pageok
pageok
pageok
A Low Grade for the Man in the High Castle:

Amber Taylor gives a thumbs down to Philip K. Dick's classic science fiction/alternate history novel, The Man in the High Castle, which is set in a world where the Axis won World War II and the US has been conquered and divided between Germany and Japan. I tend to agree. Dick's book is high on my list of most overrated genre classics of all time.

The idea of an Axis victory alternate history was somewhat more original back in 1962 (when the book was written) then it would be today. But Dick's execution was flawed in many, many ways. The characters are implausible, the alternate history scenario even more so. It is just barely possible to imagine the Axis winning World War II despite the many advantages of the Allies. It is utterly implausible to imagine them being able to conquer and occupy the entire US by 1947. Dick's benign portrayal of the Japanese occupation is belied by the horrendous record of the actual Japanese empire of the 1940s. And all the references to the I Ching quickly become annoying without (as far as I can tell) making any genuinely interesting points or advancing the plot.

For a much better Germany-wins-WWII alternate history novel, see Robert Harris' Fatherland.

Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I agree that Fatherland is much better. Another interesting book of this genre, though not of the same depth and complexity as Fatherland, is Jake Page's Apacheria, in which the Apaches fend off the United States and form a sovereign and equal nation.
4.25.2008 3:34am
Jim Hu:
Haven't read the classic from Dick, but regarding the statement:
It is just barely possible to imagine the Axis winning World War II despite the many advantages of the Allies.

I recommend this nonfiction book by Richard Overy. Overy points out that had the Germans been able to harness the economic outputs of the conquered territory at the peak of their expansion... and if the Russians had not been as effective in moving their heavy industry, those advantages might not have been so great.

Similarly, many have noted that a fair amount of luck went our way at Midway.
4.25.2008 3:43am
FC:
Bill Poser:

Vide supra re "utterly implausible."
4.25.2008 3:48am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Even in the event of an Axis victory, I am skeptical as to a scenario in which Japan ended up ruling a large part of the United States. For one thing, Japan's industrial capacity was nearly exhausted, so an Axis victory would have been basically a German victory. I think that Germany would have taken most of the spoils. Secondly, Japan had no territorial ambitions in the US. The only reason that Japan attacked the US at Pearl Harbor was because Japan needed to control the Indonesian oil fields and had to preempt a US counterattack. A more realistic scenario than the one in The Man in the High Castle is one in which most of the US was ruled by Germany, with Japan taking Hawaii and perhaps a bit of the West Coast.
4.25.2008 3:52am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
FC,

I didn't say Apacheria was very plausible, just interesting.
4.25.2008 3:54am
NickM (mail) (www):
Off with his head.

Nick
4.25.2008 4:18am
Roy:
I agree Man in the High Castle is overrated, but at the time it was pretty amazing, and it is amazingly influential. Almost all alternate history from before the 70s is pretty awful as literature, and it really stands out, but if you cxonsider the other two highly regarded alt history titles L. Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall, really a straight remake of Connecticut Yankee, and Ward Moore's Bring the Jubilee (1952), It is by far the best book in a literary sense.

Fatherland is a nice little thriller, but it too is overrated, Harry Turtledove's In the Presence of Mine Enemies has a better realized Third Reich and it is typical hack Turtledove work. Personally my favorite Nazi's win alt history has to be Brad Linaweaver's Moon of Ice, a genuinely spooky and disturbing story told from the perspective of one of Goebbels' daughters.
4.25.2008 4:57am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
I haven't read this particular book, but the review doesn't surprise me. Dick seems to be one of the most consistantly over-rated SF authors around.
4.25.2008 4:59am
Peter Metcalfe (mail):
<i>Dick's benign portrayal of the Japanese occupation is belied by the horrendous record of the actual Japanese empire of the 1940s.</i>

That's not all that persuasive. The Nazis with their appalling record and philosophy nevertheless allowed parliamentary elections and government in Denmark until 1943.

Likewise one can draw a distinction between the behaviour of the Soviet Army towards civilians during the war (where you were considered lucky if they only beat you up once) and the milder (but still pointlessly unpleasant) regimes they established in Eastern Europe after the war.

