We Need to Talk About Hitler

by Arthur B

We should thank Norman Spinrad for republishing The Iron Dream.
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Editor's Note: please check the publication date before reading this article. Also take salt: apply liberally :)

As you'll know if you've read my spirited defence of Robert E. Howard from a while back, I'm not keen on people badmouthing respected fantasy and SF authors out of a misplaced sense of political correctness. All too often, this is a result of people chronically failing to see the wood for the trees and latching on to minor issues which any adult reader should be able to move beyond. This is why I never, ever stoop to writing vindictively negative reviews of people's books; what place have I, as a reader, to tell authors what to do or criticise their work, when I haven't written a published novel of my own? No, my place is to promote what is best in the genre, and defend it from its more spiteful critics, despite the insults thrown at authors - and, by extension, their readers - by the rabble.

Numerous authors have been subjected to these vile ad hominem attacks on their work, themselves and their audience, and I for one am sick of it. What does it say about the fantasy genre when an author of the stature of Jay Lake says that he no longer feels safe to go to conventions due to accusations of misogyny and racism against him, when anyone who has read Green will know Jay Lake can't be a sexist or a racist - after all, he says he isn't, and offers the fact that he adopted a Chinese girl as very convincing proof, so why can't we take an honourable and well-meaning man at his word?

These character assassinations have been made against more or less every serious author in the genre of adult fantasy and speculative fiction. From Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, who popularised the genre in the pulp era, to J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who lent the credibility only an Oxford professor could offer to the field, to Robert Heinlein and the many other authors who brought us the golden age of American science ficton, to George R.R. Martin, whose works have made a transition to television which is more successful than any previous fantasy-themed TV series, pretty much every one of the great men responsible for making major advances into the popular consciousness in the name of the Literature of Ideas has been the target of the most noxious and appalling smears.

And no author's reputation has come under assault more than Adolf Hitler's.

Although Hitler's bibliography is fairly extensive - including works like Emperor of the Asteroids, The Builders of Mars and Triumph of the Will - the most readily available of his novels is his 1953 magnum opus The Lord of the Swastika. The definitive edition of the text is generally held to be the restored version prepared by Norman Spinrad in 1972; despite being retitled The Iron Dream for some reason (possibly to avoid any confusion with Tolkien), this version won high praise from many SF luminaries of the era, including Harry Harrison, Harlan Ellison, and Michael Moorcock, all of whom provide effusive quotes praising the book on the back cover of my copy.

Hitler was often referenced in the New Wave SF penned by the likes of Spinrad, Moorcock, and the rest of the New Worlds gang, so for Spinrad his preparation of the restored text was clearly a labour of love. However, for some reason only known to himself, Spinrad chose to reprint the tedious afterword the publishers appended to the second edition of the book (which came out in 1959, after Hitler's demise). This afterword, written by Homer Whipple of New York University, has become a key source of rumours, inaccuracies, distortions and misconceptions for any subsequent critic out to take a pop at Hitler for the sake of spitefully running down the Literature of Ideas. Frankly, I suspect the nature of the afterword stems from Hitler's early publishers simply failing to proof-read it, because the wall of text comes out more as the ramblings of a madman than a well thought-out article. It shocks me that someone like Whipple, who is obviously familiar with Hitler's work, would dare to shove his own biased bullshit into the text like this. Interesting that someone who supposedly doesn't like the text would expend so much interest on challenging it!

Whilst Whipple at least manages to get the skeleton of Hitler's biography right, he adds just enough supposition and guesswork on his own part to craft a horrendous caricature of the man. As most people know, Hitler was a war veteran who, after some dabbling in radical politics in post-war Germany that didn't really get anywhere, emigrated to the USA. There he fell in with science fiction fandom and earned a meagre income selling artwork to the pulp magazines during their 1930s heyday, before he felt that his English was polished enough to take up writing for the pulps himself.

Most of us know this much, and fans will be aware that until his death Hitler was a popular figure on the SF/fantasy convention circuit, admired as a characterful public speaker in much the same way as Harlan Ellison is. It's also widely known that Lord of the Swastika was written in about a week, shortly before Hitler's death. (This brisk working pace was not unusual at the time; Philip K. Dick was known to crank out novels in intense, amphetamine-fuelled writing sessions, whilst L. Ron Hubbard wrote Fear during a long train ride.) Where Whipple goes completely off the rails is in his suggestion that Hitler was rapidly losing his mind in the process of writing the novel and died of tertiary syphilis. Combine this with Whipple repeating rumours (once again without any sources) of Hitler's romantic exploits at SF conventions and it's clear Whipple considers fandom to be a seething hotbed of STDs, an attitude not entirely unsurprising in an ivory tower intellectual writing in the 1950s but still a slur that didn't need to be repeated here.

The PC brigade don't tout this aspect of Whipple's criticisms much, which makes sense since it's a blatant ad hominem attack. Nor do many of them feel an urge to repeat Whipple's homophobic suggestions that Hitler was a closeted gay man; to be honest, I think people on both sides of the debate may have reason to look askance at Whipple for making such an argument, and at Spinrad for reprinting it without comment. But what they do repeat, very often, is Whipple's attacks against the text of The Lord of the Swastika, which he asserts is some sort of screed in support of totalitarian militarism. In fact, today the social justice mob and self-appointed Minority Warriors go even further than Whipple was willing to. For some reason, they've got it into their heads that Hitler was a racist. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The Lord of the Swastika is essentially a combination of an SF adventure story (with a number of sword and sorcery tropes borrowed and recontextualised with future-science explanations) and a military SF novel, set in a post-apocalyptic world. Following a devastating nuclear war, the remnants of humanity find themselves in competition with a range of mutants of varying levels of deviation from the norm - some mutants, like the Parrotheads and Toadmen, are obviously physiologically different from the true humans, but others are less obvious. The most feared mutants are the sinister Dominators, who look like ordinary humans but possess powerful mind control powers. The mere presence of a Dominator in a neighbourhood, organisation or society ultimately leads to that group being undermined from within, the Dominator ensnaring the surrounding minds in a dominance pattern.

