If you’re reading this, it means you are attending a very good school or a very poor school, depending on who you ask. Some say the subject of Theoretical History is nothing more than an academic stunt to allow science fiction enthusiasts to be paid as professors. Others say any school that allows a student to spend their tuition money on its study should be stripped of its accreditation and repurposed as a prison. Still, here we are. There is at least enough support for the subject to publish a textbook and have me write the introduction.
It is redundant (and therefore necessary in academia) to talk about the events that began Theoretical History. It’s one of those scenes that will remain in the human zeitgeist for all time. September 16th 2054, President Sinclair standing in the White House press room, explaining to the world that everything that we thought was possible had changed.
“From this point on,” the most quoted of the speech’s lines reads, “It shall be known that mankind has not only reached the top of highest mountains, the depths of the deepest oceans, and planets beyond our own, but we have broken through the barrier of time and gained access to our own past.”
Time travel, something that was still being debated on the theoretical level, was being announced as fully realized and in the hands of The United States government. The speech said that the exact nature of the technology was to be kept confidential for safety purposes, and that it would only be only used for observation and study of the past. We were going to be able to see the beginnings of the human race, fill in any blanks that were left in the questions of where we or the earth came from. But we would not (and according to the speech, could not) change anything. It was a great power and we were going to use it responsibly.
It of course didn’t take long for the implications to sink in. In fact, it can be argued that Theoretical History started on the same day as President Sinclair’s speech with a question posed by Danny Vieira of The Washington Post.
“Mr. President,” he asked. “If the government was to go back on their promise to not use this technology to change the past, how would anyone know?”
The question was quickly answered with a reiteration that the act of changing the past had been proven impossible. On top of that, an independent committee would oversee all expeditions and report any abuse of power to the public.
But the question lingered. How would we know? If it was possible, what would the U.S do with this power? Or, if you prefer, what had they already done?
So, Theoretical History had its early days in online fringe groups such as conspiracy bloggers, radical futurists, and the occasional proponents of temporal retconing who released public manifestos requesting certain changes be made to the country’s history. But, as with such studies as evolutionary theory and microbiology, what started as a small group of interested individuals began to build support in academic circles. More and more papers began to be written on the fact that simply being in the past would constitute a change, thus proving that the past could be changed, implying that it had been.
So as the government brought us videos of Dinosaurs ruling the earth, early man hunting, and great moments of the American Revolution, the question of whether or not our history has been altered behind our backs festered.
This book contains a small selection of what this study has inspired both supporters and opponents of the subject to write about. Wars are the most popular topics; the horrible world shaping things they are. Could some of the great victories of the American Military be the result of temporal tampering? Pushing back the German forces at the Battle of the Bulge, the fall of Hanoi and the U.S victory in Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, have these always been our victories? Then there are the smaller insurgencies and revolutions that the U.S. was never officially involved in. The Russian Civil War and the fall of Stalin in 1947 seemed to suit the western interests post WWII. The still unsolved assassination of Ayatollah Khomeini and the end to the Islamic uprising Iran begs answers. The strange end of the left wing “Ghost Movement” in Cuba, the long thought to be accidents that crippled the former Soviet Union’s nuclear program in the 1950’s, all seem to be serendipitous fortune for America. Since the Second World War, most if not all anti-western movements have been put down before they could pose any threat to western interests.
Paranoia? It’s been called that and worst. Maybe we don’t give enough credit to the good old subterfuge of the mid-20th century.
The Second World War itself poses one of the biggest questions in the study of Theoretical History. If it is possible to change the events of the past, why have we not gone back and stopped The Axis before they became a threat? Surely the death of Adolf Hitler at any time before he was able to lead the most barbaric acts of the pre-nuclear era would be a moral task that we would be happy to take on. Yet, the death tolls and the atrocities remain. Despite our ability to physically step into the past and observe the events, those in control say we cannot change anything. True? Possibly, but there are those who hold that these horrors could be undone, yet are kept in order to throw off suspicion.
“If we could change the past, why haven’t we killed Hitler?”
The implications are dark, and to some, horribly offensive. Yet, this is the importance of the theoretical. Not to say “This did/did not happened” but to ask “Could this have happened?” and from there to ask the bigger question.
“If it did happen, do we want to know?”
An easy answer is yes. Human beings are curious and have an imbedded need to control their own lives. If someone in power is playing with our past, we’d like to be told and have it stopped. Yet, look around you (if you are Westerner that is). Look at an economy that has avoided every pitfall throughout the decades. Look at the radical changes in policy throughout our history that ten or twenty years later turn out to be a move that has kept us out of recession. An unprecedented time of peace that seems to have sprung from the “bad luck” of American opposition. What if it is all because of temporal black hats twisting the events of the world to serve the American interest? Would you want to know what was done in order to keep up our high standard of living? Want to know what happened in the world without the agents keeping the horrors of history in check?
I’d like to think that by enrolling in this class, or (bless you) reading this book on your own, you in the very least would like to consider it.
-Dr. Arthur Heinlein