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Future History Clichés

“It is usually badly researched lame-ass wish fulfillment, either dystopian or utopian. Little more. I've become an increasingly firm believer in the notion that having an FH forum on this board is a mistake.”

A subset of AH clichés, future history (FH) clichés describe certain well-worn and implausible concepts which commonly crop up in FH timelines.

It is worth noting that many FH clichés have been around since at least the 1980s, when they were then used to refer to the 2000s, and now exactly the same cliches are used to paint an identical picture of the 2020s or 2030s.


List of current Future History clichés

Geopolitics

Ameriwank

  • What it is: One example of this is in the sense of the United States suddenly deciding to annex Mexico etc. Another is the US having an absurdly dominant position in warfare - quite an accomplishment when one considers that the US is already the world's sole superpower. It may be helpful to consider a historical analogy - if someone in 2002 wrote an “Ameriwank” invasion of Iraq, it would have involved a simultaneous four-way war with Iran, Syria, and North Korea as well, the US would have won (probably helped by the surprise unveiling of five or six next-generation military technologies)
  • Why it won't happen: Ameriwank scenarios generally involve technological superiority being the answer to all or at least most problems, and completely ignoring any horrible prolonged guerilla wars. They also require the US to have more of a technological advantage than it currently does (even though one might call today an unprecedented “grace period” between the collapse of the USSR and the rise of the new economies in China, India, etc).
  • Current progress: The USA hasn't gained significant territory in almost a century. The most recent territorial changes include giving independence to the Marshall Islands and Micronesia (1986), giving independence to Palau (1994), ceding the Panama Canal Zone to Panama (1999) and ceding some Texan islands to Mexico (2009). Hardly a wank.

America Collapse

  • What it is: Just the complete opposite of Ameriwank is the collapse of the good old USA. Usually this is done by the middle of the 21st century. Common nations made from a disintegrated USA are the Republic of California, Republic of Texas, New England, Dixieland and Pacifica (a.k.a. Cascadia). It is interesting to note that in many cases, Canada also joins the secessionism, typically starting with Quebec. Seconds afterwards, the rest of Canada falls apart, creating the Maritimes, Nunavut and some kind of Greater Alberta.
  • Why it won't happen: The States that have independence parties are small and draw little support. Not to mention that secession is completely and utterly illegal.
  • Current progress: The peak of secession movements was a petition on the We The People website to allow Texas to peacefully secede. It gained over 100,000 signatures, meeting the threshold for a White House response. It unsurprisingly amounted to “lol no” and everyone went home.

Rise of the Happy Lucky Red Lotus Golden Dragon Thingy

  • Also known as: Chinawank or Sinowank
  • What it is: China always seems to be just on the verge of becoming the next superpower. It usually also conquers Siberia despite its close alliance with Russia.
  • Why it won't happen: It relies almost entirely on outdated Soviet equipment, doesn't possess a blue water navy, has no interest in colonialism and appears committed to purely economic empire-building. The word “superpower” is overused, but was originally coined to refer to countries capable of such massive power projection over the entire planet that they could defeat the second rank powers even on or near their home turf. This replaced the era of the “great powers” who, even in the case of Victorian Britain, were not capable of dominating other developed countries on their home turf. The US is a superpower not just because of nuclear weapons but because its air force, navy, and worldwide network of alliances and military bases allow it to deploy the full power of its military to most parts of the world. China simply has no such capability and no immediate plans to get one - it does not have any way to base its military forces outside of its own borders. For China to become a “superpower” would require not just a colossal military buildup on its part, but a massive strategic change to gain military allies and bases overseas.
  • Current progress: During the entire existence of the PRC, the number of its overseas bases has remained constant (at zero).

