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Literature / Malê Rising

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No, the map isn't joking. That is a real (fictional) African republic. In the 19th century.

"Knowledge without action is arrogance."
Paulo Abacar, putting Imam Shafi'i's maxim into practice.

A timeline where theologies are mixed, empires are liberal and Darkest Africa gets turned on its head.

Impossible? Think again.

Malê Rising is an extended Alternate History story/essay by Jonathan Edelstein on The premise is that the Malê revolt of 1835, a rebellion of Muslim slaves in Bahia, Brazil, is slightly more successful; the revolt is still defeated, but the Malê survive to carry on guerrilla resistance in the mountains and eventually win passage to West Africa as an intact force. In 1840, they establish a republic in the lower Niger Valley based on the Islamic liberation theology of their charismatic leader. Nearby, a deposed sultan begins to develop a separate Islamic theology in reaction to the new republic.

These two forces, though subtle at first, shall affect the world in ways either side had never imagined.

By 1900, shortly after a Great War, the influence of the Malê has made itself felt, subtly or otherwise, throughout the Islamic world, Europe and the Americas, as new ideologies form and conflicts arise that are inspired by or in reaction to them. By the 1950s, the world has diverged still farther as decolonization draws to a close, both newly independent states and former imperial powers face fresh challenges, and a new, post-Westphalian international order emerges.

One of the more beloved timelines in, it has won numerous praise from readers for the amount of detail written, the style of Jonathan's narrative writing and the fact that almost all the narrative characters (both good and bad) are written as humans, rather than loud-pieces.

After an epic run, the timeline has officially concluded on December 17, 2015, bringing to a close around 336 chapters covering over 170 years in-story / 3 years and 348 days in real-world time. However, the timeline is occasionally updated with some infill narratives and guest updates since.

The timeline can be read here, with a comprehensive list of posts here for those who don't want to sift through the discussions.

Historical characters appearing in Malê Rising include:

WARNING: Some spoilers are unmarked due to the elaborate nature of this timeline! You have been warned!

Tropes appearing in Malê Rising include:

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    Characters and related tropes 

