In the spirit of my previous 1950s world:
It is 2012, but not our 2012. It is in fact 2012 in the 1900s -Verse, where skirts are long, mustaches bushy, and everyone has their own home airship. At first glance things might seem not too different from the early 20th century, although everything, from railways to skyscrapers to industrial complexes, is bigger. But there are a number of differences. The air is clean, with pretty much everything running on electricity: Batteries are capable of storing far more energy than anything OTL: the electric car replaced the gasoline powered one long ago. Society is three-dimensional: almost everyone flies. The more daring, rather than using an airship, will have a personal flying device, with wings, propulsion fans, and a small backpack of antigravity gas (battery powered of course), often with elaborate electrical lighting for night flight. Some young fliers dance in the night sky, lit up like fireflies. A fair number of people every year die very messily misusing their equipment, but in the mores of this world that is an acceptable cost for three-dimensional freedom.
It is a highly urbanized world: outside colonial areas, most people live in huge cities while the countryside is dedicated to advanced agriculture and certain industrial processes now considered too dirty for the hygienic cities. Cities blaze with electrical light, usually better lit than ones in our world. Elevated trains and subways and elevated roads and highways and tunnels: cities are layered vertically. Almost always there is a vehicle-free pedestrian level. There are moving sidewalks, but no rolling roads. Streets usually have wide arcades roofed with transparent metal, to protect pedestrians from the occasional plummeting flier or someone jumping from a 200-story skyscraper. (Considered in very bad taste as a means of suicide). Indeed, to deal with weather or falling airships, some cities are now roofing themselves over entirely, which provides extra landing space for flyers aside from the universal flat roofs (heated with electricity to keep off the snows).
On the down side, in the cities goddamn big-banner or illuminated or animated mechanical advertisements are everywhere. (But always in good taste, or so they claim).
Buildings tend somewhat towards the baroque, with a great many unnecessary columns, statues, etc. Complex expanding and contracting metal joints link all those skyscrapers and sky bridges and elevated roads together, and on days of raging storm wind, one can hear the city’s joints creaking like a ship’s masts in the wind.
Of course, major cities will have increasingly less trouble with bad weather, either as they are roofed over, or as weather control technology improves. One may spot huge weather machines, like titan horns and tubas aimed at the sky: some break up clouds with special radiations, others spray them with high-speed streams of tiny particles to encourage rain, still others create artificial haze to protect people’s skin on particularly fiery days.
It is a capitalistic world, although with a lot of government intervention for social objectives: Communism never really took off and is indeed almost as forgotten as Physiocracy. (Anarchists remain a problem). The Jews secretly run the world’s economy , and they do a darn good job of it, too. (Can’t trust those gentiles with money). There are Unions, but they are of a non-revolutionary sort.
It is a world of innumerable labor-saving and time-saving devices, a veritable pushbutton utopia, at least to the wealthy. Much OTL technology has its equivalent here: something rather similar to the early-model (voice and text messages only) cell phone exists, although it comes in a fancy engraved metal box and has toggles. Televised broadcasting of opera, etc. is a norm. In theatres, the equivalent of news trailers are now broadcast live from around the world on the big screen. With no internet, physical mail is still the norm: the US and Europe have networks of country-crossing underground mail tubes, everything coordinated by vast gear-filled calculating machines. Household robots exist, but they run on gears and punch-cards and are limited to fairly simple tasks, although often disturbingly humanoid in construction. There are no computers, but there are some _huge_ mechanical calculators for mathematical modeling.
Automats are still in fashion for dining, although the machines will now take your hat and coat and clear the table themselves. (And there are still some human food technicians riding herd over the machines in the back, and occasionally spitting in your food). There are larger “electric laboratories” that deliver guaranteed 100% pure product meals delivered to your home over the pneumatic tube. All foods are kept under sterile cover in stores: the average farmer’s market of OTL would be shocking to the locals.
