Other, Stranger Timelines
September 9, 2015 9:02 PM   Subscribe

Germany’s famous unit of immortal soldiers pose with their heads in their hands, 1921. The Immortals, ordinary men resurrected from death by a process as yet unknown, served with honour in the First World War until they were liquidated (by being burned to death, the only way they could be killed) by the Weimar Republic in 1924.

No such thing as a unit of zombie Reichswehr in World War I you say? Maybe not in this timeline. You can take a stroll through other, stranger timelines through tumblr blog the-alt-historian, where "two alternauts lost in the multiverse" run the "best alt-hist and weird-hist photo blog you'll ever see, moderated by the best damn gonzo historians the world has to offer."

Further historical tales from the multiverse:
Norton I began in the former United States as one of the most successful businessmen ever to grace its shores. Arriving in 1859 from South Africa with only a $40 000 bequest, he quickly tripled and then quadrupled it by a series of sound investments into Peruvian rice markets. A perennial political theorist, he self-published his first book Imperialism and Democracy: A Sound Examination in 1862....
In August 1955 astronomers detected several large objects in space moving towards Earth. It was first believed that a cluster of asteroids was on a collision course but the precise changes observed in direction and velocity proved that the objects could only be spaceships under intelligent control. The ground stations of Project SIGMA began intercepting radio signals that were determined to be communications between the elements of what came to be known as the Fleet. When the vessels reached the Earth they took up a very high orbit over the equator.
USMC corporals Ray Manzarek and James Douglas Morrison met at Firebase ALABAMA in I Corps in 1968. Their shared quarters quickly became known to ALABAMA’s personnel as the place to party and acquire contraband, thanks to Morrison and Manzarek’s unparalleled talents at scrounging and horsetrading respectively. The pair also shot endless rolls of Super 8 film of their fellow Marines off duty and in the field. This footage, along with audio cassette recordings of firefights, the day to day ambience of the firebase and Morrison’s quasi-poetic ruminations on the war, was smuggled back to friends attending UCLA where it was edited, blown up to 16mm and evocatively scored by Robbie Kreiger and John Densmore, two luminaries of the Venice Beach bar band scene.
Elcid Barrett (1705?-1779) master of the privateer sloop Antelope, pictured here shortly before he embarked from Halifax on his ill-fated voyage. While not originally a seafaring man, Barrett was a patriotic Nova Scotian who learned navigation from a book and joined the ranks of patriotic privateers who sought to make their fame and fortunes by raiding American merchantmen along the East Coast.
The blog also features some actual history, helpfully tagged TRUFAX, though it's always fun to try to guess what's alt-history and what's real history before you get to the tags. (The Barrett's Privateers one certainly had me going for a minute.)
posted by yasaman (17 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
Disclaimer: the TRUFAX posts are, occasionally, more truthy a la truthiness than true, or are simply alternate or weird histories not by the blog runners. Also, if you're having trouble reading any of the individual posts because tumblr's threading is garbage when a post gets too long, append /mobile to get a more readable view.
posted by yasaman at 9:09 PM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Goddammit, this is why we need to fund XK-PLUTO with more money than you or I have ever even heard of. Just pile it all up in a corner. Maybe set fire to some of it, I dunno. I feel like maybe fire would help.
posted by aramaic at 9:15 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

love this!
posted by Wretch729 at 9:26 PM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Gefreiter Georg Steinbrenner, after having his spine broken in three places"
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 11:11 PM on September 9, 2015

Ah, the extended riffing in that Unsterblichen post is beautiful. Thanks for posting this!
posted by daisyk at 3:37 AM on September 10, 2015

Elcid Barrett (1705?-1779) master of the privateer sloop Antelope,

I want the alternate universe where the lyric really is "old Syd Barrett," which is how I've been hearing it for decades.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:38 AM on September 10, 2015

I want the alternate universe where the lyric really is "old Syd Barrett," which is how I've been hearing it for decades.

oh thank god it's not just me.
posted by russm at 5:15 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

He has it wrong, it was the French who used Zombies in W.W. I.