  • After the End: Some of the narrative settings in the timeline features this, most recently being the massacre of a Bateke group in the ruins of the United Congolese Republic. Said republic is in ruins primarily due to it's dictator being...
  • A God Am I: Hermann Tschikaya, the tinpot dictator of the United Congolese Republic from the 1950s onwards, presents himself as a god and a prophet in propaganda. Television broadcasts show him literally descending from the clouds. As you can guess, this doesn't make for good statesmanship.
  • Badass Pacifist: Aiza Khalid and the women of Java.
    • The Abacars and the Igbo were no slouch in this department, either.
  • Badass Preacher: Mélisande, in spades. She led her followers to rifle-battles with only a sword to defend herself. After her time as Prophet-Queen of Rwanda, she organized protests and resistance groups in Igboland against the Imperial British government with a thousand-pound bounty on her head.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Cavafis of Egypt. Mary's mother was disowned when she married an Armenian radical, and poet Constantine Cavafis' homosexual tendencies were hushed out for fear of breaking his image, even after his death. Fast-forward to the near-present, and they still refuse to accept Mary as a family member or admitted Constantine's homosexuality.
  • Born into Slavery: Paulo the Elder and the Malê; most of the politicians in post-Civil War South Carolina.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Partly the reason why Anastasia Romanova split off from her father, Tsar Alexander. She learned of what he did during the Great War and was repulsed by his actions. Also, she married an Ethiopian prince.
  • Camp Gay: Believe it or not, Theodore Roosevelt, though he's much more than that. See Manly Gay below.
  • Church Militant: The Papal Legion, a Catholic army during the Great War.
    • The Catholic cofradias of Honduras may or may not qualify, depending on the peace of the region. The Christian militias in the Salvadoran Civil War definitely do, though.
    • The Kanaka Church in Hawaii claims to not condone violence. Some of their followers think otherwise.
  • Death Seeker: Heavily implied to have been why Emperor Franz Joseph willingly put himself in harms way.
  • Defector from Decadence: James Longstreet, the former Confederate general, becomes a vigorous supporter of black civil rights after a trip to the Ottoman Empire sees him serving in the Great War and converting to Islam. Many of the "Redeemer" states in the South see him as a traitor for this; notably, despite his battlefield prowess during the Civil War, there are only three monuments to him in all the South, two of them being in the non-Jim Crow states of South Carolina and Mississippi.
  • Disappeared Dad: Ibrahim Abacar was this for his son, Ujjal Singh.
  • Evil Colonialist: Zig-zagged in so many ways in this timeline, with colonial masters ranging from real sympathetic characters to heartless exploiters.
    • One notable figure is Dietmar Kohler of Sud-Kivu, a ruthless German warlord who carved out a piece of territory for himself in the Great Lakes region during the Great War, but soon grew to love his new African home.
  • Generational Saga: The Abacar family in Sokoto and Ilorin; Souleymane and Chiara's family in Paris.
  • Going Native:
    • One of the Romanovs ends up becoming the empress of Ethiopia by choice. Tsar Alexander wasn't happy.
    • Dietmar Kohler, the warlord of Sud-Kivu who bears more than a passing resemblance to Kurtz.
    • Sarah Child hasn't, but the masters of the Raj think she has.
    • After The American Civil War, former Confederate general James Longstreet's journey eventually takes him to the Ottoman Empire, where he serves in the Great War and converts to Islam. Upon returning to the US, he becomes a key ally of Harriet Tubman and her efforts to help African Americans living under Jim Crow.
  • Heel Realization: Rudyard Kipling has one after witnessing the atrocities committed by the British during the Indian War of Independence. As a result, he writes a retort to his most famous poem, stating that Britain had proven itself unfit to carry the White Man's Burden.
  • I Have No Child: Tsar Alexander warned his daughter Anastasia Romanova of being disowned if she were to marry Prince Tewodros of Ethiopia. They married anyway, and the Tsar disinherited her. The Tsar's actions during the Great War also influenced the falling-out.
    • Mary's mother also got the same treatment after she (an Egyptian Greek) married an Armenian.
  • Iron Lady: Margaret Mallory, President of the United States from 1968 to '76. She's a former Alabama governor who comes from the conservative Democratic-Republican coalition, but is also a firm progressive on women's rights and especially civil rights. She's also a staunch American nationalist, supporting a domestic policy of environmental stewardship and economic protectionism. Internationally, she was vigorous in outreach, most notably ending the brutal civil war in El Salvador (albeit temporarily). When a Congressman from the far-right, segregationist Redemption Party called her "a whore of Satan who’ll encourage children to kill their parents and women to kill their husbands," she replied "his wife and kids should give me a call".
  • Jeanne d'Archétype: Mélisande, Prophet-Queen of Rwanda. She didn't last long and was uneasy with the position, though.
  • Just the First Citizen: Paulo Abacar the Elder, albeit less dictatorial than most.
  • Last Stand: Ibrahim Abacar during the Great War, in Saragarhi.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Surprisingly averted with the Abacar and Souleymane families. Tsar Alexander had a different view.
    • The Cavafis family didn't approve much of inter-ethnic marriages either.
  • Manly Gay: Theodore Roosevelt, with swimming, running and adventuring under his belt, among other things. He may dress up as Empress Eugenie, but he will kick your ass hard if you insult him for it.
  • Messianic Archetype: Samuel the Lamanite of Eastern Congo sees himself as this. American Mormon missionaries disagree.
  • One-Shot Character: Most of Jonathan's narratives feature a lot of people whom only appear in that narrative alone.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Paulo the Elder and Aisha; Usman and Adeseye.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Not so much evil, but more of a difference in thought; Rebecca Felton was a white supremacist who disapproved of slavery and lynching not because it was inherently wrong, but because she thought it would corrupt the "whites' morals".
  • Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman: Let's just say that this timeline has a lot of characters that are quite different from their counterparts in our world, and yet are still awesome.
    • Due to the circumstances of the Great War, both Jules Verne and Leo Tolstoy become the top leaders of their respective countries (France and Russia).
    • Harriet Tubman is a member of Congress from South Carolina and later governor. When she's already 100 years old..
    • Leon Trotsky is a follower of Baha'ullah and fought for the Ottomans during the Great War.
    • Tippu Tip is now the elected sultan of the Omani Empire, which is ruled from Zanzibar and includes Anglo-Omani Tanganyika.
    • Played somewhat straight with Theodore Roosevelt. He doesn't become President, but he was very influential in keeping America neutral during the War. Also, he's gay.
    • Arthur Conan Doyle writes vampire fiction while working as a doctor.
    • The Marie that pioneered radioactivity had quite a life in this world, going from being a Polish resistance fighter to a schoolteacher in Kazembe.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Anastasia Romanova and Napoleon VI, to name a few. Granted, they may not ride to the battlefield, but they did cause a lot of change in respective for their time and place.
  • Rousing Speech: Used by Theodore Roosevelt against Woodrow Wilson during a political debate on the Indian War of Independence. The latter wants the United States to support the British Empire in the name of "racial solidarity". Teddy, who has actually been to the subcontinent, disagrees.
  • Walking the Earth:
    • Andras Weisz and his men. Captured by the Ottomans and sent to the Upper Nile, they escaped their captors and traveled across war-torn Africa for three years to return back to their native Hungary, only to find out that Austria-Hungary had been defeated.
    • Omar Souleymane embarked on a worldwide trip after the Great War and French Civil War to regain his sense of self, finally settling down in Meiji Japan.
    • Several of the Abacars also did this from time to time throughout the story.
  • War Is Hell: While Jonathan's narratives mostly err towards the brighter side of things, there are a few POV snippets and chapters that show just how brutal conflicts can get in the Malêverse.
  • Warrior Poet: Paulo the Elder and Ibrahim. Usman and Paulo the Younger also had dreams, but theirs were more pragmatic and political.
  • Wartime Wedding: Merjema Ahmetović and Milan Mihajlović, on the battlefield under Austrian fire.
  • Where It All Began: In the first installments, Paulo Abacar lived in a house in Oyo Square, Sokoto. 177 years later, his great-great-great-granddaughter Laila Abacar visits the house - now a museum and shrine - in the epilogue. She considers moving her family there at the end.

