a scenario in which, while Germany loses, the Entente doesn't really win, either. Both are, however, In Universe what-ifs that specifically negate or reverse the What If upon which the setting is founded and do ask "What if [historical outcome] happened?".

Jul 12th 2018 at 1:19:48 AM

For whatever reason, I can't seem to get Ignas Šeinius's name to save properly and the Š keeps getting replaced by Å

Jul 12th 2018 at 3:06:24 AM

^ That's because TLP can't handle unusual text characters and replaces them with garbage text.

Jul 12th 2018 at 8:54:59 AM

I am not sure that the Star Trek example counts, since it isn't describing an event in our real-world history. But otherwise this seems good to go.

Jul 12th 2018 at 3:18:34 PM

I did make sure to word it to be applicable to non-historical what-ifs, even if the reversal of such is less common. It is clearly an example of pondering a reversal of the original what-if (the Mirror Universe is based around "what-if humanity shot the Vulcans at First Contact?" and Mirror Archer is wondering "what if First Contact had been peaceful?" (the condition of the prime universe).

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