Happy Halloween! For something spooky, here's my cover of Deadlands, set before Hell on Earth. I've changed around quite a bit, particularly the bits of the backstory I found unrealistically parallelistic. Many thanks to PachPachis, who helped me with ideas, wrote parts of the description (particularly the stuff on magic and technology) and proofreading this to make sure it lines up with established Deadlands lore. With Deadlands having alternate history within alternate history, think of this as another timeline that the Reckoners are fucking up.
This is also my 366th oneshot. Talk about archive panic for any new readers.
The year is 2078, but the future is not our own. The Union, Confederacy and the Eurasian Commune are locked in a cold war for supremacy over the last remaining stocks of ghost rock in the world. Magic is no longer a secret, although how it is treated still differs from acceptance to outright denial.
The modern world is built on a good, if imperfect, understanding of how this reality works. Extensive experimentation and research has proved that observer effect and memetic manipulation - that is, clap your hands if you believe - works. There are limits to how far belief can change reality, although they are still not well-known, and it is an inefficient way of actually accomplishing anything; Eurasian attempts to end their famine by having people believe that more food exists, or that people are no longer hungry, did not worked. There have been some examples of societies successfully gaming the system, however. American and Confederate intelligence agencies deliberately spread horrific rumors about those who try to infiltrate black sites, giving their installations an extra layer of protection. The Prussians claim to have turned their Dear Leader into an unliving god; while it's theoretically possible for a figure to gain theopotent power through belief, the rest of the world is skeptical about just how powerful the relatively small population of Prussia can make a god. And besides, the Prussians are notorious liars. That being said, the world hopes that the Chinese don't get any ideas.
Thanks to the whisperings of manitou about technology yet to be, and technology that ought not to be, the world has advanced far since the return of magic. It became madder than ever: rather than being limited to the tinkering of scattered madmen, scientists now work for large corporations and government agencies, all of their material needs taken care of so long as they sacrifice their sanity for progress. For much of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, while the brightest minds of the age are kept sane and working on more mundane paths, those who have more ambition than brains often tread the path of the mad scientist. Many innovations were made, some far in advance of their time, but they are only introduced to the general public after extensive safety testing. After all, a new form of car engine is no good if it has the tendency to kill the occupants because the gremlins decide that they want to go very fast for no good reason. Most people still don’t understand how technology works, not even the manufacturers. Repairmen often operate on a wing and a prayer, sometimes literally, and most manufacturers simply encourage consumers to buy a new product if theirs stops working; this has done wonders for consumerist culture, which is even more entrenched than OTL.
Ghost rock, the miracle fuel, moved the world to the Second Industrial Revolution and literally fueled the New Science movement. Made from the souls of the damned, compressed into a portable solid form, ghost rock burns much more efficiently than coal. It does have the unwanted side effect of releasing said spirits into the world and making it more preternaturally unstable, but that is a small price to pay for cheap energy. Ghost rock helped propel the United States and Confederate States into superpowerdom, with the Eurasians only able to compete thanks to the ghost rock they recovered from Tunguska. While temporarily overtaken by oil in the first half of the 20th century, and fusion power in the mid-21st, ghost rock has always been a part of the global economy.
In the 1930s, it was discovered that, if irradiated, ghost rock will start producing thaumaturgic radiation that does not entirely abide by the laws of baryonic materials and known physics. Far from recoiling in fear from this development, scientists (of varying sanity) decided to exploit it, eventually developing the "city buster" bomb. The city buster is exactly what it says: a bomb powerful enough to destroy an entire city, simply by energizing irradiated ghost rock, converting the mass of the ghost rock into various eldritch energies that tears at the fabric of reality. A ghost rock city buster was used by the United States against Germany during the Second Great War, wiping the city of Dresden off the map, and momentarily out of physical reality altogether.
Conventional nuclear weapons still exist, and are of higher yield, but ghost rock weapons are preferred. In experiments conducted by Doctor Darius Hellstromme, and the example of Dresden, ghost rock weapons cause a lot of radiation, but it reaches safe levels within a decade. Compared to the thousands of years necessary to clean up after a conventional nuke, ghost rock nukes are preferable because they allow territory to be captured. Of course, these come with a lot of manitous, the irradiated souls of the damned released from the ghost rock itself. But the leaders of the world think that is preferable to conventional radiation; I wonder where they got that idea?
The development of ghost rock reactors in the mid-20th century helped keep the material stay relevant. Rather than burning ghost rock, ghost rock is irradiated and turned into thaumaturgic radiation in a controlled reaction. This destroys any evil spirits that might otherwise be released into the world, far more environmentally friendly than simple ghost rock furnaces.