    Events and General Tropes 

  • Alternate History
  • All Nations Are Superpowers: The world in this timeline never stops being multi-polar. A consequence of this is that the bar for being considered a "superpower" is lower, and the nuclear arsenals are smaller as well. As late as The '50s (and up through the story's end), there are enough nations on Earth with a credible claim to superpower status that a novel about a hypothetical nuclear war can't even find a way to group them into two power blocs, instead having the Second Great War be a three-sided affair.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: While the general trend in the world of Malê Rising is a greater spread of freedom and prosperity, especially in what people in OTL would call the Third World, that doesn't mean that some parts of the world haven't seen their share of authoritarianism, some of it quite vicious.
    • The Imperial Party in Britain isn't quite as bad as the Nazis, but it's close, viewing the Empire as a source of tribute and (failing that) plunder with which to rebuild the British economy after the Great War. Things come to a head when India revolts as a result. Their homefront policies aren't much better, with their militant racism and anti-feminism, bitter crackdowns on unions, socialists, and other dissidents, the degradation of British science and academia due to censorship and politicization resulting in a massive brain drain, and overall subversion of Britain's democratic institutions. Even after its fall in the UK, the Imperial Party leaves behind refuse in the form of rogue colonies and dominions that remained under the control of their own local branches and sympathizers, which create problems of their own in the ensuing years.
      • In Northern Ireland, the state of Ulster becomes a Protestant mirror to Ireland's Catholic theocracy (see below), a reactionary state run by Imperial Party diehards for almost sixty years that expelled most of its Catholic population upon independence in 1924. By the '70s, it's suffering a brain drain (especially among women) and a stagnant economy, and the rest of the Commonwealth views them as an embarrassment. Their fall comes in 1981, when Ulster's longtime agitation over the "four lost counties" of Donegal, Cavan, Tyrone, and Fermanagh leads to a violent border clash with Ireland that proves to be the last straw for the Commonwealth; they immediately send in the troops to remove the government and hold new elections in which the Imperial Party is banned.
      • Natal after the Indian War of Independence. It secedes from South Africa and becomes a white supremacist pariah state where the black majority lives in conditions of virtual slavery, with the local Imperial Party still in power and the deposed — and bitter — ex-King of Britain finding his way there, claiming to be the legitimate government of the British Empire. One poster compared it to an inverted Draka, one that was more pathetic than anything, and by the 1940s it's facing significant rebellions, eventually falling in 1945 due to a combination of internal revolt and an invasion led by the UK, South Africa, and India. Jamaica undergoes a similar experience after Imperial Party sympathizers take over, though it only lasts a few years after the fall of the Imperial Party in Britain.
    • invoked After the Great War, many Catholic nations, starting with Belgium and later including Portugal, Ireland, and several Latin American nations, witness the rise of what people in OTL would call "clerical fascism", though Word of God is hesitant to use the F-word to describe it; terms like corporatism, "the Belgian model", and (most frequently) fraternalism have been thrown around, and he's also compared it to a Catholic form of Islamism. These nations are often progressive on economics and race, in keeping with Catholic conceptions of social justice and the idea that all Catholics are equal before God (the Pope has even denounced nationalism as a sin for this reason), but also very reactionary and authoritarian on other social and cultural issues, and they're usually very far from being liberal democracies.
      • Portugal eventually democratizes and loosens up its cultural controls in the 1940s due to pressure from the colonies and the examples of liberal, prosperous France and Germany not far away. In Ireland, meanwhile, the ultramontane Catholic party gets voted out in the late '50s as the nation urbanizes and, critically, the ability to take a ferry or jet to Britain makes it very difficult to enforce bans on abortion and divorce and other strict social controls. Belgium, however, remains under the control of its ultramontanes until 1995 largely due to the fact that it can still deliver a high standard of living and a strong measure of social stability, while those who would disagree with their system tend to be those who are also disenfranchised and aren't anywhere close to real power. Only when economic stagnation sets in during the '80s and '90s, a consequence of the closed regime being unable to manage globalization and new media, does it loosen up and implement a more liberal constitution in response to growing protests.
    • The Jim Crow states of the American South. While the Carolinas, Mississippi, and Texas managed to resist it, the existence of those states (especially black-run South Carolina) and fear that black people in the rest of the South will look to them as an example caused the remaining Jim Crow states to crack down even harder on their black populations, censoring media and restricting black churches and schools in ways that not even OTL's Jim Crow system dared to do. This is part of the reason why TTL's Civil Rights Movement both came earlier and saw substantially more bloodshed.
    • El Salvador comes to be known as "the last slaveocracy" for a reason. After a failed peasant revolt in 1911, the nation is taken over by a military regime called the Supreme National Council that imposes a totalitarian, elite-dominated state where a convict labor system, combined with brutally repressive laws and enforcement of such, causes more than half the population to be effectively enslaved. The military runs the economy and owns most of the farms, while the Catholic Church is outlawed as the elites turn to racist forms of Protestantism and Mormonism to justify their rule. Worse, white supremacists in Jamaica, Natal, and the Southern US look to El Salvador as an inspiration, viewing it as one of the last bastions of "civilization" after the fall of state-sanctioned white supremacy in their respective home countries, with many of them immigrating there as a place where they can lord it over non-whites. When the regime finally falls in the late 1950s, it's an absolute bloodbath, with the elites forced to flee the country for their lives (or die trying) as the capital is overrun. It only gets worse afterward.
