Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Imperial Age

I love alternate histories. I'm always playing around with them. I'm not often clear on what exact purpose they serve, but I enjoy them for their own sake. I frequently like postulating them, and sometimes I even like incorporating weird or supernatural elements into them to see how things might have been different. One recent alternate history novelette by Charles Stross is "A Colder War" which postulates that Nazi Germany found R'lyeh on the bottom of the Baltic Sea and the Cold War, rather than being nuclear deterence in nature, was based around attempting to harness (or to counter) the influence of various Old Ones in the world. In practice, this is not too unlike the setting for the board game Tannhäuser in which the Union, British and American troops utilizing reverse engineered technology cribbed from crashed UFO's at Roswell fight the Kaiser's demonically summoned forces and Russia's Tesla and Slavic mysticism fueled armies in a World War I conflict that never ended.

I quite like this idea. The reason we had a Cold War throughout much of the 20th century instead of yet another World War was largely, in my opinion, because weaponry had advanced to the point that everyone was afraid to actually use it (it could also be attributed to the reduction of superpowers from about half a dozen to just two, but let's ignore that for the time being.) What if this happened earlier? What if it happened a hundred years ago in the early 1900s, before World War I was even fought? And yes, what if the nature of those weapons that everyone was too afraid to use was Lovecraftian?

Could the Empires of the early 20th century survive in a prolonged Old Ones related Cold War? Could Tsar Nicholas have fended off the Bolsheviks who overthrew his state in the midst of World War I in real life? Could the Ottoman Empire have survived? The Austro-Hungarian one? Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany? The British Empire? The American Empire? Would the Japanese Empire have continued to surge? What else would have changed between now and then if Imperialism had managed to survive for another 100 years longer than it really did? How would these nations evolve for an additional 100 years scared to death not only of their enemies but also of the very weapons that they themselves were developing?

Feel free to comment. I'm not exactly sure myself what all this would mean, but I'm thinking it through, and wondering what to do with it. Some short fiction ventures? One-shot gaming? I'm undecided. Maybe both. Possibly neither.

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