Everything changed in 2063, after the invention of ghost rock-tipped ICBMs. The manitou stopped whispering secrets to mad scientists. While regular science marched on, mad scientists were no longer getting ideas from the future. Perhaps they had caught up, and the manitou no longer had any secrets to give. A more sinister explanation was that the manitou intended to give humanity access to technology that would destroy it, and ghost rock ICBMs were precisely the technology that could do that. At any rate, it caused a crisis among R&D departments across the world, and technology hit a significant plateau. On the plus side, humanity still had a lot of mad science knowledge that needed to be made safe for the general public, and that has kept R&D busy, for now. Improving on mad science designs without the assistance of the manitou is incredibly dangerous work, and most R&D departments and laboratories have resorted to the "try it, and we're doing something right if it doesn't kill us" technique.
Technology is extremely advanced. Hellstromme Industries successfully created an interstellar portal that led to somewhere in the Large Magellanic Cloud, eventually sparking a rush to colonize the aptly-named Faraway System. The Faraway System's only habitable world, Banshee, has intelligent life, and the world powers are interested in it primarily to get more ghost rock. Space travel in-system has been surprisingly more limited, with permanent colonies established on the Moon, temporary colonies on Mars, but nowhere else. Most of the activity on the Moon is military or corporate; bases that allow for orbital deployment, and ghost rock mines on the poles. Terraforming is still theoretical, and it's only by luck that the Faraway system has a planet that can sustain human life.
Technology has benefited greatly from magic, with superjets reaching into vacuum on routine flights, Restore Air spells keeping oxygen from being a concern on those, submarines, or divers. Civilian technology also incorporates magic, with imps and elemental spirits efficiently, if dangerously, operating household appliances and cars. Magical means have allowed putting satellites in space at rates higher than ever before, which has not helped the threat of mutually assured destruction. AI-assisted battle satellites from dozens of nations crisscross Earth’s orbit. In the event of another worldwide war, practically ever one would take the opportunity to settle old scores with old rivals, dooming even otherwise worthless areas to destruction.
Other than Mad Science, magic can be broadly divided into huckstering, miracles, and shamanism.
Huckstering, officially and politely called spiritual gambling, is rather simple. A huckster, or gambler, contacts a spirit or demon and challenges them to a game, usually a modified form of poker specially developed for this purpose, for power. If the huckster wins, the power they want is granted. If they lose, they suffer a misfortune at the hand of the spirit the severity of which varies depending on the magnitude of the power the huckster wanted, from being late to work to losing an arm. Hucksters become very good at playing poker.
Miracles are, well, miracles granted by the object of a human being's worship. It is not understood whether their existence proves the existence of god(s) or merely magic bearing a resemblance - this debate is a sore subject at thanksgiving dinners everywhere. Whatever the case, what is known is that prayers for assistance from a worshiper of most religions stands a good chance of being granted as long as what they pray for is in proportion to their faith. A Christmas and Easter Catholic would be lucky if their prayers turned up their missing car keys, while a devout priest can pray away otherwise fatal gunshot wounds. If a person who has not previously been a believer in a given religious figure prays for help out of desperation, their prayers will very rarely be answered at all. The only exception, for reasons again unknown, is for those who pray to saints or those of similar status, who seem to have become patrons of the nonbelievers. Another limitation on prayer seems to be based on the prejudices of a particular religious sect. For example, some extremist Confederate churches never seem to grant miracles positively affecting black people, while there have been reports that Native Americans adept in miracle magic have found their prayers met with stony silence when they ask for aid to a white acquaintance. Cases of the latter are harder to verify, however, as most native magicians instead practice shamanist magic.
Shamanist magic operates on a similar basic principle to huckstering. A shaman, witch, or whatever they prefer to be called contacts a spirit and performs a ritual which compels the spirit to grant a power. The spirit summoned must be of a type related to the favor the shaman needs granted. For example, a nature spirit might be summoned to heal a forest after a wildfire. If the ritual is successful, the power is granted. If the ritual was performed incorrectly, the spirit does nothing and returns to the Other Side. While shamanism might seem clearly superior to huckstering for the lack of curses, the catch is in the rituals themselves. The ritual for mending a broken china plate is a ten-syllable incantation that would waste only thirty seconds of a shaman's time if flubbed, and they could immediately try again. The ritual for, say, causing a hurricane is long and arduous, and if performed incorrectly would set the shaman back thousands of dollars for the required exotic materials and days worth of preparation. For this reason, shamans' adherence to detail, tradition, and form must be perfect, a fact which can cause strife in their social lives.
Shamanism is also being explored for potentially providing a replacement to the dead Mad Sciences. With the manitous no longer granting ideas, all eyes now turn to the experimental new practice of summoning tech spirits. Until recent years, spirits could only be summoned relating to older things on earth: nature, poison, friendship and so on. But in the last decade, shamans have found themselves capable of making contact with spirits claiming dominion over human technology which has become common enough to leave an imprint on a magical level. Tech spirits as of now have only been able to make optimizing changes to existing technology, but hopes are high that they will eventually be able to make larger improvements than better gas mileage.