    • Hungary for much of the mid-late 20th century, especially after a 1967 coup, is essentially the European version of OTL's North Korea, a pariah state and the embarrassment of Europe. The authoritarian regency council in power invests heavily in military development (including nuclear weapons), gets into frequent spats with its neighbors (particularly Croatia, whose secession in the '60s triggered the coup), rejects supranational agreements with other countries, and rules its populace with an iron fist, controlling nearly every aspect of life in order to silence dissent. The nation finally collapses into revolution in 1992 after Croatia, its last trade partner and connection to the outside world (the terms of Croatia's independence included a trade agreement), finally grows fed up with Hungarian revanchism and border clashes and closes the border, leading to economic collapse and street protests; the government's response to both the protesters and the Croatians is downright apocalyptic.
    • In the 1970s, Siam's socialist republic devolves into a military regime, one that combines socialism, political Buddhism, and Siamese nationalism into a borderline-fascist ideology, one that it uses to brutally repress the hill tribes in the north (who it views as "backward") and the Malay Muslims in the south. Furthermore, the regime acquires nuclear weapons in 1985, and after international sanctions implemented in the mid '90s start to strangle the economy, they use some of those nukes in an ill-fated war with Burma in 2001. The nukes hurt Siam more than Burma (they were intended more to close mountain passes and contaminate the land so that Burmese troops couldn't press on), causing panic in major cities and, critically, within the military over fear of radioactive fallout. Facing war with India and massive protests, the military regime steps down a week later, but the mood in the new, democratic Siam remains very authoritarian, especially after the old far-right national-socialists get swept back into power in a backlash against what they see as the post-regime liberal government's betrayal and dismemberment of Siam (allowing the hill tribes in the north and the Muslim Malays in the south to secede, along with the rebellious northern city of Chiang Mai).
  • A World Half Full: Overall, the ratio of well-run nations, colonies, and dominions versus Third World imperial hellscapes is substantially better than it was in OTL at this point in history. That's not to say that this world hasn't seen its fair share of disasters; the Great War, for instance, was in many ways even more brutal than OTL's World War I, what with West Africa being another major front in the fighting, and Indian independence and African-American civil rights were achieved with far more violence for all involved. However, Word of God and several readers have noted that, by this world's more humane standards, human rights tragedies like Natal and the Congo that would've been par for the course in OTL's colonial world are instead seen as disasters because they stand out that much from the norm.
    • That said, the 1940s earn the sobriquet of "the Bloody Forties" for a reason. The Omani Empire in East Africa breaks up and plunges into chaos, leading to the region's population declining by over a quarter in ten years due to massacres, starvation, and emigration (in some areas, more than half the population is dead). During that same timeframe, Russia and China slug it out in a bloody war that lasts longer than the Great War and, with 35 million dead on both sides, sees more casualties.
  • Balkanize Me: Large parts of Africa, but curiously enough, not so much the Balkans.
    • Argentina did not make it through the Great War in one piece, nor did Austria(-Hungary) (though the latter is still a monarchy).
    • Thailand underwent a similar experience during the 1990's after the military government fell, which only fed the succeeding governments' authoritarian tendencies.
  • Bulungi: Far fewer African countries wind up falling into this trap than in OTL (many have reached middle-income status by 1960, with some areas becoming borderline first-world), but there are still some examples.
    • The former German Congo became the United Congolese Republic upon independence in the 1950s, and it was soon taken over by one Hermann Tschikaya. He began by establishing a Cult of Personality, imposing Bakongo cultural and Lutheran religious supremacy while ruthlessly suppressing those who violated his new cultural codes. He eventually began calling himself a god and a prophet (dropping all but the loosest trappings of Lutheranism), and he had dancing women wearing clothes displaying his face accompany him everywhere. He managed to keep things going for a while thanks to oil revenue, but things went From Bad to Worse when civil unrest, ethnic cleansing, and falling oil prices led to economic collapse and a withdrawal of most foreign investment. The nation's population dropped by half during his rule, with a quarter of the population killed and another quarter having fled the country. By the '80s, the rest of the world had run out of patience with the refugee crisis and instability that his madness has produced, imposing sanctions and, in 1991, launching a humanitarian invasion to overthrow him. Word of God says that Tschikaya's rule was based on pretty much every crazy dictator in African history, and it also bears the influence of North Korea.
    • invoked Across the border in the Republic of the Congo, meanwhile, George Tshilengi really, really didn't want his nation to succumb to this trope, especially after the experience of the corporate fiefdom that was the International Congo. For him, however, avoiding this translated into an authoritarian, nationalist regime that rejects the emerging post-Westphalian consensus in favor of a highly centralized state. Word of God is that he was based on authoritarian East/Southeast Asian rulers like Park Chung-hee and Suharto — a ruthless, but competent ruler who oversaw a great deal of oppression and strife but also real economic development. By the time his rule ends, the Congo is still fairly Third World outside the major cities (the living standard is a notch above OTL's Nigeria), but it actually has a future ahead of it, even if "the Congo always has a good future" is something of a joke among Congolese.
    • The former Omani Empire in East Africa. It's still recovering from its brutal civil war in the 1940s.