The United Evil Caliphate of Wherever It Is

  • Also known as: The Randomid Caliphate (term coined by Thande) or more recently the Obligatid Caliphate (term coined by VulcanTrekkie45).
  • What it is: All the Muslim states suddenly decide to form one big united caliphate dedicated solely to the destruction of the Western world. A lite version is a Pan-Arab confederation which often includes Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, despite them not being Arab.
  • Why it won't happen: Few people are aware of the nuances of the Greater Middle East aside from scary brown people yelling “Death to America!” on the news. They currently possess wildly varied political systems, they commonly distrust each other more than they distrust the West, and there is a huge religious divide between Sunni and Shiites. For example, Israel and Turkey have traditionally been friendly, but this has been strained by the Israelis sending covert aid to the Kurds. Since the start of the Iraq war, (secular Sunni) Turkey and (theocratic Shi'ite) Iran have found a common interest in stopping militants in (secular Sunni) Kurdistan from fomenting violence in both of their countries. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US-supported governments are traditionally supported by (theocratic) Iran, whereas the Taliban and Al Qaeda militants gained most of their support within US allies (secular dictatorship) Pakistan and (religious monarchy) Saudi Arabia.
  • Current progress: On June 9, 2014, the de facto independent Islamic State declared a caliphate, partially fulfilling this cliché. Still, it's Sunni-dominated and controls less than 1% of the total Muslim population.

Soviet Union 2.0

  • Also known as: Russowank or more specifically Putinwank. Also Cold War 2.0.
  • What it is: According to the esteemed Glenn Beck, the atheist Communazi Russkies are always looking for ways to spread their atheist Communazism and take a shit on America. Who are we to disagree?
  • Why it won't happen: Russia used to have direct control over the entire USSR and extended its influence across the world. Now it struggles to regain control of Ukraine (its former territory), let alone anything beyond that. *YAWN*…“resurging superpower” my ass. Wake me up when the Red Army is in Vilnius (on seconds thoughts, don't worry, they'll probably do it for me).

Eurowank

  • Also known as: The Fourth Reich.
  • What it is: The EU often ends up becoming a strongly integrated superpower (typically with a Fascist or Communist flavor) with a huge military. It also tends to stretch from Nuuk to Vladivostok, just because. Switzerland will always be independent though.
  • Why it won't happen: While not completely inconceivable, this seems increasingly less likely given recent events. A huge military, in particular, would be unlikely except in response to a huge threat. Japan is a wealthy and unified country and does not seek a military capable of deployment around the world, for example. As for enlargement, many remaining European countries explicitly do not wish to join the EU, or the EU explicitly does not wish to accommodate them.
  • Current progress: During the debt crisis, the EU sought financial advice from an 11 year old. That level of desperation does not equal superpower-dom.

Eurabia

  • What it is: The opposite of the above scenario, the Europeans are generally described as weak, decadent, infertile, economically unstable and deploying ruinous healthcare systems. Thus they are thoroughly out-bred by Muslim immigrants who establish a Eurabian Caliphate and implement Sharia law. Sometimes the Eurabian Caliphate will decide that the decadent Europeans are no longer worth having their continent and ally with Russia to start a massive blitzkrieg and quickly eliminate the ill-fated Europeans. Typically, Britain (which is America's valiant best friend) is spared of this horrible fate, but sometimes they instead have to endure yet another Sea Lion.
  • Why it won't happen: Muslim immigration rates to Europe are matched or even exceeded by other groups which for some reason don't receive the same type of scrutiny. The majority of Muslims in Europe are secular, are relatively “Westernized”, identify with their migrant nation and participate in the country like all other human beings rather than as a separate society. As for population growth, “low fertility rates” are not to be taken too literally. euio sums this up well: “The birth rate of the Muslim immigrants in Europe can only increase, and evidently the population doubles every twenty years:”
    • 2000 - 30 million
    • 2020 - 60 million
    • 2040 - 120 million
    • 2060 - 240 million
    • 2080 - 480 million
    • 2100 - 960 million
    • 2120 - 1.92 billion
    • 2140 - 3.84 billion
    • 2160 - 7.68 billion
    • 2180 - 15.36 billion
    • 2200 - 30.72 billion :D
  • Current progress: Only 1 country (Albania) out of 28 member states in the European Union is majority Muslim. This particular case turns some assumptions on their heads. Albania has been majority Muslim since the 15th century, so modern immigration had nothing to do with it. In fact no immigration had anything to do with it. The Albanian Muslims are not brown skinned Arabs or Middle Easterners, they are the population that was already there; for an example look at a picture of Rita Ora (often called “the white Rihanna”). So the assumption that “natives=European=white=Christian and invaders=foreign=brown=Muslim” is total bollocks. As is the assumption that Europe has a native Christian culture, since this area has had an Islamic culture for some time. Islam may seem like a relatively late introduction (and therefore not “native”), but note that the Baltics and Spain weren't majority Christian until then either. And if we really wanted to kick out the Middle Eastern religious influences and go back to Europe's native culture, we would ironically have to ditch Christianity to go back to worshiping Odin, Zeus, et al. As for the caliphate fears, Albania's government is secular so Sharia law is not in effect, and the Muslim majority does not equate to declaring Jihad on the West and Europe. After all they are members of the West and Europe. Nor do they hate America. In fact Albania is part of NATO and strongly supported the War on Terror. In conclusion, Muslim immigrants have not taken over Europe, and a majority Muslim country would not equal the downfall of civilization.