On Banshee, spirits are alien and difficult to contact. To fill this void, the colonizing powers are experimenting with transmuting, adding cybernetic implants which control the actions of a ghost rock nanobot swarm to colonist volunteers. While not technically magic, the nanobots are capable of making physical alterations similar to that of spiritual magic. The technology is experimental - fearing a grey goo scenario, the nanobots have been built to shut down completely at the first sign of disobeying directives; this has left transmuters powerless in the middle of fights - but advances are being made swiftly to the technology.
Quite simply, the Deadlands are Hell, and Hell is the Deadlands. The Deadlands were where the manitou came screaming out of to give dark designs to humans in service to the mysterious Reckoners who, it is said, scare even demons. When and where the Deadlands seep into Earth, magical abominations teem just out of sight. The borders of Deadlands on Earth must always be guarded too, as the abominations within feel no compulsion to stay there. Already, sandworms infest the American west, eating whole towns when left unchecked. Parts of Germany remain despoiled from the Second Great War. Worse things than those remain in the Deadlands, which are, for the moment, mercifully contained.
In some circumstances, a cadaver or consciousness, or both, may return to live as the undead Harrowed. The Harrowed are a diverse lot, with mindless utility shamblers being the easiest to make but uncommon due to the fact that civilians tend to react negatively to rotting loved ones waddling off to work after their death and crumbly skeletons being poor workers. More common are Harrowed imbued with the consciousness of the deceased. This process is imperfect for many reasons - the most obvious being that the Harrowed’s body will continue to rot even while “re-alive”, eventually leaving the Harrowed as a bleached white skeleton mercifully still (magically) capable of movement, sight, hearing and speech. However, the lack of taste, smell, and tactile sensations, as well as frightening appearance, can lead to Harrowed feeling the whole endeavor isn’t worth it, and is why most people who could afford such a treatment prefer to remain dead. Experiments have been made into implanting Harrowed consciousness, which with modern technomagic can be removed and imbued elsewhere, into new bodies, but robotic technology is still too primitive to be an adequate replacement for the human form and imbuing a consciousness into another living human or Harrowed results in something so abominable it’s illegal enough some states will execute you and then try to kill you again in the afterlife.
Nations of the World
United States of America
The United States is one of the three superpowers in the world, and typically the stronger between itself and its southern sister. After the end of the Civil War, the United States became a more cohesive political union. With the Southerners, Mormons, and Native Americans largely gone, those that were left in the United States were those who wanted to remain in. The loss of the Civil War and the upsurge in patriotism that followed further galvanized the country into one nation, indivisible.
While the states still exist, they do not have as much power as OTL; the Constitution has been interpreted so that most powers belong to the federal government. Through the years, the American government has been streamlined, with national elections mattering and state and local politicians taking marching orders from their federal counterparts. Federal laws are expansive, and state agencies exist mostly to enforce them.
American politics is further to the left of OTL, and has a stronger consensus. The Republicans and Free Soilers agree on most issues, and neither believe that the victory of the other threatens True American Values. To contrast with their Southern neighbors, American politics has taken a hard turn towards issues of racial and social justice. American politicians commonly denounce the racial hierarchy of the Confederacy, and the phrase "all men are created equal" appears on all American currency. Universal franchise is considered to be a fundamental human right, to the point that even convicted felons can vote. To make up for past injustices, extensive affirmative action, equal pay laws and racial quota systems are in place to benefit racial minorities. Welfare programs are extensive, and the United States has a much higher overall income tax rate than its Confederate counterpart.
The United States has also opened itself up to the oppressed of the world. While America does not have open borders, if a group is deemed to be suffering persecution, they are generally let in. This is particularly true if they are not Christian whites. The most famous example of this generosity is when the Americans let in millions of Confederate blacks, who had been essentially expelled from the Confederacy. American blacks make up the largest minority group in the United States, being a fifth of the American population. Blacks tend to vote Republican in overwhelming numbers, which has affected the political balance between the Republicans and Free Soilers. The issue of Confederate blacks being allowed to move in to the country has marked the starkest divide between the otherwise-agreeable Republicans and Free Soilers: the Radical Republicans wanted to admit all Confederate blacks, while more moderate Republicans and the Free Soilers wanted limited acceptance on the basis that the divided United States didn't have a lot of room. Ultimately, the "we're full" crowd won out, and while millions of Confederate blacks were admitted, millions more were turned away, moving to Canada, Liberia, and France.
Those who oppose the American political consensus tend to be ignored. While they are not jailed, as they would be in the Confederacy, they are seen as rabble-rousers and copperheads that shouldn't be given the time of day. That being said, there are anti-hate speech laws on the books, and people have been arrested for that. Ironically, the government has trouble arresting and prosecuting actual Confederate agents, as they are trained not to say anything that falls under hate speech when operating on American soil.