A case can be made in which Philip K. Dick's Japanese became kinder and gentler after the war but it's information that it would be fun to find in the book and we all know that Philip couldn't put plausible historical detail into his novels.
4.25.2008 5:14am
Peter Metcalfe (mail):
For interesting alternate history (although in a direction other than a Nazi Victory) there's Norman Spinrad's The Iron Dream
4.25.2008 5:16am
one of many:
The problem with reading Dick now is not that he is overrated but that everything he did which was novel has been redone by other people enough that his works seem to be poor examples of the subgenres which he created. Most Dick is confused (try A Scanner Darkly if you want really confused) but why Dick is considered important is not because he did it well but because he did it at all, much like a woman voting. People who find the I Ching references annoying doubtlessly are doing so because of the now well established conventions of "alternate history" which don't deal with interacting parallel universes (how does the universe deal with Schrodinger's cat?), something which was part of The Man In The High Castle and which developed into a different subgenre (see Moorcock's Elric saga for an example) - the I Ching points to the whole multiple universes coexisting and the same up to random factors causing divergence. After Dick there grew two major subgenres of which The Man In The High Castle is a poor example of either, "multiverse" and "alternative history".
4.25.2008 5:49am
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
A more realistic scenario than the one in The Man in the High Castle is one in which most of the US was ruled by Germany, with Japan taking Hawaii and perhaps a bit of the West Coast.

Um ... That was the situation in The Man in the High Castle The Japanese controlled the Pacific States of America (presumably California, Oregon, and Washington). The Germans controlled the rump U.S.A. (most of the country from the East Coast out to the western edge of the Great Plains). Canada and the Rocky Mountain States of America were independent but pretty much powerless. I seem to recall a reference to an independent South, but I'd have to reread the book to verify that, and my copy is packed away.

The point of departure in Dick's novel was the assassination attempt on Roosevelt in February 1933. In the novel Roosevelt had been killed, and John Nance Garner succeeded to the presidency. As a result, the United States was far less prepared for war.
4.25.2008 6:18am
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
People who find the I Ching references annoying doubtlessly are doing so because of the now well established conventions of "alternate history" which don't deal with interacting parallel universes ...

The I Ching is essential to the novel for several reasons. One of my favorite elements of the story was The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, the book-within-the-book that was a controversial best-seller in Dick's world. It was an alternate history novel in which the U.S. and Britain had won World War II. Its author had written it by extensively consulting the I Ching (as, in fact, Dick had written The Man in the High Castle).

At one point in Dick's novel, a couple of his characters ask the I Ching about The Grasshopper Lies Heavy... and are informed that it depicts reality, and that their own world is imaginary. But the world of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is not our world ... a nice twist.
4.25.2008 6:35am
Arkady:
Len Deighton's SS-GB is well worth a read.
4.25.2008 8:29am
Alan Solot:
Philip Roth's <i>The Plot against America</i>
4.25.2008 8:57am
Alan Solot:
Philip Roth's <i>The Plot against America</i>
4.25.2008 8:57am
ERH:
PKD's the Man in the High Castle was good but I agree Fatherland was superior. However if Time Out of Joint, is probably Dick's most under-read and under-rated book.
4.25.2008 9:04am
PeteRR (mail):
A more likely scenario is Guderian taking Moscow in October of '41, instead of turning Southwest to complete the encirclement of Kiev. Without the ability to shift reinforcements from north to south, Russia falls within 6 months. Britain, all alone, sues for peace with Churchill forced from office. The US concentrates all of her might against the Japanese and they are defeated. The Anglo powers then enter a period of cold war against Germany throughout the Middle East, SE Asia, and South America.
4.25.2008 9:24am
Frog Leg (mail):
If you think the plot of The Man in the High Castle is an alternative history, you completely missed the point of the novel.
4.25.2008 9:34am
corneille1640 (mail):
I confess to not having read any of the books in question. I will say that PeteRR's scenario seems the most plausible. I also believe it highly unlikely that Nazi Germany would have been able to actually occupy the United States.
4.25.2008 9:36am
Frog Leg (mail):
The I Ching was just an annoyance to you? The novel went completely over your head.
4.25.2008 9:52am
Just Dropping By (mail):
I agree with "one of many" above. Dick suffers from the same problem as Lovecraft -- his work was so influential and has been copied so much that for later readers it seems derivative and uncreative because they've been exposed to numerous "Dickian" (or "Lovecraftian") style works before they ever encounter the originals.
4.25.2008 9:57am
Happyshooter:
Luck or no, it still took the US until mid-45 to make enough gators to allow a landing on the home islands. The US could and did far outproduce Japan.

Japan just didn't have the yard space to construct a meaningful amphib fleet, the invasion of the PI was as much as they were ever able to do and that was in early 42.

Even if the US lost Midway, and the Alaskian Islands and Pearl Harbor, they just did not have the means to effect and support a foothold landing on the west coast.

At most, they could maybe have started into Alaska, but the season there is so short I don't see how they could have gotten far.

Maybe if we lost at Midway, and lost Pearl, and Hitler pushed into England...and Japan and Germany linked up for a push into Panama in the 1950s after signing a peace treaty with the US in 44, maybe then.
4.25.2008 10:11am
David Hecht (mail):
You may want to check out Uchronia (http://www.uchronia.net/), a website that is a compendium of published and prospective alt-hist works.

