"What Madness Is This?" An Alternate History

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About "What Madness Is This?" An Alternate History

"What Madness Is This? That brother might fight brother, and father might fight son? That countless homes and families be ripped asunder all for the sake of their piece of dirt? of their political party? Why must we hate each other so?"
-Thomas Jefferson

On November 10, 2012, when I was only 17 years old, I began a journey on AlternateHistory.com, where I am known by the handle "Napoleon53," to write a tale of a parallel universe where the United States never adopted the Constitution. A story I dubbed "What Madness Is This?"

While I anticipated it becoming a saga of a fractured America, it quickly took on a mind of its own and the rest is, well, history. Virtually every interesting fictional concept I could muster was thrown into it if it made the story better, and it became a favorite of many on the site. It evolved into a story of the Republican Union, the successor to the failed United States and its Articles of Confederation, and the mad world it found itself in, fighting tooth and claw for its absurd beliefs against a world it viewed as rightfully theirs, ordained by God and Manifest Destiny. This story went on for a very long time, even getting its own fan-made TvTropes page, much to my delight!

But life happened, and in the aftermath of my parents' nasty divorce and having to work full-time, as well as people telling me my dream of being an author would never amount to anything, I hung up my writing hat. And that was the last anyone ever heard of the Madnessverse....

Until last year! In September of 2018 I suddenly revived it, bringing it roaring back to life in an exciting new rebooted timeline! In truth, emails and messages never stopped during the four-year retirement of the Madnessverse. Fan-made short stories still popped up, memes were made, and the pulpy, over-the-top, villainy of the Republican Union was still popular and well-remembered. The reboot, which I subtitled "Redux: The Union Forever," starts out similarly enough to what fans call "1.0," the old continuum, the first version, but soon radically diverted into a much more thought-out, grittier, and more mature and believable world, rich in detail and moving at a far slower pace than 1.0. No stone unturned!

Since September of 2018, the Redux has reached nearly half a million reads (as of July, 2019), consists of 105 chapters, and has over 300 pages of discussion between me and the amazing readers who so often pitch new ideas and exciting possibilities. Nearly every reader who comments has, at least in some small way, impacted the timeline and the universe. In early 2019, the reboot took home two Turtledove awards! One for best Colonialism and Revolutions Era Timeline, and another for best quote!

One thing that truly separates WMIT? from many other alternate histories is the fact that it's not just an alternate history. It's a fully-realized world, with everything from illustrations at least every few paragraphs to ads for the many fictional brands and products of this dystopian world. The timeline covers the entirety of world history, from 1776 onward. My goal is to craft the darkest possible history, one worthy but unable to destroy itself in merciful nuclear fire, but also to tell it with enough black humor and tongue-in-cheek pulpiness that it's wildly entertaining and makes you think, "It couldn't get any worse... Could it?" And so you read "just one more chapter." It's a world where the outrageous is the rule of the day, and is yet somehow still believable and plausible.

Ads for "FIRE-BREATHER" cigarettes and SPUD, two very popular brands in the twisted mirror-universe of "What Madness Is This?"
Above all, it's a world populated with iconic characters like the Prophet Burr, whose apocalyptic visions while at Valley Forge later form the crux of his insane occult religion that sweeps America. There's the infamous Chuck Oswald, the mad doppleganger of JFK with a thirst for loose women, hard drugs, and atomic glory. Or maybe you prefer the timeless Victorian style and demented occult beliefs of the Blind Christian Gentleman Mr. Tobias, a seer of the "Other Side" who allegedly communes with the spirits of past Patriot-Saints high up in his mountain abode, deep in the Poconos Mountains. If that all sounds insane and awesome, congratulations! You've discovered what makes the Madnessverse so much fun to read and to write! I soon hope to start full length novels and/or short story anthologies and then ready them for publishing. The main timeline will, when finished, eventually be published as an encyclopedia or bible, if you will, of all canon. The wonderful thing about the Madnessverse is that I can write whatever I want in that universe in the future. Do I want to write a short story about a detective? I can set it in the Madnessverse! Love story? Make it darkly funny and twisted and set it in the Madnessverse! The possibilities are endless. There's even the Star-Spangled Expanded Universe, where any reader can post their own stories set in this epic fictional world!

The bizarre supernatural elements of the Madnessverse are never definitely shown to be genuine or merely the mad delusions of a world that makes up for what it lacks in sanity with a sheer overpowering will to believe what it wants, in the face of all reason.

However, keeping up with such an immense project requires hundreds of man-hours. Out of the last 276 days since the start of the reboot, only 170 have passed without a new chapter! This does not even come close to including all the responses to comments, personal messages, and reading fan-fiction! I spend sometimes 8 hours a day researching, reading, plotting, and writing, and that is very much like a second job! A job I love, but that still eats up a lot of my time. I am a 23 year-old full-time shift lead at Walgreens, living on my own with my cat, Zookie, and I drive a rustbucket 55 year-old car that frequently needs major work but that I love too much to ever dream of trading in. I also have some extensive dental and medical bills, as well as the cost of keeping the lights and internet on to write at all! Many people have told me to give up on my dream of becoming a published author or of fixing my beloved car. That is the main reason for this Patreon. If you enjoy my fiction, if it makes you laugh or makes you sad, if you wake up in the morning and check for new chapters or maps or details, then kindly consider dropping a penny in the street performer's hat, as it were.

Even better, if I surmount my economical difficulties I am under at the moment, I can move ahead and begin to plan new and exciting Madnessverse stuff and membership tiers! My goal is to eventually turn the Madnessverse into not only novels, but also a full-time Youtube channel with podcasts and documentary-style and possibly short-film videos. I already have a microphone and a computer. Just need to teach myself how to do all that! Future tier levels could include high-quality map prints or signed propaganda posters! The future of the Madnessverse, to misquote Rod Serlind, is as boundless as space, and as timeless as infinity. It will never stop, as long as I can pay the bills and keep the lights on. If you want to sponsor someone who seeks to bring happiness, fun and exciting stories to everyone for free, or just let them know you enjoy their work, then just tap that sponsor button!

Thank you so, so much if you actually read this entire intro. And if you are one of the thousands of people reading my stories and maybe even commenting, then thank you from the bottom of my heart. If it weren't for you, my life would have a lot less creativity, a lot less fun, and a lot less joy. And above all, a lot less Madness!

- James Kohler,
Author of the Madnessverse Alternate History Project
$4 of $20 per month
Help me earn a little money in exchange for hundreds of hours of writing! If it takes off, I'll offer perks in the future like printed and signed maps and propaganda posters!
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