Gun control isn't a thing in either America. When shambling undead and other nasty critters are somewhat common and more likely to kill people than a mass shooter, it behooves oneself to be armed. Not only are private security and police more militarized - at the unfortunate cost of higher rates of police shootings - but civilians are also expected to be armed. It isn't uncommon for regular office workers to have a six shooter in the glove box or walking into the office with an assault rifle. Marksmanship and gun maintenance courses are also mandatory in high schools across the country.
Confederate States of America
The Confederacy is the other great power on the North American continent. Although still not as populous and developed as its northern rival, the Confederacy is far from the backwater it began as. Whatever the Yankees can do, Johnny Reb can do, and if not better, then good enough so that the next fight between them wouldn't lead to a clear winner. The Confederacy is a superpower, with assets throughout the Solar System and the ability to project force on any point on the planet within 24 hours.
Confederate politics, like its Union counterpart, isn't as fractured as the OTL United States. The Democratic Party and the States' Rights Party are conservative and slightly more conservative, with debates more over which party can execute a policy, and how the policy should be enacted, rather than being over what policies should be. The Confederacy is more decentralized than the OTL United States, with state militias remaining a force and states still choosing senators. Of course, Confederate government does have far more power than it did in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War; states no longer have their own currency.
Slavery, while enshrined in the Confederate Constitution, was abolished by constitutional amendment in the year 1900; the Confederacy was the only Western state on Earth to have slaves in the 20th century. The abolition of slavery was motivated by two factors: the rise of the nouveau riche industrial farmers, and foreign relations. The rise of automation in farming led to many entrepreneurs using free labor and successfully competing with the old plantation system. They, and their employees, became the base of the States' Rights Party, and they wanted to take down the Confederate Democratic establishment. The abolition of slavery was the abolition of competition for free white labor, and the destruction of the old aristocracy; that it benefited slaves was of no concern, as the States' Righters had no illusions of granting freed slaves any civil rights. Slavery was also straining the Confederacy's alliance with the British. While the Confederates had proved they could guarantee their independence on their own, any future war against the Union would be devastating without British support. This conflict over slavery ironically threatened to tear the Confederacy in two, but the States' Righters ultimately triumphed.
After a few decades of playing with the idea of "separate but equal," the Confederates decided to throw out the ostensibly Enlightenment roots of their revolution and have become unapologetic white supremacists. It's surprising what the world will let you get away with when you have the world's third largest nuclear arsenal and are a bona fide superpower. Sure, theoretically the Confederates are "racial realists" who respect the natural biological and cultural diversity of the human species, and that all races have the fundamental and equal right to exist. But in practice, some races are more equal than others. Whites, or European-Americans, as the Confederates insist, are on the top of the ladder of Confederate society and their like-minded allies. There are some exceptions, such as the hypernationalistic Hermit Kingdom of Corea; "some Orientals are okay," reckon Confederate racial scientists.
The one drop rule, genetic testing, strict pedigrees and endless bickering over whether Ashkenazi Jews, Slavs and Irish were white were done away with after a few embarrassing results for the top of Confederate society back in the 1990s, and now the "brown paper bag" rule is in effect. The Confederate Supreme Court rather unhelpfully opined on the issue, "I know a white man when I see one." Native Americans are treated like a model minority, out of fear as much as respect, although most moved to the independent Coyote Confederation.
Most blacks in the Confederacy have fled the country; whenever there is an economic slump, the Confederate government's first response is to set racial quotas for all employers, forcing them to fire blacks and hire whites. The race riots and lynchings don't help. By the mid-20th century, the Confederate government saw their black population as a burden, and started asking the Americans and other countries to take their share "for the negroes' own safety." Not wanting to be complicit in genocide, the international community begrudgingly accepted these refugees. Those few blacks that did remain were shuffled into reservations, not unlike the former territory of Coyote (or OTL bantustans). They are about as impoverished and neglected as OTL Indian reservations. Native Americans within the Confederacy, on the other hand, do rather well; being a notorious source of magic powers is a good way to earn respect.
Most Confederate allies are apartheid states, former colonial domains such as Algeria, South Africa, Kenya, and parts of India. This is a major injustice, agree the Americans and Eurasians, who have the decency to back dictators who look the same as the people they are oppressing. Confederate allies, known appropriately as the "Global South," tend to be richer than their counterparts because of major Confederate investment in these regions. Of course, the benefit is predominantly for Confederate corporations and the ruling elite; while the Confederates are spending billions on roads in Kenya, when half of those roads are for "business use" only, it's clear that the Confederates aren't ponying up out of the goodness of their hearts.