I see at least 500 items referred to where the "divergence point" (their term for where the alt-hist diverges from ours) is between 1918 and 1945. Not all of those will be "What if the Axis had won WW2?" works, but they do say that it is one of the two most explored topics (the other being "What if the South had won the Civil War?").
4.25.2008 10:13am
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):
It was pretty much impossible for the Germans to defeat the Soviets, so the first point of departure would have to be Hitler refraining from Barbarossa. Without the Russian distraction, it would've been much harder for the Anglosphere to win the West, but just to make sure you'd need (A) the Normandy Invasion to fail, perhaps due to weather, (B) Hitler not to declare war on the US after Pearl Harbor, or (C) the Brits to give up and sue for peace after Dunkirk. Note that none of these would've resulted in a German-occupied US any time soon.

On the Japanese side, they would've had to catch the entire American fleet, including carriers, at Pearl Harbor and sunk most of the ships. That would probably prevent Midway and given the Japanese control of the Pacific for several years.
4.25.2008 10:25am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Based on the title, I thought that this post was about President Bush.
4.25.2008 10:25am
Anderson (mail):
Similarly, many have noted that a fair amount of luck went our way at Midway.

True, but suppose we'd lost our 3 carriers at Midway. The likely result would've been a huge outcry against "Germany First" and a focus of our efforts on the Pacific theater -- which would've led to the Japanese's being defeated a lot earlier than August 1945. (N.b. we didn't need A-bombs to break the Japanese -- blockade would've done it, at similar cost in dead noncombatants. The Japanese were very afraid of a Red revolution in case of blockade.)

Assuming we could still send enough trucks &stuff to the Soviets, I think they defeat Hitler regardless, though it might've taken longer and they might've ended up with the Iron Curtain pushed farther west.

-- But Dick is not terribly interested in working out the counterfactuals to the nth degree. It's not that kind of book, and shouldn't be judged that way.
4.25.2008 10:42am
htom (mail):
There are people who just should not read science fiction, I suppose, and concentrate on mainstream literature; then their ignorance of the history of science fiction won't disturb their slumbers.
4.25.2008 10:47am
rmark:
http://www.combinedfleet.com/economic.htm
4.25.2008 11:03am
Smallholder (mail) (www):
Haven't read the classic from Dick, but regarding the statement:

It is just barely possible to imagine the Axis winning World War II despite the many advantages of the Allies.

Jim Hu wrote:

I recommend this nonfiction book by Richard Overy. Overy points out that had the Germans been able to harness the economic outputs of the conquered territory at the peak of their expansion... and if the Russians had not been as effective in moving their heavy industry, those advantages might not have been so great.

Similarly, many have noted that a fair amount of luck went our way at Midway.

My take on Overy's book was that the differences between mobilization and everything else were structural; as such they were inevitable. I think Overy's book storngly supports the idea that an Axis victory was inevitable.

As to Midway, it might have shortened the war by a couple of months, but even an American catastrophe would have had minimal long term effects. American carriers were rolling off the drydocks. Japan could not win.
4.25.2008 11:07am
Neal Goldfarb (mail) (www):
The problem with The Man in the High Castle is that it's implausible? Of course it's implausible. It's Philip K. Dick.
4.25.2008 11:29am
Benjamin Davis (mail):
Dissing Philip Dick? Now them's really fighting words. Having spent way too much money on his works, anyone here like the Game Players of Titan? Or the VALIS series. Man in the High Castle was just a great read. He had a really great series of short stories that were science fiction/horror. Like the one story where people go to a planet and things are replicated and attack them? Or the one with everyone turns into an identical version of the same person? Very moving stories.
Best,
Ben
4.25.2008 11:32am
Carolina:

It was pretty much impossible for the Germans to defeat the Soviets, so the first point of departure would have to be Hitler refraining from Barbarossa.


I'm not sure this is true.

Had the 1939 Battle of Khalkin Gol (between the USSR and Japan) been a decisive Japanese victory, the Japanese wanted to grab Siberia and probably would have done so. Stalin would have been forced to send much of his military to the Eastern borders of the USSR to fight the Japanese. When the Nazi attack came, the USSR would have been in a much worse spot (much of it's army on the far side of the country fighting the Japanese) and fighting two enemies instead of one.

It is certainly conceivable the USSR would have fallen under this scenario.
4.25.2008 11:35am
PeteRR (mail):
Sean O'Hara sez:
It was pretty much impossible for the Germans to defeat the Soviets,

You're seriously underestimating how devastating the German attack was in the summer of '41. The Russians were defenseless. Guderian paused after taking Smolensk in September. At that point there was not only no Russian defensive crust between him and Moscow, but no Red Army units of any kind. His plan was to renew his attack after a short two week pause for replenishment. We know now that the Russians could do nothing in that time to prepare for his next attack. When Hitler ordered him to help Rundstedt's Army Group South instead, the German threw away their one real chance of defeating the Soviet Untion.

