Sunday, November 20, 2022

Oda Nobunaga Finishes Unifying Japan, A More Plausible Draka Timeline, and an Uglier Tanker War

It's been awhile since I've posted about alternate history. Here are some scenarios from the public sections of the forum I used to be a regular member of that you might find interesting.

Nobunaga's Ambition Realized: The Dawn of a New Rising Sun-In real life, warlord Oda Nobunaga was betrayed by one of his own commanders and committed suicide to avoid captured and execution. His efforts to reunite feudal Japan were continued by others, including Tokugawa Ieyasu. The latter brought peace to Japan, but at the price of isolating the country from the world, the functional extermination of Christianity, and establishment of what sounds like an early modern police state. In this timeline, Nobunaga avoids the coup attempt and continues his historical course. He ultimately reunites Japan as the new shogun (a military dictator who rules in the emperor's name), but his government pursues very different policies. Although his successor Hideyoshi's war with Korea is avoided, he and his successors do successfully colonize Taiwan, and Christianity remains a tolerated faith even if some of the excesses that provoked the Tokugawa crackdown (slave-trading by foreign priests, Catholic lords forcing peasants to convert) are firmly dealt with. It looks like Japan is on the way to becoming a major power in Asia rather than turning inward. And this is already having some effects, most notably on China...

Snakedance: A Plausible Draka TLIAM-The author wants to have this whole timeline completed in a month (hence the title) and she seems to be making good progress so far. For those not familiar, here is the canonical Draka timeline through the 1950s. Although it's not particularly plausible, the fiction is entertaining and it's one of the founding texts of modern-day alternate history. The author is focused on the early Draka expansion in southern Africa and depicts the natives putting up a more realistic and much better fight that they did in canon and avoids the Draka's too-fast early industrialization. She also emphasizes sports, the arts, and culture among the Draka, something that is often overlooked in alternate history, and seems like she's planning on emphasizing class conflict among the Draka elite more than canon does.

(The first book Marching Through Georgia has female lead Sofie Nixon pondering the social gap between herself, the daughter of a dock foreman and granddaughter of a Scottish mercenary, and her commanding officer and love interest Eric von Shrakenberg, but I don't recall very much from the later books. The Citizen caste seems rather united on most issues of importance and the points of disunity are limited to grousing, like the urbanite-dominated Security Directorate sneering at the planter-dominated military as living in the past.)

Crushed In Infancy-In this timeline, the "Tanker War" phase of the Iran-Iraq War escalates into a series of direct battles between the United States and the new Islamic Republic of Iran. The Islamic Republic soon goes into a different, more US-friendly direction, after some events I'm not going to give away for spoiler reasons. This in turn leads to some very different politics in the United States, the declining Soviet Union, and a China that is just starting to liberalize after the death of Mao. We're looking at a very interesting late 1980s and early 1990s here.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

THE HOWLING, The Heroes Of Other Stories, and Fan Fiction Ideas

In the 1981 film The Howling, TV news anchor Karen White (Dee Wallace) discovers a rural California community run by her station's psychiatrist has a dark secret. A very hairy dark secret...although the cover pretty obviously gives away the fact it's a werewolf movie, this isn't confirmed until about an hour into the film.

Although the film is kind of dull (I gave it a grade of C on my blog), the characterization is interesting. Several supporting cast members seem like they could potentially be the heroes of their own stories. Anybody who's a fanfic enthusiast (Archive of Our Own has a lot of Howling fanfic stories) is welcome to give these a spin. I posted about this on Twitter earlier this morning; here is my rambling in more coherent form, with some fact-checking.

Spoilers for a 30-odd year old movie below. I'll post the YouTube clip of the relevant scene that reveals a lot about the lesser characters to further block it off.

Dr. George Waggner (Patrick McNee)-The station psychiatrist and basically the cult guru in charge of "The Colony." He tries to get the werewolves to control their animal nature and live peacefully, but he cannot control the violent Quist siblings--serial killer Eddie, homewrecker Marcia, and creepy little brother T.C. Under California law, he's an accessory after the fact to several murders (possibly with rape to boot), since he knows about Eddie's crimes and seems to have done nothing but try to conceal them by luring the only surviving witness to his commune. If the cops (other than the local sheriff who's a werewolf himself) get involved, he's going to be doing some pretty serious time.

(You don't get the misdemeanor accessory charge for covering for a serial killer and Eddie has committed multiple serious crimes. That jail time piles up real quick, and him trying to plead coercion would involve revealing that he's the guru of a colony of werewolves.)

However, his options to deal with the Quists are rather limited. At the climax of the film, Marcia and one of her friends openly assault him when he tells them he won't let them kill Karen and it seemed to me his bad deeds (largely of omission rather than commission) are basically for damage control purposes. If not for him, many if not most of the werewolves in the community would start hunting and killing people before the government comes in and gives them the Waco treatment. He can't exactly go to the police for help--they wouldn't believe him if he said they were all werewolves and if they did believe it (say if he transformed in front of them), he and his would be hunted down and killed as monsters.

You could depict him as this morally gray version of Charles Xavier making harder and harder "lesser of two evils" choices to the point it's a relief when Karen's colleague Chris Halloran shoots him with a silver bullet. Hell, you could make him a full-on tragic hero. If Macbeth (traitor and murderer of families), Othello (domestic violence), and Hamlet (causes several deaths and the foreign invasion of his kingdom through sheer bumbling) can be tragic heroes, well, Waggner's crimes are much less extreme.

Jerry and Donna Warren (James Murtaugh and Margie Impert)-In this scene here, the werewolves detain Karen after Eddie kills her colleague Terri and she realizes just what's going on. The Warrens seem intent on recruiting Karen for the cult. Although I'd initially thought they'd found The Colony's secret on their own, had been given the choice between accepting "the gift" and being killed, and were desperately hoping Karen would be shown the same mercy, that doesn't seem to be what happened. It sounds like they'd be been bitten earlier and tried to resist the effects rather unsuccessfully, but then found Waggner on their own and Waggner taught them how to deal with it effectively. Just how that played out could be an interesting story, especially if the werewolf who infected them was unaffiliated with Waggner and The Colony. Who else is out there?

Erle Kenton (John Carradine)-He's the one who looks like Willie Nelson and attempts to kill himself when we first meet him. One could write him as someone who wants to follow Dr. Waggner's teachings but finds his struggle against his own nature so difficult that he becomes outright suicidal. When Eddie killing Terri causes a crisis at The Colony, he just says "screw it" and gives in to his animal side. This could be the story of someone with a mental illness suffering a breakdown or someone who's really repressed finally, to quote Elsa from Frozen, "Let[ting] it go." Only he's a bigoted murderous a-hole.

Bill Neil (Christopher Stone)-We see his whole arc on-screen so he's not really the hero of another story, but showing the whole situation from his POV could be interesting. He goes from being a vegetarian and a faithful husband to Karen (he even gets violent with Marcia when she puts the moves on him) to killing and eating animals, cheating on Karen with Marcia, and assaulting Karen when she calls him out on it. And some viewers think he's the one who infected Karen in the climax of the film. What is it like to have your worldview shift so much in less than a week?