Like other forms of Speculative Fiction, Alternate History varies in its inherent "hardness" with AH Fandom generally grading it by how "plausible" the AH is based on historical realism and verisimilitude. At the "hard" end of plausibility are well-researched pieces that take into account historical sources and trends, logical changes due to the Butterfly Effect, and try to produce allohistorical events that flow logically from the Point of Departure/Divergence (PoD). At the "soft" end are works of pure Fantasy and Rule of Cool, generally a result of Alien Space Bats.
While the line between "plausible" and not is subjective, the following five levels tend to encompass the general consensus in the online AH Fandom:
Hard Alternate History:These are works that adhere to very strict, even scientific standards in their plausibility. Research is often detailed and intensive, Butterflies are followed logically, and with attention to details, such as the economic or logistical feasibility of an invasion.
At their best, they set aside the personal "wants" and "if only's" of the author and try to accurately determine the most likely What If? result of a PoD. In some cases they are arguably more "plausible" than actual history! A majority of historical counter-factuals fall into this category. Alternate History Wanks very rarely fall into this category.
Hard Alternate Histories are often "unsteered", meaning that they have no predetermined outcome and simply follow the logical changes ("what if Lee won at Gettysburg?").
Hard/Soft Alternate History:These are works that incorporate both Hard and Soft elements. Perhaps it is well researched and incorporates historical methodology, but leaves room for adventurous outcomes or Rule of Drama/Cool/Comedy.
The author may take some liberties in following butterflies, such as allowing some post-PoD births or a measure of parallelism. Perhaps they've accelerated a certain technology in a way that's rather "convenient", but doesn't strain the Willing Suspension of Disbelief too much. Or perhaps the butterflies and methodology are sound, but obviously "steered" with a predetermined outcome ("I need a setting where an independent Confederate States faces off against the Union in a Great War analog, what PoD can I choose to get there realistically?").
Some counter-factuals may fall into this Type, such as those by historians with an obvious political bias or pet theory or ones that allow an improbable outcome to look at the ramifications in order to study a tangential area, for example to allow for an "improbable" Japanese WWII victory scenario in order to study the cultural implications of such an event (see also Type X below). A well-done Alternate History Wank can qualify here.
Soft Alternate History:These are works where the plausibility of the setting's alt-history is less important than setting up a world that fits the creator's artistic objectives. Research is often minimal to moderate and used simply to give some verisimilitude to the setting.
Butterflies may be utterly ignored, Politically Correct History may make an appearance, and plausibility will take a back seat to Rule of Drama/Cool/Comedy. Perhaps parallelism has run to extreme levels or the author uses Historical Domain characters born way after the PoD ("I don't care if he was born centuries after the historical Fall of Rome, I want General Patton fighting the Modern Romans in Gaul!"). Perhaps the rate of technology growth is just too high. Perhaps the author's politics and desires so tint the work that it breaks any Willing Suspension of Disbelief and turns it into an AH-themed Author Tract. Many Alternate History Wanks fall into this Type.
Soft Alternate Histories are almost always "steered" ("okay, so I need a Confederate George Patton running a Blitzkrieg through Stalinist China...").
Utterly Implausible AH:These are works that are so Soft that they melt faster than gallium. Works that are so implausible as to be effectively impossible and so Soft as to prove impossible to take as serious speculation. Works where research was so poor or ill-considered, author politics so prevalent, Butterflies so ignored, details (logistics, politics, etc.) so overlooked, often purposefully, that there's no way anyone with even a passing familiarity with the history can take it seriously.
Infamously implausible scenarios like Operation Sealion note are often placed here, as are utterly implausible technology jumps, such as Aztecs developing breech loading rifles in 1420.
Over-the-top ludicrous Alternate History Wanks are usually put here. One good "rule of thumb" is if a PoD necessary to make the outcome plausibly happen is so far in the past that Butterflies would negate the very events that created the setting (such as a PoD to give Hitler the fleet he needed to invade the UK would need to be before WWI, probably negating the rise of Nazism), then it may be an Implauible.
Note: These works are often defined as Alien Space Bats, and in fact the original term was coined to refer to these type of implausible works!
Alien Space Bats and Fantastical AH:In contrast with Implausible these works are deliberately designed as pure fantasy, typically following the Rule of Cool. Some sort of Applied Phlebotinum or Sufficiently Advanced Aliens or Negative Space Wedgie or blatant magic causes a PoD that completely changes everything. What if aliens invade Earth during World War II? What if time traveling modern Cherokee give assault rifles to their distant ancestors in 1820? What if a town from modern West Virginia was time-ported to Germany in the middle of the 30 Years War?
A sub-type of this rewrites actual history in fantastic terms: what if George Washington's army used nature magic to fight necromantic redcoats?
However, many Type X works can become very "Hard" following an initially fantastical PoD, diligently using historical research and Butterflies to see what would logically happen after the initial (albeit impossible) premise. Type X works can be "steered" or "unsteered".
Note to Tropers: when posting examples please make a note on how "Hard" the work is after the initial PoD if the PoD is the ASB element; for example "after the Negative Space Wedgie moves Manhattan, the rest of the work follows a more Semi soft or hard level of plausibility".
Needless to say, the line between the different Types is highly subjective, often depending on an individual's personal interpretations or what historical theory he/she believes. Where history is vague (such as Prehistory) pure creative writing or blatant Ass Pulls might be used. The perception of them can be very much in the eye of the beholder. Furthermore, perceived extreme cases of implausibility in a Type III can lead to cries of ASB ("and what magical fairy gave the Japanese the cargo ships they would have needed to invade Hawaii ?")
Also, technology can be a source of debate: is Steampunk a Type III or IV or even X? How realistic is Airship passenger travel in the year 2001 anyway? Politics enters in as well, with steered AH used to create a Utopia based on the creator's personal political/economic views or conversely a Dystopia based on opposing views.
Note that Geological PoDs should be rated by the plausibility of the event. The Iceland volcano erupting ten years earlier is very plausible (probably Type I) while the existence of Atlantis (geologically impossible) is ASB (Type X). Weather PoDs are harder to gauge considering the unpredictability of the weather and its far-reaching effects, and thus more debatable.
