Follow TV Tropes


Literature / What Madness is This?

Go To
There is no hope. Only Oswald.

"What Madness Is This? That brother might fight brother, and father might fight son? That countless homes and families be ripped asunder all for the sake of their piece of dirt? of their political party? Why must we hate each other so?"
—Thomas Jefferson

"What Madness is This?" is a dystopian Alternate History timeline by Napoleon53, a member of It can be read here. It starts with the corrupt dealings of the American Federalist Party, whose attempts to gain supreme power lead to the collapse of the United States. Meanwhile, in Europe, Napoleon has defeated his enemies and stands as master of the continent.

Things quickly take a turn for the worse and never look back. We witness the rise and fall of the fascist Republican Union: the northern successor to the United States, the RU's rivalry with the democratic Southron nations of Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, and Carolina—and see the development of a world that is very different yet frighteningly similar to our own.

The story "ended" with a massive nuclear war, but Napoleon53 has done an "alternate ending" where the Republican Union's successor—the New United States—doesn't fall apart and goes on to finally conquer the Caribbean and the remains of the Southron nations. This is still ongoing, but it looks like things aren't going to get any better and will probably get worse.

In September of 2018, the timeline was rebooted by Napoleon53, with the story and characters essentially the same but with new forms of update added on. The new thread can be found here, and their page can be found here.


  • Allohistorical Allusion:
    • Alternate Lyndon Johnson is assassinated in Dallas by a Lee Harvey Oswald expy on the orders of Chuck Oswald (aka John F. Kennedy).
    • The alternate Battle of Gettysburg during the Great War is full of these.note 
  • All Nations Are Superpowers: Averted, despite a large number of wanks. There are plenty of smaller regional (Arab Empire, Indochina, Peru) and minor (Baden, Switzerland) powers.
  • Alternate History: The collapse of the old United States, and its eventual successors.
  • Alternate History Wank: Starts as a Napoleon-wank, then becomes an evil United States-wank. Also to a lesser extent a Russia, Prussia, and Arab-wank. Also includes minor Peru, Netherlands, and Indochina-wanks. Basically, if you're not getting screwed in this timeline, you're getting wanked.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Manifest Destiny Party, particularly under Steele and Oswald. And to a lesser extent, their allies during the Great War.
  • Apocalypse How: The original ending has a Class One, bordering on Class Two with global nuclear war. The Continuity Reboot has a Class Zero when the nations of Europe destroy each other in a nuclear exchange.
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Prince Viktor is a deranged Serial Killer turned genocidal dictator.
    • Charles 'Chuckie' Oswald, First Consul of the Republican Union and President of the New United States of America. You know this timeline's a creepy dystopia when the alternate doppelgänger of John F. Kennedy is even crazier and even more hateful than the alternate version of Stalin (i.e. Joe Steele), who led the RU before him!
  • Balkanize Me: The fate of the old United States early in their history, and later the fate of the British and Dutch Empires. Done again in the late 20th century, when the New United States collapses. Reversed during the same period with the Southron nations, which regain independence and unify into the Confederacy.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: As the timeline progresses, this becomes pretty much universal, even in more liberal places like France.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The French, Prussian, and Russian Empires aren't the friendliest places to be, but they look like boy scouts compared to the Republican Union/ New United States.
  • Black Comedy: Much of the humour in the timeline, especially in later chapters, is simply a satire of the absurdity of self-satisfied totalitarian societies.
  • Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: Out of universe, RU women’s fashion probably only liberalizes to the same degree as it did in OTL so as to make this trope possible, considering that they are ultra-right-wing bigots in all other respects.
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Range from outright anarchists to pseudo-communist Beutelists. They are a major problem for some of the great powers.
  • The Caligula: This world is filled with them, from King George IV of Britain-who inherits his father's mental instability-to First Consul and President Oswald.
  • Cool Airship: Blimps get an early start in the late 19th century. Unfortunately, their early major manufacturer is Goodyear Enterprises of the Republican Union.
  • Continuity Reboot: NUSA falls apart after a depression, and a new Cold War begins between the Tripartite Empire, NUSA remnants in the Midwest, and Russia. Ultimately, this ends with the world being consumed in nuclear fire on June 6, 2006, with a Distant Finale showing that the Americas have been united by a Napoleon-like Emperor and that Europe has fallen back into the Middle Ages......THEN another ending was posted, diverging way back in the 1970s. Chuck Oswald gets word of Nixon's betrayal and avoids the depression that destroyed NUSA. Oswald arranges Nixon's assassination via airliner crash. He blames the crash on the Southron Remnants in the Caribbean and uses that as an excuse to invade.
