What if this Sunday wasn't Remembrance Sunday? What if it was just another day of totalitarian Nazi oppression? The ever-chirpy Philip K. Dick created a world where the Axis powers won the war, and the United Kingdom is subsumed into the Greater German Reich, while the Western seaboard of the United States (along with Asia, Australia and most of South America) becomes the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Three of the book's main characters make decisions using dried out old plant stalks and a copy of the I Ching (which Dick allegedly used himself when writing the book). It's not a good place.
The Man in the High Castle isn’t the only book where the Nazis win though. Newt Gingrich (yes, the womanising Republican former nominee hopeful) also had a bash, with 1945 - although in his version of the third reich, America stays independent while puny Europe's gentle features are crushed under a black boot as they beg for US assistance. He has also written an alternate history where the Confederates won, and another in which Obama shines his shoes for him in the Oval Office.
Rome Sweet Rome
Alternate histories are a ripe playground for silly ideas. Around a year ago someone on Reddit asked, hypothetically, whether they could "destroy the entire Roman Empire...if [they] travelled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion". James Erwin, a military historian, took this and ran with it. In his first 350 word post he wrote about a 2,200 man marine unit being warped from Afghanistan to the bank of the Tiber circa 10 BC. The response was so phenomenal that he went on to write another dozen pages outlining the rest of hypothetical caper. One hot young producer was goofing off on Reddit (probably browsing through pictures of Nicolas Cage riding cats) when he came across the tale. He saw potential, he saw a script and he made a deal to represent Erwin. Warner Bros are now working on turning it into a film.
Plausibility is important. Which is why Marvel doesn’t just have one plane of reality for the various superheroes and villains duking it out across their publishing roster. Otherwise with 25,000 greater and lesser demigods wandering about our planet would be smashed up in short order. So, alternate worlds - hundreds of them. One where the Aztecs still reign (Earth-1519), one for the webslinger's porcine cousin Spider-Ham (Earth-7044), and one where people ride around on magic carpets (that's it - that's all I can find on Earth-412). And all of them have their own 'Captain Britain' to make crumpets and ensure MPs don't rent out their second homes.
What is Groundhog Day? It's a celebration where people extrapolate a longterm weather forecast from the hibernation schedule of a woodchuck (AKA the groundhog). And punish each other for not speaking German (which, incidentally, was once America's second most popular language). It's probably the best known 'do-over' style multiple reality film, featuring Bill Murray and the end of Andie MacDowell's career (she popped out of her burrow only one more time for Four Weddings). We watch as Bill is forced to constantly live through the same day of his life - he does this for the equivalent of 30-40 years, according to director Harold Ramis.
Of course this is edited for the sake of brevity, but we see him learning fluent French, being jailed, and killing himself many times. What we don't see is Bill getting bored with his consequent-free life, flaying the titular groundhog and wearing it as a mask while reading the weather.
Alice in Wonderland
Probably one of the best-known alternate realities of all, Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel showed us the weird world Alice stumbles upon through the rabbit hole. In the wake of the 1951 Disney version it was heralded by psychonauts and hippies as an endorsement for turning on, tuning in and dropping out. But the truth is much weirder.
Was it about Carroll's latent paedophilia? No - although that was almost certainly in there. It was about something far more unexpected. Maths. When not penning surreal children's books, he was a pretty serious mathematician at Oxford, and an old school numbers guy at that. He didn't like what he regarded as nonsensical new theories, and used Alice's constant and absurd changes in size to satirise their unpredictability. That’s according to a rather wonderful theory by Melanie Bayley anyway.
Anyway, the Disney version isn't the only cartoon interpretation of Alice. There's a manga version which casts Alice as a Japanese schoolgirl (so far, so normal), and every other character as a scantily clad woman attempting to molest our heroine. The Dormouse is cast as a showgirl who tries to look up Alice's skirt; the Jabberwock is a demon girl who tries to look up Alice's skirt; The Mad Hatter... You get the idea. Kinda weird.
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