Note also that none of these types are inherently superior or inferior to the others and all can be used effectively depending on the purpose to which they are being put and the story being told; a Type I might be more a plausible examination of the history than a Type IV, but a Type IV might, despite its issues with historical credibility, simply be a more entertaining story than a Type I. Of course, no amount of plausibility (or lack thereof) in the premises is going to salvage honestly bad writing.
- The What If? series of books where professional historians analyze some counter-factual scenarios (though there are some fans who question their conclusions, placing some contributions arguably in Type II).
- In the same vein, If The Allies Had Fallen: Sixty Alternate Scenarios of World War Two also posits counter-factual scenarios of varying validity. Many are quite hard, with the sections by Colonel David Glantz (!!!) in particular being concise and non-committal re-statements of grand-strategic, strategic, operational, and tactical realities (e.g. Glantz's statements on the fatal flaws of Barbarossa, Taifun, and Blau). Other scenarios, many dealing with social issues, are softer. This largely because the scenarios themselves are less likely (e.g. German conquest of Britain, German conquest of the USSR, German victory), but the social historians sometimes soften it further by not quite getting their heads around the military realities of the questions they address (e.g. Barbarossa succeeding as explored Deustch and Showalter, which they consider possible because R. Stolfi of all people contradicts David Glantznote ). That said, even the softer scenarios are still are still firmly in the Type II category.
- How Few Remain: The first book in Turtledove's Timeline-191 series explores a vividly realistic 19th century following a southern victory in the American Civil War.
- The Yiddish Policemens Union by Michael Chabon. On the Soft side of Type I, but still very well put together.
- The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad where Adolf Hitler emigrates to the USA and becomes a Science Fiction author rather than enter politics. Intended as an Anvilicious satire of perceived fascist trends in Speculative Fiction at the time, it still manages to be a plausible AH story.
- Eric Flint's Trail of Glory series starts off with an arrow that hit Sam Houston being a minor injury instead of the major one it was in Real Life, and follows through from there.
- Lighter Than A Feather by David Westheimer. The US carries out Operation Olympic and invades Kyushu in 1945. Mostly presented as a series of vignettes evenly divided between US and Japanese, the book also sets out in some detail the general course of the invasion. Further characterization pushes it into Type I territory.
- Thande's Look to the West (though there is something of a background artistic 'theme' which sometimes leads it to dip into Type II).
- 1940: Et si la France avait continué la guerre? is a hard-as-diamond timeline in which the earlier death of the French president's mistress in June 1940 results in France continuing the war from North Africa.
- For Want of a Nail by Robert Sobel: a very detailed and carefully researched classic '70s AH novel that explores the "history" of a world where the Continental Army lost at Saratoga. While firmly in Type I territory, there are a number of Type II elements, and the development of the corporate nation-state known as "Kramer Associates" has to be seen to be believed.
- When Angels Wept looks at what would've happened in the Cuban Missile Crisis had spun out of control. The author, Eric Swedin, is a history professor, and the book presents itself as a genuine history book written by an Australian several decades later.
- The Peter Tsouras short story compilations generally fall into this category, though a few go further down on the scale. A good example of the kind you see is in the "Battle of the Bulge" compilation, specially the short story called "A Backdoor into Germany: Monty Bounces the Rhine" in which Operation Market-Garden is not a disaster like it is OTL, but is a marginal success. It doesn't change much in the grand scheme of things, but the Western Allies beat the Soviets to Berlin by a few days.
- Boldly Going explores a world in which the CIA et al. Overestimate the Soviet Space program in the early 1980s, and Reagan demands a response, resulting in Space Station Enterprise, built from the converted frame of the never-flown orbiter of the same name.
- The online 1983: Doomsday takes its POD from a real-world event - a false nuclear launch alert in Russia that could have turned into a full-blown nuclear exchange. In this timeline, it does. The timeline's authors allow for some play, making it a soft Type I, but work hard to keep things relatively authentic (any "real world" people presented as surviving Doomsday must have been verified as being in an unaffected area. For instance, Barack Obama was a student at Columbia in September 1983, and was almost assuredly killed when NYC was obliterated, but George W. Bush was in rural Texas and survived.)
- In one particularly interesting case, authors thought they had discovered that John F. Kennedy, Jr. was actually in India on the projected POD, and would have survived, becoming an important figure in the new timeline. However, further research has made that finding obsolete.
- This blog post about the best case scenario for Elvis's career after the POD of surviving his heart attack in 1977 makes a point of avoiding the usual clichés of music writers fantasising about this (where he ends up collaborating with Rick Rubin or covering Joy Division).
- Newer videos in Alternate History Hub typically fall under Type I or at the very least Type II with carefully done research om the explored topics. Earlier videos tend to rank lower as Cody wasn't yet experienced with doing the research and writing the scenarios and they are a case of Old Shame for him nowadays.
- In Inglorious Basterds, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, and many Nazi military officials are all killed at a Parisian movie theatre in 1944.
- The Great War trilogy from Turtledove's Timeline-191 series (the sequel to How Few Remain). We see some Hard aspects (political Butterflies, Expys of post-PoD famous people rather than straight appearances) and some Soft elements (European politics and history totally unaffected by the huge divergence in North American events).
- The Moscow Option by David Downing started with Downing wanting to find a way to have the Axis come as close to winning the war as possible, but still lose. To have them outperform their counterparts he usually engages in very realistic Type I style events, all propogating from two changes, one relating to Germany (Hitler is incapacitated for a time and stops interfering with his generals) and one to Japan (they realize the US has broken their code and create a new plan for Midway that exploits this fact). However, the success of Germany in particular stretches their logistical capacity and reserves to unlikely amounts and devalues those of their opponents to levels well-below those actually available. For all that it's still enough to been possible even though it's an extremely unlikely outcome.
- Everything by Robert Conroy.
- The Lion's Blood duology by Steven Barnes. An inversion of historical European dominance and enslavement of Africans creating a world where African Masters keep European slaves on North American plantations. Every culture that "Cryptohistory" assumes could have colonized America does (note: in reality most of them couldn't or wouldn't have even with the novels' Butterflies), but does show some Hard allohistorical trends and Butterflies. Also both Christianity and Islam exist even though the POD is well before the birth of Jesus.
