"The first rule of time travel is that any and all modifications made to the timeline result in Hitler winning World War II. Run over a hippy in 1968? Hitler wins."
"Somehow stories about what the South would do if they won the Civil War don't focus on the potential socio-economic effects of an independent Confederacy, or on how politics and civil rights would evolve in those two nations, or even how the two could come to a amicable peace. It's always about war and slavery."
"Well, everyone knows Custer died at Little Big Horn. What this book presupposes is... maybe he didn't'."
—Eli Cash, The Royal Tenenbaums
"What if the Germans had won the war, Lemon?"
—Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock
"The year is 1914. Archduke Franz Ferdinand has just been assassinated, and Europe is on the brink of war. But put your history books away, this is not the war you remember".
"It's such a useless exercise," Kirana reflected. "What if this had happened, what if that had happened, what if the Golden Horde had forced the Gansu Corridor at the start of the Long War, what if the Japanese had attacked China after retaking Japan, what if the Ming had kept their treasure fleet, what if we had discovered and conquered Yingzhou, what if Alexander the Great had not died young, on and on, and they all would have made enormous differences and yet it's always entirely useless. These historians who talk about employing counterfactuals to bolster their theories, they're ridiculous. Because no one knows why things happen, you see? Anything could follow from anything. Even real history tells us nothing at all. Because we don't know if history is sensitive, and for want of a nail a civilization was lost, or if our mightiest acts are as petals on a flood, or something in between, or both at once. We just don't know, and the what-ifs don't help us figure it out."
"Why do people like them so much, then?"
Kirana shurgged, took a drag on her cigarette. "More stories."
"What if the white South had won? may well be the most trod-upon terrain in the field of American alternative history. There are novels about it, comic books about it, games about it, and a mockumentary about it. Storytellers have the right to answer any question they choose. But we do not need to wait to examine all the questions that are not being chosen: What if John Brown had succeeded? What if the Haitian Revolution had spread to the rest of the Americas? What if black soldiers had been enlisted at the onset of the Civil War? What if Native Americans had halted the advance of whites at the Mississippi? And we do not need to wait to note that more interesting than asking what the world would be like if the white South had won is asking why so many white people are enthralled with a world where the dreams of Harriet Tubman are destroyed by the ambitions of Robert E. Lee."