Discussion in 'Alternate History Books and Media' started by xxmagex, Jan 15, 2015.
One problem is . . . hasn't democracy failed? There isn't' even a US in a Cold War. It's just gone.
Over at the popular conservative American political blog Hot Air, there's an interesting criticism of TMITHC over suspension of disbelief by its primary scribe, Allahpundit:
At which point his critique gets completely spoilery, so you must go there to read his concern. (Is there an expiration point for spoilers here, by the way?)
I think there's an answer to this, an answer which unpacks why The Man in the High Castle is more than just an alternate history tale. With Philip K. Dick, things are never so simple, and it's why his story is more interesting and thought provoking than a mere conventional alt-history work like, say, Fatherland or TL-191.
The suspension of disbelief needed with the book as well as the show The Man in the High Castle actually isn't history taking a different fork. Rather, it's the connection between the multiple timelines which more than one character (Tagomi, Abendsen, etc.) can make use of. After all: A world in which the Axis wins World War II is, as I think we all know, merely implausible, not utterly impossible. You don't need Alien Space Bats to get Germany and Japan a win (though it helps); you do not need to change the laws of physics, introduce an alien intervention, or invent some unprecedented virus that, say, transforms humans into walking corpses. All you need is one or more human beings making a different choice, or taking a different action, at some key point. (In any event, the plausibility factor is improved, at least in Dick's version, by the fact that his point of departure is set back in the early 30's, rather than, say, 1940 or 1942.) In other words, The Walking Dead's suspension of disbelief is its very premise; whereas High Castle's suspension is not its premise, but the twist about the nature of reality it unloads deep into the story. The ability of Hawthorne Abendsen, and later other characters, to flip back and forth between different timelines and even take artifacts back with them is what requires a real suspension of disbelief. Because no one we know has this ability, nor can we conceive how it would even be possible.
Of course, some people might say even the very idea of alternate history requires some suspension of disbelief. It's either too wacky a notion to accept, or they're historical determinists of some kind... But I don't think such people visit this forum.
Allahpundit poses some other interesting criticisms (mainly related to John Smith), but none are as fundamental as this one.
Watched it, enjoyed it. What I didn't like was the stuff after the resolution of the main plot in the last episode and the ham-fisted attempt to set up the next season. Felt very unfocused and left me with a negative last impression despite an otherwise good season.
In a hypothetical war, they won't be destroying each other, only Japan and its territories will be destroyed. Some of Germany's territories, like the Americas, will receive some damage from conventional Japanese strikes, while Europe I believe will remain completely unscathed, since Japan neither has nukes nor long range missiles. The reason we should be concerned is that a Germany victory over japan may very well mean the extermination of all non-Aryan peoples on the planet. Japan, for all its vicious brutality and barbaric cruelty, at least allowed the various races in its territories to exist, albeit in almost slave-like conditions.
Though I do wonder, what exactly is holding back Germany from just nuking Japan off the face of the earth, if Japan has no means to retaliate? I have a hard time believing that Hitler would be so honorable towards the Japanese if he has a golden opportunity to wipe them out and become the sole leader of the planet.
Because he was operating off his Mein Kampf script, and that script didn't really devote any thought to East or South Asia. His main focus was on grabbing Lebensraum from Posen to the Urals. German settlement of such a vast area was a multi-generation project as it was. (Killing off the Slavs wasn't the hard part. Finding enough Aryische people to settle and develop it was.)
And if Dick is right to post a vast German project to *also* settle and develop Africa as well . . . Germany has plenty to keep it busy.
In any event, even with von Braun being given free rein to develop his missile program, Germany won't have the kind of long range missile force (land or sea based) until....well, the late 50's at the absolute earliest. And even then, they only have fission bombs, which don't deliver the punch per dollar that multi-stage bombs do.