  • Commie Nazis: The Republican Union/New United States combine the worst aspects of fascism, communism, and religious fundamentalism.
  • Corrupt Church: The American Fundamentalist Church.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Charles Goodyear, who lures immigrants to the Republican Union with promises of freedom, then puts them to work in factories in conditions that make black slavery look easy. Also, he uses his money and influence to steer the RU's government into an increasingly militaristic mindset, culminating in the rise of the Manifest Destiny party.
  • Crapsack World: Starts out innocently, but becomes one over time, in so many different ways...
  • Cycle of Revenge: A major characteristic of the wars in this alternate history. The political rhetoric of all the various powers is frequently steeped in the most unreasonable revanchist propaganda imaginable.
  • Divided States of America: The United States collapses after John Adams and Alexander Hamilton tried to set up a dictatorship. The southern states say "Screw This, I'm Outta Here" and form their own nations. Temporarily undone during Chuck Oswald's rule, but then they divide up again. EXCEPT then undone permanently by Chuck Oswald during the Continuity Reboot.
  • Driven to Suicide: Near the end of the timeline, with most nations prepared to annihilate each other in a nuclear war and with no hope of tensions de-escalating, the suicide rates spike internationally. After the nuclear war happens, French Empress Napoleona decides to hang herself.
  • Dystopia: You would not want to live in this particular alternate history, especially by the time the 20th century rolls around. By the century's midpoint, there's only a handful of struggling democratic countries left, with the rest of the Earth covered by militaristic authoritarian countries and their smaller, like-minded allies.
  • Eagleland: The Republican Union is a type II, of the worst possible sort.
  • The Empire: Comes in Napoleonic, Russian, Prussian, and evil American flavours.
  • Expanded States of America: During Custer's reign the Republican Union conquers all of Mexico and Korea. Steele's reign sees the American South reintegrated and much of South America conquered, while in the reboot Oswald expands to control all the above plus the Caribbean and looks well on the way to conquer the rest of the Americas.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Nixon is disgusted by Lyndon Johnson, as the latter is a Dirty Coward who prefers to oversee Catholic Hispanics get butchered rather than do anything important militarily. This happens to Nixon again when Oswald starts nuking rebelling cities, which motivates Nixon to launch a coup.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Republican Union is essentially an incredibly dark doppelganger of the USA. Its history mirrors that of America, except with America's historical good qualities practically nonexistent and its bad qualities taken to their worst possible extremes. For example:
    • The tales of economic opportunity that drew Irish and German immigrants to America in real life, while certainly exaggerated then and now, were true in large part: although many immigrants ended up as impoverished factory workers, many more became reasonably prosperous farmers, and even for the factory workers, conditions were generally better than they would have been in Europe. In the alternate universe, claims of such opportunity in the Republican Union are Blatant Lies told by agents of the RU in order to lure immigrants from eastern Europe into the country, where they are treated as second class citizens and forced to work gruelling factory jobs in conditions worse than slavery.
    • American culture generally prides itself on the freedom it affords to its citizens. The RU boasts about its so-called "freedom", especially by the time of the mid-late twentieth century and the declaration of the New United States of America, even as it gradually becomes less and less democratic to the point of becoming a full-fledged Police State.
    • The doctrine of Manifest Destiny—the idea that the United States was divinely ordained to expand westward to the Pacific—is what drove the United States to attempt to expel dozens of Native American tribes from their native homelands, and led to America gaining the borders it has today. In the case of the Republican Union, its obsession with this concept makes it attempt to attempt to take over the entire Western Hemisphere and they come very close to succeeding before their collapse.
    • In addition, a lot of real historical figures, even mostly positive ones, receive villainous physical doppelgängers.
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: Billy Graham rationalizes the use of nuclear weapons against civilian cities by claiming that just existing without submitting to Manifest Destiny is a sin, and that the inhabitants mock the RU.
  • For the Evulz: We’re never told why Prince Viktor murdered those three prostitutes.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Unlike most alternate history stories, we never actually see the Point of Divergence, as when the story starts there are a few things already different: the United States has a weaker, more decentralised federal government, George III's madness is more prevalent and gets passed to his sons, George Washington has biological children, and so on. According to the author, there is no single PoD and instead a series of small changes beginning in the early 18th century resulting in a world similar to ours up until the 1800s when everything changes. The complete list of PoDs can be found here.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare:
    • Charles Oswald grew up in a ghetto for “Inferiors”, with seemingly no hope of ever getting out, until he murdered his family and changed his name. He goes on to become the cruelest tyrant in history. It is strongly hinted that the RU society is set up to allow the wickedest of citizens to rise above all others, in a twisted corruption of meritocracy. It’s likely that many others in the ghettoes also tried to falsify their backgrounds but failed, because they weren’t Ax-Crazy enough.