And taking Moscow, unlike in Napoleon's time, was the real goal. All of the rail, supply, and political infrastructure in the Western portion of the Soviet Union ran through Moscow. With Moscow taken, Leningrad could not be reinforced and would fall. The troops coming from the Far East would not have Moscow to organize and rest in before being sent West or north or south to counter the Wermacht.
4.25.2008 11:37am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
According to the authors of "A War to Be Won", Germany's successes stressed their logistical system to its limits. You have to posit more steel (it would have taken at least 10,000 tons of steel to convert a walking infantry division with its horsedrawn transport to a mech infantry division of the early model), which means more coal, etc. At the time, the Germans were trying to make do with substitutes. And without mech infantry, they lose. At one point, they were carrying gasoline on camels. Couldn't afford the gas to carry the gas to the line units.

Arkady: I found SS-GB to be good in that it was both plausible and depressing.

John Steinbeck wrote a book, "The Moon is Down", presuming we lost, as did Stephen Benet, whose title escapes me. Something like "Judgment of The Mountains". Both were written during the war. It's worth remembering that we were not guaranteed to win. When my father took over his first platoon at Ft. Carson, with their poor equipment and sloppy uniforms, he wasn't sure who would win.

There's a story that, at Desert Center, near where Ft. Irwin now is, the transport issues were so serious that the Army drafted some senior movement guys from Ringling Brothers, gave them an extensive liquor ration and told them to do it. Because Ringling Brothers, with all their traveling circuses, moved more people more places than the Army was used to.

We probably wouldn't have been occupied. But that's not to say the Germans and the Japanese would not have been victorious overseas and put huge pressure on us.
4.25.2008 11:53am
Temp Guest (mail):
Don't discount the chances Germany could have won WW II. If Hitler had not made several decisive mistakes in WW II, it is likely that he could have conquered all of Europe. First, he withheld German troops from attacking the defeated allied armies at Dunkirk. Had he done so, he would have effectively eliminated all resistance to his armies in the West Europe theater. Second, he did not invade England after concentrating his air attacks on British air force resources. Third, when he opened his Russian front he failed to take advantage of the ordinary Russian's hatred of the communists. If he had attacked Russia as a liberator rather than a destroyer of Slavs, he could probably have won the Eastern front war in a matter of months. Failing this he might still have conquered Russia if he had not divided his attack into three separate ones (a violation of basic military principles). It's also worth noting that the German armies in WW II were NEVER defeated unless they were outnumbered by more than two to one.

Japan, on the other hand, never stood a chance against the US, let alone the US, British, and Nationalist Chinese combined. If Germany had taken Russia out of the war, Japan would have been in even worse shape, since Mao's sabotage of Nationalist Chinese efforts against the Japanese would have been vitiated.

The Man in the High Castle is a great SciFi novel for all the reasons mentioned by other bloggers. Even besides its pioneering of themes and techniques it explores many subtle ideas that the casual reader is likely to miss. If you think you are smart and literate and like scifi and you didn't like it on a first read or a quick re-read, I suggest that you give it another chance.
4.25.2008 12:01pm
wm13:
I used to think Hitler was crazy to attack Russia, but, after 1989, I don't think so. We saw two Russian regimes collapse in the 20th century, which leads me to suspect that the Stalinist regime was actually more fragile than anyone guessed in the immediate aftermath of WWII. Since revolutions aren't easy to predict, I think we'll never know what increment of German pressure would have been necessary to produce a Soviet collapse, but it seems plausible that Hitler came close. Perhaps the capture of Moscow or Leningrad, or the destruction of a few more Soviet divisions, would have pushed Stalin's government over the brink.

Without Russian help, Britain and the U.S. could never have defeated Germany and Japan, though that doesn't mean that the U.S. would have been occupied.
4.25.2008 12:05pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
It is just barely possible to imagine the Axis winning World War II despite the many advantages of the Allies.
Barely? Perhaps. But had Hitler kept going West after Dunkirk, taking Britain and Ireland and keeping Russia neutral, it would have been very interesting for the Allies to have staged their African battles and European landings from New York City.
It is utterly implausible to imagine them being able to conquer and occupy the entire US by 1947.
Or ever. Way too many square miles. Way too many U.S. gun owners. Even with a strong German sentiment in the U.S., no invasion across the Atlantic or Pacific could have succeeded. Britain, OTOH, was much smaller and, after Dunkirk, disarmed. U.S. gun owners donated boatloads of privately-owned firearms to replace the home guard's pitchforks and broom handles.
typical hack Turtledove work.
I mostly agree. But Harry's short story The Last Article pitting Gandhi against a Nazi occupation gives me chills every time I read it.
As to Midway, it might have shortened the war by a couple of months, but even an American catastrophe would have had minimal long term effects. American carriers were rolling off the drydocks. Japan could not win.
True. The only way for Japan to "win" would have been not to attack Pearl Harbor. Had the U.S. dithered another year or two, then concentrated on the "real" problems in Europe, Japan could have expanded into an empire and, for a time, held on to the captured territory.

