It’s not the sole province of dictators and totalitarian regimes. Alternate History is also a niche subgenre of science fiction that takes actual historical events and either reimagines them or takes them off the rails. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, is an example of the former. What I want to talk about today is one from the latter category.
The Man in the High Castle.
What if the Axis powers had won WWII? What would that have looked like? Philip K. Dick wrote a book that attempted to crack that nut, and it spawned an Amazon Prime original television series that I highly recommend.
In the dystopian view of the WWII aftermath, in the early-to-mid-1960’s, we see America divided into three regions. In the East, the American Reich. On the west coast, we find the Japanese Pacific States. Between the two, roughly what amounts to the Mountain Time Zone, is a lawless neutral buffer zone where old west ideals seem to carry the day.
In America under Nazi rule, order and discipline reign and cast a veneer of respectability over an engine of fear and torture, and where Nazi collaborators oppress their own people and continue their eugenics efforts under orders from Berlin.
Down the Pacific coast, an America as second-class citizens, bullied by racist occupation forces in San Fransico that can’t stamp out sedition hard enough to quell underground rebellions.
Eventually, Dick incorporates sci-fi elements that give the inhabitants of these bleak, occupied lands hope for a different future. But before that, it’s a brilliant piece of (often horrifying) world-building. I still shudder to think of the Reich coopting fireworks, summer cookouts, and apple pie as Nazi children with American accents celebrate the death of the United States a generation after the end of the war.
Also, the opening theme song is haunting.
I highly suggest checking it out. The 4-season show ran to its conclusion, so it’s binge-ready and won’t leave you hanging.