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Alien Space Bats

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What if aliens invaded during World War II?
"1865 — Alien bats from outer space bring the fruits of their technology to their brothers, because they have heard Elvis Presley on the radio, and think that the south should indeed be free. It ranks slightly higher than a '63 CSA victory. Indeed, I think I will call it "Bats of the South", and make it into a four book trilogy."
Alison Brooks, discussing the probability of various Alternate History Confederate victories in The American Civil War on soc.history.what-if

An Alternate History trope dealing with the divergence of a timeline. If the Point of Divergence is an extraordinary or supernatural phenomenon, Alien Space Bats are responsible.

The phrase was originally coined by the late Alison Brooks as a sarcastic comment on ridiculous alternate history timelines with no realistic chance of happening without some sort of Deus ex Machina as implausibly contrived as bringing in a bunch of Sufficiently Advanced Alien bats. It was only later that it came to mean "explicitly magical or science-fiction what-ifs."

Alien Space Bats are in a sense the opposite of a Deus ex Machina: where Deus ex Machina is the introduction of an implausible element outside of the context of the narrative to resolve a plot conflict, Alien Space Bats are an implausible element outside of the context of the narrative introduced in order to set up the main plot conflict or setting.

The trope may also apply when the point of divergence isn't actually supernatural, but is so wildly implausible that it might as well be that A Wizard Did It. See also Outside-Context Problem, which is for the times when the event isn't very supernatural nor implausible, but is so unexpected it catches everyone off guard.

Note that Tropes Are Tools: this can and does lead to some excellent yarns, especially if Schizo Tech is involved. Even if the event setting up the plot is fantastic or wildly improbable, that doesn't mean that the characters' reactions to it have to be equally unrealistic. However, people who use alternate history to explore the nature of real historical processes may regard Alien Space Bat stories as annoying distractions, or at least as trivial mind games.

A frequent mechanism by which Alien Space Bats intervene in human history is Mass Teleportation.note  When on a small scale, their intervention may leave people Trapped in the Past. See also Never Was This Universe.

Not to be confused with Goddamned Bats, or the Batman from Superman: Speeding Bullets, who actually is an alien. Also not to be confused with the free-tailed bat that died clinging to the side of the external fuel tank of STS-119, nicknamed "Space Bat." Only vaguely related to the movie Lifeforce, which is not AH, but has literal alien bats.

Now a verifiable wiki article! That cites This Very Wiki!note 


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Interestingly enough in Billy Bat, the titular character, a literal Alien Space Bat, intends to prevent or avoid his world from diverging from our history when it's within his power.
  • The world of the anime Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) diverged from the normal world when alchemy was discovered. Conversely, the world of the manga Never Was This Universe.
  • Strike Witches takes place in an alternate 1940s where all of Earth is at war with a group of aliens called the Neuroi. It is acknowledged by a member of the multinational team that had the Neuroi never invaded, the leaders of their governments would probably be fighting with each other instead. That said, none of the countries in question ended up with quite the same names they have in our world, though none seem particular strange to a history buff (for example, "Gallia" for France), so it's unclear where the actual PoD is.
  • Zipang diverges from history in the wake of the Battle of Midway when a modern Japanese Aegis destroyer is sent back to 1942 by a Negative Space Wedgie.

    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen: The exact point of divergence seems to be the presence of "costumed heroes", which isn't too fantastic (none of them have any superpowers), but most of the really major differences can be attributed to Dr. Manhattan, whose appearance marks the point where the course of global politics and history dramatically shift, like the US winning The Vietnam War, or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan put on hold. For a while.
  • Marvel 1602 has everything fairly normal up until the future Marvel Universe suddenly imposes itself on the past.
  • One alternative world The Authority fought diverged when blue-skinned aliens arrived in Italy during the Renaissance.
  • In the Marvel Universe, Wakanda is one such example. Thanks to a meteor of Unobtainium, the Wakandan people developed advanced technology early, and thus were never colonized by European nations.
  • Über: Shortly before the Fall of Berlin, the Nazis develop superpeople using alien technology. Subsequent developments, in a deconstruction of Stupid Jetpack Hitler, are carefully thought through and extremely depressing.
  • Pax Romana: When time-travel is discovered in the near-ish future, an ailing Catholic church sends a paramilitary force with modern weaponry and vehicles, as well as three weather-spy satellites and half a dozen nukes, to 312 CE to prop up Rome and the foundations of the church. Things don't go precisely to plan, but the ending shows that humanity has space colonies in the 15th century.
  • In Black Science, some of the alternate worlds the heroes visit are ones that have been affected by Alien Space Bats, such as one where Native Americans got ahold of alien technology or one where the world is under attack by ultra-nihilistic worm monsters.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The desire to avoid this was a large part of the reason the book moved so swiftly away from the Golden Age continuity is that within a year of WWII ending Diana and Steve Trevor's efforts had ensured there were multiple extraterrestrial governments with treaties with the United States and embassies in Washington DC, which meant that Earth-Two's history should be diverging quite distinctly from what was actually happening post WWII and had started to before Robert Kanigher's tenure as writer.