In the long run, however, both were historically too late. Advancing technology facilitates revolution, so neither Japan nor Germany had the manpower to become another Rome or Britain.
4.25.2008 12:10pm
Moon:
Dick basically states in the book that his alternative history is bunk. The actual man in the high castle in the novel is the author of an alternative history that imagines a world in which the allies had won the war, and his alternative history is not our own. I read the book a long time ago, but if i remember correctly, the UK reigned supreme with Churchill still in command.

The book did not seem like it was trying layout a plausible historical narrative. It was more concerned with presenting one idea of what it might be like, while using the whole thing to examine the relationship and importance of real reality versus false reality.
4.25.2008 12:18pm
Cro (mail):
Is it safe to say Phillip K. Dick is overrated, period? I don't understand why everyone thinks he's so great, when at the time most science fiction fans didn't read him. He was contemporaneous with Clark and Heinlein, and they were a lot more popular. And better. The screen adaptations of his work tend to be better than the original (Blade Runner.)

My guess is that his weak grasp on reality fit the mood of the 1960s and 70s.

Fatherland is a great book. And Harry Turtledove is the devil. He's one of the people responsible for the current practice of writing three long books instead of one short one. He stretches ideas until they scream.

On the topic of whether Germany could win the war, of course they could have. They beat Russia in World War One. Surely the US and UK could have made enough mistakes to lose. Nothing is inevitable except in hindsight.
4.25.2008 12:34pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):


A more realistic scenario than the one in The Man in the High Castle is one in which most of the US was ruled by Germany, with Japan taking Hawaii and perhaps a bit of the West Coast.

Um ... That was the situation in The Man in the High Castle The Japanese controlled the Pacific States of America (presumably California, Oregon, and Washington).


Umm, there's a difference between "a bit of the West Coast" and "all of the West Coast states".
4.25.2008 12:34pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
With regard to what Japanese occupation would have been like, I think it is hard to say. American perception of the Japanese tends to be based on their treatment of captured soldiers. It is important to realize that in some ways they treated captured soldiers worse than anyone else because they regarded them as having failed in their obligations as warriors. Japanese behavior toward civilians varied enormously. While it was horrible in Mainland China, Japanese rule in Taiwan was so benign that older Taiwanese people are frequently nostalgic about the Japanese colonial period.
4.25.2008 12:39pm
Uthaw:
Philip Roth's The Plot against America

Terrible. Bad alternate history, boring novel on its own terms.
4.25.2008 1:10pm
Jiminy (mail):
One big point here that people who read the book have missed - the I Ching angle plays a much bigger role than Dick explains. When writing the book, he only could figure out the basic premise of the Axis winning, the Japanese running the West Coast, and the Germans running the rest of the country. He couldn't formulate the plot correctly and had hit a HUGE writers' block.

So he consulted the I Ching, and used the casting of coins &the sticks to formulate the plot of the novel! That's why the story really jumps around and is confusing. He rolled the Oriental equivalent of a 100-sided die to write the novel!

That's why the story is disjointed, and honestly, kinda sucks. I like some of the characters, like the well-fleshed-out Japanese administrator, and I enjoyed some of the what-if scenarios, like the disturbing imagery of a depopulated Russia and African continent.

It doesn't hold up as well today, but back when it came out, it touched quite a raw nerve. He's written much better (and some worse) novels. I like his writing better than Heinlein, about the same as Asimov, and less than I like Clarke for sci-fi.

I said it yesterday on the Phillip Dick stolen android head thread here, but Valis, Transmigration of Timothy Archer, and Divine Invasion are a great theological take on sci-fi.

And the Palmer Eldritch novel is a very creepy "where is your God now?" sort of novel. That was a lot of fun.
4.25.2008 1:49pm
George Weiss (mail) (www):
Bill Poser

a substantial number of the Japanese WWII atrocities were against Chinese civilians-particularly those in hospitals.
4.25.2008 2:08pm
George Weiss (mail) (www):
bill posner:

here is a good site by an a academician studying who the Japanese carried out heir crimes on....soldiers were not even a significant group:
http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP3.HTM
4.25.2008 2:11pm
Kanchou (www):
Well, the Taiwanese relationship with Japan is very complicated.

First, Japan didn't really grab Taiwan by conquest directly. Japan defeated China in Sino-Japan war without any fighting in Taiwan. Then Chinese sold out Taiwanese to save their own hide in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. There was a three year transition period. So every Taiwanese had the choice of move to China or become Japanese.

