The year 2016 was a year of major shifts in politics, and the beginning of the end of the old order. The United Kingdom left the European Union, prompting the Netherlands and France to petition for their own exits. Against all odds, Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and then the presidency. He was unfortunate enough to have to deal with another recession - this time Chinese in origin - within a hundred days of his implementing extreme tariffs against Chinese goods. The beleaguered Chinese Communist Party decided to put the blame on the Americans, escalating tensions in the South China Sea, on the Korean Peninsula, and even against Russia. This policy proved unwise, as Trump was unwilling to back down and responded to provocation with more provocation. Before long, events escalated out of control, and by late 2017 the world was at war.
Russia and America joined forces against China, while the Americans turned a blind eye to the Polish-Russian invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Belarus. Russo-American forces made great advances in China, but the desperate Chinese government retaliated by using its nuclear arsenal. The Russians and Americans responded with overwhelming force. Only a few Chinese missiles hit their targets, most of which were against foreign armies on Chinese soil, while the Americans and Russians devastated China in return (although the exchange remained limited). In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia - already abandoned by the Trump government - invaded Syria and Iraq to prevent the Russians and Iranians from gaining total hegemony. The Saudis were roundly defeated.
The global economy collapsed in the aftermath. The American government temporarily lost control as they scrambled to reorganize in Philadelphia. Trump's controversial and disastrous policies were widely unpopular; the nuclear attack on America was icing on the cake. State governments declared that they would not follow Trump any longer, Texas and California chief among them. With much of the American military destroyed in China, the federal government relied on loyal militias, some of which had their own agenda and used the civil war to carve out their own states. The federals secured the South against the neo-Confederates, but lost Texas to evangelicals, the West and New England to libertarian militias, and the Northwest to once-loyal white supremacist militias who saw Trump as too soft on the "racial question." Trump himself did away with the old government and, as his most ardent supporters wanted, proclaimed himself Emperor of the American Empire. In Russia, Putin did the same.
NATO and the European Union collapsed, and civil wars broke out across the European continent. Britain closed itself from the world, while nationalist and far-right organizations saw weakness in continental governments and began an armed uprising. The far left and Islamist groups retaliated, officially on behalf of the government, but fighting the government and one another just as often. Russia, seeing an opportunity to expand their influence, backed these groups and attempted to conquer the old Warsaw Pact. However, they were rebuffed by the Visegrad alliance, which became a close-knit alliance in the face of Russian invasion. The Russians were thrown out of Eastern Europe, while European nationalists secured their victory by using nuclear weapons they claimed to have acquired from old NATO bases (some evidence points to Russian involvement). In the wake of their victory, the nationalists exercised brutal reprisals against their enemies, real and perceived.
The Chinese Communist Party did not survive World War III. Years of warlordism followed the nuclear attack, as did starvation and disease. The Chinese population plummeted. However, the gender imbalance in the country continued despite the deaths of many young men in the war, and indeed got worse after the strikes against Chinese cities. Uniting many desperate, angry young men was the idea of a new, patriarchal Chinese empire, where they could form the ruling class and thus could pick as many women as they could. Influenced by the Western "manosphere," this movement became popular among many young men, thus allowing it to overpower its opponents and claim power. The Chinese also invaded their neighbors, explicitly to take their women; while successful in Mongolia and Korea, the Chinese were defeated in Vietnam, putting an end to their expansion and forcing the Chinese to lick their wounds and rebuild.
By 2042, the world has stabilized. The Russians and Indians are the most powerful societies on Earth, although the standard is not very high. The fighting in Europe and Asia has died down definitively, and the new orders are going strong. Most countries focus on rebuilding, particularly those devastated by WWIII. Poverty is widespread, protectionism is commonplace and global trade has collapsed, and much of the African and Asian continents are suffering from a wave of famine. Technology has stagnated since the 2020s, and few advancements have been made since; the American Empire is reinvestigating the EM drive, but little progress has been made. However, the Japanese have been successful at alternative reproduction, but the technology is taking a while to catch on elsewhere.
