Thursday, September 8, 2011

Showcase: 1983: Doomsday

In keeping with this week's nuclear war theme, I bring you one of my favorite online alternate histories: 1983: Doomsday.

The World in 2011.
If asked what event was the closest the world has ever been to World War III, most people would say the Cuban Missile Crisis.  But did you know that there was another close call that happened much more recently?  On September 26, 1983, a Soviet early warning station under the command of Colonel Stanislav Petrov falsely detected five inbound intercontinental ballistic missiles. Petrov correctly assessed the situation as a false alarm, and hence did not report his finding to his superiors. This might not seem like a credible threat, but tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were high at the time.  Soviet policy would have been a full nuclear strike if attacked by the United States.  Thankfully, one sane man saved billions of lives, but what if the worst case scenario happened? 

In the 1983: Doomsday, Petrov was not on duty and the officer on duty instead considers the alert to be accurate and immediately contacts his superiors. Within minutes, the leaders decide to launch the whole Soviet nuclear arsenal.  As the Americans respond in kind, the Soviets finally realize that it was all a false alarm, yet they are too late to stop the coming nuclear holocaust. Thousands of nuclear warheads subsequently detonate over targets worldwide. NATO, the Warsaw Pact and other Soviet/American allied nations all suffer.  Even the People's Republic of China is attacked by the Soviets, not wanting them to take advantage of a weakened USSR in a post-war world, but it only adds their arsenal to the war as well.

The nuclear war results in billions killed, both in the initial attack and the resulting environmental disaster and general chaos as governments across the world collapse.  Almost three decades later, the world is still only starting to recover.  Much of Oceania has unified under the Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand, which has replaced the United States as the world's police.  The Commonwealth, however, is falling behind the South American Confederation, a loose union of Latin American states that has become the center of the global economy.

Survivor states dot most of the Northern Hemisphere with names like Deseret, Iberia, Somaliland and Prussia.  The United Nations ceased to exist on Doomsday, but has been replaced by a proactive League of Nations with it's headquarters on the island nation of Tonga.  As for the superpowers, the Soviet Union has been resurrected as the Union of Sovereign Socialist Republics covering most of Siberia and northern China.  The United States ceased to exist in 1995 after President George H. W. Bush disbanded the nation, but an "American Spring" is reminding the scattered survivor states of their heritage.

1983: Doomsday was originally created on December 4, 2006 by an anonymous user.  Though his identity may be unknown, the early version of the timeline shows it was inspired by the 1957 novel On the Beach, but with a better understanding of radiation and fallout. The timeline was later adopted by Xi'Reney in 2008 and he opened it up to any user who wished to edit.  The timeline eventually expanded into one of the largest on the entire Alternate History Wiki, with a very active community.  If you are thinking of contributing, be warned.  The community is very touchy about protecting the work of older contributors who no longer edit on a regular basis, like myself.  See my new editor's guide for more information.

Probably one of the best aspects of the timeline is how diverse the articles are.  This is not just another political alternate history, though you will find many articles on the nations and politics of Doomsday if that is what you want.  Yet there are also hundreds of articles on climate, mass media, space exploration, languages, literature, sports, education, comics, religion, humor, military and the economy.  There is also countless pictures, flags and maps.  You could try to read everything in the timeline, only to find that by the time you are finished the community has already produced 100 more articles and have already updated the WCRB Newshour page while you were not paying attention.   It is an ever expanding world as the tireless volunteer editors continue to flush out the dark corners of the timeline.

If I have one critique of the timeline, it is not a big on plausibility.  Though well researched and written, room is left for the "cool" factor. Historical persons, who either survived a strike or their parents survived, exist in important roles alongside fictional persons who have conveniently appeared to move the story along.  Other alternate history tropes are prevalent as well, including a balkanized North America and airships.  Nevertheless, these elements complement the timeline and give you a fascinating world to explore where there is always something new around the corner.

The best thing about Doomsday, however, is the message it gives us.  No matter what happens, humanity will survive, rebuild and continue to achieve greatness.

2 comments:

  1. I hope it's pretty well balanced without the liberal bias disease that shuts down anything they don't like.


    I am not pointing anybody out in particular but the biased news sources (you know who you are) is sickening that they only allow one side to express their views.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Also you forgot to include the link to the community you were talking about! LOL.

    I'll try the news hour link to see if it takes me there.

    ReplyDelete