If only… (On Alternate History)

Maybe Alternate History’s appeal comes down to the fact that every human, ever, says ‘If only I had…’ That, perhaps and the fact that most of us (we’re all victors of a sort, in the battle if not the war, because we’re still alive) are constantly indulging in the victor’s privilege of re-writing our own history. In truth, history is never really pretty. On the individual level, on the state level, on the world level, there’s always something we’d like to have another go at – even the bits we didn’t actually do too badly, and would probably make a horse’s butt next time.

Yes, OK. I’m a cynical bastard. One who probably (for the sake of the modern world’s tender sensibilities) shouldn’t be let loose on a keyboard without a minder, with a club*. But something has to explain the desire to imaginatively revisit something we can’t change. It is popular though. Sprague de Camp’s ‘Lest Darkness Fall’ remains one of my favorites.

Now there are two ways of looking at history, and how changes might affect it. The one takes the line that individuals are irrelevant. History’s course is pre-ordained, directional, and certain. If you time-travelled back and killed Gavrilo Princip or Fritz Haber… some other cog would have stepped into the breech in the machine and killed Franz Ferdinand or started the war for some other pretext, and invented a way of producing the nitrates that kept the Axis powers able to fight WW1.

The other extreme of course is the butterfly wing. One flap less and no doubt the entire world and possibly the universe are changed and doomed. The smallest change affects everything. Curiously some people manage to hold both positions at once. According to such as these history is certain and assured, they are on the right side of it… no matter what happens (in other words no individual or event or invention is going to change the course they approve of) and on the other hand the death of a protected minnow will spell extinction for all life (despite the evidence that despite myriad extinctions and disasters life seems to be resilient, adaptive, and well, not fragile. Individuals are fragile. Life might be different, however).

I’ve always suspected that reality – could we slip down the trunk of the tree of time and change onto one of those branches of other probability, that that branch would slowly diverge – but that the divergence would depend on what changed and how relevant that was. That was the basis of Cuttlefish – Where my change was to the relationship between Clara Immerwahr and Fritz Haber, the man who really fathered the chemical revolution (as relevant as the industrial one, just less obvious) and to whom we owe high-pressure chemistry (which is basically most of it, these days), to say nothing of the nitrate fertilizers that made Malthus so wrong.

We’re writers, and exploring these alternate worlds is fascinating… but fraught. Firstly, the basic rules of what not to get wrong – guns, horses, and sailboats… grows suddenly and exponentially. History buffs seem to love alternate history… so long as you get the relevant details right. And…, um, they will disagree with you endlessly and passionately about ‘what would have happened’. Yes, really. It’s fiction. It crosses the multiple multiplicative possibilities (at least it does if you’re on my side of the divide, believing individuals, inventions, events change history). You’ll still get the odd fellow giving your book one star because it doesn’t concur with what he or she thought would happen.

Mind you… some versions of alternate History really are amazingly dim. Take this one (Okay, there is some bias here. I’m actually one of those who thinks hereditary aristocracy, without rigorous and continuous winnowing, is like breeding dogs by always picking the first born as best of the litter. I favor liberty and merit.) To save you from adding to Vox’s clicks… in summary, the author thinks there is nothing to celebrate about the 4th of July. It should be time of wailing and misery. American Independence from Britain was an un-leavened disaster for women and the weakest minorities, black slaves and American Indians. The extra liberty gained by the minority white men was not worth the suffering they inflicted on the majority: ‘who cares if white men had to suffer through what everyone else did for a while longer, especially if them doing so meant slaves gained decades of free life?’ And the US’s system of government isn’t a patch on constitutional monarchy, and the UK parliamentary system is just far better for passing important legislation like the Carbon Tax.

He’s “reasonably confident a world in which the revolution never happened would be better than the one we live in now,” with America perhaps gaining independence a century or so later, along with Canada.

One has to be curious… why not gaining independence at the same time as Uganda? Or Pakistan? Is he racist? I mean, he shows the Canadian opposition leader at the Gay Pride march in Canada – obviously a result of the advantages of having stayed an Imperial British possession for that long. Just think how America… or Canada, could have done if they’d stayed as long as Pakistan. Plainly staying longer in the British Empire made these places bastions of liberalism in which all the bakers have to be gay, women are in all the positions of authority, and minorities from all over the world are so safe that they migrate there (which of course the enlightened authorities help them to do.), to say nothing of the wondrous economic situation this has gifted these jewel-countries, with their cornucopia of wealth and food production providing for the poor in America.

