By Carrie Vaughn
My idea? Alternate Alternate History
Okay, hear me out, just think about it.
In the Wild Cards world, someone’s written a book.
What the hell, let’s go all-in: Philip K. Dick has written a book.
So in our world, Philip K. Dick wrote an alternate-history novel, maybe the best known of all alternate-history novels, The Man in the High Castle, in which the Axis powers won World War II and partitioned the territory of the United States between them. (Great book, you should read it. I haven’t seen the recent TV adaptation and can’t speak to that.)
In the Wild Cards world, he didn’t write that book. He wrote a different alternate history. A version in which Jetboy lived and successfully prevented the release of the wild card virus over New York City.
A world without aces and jokers and the superheroes and prejudice that followed, without all the globe-wreaking power-fueled disasters.
But this is now a world that knows that advanced aliens exist and have nefarious designs upon the Earth. (It’s like “The Architects of Fear,” the Outer Limits episode about a secret project to fake an alien invasion in an attempt to unite the nations of Earth and avert nuclear war, but for real. It’s referenced in Watchmen, another alternate history involving superheroes.)
This is a world that developed jet technology several years earlier than in our world, and what follows Jetboy’s victory is a massive push for a global space defense program. Moon bases by 1980! (Oh, and, Apple TV’s For All Mankind is an alternate history of the U.S. space program which does, indeed, establish a moon base by 1980. It’s really good, I highly recommend it. Yeah, it’s alternate histories all the way down, people.)
I’m just thinking of how surprised Takis would be if human beings showed up in their own spaceships asking, “What the hell, y’all?”
And that’s what Wild Cards Philip K. Dick’s alternate history is actually about, the politics and weirdness that result when, instead of getting invaded, Earth turns around and invades Takis just because they can. Think of it as a kind of Wild Cards wish fulfillment.
I think this novel is still called The Man in the High Castle, and I think it has a massive cult following, and they make a new movie version of it every twenty years or so. I think there are people on Wild Cards Earth who think the novel is a blueprint for what humanity should do next. It’s a whole conspiracy theory thing. Very Dickian, actually.
(This isn’t an entirely original idea. Part of the plot of real The Man in the High Castle involves an author who has written an alternate history in which the Axis powers lost World War II. Our actual world, in other words. I suppose this other The Man in the High Castle could include an alternate history in which the Takisians never sent the virus to Earth at all. Our actual world, in other words. But that might be going too far. I’m starting to lose track…)