The Great Maze is under firm American and Confederate control. The ghost rock there was, and remains, essential, used in the 20th century to power American and Confederate economic growth and for use in their city bomb arsenal. Bridges and small helipads have been built between and on the larger mesas, connecting the various settlements of the Great Maze to one another. The City of Lost Angels has been admitted into the Confederacy as a special autonomous region, and is famously the only place in the Confederacy where racial segregation is not enforced. The Great Maze is still competed over by the United States and the Confederate States, as global ghost rock deposits dwindle and the region continues to be the only reliable source of the wonder fuel.
The Sioux remain marginally hostile to the two Americas. The white man's crimes are still taught to every Sioux child and the topic of choice for Sioux propaganda. The Old Ways are the only way, or at least that’s what the Sioux wicasas want. In truth, the Sioux have abandoned the Old Ways and become part of the new technological age, same as everyone else.
The Sioux remain dominated by the Four Tribes: the Hunkpapa, Miniconjou, Brule, and Oglalas. All other tribes must appeal to them for influence, and this has made the Four Tribes very rich and very corrupt. The tribes could be more aptly described as corporations with a hereditary management class. The discovery of oil and some ghost rock deposits in Sioux territories have brought in plenty of money from the outside world, which goes primarily to the Four Tribes. Needless to say, the Four Tribes live very well, while the rest of the tribes in the Sioux nation live in poverty. This has caused a lot of friction between the Four Tribes and the subordinate tribes, as many of the downtrodden have come to believe that the Four Tribes are sellouts who have abandoned the Old Ways in exchange for money.
The old Order of the Raven took de facto control of the Sioux at the turn of the century. The old wicasas died off, and the Old Ways were more liberally interpreted as strict interpretation became less and less tenable. The Old Ways became reinterpreted as a cultural conservatism that can accept the white man's innovations, and later on became even more watered down as a fashion trend. The old wicasas were wrong in believing that this weakened the Sioux's magic; as the Sioux believed that they were still clinging on to the Old Ways, their gods changed their tune, reflecting the beliefs of their worshipers. Nowadays, assault rifles and spacesuits are just as Sioux as arrows and buffalo skins, and their gods agree. In fact, a few more deities have appeared in the Sioux pantheon representing modern concepts such as cars and computers.
The Order of the Raven never went public, their mission simply shifted to ensuring the white man stayed divided. When the two Americas united their efforts during the Great Wars and against Eurasia, the Ravenite agents worked with the anarcho-syndicalists of Eurasia to bring low the Confederate and American effort in Vietnam. Ravenites secretly fund the most extreme nationalists in the Union and Confederacy, to keep them divided and to keep the Sioux safe.
The Sioux Nations are isolationist. They dislike and distrust the Americans for their past, and the Confederates for their racial politics. In order to maintain its independence, the Sioux have quite the impressive ICBM arsenal. With the Sioux in the perfect position on the continent to rain nuclear and literal Hell on the rest of the world, the white man is kept well at bay. Advanced shamanist magic, many of which is kept secret from the rest of the world, and strategically-placed deadlands also do the trick.
Mexico and LatAm
Although long humiliated by its northern neighbors, Mexico has become a power of its own in the 21st century. After overthrowing the pro-Confederate Habsburgs and breaking the power of the Catholic Church, Mexico returned to its Aztec blood magic roots. Nevertheless, it seesawed between the Americans and Confederates under ineffectual governments until nationalists were elected in 2055.
The nationalists, seeking to make Mexico great again, threw out the American and Confederate puppets in their government and rearmed. They claimed Confederate territory up to Phoenix, and took full advantage of Aztec blood magic by sacrificing criminals and political opponents to their gods in exchange for favors, powers and secrets. The Mexicans forged a strong alliance with the United States, and used American expertise and technology to further bolster their effective, highly magical army. They also forged ties with the rest of Latin America , forming the LatAm bloc, with the goal of keeping the Confederates and their allies out of Latin America. Mexico backed Argentina in their bid to take the Falklands from the British, and have supported Argentina and Chile against Brazil.
The revival of Aztec religion has been the defining moment in recent Mexican history. Although modern Aztec paganism is heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism, worship of the old gods has returned in full force, and the sacrifices to them have given them more power than they've ever had, even before the Spanish arrived. Churches were demolished, replaced with altars to the old gods. Large pyramids were constructed in major Mexican cities for the express purpose of serving as "mega-temples," and even modern office buildings in Mexico are pyramidal. Blood magic and divine magic used by Mexican sorcerers, and while very potent forms of magic, the general lack of technological infrastructure for these uniquely Mexican forms of magic means that they take a toll on the sorcerer's body and mind. Not all Mexicans have embraced the old ways, and to this day, Catholic uprisings occur, often supported by the Confederacy.