    • Richard Nixon started out as an ordinary race car driver, became tremendously popular after openly murdering a foreign competitor to win a race, used his fame to become a television celebrity and then enter politics as Oswald’s right hand man.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The Republican Union Military Police, RUMP, the New United States of America, NUSA, the Liberated American States Republic, LASR.
  • The Federation: The United Nations, the closest thing this timeline has to good guys.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Caesarina Napoleona I, who turns the Tripartite Empire into a full-fledged police state.
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Oh so inverted, at least when comparing the Republican Union to the Napoleonic or Prussian Empires.
  • Government in Exile: After Columbia is annexed by the New United States, George Washington IX forms one of these in Cuba. They are Fighting for a Homeland and eventually return—at least in the original continuity.
  • Hereditary Republic: Surprisingly averted with the Republican Union, until Charles Oswald II takes over what's left of it from his father. Played straight with the Russian Republic.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Compared to the other Great Powers, the Tripartite Empire during the 19th century is liberal, progressive, multicultural, and vaguely democratic—in short everything the Republican Union is not. Over the course of the 20th century, to keep fighting against the RU/NUSA the Empire effectively becomes a police state just as bad as their American enemy.
  • Homage / Shout-Out:
  • Hope Spot:
    • The mostly-democratic Southron Nations manage to make it as far north as Philadelphia during the Great War. It doesn't last long.
    • Jurgen Ailes is described as one of the more reasonable members of the RU's leadership. He takes over much of the Midwest after Oswald's fall, and he shows his true colors as his government goes full-on A Nazi by Any Other Name and begins herding Jews and Blacks into concentration camps.
    • NUSA collapses, with the fairly reasonable Richard Nixon in control of the most populous areas. A racist but weakened military regime controls the Midwest. The old fundamentalists control only a small part of Texas. The old Southron nations are now united under a democratic Confederacy. However, as always, things don't stay this way.
  • Hypocrite: Charles Oswald and Joseph Steele try to pass themselves off as "pure, true Americans" to further their ruthless climb to political power, despite both of them originating in ethnic groups that are viciously despised by the alternate US' regime and elites.
  • Ignored Epiphany: After a German immigrant to the Republican Union gives a crowd of religious fanatics a scathing speech, he's dragged away by ORRA thugs and the crowd continues to listen to Billy Graham, only strengthening their belief.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Theodore Roosevelt shows up in the Republican Union even though his grandfather was the founder and leader of the Georgian Republic, and hated the RU. The author says that he forced Teddy to exist in spite of the improbability.
  • Insult Backfire:
    • After Andrew Jackson creates the Confederation of the Carolinas, Madison and Jefferson call him a "vulture". The Confederation adopts the vulture as a national symbol to spite them.
    • Charles Oswald is called "The Beast of America" due to his brutality. This nickname catches on with his own men.
  • Irony:
    • A Jewish man named Midas Goldberg pushes the RU from merely enslaving "Inferiors" to outright exterminating them.
    • Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna is the leader of Texas in their fight for independence from Mexico.
    • The fascists justify themselves with “survival of the fittest”. The theory of evolution is suppressed almost immediately by the Tripartite Empire and never becomes mainstream science. The Republican Union likely never even heard of it.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): A lot of cities have alternate names.
    • Chicago is "Shicagwa".
    • San Francisco is "Saint François", as California becomes a French possession after the Napoleonic Wars.
    • Louisiana and Quebec become known as "Lewisana" and "Keybeck" under American rule
    • Ironically, Istanbul is renamed Constantinople (or rather Konstantinopol) by the Russians after they invade Turkey.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope:
    • It doesn't take long for the Republican Union to go from simply being horribly racist to herding minorities into death camps, conducting medical experiments on prisoners, withholding the flu vaccine from "undesirables", and nuking undefended cities who resist *American rule.
    • An even better example is Columbia after regaining independence from NUSA, which collapses into all-out race war within years. You’d think they’d have learned their lesson from the occupation, but that’s just too much to ask in this timeline.
  • Just Before the End: The pre-reboot timeline takes this turn during the 1990s and 2000s as the countries of the world inch closer and closer to nuclear war. Even before then, it's noted that the Rape, Pillage, and Burn that the Republican Union suffers at the hands of Britain is marked as the start of the "End Times Era".
