Monday, December 24, 2012

Sobel Wiki: the road not taken

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on the Global War, a worldwide conflict that consumed the Sobel Timeline from 1939 to 1948. The Global War was emphatically not a thinly-veiled retelling of our own timeline's Second World War. Rather than being started by a power-hungry dictator with dreams of global conquest, the Global War was sparked by a conflict between two imperial powers over control of natural resources in a peripheral area. In fact, as far as we can tell from Sobel's descriptions, all of the major powers that fought in the Global War had democratically-elected governments. Sobel even describes how three of the participating nations essentially voted for war by electing pro-war governments.

Of equal interest from an alternate-history viewpoint is the fact that the Confederation of North America, one of the Sobel Timeline's two analogues of our own U.S.A., remained neutral throughout the Global War. This is one of several instances where Sobel took an event from our world and had an analogous event in For Want of a Nail go the other way. Most obviously is the book's point-of-departure from our own history, when the American Revolution ends in a British victory and the thirteen colonies return to British rule. Next is 1789, when the incipient French Revolution is put down by the royalists, the French Revolutionary Wars never take place, and the ancien regime remains in power for another 90 years.

The Rocky Mountain War of the 1840s between the C.N.A. and Mexico does not end in a smashing victory for the C.N.A. Instead, Mexico succeeds in defeating a series of attacks by the North Americans, and suffers only a minor loss of territory in the subsequent peace negotiations. In the 1880s, Sobel's version of the Populist Party succeeds in displacing one of the two major parties in the C.N.A. And in 1914, a war between Mexico and France ends in a quick Mexican victory, and as far as we are told, no other nations are drawn into the war.

The Global War continues Sobel's habit of reversing the outcome of our world's events. Instead of a decisive victory for one side or the other, the Globel War ends in an exhausted stalemate, with hundreds of millions of people dead and most of the world in ruins.

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