5 Pieces Of Alt-History Fiction That Will Completely Fuck With Your Mind

We all think about how things in our lives could have turned out differently from time to time. But as far as I know, time travel still isn’t a thing, so we’ll never know what would have happened if I’d worn a belt to school the day I was viciously dacked in the playground.

Personal lives aside, some folks love to think about alternate history. Some even turn their thoughts into great works of fiction, whether it’s books, movies, or even video games.

Here’s some of the best alt-history fiction going around, folks.

The Difference Engine

Written in 1990 by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine explores what the world would be like if inventor Charles Babbage had successfully built a mechanical computer in the 1800s.

Of course, Babbage did create a mechanical calculator, but specifically, the book references his ambitions for an analytical engine, which would have been insanely revolutionary for its time. As a result of the fictional breakthrough, the world became very steampunk.

In fact, the book has been credited with helping establish the conventions of steampunk, which is a subgenre of science fiction that always seems to involve weird goggles.

Essentially, the book illustrates how fucking crazy an information technology revolution would have been in the nineteenth century and the social implications of such an occurrence. For example, they cover the emergence of hackers who use punched cards to hack shit, but they’re called “clackers”. Brilliant.

The Years of Rice And Salt

Written by science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt is a 10-book series about how world history may have turned out differently if the Black Death wiped out 99 percent of Europe‘s population, rather than the third it actually did.

The entire story covers hundreds of years of alternate history across different countries, religions and social movements up to the 21st century. Each book takes place in a different time and place, but are all connected by a group of characters that are reincarnated into each time.

The first letter of each character’s name is the same across the series so you know who is who. Bloody nice one.

It won the Lucus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 2003, so, you know, it’s pretty legit.

District 9

Produced by the legendary Peter Jackson and directed by Neill Blomkamp, the movie begins in an alternate 1982 where an alien ship appears over Johannesburg, South Africa. A population of sick and malnourished aliens are found on board and are then confined to an internment camp called District 9.

Fast forward to 2010 and the South African government are relocating the aliens to another camp, an operation lead by a bureaucrat named Wikus van der Merwe who encounters an alien and his son trying to escape and return home.

Both the title and premise of the film were inspired by events in Cape Town‘s District Six during the apartheid. It explores the human, xenophobic and social implications of segregation which, unfortunately, feel all too familiar in real life.

In 2005, Blomkamp released a short film called Alive in Joburg  from which District 9 was adapted. It was released in 2009 and made $US210 million at the box office. Not bad, huh?

You can check out the trailer below.


Set in an alternate 1985 at the height of the Cold War between the US and Soviet Union, Watchmen is a film based on the DC Comics series of the same name.

Also released in 2009, the movie follows a group of mostly retired superheroes as they investigate the murder of one of their own, uncovering a wild conspiracy with global implications.

Far more than just a movie about superheroes, Watchmen explores the consequences such powerful humans would have on social and political relationships around the world. For example, the US was able to win the Vietnam War using their unique powers, giving them an edge over the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The problem with this, however, is the threat of nuclear war between the two nations became far more likely. Check out the trailer below.

Wolfenstein: The New Order + Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Hell yeah, video games can get amongst the alt-history too.

1992’s Wolfenstein 3D is one of the most important video games of all time, essentially inventing the first-person shooter genre. While the early games were largely set during WWII, the latest in the franchise take place in a world where Germany not only won the war, but also invaded the US. We recently gave it a whirl and you can check out our thoughts at the link below.

In 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order and upcoming title, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, you once again step into the shoes of William “B.J.” Blazkowicz as he attempts to stop the spread of the Nazi empire in his typical one-man army fashion.

While the story is bleak as fuck, it’s spattered with moments of dark comedy and huge action that’s insanely fun to play. It’s incredibly unsettling seeing KKK members waltzing around the streets in full garb as a Nazi parade marches by, but these moments set the scene with a sobering force.

If you still haven’t sussed out The New Order, we highly recommend giving it a go before Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus drops on October 27.

Check out the trailer below.

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