February 4, 2017

February 4, 2017

To Seem, Yet Not to Be

Alternate universes are all the rage these days. (A statement presented without comment.) Whatever your media poison of choice, you can find something set in a time and place just a little different from our own.

I recently finished the book Underground Airlines, which sat on or atop many “Best of 2016” lists. In its reality, slavery is still legal. The author does an excellent job of explaining the historical precedent and latter-day logistics, and it’s eerily fascinating. I fully expect Underground Airlines to fill the “Book I Thought I’d Hate but Ended Up Loving” slot on this year’s list.

I’m slowly making my way through season 2 of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, set in the years after a World War 2 won by the Axis powers. It’s a dark show, and I find that the most innocuous bits can turn out to be the darkest. They celebrate V-A Day each year on the date America fell. The American flag has a swastika in it. The Pledge of Allegiance is to Hitler.

(Start at 1:37.)

I mean, thank goodness we don’t live in a dystopia anything like this. Right? RIGHT?

I’m also sticking with NBC’s show Timeless, though it’s become less about how small changes in the past have big effects on the present and more about “Time Period of the Week.” And that’s okay. I’m all for meaningless costume drama (cf. 98% of Downton Abbey). I’ve seen the Columbian Exposition, the Wild West, the Colonial Era, and the Space Race. Each of those episodes has been a diverting hour.

All this has gotten me thinking about other turning points. If we’re really living in one of an infinite set of universes, what might the others look like?

What if the Spanish Armada succeeded? Would my Spanish be better? Or at least, less offensive?

What if the Normans stayed in France? Would I spell everything lyke thyss? (Or not be able to read at all because I’m a woman?)

What if humanity domesticated foxes instead of dogs and cats? Would we be asking “What does the dog say?”

The possibilities are endless, and a thoughtful amusement (I know it's an oxymoron) on a cloudy day.

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