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Tesla Tech Timeline

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Need to establish a setting where Lightning Can Do Anything, but don't want your reader/viewer/gamer to stop and think too hard about the scientific ramifications of it?

Easy: Add Nikola Tesla, his inventions, or even just inventions carrying his name and suddenly you have handwaved even the most bizarre uses of electricity.note 

Want to have a Lightning Gun? Have it be created by Nikola Tesla and no one will bat an eye. Shock and Awe-power-granting inventions? One of the conspiracy theories regarding Tesla is about him having mastered artificial lightning! Turn the Eiffel Tower into a giant Tesla Coil? Absolutely - it has 'Tesla' in the name!

Why this works is because, as the Useful Notes page on Tesla will tell you, Tesla garnered a reputation as a brilliant scientist and utter madman who was unfairly marginalized by the scientific and industrial establishment of his day, particularly Thomas Edison. This reputation, which has only strengthened in the modern day with the rediscovery of Tesla's work, is perfect for spawning all sorts of myths and conspiracy theories regarding just what the man was creating in his laboratories. Sometimes, this results in Edison getting a Historical Villain Upgrade to Corrupt Corporate Executive in these timelines for wanting to suppress Tesla's supposed genius.

In a Tesla Tech Timeline, Lightning Guns are some of the more mundane uses of electricity, so expect a lot of electricity arcing everywhere whenever you travel to one.

One step up the industrial ladder from Steampunk, which is more about brass gears and steam engines than shiny steel and electricity. It may overlap with Diesel Punk, which likewise uses electricity as an available power source and often has Art Deco aesthetics, though Diesel Punk is usually much more visually grimy and bleak. It may be part of Soviet Superscience — after all, all that advanced technology needs a sufficiently different power source from its Western counterparts.

Not to be confused with anything regarding the car manufacturer Tesla, Inc.


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    Comic Books 
  • Atomic Robo is all about this trope; Tesla created the titular Atomic Robo, and many of Robo's adventures center around the technology Tesla invented.
  • Subtly implied in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. An electricity fuse box in the first issue is labelled "Edison Teslatron", suggesting that in this timeline Edison and Tesla co-operated instead of competing. (And also, they were probably fictional versions of Edison and Tesla from books like Edison's Conquest of Mars and other works featuring Tesla with this trope, suggesting that they were both ludicrous-tech geniuses).

    Fan Works 

  • Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, of all movies, employs a combination of this and Magitek. In the film's world, Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower in Long Island was never demolished, and so Slappy's plot is to use it to grant extra power to his spell to bring Halloween to life, broadcasting it much further than just one little town.
  • In The Prestige, in the late 19th century, Tesla builds a machine that shoots out big lightning bolts and is a matter replicator, capable of perfectly duplicating physical objects (seemingly creating matter from nothing, no less), anything from top hats, to cats, to people. This invention should have revolutionized everything, but its owner only ever uses it for a stage magic trick, and it's eventually destroyed before anyone else learns about it.

  • In The Astounding, the Amazing and the Unknown by Paul Malmont, after Nikola Tesla dies under mysterious circumstances, a team of pulp magazine and sci-fi writers attempt to track down a possible superweapon he invented, possibly related to the Wardencyffe Tower. It's left ambiguous as to whether there really was such a weapon however, as the whole story is related by an Unreliable Narrator (pulp writer L. Ron Hubbard).
  • Leviathan is set in an alternate, more advanced version of 1914, and Tesla has invented massive Tesla Cannons, and even a tower that supposedly can create a "Death Ray".
  • The Master Key: Defied, as Tesla or Edison could have touched the Master Key of Electricity and gotten super-advanced tech, but didn't. Or perhaps only Edison could have...