Second, Japan did spend a lot of effort build up Taiwan and incorporated Taiwanese into the empire. There was Taiwanese appointed to Japanese House of Peers/Lords. Toward the end of the war, there were Taiwanese been elected into Japanese Imperial Diet. There were Taiwanese(including a family member) in Imperial Army/Navy Officer Corp. Were there any Filipino/Porto Rican officers in U.S. Army/Navy at same time frame?

Third, that's not to say it was all nice and peachy either. A lot of older Taiwanese praised Japanese rule because they hated the Chinese mainlander more, mostly for very legitimate reasons. Under martial law/white terror period, it was unsafe to criticize Chinese rule. So opening praise the "good old days" when Taiwan was still part of Japan was a backhand way criticize Chinese rule.
4.25.2008 2:14pm
Steve2:
LarryA, you beat me to it. "The Last Article" is a pretty good short story, and a wonderful indictment of the impractical nature of pacifism (John Brown having long before detailed its morally objectionable nature).
4.25.2008 2:33pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
Of course Dick is overrated, but he still wrote some pretty good novels. I like Eye in the Sky, which is unpretentious and a lot ofun, and Now Wait for Last Year which posits a drug which is fatal to start taking and gives you true visions of the future. Valis, on the other hand, is one of the worst sf books of all time.
4.25.2008 3:31pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
A more realistic scenario than the one in The Man in the High Castle is one in which most of the US was ruled by Germany, with Japan taking Hawaii and perhaps a bit of the West Coast.

Um ... That was the situation in The Man in the High Castle The Japanese controlled the Pacific States of America (presumably California, Oregon, and Washington).

Umm, there's a difference between "a bit of the West Coast" and "all of the West Coast states".


I guess it depends on what you mean by "occupied." I don't recall any evidence that the Japanese occupied more than the large port cities -- say, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle -- nor would they have needed to. The West Coast wasn't densely populated before the war.

Remember that the Pacific coast would have been relatively easy to isolate -- the Rockies, the Sierras, and the deserts were formidable barriers back then. Bomb (or sabotage!) a few bridges and rail lines, and we'd have been cut off. Destroy the California Aqueduct while we're at it, to really hurt Southern California.

Let's suppose the attack on Pearl Harbor had been delayed a few years, until after Germany, victorious in Europe, had entered into war with the United States. (Perhaps they attack us, perhaps we finally declare war on them as Europe is losing.) In our timeline, the West Coast port cities undertook massive industrialization and exploded in population during the war. Would this have happened if the East Coast had been attacked first? Suppose Einstein and Szilard had been ignored by President Garner, and suppose Heisenberg's A-bomb project had succeeded by 1947 or so. New York or Washington might have been nuked early on in the war. Things might have been very different, and very, very bad for us.
4.25.2008 3:44pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Me:
Suppose Einstein and Szilard had been ignored by President Garner ...

... or suppose, by the 1940s, that it was President Lindbergh or President Long or President Wallace (Henry, not George).

--shiver--
4.25.2008 4:10pm
Gordo:
Back to FATHERLAND - a great book. The one aspect of it that bugged me was the gimmick of having JOSEPH Kennedy elected President of the U.S. in 1960, with the book's events taking place in 1964.

The elder Kennedy had a massive stroke in 1961 and lived feebly another eight years. By 1964 he would have been out of office. The alternative history would have also required an alternative physical history for Joseph Kennedy.
4.25.2008 4:13pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Back to FATHERLAND - a great book. The one aspect of it that bugged me was the gimmick of having JOSEPH Kennedy elected President of the U.S. in 1960, with the book's events taking place in 1964.

I don't recall ... Was this definitely Joe Senior? Or might it have been his son, who died in World War II in OTL? Joe Jr. was being groomed for the presidency, and when he was killed Joe Sr. turned to JFK, the next in line.
4.25.2008 4:28pm
Zeno (www):
While I love alternate history, I find the derived alternates from WWII a bit boring. Besides, why does everyone assume a Nazi 'win' is world domination, or close to it.

Maybe if Normandy had failed and Stalin's side had broken down, the Allies would have accepted German control (vassalization, not direct rule) of most of Continental Europe. The US did eventually accept vassal-control of the USSR over E. Europe, and at that point the US wasn't in the totally demoralized state they would have been if Normandy had been a POW-filled bloodbath.
4.25.2008 4:38pm
Tom S (mail):
Don't forget James P. Hogan's The Proteus Operation
4.25.2008 4:59pm
PKD (mail):
Is the litmus of science fiction its plausibility? Are we demanding narrative coherence from Philip K. Dick? What is the world coming to?
4.25.2008 5:18pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
I couldn't find it via Google, but about a decade ago someone made the observation on Usenet in rec.arts.sf.written that pointing out any particular passage in a PKD novel and saying "This doesn't make sense!" is equivalent to pointing to one particular spot in the Pacific Ocean and saying "Careful! There's a damp patch over there!"
4.25.2008 6:55pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
At the other extreme, you have Bradley Denton's Wrack and Roll in which FDR dies in 1933 from choking on a chicken bone, America still wins World War II, then turns on Russia like Patton wanted. The soldiers are marching on Moscow when they see a mushroom cloud above the city.