- Geologic PoD example: Turtledove's (again) Down in the Bottomlands where the Mediterranean sea is dry desert. Geologically plausible since it happened periodically in history Major climactic and cultural butterflies, including the continued existence of Neanderthal Man. Arguably Type I.
- Robert Graves' historical fiction fit firmly into this category. They are extremely well researched but he willfully changes or distorts events and personalities to tell the story he wishes to tell. Fact and Fiction are often so well blended that you have to be an expert in the subject matter to tell the two apart or to know that events that went a, b, c, d in real life go b, d, a, c in the novel.
- Iskriget by Anders Blixt. This espionage adventure mixes hard sociology (by creating a credible alternative 20th century in which Britain had failed to reach ascendancy in the 18th century) by a Rule of Cool approach to technology (Studio Ghibli-style cloudships and ice juggernauts) and geography (Antarctica and Australia are replaced by two more pulpish continents). However, the author's 1940s approach to racism and sexism is strictly Type I, The Protagonist being a well-educated Euro-Indian man who encounters a lot of prejudice.
- World E4 in Ian McDonald's Planesrunner in which 9/11 didn't happen, Al Gore ran in 2004 and won. The only thing that keeps it from being Type 1 is a race of aliens that landed on and colonized the moon in 1963. Their presence was known by Earth's governments but not revealed for 20 years. The Moon landing in '69 was actually a diplomatic mission.
- The Chaos Timeline. The butterfly effect is handwaved ("after a certain point, the same individuals won't occur as in our history, but we may coincidentally get similar people anyway"), and while the writer does his research and homework, he often makes assumptions that get him where he wants to go. For example, he wants a world war to occur, but the Great Powers are headquartered in different parts of the world and any conflict between land powers would be laughably one-sided; thus, the naval development of the world is far in advance of our own World War II, allowing for the naval movement of millions of men all around the globe.
- In defense of the author of said TL, however, it can be quite plausibly argued that allowing the existence of people similar to OTL is not necessarily, by itself, handwaving the butterfly effect, and in some cases, may actually be *more* plausible than total butterflies, depending on the scenario.
- The book Fatherland. Heydrich survives his assassination (possible - maybe the assassins were less lucky or Heydrich decides to protect himself adequately), Operation Blau succeeds (unlikely, especially if the Germans follow the historical plan), the Soviet winter counter-offensive of 1942-3 fails (unlikely, and Blau succeeding would worsen German over-extension and therefore the likelihood of the Soviet operation succeeding), the German summer offensive of 1943-4 succeeds (unlikely, Soviet forces around Moscow and Leningrad were well-entrenched and by that time would have been passably well-armed, trained, and led), the Soviet winter counter-offensive of 1943-4 fails (possible? assuming success of the previous German summer offensive), the German summer offensive of 1944 succeeded (possible???), the Germans discover that their Enigma code has been broken (possible), D-Day doesn't take place or fails (possible, assuming a timely German victory in the Soviet-German War), the U-Boat campaign succeeds in starving Britain (possible, assuming a timely German victory over the USSR), and Nazi Germany develops atomic bombs (highly unlikely - the German atomic project was massively underfunded, split up, had to deal with foreign sabotage, and had to reject "Jewish physics" in its theories) and intercontinental V-3 missiles by 1946 (very unlikely - the first ICBMs weren't developed until 1957). However, unlike many "Germany wins the war" alternate timelines, the Nazis' plans for after the war are based upon the ones they actually made (they don't take over the whole world, merely settling for exterminating European Russia and colonising it with Germans), making it more realistic. The film version is somewhat softer.
- Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois takes place a decade after the Cuban Missile Crisis ended in a nuclear war. Unsurprisingly the United States has turned into a dystoian society under strict military control and greatly in debt to Great Britain. note The antagonist is a Captain Ersatz for Curtis LeMay who's managed to cover up his role in escalating the war and shifted the blame to the dead JFK.
- The Anglo/American Nazi War has Hitler, in a rare moment of clarity, divert 250,000 troops away from what would be a doomed campaign in North Africa toward the Battle of Stalingrad. The Nazis ultimately win and the Soviet Union is defeated by 1943. The author willingly admits this victory is a bit of a stretch, even given Stalin's enraged purge of his generals for their loss. Still, the rest of the timeline manages to be a fairly solid (and horrifying) Type I.
- For All Time starts off with reasonable plausibility. FDR dies of a stroke just a few weeks after Pearl Harbor, leaving Henry Wallace in charge of the country. Far less competent than his predecessor, not to mention Anglophobic, Wallace ends up prolonging World War II with his poor decisions. The American forces have to make do without General Patton, the D-day landing starts a year earlier...and fails miserably, Japan is invaded and split in two, the Nazis launch a suicide attack on New York City, and the war ends with six nuclear bombings in both Germany and Japan. After that, things go completely insane.
- Decisive Darkness is solidly this, bordering on type III at times. After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a coup is launched within the Japanese government. As a result, war minister Korechika Anami seizes control and refuses to surrender, forcing the United States and Soviet Union to both launch land invasions of Japan. What follows is an absolute horror show involving atomic bombings, Child Soldiers, Deadly Gas, the Americans accidentally killing Hirohito, and the ultimate division of Japan into five separate nations.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The City on the Edge of Forever," Kirk and Spock go back in time and save one particular pacifist activist from dying - this somehow causes the Nazis to win WWII, because her activism kept the U.S. out of the war until it was too late. That was really happening in real history; strong, organized pacifist and isolationist movements were very influential over the American public and many American politicians in the early years of WWII, which is why it took an Axis attack on American soil to get the U.S. to enter the war. While no amount of pacifist speeches in the world would ever make any difference after Pearl Harbor, sufficiently early POD would butterfly the Pearl Harbor attack altogether: the Japanese attacked due to the American embargo starving Japan of oil and other raw materials. It's entirely possible that with a sufficiently strong pacifist movement in the USA, there would be no embargo in the first place. Either that, or Japan would be confident that attacking Dutch Indonesia for an alternate oil supply wouldn't trigger the Americans to declare war (the USA wasn't going to war over Indonesia, but the Japanese didn't knew that), and thus would see no need to "strike first".