This is a wonderful example of wishful thinking of the ‘cog in the machine’ alternate history. History would have been the same, just better for everyone except white men, and that would make no difference…

Let’s leave aside the fact that he plainly knows little about Imperial Britain, let alone the colonial interests of the other European powers. (Perhaps he’d have preferred the American Indians to have had the Belgians? I’m sure he’s a fan of the EU and therefore Brussels must be a winner. Look at the wonders they performed in the Congo.) or the questionable assumption that the wealth and liberty of men has no effect on women – or indeed any other part of society. (Women are better treated in Mali than they are in the US, aren’t they?) or the ramifications that an independent and democratic US had on world politics, or maybe history at all, and just focus on the funniest bit of this very bad piece of alternate history. Think about it…

The author may of course be inbred** and pure British stock – most truly an Englishman in the US for 12 generations, and associating only with the same, but otherwise it amounts to ‘I, and almost all the people I know, should never have been born. The world would be a better place.’ This is self-evident simply because almost all Americans aren’t purely descended from people who were around in America around 1770 – not even the ‘minorities and women’*** he is so concerned about. The migration of all those filthy foreigners wasn’t something the British would have been very keen on. And without new lands to migrate to, or dreams of gold, land, escape from imperialism, or freedom from religious persecution to draw them, why would they have come? (Migration, as I can tell you from experience, is not something that drives most folk to leave from bad… to the same. Or worse.)

With this degree of self-hatred, perhaps he needs to be on a suicide watch. Oh… but isn’t he a white male? In his own terms of reference, it wouldn’t matter.

But somehow dumbo and camp-followers never think THEY would be affected.(“NO. It’s not me and my friends I’m talking about. It’s you that shouldn’t have been born. WE are the chosen ones.”)

I’m always amused by proof that idiots aren’t only enlisted men being misled by the Emperor Mong (yes, I have followed his infallible wisdom too). But for heaven’s sake, unless you’re writing alternate history for brain-dead puppy-kickers and their ilk (and this appears to be a fairly small constituency, likely to shrink if times get tougher), try to think things through. Try to be plausible as well as entertaining. To think through consequences and probabilities. It’ll give your story a far wider appeal.

On the other hand maybe you can do quite well out of people reading you to point and laugh or roll their eyes. That’s my schitck :-), after all.

*Not the kind that I wouldn’t join if they’d have me, but the kind with a rusty six-inch nail through the end.

** Work it out. It’s been damn near 250 years, and in that time the pool of people with ONLY British ancestors has been steadily bred out. It’s increasingly implausible, without inbreeding for many generations. Let’s be real, even if you know every ‘ancestor’, back to pre-1783, chances are that say great Granny’s daddy wasn’t the man Great great was married to. It happens.

***We have it on good authority from all the self-declared important figures in sf who posit on that fount of knowledge, file 770, the puppies are dead (again), the Tor boycott failed (for the 7th time)… and in everything from the sinking of the HMS Birkenhead, to the end of the world (as a result of Global warming, because we didn’t pass the Carbon tax, on 1997/2005/2014/2020/2025….) or the heat death of the universe, women and minorities are ALWAYS worst affected. We are assured it will still be the Sad Puppies fault, or at least that George Martin would blame us.


  1. Based on the reports of others, I love how he assumes that colonialism would have ended on anything similar to the schedule it did if there was no American revolution. Based on the history we *actually saw*, without us to get the ball rolling, then colonialism wouldn’t have collapsed until the late 19th and early 20th century… possibly as late as the 1940s.

    1. How does this “person” treat the French Revolution?

      There’s some evidence that French financial support for us “evil American Rebels” weaken the position of the French monarchy.

      Of course, there’s the idea that a successful revolt against one King, encouraged a revolt against the French king.

    2. Would colonializm have ended in the 1940s? If Great Britain had free access to North America’s resources and manpower (without having to go bankrupt paying for them) In WWII, would it have been able to keep order in South Asia and retain the colonies? Heck, would WWI have gone the way it did? Would Wilhelm II have looked at the Royal Navy and thought “Hmm, better idea. Instead of getting into a naval race, let’s grit our teeth and work with Russia against Britain and Austria.”