    • Some West African states, like the Niger Valley states, Liberia, and Senegal, become models for independent economic and political development. Others... don't have it so easy. In Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea, the old French colonial policy of Latin Right citizenship creates ethnic divides upon independence that boil over into civil war and, in the former's case, a partition of the country. Adamawa, meanwhile, turns to radical, authoritarian state socialism, while the Mossi Kingdom, in its quest to avoid economic and cultural colonization by its neighbors, takes the extreme measure of becoming a hermit state rejecting modern technology and "foreign" religions (Christianity and Islam specifically).
  • Conspiracy Theorist: The rebellions that afflict the Omani Empire just after it sides with Ethiopia in the Nile War become intense fodder for such people, with many people suspecting that Egypt, Ethiopia's enemy, had instigated the rebellions in order to hurt the enemy alliance.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Once Britain, South Africa, and India start actively supporting the native Africans in Natal's bush war, things go downhill for Natal in a matter of weeks.
  • Darkest Africa: Not in this world. Africa is much more a part of the geopolitical world of the nineteenth century than historically, and for the most part, it is seen as such. Instead of being dismissed outright as primitives, nineteenth-century imperialists and anthropologists instead divide Africans into two categories: "pre-state" tribal peoples (such as the tribes of the Congo and Central Africa) who are largely viewed in accordance with this trope, and the states of West Africa, the Zanzibar Coast, and southern Africa, which are afforded a similar level of respect as the Indian princely states.
  • Dirty Communists:
    • Nixed with the advent of Tolstoyist Russia. However, it is still far to early to tell if another country takes up the mantle...
    • The "Red Twenty", a twenty-year period of left-wing electoral dominance in France after the Great War, may or may not be this depending on who you ask. It's still democratic, and quite progressive and open, but the political mainstream grows unfriendly to non-socialist points of view, and cronyism ensures that supporting the government is all but necessary to get ahead in society. It eventually comes to an end after the government moves too far towards authoritarian state socialism and pisses off even their fellow socialists (particularly the more anti-state syndicalists and communalists) and social democrats, who join with the conservatives in bringing them down.
    • Mexico becomes a Catholic version of the above from the 1930s through the mid '50s, with the rise of the Social Catholic Party. Like France, it's still democratic, with a free press and opposition parties that occasionally win state governments, but criticizing the official orthodoxy, a mix of left-wing economics and Catholic cultural conservatism, could get one ostracized from society and locked out of politics. It breaks down in the '50s amid discontent in the growing urban areas (where the social controls were looser) and a divide between the Social Catholic Party's leftist and Catholic wings to the revolutions in Central America.
  • Draft Dodging: NOT a wise thing to do in Imperial Russia. Military officers would burn your entire village down if you do so (although joining the army would be an all-in-all death sentence as well). This was one of the reasons why Imperial Russia during the Great War slid closer and closer into a...
  • Dystopia: with massacres, labour camps and conscription of women and families.
    Anastasia Romanova: No one told us of the starvation. No one told us of the peasant families taken from their villages, the men to the front and the women and children to the factories and mines. No one told us of the massacres, the spies, the prisons and the dark basements. There was evil done in our name which will be on my soul forever, and we knew none of it.
    • China under the Ma clique also counts. It's essentially OTL's Red China under Mao Zedong, minus the Cultural Revolution but still trying to pull off a Great Leap Forward, ultimately getting into and losing a long, bloody war with Russia in the 1940s that sees a death toll comparable only to the Great War of the 1890s.
    • The International Congo is probably the one place on the African continent where the Darkest Africa stereotype applies for more than a few years. The experience of the region before and during its independence struggle exposes the weaknesses of the post-Westphalian system of multi-layered sovereignty, regional autonomy, and cross-border treaty zones that had started to emerge in the 20th century — in the Congo and other places where the rule of law was weak, such a system often contributed to tribalism, corporate rule, and neo-feudalism. Things don't get much better after independence, as the new nation soon falls into the hands of George Tshilengi, a nationalist whose reaction to the aforementioned problems is to create a centralized dictatorship where he wields absolute power.
    • See all the nations listed under A Nazi by Any Other Name.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • An example that could only happen in Malê Rising: Postwar France — while still an Empire — is a bit more socialist than before and has plans to turn more of its colonial peoples into French citizens. A section of parliament disagreed and declared a new French State in southern France and Algeria. Suddenly, there were socialists from Spain volunteering to fight for the French Empire while Papal Legionnaires fought for the opposing French State.
    • The gaucho republics and Argentina might hate each other to bits, but both sides will drop their guns if they found out their homeland of Italy gets invaded.
    • Some of the Voortrekkers of South Africa ended up living in partnership with traditional African kingdoms (and in some cases marrying into them). This would lead to a few strange consequences during the Great War.
    • During the middle of the Great War, a British and French naval squadron (who were enemies at that point) found themselves honoring a treaty to help Hawaii against an American-backed coup.
    • For all her white supremacist views, Rebecca Felton agreed jointly with the American Peace Party about not getting involved in the Great War, which led to her rubbing shoulders with figures such as Theodore Roosevelt and Harriet Tubman. Yes, THAT Tubman.
      Samuel Clemens: Now there are some strange bedfellows.