Other than Britain, the Brazilian Empire is the Confederacy's closest ally. A fellow slavocracy, abolishing the peculiar institution just a few years before the Confederacy itself. The Brazilians have adopted a form of the Confederacy's racial hierarchy system, although given the highly mixed population in the country, their system is both more complex and more flexible. Generally speaking, the lighter someone is, the higher they are on the social ladder, but unlike in the Confederacy, exceptions can exist in Brazil.
The Eurasian Commune
The Eurasian Commune are ideologically different from their OTL counterparts, the Soviet Union. The triumph of the slave power, and the tearing apart of the materialist understanding of the universe, threw Marx's theories into a fire. Anarchism fared far better, and became the dominant force in the far left. It was clear to them that only armed force would triumph against the forces of reactionary oppression, and as the Native Americans have shown, there is a way: using the supernatural to serve the people. The black of anarchism married black magic. Occult groups joined the fray, and during the chaos of the Great War, many anarchists succeeded in creating and maintaining anacho-syndicalist communes throughout Europe; the millions of dead helped weaken the barrier between this world and the next. But none were as successful as the anarchists in the former Russian Empire, who succeeded in transforming that state into the world's largest anarchist commune. The Romanovs, manipulated by Russian occultists and their manitou handlers, led Russia to disaster during the Great War. With the Russian armies destroyed, and outright famine hitting the country, the time was ripe for revolution. With the discovery of the Tunguska site, the largest deposit of ghost rock on Earth outside of the Americas, Eurasia became a power to rival the Americans and Confederates.
Eurasia did not operate as an anarcho-syndicalist commune for long. Effectively governed by the Black Army during the war, the Eurasians' leaders soon found that it was impossible to stamp out internal opponents, keep out external opponents, and keep their gains from the war without centralized command. The Black Army was soon called once again to perform the task of governing the country, which they have done so to this day. The Black Army transformed itself from merely a military force to becoming the de facto state apparatus for the Eurasian Commune, which still claims not to have a proper state because they are ideologically anarcho-syndicalists, so they could not possibly have a state.
The Eurasians dominated much of Eastern Europe after the Second Great War, and for a few decades, the Americans and Confederates were united against this force that threatened them both. However, the failures of the Americans and Confederates to contain anarcho-syndicalism and disagreements over what must be done led to a split between the Americans and the Confederates. The Eurasians thought they were going to bury their statist enemies, but unfortunately, it was the Eurasians who would be weakened. The 1988 revolutions saw many anarcho-syndicalist regimes in Europe overthrown, and the Eurasian Commune itself was almost overthrown, ironically enough by anarchists who believe that the Eurasians stepped too far from the path to stateless equality. Only the intervention of the Black Army's security forces stopped the revolution in Eurasia, but much of Eastern Europe was lost. The Eurasian economy weakened, the Black Army forced to reduce itself in size because of decreasing budgets. By the dawn of the 21st century, it was clear that Eurasia could not take on either the Americans or the Confederates on their own.
The Great Wars devastated Europe and knocked them from their perch. The Second Great War confirmed this, the mundane armies of Britain and France melting before the eldritch forces of the Kaiser and the Thule Society, saved only by the magic-enhanced troops of America, the Confederacy, and Eurasia. The centuries of European global domination had come to an end.
The first Great War pitted the German and Austrian empires against the British, French and Russian empires. The Russians, ill-prepared for war, were crushed and their country thrown into the fires of revolution. The Germans almost triumphed, were it not for the intervention of the Confederacy and the Union on behalf of the Allies. The Confederates wanted to honor their long-time alliance with the British and French, while the Union wanted to mend relations with those countries.
Germany's defeat in the Great War humiliated the Kaiser and broke his spirit. While he kept his throne and his empire was not totally dismembered - as the French wanted - large pieces of the German Empire were ceded to her neighbors. An insecure man even prior to the war, his defeat at the hands of the Allies turned the man into a recluse, playing in his head scenarios where he won the war over and over again. This mania with the defeat was taken out on his subordinates, the last remnants of the pre-war order that hadn't died, been carted away by the Allies to prison for war crimes, or been forced to resign in humiliation for their incompetence. The Kaiser saw enemies everywhere, unable to accept the defeat or his role in precipitating it.
The Kaiser had no friends, until the whispers began. Whispers from demons, and men worse than demons. The manitou were keen on manipulating humanity into entering another devastating war, not only because killing people is good and mass death creates more deadlands, but also to move humanity to a geopolitical state where total annihilation is possible in an instant. Through their human acolytes, the Thule Society, the manitou manipulated the Kaiser and effectively took control of the German government, much as they had the Russian government during the Great War. To convince the Germans of their impending victory, the manitou gave the Germans a technological advantage by aiding their mad scientists, and gave the Kaiser and his generals visions of a German-dominated future and what they would need to do to achieve it. These acts, mandated by the Kaiser and enforced by the Thule Society, were all manner of evil and depraved acts. Deadlands were created to shield Germany from an Allied invasion, intellectuals who opposed the regime were forced to become mad scientists, churches were torn down and the German government promoted the occult. And, most shockingly, the Germans killed millions of "enemies of the state," in order to harvest their souls and create artificial ghost rock, in order to fuel the Germans' occult war machine.