    3. I must chose my words carefully, lest my Revolutionary War ancestors rise up and “get” me. Like my wife, all my ancestors were already here in 1776, and everyone who fought did so on the Patriot side. (This also questions that only a “few” have ancestors who were all here during the rebellion, and I suspect it’s a function of regions with high 19th – 20th Century immigration vs regions where there was heavy immigration on the “front-end” of things). That said, there is some basis for the first two points. What the author sees as a feature in point three I see as a massive bug that led to the American Revolution in the first place.

      Be that as it may, after the expense of the French and Indian War, George III wasn’t keen at continuing conflicts and made peace with the border nations, put limits on expansion, and installed a buffer zone to keep it. There was also Somerset vs Stewart in 1772, which put Britain on a course for abolition, though when they took Savannah they had no qualms at selling the captured French Haitian soldiers into slavery. There’s a real possibility, had the Patriots lost the American Revolution, that historians would claim that it was about slavery. Do a bit of poking and you’ll find modern claims of just that.

      What happens after a failed American Revolution depends on how it collapsed, but it’s all speculation. Do we even know if Washington and friends would have been drawn and quartered? Peace with the Indians – for now, but things got nasty on the frontier and there was going to be bad feelings between the border tribes and colonists. Spain holds practically all of North America and the Caribbean, and had aided the Patriots. Some colonists would have headed further into the woods, or cut out for Louisiana and be done with it. That might have made things interesting. The bad blood between Patriot and Tory wasn’t going to go away, and France and Spain might have wanted to keep Britain bogged down in the colonies, both as a financial drain and to keep it from being active elsewhere. Whatever would have happened, it wouldn’t have been moonlight and roses.

      1. Agree.

        One idiot on another site was always talking about “how the world would have been better” if Americans hadn’t revolted.

        Of course, England would have “easily” beat Hitler since the Americans would have gotten involved earlier. [Sarcasm]

        He imagined a world where everything would have “gone better” because the American colonialists were always fighting for England. [Sad Smile]

        Well, real history is messy. Things never go as people might imagine that would. Just look at predictions of the future made in the past and compare those predictions with what actually happened.

        1. One fun thought. Europe may have been able to pacify certain areas by letting militant populations be exported to North America, where they promptly started fighting the indians. Or after the indian wars, and various lesser known internal conflicts, settled into an armed quasi-truce with various forces.

          So, perhaps either Europe has to hold on to those populations, retaining a higher level of conflict, or the fighting happens anyway in North America, or they get exported to some other place.

      2. Hmm. Kevin, I agree with much of your thesis, but I want to run through this ‘Like my wife, all my ancestors were already here in 1776, and everyone who fought did so on the Patriot side.’ Now, please this NOT an attack on you, or your wife or your family. You may indeed be that exception. But it is a very unlikely sequence, because we’re not talking about a patrilineal line. But let me explain – let’s take it over 10 generations (and while inbreeding was common – in my family too, let’s assume it didn’t happen).
        The most important thing here is there is no ‘nearly’ – for the same 11th generation genetic person to be produced this has to be 100%. NO exceptions.

        first generation post independence 2 marry – all 4 parents were patriots.
        second generation all 8 grandparents need to be.
        third generation all 16 gg need to be.
        fourth generation all 32 ggg need to be
        fifth generation all 64 gggg need to be
        sixth generation all 128 ggggg need to be
        seventh generation all 256 gggggg need to be
        eighth generation all 512 ggggggg need to be
        ninth generation all 1024 gggggggg need to be
        tenth generation all 2048 ggggggggg need to have been patriots…
        remember NO exceptions. Not ONE bride whose mother’s great grandmother came from Italy.

        It’s not impossible, just massively improbable. And even in the event of the improbable in that one person’s case it assumes that birth would have happened as a result of precisely the same mating, with precisely the same gene combination (which is ridiculously unlikely, once, let alone 10 times). That’s without bringing the survival to breeding age lotto into it -which with even slightly changed circumstances would change a lot. And it only has to fail once. That’s without bringing the ‘would that pair of parents actually meet at all’ with changed circumstances. No, I stand by my point. Had the American revolution failed, Dylan Matthews would not exist.