    • Towards the end of the "Red Twenty", a radical socialist party comes to power in France with the aim of rebuilding the economy with a program of public works. Their downfall comes when, in addition to pissing off French conservatives (who had been pretty well pissed at the government for over a decade at that point), they also piss off the workers' cooperatives with their attempts to impose state control of the economy. This is the final straw that convinces the moderate leftists to join the right in handing the radicals a crushing electoral defeat — and with it, preventing the French left from becoming completely discredited by them.
    • The above happens in reverse in Britain, where the electoral coalition that brings down the fascist Imperial Party is composed of the socialist left and moderate liberals on one hand, and more old-fashioned conservatives who loathed the Imperials' modernism, disdain for tradition and aristocracy, and abuse of the colonies (believing that the White Man's Burden isn't just a slogan) on the other. Furthermore, the institution that delivers the killing blow to the Imperials, having remained one of the few parts of British society to not get taken over by them... is the House of Lords, guaranteeing that the left-leaning post-Imperial government won't touch their power. (Of course, by this point the Lords had become the "voice of the Empire", having accumulated a lot of non-white peers from the colonies over the prior couple of decades, so it's not as associated with the British Old Money... the elite, yes, but not necessarily the white elite.)
    • Despite having fought a bitter war of independence from them, India eagerly joins Britain thirty years later to invade Natal. Part of it is the persecution of Indians in Natal, and part of it is the prospect of getting revenge on the last of the Imperial Party bastards responsible for making the Indian War of Independence as bloody as it was.
  • Fictional United Nations: The Consistory, whose (full) membership in not limited to states or nations.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Tolstoyist Russia, after its founder's death, soon turns back into the same oligarchy that it had emerged as a revolution against, with the "Six Parties" taking over much of the economy. Following the Sino-Russian War, between the demands of trade unions for cooperation with the war effort and the rebels who embodied the regime's founding ideology far better than the regime itself did, the Six Parties offered some limited reforms, only to curtail them later and crack down harder than ever before. By the 1960s, the nation is on the verge of a second revolution. It fell.
  • The Fundamentalist: The various "fraternalist" systems established in many Catholic nations in the 20th century are basically run according to the idea that all good Catholics are equal before God... and that sinners can literally go to hell. Word of God compares them to a Catholic version of OTL's Islamism.
  • Global Warming: One unfortunate consequence of a more developed "Global South" is that, by 2000, climate change is about a decade ahead of OTL's pace. Fortunately, so are the international efforts to fight it.
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Played with a lot.
    • The empires of Britain, France, and the Ottomans have started to pick up characteristics of a federation with France being in the lead, even though it was one of the instigators of the Great War. By the end of the conflict, these three empires would further twist this trope to oblivion.
      • France under the Red Twenty underwent a significant cultural and social revolution, integrating more and more Africans into the metropole — all while remaining formally an empire. After their downfall, the subsequent government changed France further into an Imperial Federation, with a female Napoleon (the VI, aka Empress Marianne) as its ruler.
      • On the other hand, Britain under the Imperial Party in the 1910s falls into this perfectly. It completely bungles what had been a promising development for a more equal empire badly enough that it very quickly leads to the Indian War of Independence.
      • The Ottomans underwent a revolution and became a decentralized federation, though it is plagued near-continuously by opposing or diverging interests from within and without.
    • The Brazilian and German empires, and the Dutch in the East Indies, are forced to accept democratic characteristics due to compromise and internal (as well as external) pressure.
    • Imperial Russia started out so-so, but degenerated into a crapsack autocracy that exemplified this trope during the Great War, finally blowing out by the Russian Revolution. The peasant-socialist government that followed is considerably more benign, though not perfect, especially after Tolstoy's death.
    • The Republic of Hungary is not a good place to be. Especially if you're a Jew or a socialist.
      • That's actually the rest of Hungary. The Republic is the part where it's unhealthy not to be a socialist. It doesn't last.
    • Downplayed, but still very present in the war between the Russian Republic and Chinese Empire.
    • The Abacarists believe this; Paulo the Elder argued that the world had too many kings. He still was one, more or less, although he'd spit in your eye if you told him that.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: For the most part. There aren't any unambiguously bad guys in the Great War; even Imperial Russia has good people on its side.
    • It should be noted, though, that sometimes Jonathan's style of writing gives the impression of people and events being less bad than they are. This is not a bad thing.
  • Interfaith Smoothie: The Buganda of Lake Victoria, when confronted with any outside religious faith, would syncretise them with traditional tribal beliefs and incorporate them into their own. No matter what faith you choose, the Buganda will ruin it for you.
  • Loophole Abuse: Belloism preaches withdrawal from politics in order to obtain maximum spiritual freedom. Many Belloists respond by redefining "withdrawal" and "politics." Word of God describes China under the Ma clique, for instance, as Belloism Gone Horribly Wrong and applied to totalitarian ends.
  • Mega-Corp:
    • The Six Parties that come to take over Russia after the death of Tolstoy eventually evolve into this, commanding enormous sectors of the economy and later moving to nationalize smaller businesses in order to remove threats to their dominance. When the army starts sympathizing with the growing rebel groups in The '60s, they break out paramilitaries of their own in order to put down revolt.
    • The rubber, mining, and forestry companies in the International Congo get quite close at times, to the point that, when a rumor starts spreading that they plan to take over administration entirely, the people have no problem believing it despite the fact that it's not true, only fueling the fires of revolution.
