World War Weird
World War Weird is an alternate-history setting focusing on a 1950’s “retrofuture” Earth where World War II unfolded and ended very differently. The rise of Super-Science has given way to a new era of strange technology, harsh politics, a culture of paranoia and uncertainty, unconventional warfare, and even individuals with special powers. World War Weird draws on elements of Tesla-punk, Diesel-punk, Atomic Age, Pulp Action, and even Weird Tales subgenres to create a fantastic sci-fi setting; suitable for everything from high-concept superhero to pulp detective stories.
History and Point of Divergence
In 1933, the United States formally recognized the Soviet Union as an independent, sovereign nation. Shortly after, various technology sharing programs and capital investment initiatives began between the two nations, resulting in a diplomatic mission to recruit scientists, engineers, and other skilled professionals for the massive industrialization and modernization of the USSR.
1933 was also the year that Nikola Tesla found himself in dire financial straits; having to turn over the deed to his Wardenclyffe, PA laboratory to settle his mammoth 5-figure debt to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Tesla once again found himself performing street expositions and inviting various journalists to cover the events, hoping he could attract investors to further fund his various scientific exploits.
The divergence point of this alternate history that would eventually create the World War Weird setting happened during an intersection of the previosly mentioned diplomatic mission and Tesla’s public demonstrations. One such exposition caught the attention of Vasily Stechkov, a prominent official in the Soviet State Center for Scientific and Technological Advancement. Tesla was quickly recruited for the daunting task of utilizing his genius for the electrification of the USSR. Power generation and distribution as well as energy grid design and logistics were to be his primary responsibilities, with efforts to aid in industrialization as a whole also on the agenda. In return for his work, Tesla was promised, and given, carte blanche for the pursuit of his inventions and ideas. All the Soviet government requested in return was access to his files and papers, as well as the rights to use his technologies freely.
By 1940, The USSR, thanks to a combination of Tesla’s genius and brutally forward-looking economic policy, had become an industrial juggernaut; producing renewable energy across the nation using advanced technology. Mass Transit, powered on Hydrogen Fuel-Cells, made rapid and efficient transportation of supplies and materiel possible, stimulating industry. Mass Electrification allowed for the 24 hour production cycle, and advances in microwave and radio technologies allowed for effective mass communication.
Nikola Tesla, in a few short years, became a force to be reckoned with. He had quickly proven his value to the USSR, and by 1937 became part of Stalin’s inner circle; advising the Soviet leadership on matters of science, education, and the cultural identity of intellectualism. Tesla became the mascot for the scientific and technoligical communities, and garnered a massive cult of personality. The Medal of the Order of Nikola Tesla was introduced in 1938, awarding those who would introduce a new technology or scientific breakthrough that had significant impact on the daily life of the Soviet citizen, or the image of the Soviet Union within the global scientific community.
While the Soviet Union surged ahead with unprecedented scientific progress and economic growth, the United States struggled to recover from The Great Depression, and Hitler began his rise to power in Germany. The United States adopted an increasingly non-interventionist stance while it struggled to tap scientific talent of its own; hoping to match the pace of the Soviets.
World War II, Super-Science, and the expansion of the USSR
In April of 1941, the Axis invasion of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia led Nikola Tesla to urge Stalin to come to the aid of his home nation. Stalin was hesitant to break his non-aggression pact with the Germans, but such was Tesla’s influence and profile that a rapid, backroom deal was arranged with King Peter II, Dusan Simovic, and Radoje Knezevic to annex Yugoslavia while keeping most of the upper echelons in place during the reorganization into the Soviet system. As a result, the Nazi regime quickly found that they were technically occupying Soviet Territory. Stalin claimed that the deal had been in the works long before the invasion, and further argued that this constituted a violation of his non-agression pact with Hitler. War was declared April 16, 1941.
The next few months would permanently alter the cultural, political, economic, and technological landscape of Europe. The Soviet counter-offensive against the European Axis powers was both devastating and spectacular. Tesla had been designing more than power plants; the weaponry and technology employed by the USSR was as incredible as it was brutally destructive; strange, powerful, futuristic weaponry steamrolled the German forces. By winter 1941, Lightning Tanks, X-Ray bombs, Truck-mounted Microwave Rays, and other fantastic war machines had crossed into Germany. By Spring of 1942, Hitler had been assassinated, Valkyrie took effect, and Germany and Italy unconditionally surrendered. Stalin, in his trademark fashion, forced the provisional Axis leadership to sign the Berlin Treaty, effectively absorbing all European Axis nations into the USSR, on April 20, 1942; Adolf Hitler’s birthday.