- The What If series on The Boxing Tribune aims for Type I ("What if Rocky Marciano Fought On", "What If Salvador Sanchez Had Lived") but tends a little too often to have a patsy who has to take the fall in order to make the story work ("What If Muhammad Ali Never Got Drafted" is particularly harsh to Joe Frazier, and there's a bit of the author's fan loyalties showing in "What If Mike Tyson Got Acquitted"), at which point it veers into Type II.
- Kaiserreich: Legacy of the Weltkrieg is probably one of the most plausible alternate histories of World War I ever done. The way that Germany wins the war is not only plausible but quite possibly what would have happened if America had never entered the war, as this game postulates, and the overall handling of Europe is very well done. That being said, there are aspects of the alternate history that stretch the willing suspension of disbelief. The Second American Civil War has no basis in historical fact and is even a stretch for the timeline presented, and seems to exist purely for narrative and gameplay balance purposes (i.e. knocking the US out for several years so that they can't intervene in Europe and Latin America). The German intervention in China is also something that almost certainly would not have happened in this or any other plausible alternate history — and indeed, a later rework of China heavily toned it down. That being said, the game's story is really well researched, and even the shakier aspects of the history work well within the story as a whole.
- Paradox Interactive games in general usually qualify as Type II, since the studio tends to forsake balance in favor of hard, extensive research. This historical accuracy lasts up until the point that each game starts, then it's at the mercy of the player.
- Children of the Revolution, an Australian film about the hypothetical son of Josef Stalin and his rise to political power very nearly resulting in a communist revolution in Australia. Rule of Funny is strictly in charge for most of the film.
- Escape from New York: In 1988, after the crime rate in the United States shot up by 400%, New York City was sealed behind a 50-foot containment wall and transformed into the one maximum security prison for the entire country. Sometime between then and 1997, World War III broke out, though apparently wasn't (or not completely) nuclear in nature; Snake is a veteran of both the Battles of Leningrad and Siberia.
- The latter books of Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191, where In Spite of a Nail sets in, historical characters multiply (Churchill, Patton, etc.) and the historical parallelism may strain some readers' suspension of disbelief.
- Journey to Fusang by William Sanders: Rule of Cool and Rule of Funny AH Picaresque whose historical liberties are notable. Another "everyone that Cryptohistory assumes could have colonized America does" setting. Every Historical Domain Character has dodged the Butterfly of Doom. A Soft Type II, and when written probably would have been considered one, but the science of history marched on.
- The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. The bubonic plague kills 90% of all European life, conveniently not moving into North Africa or the Middle East despite intricate trade networks at the time, and somehow not burning itself out before mass death (as plagues which fail to leave at least some people alive to be carriers tend to do). Also severe In Spite of a Nail: the Yongle Emperor of China and Tokegawa Shogunate of Japan still rise despite a PoD centuries earlier.
- S.M. Stirling's Draka series, where a Social Darwinist South African slave-based superpower emerges and eventually conquers the earth. Many in the AH community find the history implausible, though it remains one of the modern classics of AH.
- Harry Harrison's Stars and Stripes trilogy in which Britain allies with the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Begins as Type II but jumps into Type III territory when an accidental attack on a Confederate stronghold leads to Britain going to war with the Confederates and both North and South siding together against the common enemy: Britain. While the PoD is plausible enough (the Trent Affair could have possibly resulted in a war with Britain, although Harrison makes it seem like war was inevitable), the author then proceeds to indulge in pro-American fantasies. By the end of the trilogy, the re-unified nation has a World War I-level navy and tanks (powered by an engine that is impossible even by levels of technology long after the book was published).
- While Fyodor Berezin's Red Stars duology involves travel between parallel worlds, a huge part of it is devoted to the divergence of the other world from ours, so those sections can rightly be called Alternate History. The author uses the common belief that Stalin had always planned to betray Hitler, but that Hitler simply beat him to the punch (i.e. both sides were ready to attack but were unprepared to defend). Thanks to British interference during Nazi Germany's invasion of Southern Europe, he delays Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of the Soviet Union) by a month, giving Stalin plenty of time to enact his own invasion plan. The USSR invades Germany in 1941. Germany holds out for almost two years but is ultimately beaten. The Red Army proceeds to take Italy and "liberate" France, stopping just short of crossing the English Channel. Realizing their new rival is the US, the Soviets make sure (through sabotage and covert aid to Japan) that America is tied up with the Pacific War. The Domino Theory then ensures that all of Europe, Asia, Africa, and, eventually, Australia go communist, leading to a Not So Cold War between USSR and US, with the former being the dominant power. Democracy doesn't exist anymore, as the constant red threat forces the US to institute martial law. While this may seem like a Mary Suetopia, the author makes it abundantly clear that the other is a Crapsack World where the two superpowers no longer hold back on nuclear weapons and constantly engage in massive battles in the oceans. The ending, however, is highly controversial: the American and Russian presidents in our world launch 500 ICBMs each at each other, then use the dimensional device to send the missiles to the other side to start a nuclear war. The follow-up short story reveals that the plan has backfired. The other world is not a smoking nuclear wasteland and is now aware of our world.
- Kathleen Anne Goonan's In War Times and its sequel in which time travelers arrange for FDR to live long enough for a fifth term during which he persuads Stalin to give the Eastern European nations back their freedom and not divide Germany into East and West. Then Truman manages to get a Civil Rights Act passed in 1950, which would have required the cooperation of Congress (unlike his desegregation of the armed forces). Then they prevent the assassination of JFK after which nothing bad ever happens again.
- World E3 in Ian McDonald's Planesrunner in which everything is coal powered because there's no oil and the steam engine was never invented because the electric motor was invented first.
