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Literature / Protect and Survive: A Timeline

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Protect and Survive: A Timeline is an Alternate History timeline written by "Macragge 1" at AlternateHistory.com. Taking inspiration from the Protect and Survive PSAs created by the British government during the 1980s, the timeline asks what would have happened had nuclear war broken out between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in late February 1984. Despite lasting a relatively short time, the conflict plunges the world into utter chaos where basic survival is a major struggle. Protect and Survive focuses mainly on the fate of the United Kingdom, with the occasional update on other regions of the globe.

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Due to the style and concept, the original thread was immensely well-received by the AlternateHistory.com community. With the permission of Macragge 1, several spin-offs have been created centering around other communities in the post-war world. It has been said that such a positive response is unprecedented on the website. As of January 2013, the timeline is finally finished.

You can read it here. Or visit its page on the AH.com wiki and use the handy chapter guide available there (if you want to just read the story and ignore the discussion).


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This work of alternate history provides examples of:

  • After the End: Very much so.
  • Allohistorical Allusion:
    • Although not mentioned by name, it's clear that the guitar playing rebel soldier who "doesn't want to change the world" is meant to be Billy Bragg. Also Operation Prospero finds that the US is being run from Columbine, CO
    • The police and prison authorities collude to take advantage of Emergency Powers in order to execute Ian Brady and Myra Hindley a few days before the attack.
    And poor Edward, Lesley Ann, Keith, John and Pauline will soon have all the playmates they could ever want.
  • Apocalypse Anarchy: Not overexaggerated, simply due to the sheer scale of destruction in the UK and worldwide, but lawlessness, looting and chaos are a common problem in the first few days and weeks after The Exchange.
  • Atomic Hate : Virtually every larger urban or industrial center on the face of the world is showered by nukes. Even some of the smaller cities receive at least one.
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  • Author Existence Failure: Not literally; due to an unrelated incident in another thread (alleged trolling), Macragge 1 was permabanned on AH.com some time after posting his 25th entry. It was arranged that another board member posted the 26th entry, which was supposed to be the Epilogue anyway.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Much of humanity and the UK's population perished in The Exchange, modern civilisation was brought to a near standstill and the first post-war weeks were in many ways horrific, but by the end of 1984, the surviving governments had signed peace treaties and rebuilding of society and infrastructure is already under way. And most of the recurring fictional characters have survived as well and moved on...
    He reflected that Belfast was not the only city being reborn in the UK; one could again drive from London, slowly being reborn up the A1, the Great North Road, through Newark-upon-Trent, to an equally slowly being reborn Edinburgh. Railway lines were once again linked up across the country and it was possible to travel from Wick in the Northeast to Plymouth in the Southwest if one so chose. The United Kingdom might still be a land of shortages and austerity, but it was slowly getting back to normal. Macragge reflected that the current state of his country reminded him of the tales his Father told of the late Forties and early Nineteen Fifties; the British had again shown that they were a resilient bunch and would get back on their feet no matter what was thrown at them.

  • Cold War: The setting, specifically The '80s version. Needless to say, in this alternate universe, it went hot.
  • Cozy Catastrophe: Averted. Big time.
    • Subverted with Switzerland, who despite "only" losing two cities go on to act as the negotiators between the Allies and the Soviet/German remnant in Munich.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: After the War, Britain sends a expedition to the Falkland Islands which is attacked by the Argentine Navy, killing three sailors. Britain's response: nuking Buenos Aires.
  • Driven to Suicide: The Queen, no less.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Happens in chapter five.
  • Everything Makes a Mushroom: Has unfortunate consequences in chapter twenty-one, a flashback to the day of the Exchange. A conventional munitions supply facility explodes with enough force to produce a mushroom, and the American colonel who spots the explosion mistakes it for a nuclear attack, and due to radio jamming he cannot verify. So he orders the deployment of a nuclear weapon. Things escalate from there.
  • Expy: The old couple who are both blinded by a missile and later murdered by the Shopkeeper who wants their food are clearly meant to be James and Hilda from When the Wind Blows.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: During Operation Prospero, the American "cowboy" guy when he mouths to the pilot to shoot the Commando through him, also averting Bullet Proof Human Shield in the process. It turns out that the Commando is Not Quite Dead though.
    (mouthed)"Do it, Son."
  • Hope Spot: The nuke meant for Portsmouth misses and detonates in the channel, which at least gives the UK a de facto capital.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: How The Controller rationalizes not feeding babies because they can't work. Later, he reevaluates his decision.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. Possibly even inverted, given how many babies and children die in this story.
  • Literary Allusion Title : To the 1970s-1980s British nuclear war survival program.
  • No Name Given: Most of the main fictional characters are referred to only by their occupations.
  • Ruins of the Modern Age : In full force especially when recovery crews finally go on a reconnaissance mission to what's left of London. Part of the reason why they undertake the operation is to recover whatever's left of the British throne and royal regalia, in order to crown a new monarch.
  • Shout-Out: In chapter twenty-two, the relief of the PM finally deciding to raise the question of London (something people had been reluctant to talk about) is likened to "the bizarre euphoria after an hour's vomiting". This is a reference to The Day Today, in which the same phrase is said almost verbatim...to describe the weather.
  • Stream Of Consciousness : The inner monologue of the characters is usually presented like this.
  • Spin-Off: Has already received many from the other members of the AH.com community. A full list can be seen here. Land Of Flatwater is also featured on TV Tropes.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Threads, one of its sources of inspiration.
  • Tank Goodness: One Chieftain tank is more than enough, at the Battle of Felton.
  • Taking You with Me: The Commando with President Reagan.
  • The '80s: The War begins in early 1984. Which is the same year that Threads was broadcast, and presumably set in. Unsurprisingly, the timeline references a lot of 1980s pop culture.
  • The Last DJ: John Peel, rather more literally than he was in real life.
  • Undefeatable Little Village: Subverted by Felton, which tries to be this, but fails massively and is implied to have been basically leveled.
  • Wham Line: At the end of part 4 there is a single solitary line that seems insignificant but is the most important line up to this point:
    Attack Warning Red
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Irish living in the UK are referenced a few times, but no account seems to have been given about the island outside of Belfast. Nevertheless, the fate of Ireland is the subject of a spinoff timeline.
  • World Half Empty: Quite literally, if not more so, given the events...
  • World War III

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