Japan, upon witnessing the carnage and level of crushing might displyed by the USSR, and fearing that any moves on their part may be seen as encroachment by a newly emerged superpower, hastily renounced its membership as an Axis nation. A treaty was signed, effectively promising the end to all forms of expansion in the direction of mainland Asia. The bombing attacks on Pearl Harbor never occured, the United States never enters World War II, and without the stimulation of a war-economy, the United States continued to struggle with pulling itself out of economic decline. FDR, without the stress of running a nation at war, did not die in office, and Truman never served as president.
As a result of the shock and awe instilled in the world by the staggering display of Soviet power, the global political landscape changed greatly. Faced with the choice between economic uncertainty and annexation by the USSR, most of war torn Europe chose the relative safety and stability of Soviet control. By January 1943, France, Germany, Poland, Belgium, and Brazil had joined the USSR, in addition to the original Eastern Bloc members. As a concession to the UK, a politically savvy Stalin agreed that the British would be allowed “administration” of German holdings in Northern Africa as reparations, and soon most of the region became colonies of the British Empire.
Meanwhile, the US and UK clamored to catch up to the new Soviet superpower. Mountains of public and private funds were thrown at every scientist, engineer, and inventor that had previously dismissed unrealistic, impractical, unfeasible, or even downright crazy. By 1944, nuclear fission had not only been achieved, but miniaturized and employed in varied applications. Atomic powered ships, planes, trains, and by 1945, even mass-transit in cities was electric, with the larger vehicles housing their own miniature reactors.
During this period of scientific revolution, Imperial Japan found themselves lagging. The hasty treaty with the Soviets proved to cripple any further expansion, and the overwhelming annihilation of the Axis left Japan without any external economic or political support. However, The Empire of Japan would soon find a bolstering economic boon and the stability it needed from, ironically, the collapse of an unstable and bankrupt China. China had pleaded for support from the Soviets, begging to join lest the entire nation implode. Stalin obliged, but in a shocking twist, granted Japan a separate treaty, called the Manchurian Concession, guaranteeing them the rights to keep their occupied areas of Mengjiang and the southern half of Manchukuo. Northern Manchukuo would be merged into the Mongolian SSR.
Japan, now with its massive territory and enormous workforce, set upon mass-industrialization. The American, British, and Soviet powers, free from the grip of petroleum, were happy to sell oil and fuels to Japan to further their own endeavors. Iron rich Manchukuo and Mengjiang were exploited, leading to massive steel production. These events, fed through the filter of the already impressive Japanese economic stature, led the war economy and Military-Industrial Complex to loom large over the Pacific. In an attempt to keep up with the advancements in military technologies by other powers, Japan began a campaign of revitalization, revision, and improvement of its own armaments and defenses; relying heavily on some of the more outlandish concepts and designs procured from fleeing German scientists and engineers that were part of the so-called “Wunderwaffen” programs.
The Cold War & The New “Superpowers”
With the death of Joseph Stalin in 1950, Nikola Tesla in 1951, and the beginning of the more hawkish and authoritarian administration of US President Richard Franklin in 1952, tensions and uncertainty are on the rise. An uneasy peace has settled, but just below the surface, suspicion and aggression continue to churn. This has led to a Cold War of building and stockpiling more fantastic and potent weaponry, and the current environment of incredible scientific and technological advancement has produced some interesting results.
Legends, rumors, myths, and other tales of individuals with special powers and abilities abound throughout history. Faeries, Wizards, Shamans, the Greek Demigods, and countless others have been mythologized for centuries. However, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, various cases of real, government documented, abnormal phenomena began to rise; from the Tunguska Event to a series of bizarre series of happenings in secluded New England coastal villages, an amount of legitimacy began to attach itself to these strange occurences and tales.
With the advent of various “super-science” discoveries around the globe, not only did it become clear that these strange events held creedence, but that these special individuals were very real. The number of documented cases as well as publicly acknowledged information began a serious rise throughout the 1930’s and 40’s, and by the 1950, the US, UK, and USSR had not only publicly acknowledged the existence of these special individuals, but had even begun employing them in various faculties; generally in military applications. The US, UK, and USSR had even passed laws regulating these individuals, defining their legal status, creating terminology to describe them, and even creating government agencies with the express purpose of policing and monitoring the actions of these super-people. Japan, being somewhat of a “closed nation”, has generally been very secretive on its stance on the matter, and not much is known of it’s policies or attitudes towards the subject.
By the early 1950’s, there were all sorts of these people, dubbed “Extraordinary Persons” in the US, “Human Plus” in the UK, and “Meta-human” in the USSR. Some have strange powers, genetic mutations, or other biological differences. Still others use technology, applying the scientific advancements available to them to further their own abilities. Some are good, decent people, trying to clean up their city, country, or even the world, and others are selfish and evil, using their abilities for personal gain and nefarious machinations at the expense of others. Some operate within the law as part of their government’s efforts to police those with special powers, but many operate under the radar, as vigilantes.