Random Balkanization

  • What this is: This does play on current trends. Tiny nations appear everywhere as every separatist movement, no matter how minor and wacko, succeeds. The US is also always just on the verge of disintegrating along the red/blue state barrier.
  • Why this won't happen: Look at the border changes between 1900 and 1950. Now look at the border changes between 1950 and present.
  • Current progress: Coming to a peak in 2014 with Crimean, Eastern Ukrainian, Kurdish, Venetian, Catalonian and Scottish independence referenda. Time will tell what the results will be. Update: Scotland rejected independence, followed by a collective sigh of relief.

Ludicrous Continental Unification

  • What it is: The opposite of Random Balkanization, where continents are cheerfully combined into giant political unions with no regard whatsoever for plausibility. Often related to Eurowank, North American Union conspiracy theories, or lazy map-making.
  • Why it won't happen: This is particularly acute for Africa which has an immeasurable number of disparate regions, ethnicities, economies and interests stretching for hundreds of miles in all directions. Leaders sure as hell aren't going to willingly forfeit any local tax money to a federal government instead of their personal wallets, especially when some of it will go to a neighboring nation they don't trust.
  • Current progress: The European Union, African Union and UNASUR do exist, but have no desire to become a single country.

World government

  • What it is: The United Nations transitions into a world government. Everyone lives happily ever after.
  • Why it won't happen: Belgium (consisting of two main communities that live right next to each other) nearly split apart after some election and policy disagreements. How are the members of a world state going to agree with each other enough to stay together for more than 10 minutes?
  • Current progress: This Onion video shows the current state of the United Nations. They have a loooong way to go.

China and India unify to become Voltron

  • What it is: A cliché apparently common in Japanese anime (featured in Gundam 00, Code Geass, as well as the Ghost In The Shell and Appleseed franchise).
  • Why it won't happen: People ignore the fact that India and China have ongoing border disputes, as well as significant political, religious and cultural differences that would be in the way of such a union.
  • Current progress: No. Just no.

War

The Next European Land War

  • What it is: Europe will automatically revert to it's pre-1914 animosities while America is not watching. Of course, it will be most of the time Germany. This includes of course stuff like Germany attacking France to retake Alsace-Lorraine or, of course, invading Poland. There exists a small genre of FH novels from the 1990s (and, embarrassingly, also later in the 2000s) which portray an aggressive newly-unified Germany that wages war against it's neighbors. Back in 1990s, this is excusable because it is reflecting the fear and skepticism that many people had towards a German reunification. However they had no idea how things would really play out, and if you make up such a story in 2005 or 2010, it's decidedly not excusable… LOL
  • Why it won't happen: In the interconnected 21st century climate, Europeans channel their animosity through Eurovision votes and Polandball comics.
  • Current progress: Partially fulfilled in 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine. No word on the fate of Alsace-Lorraine though.