The effects on society of turning on and nuking Russia are traumatic, hence the rise of wrack music.
4.25.2008 6:58pm
Think38 (mail):
Germany couldn't defeat the Soviet Union? As things were, they came mighty close in 1941. Perhaps they might have done so with a few better military decisions: 1) Concentrate on Moscow, or 2) push up the Baltic coast faster and sieze a then undefended Leningard. Or political ones, such as freeing he Ukraine and enlisting its inhabitants. Remember, that the Soviet "Union" was not a union of the willing, but a collection of ethnic groups under the rule of the ethinic Russians. Not many liked communisim.

Additionally, we should also remember the counter factual began in 1933. The US military in 1933 consisted of a 100,000 person army, 2 aircraft carriers and a number of old battleships. Most of the ships that fought the Japanese in 1942 were built starting in 1938 or later. What if Nimitz only had two aircraft carriers to fight the Japanese with? Remember, the industrial capacity of Britian and France was significantly larger in 1940 than Germany. Potential only matters if you have time to use it.
4.25.2008 7:02pm
Think38 (mail):
Germany couldn't defeat the Soviet Union? As things were, they came mighty close in 1941. Perhaps they might have done so with a few better military decisions: 1) Concentrate on Moscow, or 2) push up the Baltic coast faster and sieze a then undefended Leningard. Or political ones, such as freeing he Ukraine and enlisting its inhabitants. Remember, that the Soviet "Union" was not a union of the willing, but a collection of ethnic groups under the rule of the ethinic Russians. Not many liked communisim.

Additionally, we should also remember the counter factual began in 1933. The US military in 1933 consisted of a 100,000 person army, 2 aircraft carriers and a number of old battleships. Most of the ships that fought the Japanese in 1942 were built starting in 1938 or later. What if Nimitz only had two aircraft carriers to fight the Japanese with? Remember, the industrial capacity of Britian and France was significantly larger in 1940 than Germany. Potential only matters if you have time to use it.
4.25.2008 7:02pm
markm (mail):
Germany could easily have won WWII - an isolationist US President, a less resolute man than Churchill rising to Prime Minister, or if Hitler had merely allowed the Wermacht to plan ahead and build the boats needed for an invasion of England immediately after the French collapsed. Or perhaps even more simply - what if Hitler had broken his alliance with Japan after WWII rather than declaring war on the US?

Japan winning in the Pacific islands and SE Asia was far less likely, but not impossible. If Halsey's carriers had been anchored at Pearl Harbor, the luck in the first major sea battles after Pearl Harbor had been as lopsidedly with the Japanese as it was with the USA at Midway, and the Germans had been able to offer more substantial support, the Japanese might have been able to drag it out until the USA settled for a draw, and returned to isolationism. OTOH, with an isolationist US President rather than FDR, the Japanese might not have felt the need to start a war in the first place.

But a successful German or Japanese invasion of the 48 states? Not possible unless the way was paved with nuclear bombing - and even then, holding large areas of the USA against guerilla warfare would likely have been beyond the capability of any army that ever existed. (Of course, if the Nazis could have achieved and held a nuclear monopoly for long enough, they could have rendered all the territory they couldn't hold uninhabitable, but that's a whole different story than Dick was telling.)

As for Dick's reputation:

1) He got these ideas first, even if he wasn't the best at expressing them, and often didn't work out the logical implications.

2) His stories seem to translate to film better than most SF writing. (Logic and facts don't have much to do with filmmaking...)
4.25.2008 8:17pm
Corkie the Dog (www):
Regarding whether or not the Axis partners could have won WWII: The Japanese controlled nearly all of the world's supply of rubber mere weeks after their entry into the war. If the US hadn't been able to create synthetic rubber, it was the opinion of the US leadership and military that they would have lost the war.

"The onset of World War II cut off U.S. access to 90 percent of the natural rubber supply. At this time, the United States had a stockpile of about one million tons of natural rubber, a consumption rate of about 600,000 tons per year, and no commercial process to produce a general purpose synthetic rubber. Conserving, reclaiming, and stockpiling activities could not fill the gap in rubber consumption."


Fortunately for the world, synthetic rubber isn't as "hard" a problem as curing cancer, or synthetic oil.