Hygiene brings to mind some of this world’s more annoying obsessions: most governments are “Progressive” in the sense of Knowing What is Good For You and vigorously dispensing the spinach and castor oil as needed. Eugenics is widely practiced, with a number of countries sterilizing criminals and the unfit, although the slow rate of genetic improvement has led to calls to develop better means of modifying the germ-plasm directly, perhaps through radiation or chemical methods, as in agriculture and husbandry. (The problem so far is that out of every 100 new strains, some 99 must be weeded, which is fine for strawberries but not so much for children). Sperm banks filled with guaranteed genius sperm are common enough, and heredity counselors are always eager to help you find a good match, breeding-wise. The eugenics isn’t half as annoying as the compulsory exercise starting in early childhood, an obsession fortunately confined mostly to the US and German spheres.
The use of certain drugs and mechanically enhanced hypnosis has greatly reduced recidivism among criminals, although there are the occasional obsessive-compulsive side effects. All civilized nations have universal schooling and healthcare: in the USA, even poor children get to go on fast airship school trips to distant parts of the globe.
Most states tend to push culture at their subjects: in the US, Germany, Russia, etc. there are free public opera, theatre, and concerts. Many new musical instruments exist, complex things of tubes and valves and copper fittings and electrical power, designed through many clever devices to increase the emotional impact of music. The artistic scene is turbulent, with new manifestoes and movements sprouting almost monthly, and artistic disputes sometimes escalate to the use of firearms.
Aside from the arts , movies, the television-equivalent, flying, flying tennis, etc. there are a number of interesting options for fun. People now spend summer holidays in the Arctic or Tibet and go for rides in underwater viewing boats. (Diving and underwater sports are popular, although underwater croquet still struggles to be recognized as an important sport). Children play in the winter snow on their robo-sleighs. Someone has invented the Segway, although, thank god, it has 4 wheels. In a peaceful world, many extreme sports, from octopus wrestling to airship racing, are popular. However, the general Grundyism of this world manifests itself in the lack of such “bloodsports” such as college football and the banning of boxing in all major nations save Russia: it’s perfectly OK to damage your health in private competition, but commercialization of injurious activities is a no-no.
The personal flier, antigravity gas and electrical propulsion aside, isn’t too fast, and for long trips people take a large express dirigible, or travel by train: indeed, the new “Supertrains”, travelling through huge evacuated tubes, are even faster than the express fliers, reaching peak speeds of 600 MPH. The world is linked by an extensive net of tube trains, rail trains and highways: now that the trans-Bering Straits Bridge has been completed, one can ride trains all the way from Lisbon to Patagonia. (The idea of a transatlantic train tunnel is being raised again, now that trains are fast enough to make the crossing before the passengers run out of air).
In the US, some of the more unnecessary letters in English, such as Q and X have been eliminated: spelling reform has made everything phonetic. Similar measures have been taken in Russia and Britain: the French remain defiantly attached to their bizarre spelling conventions. The Sino-Japanese have gotten rid of those silly hieroglyphics, along with all those annoying local dialects.
True gender equality is still somewhere in the future: although women now work all kinds of jobs, they are still considered “different” from men and not necessarily suited to all male occupations. Women do have the vote, outside such regressive areas as the Indias or the Sino-Japanese Empire, but the sexual revolution is nowhere in sight, and even baggy silk pants in the Chinese style is considered quite bold.
Fashion is generally regressive, everyone wears a hat and a suit if male and a dress (and hat) if female, although at least corsets and hooped skirts are long gone. Hearty exercise may call for abbreviated dress, but that is done indoors where people of the opposite gender can’t see you: long distance walking is popular, but women usually wear long if loose skirts while doing so, and while a full suit is of course too hot, the respectable male keeps his collar buttoned up. (There is air conditioning, but it usually takes the form of hot and cold air piped from an air plant some ways away: in some big cities, the pedestrian arcades are also equipped with cold-air blowers to keep walkers cool on hot days, and the sidewalks are warmed in winter.)
Some bold women have started a movement to challenge prevailing attitudes: among their methods is to dress like perfectly conservative men, which confuses the hell out of a lot of males.
Racial equality is also rather behind OTL. In the US segregation still exists, although a real effort has been made to make the “equal” in “separate but equal” real for public facilities. One positive side of this is the existence of a huge entertainment and sports industry for black people, by black people. Abroad, things are not much better, although the French are relatively relaxed, and in Russia assimilation is fairly easy: one can be Black or Asian, but if you speak good Russian, adopt a Russian name, and at least pretend to follow the Orthodox Church , you are socially acceptable.
