2575: What If? 2

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For other instances of this title, see What If (disambiguation).
What If? 2
CLARIFICATION: By 9/13, I mean September 13th, not the 9th day of Jancember, the cursed 13th month that exists between December and January in the transdimensional temporal plane.
Title text: CLARIFICATION: By 9/13, I mean September 13th, not the 9th day of Jancember, the cursed 13th month that exists between December and January in the transdimensional temporal plane.


This comic is Randall's way of announcing and promoting his new book, What If? 2, based on his what if? blog and following his first what if book.

The entire comic (including the xkcd Header text) is a link to a what if? 2: the book page on xkcd .

Apart from promoting the book, the comic also explains why he ended up writing a sequel. After the first book came out Randall was flooded with what if? questions. Presumable mainly from his readers via e-mail, but his friends and families also started texting him with these questions. Some of these texts are displayed in the comic, but only partially, so none of the six question texts can be read. But where one might think that this would become tiresome, Randall instead tells the readers the opposite: "Honestly, I love it."

He then continues to praise the quality of the questions, mentioning no less than nine examples of what the questions were about. And in the process ensures the reader that planets, including the Earth, will be destroyed multiple times in his new book. At the end he lets the readers know that some of the features of the first book, with short answer sections and disturbing questions (likely not answered), are also included in this book.

He also states that a few of his favorites from the What If? site site have been included, so it is not all new material. He includes his very last online What If? (Earth-Moon Fire Pole) for instance, which was released on 2018-05-21, almost four years before this comic was released. Also, by the time the book is released, it will be almost four years and four months since the last article on What If?

The final part of the comic is a picture of the book that both makes it clear when the book is released and how to preorder it.

Randall ensured the maximum possible attention to his announcement by placing a countdown in the header about three weeks prior to the announcement. This has caused a lot of speculation as to what would be revealed on the day of this comic's release 2022-01-31. The timer was inside a panel at the top right of the xkcd header text next to the standard header text: xkcd updates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Inside the panel a picture began emerging after the first day, but the picture only changed approximately once every four hours. After a few weeks was it certain that it was a plane that was being revealed. And on the second to last day, around day twenty, it was clear that it featured a T. rex-like dinosaur en silhouette standing on top of the aircraft, apparently trying to eat its way into the fuselage, and it might have been possible to guess the relation to the What If? sequel. On the day before the announcement on xkcd, however, Amazon made visible a preorder page for the book, so the answer was made clear about a day before Randall had intended. This clearly annoyed users of this page as can be seen in the talk page for the countdown.

Until then, however, there were numerous theories about the countdown and what the image would reveal as the image gradually changed throughout the eventual 136 frames.

In the title text, Randall feels that he must clarify the release day (as in 2562: Formatting Meeting), since he has often joked about the way different countries (and people) write dates. He did not use the one version he himself had promoted in earlier comics. He does however give two different versions of the release date: the first is "9/13" in the first panel, which is at least (usually — see below) only readable one way; harder to misinterpret is the more expansive "Sep 13, 2022" in the final panel. A format that he could have used to avoid any confusion is: "the book is released on 2022-09-13," using the international standard as defined in the ISO 8601 standard and shown in 1179: ISO 8601.

The clarification reads: By 9/13, I mean September 13th, not the 9th day of Jancember, the cursed 13th month that exists between December and January in the transdimensional temporal plane.

Since there are only 12 months in the year, 9/13 actually cannot be mistaken, while 9/12 might be. So there was really no need for this clarification, especially with the last text in the last panel. So this is of course just a title text joke, where he can manage to make a portmanteau of January and December ("Jancember") and then then call this a cursed month as it would be the 13th month if it came before New Year. This comic came out at the end of January, so it could have been at the end of Jancember instead. The number thirteen is seen by many as an unlucky number, so a thirteenth month would be considered cursed by some, or at least unlucky. In reality, a 13th month can exist in some alternate calendars and is then called "Undecimber".

At the release of this comic, the header changed to promote the website, the xkcd links in the top left section of xkcd was changed to promote the book and he made his first Blag post in more than two years with the What If 2 post.

The what if? header was also changed to accommodate promotion of the new book; not so strange, seeming as it was based on that blog. A picture is displayed at the top with the book at both ends and this text in between, with the first line taking up the top and the two other lines below, the first in a frame:

What If? 2
Preorder now
On sale 9/13

The entire picture links to the what if? 2 page.

Exactly two months after the release of this promotion comic Randall made another comic about his new what if? 2 book: 2600: Rejected Question Categories. In this he also gives the release day as 9/13, in the title text, although without any mention of the ambiguity of this date format.