Chinese or Indonesian Invasion of Australia

  • What it is: Involves either an expansionist China or Indonesia to invade Australia in conquest for lebensraum, or, in the case of the latter, in order to establish the Boat People Caliphate.
  • Why it won't happen: Apparently, people who think up this cliché just see Australia as a huge mass of land on the map that could easily host 800 million people, without even considering that it's a very dry and inhospitable continent that is barely not capable of supporting its present-day 20 22 23.5 (and counting) million inhabitants.
  • Current progress: Anti-immigration conspiracy theories notwithstanding, nobody wants Australia. On the internet it has a reputation for horrifying wildlife such as the box jellyfish, crocodiles, baby-eating dingoes, giant spiders, giant snakes, giant spider-snakes, bogans, and Iggy Azalea.

Nuclear World War III

  • What it is: Global thermonuclear war of the type we narrowly avoided in the Cold War's circumstances, except for much sillier reasons. Someone just has to insult someone's mom and suddenly the world devolves into a a free-for-all. Often relates to super-China, Soviet Union 2.0, Israel or North Korea.
  • Why it won't happen: Unsurprisingly, this is in nobody's best interest. Mutually assured destruction, therefore avoidance of large wars.
  • Current progress: The world's nuclear stockpiles are in fact being reduced.

Non-nuclear World War III

  • What it is: An excuse for a cool techno-thriller war without the inconvenience of total apocalypse getting in the way.
  • Why it won't happen: Nuclear weapons do in fact exist, therefore mutually assured destruction, therefore avoidance of large wars.
  • Current progress: Hasn't come up since 1945.

Climate

GLAWWWWWWBUL WARRRMING

  • What it is: Forget the Maldives losing some land or Florida being flooded in a few decades; according to the FH subforum London will be submerged by next Tuesday. Typically used as an excuse for a superpower Canada when it gains all that unfrozen land. Not that we would blame anyone for a superpower Canada.
  • Why it won't happen: Sorry Al Gore, global warming won't happen that fast.
  • Current progress: In 2014 (are you noticing a pattern here?) some holes blew up in the Siberian tundra, where the methane levels were 100 times higher than normal, possibly signalling the start of the methane clathrate runaway process. Oh wait, I was supposed to write why it wouldn't happen? Um, well, the idea of “global warming” is a liberal conspiracy to distract from real issues, overtax hard-working Americans, spread Sharia law and promote the gay agenda. Somehow.

New Ice Age

  • What it is: A surprisingly common theme that is diametrically opposed to the trend of global warming that is currently predicted by scientists. Probably inspired by the film The Day After Tomorrow, it generally involves that areas in northern latitudes (Canada, Russia, Scandinavia, often also the British Isles or even as far south as France) become so cool that agriculture becomes impossible. In the most drastic cases, glaciers cover much of Europe by 2100 or even as early as 2050.
  • Why it won't happen: Sorry Roland Emmerich, the only thing cooling down is your box office sales.
  • Current progress: We are in fact nearing the end of our current Ice Age. Good riddance.

Technology

Nanotechnology

  • What it is: When scientists talk about “nanotechnology” they are talking about glorified chemistry and biology - getting better at making customized molecules and assembling them into useful biological components, new materials, and so on. Writers seem to think “robots scaled down to the size of an atom”, as if you had a device that could do pretty much anything a handy intelligent construction robot could do, except that it's extremely tiny. This cliché is excusable to some degree, as few FH writers have an in-depth knowledge of the modern scientific community, and in fact it is universal to science fiction.
  • Why it won't happen: The easiest problem to point out is the power source. A nanomachine must get its power from chemical reactions, and most likely do its work with chemical reactions - just like a bacterium, for example. In the wild, independent “nanomachines” would probably not be much more capable than genetically engineered bacteria.
  • Current progress: If my latest iPhone can't last for more than a few hours of video, how is an atom-sized battery supposed to power anything for more than a microsecond?

Powered armor

  • What it is: It seems that everyone's army in the future will have a design bureau run by Warhammer 40K nerds on crack.
  • Why it won't happen: The trend over the past few centuries has been for armor to be sacrificed for agility, as hand weapons powerful enough to punch through almost any armor now exist.
  • Current progress: The number of powered armor units in actual use (i.e. not just prototypes or demonstrations) in the world's militaries was precisely zero when this entry was first written in 2007. Since then, it has increased to a grand total of … still precisely zero.