I saw the movie.
posted by clavdivs at 6:05 AM on September 10, 2015

I find this rather tasteless and trivializing the incredible human suffering of World War I. Imagine an alternate history where the team that killed Osama bin Laden was an army of zombies sown together from the remains of 9/11 victims recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center. Would that go over well?
posted by tecg at 9:45 AM on September 10, 2015

tecg, I understand your perspective, but (although it's arguably desensitising and bad for us as human beings) I think that ship has sailed. German zombies from WWII have been, so to speak, a thing for some time now. What differentiates them from German WWI zombies, apart from the fact that the ideology for which the WWI soldiers died is less repugnant than that of WWII?

Still, thanks for making the point. It's good not to let ourselves forget the human reality of this kind of joke.

What did you think of the rest of the site?
posted by daisyk at 10:30 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

" Imagine an alternate history where the team that killed Osama bin Laden was an army of zombies sown together from the remains of 9/11 victims recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center. "

posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:45 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

That would indeed be awesome, especially if they acted as an Aggressive Hegemonizing Swarm Object.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:50 AM on September 10, 2015

tecg, I think that's fair to say, and I don't want to invalidate your response. There are some other posts on this tumblr (mainly about WWII) that I think are a little too blase about the realities of the war in favor of coming up with a clever/weird alternate history.

However, I'd like to suggest that this little bit of WWI alternate history horror is in itself commentary on the incredible human suffering of World War I. One of the main lessons of WWI was the horrifying nature of trench warfare, which soldiers found themselves physically and psychologically ill-equipped to deal with. An entire generation of young men found themselves devastated by the experience of trench warfare, and when we think of trench warfare now, we think of it as symbolic of the futility and horror of war. We think of out of touch commanders sending who sent the men under their command to be literal canon fodder. To posit an alternate history where not even death would end the service of the men in the trenches is to intensify that horror, and to turn a very real scenario, that of men in the trenches having frequent close calls with death and how they handled that trauma, into something even more nightmarish and horrifying.

This is how the horror genre works, and this is part of what the monsters we create are meant to reflect. Monsters are reflections of our worst fears, and in this case, the fear these zombie soldiers reflect is the fear that trench warfare makes soldiers into monsters, that there's no end to the war and not even death is a release, that life after or during war is a horrifying half-life. I don't think that trivializes the real horrors and suffering, but admittedly, this is one of those things where either the genre works for you, or it doesn't.
posted by yasaman at 10:58 AM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]

The story follows Dusty, a yoga instructor from Colorado, who is on a desperate rescue mission to save her crazy brother Derek, a conspiracy theorist who is convinced Osama bin Laden is still alive, despite having been buried at sea. In Afghanistan, Dusty falls in with a team of NATO special forces on a secret assignment. Turns out Derek is not so crazy after all, and that Osama has returned from his watery grave and is making an army of zombie terrorists. When the group crashes headlong into the growing zombie apocalypse, Dusty and the troops must find and destroy the root of the zombie insurgency before it infests the rest of the world.
(Imdb summary) An actual movie.
Tecg is not so far off.
posted by librosegretti at 1:56 PM on September 10, 2015

Does it turn out that the only way OBL can be killed is for him to be throttled by Dick Cheney's umbilical cord ? No other object of such dark power being available?
posted by thatwhichfalls at 2:40 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the thoughtful responses, daisyk and yasaman. I agree that both the horror genre and the alternate history genre can serve as some kind of prism that distorts reality just enough that you can see seemingly familiar things with fresh eyes (like Inglorious Basterds or Frankenstein). Transcending genre cliches that way is hard to do though, and for my taste, the "immortal soldiers" link was too irreverent to pull it off, but I can see how opinions can vary.
posted by tecg at 3:31 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I think of "The Multiverse", I think of Jon Rosenberg's brilliant webcomic creation "Scenes from a Multiverse", in which beings from every possible alien culture in every possible alternative universe are basically just like us... petty, obnoxious and stupid.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:37 PM on September 10, 2015

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