- Byliner Original
In the many-mansioned house of Alternate History, I occupy a small corner. The trio of what-ifs I chronicled in Then Everything Changed all begin with tiny, highly plausible twists of fate that lead to hugely consequential shifts in history:
- Jacqueline Kennedy does not come to the door on a December Sunday in 1960 to see her husband off to church, so the suicide bomber parked outside the Kennedy home triggers his dynamite and John Kennedy is killed before ever assuming office; and Lyndon Johnson, with his very different understanding of foreign policy and power diplomacy, is in command during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
- Robert Kennedy’s brother-in-law enters the ballroom of a Los Angeles hotel on primary night in 1968 a few minutes early, and so is between Kennedy and Sirhan Sirhan in that kitchen pantry; and Kennedy and his presidential campaign survive—and triumph.
- In a key debate moment in 1976, President Gerald Ford realizes that he misspoke about the Soviet Union’s domination of Poland and spares his campaign a crucial week of pain, thus changing the outcome of the Carter-Ford election.
It’s the “butterfly effect,” as first portrayed in Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” where one dead butterfly millions of years ago leads to a contemporary world immeasurably more coarse, less kind. It’s the notion of the old nursery rhyme: “For want of a nail the kingdom was lost.”
When the book was published, I was asked countless questions about other scenarios, via e-mail and duri...