[Randall, drawn as Cueball, is throwing his arms out as he stands next to a big red book with white drawings on the cover. The cover shows a large passenger plane that has just taken off, as can be seen since the landing gear still has the wheels extended (only one wheel is visible at the middle part and then the one in the front). A Tyrannosaurus Rex has jumped on to the plane and it is biting down on the ceiling of the plane a bit in front of the wings, as if on the back of a prey. The dinosaur has already broken through the ceiling. Below is a jagged landscape with small mountain like peaks in the background. Megan and Cueball are standing on the top of the second of two raised plateaus, looking up at the plane and dinosaur. There is unreadable white text above the plane, then a title beneath the plane, and the authors name below the landscape, and more unreadable text beneath that, all in white. Below the book, there is a small arrow pointing to the right bottom of the book, with a label beneath.]
Randall: Announcement: I’m publishing a what if? sequel!
Book cover: what if? 2
Book cover: Randall Munroe
In stores 9/13, available for preorder now: xkcd.com/whatif2
[Randall is shown holding up his smart phone in one hand. The screen lights up as indicated with small lines at the top. These point up to at least six SMS texts, each with two lines of text. They are shown in speech bobbles with a small arrow in the bobbles lower left corner. All six are covered partly by either the other five, or by Randall’s head, and none of them can be read in any meaningful way; only parts of sentences or words are clearly visible. The bobbles and the text in them are all drawn in gray. Randall is narrating (not speaking) in this panel, both above the SMS texts, and below.]
Randall narrating: Ever since I wrote what if?, I’ve been flooded with questions.
Randall narrating: And not just from readers- My friends and family stated texting them to me, too.
Text 1: Hey, could s.. ele
Text 2: Hypothe…
Text 3: If you s… Jupiter…
Text 4: Could my ca… or…
Text 5: Do you… my car…
Text 6: If I trie… the sun, would I…
Randall narrating: Honestly, I love it.
[Randall is again standing next to his red book talking. There is also a second version of the book lying to the right of the closed book, and this has been opened up to reveal two pages. The text is unreadable and the images are very hard to see, but it seems that two people are standing next to each other on the right page. The image at the top of the left page has been enlarged and shown to the right of the open book. It is an image of the Earth that is being peeled by a potato peeler, which takes off a large peel from the north part of Scandinavia and then goes via Russia into Asia. The title and author name can still just be read on the book,but maybe only because they are already known...]
Randall: The questions are so good. People have asked about touching exotic materials, traveling across space and time, eating things they shouldn’t, and smashing large objects into the Earth. There are questions about lasers, explosions, swingsets, candy, and soup. Several planets are destroyed-one of them by the soup.
Book cover: what if? 2
Book cover: Randall Munroe
[Zoom in on the top part of Randall speaking on.]
Randall: Like the first book, what if? 2 also features collections of short answers, new lists of weird and worrying questions, and some of my favorite answers from the What if site.
[Only the closed red book are shown in this panel, in an even larger version than in any of the previous panels. But it is still only the title and the author name that can be read, but in this version these can also be read on the spine of the book. Randall is narrating again, and there are text both above and below the book.]
Randall narrating: If you want to get it when it’s released, you can preorder a copy at xkcd.com/whatif2
Book spine: what if? 2 Randall Munroe
Book cover: what if? 2
Book cover: Randall Munroe
Randall narrating: Available Sep 13, 2022


This comic came out just a few minutes after the Countdown in header text ended.

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Yay! \o/ Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 15:09, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

Note that there is actually a term for the 13th month of the year, and it's Undecimber. Svízel přítula (talk) 15:12, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

And the Jewish calendar has a 13th month every 2-3 years, since it's a lunar calendar. But rather than a completely different month name, the month Adar is doubled to Adar I and Adar II. Barmar (talk) 16:12, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

This is awesome! I really hope one of the answers is about cotton candy breaking one's fall, since it was foreshadowed in book one. 15:21, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT YAYAYAYAYYAY!!!! Sarah the Pie(yes, the food) (talk) 16:37, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

According to the Simpsons the 13th month is Smarch. What do we do when Simpsons and Randall disagree? Also, pretty sure 2021 was the first year that 13th month aligned with our reality. 17:28, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

I can't shake the feeling that he announced it on 31/01 because it's coming out on 13/09 and that's nearly 13/10 which is 31/01 with the month and day digits switched. But I might be one of those numerology people without realising it --192·168·0·1 (talk) 17:38, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

If you're not, you should count yourself lucky! 18:15, 31 January 2022 (UTC)
 :D great pun, you win 1 internet 🎁 --192·168·0·1 (talk) 15:09, 1 February 2022 (UTC)

The pre-order through all the different sources is good, but **What if** someone wanted a hard copy of the book autographed by Randall?  I don't see any provision for that. RAGBRAIvet (talk) 00:16, 1 February 2022 (UTC)

Is it just me, but is 7 months in advance a bit early to announce a book release? 01:04, 1 February 2022 (UTC)