        1. No offense at all. I do a similar calculation to show why, unless there’s inbreeding, there isn’t much genetic material from an ancestor n generations up the line. I also count it differently: Revolutionary War Ancestor and his wife = Generation 1 = 2 people. Ancestor through him and his wife, Generation 2 = four ancestors (for him); Generation 3 = 8, all following 2^n, where n is the number of generations, the same you’re using, just counting it one generation less. Counting a particular Revolutionary War ancestor as Generation 1, there are only five between him and me, so that’s 2^6 = 64. I know the number of generations because I have the names of the ancestors in between, along with, date of births, and in most cases, date of death, and just doubled checked.

          Now, note that I said ancestors who fought in the American Revolution did so on the Patriot side. There was a French Huguenot ancestor who isn’t recorded as fighting on either side, which isn’t unusual because roughly a third of the colonists didn’t. Another may have had kin on the Loyalist side, but that’s hazy, and another did have distant Tory kin, and that’s not hazy at all.

          A big function of this is where they lived and what happened after the war: the Tories left. Had they lived near the coast, there would have been a greater chance having a Tory in the woodpile, because in that part of the colonies there were more Loyalists. Once you headed inland, Loyalists became fewer, and after the war they were gone, the land often seized and given to veterans, which is how one branch wound up where they did. So his line was surrounded by those who fought on the winning side, and they were in the middle of people who had very hard feelings against the British, courtesy of their putting the Cherokee on them during the war. And there his line stayed for over a century.

          All of which means that, since there wasn’t a huge influx of immigrants from abroad in those areas, they were pretty much the same stock. The way the old matriarchs counted kin would make your eyes glaze, but it did prevent the inbreeding notorious in thinly populated areas, and I do know they sometimes married twenty to thirty miles or better from home (because they didn’t know them that well? *cough.*), but in that same pool of patriot descendents left after the Tories cleared out.

          In my father’s case, who is only five generations removed, that’s 32 ancestors who either were patriots or the descendent of patriots, and the same for my mother. Those are much more manageable numbers than at the 10th generation level of 1,024.

          Now, had this been in another area, say, New York State or Ohio, or in Louisiana or Missouri, the possibility of not having solid patriot ancestry is much higher due to the influx of people and whether they were one of the thirteen colonies, just as it would have been higher on the coast where you’d find more Tories. It’s like the real estate mantra: Location, location, location.

        2. Assuming nothing in the woodpile (that everyone was the progeny of both legal parents) – I do have all of my ancestors on these shores before the Revolution.

          So far as all of them being patriots – well some were revolutionists, some undoubtedly gave covert support to the King’s troops, the majority (like most of their neighbors) just tried to keep their heads down.

          Not that it matters – like I tell my second-generation Polish-Lithuanian wife, everyone’s ancestors came from somewhere. The only thing that matters is the living generations.

          1. I’d say the chances were pretty close to zero that you could find 10 generations of Americans where there weren’t some distant cousin marriages. That’s not a redneck joke, either.

            1. FWIW, I’m the 10th generation known to have been in North America, and that goes back to the 17th Century. That’s roughly 30 years per generation, which may or may not be the norm for the span of a generation. That family was close to one set of my wife’s ancestors, but my ancestor left under a cloud.

              You know, Heinlein didn’t get it quite right. He said that someone who took pride in an ancestor didn’t have much else to be proud of. But it can also be that you had so many rounders for ancestors that you’re just happy to find one that was respectable. 😉

              1. I beg to differ with Heinlein on that… when one of your ancestors swore his life, his fortune, and hos sacred honor…

              2. I’ve got an ancestor-ish that we’re all still wondering, 150+ years on, how he managed to get away with it for so long (2 wives, 20 kids). Now that’s an accomplishment! 😉

              3. I can trace my family tree back 13 generations on this continent — but the first ancestor to arrive was 11 generations back. Some of those generations were longer than others.

      3. “Peace with the Indians”

        The fun part would have been enforcing it. Burke’s observation at the time:

        “But if you stopped your grants, what would be the consequence? The people would occupy without grants. They have already so occupied in many places. You cannot station garrisons in every part of these deserts. If you drive the people from one place, they will carry on their annual tillage, and remove with their flocks and herds to another. Many of the people in the back settlements are already little attached to particular situations. Already they have topped the Appalachian Mountains. From thence they behold before them an immense plain, one vast, rich, level meadow; a square of five hundred miles.”

