What PoDs Would Create An Unrecognizable World?

By normal standards, the premises we like to discuss in AH circles can seem bemusing and strange. The American Revolution failing, the Central Powers winning World War One, even an inverted Cold War scenario or two where America and Russia play completely “swapped” roles. Certainly, such worlds would be quite different, with the denizens of those TLs probably thinking similarly about us.

And then, there are PoDs that’d take the human story in a completely different direction than anything close to our contemporary frame of reference—no Industrial Revolution, a surviving Roman Republic, or other species of humans continuing to live alongside Homo Sapiens (rather than go extinct, as IOTL). Because of that, the sheer oddness of these alternate worlds make for particularly interesting counterfactuals, which I’d very much like to see more of. To that end, what PoDs have the potential to create an unrecognizable world?

Thank you in advance,
Zyobot
 
The Nuthekrofívotracu post features a pre-historic PoD with a world radically different than our own.

The problem with early PoDs is that it results in a genre shift from alternate history to low fantasy. Historic knowledge becomes useless as you are now worldbuilding a totally new world. It is less appealing to alternate history fans because there is no history.

It also forces you to get clever. People like parallelism in alternate history because it means less work for the author.
 
The Nuthekrofívotracu post features a pre-historic PoD with a world radically different than our own.

The problem with early PoDs is that it results in a genre shift from alternate history to low fantasy. Historic knowledge becomes useless as you are now worldbuilding a totally new world. It is less appealing to alternate history fans because there is no history.

It also forces you to get clever. People like parallelism in alternate history because it means less work for the author.
Thanks for the tip-off. It doesn't seem to have progressed, judging by how old the thread (and world-building contributions in general) is.

Like I said in the OP, the divergence certainly doesn't have to be prehistoric. In fact, I'd imagine that PoD within the last few thousand years or so would be enough, for those who want some familiar themes to crop up on occasion (albeit with a really bizarre spin put on them, just to prevent too much parallelism from seeping in).
 
Generally I would say that what further back POD is that more unrecognsible world is.

And indeed, like previously said, very early POD would be extremely hard when things take totally different path. If you make for example TL where Ilsam never rise world would become so different that author would have big difficulties make some intresting when it would be more like some level of fantasy without magic elements. Readers would have really hard to read such TL. Imaginate if GRRM would had tried make actual AH without dragons and other fantasy elemtns and place that to ours wold. It would be really odd for us.

I think that it is reason why writers prefer relatively rencent POD (after French Revolution) or not try write AH with early POD really far from POD.
 
People like parallelism in alternate history because it means less work for the author.
AN it lets the authors make points, as well as being valuable for foreshadowing and helping to keep the audience grounded.

As for an actual answer- in theory, any random person being struck by lightning within the past 1000 years could probably make the world, to some extent, unrecognizable, due to changing who's born and all that.

Specifically- remove Abraham, David, Jesus, or other important figures in Judeo-Christian religions before they do their big things. Assuming that they existed in forms we'd recognize.
 
I saw a map of a world where the scientific revolution never takes off, and the Americas are never discovered. It's like the year 2500, but there still has been no industrial revolution in the Old World, and the New World is filled with huge metal-working empires.
 
Grain-based agriculture is suppressed, instead animal husbandry is king. Earliest civilizations are massive pastoralist merchant "empires." The divergence itself would be that they eventually assimilate the few grain farmer civs into their own and make them adopt their model instead.

World population much smaller. Global quality over quantity mindset. Don't know how advanced they would be, anything goes. Much healthier diets, though. Meat, fruit, and vegetables, very little of that grain stuff. I think by 2021, a little more advanced than our world technology-wise. Big pushes to industrialize and automate early, for example.

Steak and jelly is a standard dish practically everywhere, and other such unusual flavors. Would be an intriguing world, if utterly alien (but I believe still Indo-European dominated)
 
By normal standards, the premises we like to discuss in AH circles can seem bemusing and strange. The American Revolution failing, the Central Powers winning World War One, even an inverted Cold War scenario or two where America and Russia play completely “swapped” roles. Certainly, such worlds would be quite different, with the denizens of those TLs probably thinking similarly about us.

And then, there are PoDs that’d take the human story in a completely different direction than anything close to our contemporary frame of reference—no Industrial Revolution, a surviving Roman Republic, or other species of humans continuing to live alongside Homo Sapiens (rather than go extinct, as IOTL). Because of that, the sheer oddness of these alternate worlds make for particularly interesting counterfactuals, which I’d very much like to see more of. To that end, what PoDs have the potential to create an unrecognizable world?

Thank you in advance,
Zyobot
The obvious one: No K-T extinction event. Not only no humans, but most modern animal and plant, and even microbial, lineages would not exist. Allowing for 65 million years of evolution, life looks nothing like it does in the Cretaceous either. A completely separate and alien global ecology.
 
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The obvious one: No K-T extinction event.
This fits within the point I made earlier about genre shift. Just as a PoD in the prehistoric Holocene resembles low fantasy, a PoD prior to human evolution fits better within the spec evo genre rather than alternate history.

A completely separate and alien global ecology.
I don't think it would be that different. Going back to the Cretaceous era there was stuff that wouldn't look too out of place in modern day.

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Admittedly some animals did look like they were from another planet.

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I think avoiding the Permian extinction might be more interesting. It was truly an alien world then: therapsids existed, mammals laid eggs, and giant insects & fungus were still around. The only thing that would not be out of place today would be turtles, sharks, and horseshoe crabs.
 