  • King Bob the Nth: Every emperor of the French/Tripartite Empire is named Napoleon. When a woman finally takes the throne, she's named Napoleona.
  • Kinslaying Is a Special Kind of Evil: All of the RU leaders before it collapses murder somebody in their family, which could symbolize how they murder their “kin” of the rest of the human race. The author didn’t intend for this at first, but once he noticed the pattern, he ran with it.
    • Goodyear is pushed off a blimp by his own son.
    • Custer invades an “Inferior” ghetto for the hell of it and rapes and murders a woman who, unknown to him, gave birth to the boy he would later adopt as his own son.
    • Steele kills his biological father after learning of his Slavic heritage. He doesn’t feel guilty in the slightest.
    • Oswald murders his entire family except for his brother (who is in on it) in order to start over as one of the Betters of Society.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Compared to others in the Republican Union/NUSA, Richard Nixon comes down as downright reasonable. He's still evil, just not child-eatingly so.
  • Mega-Corp: Goodyear Enterprises from the Republican Union.
  • Mordor: Due to the endless trench warfare, Maryland ends up like this.
    • Most of Europe is like this in the reboot ending after the Napoleonic and Prussian Empires make liberal use of nuclear and biological weapons.
    • Ireland also ends up like this, with the added bonus of being poisoned with chemical weapons.
  • Murder-Suicide: King George IV is severely mentally ill, so his brothers William and Fredrick try to institutionalize him. When they come to get him George kills Fredrick and tries to kill William before killing himself.
  • Mutually Assured Destruction: Much like our own Cold War, once everyone gets nuclear weapons this goes into effect. It doesn't work given that one side isn't rational and more than willing to strike first.
  • Nuke 'em: Once the Republican Union gets the bomb, they don't hesitate to use them.
    • In the reboot ending the Napoleonic, Prussian, and Russian Empires utterly annihilate each other along with a good amount of Europe, Asia, and North Africa after a Succession Crisis in France leads to nuclear war.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Once the Civil War starts, Oswald knows he has lost and tries to take everyone down with him in nuclear fire. Even before that, he would invade absolutely anyone over an insult.
  • Oppressive States of America: After the original United States collapse in the early 19th century, North America becomes an increasingly worse place to live in, especially in a country as totalitarian as the Republican Union. The other, more democratic remnants, while certainly much freer by OTL standards, aren't very saintly either.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The Republican Union starts as a highly-decentralised version of the former United States, with a nasty fundamentalist and nationalist streak, but slowly evolves into a totalitarian dictatorship.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Despite all their racism and xenophobia, one group that the Republican Union surprisingly doesn't oppress are blacks, who enjoy almost equal rights to whites, provided they are blindly loyal to the government. Once the RU invades the South and gains a much larger black population and Chuck Oswald goes insane, the RU begins an ethnic cleansing campaign to rid themselves of their black population.
    • Jews are also accepted by the RU, which leads to the ironic existence of a figure who, while largely based on Josef Mengele, is in fact Jewish.
    • Done to a lesser extend with Russia and some of the Southron Nations.
  • President for Life: Prime Minister-for-life Sergei Romanov of the Russian Republic, and every RU/NUSA leader from Custer to Oswald.
  • Putting on the Reich: After the collapse of the USA, the Republican Union attempts to emulate the Roman Republic even harder than in OTL.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: This collapse of the United States sees the individuals such as George Custer, Joseph Steele, Chuckie Oswald rise to power.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: During the War of 1812, the British forces in Canada, realizing they're gonna lose the war, decide to do this to the Republican Union as a final act of spite. The whole world suffers for it.
  • Realpolitik: Deconstructed, in that the Europeans being fundamentally rational actors paradoxically means that don’t realize the Americans are a threat to the whole world until it’s too late. Russia regularly sabotages efforts to hold the Americans back just to spite its rivals, and neither the Tripartite Empire nor Prussia makes any attempt to stop the reunification of Billy Graham’s and Oswald II’s rump states, because they wanted to take the Confederacy down a peg. This directly leads to nuclear war.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: A German immigrant to the Republican Union gives a crowd of religious fanatics led by Billy Graham a blistering one.