    Fan Works 
  • The How to Train Your Dragon fanfic A Thing of Vikings is an Alternate History / Alternate Universe fanfic of the first film; according to the author, they were introduced to the film by their fiancee, and their immediate reaction was "Cute, but not very historically accurate," and then the plot bunny bit of "But what if was?" Cue dropping the movie into Real Life history, set in the 1040s AD, and watching the ripples explode into the timeline from there, with the adoption of Dragons and dragon-riding functioning as this: when the most advanced military technology on the planet is Greek Fire, a small Norse tribe suddenly has an air force.

    Films — Animated 
  • Possibly referenced in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths; when Superwoman is trying to decide which alternate Earth to send Batman to, she glosses over one where humanity has "mutated into hideous winged creatures of the night".

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The 1632 series has a small modern American town physically relocated to 17th-century Germany by some process that the author discusses no further than to vaguely say that advanced physics could probably explain it. It does give a tiny bit of exposition about the Space Bats in question (The temporal anomalies are the result of a Starfish Alien creating multi-dimensional art, and compared to shards chipped away from a stone to make a statue), and notes that eventually, they get their just desserts at our descendants' hands for the general hazard their art poses, but that's all in the prologue, after which they never appear again. Eric Flint, the author, explicitly said that he created the Bats in question to allow him to write as many Alternate History novels as he liked.
  • John Birmingham's Axis of Time trilogy, inspired by The Final Countdown (see above), depicts a military task force that gets sent back in time from 2021 to 1942 as a result of a failed experiment on one of the ships in the task force.
  • Without Warning and its sequel After America, also by John Birmingham, set in 2003 and after, feature a wave of unknown energy that causes the population of most of North America to be suddenly disintegrated. Other, non-primate animals are either unaffected or destroyed on a seemingly random basis.
  • In Harry Turtledove's The Guns of the South, the Confederate States win The American Civil War because time-traveling South Africans give them AK-47s.
  • The (nowadays less-known) likely progenitor of the "CSA victory" variation of Alternate History, Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore, utilizes the trope with a twist. The basic premise is a classic example: history is changed by a time traveller affecting one small event (accidentally, in this case). The twist is that in-universe, the historical reality was a Confederate victory (for wholly mundane and plausible reasons). The time-travel experiment and its consequences aren't shown until near the end of the novel, and the result is the emergence of an alternate timeline in which the USA won—i.e., our world is the Alternate Universe from the novel's perspective.
  • The Belisarius Series is a good example; its divergence is the result of a Terminator Twosome of warring AIs FROM THE FUTURE. Link was sent by a group of Master Race-type purists to prevent a future full of what they see as Transhuman Treachery, while Aide was sent by kind, gentle Transhuman Aliens (of the Space Whale persuasion) Link is trying to Ret-Gone.
  • The major point of divergence in the Wild Cards franchise is the outbreak of the eponymous virus on Earth, which bestows superpowers on its victims (that is, if you can avoid the horrible death part).
  • In an intentional homage to this trope, Ken MacLeod's Learning the World is set on a planet inhabited by actual Alien Space Bats — to whom humans are the mysterious alien visitors who change the course of history.
  • Ben Jeapes' children's novel The New World Order diverges in the middle of the English Civil War when Neanderthals from a parallel universe invade and steamroll over both sides with roughly World War I level technology. Also they have a few wizards.
  • Kim Newman's Anno Dracula has Dracula as ruler of The British Empire instead of Queen Victoria. (Officially, alongside Victoria, having ascended the throne as her prince consort, but it's made clear that he has taken all the power.) This leads to other vampires coming out of the coffin and becoming an open part of society, with the sequels exploring how the consequences unfold in the following century.
  • Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald has H. P. Lovecraft's Old Ones as rulers of The British Empire instead of Queen Victoria.
  • S. M. Stirling is noted for this trope, probably because he was a regular reader of the newsgroup where the term was coined:
    • The Draka has the initial divergence of American and French royalists being sent to the fictional colony of Drakia. It then has a number of others, such as the existence of an incredibly complete cache of classical literature in Western Africa, and the spontaneous appearance of several technological advances in a culture with little incentive to have them. For example, they send steam-powered warcars to help the Confederacy, and have enough dirigibles to launch an air raid that kills 50,000 people against Russia in the 1880s. They also have atomic bombs by 1944, but so does the United States.
    • Island in the Sea of Time starts with the Event: Alien Space Bats sending Nantucket (and a big ellipse of ocean surrounding the island) back in time to the Bronze Age.
    • The Emberverse novels: in the 1998 from which Nantucket was taken, the same Alien Space Bats cause all industrial-level technology to become useless. Lampshaded, as some of the characters explicitly use the term "Alien Space Bats" as a label for whatever unknown force caused most human technology to suddenly stop working. This may also be a Discussed Trope as the characters in the series are genre-savvy enough to have carried the trope name forward intentionally.
      • Ravage uses an identical premise, but falls under the category of future rather than Alternate History, as it takes place in the 21st century and was written in 1943.
    • In The Sword of the Lady, these particular Bats are revealed to be the Mind, essentially the Jungian Universal Subconscious having an argument with itself.
    • The Lords of Creation series is set in an alternate history where Mars and Venus are habitable (having been made so centuries ago by the eponymous advanced alien race, for reasons not yet revealed).