What's more surprising is that the Japanese haven't undertaken a crash course in atomic research the moment they're able and aware of the German project. Japan *did* have some capable physicists during the war. With control of Australia, they'd have access to the uranium. It's not at all inconceivable that a top priority Japanese atomic research program could deliver a basic fission bomb by the mid-50's. They won't be able to keep up with the Germans - certainly not in ballistic missile capabilities! - but they could reasonably have at least a small nuclear stockpile, deliverable by a modest long range bomber force to German targets in the Americas and parts of Russia and Africa, perhaps.
P.S. I don't want to be too hard on Philip K. Dick (whose roadmap seems to be generally followed by the showrunners), since developing a plausible alternate history timeline was a secondary concern for him in writing this book. He himself admitted that any Axis victory was not terribly plausible.
Yeah this puzzled me as well, I thought at first that the "Heisenberg Device" referred to the H-Bomb but the idea that Japan's talented pool of physicists wouldn't be able to make an A-Bomb for over a decade without espionage seems a bit silly, especially with Japan becoming a superpower.
One more possibility: it might be an ideological thing. After all, in OTL, Hitler repeatedly and very consistently expressed the idea that life was (meant to be) a constant struggle. He may simply believe, on a fundamental level, that Japan is a worthy 'rival', that must be around to always challenge the Aryans. To keep them on guard and in shape. The people who want to get rid of Japan once and for all in the show clearly desire an "end of history" (except with nazi totalitarianism rather than liberal democracy as the final stage), and believe that when the Aryans have united the world, "the real work can begin". It's conceivable that Hitler just doesn't see that as a healthy goal, and genuinely believes that victory would lead to "victor's disease" (complacency and thus weakness). Hitler may just want an everlasting cold war instead. And that's exactly the reason that some people want him out of the way already!
I would really like some more information concerning Italy and the American South next season. I mean, I would like information regarding many places, but as an America-focused show, I think I can expect some examination of the south. Then again, maybe the showrunners don't want to touch that with a ten-foot pole because ironically enough it would be too divisive for modern American audiences.
One thing I notice is that in Dick's book, even the most enlightened of characters slips into racist invective on occasion, but even the most 'bad guy' protagonists in the show don't spout off racist insults or dogma, presumably because they'd go from anti-villains to straight-up villains in the eyes of modern viewers. Doesn't seem very honest in a world ruled by virulently racist ideology however. I prefer Dick's 'ordinary people who are sympathetic despite casual racism' route.
I want more references to Italy because it would go a long way in explaining Nazi Germany's position in Europe as opposed to 'giant blob on a map with a swastika on it'. Literal Nazi world-states irritate me, so I hope they're not going that route. I probably don't like the idea due to conspiracy theorists' constant invocation of the so-called NWO and the general naivity and paranoid self-obsession of it (why would the Nazis want to directly annex the US? - but I guess the horse has already bolted on that one given it's the key premise of Dick's book).
I agree, in the books Italy and even neutrals like Sweden and Spain where somewhat covered. It would be nice if the same could be done in the Show.
Well in season one Swedish neutrality was alluded to as that was the assumed identity and passport which allowed the smuggling of the specifications of the atomic weapon to the Japanese, since Swedish neutrality allowed for traveling to the Pacific States.
I didn't find that too unrealistic. The Nazis aren't OTLneo-Nazis, who are motivated by edginess as much as anything else and so would have incentive to spout of racist thoughts at every possible opportunity. Nazi ideology in Nazi Germany is accepted and everybody is presumed to believe it. In this world, it won, and the Reich proper no longer has a problem with the "lesser races." Nobody would go around telling people about "those damn Jews, look how Nazi I am" unless they were a (bad) Japanese spy.
A blink and you'll miss it piece of worldbuilding was this scene with the Concordes. They all have flags of "foreign" states on them. I can identify the UK and Mengjiang, but what are those other two flags? Click the image for the full resolution image.
You know, I completely missed that. Good eye.
They really do seem to have gone the extra mile on some of the world building. I hope this proves the new gold standard for future alt-history dramatizations.