    "How can you believe in this? What madness is this, that has consumed you all and turned you into genocidal freaks?! I came to this country ten years ago, seeking freedom and opportunity. I was met at the docks by armed thugs. I was met at the hotel by armed thugs. I was immediately forced to sit down with a pastor of your so-called Church and was forced to undergo tests to see how vulnerable I was to the 'Devil's wiles," like whether I would or would not be willing to report a neighbor for speaking against the government in private to me. Whether I do or do not find Irish women attractive and/or worthy of carrying on my genetic lineage with. After that, I was given a punch card for an ORRA computer, and I was assigned a job in a factory. Then I was drafted. I lost most of my left foot in combat against Virginia in '56. It took me two months for your so-called 'government healthcare' to get me my painkillers. What kind of freedom and opportunity is this? Since I got off the boat from Baden, I have been mugged, assaulted, forced into conversion, worked half-to-death, and been shot at by some guy I've never met in a war both of us got literally nothing out of. You're all insane. You're all evil lunatics hellbent on destruction and murdering your fellow human beings. You make me sick."
  • Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman:
    • Literally, in the case of Mussolini, Lenin, and 'Himmler and Hess', who are all car manufacturers in this universe.
    • Many political figures of real history show up in alternate roles.
    • After a certain point, Stalin himself is the leader of the Republican Union !.
    • Adolf Hitler shows up as an Imperial Austrian general, going by the name "Adolf von Branau". He's one of the good guys.
    • Richard Nixon himself is still a sleazeball politician who's the habit of taping all his phone conversations still gets him in trouble.
  • Self-Made Orphan:
  • Serial Killer: Prince Viktor killed three prostitutes For the Evulz. After becoming leader of Russia and England, he gets much worse.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Prussian Kaiser Helmut Wilhelm decides to seek peace with the Tripartite Empire due to the endless trench warfare and flu ravaging his population. Oswald, Wilhelm's ally, is not amused by this and severely insults the Kaiser over the phone. His reply:
    "Shut up, you arrogant freak! The Alliance as a majority has decided on peace. If you want to continue being an atom-slinging barbarian savage, you can continue being as such. But, Gott as my protector, we will not be associated with such a crazed lunatic. The Alliance expected this to happen from the likes of you. As such, we took a vote. We are expelling the United States from the Grand Alliance!"
  • Spiritual Successor: To Decades of Darkness. Both stories have the same basic plot: The United States of America splinters early on in its history, and the rump US evolves into a racist, militaristic empire.
  • Start of Darkness: During the War of 1812 the fledgling Republican Union is invaded by the British who proceed to Rape, Pillage, and Burn everything. Boston and New York are razed to the ground, while the Southron nations do nothing to help. This gives the Yankees a severe xenophobic and revanchist streak.
  • State Sec: ORRA, the American Office of Religious and Racial Affairs.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • The world only gets as dystopian as it does because of well-meaning but weak-charactered people who do what is easy instead of what is right. By the mid-19th century, the damage has been done.
    • The Canadians in the War of 1812 are the group most responsible for turning America into the most repressive tyranny in this or any other history, but ignore the “well-meaning” part: they laid waste to the American countryside, despite knowing the war was lost, out of nothing but spite.
  • Vestigial Empire
    • The British Empire utterly collapses, even Scotland and Wales break away. British colonial holdings get split up: France gets India, Canada, New Zealand, and half of Australia, while the Netherlands gets the rest of Australia and South Africa.
    • After NUSA's collapse, the Tripartite Empire and Southron Nations are left to pick up the pieces. Legacy of *American rule has left an English-speaking Korea and Mexico, NUSA remnants in Texas, the Midwest, and New England, and racist tin-pot dictators in Britain, South Africa, and Indonesia.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Just about all world leaders in this reality. The more racist, xenophobic, and militaristic you are, the more the people will love you. The part describing the election of Archibald Bulloch as prime minister of Georgia sums it up:
    The militarist former governor of Georgia and Revolutionary War veteran Archibald Bulloch, now in his seventies, was elected the nation's first Prime Minister. He was not known as a "bad" man or disrespected, but his militarism signalled a new political force in politics: Ultra-Right-Wing Proto-Totalitarianism supported by the citizens themselves. No cheating occurred. No bribery. No blackmail. The South had elected a militarist free and fairly. He believed in freedom, but he also believed in expansion and the destruction of neighbors. He was the one who made West Florida a satellite nation. His territorial politics brought him into conflict with Andrew Jackson as they both squabbled over who had rights to areas in West Carolina along the Mississippi River.
  • Western Terrorists: The Reverend-Prophet Billy Graham becomes this after the collapse of NUSA. His goal is to bring about the End Times using as many machine guns and bombs as it takes. Nuclear war does happen, but directly because of his actions.