- British author Andy Johnson's novel Seelowe Nord (yes, it's an Operation Sealion novel!) just scrapes into this category. Rather than the usual South coast option, this time the Germans invade the north of England, attacking down towards the Midlands in an attempt to knock out England's industrial heartland. It's also conceived as more of a raid than a conquest, with OKW hoping that the loss of so much industry will knock the Tommies out the war. The majority of the novel's detailed, an it's clear that a fair amount of thought has gone into it, regardless of the more implausible elements.
Live Action Television
- Turned into the game "Counterfactuals" in an episode of The Big Bang Theory. A single thing in history is changed, and the players are expected to answer a question about the future/history based on that. They must be prepared to defend their answer. Of course invented by Sheldon and Amy.
Amy: In a world where rhinoceroses are domesticated pets, who wins the Second World War?Sheldon: Uganda.Amy: Defend.Sheldon: Kenya rises to power on the export of rhinoceroses. A Central African power bloc is formed, colonizing North Africa and Europe. When war breaks out, no one can afford the luxury of a rhino. Kenya Withers, Uganda triumphs.Amy: Correct. My turn.
- Covert Front takes place in an alternate 1904 where World War I is already taking place. That's all we're given, and it's all we need for Mateusz Skutnik to tell a good spy story.
- Iron Storm set in a world where World War I has dragged on for fifty years. Baron Ugenberg managed to unite Tsarist Russia and the Siberian tribes together to create the Russo-Mongolian Empire, which has since annexed Eastern Europe. On the other side is the United States of Western Europe, the last few democracies left on the continent, who've fought the war to a stalemate after Germany was split in two. War Is Hell doesn't even begin to describe it, especially since the conflict is nowhere near as black and white as it seems...
- Homefront has a veritable perfect storm of events (a Saudi-Iran war that cripples oil supplies, another global depression, and a pandemic) serve to empower Korea and weaken America. After Kim Jong-il's death, his son, Kim Jong-un, manages to reunite both Koreas by 2013 and elevate the country to global power status, even going so far as to absorb Japan and most of Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, America has become unstable, impoverished, and under martial law, overrun with survivalists and militias. All of this was made worse in January 2025, when the Greater Korean Republic launches an EMP strike on America, crippling the country's power supplies, followed by a military invasion of the mainland U.S. By 2027, the western half of America has come under Korean occupation and the country is split in half by the Koreans irradiating the Mississippi river.
- Rose Guns Days is set in a world where Japan lost World War II due to a serious natural disaster that hit the country in 1944. America and China got involved with reconstruction, bringing in massive waves of immigrants with them. The Japanese became a minority in their own nation, their traditions cast aside, everyone in Tokyo adopting a second western name, and anyone who can't speak English or Chinese is unable to find work outside of prostitution or the mafia. While all of this is fairly unlikely, the most implausible aspect of the timeline is how fast it happens. Rather than this being a gradual transition over decades, all of this change occurs less than three years after the Disaster. Still, the author does try to portray more-or-less realistically how such a Japan would be ruled and how the Japanese and immigrants would live in it, as well as the impact it would have on US-China relationships. Perhaps the most realistic outcome of this timeline is that, by 2012, the American and Chinese cultural assimilation has nearly rendered the Japanese language extinct.
- Drew's Rumsfeldia timeline on AlternateHistory.com is definitely at least an upper-end Type III overall.
- Napoleon53's What Madness Is This, while certainly well-written, it, like Jared's Decades of Darkness, also plays fast and loose with plausibility, albeit in a rather different manner. The timeline actually starts in the early 1700s, but doesn't really diverge much until the Revolutionary Era. The real action starts when John Adams and Alexander Hamilton end up stealing not one, but *two* elections! The southern states secede after the 1800 elections, and the rump North starts to turn into something like a banana republic. As one might expect, things eventually do go pear-shaped at the end of the 19th century, when the "Manifest Destiny Party" takes over, and they retain total control of the country until the 1960s, at least, during which time they conquer almost all of the Americas. Apart from this and a stunning amount of convergences, this timeline may be best known for two endings: one in which the NUSA essentially tries to conquer the world, and another of which ends with a nuclear war on June 6, 2006.
- The film version of Fatherland is a Type IV, on account of the point of divergence. Germany defeats the Allies in the battle of Normandy in 1944. Then it (based on the map that is shown) directly takes over all of Europe (including the UK) except for the Soviet Union in its prewar borders. The best Germany could hope for at that point in the war is to keep onto Austria and the Sudetenland in exchange for abandoning its other conquests and a regime change. The book is somewhat harder.
- The 2006 mockumentary C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, where the South not only wins but takes over the whole of the Union! Few take the history seriously, including the creator himself, since it was designed as a satire of race relations in the US rather than an accurate counter-factual representation of a southern victory world.
- Another Turtledove Geologic example: The Atlantis series, where the North American east coast is a large island. While geologically somewhat plausible the PoD could Butterfly the existence of Humans. Plus the implausible parallelism of the history itself.
- Turtledove's Days of Infamy; Japan invading Hawaii (considered logistically impossible) pushes this story to Type IV in many minds.
- World E2 in Ian McDonald's Planesrunner in which Great Britain is a Muslim nation, having been colonized and converted during Islam's great wave of expansion. Plausible enough by itself but what puts it in Type IV territory is the reason: Great Britain, instead of being located north of continental Europe is located a hundred miles west of the Straits of Gibraltar and Ireland didn't go with it.
- The Man in the High Castle, as a victim of Dated History, falls into his category. After FDR is assassinated in 1933 by Giuseppe Zangara, the New Deal is never implemented and thanks to the poor presidencies of Garner and Bricker, America's economy doesn't recover in time to help the allies fight off the Nazis. Without American aid, Britain and the USSR are quickly conquered. Japan, meanwhile, never attacks Pearl Harbor and manages to swallow up East Asia into its Co-Prosperity sphere with little resistance. Germany and Japan later launch a joint invasion of the United States in 1947, splitting the country into two puppet states with a buffer zone between them. By 1962, a new Cold War is raging between the world's competing imperial superpowers. While Japan maintains a fairly incompetent and liberal grip on their colonies, the Nazis continue a psychotic drive for racial purity, going so far as to initiate the genocide of the African continent's entire population. Germany has also managed to drain the Mediterranean sea to create farmland and colonize the moon and explore Mars and Venus.
