What if Kennedy Hadn't Been Assassinated?

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What if Kennedy Hadn't Been Assassinated?

...and Other Presidential Alternate Histories

With Hulu’s new miniseries, 11.22.63, premiering this month, viewers have a chance to see a JJ Abrams-produced adaptation of Stephen King’s acclaimed novel about a man who travels back in time in an attempt to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But King is not the only author to tackle alternate histories about presidential assassinations. Check out these presidential alternate histories, featuring stories about John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and more.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Jake Epping is a teacher living in a small town in Maine. One day a local diner owner shows him the time portal in the diner’s pantry, which can transport people to September 9th, 1958. The diner owner reveals his plan -- to travel through the portal and prevent the Kennedy assassination, which he believes to be the catalyst for all of the terrible world events that have occurred since. In his attempt to carry out his plan, which requires living in the past for the five years from September 1958 through November 1963, the diner owner has developed cancer and has found himself unable to orchestrate it. In bringing the portal and the plan to Jake’s attention, the diner owner enlists Jake to carry out the plan in his stead. But Jake soon discovers that the impact of changing the past may be more harmful to the modern day world than he had anticipated.

This Shared Dream by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Jill, Brian, and Megan Dance live in an idyllic modern world in which the Kennedy assassination was prevented. Their now-missing parents invented a time travel machine many years ago, and thanks to their intervention, many of the other major detrimental events of the 20th century never happened. But the Dances can remember their parents’ role in this change -- Jill even remembers her mother preventing Kennedy’s assassination. The Dances have vague memories of a world in which Kennedy was assassinated, mirroring the real world that would have occurred without their parents’ prevention of it. When someone attempts to find the time travel machine, the modern day Dances decide to investigate the reason for their confusing memories.

If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History by Jeff Greenfield

If Kennedy Lived differs from 11.22.63 and This Shared Dream in two ways. Firstly, it is not science fiction that depends upon time travel as a plot device. Secondly, it is a nonfiction-style treatment of a fictional topic: the world events that follow Lee Harvey Oswald unsuccessful assassination attempt on John F. Kennedy. Greenfield explores such varied topics as the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson’s fate, Kennedy’s reelection in 1964, Ronald Reagan’s presidential bid in 1968, and Jackie Kennedy’s exasperation with her husband’s cheating.

Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan by Jeff Greenfield

In Then Everything Changed Greenfield describes three different alternate histories. In the first, an actual assassination attempt on John F. Kennedy’s life in 1960, when he was the president-elect but had yet to take office, was carried out successfully, with Lyndon Johnson taking over presidential duties three years earlier than he did in the true course of events. In the second, Robert F. Kennedy was not assassinated in 1968 and instead became president, with Nixon’s presidency and the Watergate scandal never occurring. In the third, Gerald Ford wins reelection in 1976.

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln takes place in a universe in which Lincoln survived John Wilkes Booth’s attempt on his life. The Republican Radicals have set in motion an impeachment attempt, citing Lincoln’s Habeas Corpus Suspension Act of 1863 as a moment in which the president attempted to enact martial law. This story focuses primarily on the legal team representing Lincoln, depicting dramatic interactions and race relations effectively.

How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove

In an alternate 1881 where the Confederacy won the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln has not been assassinated but has ceased to be President of the United States. The Confederacy and the United States enter into a second war over the Confederate purchase of Mexican territories. Lincoln travels the country espousing socialism, while other famous figures of the time, such as Frederick Douglass, Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, and Stonewall Jackson make appearances interacting with this wildly imaginative alternate history.