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You don't even need that early POD to get unrecognsible world.. Probably you can do that with whatever POD before Thirty Years War.
Not so sure about that... by the time you're creeping up on 1618, would have to be a pretty major POD to make the world completely unrecognizable to the one we know today. If you were to, say, look at maps of linguistic and religious distribution in 1600 (at least for the Old World), you'd see quite a few similarities to the distributions today...
 
The Nuthekrofívotracu post features a pre-historic PoD with a world radically different than our own.

The problem with early PoDs is that it results in a genre shift from alternate history to low fantasy. Historic knowledge becomes useless as you are now worldbuilding a totally new world. It is less appealing to alternate history fans because there is no history.

It also forces you to get clever. People like parallelism in alternate history because it means less work for the author.
Generally I would say that what further back POD is that more unrecognsible world is.

And indeed, like previously said, very early POD would be extremely hard when things take totally different path. If you make for example TL where Ilsam never rise world would become so different that author would have big difficulties make some intresting when it would be more like some level of fantasy without magic elements. Readers would have really hard to read such TL. Imaginate if GRRM would had tried make actual AH without dragons and other fantasy elemtns and place that to ours wold. It would be really odd for us.

I think that it is reason why writers prefer relatively rencent POD (after French Revolution) or not try write AH with early POD really far from POD.
Maybe if you carry it all the way to the modern day, but I don't recall somebody going from a POD as far away as the birth of Islam to the present day without a lot of simplification and massive amounts of butterfly genocide, within the scope of the time period in question it can be quite worthy AH if done right.
 
A list that I think would create an unrecognizaeable world:-
1. Carthage winning the Punic Wars destroying Rome.
2. Continuation of the Hellenistic Age.
3. Survival of the Macedonian Empire for more than just one ruler. Even two or three would create massive butterflies.
4. The Sassanids winning the last Roman-Persian War.
5. The Islamic Invasions don't happen.
6. Conversely the Islamic invasions are even more successful taking Italy and France.
7. Christianity failing to penetrate the Germanic and Slavic pagans and is thus limited to the Mediterranean world.
8. Buddha's prophecy of either being a great teacher or conqueror slides towards the great conqueror path instead of the teacher path.
And much more. These are the ones that I can think on the top of my head.
 
I think that it is reason why writers prefer relatively rencent POD (after French Revolution) or not try write AH with early POD really far from POD.
You are being generous. The pre-1900 sub-forum has 1.7 million posts compared to the post-1900 sub-forum's 2.5 million. Only a handful of threads are pre Norman conquest.

Not so sure about that... by the time you're creeping up on 1618, would have to be a pretty major POD to make the world completely unrecognizable to the one we know today. If you were to, say, look at maps of linguistic and religious distribution in 1600 (at least for the Old World), you'd see quite a few similarities to the distributions today...
I guess the question is what defines unrecognizable.

But you are right, 1618 was just before Mayflower. It is entirely likely that an English-speaking democracy could arise on the eastern seaboard of North America. That is to say that a pre Thirty Years War PoD might not even butterfly away the United States. It definitely wouldn't butterfly Mexico or Brazil. Most modern European identities already existed. Clearly a very broad definition of 'unrecognizable.'

Here is a map of Eurasia in 1618.
1627781719752.png

A lot of these states still exist, albeit under different forms of government.

Here is what I would consider unrecognizable worlds.
the_united_realms_of_gwoboroh_by_goliath_maps_dchm351-fullview.jpg

delgbk7-f6e63b54-8646-47d4-803c-1e71eba91d33.png

earth_wars_by_beedok_d95avt3-fullview.jpg
 
Geological POD:
A alien "humanity"(not in the sense of being from space) would create the strangest "world" in the sense of culture-cosmovision.
Let's say another species develops sentience and the homo sapiens as we know them are butterflied away. Bam, you have a world filled with not-humans who'd be as shocked at the sight of us as we'd be shocked at the sight of them.
That's as unrecognizable as it can get while keeping the existence of intelligent beings capable of experiencing it, but if we dont care about that and you want a unrecognizable world(in the literal sense of the word) then you can go even further with a POD changing the fundamental laws of physics(that would also butterfly away life) which would do just that.
 
Maybe not a totally unrecognizable world, but one that would be a big cultural jump nonethless while also having a extremely recent POD:
A successful version of Esperanto and the Interlingua takes off.
Imagine all international relations, economically or diplomatically, being done in Esperanto. It being taught at schools, this very forum being writen with it.
Now imagine the entire Europe adopting a latim 2.0, suddenly the whole meme of the EU being the Neo-Roman Empire is not meme, the whole upper class of the continent speaks it and it is being taught at schools of every european country as a secondary language alongside(or as an alternative to) Esperanto itself.
 
The West is the current dominant culture with the basis of western civilization being a mix of Romans, Greek, and Abrahamic influences. Removing those three would create a very different world.
 
1) Domestication of dogs thousands of years earlier, ending the conflict between homo sapiens and neanderthals at a much earlier date.
2) Introducing fishing much earlier in any place where there are rivers. Spear fishing could have happened earlier leading to much earlier human settlements.
3) Have the Austronesian expansion spread better boats much wider to include places like Egypt and India.
4) Have Archimedes not die by Roman hands. This allows the full development of the Antikythera device.
5) Have better connections between Harappa and Ur. Have the people of Ur discover how to travel to India, not just having the Harappans travel to Ur. Have the Mesopotamians introduce cuneiform to Harappa and have the Harappans improve city plannning, wells, and hygiene.
6) Have a successful reed boat route trade route between Memphis in Egypt, and Varna in Bulgaria for gold and copper at a very early date.
 
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