Fortunately, new techniques in plastic surgery, hair alteration, and skin bleaching making it easier for black people to pass for white than ever before. Science marches on!
Wild animals have taken a terrible beating, wiped out by hunters for fun or to protect people from threats: the OTL situation in which the occasional Californian jogger eaten by a mountain lion would be considered an acceptable loss, would just seem strange to the locals. Most large wild animals now exist only in zoos or a few scattered reservations. Bored hunters now are served by a mechanical animal building industry, in which hunters pursue steam-powered elephants and electric tigers through ersatz jungles. In a world with hardly any Third World (you are developed or you are a colony), nature has been brought into line with a vengeance, clipped, cleaned, and sterilized. Hardly a mosquito-breeding swamp exists, and jungles either exist as amusing places for the wealthy to visit or have been replaced by tree farms and plantations of giant foods.
Things tend towards obnoxious cleanliness, and there is a smell of disinfectant always in the background. Lethal electrical fields, new radiations, and chemicals of fearsome potency are put to work to kill every germ and bug at least twice. Special radiations kill everything in the sewer pipes, and vast and steaming factories purify and process every drop of waste. Mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, rats, mice have virtually been exterminated. Of course, a side effect is that everyone nowadays is a bit toxic chemically speaking, but this is a good thing for the bustling anti-toxin industry, and the new methods of fighting cancer with electromagnetic fields and special frequencies of light are efficient enough that going into to have a few tumors removed is no more worrisome than having ones’ tooth pulled. (The occasional hideous freak of nature? Well, there are always costs).
New super-x-ray allows one to see regular organs as well as regular x rays see bones. Electrical fields, by effecting cellular growth and animal vitality, are useful in a variety of health applications: the electronic brain stimulator can greatly help the very elderly suffering from memory loss and confusion.
Specialized electrical fields stimulate faster growth in crops: rays of curiously colored light can also help growth or kill weeds. New forms of radiation have been discovered and are used in various ways. Electrical diffusion of one’s tissues allows medicine in a vaporized form to pass directly into one part of the body without having to pierce the skin – although accidents can happen if the current is interrupted!
Oil shortages as OTL are a problem, as are other shortages of raw materials. Although even coal may be limited, there is no great fear of a power shortage among the general public, since new power sources are actively being developed: electricity is obtained from rivers and tides and winds, and increasingly from the miracle element, radium. (Something of a “radium rush” is currently taking place in Antarctica).
Electricity is a somewhat more dangerous phenomenon than in our world: although electrical sockets are generally safe, ever now and then problems at a power plant will lead to a dozen or so workmen being consumed by ravening green flames. (Electrical workers are generally very well paid). The “cold light”, which produces light with almost no energy loss in the form of heat, has recently been invented, although the technology so far remains too expensive for common use.
Using chemicals and strange radiations and ruthless pruning of mutated varieties, many new forms of plants and animals have been created. Cattle and sheep are hornless, and both huge and grossly obese by our standards. Tiny dog-sized horses have been bred for pets. In the plant kingdom, things even more extreme have been achieved. Oranges that grow in the climate of Philadelphia, cantaloupes that can be stored through the winter, strawberries the size of apples, currants as big as oranges, peas as large as beets. Seedless plums and peaches. Figs for Canada. Sugarcane that grows like a weed. Black, blue, green roses as big as cabbage heads. Pansies as big as sunflowers, and simply effin’ huge sunflowers.
The food pill has been invented. Nobody wants to switch from real food, except for a few extreme aesthetics and workaholics who grudge every minute lost in dining.
New super-telescopes have allowed the discovery of signs of life on Venus and Mars, and giant reflecting mirrors set up in the Sahara have allowed a limited form of communication with Mars, although so far the messages have not gone much beyond recognizing each other’s mutual existence and skills with math. There is a great deal of fanciful speculation on the nature of Martians in the popular press. Giant cannon have hit the Moon, but so far nobody has been sent on a personal trip.
There have been no world wars per se, but there were the Russian Revolutionary Wars (the Russian revolution went more Napoleonic and less Leninist), various colonial revolts and struggles, and the Japanese civil war, leading to the conquest of the Japanese home islands by the branch of the royal family based in North China (the current Emperor’s ambitions to reunify all of China worry people).
