Hemp fuel powers her rocket pack, her hemp twine will ensnare you, her hemp-woven body armor shields her from harm — but since that bulky armor hides her shapely figure, she’s known to the world as Hempman!
Whenever a decision — be it major or minor — is made in life, the universe splinters and replicates. When Adolph Hitler wrote off atomic research as “Jew science,” at least two new universes were created: One in which his anti-Semitism cost him World War II and one where developing an atomic bomb allowed him to enslave the entire planet.
With literally an infinite amount of these universes simultaneously existing on different frequencies, there’s no point in trying to determine which universe was the original one, so the term “multiverse” is much more accurate. It’s a term commonly known on worlds where sideways time travel is taken seriously and not dismissed as science fiction. And since the forces of planned obsolescence that have dominated so many other versions of Earth never gained a foothold on one world in particular, it could afford to travel sideways through time — all because one choice made by a single individual steered global history down a truly unique path.
Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon — a banker who helped finance the Du Ponts’ budding petro-chemical dynasty — appointed his nephew-in-law, Harry Anslinger, to head the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for the express purpose of demonizing cannabis (‘lest the Du Ponts and other industrial elitists have to compete with something that can be grown in every back yard).
On other Earths, Anslinger would go on to scare the United States Congress into confusing industrial hemp with marijuana via his racist horror stories of dark-skinned men using marijuana to sedate and rape pale-skinned women. Except on this Earth, Anslinger fell out of favor with the Mellon clan when he was caught with a very swarthy prostitute named Marmalade (while smoking opium, no less). And without his bigoted testimony to goad it along, Congress never passed the Marijuana Tax Act in August of 1937.
Again, it doesn’t matter if the decision is major or minor, for Anslinger’s withdrawal from the political arena was but the first domino in a long line of history-altering dominos to fall. Without the ban on hemp, the anarchists of the Spanish Civil War were barely able to turn the tide against General Franco’s mutinous coup with an influx of hemp products that would’ve been unavailable otherwise.
Without a Franco victory, Italy immediately emulated Spain in the form of an internal, anarchist overthrow of Mussolini. Meanwhile, Stalin and Hitler turned on each other like a pair of rabid dogs until their regimes exhausted themselves trying to destroy one another. And without an Axis, there never was a World War II — or the subsequent nuclear proliferation of a military-industrial complex …
Without a Cold War, there wasn’t much drama during the 1950s and ’60s to speak of. The Japanese Empire attempted to conquer all of Asia but only succeeded in totally humiliating itself. In America — the last of this world’s imperialistic powers — a second Civil War broke out between those who accepted Paul Robeson’s 1960 presidential election and those who wouldn’t (without the existence of a Central Intelligence Agency, Robeson was able to survive re-election and the North won again). After which, both Japan and America finally joined the United Nations — this one being based in Paris, not New York City …
The dominos Anslinger inadvertently set in motion would eventually result in Earth being renamed Hemptopia since, by the early 1970s, the world’s industrial base stemmed from hemp. The effect this alone had on Humanity in general and the economy in particular was immeasurable. Since hemp can be grown in most any climate, mass starvation was eradicated thanks to the nutritional value of hempseed and its many derivatives. Since paper/fabric can be made from hemp fiber, the surplus of trees made it all the easier to breathe. And since hemp is ideal for pyrolytic conversion into fuel, Texas and the Middle East were at peace.
Utopian as they were, the Hemptopians only had two major hurdles: Overpopulation (thanks to life being just that good and love being easier to come by) and … something less tangible. If necessity is the mother of invention, and if Hemptopia ensures that everyone has what they need to survive, then the kind of innovation that comes with struggling under utterly hellish conditions obviously wouldn’t exist there.
Knowing the Hemptopian population would rather die than intentionally introduce any form of suffering in order to inspire itself, its scientific community decided to kill two birds with one stone: Their overpopulation problem would be solved by investing in space colonization and the geniuses needed to perfect the necessary technology would be recruited from those versions of Earth where planned obsolescence ruled.
(This was possible because in 1987, Hemptopia’s version of Dr. Stephen Hawking discovered a way to mathematically extend the geometry of a black hole into its counterpart — the white hole, “into which matter cannot fall, but only go out”, as Hawking put it. By 2003, these white holes were used as portals between the infinite Earths of the multiverse.)
Marginalized as they’d surely be on their own worlds, these geniuses would be approached and asked to defect to a world which would truly appreciate them, hence the Refugee Retrieval Program (or RRP), a grass-roots collective of scientists and explorers. This is the story of one of those explorers, Marilyn Janeway.