New religious movements have become popular, particularly the Cult of Kek and the Redpill Church. The Cult of Kek, arising out of an online meme, believes that through the use of "meme magic" - the constant repetition of something online - the ancient Egyptian god Kek will alter reality to suit their needs. The Cult has become popular simply because the events of the 21st century - known as "The Happening" among the Cult's members - were almost exactly what people online "memed" into existence, thus proving the religion correct. The Cult of Kek has many sects and forms, but most are loyal to the current alt-right new order and seek to further it.
The Redpill Church is one that arose out of certain portions of the online "Manosphere," and gained widespread acceptance in the aftermath of WWIII, particularly after the rise of the Chinese Empire. Teaching that women are biologically "hypergamous" - that is, almost parasitic upon men - the Redpill Church seeks to facilitate the final destruction of "gynocentric" society. This is facilitated through teaching by Redpill monks, who travel the world to preach the message. As with all religions, the Redpill Church is divided. Some sects believe that their goal is to enforce the current "patriarchy," while others believe that even the rise of the traditionalist regimes in the wake of WWIII is not enough, and others still want to do away with the need for women entirely through the use of artificial wombs.
Russia was not hit hard during WWIII, and while Putin has died, his image lives on as the father of the new Russian century. Tsarina Yekaterina, purported to be Vladimir Putin's daughter, holds the throne, but she has elected to be more of a figurehead and allow the oligarchs to run the country. Nonetheless, Russian authoritarianism has returned in full, based on a strange mix of Imperial and Soviet patriotism. Stalin is now a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church, now Russia's state religion. The Islamic minorities remain noisy, but given the sheer brutality of the Third Chechen War, they are wise enough not to start any violence against the government.
America remains shattered, and there are no signs that this will change. Emperor Donald I has perished, and his son, Donald II, has taken the throne, and there are those in the Empire who worry about the future of the monarchy if Donald II does not live up to his father's legacy. Given the major territorial losses suffered during the Second American Civil War, the Trump monarchy's greatest achievement - the Great Wall of America - does not exist within the Empire. The Empire, modeling itself off Rome, is a rather unpleasant absolute monarchy, where any opinion that dissents from the Trumpist line is punishable by imprisonment. The Lion Guard, ironically referred to as the "Trumpstaffel" by its detractors and its supporters, acts as a "private" enforcer of the regime.
Texas remains a democracy, although the only choices are "fundamentalist Christian" and "slightly less fundamentalist Christian." Formed by the evangelical factions of the Republican Party - opposed to Trump even before the civil war - Texas considers itself a shining city on a hill, the last bastion of true Americanism. It does maintain the Great Wall, but it has built walls of its own on its borders with the Empire. The Governor of Texas is all-powerful, with the legislature doing everything he wants. Christianity is the state religion, although Texas is protective of Jews, and atheism and Islam are banned outright.
The libertarian states on the continent - the Pacific States and New England - have formed a defensive alliance. Although starting out as a rag-tag group of states, the necessity of defending themselves from hostile neighbors have vastly increased the size of government, particularly the military. Both governments are now dominated by their militaries, which are the descendants of various militia groups, and are unfriendly to anti-libertarian political expression. However, both states do remain tolerant of foreign cultures - so long as they keep to themselves and participate in the economy - and while they discourage "statism," freedom of expression is still protected. A vast majority of the population is poor, and receive no aid whatsoever from the government.
In the Pacific Northwest, a white nationalist state has established itself. Originally supported by the Federal government, the Northwest Republic broke off and promptly expelled all non-whites and any whites who objected. Due to the major destruction the war and the purges caused to the rich coastal cities, and the pariah status the Northwest Republic has, it is an impoverished state, although it maintains a large military to remain a threat. Modeling itself somewhat off the Third Reich, the Northwest Republic is a single-party state with a single "President" at the top, and is closed off to all non-whites.