Live Action Television
- Spike TV's "Alternate History" special. With a point of divergence that starts with a successful repelling of the Normandy invasion due to an unexplained influx of jet aircraft on the German side, Nazi Germany manages to completely turn the tide of the war, and conquer both the United Kingdom and the United States. The Soviet Union also doesn't seem to exist in this timeline.
- GURPS Infinite Worlds offers the United States Of Lizardia - A world, very much like our own circa 1994, but populated by an evolved species of dinosaur rather than humanity. The fact that it fits here in IV instead of X is because there isn't clearly any particular reason why this happened. The sheer absurdity is heavily lampshade hung - The best guess for how it could possibly exist by the people who in the Infinite Worlds setting study alternate worlds is basically a God with a weird sense of humor pranking people who study alternate worlds.
- Two of the bad endings in Titanic: Adventure Out of Time, namely the "Nuclear Germany" and the "Communist Germany" one can be seen as Type IV. In the Nuclear Germany ending, WWI never happens but Hitler still takes power in Germany after launching a successful coup against the Kaiser, and developing nuclear weapons. This is extremely implausible because without WWI Hitler would not have gone into politics and even if he did develop his worldviews, the conservative factions and the army would stop him dead in his tracks if the Nazis tried to coup the German Monarchy in a world where WWI never happens and the Kaiser remained in power. The Communist Germany ending envisions a scenario where the Spartacists took power in Germany in a world where neither Nazism or USSR came into existence after World War I. However, it is highly unlikely that the Spartacists had a chance at taking power, and without the aftershocks of the Russian Revolution, they might have even less chance of success.
Anime and Manga
- Fullmetal Alchemist takes place in an alternate early 20th century with working Magitek in the form of alchemy. However, it explicitly takes place in an alternate world separate from our own.
- Watchmen because of the existence of Dr. Manhattan, but is a soft otherwise (the non-super powered superheroes have some smaller impacts on the history of fashion and pop-culture of the 20. century). The primary goal is a deconstruction of the superhero genre, not exploring alternate histories.
- The Big Head Press comic Roswell, Texas had Santa Anna killed at the first battle of the Alamo and Texas remaining independent and becoming a libertarian paradise that expanded westward to at least New Mexico (as the title suggests). Discounting the aliens other offenses include the Nazis conquering all of Europe, the IRA working with Jewish physicists to nuke Berlin leading to a minor member of the British royal family becoming king of the Reich, Mexico is ruled by an emperor who secretly practices Aztec human sacrifices while hosting the French government in exile, and Walt Disney is President for life of California.
- BHP also published a graphic novel based on the first novel of the North American Confederacy series, The Probability Broach.
- In Über, the Third Reich develop the ability to create superhumans shortly before the Fall of Berlin. In a deconstruction of the Stupid Jetpack Hitler trope, the consequences are then developed in a very big-picture, Surprisingly Realistic Outcome and depressing way.
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a combination of Diesel Punk and Steampunk in an alternate 1930's setting. Involves giant robots and intelligent flying machines.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit is set in 1947 Los Angeles of a universe where cartoon characters ("toons") co-exist with human beings, and animated features are produced not by photographing multiple cels, but by merely recording toons on camera like a live-action shoot. A newspaper clipping in Eddie's office shows that Goofy was subject to McCarthyism with Soviet mole accusations, but was later found innocent.
- District 9: In 1982, a giant alien spaceship comes to a stop over the city of Johannesburg. Rather than an invading or benevolent force, it houses a million alien refugees who have nowhere to go. Attempts are made to integrate them into human society, but these all fail and so, by 2010, the aliens relegated to the titular District 9, a run-down slum with Apartheid-like conditions.
- Bright is set in Present Day Los Angeles in a world where human beings co-exist with mythical fantasy creatures like orcs, elves, fairies, etc.. A human cop is partnered with the first orc ever to become a police officer.
- Much like its source comic, the X-Men Film Series has the PoD go all the way back to before the very formation of the universe. By the time mutants appear, they play pivotal roles or have even been the cause of many historic moments.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix reveals the eponymous Phoenix was the very force that initiated the "Big Bang".
- The namesake villain in X-Men: Apocalypse was born circa 8,000 BCE and is the progenitor of all mutantkind due to his Superpower Lottery. It was he who influenced countless cultures and religions throughout time as he states he's been called "Elohim", "Ra", "Shen", etc.
- The opening credits to X-Men Origins: Wolverine show Logan/Wolverine and Victor/Sabertooth had participated in nearly every armed conflict the United States has fought in including, but not limited to The Civil War, World Wars I and II, all the way up to Vietnam. Also, it turns out the Three Mile Island Incident of 1979 was caused by mutants fighting each other.
- The climax of X-Men: First Class shows the X-Men fighting Shaw's Hellfire Club exacerbated the Cuban Missile Crisis.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past reveals Magneto was indirectly responsible for the "magic bullet" that killed John F. Kennedy, though he claims he was actually trying to save him as Kennedy was a fellow mutant. A major plot point is also set during the Paris Peace Accords of 1973 which in turn causes an in-canon PoD creating an Alternate Timeline.
- Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series. Lizards from Outer Space invade Earth in 1942, abruptly ending World War II as various human powers are forced to defend their homelands. Interestingly the series is quite Hard AH after the aliens are introduced, at least in the first books (Type I or II). But like many Turtledove works it starts to Soften as the series advances, to the point of being Type III to IV by the final book.
- The Guns of the South by Turtledove: Time-traveling South African white supremacists bring Robert E. Lee's army AK-47 assault rifles. Only a stand-alone book (so it's hard to predict long-term trends), but seems to go Type I after the PoD.
- S.M. Stirling's Island in the Sea of Time series, wherein the contemporary island of Nantucket is time-ported back to the Bronze Age. Somewhat Soft after the PoD (Type II) as like most of Stirling's work it follows Rule of Cool.
- Eric Flint's Ring Of Fire series is touched off by Alien Space Bats time-and-space-porting a West Virginia mining town from the year 2000 to Germany in the middle of the 30 Years War. Once the PoD happens, the series turns into a rock-hard Type I, with a very realistic analysis of the effects of future technology and culture on this era, backed up with obsessive research into both the historical background of the time, and the resources such a town would be likely to have.