The German military was transformed into a highly occult force, openly relying on magical technology and sorcery, in order to counter their numerical disadvantage. The Thule Society was given de facto control over large parts of the German military, the Kaiser not trusting his generals to win a second war when they lost the first. All war crimes were sanctioned, sometimes ordered, if they would lead to victory. German-occupied areas were despoiled and depopulated, sacrificed to power the German military.
Of course, the manitou never intended for Germany to win. The Germans saw great success at first, occupying all of Europe west of Eurasia and east of the Seine, crushing the French and British, but they lost in the end. The Allies crushed Germany, but at great cost. The deadlands the Germans created took a heavy toll on the invaders. The Germans did not want to surrender and humiliate themselves a second time, so the Allies resorted to attacking civilian targets to break the German people entirely. But the Germans fought on with a fanaticism powered by the occult; even the destruction of Dresden with a city buster only convinced the Germans to continue the war. The war ended only when Eurasian troops stormed Berlin and captured the Kaiser and the remaining Thule Society leaders.
Germany was broken in three: part went to the Americans, another to the Confederacy, the last to Eurasia. The Allies resolved to never allow Germany to reunite, placing their own, distinct governments in control of the parts of the Reich. German identity itself was eventually destroyed outside of the highly nationalistic South Germany, which was handed over to German Christian nationalists who despised the Kaiser for destroying their country.
After the recession of Eurasian influence in Europe, the former Commune of Germany broke apart into many different pieces. One of these is the National State of Prussia, which took control of East Prussia. Radical German nationalists inspired by the wartime Thule Society, the Prussians are pagans trying to restore the Norse-Germanic gods by sheer force of will, with their Dear Leader joining the pantheon. The ultimate goal of the Prussians is to stop being Prussians and to reunite all of Germany under their iron will, and they are willing to sacrifice anything - figuratively and literally - to do it. They have become a pariah in Europe, with no state on Earth willing to do business with them.
France and Britain were broken by the two great wars. The Second Great War reinforced a fear of magic and the occult, and the lack of ghost rock in British and French territories discouraged further development. The devastation wrought on Britain and France led to the two countries shedding colonial obligations, and led to both states being dependent on the Americas. Both states have banned the practice of magic in their borders, banned the importation of explicitly magical technology, and banned mad science. The British and French position on magic is that it is merely an unexplained force in the universe that, with enough enlightenment and education, can be explained by mankind. Their reliance on more mundane technology has reduced their influence, but they have more reliable and safer societies.
The British stayed faithful to the Confederacy, while the French drifted more towards the Union, who invested more in rebuilding the country after the Second Great War. Although they have lost much of their colonial empire, they have tightened their grip on the pieces that are left. Canada, Australia and New Zealand are extremely loyal to London, particularly the Canadians, as their southern neighbors remain a threat. Compared to the Confederates, the British are more racially egalitarian, having no official racial laws. The rich descendants of colonial elites, educated in elite British schools, travel in the same circles as the native British elite. In Britain, class is more important than race, although foreign-descended peoples are more likely to be born into the lower classes. Without much of a social ladder, British society is extremely static.
Canada admitted a million Confederate blacks over the years, although they have remained at the absolute bottom of Canadian society and are considered outcasts for their understandably strong anti-Confederate sentiments. When the manitou disappeared in 2063, the ice manitou that had transformed northern Canada into a second Antarctic disappeared with them. Now, heaters were no longer required to keep the True North strong and free from ice. Resettlement began in earnest, although some terrible things have been found in the ice. Territories rich in ghost rock and oil are quickly claimed by British corporations, while useless territories are "graciously gifted" to blacks and First Nations who were forced into ghettoes.
France is more conservative than their American allies, although they still claim the legacy of the Enlightenment and are disgusted by Confederate racialism. In response to the occult antics of the Germans, Catholicism has made a major comeback in France, and the French have state-sanctioned "priests" who practice holy magic. The French are cultural chauvinists, with their government enforcing French culture on everyone in their borders, regardless of whether they are of French descent. This has effectively eliminated any cultural differences that might arise from France's sizable North African and sub-Saharan African population. The French are also big fans of European integration, forming the European Confederation with her continental allies. The European Confederation shares the same currency - the franc - and cooperates internationally, such as on surveys of the Faraway system.