    Live-Action Television 
  • Modern day technology in Warehouse 13 is much the same as it is in reality, with the exception of a handful of devices used only by agents of the Warehouse to track down dangerous artefacts. This includes electrical handguns and rifles created by Tesla himself, two-way video communication devices created in the 1920s by Philo Farnsworth, and a slew of other devices that may or may not be Magitek.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the campaign settings in GURPS Alternate Earths is Gernsback, where Nikola Tesla succeeded in creating technologically advanced inventions that revolutionized the world.
  • Scythe takes place in an alternate version of 1920 in which a Second Great War broke out, fought with diesel-powered Humongous Mecha. The game's imagery features deliberate juxtaposition of pastoral European peasants beside thundering mechanical behemoths belching black smoke. One guess on whose inventions made the mechs possible.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed has Tesla being discredited by Thomas Edison using the same experiments as he did in Real Life — this is not just because he sees Tesla as a competitor, but also as part of a Historical Villain Upgrade since he is part of the Templars. Tesla, his career and laboratory destroyed and with a little prodding from the assassins, uses the Wardenclyffe Tower to send a particle beam across the globe to blow up a Templar research station, causing The Tunguska Event.
    Tesla: [as he flicks the switch] Rot in Hell, Edison.
  • The flavor text in Atlantis: The Lost Empire identifies your main weapon as a "Teslator". It can be turned into an ice-gun or a goo-gun. Rather surprisingly, this weapon never appears in the movie proper — presumably, Disney Interactive Studios was squeamish about including firearms in a first-person shooter.
  • In BioShock Infinite, one of the things that Elizabeth can bring in through a tear is a Tesla Coil to zap enemies. Given the nature of Elizabeth's tear powers, it's likely that the game itself isn't a Tesla Tech Timeline, but Elizabeth can pull things from a timeline that is.
  • Close to the Sun is a Survival Horror game set aboard the Helios, a Tesla-designed super-cruiser the size of a small island. In this world, Tesla's technology succeeded in propelling him to fame and fortune over Edison, and he used his influence to create the Helios as a haven for scientists and free thinkers from all over the world, where they may pursue their creative ideas completely free of any financial, corporate, governmental, religious or moral restraints. The similarities to Andrew Ryan and his Rapture have not gone unnoticed... especially since it all goes horribly wrong.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series:
    • In Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Tesla himself is never mentioned beyond a brief reference by Albert Einstein in a pre-mission cutscene in the Allied campaign, nor actually shown,note  but boy, do the Soviets love to use Tesla coil-like weapons and inventions. That being said, the aforementioned brief reference in the Allied campaign has Einstein note that the principles behind the newly discovered Soviet superweapon, the Iron Curtain, remind him of some experiments that Tesla was working on, implying that the Iron Curtain (and possibly the Soviet Union's "Tesla tech") may have been derived from Tesla's research (whether he willingly provided it to them or not).
    • Tesla coils show up in all the alternate timelines — not as transformers, but as the Soviet Union's advanced base defenses. Tesla Troopers and Tesla Tanks, meanwhile, are the Soviets' Lightning Gun-armed troops.
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 introduces "Tesla Reactors" as the Soviet Union's counterpart to the Allies' generically named "Power Plants" as the default source of electric power, and has a Soviet mission where the primary objective is to turn the Eiffel tower into a giant Tesla coil to lay waste to Paris and force the French to back down from their plans to join the rest of the European Allies against the USSR, and demoralize the rest of Europe as well.
    • The events of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 are caused by the Soviets travelling back in time to assassinate Einstein. Their time machine is basically a cockpit surrounded by tesla coils.
  • Evolve Idle allows the player to increase their knowledge pool by constructing Wardenclyffes, a reference to the real world Wardenclyffe Tower designed and built by Nikola Tesla. Shortly after they're built they can be powered by electricity, increasing the amount of knowledge the player can have. A later upgrade, the Tesla Coil, makes them even more effective. They remain useful for the duration of the game.
  • Iron Harvest takes place in the same universe as Scythe, listed above. The later portion of the campaign focuses on a megalomaniacal Ancient Conspiracy determined to force Tesla to provide even more advanced technology than the diesel-powered mechs they already have. The final mission shows off some of Tesla's newest models, and they look straight out of a 1950s Martian movie (or maybe Red Alert 2).
  • Tesla shows up in The Order: 1886 as part of the titular Order, having created science weapons like the Arc Gun and Thermite Thrower for the protagonist and his allies.
  • In Resistance: Fall of Man, Tesla receives a patent for his VTOL designs in 1928. By the 1950s, it's become a standard military aircraft.
  • Tesla: The Weather Man has Nikola Tesla fight against the evil Thomas Edison and his army of DC-powered robots with a power-glove like invention that allows him to control lightning strikes and levitate objects among other things.
  • Some electrical weapons in We Need to go Deeper were created by Tesla, including a Tesla Gun and a chargeable Tesla Crank.


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