In many ways, any venture into alternate history ultimately begins with something simple: a single bullet, a stopping heart, or—perhaps most famously—the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in some distant, unknown past.
Such elements have played key roles in the literatures of countless writers, especially since such similarly minor factors have repeatedly redirected history as we know it. The fate of the American Revolution, for example, might have ultimately been decided by a poker game. Before the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the American Civil War hinged on a piece of paper wrapped around three cigars, found in a field. A wrong turn in a stalling car resulted in the assassination that triggered World War I, whereas World War III was narrowly avoided in 1962 thanks to one little-known Soviet officer’s presence during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As for World War II, let’s not even get started on how different the world would be if a certain vagrant studied painting instead of antisemitism while in Vienna.