  2. In many ways I find that good alt-hist requires as much research as “real” history does, just minus the footnotes. The farther back you go, the more work you have to do world building.

    I prefer worlds where a few little nudges at plausible points led to serious changes in how history flowed. But the occasional “and the SMOD hit Arabia and the Byzantine Empire lasted well into the 1800s, when the iconoclasts in North America staged a successful war for independence that rocked the foundations of the Church . . .” are fun too.

  3. Almost heretically – given my bias towards all things America – I do think the 19th and 20th centuries would probably have been less violent if the Colonies had been granted representation in Parliament, which is the only real way Britain could have retained control of the original United States.

    But I’m not sure Wilberforce could have battled the entrenched interests of slaveholders in the 1820’s in a faraway land with a moral case as effectively as he did at home and there might have been a revolutionary war four decades earlier as the South rebelled against Britain’s faraway ruling class.

    It’s all conjecture of course, but in my head the cries of “Rule, Brittania!” echo across the “ideal” world where the colonial system shifted with technology and Britain bitterly resents the fact that the Indian Parties have an unbreakable voting bloc in the Parliament no matter what the North American, ANZAC, African and British parties do.

    1. Which is why the British wouldn’t have allowed them the vote. [Evil Grin]

      1. I think it would be best in a House of Cards situation – basically a political thriller showing the folly of the public and the problems of empire. Oh the joys you could have with the people out-Britishing the British!

        The problem is if you made MP’s as representative as they are currently, India would sit 17,293 MP’s in Parliament, with the US forming the next biggest bloc at 4,404 (presuming equivalent populations). The machinations would have to out-Byzantine the Byzantines to work.

        1. You assume that India would get them. As Burke pointed out at the time, “First, the people of the Colonies are descendants of Englishmen. England, Sir, is a nation which still, I hope, respects, and formerly adored, her freedom. The Colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant; and they took this bias and direction the moment they parted from your hands. They are therefore not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty according to English ideas, and on English principles.”

          Which is a bit of a difference.

    2. In real history, the South did just fine with the British ruling class, but had problems with the working class. No real reason why it wouldn’t have stayed the same in an alternate timeline.

      Getting back to representation, there was another problem: distance. There was already some speculation that even if the colonies sat in Parliament, they were too far away to be effectively administered. Colonists wanted representation and to be treated as full Englishmen, but they might have hesitated at doing away with their own legislatures. That suggests a “Scotland” solution, with semi-independence, but with full rights as Englishmen.

      Or George III could have run the numbers and pushed hard to grant colonial independence prior to 1775, and, since he’s such a magnanimous sovereign, providing the new nations with military protection, at a cost, until they establish their own force. Except the price of maintaining British forces are a bit high and the colonists find they cannot really afford to pay for that and to set up their own, and they are now subject to tariffs. George III gets what he wants, North America paying “their share” for protection, and greater control over the former colonies, all without granting representation or firing a shot.

    3. One notes that the British upper class had entrenched support for American slavery. The American Civil War caused the Cotton Famine, and the aristocrats were all for breaking the blockade.

      So much easier to abolish slavery when the slaves you depend on are in another country.

  4. One of my favorite alt-history speculations about the history of Texas turns on a pair of incidents in the mid-1840s: an agreement between the Republic of Texas with France to offer an entrepreneur grant to settle a large number of French along the relatively unsettled frontier. This fell through because the diplomat in charge of the French mission had a couple of violent clashes with the locals during his residence in Austin (look up the Pig War for details.) At about the same time, a German consortium was taking up a similar entrepreneur grant to bring over German settlers. That one did work out, but the consortium went bankrupt almost at once. So – if both deals had worked out – Texas would have had a huge number of German and French settlers … who, if the example of the German settlers is anything to go by, would have kept their own ethic identity and language until well into the 20th century … which might have lent a whole new and unexpected dimension to WWI’s Western Front …

    1. Eh, there were a lot of Germans in the United States during WWI. An American ambassador was told that half a million Germans would revolt if the United States entered the war; he answered that they had half a million lampposts to hang them from.