  • Harry Turtledove's World War/Colonisation books - the point of divergence is aliens invading during World War II.
  • In the Roger Zelazny book Roadmarks, the time-traveling main character keeps attempting this to fix Thermopylae (in the story the Greeks lost) but the Time Police keep catching him.
  • In The Chronicles of Amber by the same author, the characters' primary power comes from being space bats themselves. They tend to drop into timelines, fiddle around with them, and then use the resulting alternate-history worlds as a source of labor and material later. Corwin spends a couple of books using this to set up an invasion of the main world/timeline by a 'nearby' one that worships him as a god, with material from a second alternate timeline that functions as gunpowder in the main timeline, which didn't itself have guns yet.
  • Elizabeth Bear's New Amsterdam has alien space bats in the form of magic warcraft used by Native Americans, preventing Europeans from settling the Americas except spottily along the coasts.
  • Thor Meets Captain America by David Brin has Nazi Germany essentially winning World War II because they were able to summon the Norse gods to fight on their side. They ultimately lose it all when Loki — whose titles include "The Ever-Contrary" — betrays them. The trope was used to make a point here: this was the most plausible scenario the author could think of that would have the Nazis winning.
  • Steven White's Saint Antony's Fire starts off with Ponce de Leon discovering the wreck of an interdimensional UFO, quickly followed by the resurrected aliens allowing the Spanish Armada to successfully invade England.
  • Naomi Novik's Temeraire series is set in the Napoleonic Wars in a universe where dragons exist and are widely used by humans, especially militaries. The Alternate History elements are not immediately apparent, but there are numerous key differences; the Incans, for instance, are a major world power because of their dragons, and the Chinese, far from being in decline and getting bullied by Western powers, are one of the major players in the war as both sides try to enlist their aid, or at the very least keep them from joining the other side.
  • Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series has the Squall, a bizarre, recurring storm that has repeatedly transferred ships from our Earth to an alternate timeline where the K-T extinction event did not occur.
  • In the third book of The Dire Saga, it's revealed that this world's alternate history with worldwide broadcast power, artificial and digital intelligences, and superpowers is the result of Nikola Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower experiments ending a bit differently than in our timeline. He gained lightning powers, other people started gaining superpowers, and people suddenly popped up who claimed to have always known magic. One of Tesla's contemporaries muses that they may have accidentally transported themselves to another universe.
  • Donald R. Bensen's novel And Having Writ... begins with the crash-landing of four alien explorers (with the implication that in the real timeline, their craft exploded over Siberia) in 1908. The aliens attempt to manipulate world powers into a war to spur technological progress so they can get home; ironically, their actions spur technological progress while averting World War I.
  • Deconstructed in Lavie Tidhar's novel The Violent Century, in which WWII involves superpeople due to a Mass Super-Empowering Event during the inter-war years, but historical forces are sufficiently powerful that the broad outline of twentieth-century history doesn't change at all. In a darkly humorous twist, some of the characters end up convinced that they must be in a dark Alternate Timeline and that history without superpeople couldn't possibly have gone so horribly wrong.
  • The classic Lest Darkness Fall by Sprague deCamp: some mysterious process that's never fully explained transports a present-day (i.e., 1930s) archeologist to fourth-century Rome.
  • John Birmingham's Without Warning offers one in a more recent past. Just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq a mysterious energy bubble called the Wave engulfs most of North America, killing all within and denying entry. The trilogy examines the consequences of a modern world without America, as well as the struggles to survive and rebuild. One of the consequences is Israel nuking the Middle East and New York City being attacked by pirates (many of them being refugees from the Middle East).
  • Patton's Spaceship, by John Barnes, has the Nazis being given 1950s military technology in the 1930s by dimension-hopping fascists as part of an interdimensional war. Specifically, they were given jet aircraft and tanks that were both powerful and reliable and that they could easily manufacture on their own. The author states in his notes that given how badly Nazi Germany was outmatched by American and Soviet industrial capabilities and manpower, that the only plausible scenarios for a Nazi victory were that or having the Nazis invent the atomic bomb before America did.
  • Worm is set in a world that was originally our own, but diverged with the real world thirty years or so before the time the story was written due to people developing superpowers. "Our world" exists as an alternate universe that can be traveled to. However the existence of the city of Brockton Bay where most of the city is set, which does not exist in the real world, has led to a lot of Wild Mass Guessing about why it is there.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A few Sliders episodes fell into this, with worlds where physical laws permitted magic and wizardry and dragons, whereas other worlds were For Want of a Nail. Still other worlds the Sliders visited combined these aspects. Interestingly, only one world had an event that fits the "alien" bit. According to the show, all those alien conspiracies on other worlds are actually true. The only difference on this world is that the government went public with First Contact and established open trade with the Reticulans, resulting in many technological advances (including a virtual panacea, anti-gravity, and a manned mission to Mars). Disappointingly, the characters themselves don't actually get to meet any aliens. The best they get is a human who looks part-Reticulan thanks to a side effect of the panacea drug (his blood is also green).