Seems an oddly advanced announcement to me too, but I guess with transport lines being so messed up, it's an attempt to be prepared well ahead for anything. 05:12, 1 February 2022 (UTC)
Yes. Especially in the world of ebooks and audiobooks which have no distirbution delays. With such a delay between completion and release, I'm expecting an ebook and audiobook edition to be available on the release day. I wonder if this sort of delay is normal in the publishing world, or if Randall is just a low priority for his publishers? 05:05, 2 February 2022 (UTC)
I think it's the opposite. Books have always needed months to actually fully be published, at least properly without resorting to letrasetting and sneaking time on the office photocopier/Gestetner for ultra-small initial runs - and definitely on a simultaneous worldwide release arranged from the start.
What we see here is not a delay from the announcement, but the earlier and earlier time at which the announcement gets to the wider public, even the avid fanbase. Even so, there's probably been at least a month or three since Randall signed the contract and submitted the first proofs (of presumably already a roughly compiled proposal that got him that contract to sign), and distributors like Amazon clearly were tipped off enough to prepare for the release...
And while it might be fairly easy to get the digital print-proofs into eBook format, save for some slight adjustments necessary to make it properly sellable, I imagine the fuss of getting an audiobook recorded (without the complications of sufficiently audio-describing what will surely be an illustration-heavy book) is a task in itself.
I don't know if they've even put ink to paper yet (or given any audiobook narrator the studio time) except for the proof-run. Even if they have started the mass-printing they probably are far from being able to put sufficient stock into shops tomorrow to meet expectations. We're just learning about it once it is officially inevitable (or even a day before!) rather than wandering into a bookshop in mid-September and getting a pleasant surprise, much like has happened for most ordinary consumers of literature across the entire extent of the book-publishing history. (IMO) 09:49, 2 February 2022 (UTC)

This is one of the few times, it is quite explicit that Randall himself is in the comic instead of him as fictional narrator. Sebastian -- 07:01, 1 February 2022 (UTC)

Is it now canon that going forth any character in the actual comic with that appearance is in fact Randall himself? These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 04:59, 6 February 2022 (UTC)

It comes out on my birthday! 09:22, 1 February 2022 (UTC)

Happy birthday! ...in advance. 12:51, 1 February 2022 (UTC)

It's a crummy commercial? Son of a glitch. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

This seems like an oddly-specific date to me. When I was at IBM it wasn't unusual for rumors about a product to start circulating more than a year before it would be released, and then IBM would announce that yes, it really was happening and specify something like mid-year of the next year for FCS (First Customer Ship) but the actual FCS date wouldn't be firm until a month or two before the FCS happened . . . and sometimes the FCS would get slipped, even by months like in the case of the S/38 which was the first product I was involved with. Of course, a book is a little bit of a smaller project, but still . . . . 10:16, 2 February 2022 (UTC)

I think for tech releases, you could benefit from juggling the practical (official) release-date much closer to that point, rather than stockpiling a lot of potentially useful items uselessly in a warehouse just to make sure you have them.
Alternately, promising a date based on Just-In-Time estimates then suffering delays that push release back is not a good thing either. (Also misestimating demand, see XBox/etc problems.) So, to stop too much of either, you get the rumour-mill going but make it officially official closer to the confirmed/confirmable delivery time.
A book, probably deliberately scheduled explictly for a particularly popular (pre-)pre-Christmas purchase slot, has less issue being sent to storage for months at a time, and gives you leeway to organise additional print-runs from other partners if any (not uncommon) printing/binding places suffer problems (unlike what we've seen if issues hit one or more of the few specialist chip-fabricators).
There are probably similar pressures and opportunities. But at different scales which changes the optimal buffer-times between various stages (hint, rumour, confirmation, official confirmation, near-certainty, actuality), and all under the microscope of the modern information-led world.
(I remember the early days of Discworld series publication. Suddenly there would be a new Pratchett book in the bookstores, without knowing anything of it in advance, even when it was becoming a twice-yearly probability. By the end, attendees of the Discworld Conventions, and then thus all the readers of various official/fan-led online resources, would know roughly what books were in the pipeline a couple of years in advance and were counting down the days for several of them at a time, pretty much knowing the subject and main characters of them already and wildly speculating about storylines long since set in stone while Pterry had already started to work on the successor's successor, or beyond...)
Not that I know the inside-out of the book industry, and also not so much of the electronics one as yourself, but this is my extrapolation from what I do know/think about them both. I think there's a wide range of possible schedules, with this one not at all being an outlier. 15:10, 2 February 2022 (UTC)

No comic today (Wednesday 2022-02-02)? When's the last time Randall missed a comic? 23:54, 2 February 2022 (UTC)

The 13th month is called Gormanuary.-- 23:54, 6 February 2022 (UTC)

Ick... (...or December, depending upon your chosen version of canon.) 01:16, 7 February 2022 (UTC)

Someone should add in what What If questions correspond to the topics Randall mentioned. For example, '...Planets destroyed, one of them by the soup' is a reference to Soupiter. 'Eating things you shouldn't' is a reference to that one question about rabid animals, etc. 11:29, 7 September 2023 (UTC)me