  • Mêlée à Trois:
    • After the Great War, Irish secular nationalists, Catholic nationalists, leftists, and unionists clash with each other and the British in Ireland.
    • The Hungarian civil war.
  • Named Weapons: "Anastasias", for short-range rocket batteries used in the Great Nile War. Apparently Empress Anastasia of Ethiopia's defense of Gondar lent the Ethiopians to use the name.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Surprisingly, the Germans fill in the counterculture niche in this timeline with the Wandervögel, youths who looked to both an idealized past and to the Copperbelt colonies for cultural inspiration, in response to all the stuffiness and modernity of Germany in the 1910s and '20s.
  • No Blood for Phlebotinum: Unfortunately, one negative consequence of Africa industrializing and modernizing early is that problems of resource depletion and environmental destruction also arise early. Case in point: the Nile War, fought between Egypt and Ethiopia over rights to the waters of the Nile, which by the mid-1930s has grown increasingly strained as both nations divert water for their own farms and factories. Desertification in the Sahel also starts happening several years before OTL due to the greater development of the region, while the Niger Delta states of Bonny and Calabar experience civil unrest in the mid-20th century due to the pollution created by the oil industry.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: One still develops, but much later than in OTL, and quite differently. Without the experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nor an ideologically-charged, two-superpower Cold War that was able to raise the specter of mutually assured destruction, the danger represented by nuclear weapons and a Second Great War remains strictly theoretical for most of the mid-late 20th century. Only around the Turn of the Millennium does this start to change, thanks to...
  • Nuke 'em: Unfortunately, unlike OTL, nuclear weapons wind up being used in war on two separate occasions rather than one.
    • The first use comes in 1992, when the Hungarian government responds to a full-scale revolution by nuking the rebel-controlled cities of Pécs and Kaposvár. This proves to be a big mistake.
    • The second time comes in 2001, when Siam's military-fascist regime drops several low-yield tactical nukes on the battlefield in their war with Burma. Again, this proves to be a big mistake. This is noted to be the last wartime use of nuclear weapons in history, as the world took a much greater interest in nuclear threats and non-proliferation after the experience of two rogue states breaking out The Bomb.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat:
    • Ironically, the Second Russian Revolution, built upon a foundation of local control and tossing out the top-down tyranny of the central government, leaves rampant bureaucracy as its main flaw, precisely because of its localism and hyper-democratic system of governance. With so many tiny mirs, volosts, and okrugs, some of them as small as villages or neighborhoods, there's much Jurisdiction Friction between them in matters ranging from infrastructure repair to snow removal. (Jonathan Edelstein is from the state of New York, which has a very similar system of overlapping towns, villages, and hamlets outside the Big Applesauce, so he was writing from experience.) Many of these minor jurisdictions eventually start coming together into larger region-states in order to settle such matters and alleviate the bureaucracy.
    • Similar problems affect many of the supranational unions that emerge in the mid-late 20th century. In southeast Asia, for instance, liberal, constitutional democracies exist side-by-side with reactionary, autocratic princely states and feudal landlords that bitterly oppose any reform, and when they undergo rebellions, the terms of the treaty union mean that the liberal states have no choice but to send in the troops to support kings and dictators that they may personally despise. Only in the '90s is there serious reform on this front, and even then, it causes some princely rulers to withdraw from the treaty union altogether in order to preserve their absolute power.
  • Peace Conference: The peace conference of Washington which ends the Great War. Also the setting for one of the TL's more interesting narratives.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic:
    • The white supremacists who bomb the Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) Parade in Washington, D.C., killing four Congressmen and over three hundred others, feeling that the nation was being turned into a "mongrel republic". This is the final straw that convinces the rest of the US to intervene in the Southern Troubles on the side of the African Americans.
    • The second wave of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and '70s also produces these, with white suburbanites in Florida and other states forming "citizens' defense organizations" in response to the Civil Rights Act of 1969. Terrorism by segregationists in the South would bedevil federal efforts to enforce the Act for much of the '70s, though most of it was low-level and disorganized, and in time, they were put down hard.
  • Schizo Tech: The Kingdom of the Arabs, in an attempt to preserve traditional culture in the face of modernization, uses its oil wealth to heavily subsidize the traditional nomadic lifestyles, leading to Berber clans driving around in luxurious RVs.
  • Science Is Bad:
    • In the Kingdom of the Arabs, the Toucouleur Empire, and Greater Bornu in the Sahara, an anti-technological Islamic fundamentalist movement called the Shelterers develops in response to the increasingly cosmopolitan values that urbanization, industrialization, and later mass media bring with them. While most of them make like the Amish and simply retreat from modern society, some of the more radical ones turn towards Unabomber-esque tactics.
    • Likewise, the Mossi Kingdom in West Africa turns into a hermit state out of belief in this trope, viewing modern technology, as well as the Abrahamic faiths, as Trojan horses for the European and Islamic worlds (which, in French and British West Africa, are often either close allies or one and the same) to colonize them. The result is a dirt-poor country with a nineteenth-century standard of living that's frequently on the razor's edge of famine, resorting to increasingly totalitarian means to keep foreign technology and influence out.
  • Scrapbook Story: Most of the timeline is written and seen through character POV's, historical literature, poems, fiction and even an in-universe movie script.
