WW2 Captain America

The most interesting part of writing The Jimmy Project, my current novel about a superkid raised by the U.S. government, is that it takes place in an alternate Earth, with a history different from our own. For other things I’ve written, I’ve only had to do a modicum of research, just some brief Wikipedia browsing to make sure I wasn’t completely off my rocker before tackling a few sections. TJP has been wildly different in that I’m writing about a time period I have zero firsthand knowledge of (the 1930s-1950s), besides a few World War II movies.

What makes matters more interesting is that these decades were formative in how America related to the rest of the world, and critical for some of the technology that we still use today. When you throw a flying Captain America into the mix along with alien technology helping out the United States’ economic trajectory, things can go a million different directions.

These decades saw America coming out of the depression. It was a time when wealthy industrialists solidified their family legacies. During this time America started to see its need for global intelligence and formed the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense. The atom bomb was developed and used. The first computers were being theorized and invented.

So what happens to an America that makes first contact with benevolent aliens in the 1930s? As isolationists, do they introduce their intergalactic neighbors to their terrestrial ones? How do industrialists like Henry Ford utilize this newfound relationship to help pull the country from its deep depression? What kind of computing machine could Alan Turing develop were he to have access to technology years beyond our own?

And in terms of the military, how does World War II go down if you’ve got a 12 year old kid stronger than 10 Hercules dudes put together? Do Little Boy and Fat Man still get dropped on Japan? What happens to the formation of the CIA in the mid-40s if you’ve got alien technology that can help you gather information and a superkid that can do all of your infiltrations, extractions and covert operations without being seen? In fact, would a group like Jimmy’s belong to the DoD, the State Department, the FBI? A joint venture of several of those agencies? But most importantly — how does the rest of the world react to all of this? And does America’s might overrule its hermitic tendencies?

So yeah, these are the avenues I’m exploring right now with The Jimmy Project, and it’s producing all kinds of rabbit holes for me to research and incorporate into the first draft. I’m guessing in future drafts I’ll have to curb my enthusiasm a bit. You can only pursue so many of these questions before the excitement of wow alternate Earth OMG butts up against the story too harshly, but for now it’s fun. I think the most important lesson I’m learning is that this stuff has to be subtle. I don’t have to outline all the ways this Jimmy-centric Earth is so different, just nudge the reader with small cues. Things that they’ll pick out on their own as being different, rather than spending important plot time outlining how their history deviated from our own.

My question for you guys is: what great books have you read that deal with alternate history/alternate Earth well, and why? I’d love to hear some recommendations so I can do even more research while I continue to pound away on this novel.

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