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alternate_history:fh_cliches

Future History Clichés

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

It is worth noting that many FH cliches 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 FH Cliches

  • Ameriwank. 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), and the issue of horrible prolonged guerilla wars wouldn't have cropped up. Ameriwank scenarios generally involve technological superiority being the answer to all or at least most problems, and the US having 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).
  • America Collapse. 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, but realisitcally improbable. The States that have Independence parties are small and draw little support. Common nations made from a disintegrated USA are the Republic of California, Republic of Texas, and Pacifica (alternatively known as 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.
  • Rise of the Happy Lucky Red Lotus Golden Dragon Thingy. China always seems to be just on the verge of becoming the next superpower, despite relying almost entirely on outdated Soviet equipment, not possessing a blue water navy, having no interest in colonialism and appearing committed to purely economic empire-building. It usually also conquers Siberia despite its close alliance with Russia. 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.
  • Cyberpunk Superpower Japan. Technically more a paleofuture than an actual FH cliche, it is something that has persisted into the present despite real events moved in a different direction. 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. 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).
  • 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). All the Muslim states suddenly decide to form one big united caliphate dedicated solely to the destruction of the Western world. This despite the fact that they currently possess wildly varied political systems, commonly distrust each other more than they distrust the West, and the Sunni/Shiite religious divide (which is ignored). Also, few people are aware of very counterintuitive shared interests in the greated Middle East. 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.
  • Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan are arabized. A variation of the above that is moderately frequently found on FH maps (another notable other example would be the Arabian Confederation from the OGRE franchise), where some or all of the three nations join some Pan-Arabist alliance or superstate - to be distinguished from the usual Caliphate. This grossly ignores that the Afghans, Iranians and Pakistanis are ethnically distinct from the Arabs.
  • Powered armour. The trend over the past few centuries has been for armour to be sacrificed for agility, as hand weapons powerful enough to punch through almost any armour now exist. However, nevertheless, it seems that everyone's army in the future will have a design bureau run by Warhammer 40K nerds on crack.
  • Nanotechnology. This cliche 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. 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 isn't true, and 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.
  • Eurowank. The EU often ends up becoming a strongly integrated superpower (typical with a fascist/communist flavour) with a huge military. 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.
  • The Islamist-Soviet/Nazbol Axis Invasion of Europe. The opposite of the above scenario, the Europeans are generally described as weak, decadent, infertile and thus being throroughly outbred by Muslim immigrants (created people who take the term “low fertility rates” a tad too literally), economically unstable and deploying ruinous healthcare systems. As a result, Russia and the spontaneously created Randomid Caliphate ally themselves with each other and decide that the decadent Europeans are no longer worth having their continent. Thus they start a massive blitzkrieg that quickly eliminates 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.
  • The Next European Land War. A similar unfortunate for Europe, this cliche assumes that 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, embarassingly, also later in the 2000s) which portray an aggressive newly-unified Germany that wages war against it's neighbours. Back in 1990s, this is excusable because it is reflecting the fear and scepticism 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 exusable… LOL
  • Balkanisation. Again 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.
  • Ludicrous Continental Unification. The opposite of Balkanisation, this is particularly acute in Africa, which is cheerfully combined into some giant political union with no regard whatsoever for how humungously unlikely that is in the next 50, or 500, or 5,000, years. A less serious case is that of a United South America - the Mercosur and similar organisations do exist, but current trends suggest a South America divided into two opposing blocs rather than combined into one.
  • New Ice Age. 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 latitutes (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.
  • Chinese or Indonesian Invasion of Australia. Another common cliche that 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. Apparently, people who think up this cliche 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 capable of supporting its present-day 20 million inhabitants.
  • China and India unify to become Voltron. A cliche apparently common in Japanese anime (featured in Gundam 00, Code Geass, as well as the Ghost In The Shell and Appleseed franchise), furthermore appears occasionally in AH/FH maps as a variation of the unlikely continental unification (see above). 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.

See Also

Alternate History Cliches

This is What Will Happen In The Future - AH.com member euio's grand spoof TL, which tried to cram in as much of these clichés as possible.


alternate_history/fh_cliches.txt · Last modified: 2014/07/25 12:22 by Petike