Inspection- Imagining Alternate Realities: Autocide

                   Portals to Alternate Realities: painting

Now for something quite different…

By Ken Carman

 People create all kinds of alternate realities these days. Not that this hasn’t happened before: fake moon landing, flat earth, lizard people… But creating an alternate reality for fiction’s sake, and to study it, is not as easy as one would think. It took me about 15 years to get my book Autocide where I needed it to be before the soft cover could be released: yesterday. Inspection
 OK, “ready” is a relative term. If I had waited for that blessed moment of absolute perfection I might still be deep down that editing black hole: stuck on the edge of ready: no light, no word, no escape. Instead, yesterday, books should have start being delivered, put out on out on some shelves. An exciting time. If not there, ask for it.
 As one of my songwriter friends said about writing back when I was selling my songs on Music Row, in Nashville, “Sometimes you have to sacrifice your babies.” If only people who come up with so many current alternate “facts” were as attentive to their constructs. I’m sure you know some, or at least think you do.
 There’s so much more to designing an alternate reality for readers. If you have a society that is ours, yet not, you have to micromanage to do it right. Like addressing what is politics like in this alternate timeline. Plotting it all out on a board or paper helps. Small changes gather bigger changes, like a suggestion Barack Obama was assassinated in my timeline. Joe Biden’s son dies earlier. Hillary become VP just before the assassination. Then she is Gerald Ford-ed: defeated by Sarah Palin.
 Sarah Palin???
 May seem absurd looking back. Ah, but remember the reaction in Back to the Future when Marty tells Doc Ronald Reagan is president in Marty’s time? Tell someone from the past what the future really will be I promise they might think you crazy.
 Such true absurdities are very handy for someone who used humor to write his own shows he performed for over 30 years. In Autocide I took those absurdities to add plenty of humor. I even break down dramatic walls for a chuckle, or two, or three, or…
 Donald Trump as president? Another Marty and Doc moment. Now imagine what someone from the future might tell us? I doubt we’d believe them.
 Looking back in history it’s obvious that history has had many absurd moments. We really should have lost the Revolution. Life is equally absurd. What, we haven’t exterminated ourselves yet? The plague, atomic bombs… jeez! Some day someone write a book based on that. Maybe I should?
 People don’t realize how much work writing a book can be. So… maybe not.
 Massive changes seem so absurd. Probably because understanding that the smallest changes are like the proverbial snowball rolling down hill. gathering, muck, sticks, rocks and people rolled over. Watch the The Butterfly Effect sometime. What one thinks would be better has consequences. There’s actual science showing this. Small changes lead to consequential, changes. People continually dismissed and under estimated Adolf Hitler. What if people were a little less irrational about another assassination just before WWI which, looking back now, obviously led to WWII? Or, with a few slight twists, the Axis could now be ruling the world.
 Due an earlier diagnosis; in Autocide, a car company exec lived through what killed him. His name was George Mason, who wanted to put AMC together with Studebaker, and other companies, to compete with the big three. Seems a small thing. That alone probably wouldn’t have saved the companies. But that led to him getting massive help from the richest man in the world who not only is brilliant, but a devious saboteur of other car companies. Well loved by politicians, women and even their angry husbands after they meet him.
 Of course Marcus Vermier, and his son, are fictional, but certainly such a thing could happen. In my book this led to significant changes in society, in America, in the world.
 Example: the company didn’t do business with China, instead the Japanese, the Germans. Causing a shift in international trade, shipments and tourism of any kind away from China. China goes deeper into isolation. So by 2020 COVID hasn’t arrived yet, though if I write a sequel the plan may be for it to hit, but hit even harder.
 Again: slight changes gather lots of moss, to massively rephrase an old Kingston Trio song.
 I love thinking of alternate realities. What if on January 6th, 2021 VP Pence decided to do as the president asked? Harder crack down regarding 1/6, just moving on? Either have possible perils.
 Please don’t write and claim you know. You don’t. I don’t. Partisans on ALL sides probably think they know. But I promise they don’t either. NOTHING plays out exactly as we think it will.
 I am no fan of supernatural answers like time travelers giving the South automatic weapons like Harry Turtledove does in Guns of the South. No need to go to such immensely unlikely extremes. OK, maybe a “need” if it’s for the sake of humor. Which I do quite often in Autocide. I find absurdity, puns and breaking dramatic walls hilarious sources for humor. I tried to construct more sane alternate timeline and save the absurdities for chuckles. I didn’t succeed all the time. Who does?
 History has so many tipping points. With the slightest push we might get a dramatically different result.
 In my own life, looking back, I assume NOTHING. Life leads where it leads. The guy who assumed he simply wasn’t good enough to be an entertainer was good enough, just in an odd way. I do know the smallest decisions led me here to writing Autocide. Not a children’s book written by a retired children’s entertainer.
 Perhaps we should assume that maybe somewhere there in some alternate reality we just stayed in Vietnam or Afghanistan, or never went in. Wouldn’t it be fun to see and compare what ifs?
 That’s all I ever hoped to inspire writing this edition of Inspection, or writing Autocide.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for almost 50 years, first published in fall of 1972. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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