The Alternate Earth Research Center

And here’s a little site I can’t believe is still online.

The Alternate Earths Research Center is a classic work of early web metafiction, presenting itself as the homepage of a group of interdimensional travelers. Supposedly, the AERC dates back to the 50s, founded by one Yeardley Dekader, who perhaps was not of our Earth. There’s technobabble about the IRTV, the vehicle used to traverse the multiverse, and the AERC’s cataloging system, which ranges from “A -drastically altered” (dinosaurs never went extinct) to the inconsequential D- and F- (the USFL merged with the NFL, New York remained New Amsterdam), and witty asides about a traveler who found six different reports of her own disappearance, and a universe where eggs are known as “pre-chickens”.

Alas, the actual fictional documents at the core of the AERC, the reports on the alternate Earths themselves, are paltry, with just three entries, all supported by gloriously rough early Photoshop. Real Tourist-Guy levels of sophistication here. One details a timeline where Lincoln survived; the travelers squee out over his autobiography, only to find that not much else changed after his term. Another goes deep on the USFL-NFL merger, with faked newspaper box scores and lore about how they merged.

The star of the AERC is the final timeline, one where reptiles – maybe aliens, maybe the descendants of dinosaurs – rule the Earth. The terrible scene is rendered with magnificent skill:

The Alternate Earths Research Center wisely doesn’t take itself terribly seriously, and doesn’t try to be anything more than an excuse for photoshopped lizardmen and puns about Lucky Charms. It’s the kind of weirdo project that proliferated in the era of the personal web (it dates back to at least 2003); I could imagine something more expansive, maybe a SCP-like collaborative project, today, but nothing this personal – except maybe in a timeline where the NBA collapsed or joined the ABA or something.