P.S. One thing that bugs me only mildly is that the architecture in Nazi locales (esp. Berlin) sometimes has a bit too much of a modernist flair - the modernist flair of our 1960's. It might make a little more sense in an airport, but we shouldn't forget how traditional Hitler's architectural tastes were and just how much of a mania he had for overseeing new building projects, and any major building in Berlin is going to have to gain his approval.
Certainly the allies wasn't lost without a good fight.
Certainly, those from East Coast who didn't meet the Nazi racial criteria and were unable to flee to Japanese/Neutral zone or Mexico , Nazis put them into extermination camps
With American assistance as in Turtledove's IPOME most likely.
But people will resort to childish racist name-calling when frustrated. Still, part of the book's better exploration of racism is that in a book you can read characters' internal monologues, which is where racist attitudes are more likely to be fully-expressed. From The Atlantic:
"This is nowhere more clear than in the novel's treatment of race. In the TV pilot, the bad guys are racists, and the good guys are not. Frank’s wife, Juliana Frink (Alexa Davalos), makes it clear that she opposes the racial laws that threaten her husband and that she harbors no racist feelings toward the Japanese conquerors. But in the book, things are a lot murkier. Juliana and Frank are estranged, and in her internal monologue she sneers at him for liking "Japs" and for being "ugly" with "large pores" and a "big nose." Another character who doesn’t appear in the pilot, the salesman R. Childan, vacillates between obsequious paeans to Japanese racial superiority and resentful, vicious Orientalist stereotyping. Even Mr. Tagomi, the Japanese official who is the moral center of the book in most respects, lapses occasionally into racist invective—"white barbarian. Neanderthal yank. That subhuman …"— although he regrets it almost immediately."
The closest thing to a protagonist in the TV show who expresses overt racism is probably Frink, and even in that storyline this season, the show uses 'Pon' as though they're scared to use Jap or Nip. Plus, you know, he has to have a nisei girlfriend to work through it and make sure you don't think he's too sincerely prejudiced. In all of Joe's hand-wringing about his allegiance, he sidesteps whether he shares the Nazis' values (one of the largest parts of which was their racial ideology) and makes it purely a matter of personal allegiance. As already mentioned, Juliana is practically saintly in her forgiveness and lack of racism despite her mother's Japanophobia, the murder of her sister, and personally witnessing the mass grave where her sister lies. The time Tagomi comes closest is when he observes that his son in OTL really does act like an American and intends it as a criticism but is otherwise allophilic in his home timeline. Childan is a craven sycophant, and even his racism is cleaned up from the novel. In the novel, he superficially sucks up to the Japanese and acknowledges how cultured they are as his customers but is still actually condescending towards them in his thoughts and reserves his true admiration for the Nazis and German culture. This is only hinted at in show when he expresses a preference for German classical composers.
Note that in OTL during 30's (and during WW2) there was a lot of people that sympathized with the Nazi Germany in America
see the video
Yeah - for all the the show is trying to provoke viewers with what an America under Axis occupation would be like, the real prejudice is confined almost entirely to Axis antagonists or minor characters. There's a real reluctance to employ much at all in any of the main protagonists. As if the showrunners are reluctant to alienate audiences - I mean, this is 2016 we're talking about.
And unfortunately, it seems to be of a piece with why the protagonist characters of this otherwise impressive series are rather underwhelming. Tagomi and Smith (and even Smith's wife) are easily the most interesting characters to date. Frink seems to be the most fleshed out, but he's also rather unsympathetic at the same time. Trying to get a handle on Juliana's or Joe's personalities and motivations is like walking in a dense fog.
The Nazi characters, at least, aren't really put in a position where racist name calling would make sense. They're mostly talking to other Germans or white Americans. The one part that sticks out is Joe's friendliness to the black ship crew and
regret that they got killed by the Nazis.
The again, I think breaking from the Nazis for ideological reasons is where his arc ultimately goes.
As for Chilldan, I remember him voicing very negative things about the Japanese in Season 1. I can't remember too well, though.[/spoiler]
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