Japan never invaded Asia, and has been an American ally since the country was opened up by the Americans for trade. Japanese ancestor worship and deals with youkai - the Japanese word for manitous - form the basis of Japanese magic, which remains highly traditional and separate from Japan's technology. This does not harm Japan, as the Japanese possess some of the most advanced mundane science in the world; they simply never accepted mad scientists into their culture.
China is a fourth power, and largely alone in the world. Which is exactly how they want it: the century of Western humiliation is still a very sore spot for the Chinese. The Westerners, and their Qing puppets, were eventually expelled by peasant rebellions, who were far more successful than expected. While the West didn't expect the belief that having the right chi could block bullets, when tens of millions of Chinese peasants believe it, it has quite the effect. Unfortunately, throwing out the Qing only led to more war, as rival factions fought for power. Ultimately, Chinese republicans triumphed. Many educated in the West, the Chinese republicans fused a strong nationalism and love for Chinese traditional culture with Western technology and political ideals. Initially receiving aid from the United States, which wanted to create a sphere of influence in Asia, the Chinese later became a power in their own right and rejected further assistance from "Western imperialist." Modern China is an insular society, developing its own esoteric magic independently of the rest of the world, while using their spies to steal Western technology.
India was the first British colony to break free of the British Empire, although it did so messily. The Indian people did not rise up against the British as one, as perhaps some in the Indian independence movement wanted. Instead, one region might revolt and get put down, and another would do the same. The result is that what was once British India is a patchwork of various independent states. The Indian factions used magic extensively, with Indian numbers, shamanism and holy magic managing to eventually turn the tide against British technological superiority.
The Indian Continental Congress, supported by the United States, managed to inherit most of the British Raj. Enlightenment-inspired secularists, the Indian Continental Congress wanted to establish a federal secular representative republic like the United States. They have largely succeeded in emulating the form of the United States, but the internal politics of India is a different matter. Political parties have broken down along religious, linguistic, and caste lines, making widespread political change all but impossible because the power balance between the parties will never change. The Hindi People's Party will always dominate, and the only thing that can stop them is a coalition of the other parties.
Africa is no longer under European domination, but where Europe receded, the Americans and Eurasia stepped in. Those countries which retained white colonial leadership invariably sided with the Confederates or their South African allies, while those who managed to overthrow white leadership aligned themselves with the Americans. A few anarcho-syndicalist or other communalist revolutions succeeded after colonial forces withdrew, and these states sided with the Eurasians. Africa remains the most impoverished continent on the planet, with many states failed or weakened by years of war. The superpowers exploit these countries for minerals, coups and revolutions are common, and to top it all off, dangerous shamanistic magic and holy magic from gods long forgotten make for a chaotic mix.
The superstitions on the African continent make warlords a more powerful force than elsewhere on Earth, with many warlord generals capable of amazing feats such as invisibility or immunity to gunfire simply because they have the reputation of being able to do so. False shamans are just as common as real ones, with the fakers bribed by warlords to give them the reputation needed for supernatural powers. Unfortunately, shaman warlords resort to human sacrifice and cannibalism as part of their ritual, both to fuel their magical powers and to cement their political strength through terrorizing the local population. Endless wars and resource exploitation in the jungles of Central Africa have run out a lot of nasty supernatural critters, who have crossed the porous borders into neighboring countries to feed on a terrorized populace.
South Africa and her allies left their colonial masters on amicable terms, and have enforced brutal racialist regimes that make the Confederacy seem tame. The major cities are white (and, in very few instances, Asian) only, walled off and surveilled by advanced drones. Outside the cities, the countryside is dominated by white landowners who use blacks as de facto slave labor. Having to deal with a large majority of blacks, the white leaders of South Africa have resorted to many of the same tactics that the brutal warlords to their north have. Terrorism, both through the means of police brutality and overwhelming military strength, and the use of South Africa's own white shamans, who have mixed European occultism with African animism to create a cult of dark power that the South African government keeps secret from its white, urban population. Many blacks who are perceived to "step out of line" are brutally sacrificed in the night, the evidence of their fate being discovered by a horrified population the next morning. These shamans are often embedded with South African mercenaries and special ops, who go on to enforce white rule in other African states.
 Including, among other things, confirmation that legends such as Paul Bunyan were operating in the Weird West during the late 19th century.
 Disinterring the corpses of infamous Wild West outlaws and Native American warriors and placing them in unflattering positions around high security zones is another common practice, although officially dismissed as a disgusting political attack by anti-government types.
 Dresden was declared safe, if haunted, by Eurasian authorities after the war. It is still a place filled with dark magic, and after the fall of the Commune of Germany, the hub of occult activity in Europe.
 Deemed to be constitutional under the First Amendment by the Supreme Court, under the logic that hate speech does not contribute to legitimate political discourse.
 These priests are not sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church or any other official religious institution, thus maintaining separation of church and state.
 On the Americans' side, they saw Japan as a better long-term prospect.