Past Future History clichés

Future history or science fiction related clichés that have become antiquated since the times they were first postulated.

Cyberpunk Superpower Japan

  • What it is: In the 1980s, Japan's GDP was predicted to eventually become greater than that of the US, and that the US would face a coming war with Japan.
  • What happened: In the 1990s, Japan's economic bubble bursted, however some people still maintain that Japan WILL attack America with it's robotic hordes. Mainstream has instead moved towards a Postcyberpunk Superpower China (see above).

Cliché Future History subgenres

Color-by-number maps

Future map scenarios where the author has simply colored in countries on a world map to show the new super-countries. Bonus cliché cringe points if the basemap is a low resolution bitmap from 2006. If the map is also saved as a jpg, congratulations, you have officially won the FH subforum.

Election timelines

Timelines that consist only of endless lists of election results, especially if they are only US elections. No offense, but very few people are impressed by your ability to make up fake percentages. For extra cliché points, present them through Wikiboxes.

Utopian timelines

Timelines that purely represent (the author's view of) the best case scenario, whether the author realizes they are doing this or not. On this forum, tends to involve the magical Democrat fairies sweeping into power and restoring sanity and freedom to the US with no opposition, establishing socialist paradises everywhere, the world coming under the umbrella of the enlightened Westerners' world government (clearly those brown, black and yellow peoplez cannot be trusted to rule themselves), things like gay marriage and abortion become legal everywhere without any disagreements by sheer force of good-idea-ness, everyone speaks English, and science and technology progress at hypersonic speeds for no other reason than the rationality of the new order. Bonus cliché points if the timeline presents the world becoming atheist as a development that is inherently good without feeling the need to explain why.

Dystopian timelines

Timelines that purely represent (the author's view of) the worst case scenario, whether the author realizes they are doing this or not. On this forum, tends to involve teh ev0l republikans establishing a theocratic apartheid hellhole, Eurabia, GLAWWWWWWBUL WARMING, the Caliphate, Soviet Union 2.0, super-China with super human abuses, totalitarian states, peak oil, pandemics, Malthusian collapses, evil megacorps who do evil things because they're just evil, and nuclear wars that result in ignorant evil post-apocalyptic cults (cos da religious peoplez are cray-cray). Bonus cliché points if huge disasters are sprinkled in just to say “look how shit this world is!” without any real implications.

OTL + space

Timelines where FTL space travel, terraforming and colonization are as easy as walking to the mailbox. But instead of profound changes to our mode of civilization, these timelines just repeat recent colonialism and set it in space. Expect the countries, cultures and economies to be exactly the same as present day in OTL but with some space-sounding settings. Often results in such absurdities as the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Zeta Reticuli.

OTL + super-tech

Similar to the above, timelines that superficially include advanced technology just to say “this is the future!!” Bonus cliché points if the singularity “happens” but nobody's life is any different than OTL.

OTL + OTL

Timelines that are written under the strict guidance of the plausibility police. Nothing interesting happens in the timeline, but unlike the above, this trait is intentional. Tends to simply rehash OTL without anything changing except the year number.

Anti-cliché timelines

By now you may be thinking “good golly, so much to avoid! What if I just get all of these clichés and reverse them?” Unfortunately you are not the only person to think this. The thing is, averting a Chinese superpower by making it split up in a brutal civil war is not much better. By now we can see through these attempts and are getting quite sick of them. Please realize that there is a middle ground between super-wanks and super-screws, history isn't all about the wank/screw and merger/balkanization dichotomies, and you can focus on areas other than just the place where you live and the places you hear about on the news.


See Also

Alternate History Cliches

This is What Will Happen In The Future - euio's grand spoof TL, which tried to cram in as much of these clichés as possible. <br> American Politics Reaches Its Logical Conclusion - Thande's satire of the Wikipedia election box subgenre and American politics.


alternate_history/fh_cliches.txt · Last modified: 2014/09/20 04:05 by Transparent Blue