  • Suburbia: Emerges in the US a decade ahead of schedule thanks to The Great Depression not happening, as well as a left-wing Farmer-Labor government in the '40s that supported heavy infrastructure development to boost the economy, the single-family tract housing of the suburbs being one of their more famous accomplishments. As a result, suburbia sees critics emerge on the right wing as well as the left, seeing suburbia as a symbol of the left's desire to pave over tradition and replace it with soulless development. Since the civil rights movement had been accomplished early, black professionals follow their white counterparts into the suburbs as they become middle-class (often to get away from their new immigrant neighbors) rather than being redlined into ghettoes. (There are exceptions to this, though — in those former Jim Crow states that went down kicking and screaming, suburbia is still badly segregated, with only the city centers being mixed-race.)
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized:
    • Hungary after the Great War.
    • The Great Rising in South Carolina.
    • The Indian War of Independence: no quarter asked or given on either side.
    • The end of Jim Crow in the American South through Constitutional amendment in the 1920s leads to ethnic violence on the order of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, with black and white militias alike engaged in bloody fighting throughout the South that sees 63,000 people killed over the course of the decade. Worse, white Americans outside the South are divided over which side to take, with some viewing the white Southerners as a bulwark against black barbarism and others viewing the black Southerners as justly fighting for their human rights. It takes a terrorist bombing by white supremacists in Washington, D.C. that kills over three hundred people (including four Congressmen) to get the federal government to act.
    • The collapse of the Hungarian regency council's rule in 1992. After Croatia closes the border, triggering shortages of basic goods and setting off street protests, Hungary declares war on Croatia to bring them to heel. The war goes disastrously for Hungary, with many soldiers rebelling against the government and defecting to the rebels. The government's response? The first wartime use of nuclear weapons in history — against their own people, in the rebel-controlled cities of Pécs and Kaposvár. Rather than cowing the rebels, this only pisses them off even further, while also causing the rest of Europe to begin bombing Hungarian airfields. The regency council goes down in flames, with only two of its nine members escaping the palace alive before it's overrun by an armed mob; of the two, one of them is captured trying to escape Budapest and summarily executed, while the other attempts to regroup the loyalist forces. The nation plunges into a civil war that lasts six months and sees over two hundred thousand people killed in the crossfire, and while the democratic republic that emerges remains stable into the present day, the experience of the regency council's rule, its collapse, and the resulting civil war has left deep scars on Hungarian society.
    • The Salvadoran Civil War lasts for thirty years (with a brief ceasefire in The '70s thanks to an American-brokered peace deal) and has several sides, including Catholic groups both socialist and fraternalist, Protestant groups of both fundamentalist and "social church" orientations, secular leftists, and diehard members of the former elite. By the time it finally winds down in 1992, there are fewer people living in El Salvador (about 2.2 million, compared to about 5.5 million at that point in time in OTL) than there are refugees from El Salvador.
  • The Theocracy: Has appeared in many shapes and forms over the timeline, with the most notable case being the Fraternal Republic of Honduras.
  • Underground Railroad: A thing both before and after the Civil War. The harsher crackdown of Jim Crow laws on black southerners reopened the old routes, sending books and supplies in while transporting people out.
  • Vestigial Empire:
    • Imperial Russia. Before the the Great War, she was the largest land empire on Earth. After that, it was nothing more than a tiny province/colony in the Horn of Africa. That doesn't mean the Romanovs are gone, though...
    • After the Indian War of Independence, King Albert of Britain is forced to abdicate due to his support for the Imperial Party. He finds his way to Natal, which is still ruled by unreconstructed Imperial supporters who refuse to recognize his replacement as the legitimate monarch.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Salvadoran Civil War. After El Salvador's totalitarian regime is overthrown, the various components of the revolution, no longer united by a common enemy, immediately turn on each other.
  • White Man's Burden: Used as justification among the Great Powers during the Brussels Conference. The results were mixed.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace:
    • The British Empire experiences this after the Great War. The perception that British prestige was crumbling and constantly being insulted (how dare the little Sultanate of Sulu demand an equal footing in negotiations with the Empire!?!?) leads to the rise of the Imperial Party in the 1910s.
    • Russia after the Russo-Chinese War. While they technically won, the ruling oligarchs were forced to make many concessions to the narodnik communes, concessions that many of the oligarchs saw as a fundamental threat to their power. They responded by revoking many of these concessions in the years after the war and growing more authoritarian than ever, leading to a second Russian Revolution in the 1960s. Russia's opponent China, on the other hand, won the peace. They had managed to hold their own for several years against a European power, and while they eventually lost, it was a narrow defeat that saw little in the way of serious concessions. They emerged with a newfound sense of national pride, especially given that, just a few decades earlier, they would've been slaughtered in such a war.
  • World War III: The "Second Great War", while still unfought as of 2015, holds a similar place in the popular imagination once people start realizing just what the newly-tested atomic weapons are capable of. One such scenario is presented in a dystopian book by that title, written in the '50s by a pair of disaffected generals, one Russian and one Chinese, after the Sino-Russian War in the 1940s. While civilization isn't destroyed in their scenario like it is in so many others, it is sent back to the nineteenth century, with over ten percent of humanity dead.