    Tabletop Games 
  • The GURPS Infinite Worlds campaign has two major opposed alternate-reality-jumping factions (Homeline, our world circa 2027 if paratemporal technology had been invented in 1994, and Centrum, a recovered post-apocalyptic One World Order of Straw Vulcans with similar tech) often act as this in other timelines to further their own interests (which right now is mostly screwing up the rival faction). The players are probably going to work for one or the other.
  • Played with in Shadowrun. The Magic Comes Back on Mayan Doomsday, but the actual point of major divergence is much more mundane; in 1999, food riots lead to corporations being allowed private armies and paving the way for corporate extraterritoriality. By the time the Awakening rolls around, the world is already significantly different. Of course, the existence of magic in ancient history then retroactively pushes the divergence point back into space bat territory.
  • Deadlands: The Weird West starts with a vindictive Native American shaman unleashing Sealed Evil in a Can, which leads to all sorts of weirdness, like the Battle of Gettysburg being interrupted by zombies, and a huge earthquake splitting southwest California into a series of canyons lined with a new mineral called "ghost rock", which is basically coal that burns more efficiently but also makes creepy noises. And that's just for starters...
  • Tripods and Triplanes is a miniatures game that takes a sharp turn from history when The War of the Worlds invasion fleet lands in the middle the World War I Western Front in spring 1918. Cue one emergency truce on the grounds of "let's deal with the Martians first", and air aces from both sides of the conflict teaming up to attack the Martian tripods.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • In Failbetter Games' browser game Fallen London, Victorian-era London was literally stolen by bats. And it turns out the Masters of the Bazaar are literal Alien Space Bats. For those wondering if it's a deliberate reference to the Trope Namer, Failbetter Games's writers assert they had never heard of this trope name when writing the setting. Given that it is both a figurative and literal case of Alien Space Bats, this is totally implausible but, if true, incredibly hilarious.
  • The Resistance series is based entirely around this trope, where the alien Chimeras arrive in The Tunguska Event of 1908. In 1921, Russia initiated a communications blackout with the rest of the world, and built a wall against its European border called the "Red Curtain". In December 1949, the Chimeran forces invade mainland Europe. The first game starts with their invasion of England in 1951.
  • The backstory for Dawn Of Victory, a mod-in-development for Sins of a Solar Empire, is inspired by the World War series in that it involves aliens invading during WW2 and proceeding to kick everybody's ass, except for a few isolated victories. Then nukes are developed and used, pushing the Scinfaxi to the Southern Hemisphere. History then proceeds similar to ours in the Western world, except there are three superpowers: USSR, Germany, and the Democratic Federation.
  • In Robo Aleste, the arrival of a mysterious foreign derelict ship introduces to Sengoku period Japan firearms, airships and Humongous Mecha.
  • Paradox Interactive is normally known for creating highly-detailed, well-researched historical Real-Time Strategy games that try to err on the side of plausibility in modelling the setting. But occasionally they let their dev teams get away with adding ridiculous scenarios or story paths in order to add more content to the game:
    • This is why several fans were, to put it mildly, taken by surprise when they launched the Sunset Invasion minor DLC for Crusader Kings II, which introduces a massive invasion of Western Europe by a technologically-advanced, disease-spreading Aztec Empire.
    • Hearts of Iron 4 has really kicked this type of gameplay addition to a new level. The height or nadir perhaps depending on your view of it, is that with the No Step Back DLC, not only does it have a ridiculous set of focuses & events that can get Anastasia Romanov (or at least someone claiming to be her) as the Queen of Poland, you can also go down that path and then 'discover' she's fake, and make Wotjek the Bear, a real life Syrian bear that used to haul artillery shells for the Polish 2nd Corps during the Italian campaign into the King of Poland.
  • As of 2010, Guilty Gear's discovery of a physics-defying energy source (literally called "magic") that kicks off a genetically engineered monster apocalypse and turns the whole world into the cover of every metal album ever has officially become this. By the time Xrd rolled around, the series fully committed to the alternate history route, revealing that in 1999 the Universal Will destroyed all modern electronics on Earth, leading to its worldwide ban and would've led to societal collapse hadn't magic been introduced to the public a couple of years after.
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order has Nazi Germany beating back the invasion of Normandy in '44 and going on to win a WWII that lasts until 1948 through the use of extremely advanced technology, decades ahead of anything the Allies can muster. They then proceed to colonise the Moon by 1951, and spread their lebensraum across 75% of the entire world by 1960. Early in the game, it's revealed that the reason for this was General Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse discovering a secret cache of amazing, near-magical technology early in the war, and then reverse-engineering it to create unstoppable war machines. The irony, of course, is that the sect who made this technology— the Da'at Yichud— is Jewish.
  • ARMA 3's expansion Contact adds a campaign involving First Contact with an unknown aliens species and a surrounding conflict between human factions in an otherwise ultra-realistic military sim.