- The Heirs of Alexandria by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer, but due to the large scale of the change, introducing magic, and how long ago it happened, probably a type II (Hard/Soft Alternate History) when the series starts, mainly due to good research.
- The Tales of Alvin Maker by Orson Scott Card: A retelling of the story of Mormonism founder Joseph Smith in a North America Mirror Universe where magic is real.
- Temeraire is the Napoleonic Wars... WITH DRAGONS! Otherwise a Type II, as society is still reminiscent of the equivalent time period and technologies are much the same, though there are some significant political deviations. (The Incas were never conquered because they also had dragons, for instance).
- The West of Eden trilogy is probably an X-III, with the fantastic element being that the dinosaurs were never wiped out, and later evolved into an intelligent saurian people. Realistically speaking, the extinction of the dinosaurs is probably what allowed mammals to gain dominance and thus humans to come to be. According to the author, there were never any dinosaurs on the American continents, thus allowing humans to evolve. For those who aren't aware, the real T. rex was an American dinosaur.
- In John Birmingham's novel Without Warning, a Colony Drop of a mysterious energy field called the Wave wipes out all human life in most of the continental United States and much of Canada, Mexico, and Cuba in 2003 just before the invasion of Iraq. After that, it's a Type I, including Saddam Hussein's reaction to "the Great Satan" getting its legs chopped out from under it and what follows.
- Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld. Darwin discovers DNA and genetic engineering, all before the discovery of x-ray crystallography, PCR, plasmids, or anything else that could possibly allow such a thing. On top of that, DNA from any animal can be combined with DNA from any other animal without any viability issues.
- The setting of Sergey Lukyanenko's Seekers of the Sky duology diverges from ours when Jesus is killed during the Massacre of the Innocents, resulting in a different Messiah with different powers and goals. Unlike Jesus, the Redeemer passes his one miracle to his disciples, and it spreads from them throughout the world. This miracle is the Word, allowing the user to place any inanimate object into another dimension known as the Cold to be retrieved later. Not only has the Word changed how many things are done in the world (those who possess it keep all their valuables in the Cold), but the Redeemer attempted to end war on Earth by removing all the iron he knew about when he left. Another key difference is Redeemer's version of "You shall not kill." — "You can kill a dozen and still be forgiven." Thus, this setting is largely shaped by a major deficit of this very useful metal (e.g. iron replaces gold as currency and status symbol) and almost habitual violence. The duology mostly serves for the author to explore the dominant religion of this world, which is similar to Christianity in some respects but very different in others.
- Matt Ruff's The Mirage takes place in a United Arab States which suffered an attack on 11/9 by fanatical Christian terrorists which in turn led to the invasion of America. This would put it in Type III or IV territory except that it was created as a result of a wish made to a djinn.
- L. Neil Smith's The North American Confederacy series. While the concept of so much change happening because of the difference of one word in the Declaration of Independence is kinda cool, it is quite a job counting the ways at which it fails in plausibility. For example, despite the emphasis on the property rights of individual citizens, slavery is abolished entirely in 1820 C.E. Back then, people of African descent weren't widely considered to be full citizens or people and slaves were considered to be the property of their masters, so if the utopia that L. Neil Smith has imagined had a special emphasis on the individual property rights of citizens all along, slavery would most likely have been abolished later than in our timeline, if at all. To readers knowledgeable in the area of history, this can come off as Politically Correct History. The inconsistency between there being a special emphasis on individual property rights all along and slavery being abolished earlier than in our timeline with no apparent backlash alone is enough to push this into type IV.
- Also, this universe apparently never had a French revolution (it's never mentioned, at least), even though its PoD would basically happen at exactly the same time as that rather important event.
- Arose From Out the Azure Main has a literal alien space bat transport Thatcher's Britain to 1730. After the dislocation, it shifts into Type 1, except for the occasional look at scientists trying to work out what caused the dislocation.
- Bring the Jubilee sees the Confederacy win the Civil War and later expand both northward and into Latin America, becoming one of the world's great superpowers. The CS welcomes immigrants, but grants citizenship only to descendants of those who were citizens at the time of the Civil War victory and suffrage is only granted to white men. The rump United States, meanwhile, is a stagnating, destitute nation where blacks are blamed for causing the civil war and are subjected to pogroms or deportations to Africa. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the German Union- a merger of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires- controls everything from Belgium to the Baltic. Tensions have grown between the CS and GU, as well as their respective allies in the British and rejuvenated Spanish Empires, to the point that, by the 1950's, a war between them seems inevitable. Steampunk Schizo Tech is also the rule of the day, although they've still managed to build a functional time machine by 1953.
- In Pinnacle Entertainment's award winning campaign setting, "Deadlands", an alternate history reality in which pretty much all aspects of the horror genre exist in some form in the Old West is created. While Butterflies are followed in some cases, they are abandoned at the drop of a hat for Rule of Cool. So you get a split US with a Union and Confederacy battling over the West, a Chinese-ruled California, a Mormon-ruled Utah ("Deseret"), several independent Native American states, all form of crazy monsters, witches and card-shark magicians, blessed crusaders of God, shape-shifting Shamans, and just to wrap it all together, Steampunk mad scientists!
- Shadowrun. The point of divergence starts in the 80s, and carries on plausibly enough to count as Type I or II for a while. Warren E. Burger doesn't retire from the US Supreme Court in 1986. Ronald Reagan throws George H. W. Bush under the bus during Iran-Contra. The first Alt!POTUS is Michael Dukakis. The Supreme Court makes decisions that pave the way for extraterritorial Mega Corps. Eventually, the US decides to steal tribal land for coproate exploitation. Bad timing, and the part where Shadowrun goes from "plausible" to "alien space bats". Magic comes back and the Native Americans use it to reclaim a large chunk of the western United States, where people of European, African, and Asian descent are put on reservations, exiled, or otherwise exploited. After this, Bizarre Baby Booms, magical plagues, dragons powerful enough to challenge modern nation-states single-handedly, Mega Corps growing still further, and general unpleasantness result.
