For all their nuance, both “SS-GB” and “The Man in the Castle” are, at root, hero narratives whose protagonists attempt to overthrow a foreign invading force. (The heroine of “The Man in the High Castle”, Juliana Crain, first appears on-screen practicing aikido; by the end of episode two, she’s putting her moves to use on a Nazi bounty hunter.) And yet, for those wishing to draw parallels with today, wouldn’t the Nazis’ rise be a more ripe area for exploration? As Jochem Bittner wrote in the New York Times last May, “Some people today imagine that Hitler sneaked up on Germany, that too few people understood the threat. In fact, many mainstream politicians recognised the danger but they failed to stop him. Some didn’t want to: The conservative parties and the nobility believed the little hothead could serve as their useful idiot…” The parallels many viewers see in today’s Washington are almost too obvious. Meanwhile on British shores, the unravelling mess that is the Labour Party is testimony to the dangers of having a divided and useless opposition.
Certainly, there is precedent for the “homegrown fascism” narrative in the history of alternate-history: CJ Sansom’s 2012 novel “Dominion” takes as its historical point of divergence the appointment of Lord Halifax, rather than Winston Churchill, as prime minister in 1940. Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America” takes a similar tack in replacing Roosevelt in the White House with an isolationist president, as does “It Can’t Happen Here”, Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel intended as a wake-up call to American complacency in the face of fascism. (Sales of Lewis’s novel soared after Trump’s election in November.)