Sincerely,
Corkie the Dog
4.25.2008 10:52pm
Gaius Marius:
What is the name of the novel where the Nazis won World War II because they created a time travel portal called "Valhalla" and traveled back to the past and helped the South win the Civil War thereby causing the United States to cease existing???
4.25.2008 11:08pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
"Moon" is right. TMitHC was not intended as a serious counterfactual exercise, but rather as an exploration of an alternate set of historical and social conditions. There is no plausible scenario for Axis conquest of the United States.

WRT to the different imagined occupation policies of Japan and Germany: Dick wrote TMitHC in 1962. Much of what is well-known today about Japanese crimes (Nanking, "comfort women", Unit 731) had not been publicized then. The war crimes trials of Japanese leaders were almost an afterthought. German crimes were much more in the public view, and the Nuremburg Trials were only a few years past. The capture and trial of Eichmann were recent headlines.
4.26.2008 5:39pm
cubanbob (mail):
The problem with all these alternative histories scenarios is that bad guys don't make the mistakes they made and the good guys do. Suppose Stalin did not murder his best military commanders in the 1930's and gave credence to his intelligence networks of Germany's attack preparations? Hitler attacked the USSR partly because he believed Stalin had so crippled the Red Army that a massive swift blow would topple the USSR. Had Stalin not purged the officer corps Hitler might never attacked the USSR to begin with. Suppose Stalin did not purge his high command, paid attention to his intelligence services and acted appropriately and had been on the ball in 1941? Even if the Germans took the gamble and attacked the USSR in June 1941, in this scenario, the Soviets could have taken the initial blow without suffering even a fraction of what they suffered and could absorbed the blow and counter attacked and crushed Germany rather quickly. Indeed by 1942 the Red Army could have reached the Atlantic.

As for Japan, their assumption was that the US was to culturally weak to sustain a hard war and would quickly negotiate. Suppose Washington was more explicit in its war warnings to Kimmel and Short? Suppose those two had a better integrated defense plan, manned radar coverage 24/7 and constant air patrols and most of all a war is imminent mind set? Supposed the military was on its game on the morning of December 7th? Japanese planes being meet out at sea by Army aircraft, the fleet managing to sorties out of Pearl and our carriers engaging the Japanese carriers while the Japanese air fleet was inbound to Pearl Harbor? Add to this MacArthur being on the ball in the Philippines, having his B17's attack the Japanese airfields in Taiwan?

Any plausible alternative scenario is the ones where the Allied forces acted more rationally prior to the war. The central conceit of the Axis was that the Allies were not capable of acquiring the war mindset, that is the emotional acceptance to fight and win no matter the cost. A fatal (and fortunate for us) conceit.
4.26.2008 9:08pm
Hoosier:
Gaius: No clue. "The Panzers of Gettysburg"?

But this is a good example of why I find time-travel alternate-history to be a pointless genre. If the South had succeeded in making the Union give up trying to reunite the nation by force, who would have intervened in May and June 1918 to stop the Ludendorff Offensive?

And if the Germans forced a French capitulation in 1918, no Nazi Germany.

What's the point?
4.26.2008 11:58pm
PeteRR (mail):
cubanbob,

Indeed. Resolute moves by the French and British during the Rhineland reoccupation might have brought down the Nazis in '36.

Think how different the 20th Century would have been if Gavrilo Princep had missed.
4.27.2008 12:13am
Hoosier:
cubanbob--Your observation about Japanese assumptions hits on the key point.

After Pearl Harbor, Japan could not have won the war under any plausible scenario. Even a reversal of fortune at Midway only causes a significant delay in the inevitable. Since the US took the Philippines from Spain, war planning had always presumed that we would be cleared out of the western Pacific, and have to fight back in.

US production, manpower, and technological capacity was eventually going to bring American power to the Japanese Home Islands. And as a result of Pearl Harbor, there was never any doubt that Americans had the will to do so, however long it took.

Perhaps the USAF--or whatever we would have had at the time--would have had to wait until the late 40s to begin eradicating Japanese cities. But there was no way for Japan to prevent America from developing and building long-range bombers, fighter-escorts, a hundred aircraft carriers, and atomic bombs.

Japan never had the capacity to develop and produce enough interceptors, carriers, radar installations, command-and-control, etc., to stave this assault off. They had simply assumed that Americans would not and could not fight. This is why the Devastators at Midway and the Marines at Guadalcanal spooked Yamamoto so badly.

What's the Japanese for: "Oh Shit! Can we get a do-over?"

With Germany, it seems a different story. In the second half of 1940, if Churchill isn't leading the Brits . . .

Hitler guaranteed his defeat by making stupid decisions once things started looking bad in Russia. But if Britain had capitulated in 1940, the North Atlantic Lend-Lease route would not have existed. Things could have grown very dicey for the Sovs.
4.27.2008 12:28am