  5. ‘I, and almost all the people I know, should never have been born. The world would be a better place.’ – for the subject author, possibly true; the rest of us will get to find out 😉

  6. One of the reasons I like alternate histories is that it’s like playing with a machine. “Okay: This time let’s pull this lever to see what happens.” Bad alternate histories go into it with a desired result or bias; good alternate histories take into account everything, including events, attitudes, and technology leading up to the point of divergence, then extrapolates from that.

    I don’t think history is an either/or of events on unstoppable courses or entirely the action of individuals, but both. Sometimes there are pressures that drive events regardless of those involved, but those involved influence when and how they occur and how it plays out. Then there are events where individual actions are turning points. We don’t know who it was who dropped in on Coleridge that day, but we know the results.

  7. Great post, and alternate histories, especially 18th-19th-20th century can and often does lead to some free for alls… Re the author in question, British colonialism was nothing more than a form of slavery, so how does that reconcile with his view of America??? The mind doth boggle… Sigh

  8. “chances are that say great Granny’s daddy wasn’t the man Great great was married to. ”

    Yep. If you assume that 90% of children are truly the offspring of their putative fathers, going back ten generations gives about 65% probability of illegitimacy somewhere in the chain.

    95% gives about a 40% probability of illegitimacy. Even 99% still leaves around a 10% probability of illegitimacy over ten generations.

  9. Mumble. I’m returning to another romp of reviews through the Mad Genius Club authors, and my Dave Freer selection is ‘The Genie Out of The Vat.’ I can only review Kindle Unlimited or Baen ebooks. Have ye considered placing the rest of yer works in KU? I’ve done the eight I’ve found, prior to this go-around.

    1. Pat, I’m not at his stage going to take the rest down from other outlets. It doesn’t bring me a lot of money, but it does give another option. However I’ll contact you privately to make a different arrangement, to make it possible.

  10. I’ve been thinking about Europe a lot lately because I’ve been arguing with Europeans about gun prohibition, so I’ve already been thinking about alternative histories.

    So…what if we didn’t intervene in WWI? What if we let the Europeans do what Europeans have done for all of recorded history, kill each other until they run out of men and material and declare a break so they can build up their war making ability? I doubt they’d be able to exterminate each other, even with their indiscriminate use of chemical warfare, although they might be able to devastate whole area’s. The war would drag on for a few more years and kill a bunch more people….but since those people mostly have white skin who would care? Since we still haven’t discarded the superstitious notion that skin color is the most important thing ever, Even Though It’s The 21st FREAKING CENTURY!!!!! Sorry about that.

    Anyway the following changes are what I’ve come up with so far…

    …a quicker end to colonialism, since the Euro’s fighting each other means they wouldn’t have the leisure and/or luxury of exploiting Africa and Asia and the Middle East.

    …no Hitler, even if Corporal Adolph survives the war it’s highly unlikely that he will invent national socialism or get anyone to pay any attention if he does.

    …no Russian revolution so no Marxist Leninism, which means no communism, which means no USSR or communist China which means…

    …no cold war, no foreign agitation leading to Gramiscian damage, no Korean Conflict, no Cuban Missle Crisis, no Viet Nam, no ‘peace’ movement, no ‘environmental’ movement, no anti-nuke movement (100 grams of Uranium = 280 TONS of coal, you do the math), we might have been able to greatly avoid the socialist infection of our political system and the concurrent expansion of our Federal government to it’s current ridicoulus size.

    Actually, just think of all of the death, destruction and tyranny that resulted from Marxism, that could have ‘not happened’ if we had stayed out of way and let the Euro’s follow their natural proclivities to rape, pillage and burn.

    Even some of the negatives have silver linings. Segregation would have probably lasted a bit longer, but without Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs we would have avoided the rise of the Welfare Matriarchy and the destruction of the stable family structure of black families, with it’s attendant ills.

    No Welfare Matriarchy also eliminates the source of the majority of our violent criminals.

    Without forcing desegregation at gun point a lot of the impetus that led to gun control, the drug war, the reactionary criminalization of ‘modern’ black culture and resurgence of racialism that bled over into the rest of the country might have been sidestepped.

    There is really no telling what we could have accomplished if we hadn’t wasted all of that money and all of those American lives on Europe.

    And of course we wouldn’t have to listen to moronic criticism of liberty and/or the American revolution, since the odds are good those critics wouldn’t have ever been born.

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