  • The world of Kevin & Kell was created by time travelling intelligent birds from the future traveling back in time and preventing the existence of humans and Uplifting all other animal species.

    Web Original 
  • Alison Brooks introduced the alien bats to soc.history.what-if in her Alternate History spoof Irony And Steal. Here, the bats descend on Manchester, England at the start of the Napoleonic Wars, having learned how to speak English from listening to future radio broadcasts, and supply tanks to Britain with which it can defeat France at El Alamein. Silliness ensues, including the Russian Czar marrying a bat, dirigible arms races, Lenin becoming a baseball player, and alien mutant ninja turtles replacing the population of Australia.
  • On the forums, an entire section of the site is dedicated to what they call "Random Omnipotent Beings," or "ROBs" doing precisely this, starting off many role-play threads.
    • As a general rule, the ones that actually cause the implausible scenarios are referred to as "Bastard Random Omnipotent Beings", or "BROBs"
  • On the forums and entire section of the site is dedicated to what they call Alien Space Bat scenarios, for scenarios that are extremely unlikely or would require ASB intervention.
  • Cody from Alternate History Hub, making a guest appearance on the History Buffs episode covering Apocalypto, proposes that alien space bats are responsible for what host Nick can only describe as "time-traveling conquistadors."
  • The amount of Willing Suspension of Disbelief required to believe the point of divergence in Soviet history that sets up the What If Klitschko Special is sufficiently high to drive that story into ASB territory—-especially since it presumes that the events of Rocky IV realy happened.
  • The Cartographer's Handbook depicts a world that was overrun by a zombie-like plague in the 1870s and humanity's struggle to survive.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Futurama episode, "All the Presidents Heads", in which the cast go to the American Revolution to stop the Professor's ancestor David Farnsworth from betraying America, Fry accidentally messes with the signals key to Paul Revere alerting that "the British are coming", which creates a 31st century America that is still ruled by the British. Naturally, they make another trip to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
  • A similar timeline change occurs in Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, when the Big Guy Powered Armor ends up in the American Revolutionary War, until a British soldier discovers it and pilots it to defeat America, also forcing Rusty and the Big Guy's actual pilot to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
  • In Steven Universe, at some point before humans developed agriculture, the planet was colonized by an alien species called Gems, who eventually fought a civil war. This has clearly affected humanity's development, but it's pretty subtle and unclear of how exactly. There are numerous small differences (like Delmarva being a US state instead of just a landform), but then we see a world map drastically altered by the early stages of Hostile Terraforming, even sinking a huge part of what we know today as Russia into the ocean. And yet some points of divergence seem to stem all the way back to Pangaea, which split up differently from how it did in our timeline.

Alternative Title(s): Fantastic Divergence Point, Improbable Point Of Divergence