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert seems to be Type X-IV. It starts with Einstein building a Time Machine and going back to kill Hitler. Dirty Communists led by Stalin invade Europe with Tesla coils and superheavy tanks. The Europeans win the war - but some thirty years later, we have a Soviet invasion of the United States this time... with giant battlesquids, Weather Control Machines, tanks masquerading as trees, Frickin Prismatic Beams, Cloning Blues, Teleportation, bomber blimps, Mind-Controlling soldiers and psychic possession via telephone, all served with a side order of Ham and Cheese. And then, when it seemed it was over, Red Alert 3 comes-a-knockin'...
- In Bioshock Infinite, the Boxer Rebellion was put down by intervention of the floating, mobile city of Columbia, which had been constructed in part through funding provided by the United States Congress. Later, the city publicly secedes from the union and disappears, only remembered in archive news stories. Then, at the end of 1983, it returns and bombs New York. In this case, not only is the game set in an Alternate Universe, but the concept of alternate universes is explored directly, with the implication that an infinite number of universes with Columbia — differing in some details but constant in others — exist and also that an infinite number of universes without Columbia also exist, and that Columbia itself is the result of a single alternate decision between the realities with and without it; the protagonist and the primary supporting character are eventually revealed to be from one of the realities where Columbia never existed, transplanted to Columbia for the specific purpose of eventually erasing all Columbia universes from existence.
- Resistance falls squarely in this category with the existence of the Chimera. Even before then, it was either a type III or IV, with history moving implausibly close to our own despite huge changes (no Spanish-American war, Russia never goes communist, America stays out of World War I, Hitler never rises to power, etc.) For example, despite their being no incentive to, with America remaining isolationist throughout the early twentieth century, the country still creates and tests the world's first nuclear weapon. In June of 1944. Although it's done in central Alaska rather than Nevada.
- Due to its 20 Minutes into the Future ageing into this while the series was still ongoing, combined with a few genuinely historical entries, Metal Gear lands here. The Metal Gear universe involves Humongous Mecha in the 1970s, mass nuclear disarmament (hinted to verge on world peace) in 1999, the US government being controlled by an AI in the early 2000s, and by 2014 the entire world is consumed by a bizarre, psychedelic "War Economy" of biomechanical weapons and nanomachines.
- 80 Days takes place in a steampunk universe; while there's no specific point of divergence, the main difference between the game's 1872 and our own 1872 is the existence of Artifice (and the Artificer's Guild) and automata both simple and complex. Great pains are taken in the writing to both make the setting recognizable as 19th-century Earth and show the societal, political, and economic effects that such technology (up to and including Artificial Intelligence!) would have in that era.
- Wolfenstein: The New Order involves you fighting against the Nazis in the early 1960s, after they took over the world using advanced Diesel Punk technology like Humongous Mecha which were actually derived from stolen technology invented by an ancient Jewish sect.
- Prince of Qin poses a question: what if Fusu, the eldest son and heir apparent of Qin Shi Huangdi, refuses to abide by the forged Imperial decree ordering him to commit suicide (which he did IRL) and instead decides to pursue justice for those who impersonated his father and usurped the Chinese throne. It falls under Type X as there is no evidence for existence of elemental magic and fantasy creatures in ancient China.
- The Ciem Webcomic Series postulates that Boonville, Indiana is overtaken by aliens who are obsessed with engineering monsters for political gain. It is attacked by the National Guard and the town of Gerosha is built in its place — so-named after a seashell with a letter "G" carved into it that was found on a beach in Florida. After that, the growing feud between Gerosha's founding Flippo family and the Hebbleskin Crime Family results in more monsters, more explosions, and even a radioactive MacGuffin or two. Since it aims to become a comic book film, it's very steered and doesn't seem to care about how hard or soft the AH is.
- The Strangerverse on AlternateHistory.com is a loosely-tied saga, whose common tie being a time traveler returning to some point (and figure) in the past. To stop his crapsack-apocalyptic future from happening, the Stranger leaves behind tools to aid his "chosen." This generally results in epic nation-wanks. The stories themselves become Type II or III after the "event," depending on the author. Notables include The Britwank Empire and The United States of Ameriwank.
- To a Place You Do Not Know has YHWH, yes that YHWH, decide on a different holy land for his chosen people. Rather than having the Israelites invade Canaan, he instead teleports them all away to the then-uninhabited New Zealand, which becomes known as Yisrael. Seems to be moving in a Type I-II.
- Unsong is a very good example of a type X, the point of divergence is December 24, 1968 when Apollo 8 crashed into the crystal sphere that surrounds the earth, breaking both it and the celestial machinery engineered by Uriel that ran physics as we know it. After that it's surprisingly hard with careful thought and philosophy put into it.
- Vivere Militare Est is a world in which the Third Reich and Imperial Japan came Back from the Brink in 1945 by employing "preternatural" weaponry that allows them to force a negotiated peace. What follows is a Cosmic Horror Story version of the Cold War with four superpowers (the Anglo-American alliance, Germany, Japan, and the USSR) that features rebels and terrorists engaging in Human Sacrifice to fuel weapons and deadly spells, the use of preternatural weaponry in civil wars leaving much of central Africa an Eldritch Location, Egypt becoming an occult rogue state ruled by a superhuman Nepharious Pharaoh who claims to be the god Aten reborn, magitek becoming part of the fabric of normal technology, and Mutually Assured Destruction involving weapons that can shred the fabric of reality itself. (Nuclear weapons still exist, but are used mostly by nations like Israel that swear off preternatural weaponry.)
- Mystery Flesh Pit National Park: In 1973, a surveying company in the Permian Basin of West Texas were searching for mineral deposits, but accidentally came across something completely unexpected: an ancient and absolutely enormous creature living deep underground, measuring hundreds of miles wide and several dozen deep, with cavernous organs and even whole ecosystems inside. The Anodyne Mining Company took over and, seeing an opportunity, made the site into a tourist attraction, later a national park, and a lucrative consumerist empire built on the literal blood and organs of the organism...until 2007, that is.