Most of Africa remains under colonial rule – after, it’s not like Africans have any great aptitude for self-government, right? Although a rising class of black professionals - clerks, accountants, lawyers, etc. - have come to displace much of the imported Indian and European talent, the top levers of power remain firmly in white hands. A lack of money and manpower has led to a considerable devolution within the Portuguese empire, and an elite consisting of a mixed bag of Europeans, wealthier Africans (Christian and Portuguese-speaking), multiracial Brazilians, Indians, Chinese and other odds and ends largely run things in richly corrupt Mozambique and Angola for their own profit, and the British are talking about maybe giving some greater autonomy to the south Nigerians, maybe by the 2020s. There are various resistance movements and secret societies, and it is rumored of late that the Sino-Japanese emperor has begun to back anti-European movements.
Latin America, caught between the US and Germany (the former British economic domination of the area has been steadily eroded over the century) struggles to modernize itself, which involves a lot of soap and the suppression of pretty much any local culture which might be seen as primitive and/or unsanitary. This has done severe damage to the local food scene, for one thing.
Secret Societies are a worry: aside from African and Asian revolutionaries, Hindu cultists with strange drugs and sinister devices, and Mad Mullahs, there are the various wacky splinter groups the original old-style Anarchists splintered into, some of which eschew the old bomb-throwing violence for corrupting society from within by insidious propaganda, while others seem to simply want to see the world burn: and then there are the criminal societies, the Mafia and others, insidious oriental (and Latin American) drug-dealers, white slavers, and pirate societies with their own secret air fleets or submarines. An international organization of square-jawed Airship Police and various hardworking Private Consulting Detectives struggle against such menaces.
A large American Black Secret Society, meanwhile, plots the overthrow of European rule in Africa and the creation of a unified free Africa, or at least the West African parts (they have Secret Bases in Freedonia, the union of OTL Liberia and Sierra Leone).
The US has expanded, 500 million people in a US including Mexico, Nicaragua, and other South and Central American republics: Canada is increasingly slipping out of the British sphere of influence into the American one, and may soon join the USA. The fast-breeding Russians are even more numerous. The MittelEuropean Block forms a third major power, and includes some parts of South America heavily Germanized by immigration. France’s last hurrah was in helping to stop the Russian revolutionary hordes along the Rhine, for which it was rewarded with the return of most of Alsace-Lorraine: it has since slipped into Decadence (at least in the imagination of other powers ), dwelling in a sleepy eternal Belle Epoque, most of its empire sold off to more vigorous powers. Britain, too, is in decline, having lost much of India to native revolt (led by Secrit Religious Cults, backed by Britain’s Russian rival) and is now facing the defection of Canada. The Ottomans remain afloat on a pool of oil.
Although the White Powers have not fought a major war in generations, military technology continues to advance, at least enough to keep ahead of those worrisome Asiatics. If war comes, airships will hide in artificial clouds, giant guns will throw super-bombs capable of destroying entire city blocks 25 miles, Bolo-huge “mobile fortresses” will roll across the battlefield as fast as 1900 A.D. trains, giant automatic plows will dig trenches within the twinkling of an eye. Guns will fire almost inaudibly, and giant generators will throw deadly electrical sparks along miles of frontline. Gas and all sorts of deadly microbial weapons may come into play. Amphibious airships will lurk deep underwater to spring surprise attacks, fighting beneath the wave or above the clouds. Border forts are now gigantic flattened domes of steel, resistive to attack from above as below.
The World Government movement has revived in recent decades, but nationalist sentiment still tends to look askance at any world government plan which will subordinate their national interests to Those People. Russia and the US are quite friendly, and at times the notion of a US-Russian alliance is mooted, which some enthusiasts see as a potential core for a global union (and scares the crap out of the other major states).
 1901-1910, to be precise
 After being threateningly informed so many times that they were secretly running the world, certain Jewish groups decided that they might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, and gave it a shot. They didn’t manage to take over the world, but this world doesn’t suffer from 1929’s or 2008’s.
 If you’re white, it’s mostly OK to be Jewish nowadays. The post-revolutionary Republic put an end to the Pale of Settlement and Pogroms, although the Protocols of the Elders of Zion continue to circulate in this world as in ours.
 And what the heck is wrong with a really long Belle Epoque, anyway?