In this first article, which will be part of a series of interconnected in-depth studies, we talk aboutucronia as a genre of fiction that has a strong hold on people's minds and hearts.
How come we are so fascinated byucronia, from the dystopia and the stories about the apocalypses? This article originated in my head while reading an RPG found on the platform itcho.io by Title Marked by Iron and I began to reflect on how much fiction, and the media, are studded with this kind of storytelling.
Before we begin to examine them in detail, let's understand what each of these words means.
- ucronia: comes from the Greek and literally means "No time", by analogy with utopia which means "no place". It indicates the literary, graphic or cinematographic narration of what could have happened if a specific historical event had gone differently
- dystopia: description or representation of an imaginary reality of the future, but predictable on the basis of present tendencies perceived as highly negative, in which an undesirable or frightening life experience is portrayed
- Apocalypse and post-apocalypse: series of events leading to the end of civilization as we know it and the consequent rebirth of the society fighting for survival
After having given these definitions let's go to analyze some of the most famous ucronias and books, short stories, comic novels and much more.
Ucronia take me away
What would have happened if the Roman Empire had survived its fall and continued to this day? This is the classic question that can lead to the emergence of an RPG, like Lex Arcana, but also to episodes of television series. It is precisely in the classic Star Trek series that Captain Kirk and his faithful first officer, Commander Spock, meet the society of the planet 892-IV that has evolved in a parallel path to that of the Roman Empire on Earth.
But not only this question can lead to the birth of literary ucronia. Another question we often find concerns the Second World War. What would have happened if Hitler had won the war? Writers of the caliber of Philip K. Dick with his novel The swastika on the sun, from which Amazon has also drawn one television series, and Robert Harris with Fatherland they tried to answer this question. In both cases you will not like the answer given.
Other series of books, such as the Turtledove Invasion and Colonization saga, the question is about an alien invasion mixed with World War. A similar idea arose in an Italian RPG called Sine Requie where, on D-Day, the dead begin to come back to life. In this case, however, it is not just a ucronia that we are witnessing, as to a crasis of all three of these narrative devices.
Marvel comics use this gimmick on the agenda, one of the most famous is perhaps House of m, and so Sergio Bonelli Editore also attempted with Luca Enoch's comic Lilith. And how to forget Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbson?
What fascinates us about ucronia?
The two words "What if ...?" how come they have so much hold on us.
Marvel made a comic book series and later a television series to show the roads not taken, or how a simple event can radically change a person's life.
This "What if ...?" that grips us has always been part of human thought. We think about what could have been better or worse or how our life could have taken a completely different turn. Will we be the same people we are if we turned right instead of left?
This question was also addressed in one of the episodes of the Doctor Who television series Turn Left (Turn left). The point is that imagining this kind of scenario has something dark and dramatic about it. We may risk starting to live in an imaginary world and feel deeply dissatisfied with our life. Returning to reality, we may feel frustrated and feel guilty, and that won't help us.
We sublimate this way of thinking by imagining and sticking to them. Being different people in the world similar to ours and at the same time dissimilar.
And that's also why we role play.
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In short, to understand, the ucronia is very much represented in stories, novels or films. Personally, if I had to choose, my vote would go to Fatherland, perhaps because it was the first Ukronic novel I got to read. Ultimate example of the incarnate evil that wins and forces citizens to look the other way.
Perhaps this is precisely why, even when we put certain stories on the table, we exorcise the fear of what could have happened. By closing everything in a limited outline, we can express a different self and take paths that we have not traveled.
It is therefore essential to read this kind of stories and imagine them, but we must never lose touch with reality, otherwise we could also end up like Wanda Maximoff in Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness.
Before leaving, however, I ask you one thing: what is your favorite ukrainian? What are the Ukronic tales you have written? Would you like to give us some incipit or tell us something? Comment and let us know. We are really curious!