In Europe, nationalism reigns supreme, but in varying degrees of intensity. The United Kingdom remains a democracy, albeit an "emergency" one with a UKIP-Tory coalition in perpetual rule. The United Kingdom has taken a policy of "splendid isolation" with regard to the continent, and has expelled portions of its population that the government deemed "dangerous," but there are still some Eastern European and Middle Eastern communities on Great Britain (of course, they are thoroughly Anglicized). The European Brotherhood takes the position of pan-European nationhood, albeit one that respects the different cultures in Europe. The EB is practically a French empire, with a presidential dictatorship. The EB models itself off Rome, but local rights are respected - so long as the localities are European. Christianity is encouraged by the state, Islam is banned, and non-Europeans have been expelled from the country. The EB and the UK, while aligned, do have major differences of opinion on the question of the continued British occupation of northern France. In the East, the Visegrad Union promotes traditional European culture as a counterpoint to the current Russian regime. The Union is heavily Catholic, and even the current Pope is a conservative Pole.
The Nordic Union has taken a different track: the Nordics reject Christianity as a foreign religion, and have turned back to the worship of the Aesir. Believing themselves to be the successors of the old Norse, the Nordics are ashamed of their multicultural past (although they direct most of this at Sweden), and try to make themselves "suffer" to atone for it. This includes the belief in radical self-improvement as a vector for racial improvement as a whole; Nordic education involves a lot of reading esoteric works from men like Julius Evola, and a major focus on physical fitness. Then, there is the Fourth Reich, an openly neo-Nazi state that seeks to conquer Europe and exterminate the Jews. Already, the Reich has crushed all opposition within its borders, and only its isolation and relative weakness prevents it from waging a war of conquest.
Iran was the big winner in the Middle East, successfully defeating the Islamic State, the Kurds and the Saudis, and establishing friendly regimes in Iraq and Syria. Iran remains a Shia theocracy, and is attempting to impose this form of government on secular Iraq and Syria. However, their Russian allies caution them against inflaming religious tensions and possibly sparking another war in the region.
Military regimes returned in Egypt and North Africa after the recession of the Islamist tide. These brutal dictatorships make the Gaddafi regime seem humanitarian in comparison. They extremely anti-Islamic and have attacked mosques suspected of harboring members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other anti-government organizations. The most powerful regime among them is Egypt, which has made a somewhat successful attempt at securing hegemony over the region. The Egyptians have their eyes set on the rest of the Middle East, not out of expansionist desire, but because of what is going on in Arabia.
After the fall of the Islamic State, many of its fighters flooded into Saudi Arabia. The Saudi military, already hammered hard by Iranian and Russian forces, proved incapable of stopping them; indeed, many Saudi units defected. The Saudi monarchy was overthrown, as were the other Gulf monarchies, and a caliphate established to replace them. Ironically, little has changed in Saudi Arabia since the rise of the Islamic Federation, apart from the destruction of "Western" influence in cities such as Dubai, the destruction of "idolatrous artifacts" in Mecca and Medina, and the stricter enforcement of preexisting Islamic law.
South Africa has been placed under white rule, mostly by Europeans fleeing the chaos of the EU. The ANC government collapsed in the wake of WWIII, allowing the Europeans to take control of the cities, ironically with the aid of Russia. Apartheid has come back in full force, as the South African government believes that blacks are inherently incapable of governance. The remnants of the ANC disagree violently, and the South Africans are currently waging a brutal bush war against them.
The Chinese Empire is still licking its wounds. Draconian laws, akin to those of the Qin, have been scaled back by the most recent set of reforms, after the Chinese government realized that it may cause a revolt. The gender disparity is less of a problem now, although the Chinese still resort to imported sex bots and concubines to keep the powerful and the enforcers of the regime happy. The Chinese have done away with any child policy, seeing that as a vector for disaster, and now the Chinese population is booming. It has now exceeded pre-war levels, and now the issue is the lack of food, territory, and the continuing lack of women. The Chinese look outward for expansion, but have run out of easy targets.
India was a big winner in WWIII, indeed becoming a superpower by the 2030s. This did come at a cost: the famine of the 2020s hit hard, particularly India's poorest, but the fall of China allowed India to restructure its economy among more modern lines. It did so through Chinese-style modernization, and now India is the workshop of the world. India is still suffering from problems, such as the pollution, but now India is extending its influence into Africa with one mission: to take in more resources.