The two most important nations of the post-nuclear age are Heldon and Zind. Zind is openly under the sway of the Dominators, who think nothing of using the corrupting radioactive forces that have shattered the world in order to create custom-mutated creatures to serve their ends. Set against the telepathic biotechnological nightmare of Zind is Heldon, a nation founded by some of the few human beings who were able to avoid being genetically warped by nuclear fallout, which as of the time of the novel has hit a roughly 20th century level of technology.

Our hero is Feric Jaggar, a true human and son of Heldon exiles. Having reached his maturity in the mutant-dominated nation of Borgravia, Jaggar has survived thanks to his instinct for identifying Dominators and resisting their mental manipulation. The story begins as Jaggar arrives at a Heldonian border crossing in order to obtain citizenship; he does so with ease, but is perturbed to notice that the border authorities are allowing through a range of twisted mutants on day passes. Realising that a Dominator has infiltrated the border guards, Jaggar seeks out allies within Heldon to purge the menace, before beginning an epic quest to liberate Heldon from the Dominator conspiracy undermining it, defeat the massed forces of Zind, and win back planet earth for the true humans.

Essentially, the novel pans out in three parts. The first act is a sword and sorcery-influenced tale of how Jaggar, a lone traveller arriving in Heldon, manages to become both the leader of the Human Renaissance Party (a political faction dedicated to fighting the mutant threat) and the Black Avengers, a renegade motorcycle gang who become the Party's bodyguards and enforcers. Once Jaggar asserts his leadership over these groups through a combination of inspiring rhetoric, personal heroism and decisive action, the stage is set for the novel's second act, a tense story of politics and betrayal in which Jaggar seeks to wrest control of Heldon from the Dominator-manipulated government it is lumbered with whilst protecting the party from dangerous conspiracies from without and within its ranks. This accomplishes a smooth transition into the final act, a gripping military SF adventure following Jaggar and his allies deep into Zind territory.

The genius of Hitler's narrative structure is in his use of archetypal storytelling approaches, as exemplified by Joseph Campbell's model of the "Hero's Journey". Those who have studied anthropology or literature will probably be able to explain the concept better than me, but most SF and fantasy fans are aware that the Hero's Journey is the basic structure of any good and satisfying myth and, if adhered to carefully, will guarantee a compelling story. Hitler pulls it off brilliantly in The Lord of the Swastika; in fact, the whole novel is constructed as one big overarching Hero's Journey, whilst at the same time each individual act is constructed as a Hero's Journey in its own right. In each episode, Jaggar undertakes a perilous journey - whether that's into an ancient forest, the corrupt halls of power, or the wastelands of Zind - and emerges victorious with new power to aid and guide the people of Heldon.

Hitler's interest in myth and archetype is also reflected in the plot. Feric Jaggar's emphasis on the Swastika, the national symbol of Heldon, extends to him renaming the HRP the Sons of the Swastika and the Black Avengers the Knights of the Swastika, and Hitler has Jaggar deliver a little speech to his underlings explaining the importance of inspirational symbolism. The political rallies Jaggar holds during his rise to power are ritualised to an almost Masonic extent, as are the various victory celebrations which accompany the end of the war against the Dominators, the solution of the problem of radiation-induced mutations, and the Heldonian colonisation of the galaxy.

For some reason known only to him, Whipple takes issue to this, asserting that the rallies and parades of the novel represent a fetishisation of the military for some sort of dubious propaganda purpose. This is an entirely too reductionist interpretation of the book - the ritual behaviour of the Sons of the Swastika is clearly meant in the book to be a carefully orchestrated psychodrama intended to awaken in the Heldonians a sense of national pride, which makes Jaggar, as the architect of this political theatre, something of a precursor to the character of Kellhus in R. Scott Bakker's fantasy novels (of which more later). But even if you accept that this is the case, Whipple's argument ends up getting rather muddled - at points he seems to cross the line into suggesting that Hitler was trying to propagandise to his readers. The very thought is absurd! After all, what audience is more intelligent, perceptive, critical or self-aware than we SF fans, with our devotion to the most intellectual of all genres, the Literature of Ideas? Surely science fiction and fantasy readers are far less easily swayed than the sheeple and mundanes who scoff at our reading material because they don't understand it. If a lot of SF fans happen to agree with Hitler's views, well, that just means Hitler was a smart guy who knew what he was talking about! The suggestion that we are somehow warped or manipulated by Hitler's writing is sheer geekphobia which only someone with mundane privilege would spout with a straight face, just as only people afraid of their own sexuality could object to the Gorean fandom.

This is not to say that the imagery Hitler concocted for The Lord of the Swastika isn't striking - it is! Whipple mentions the various cosplayers who, even at the time he was writing, livened up numerous SF conventions with their carefully reconstructed Sons of the Swastika uniforms. To suggest that everyone who does that is some sort of demented militarist or has a leather fetish is like suggesting that people who dress as Klingons really believe they are space aliens. If LARPers want to go off somewhere quiet and re-enact Sons of the Swastika parades or play out battles with mutants and Dominators, what of it? Who could possibly care except a blinkered mundane, confused and bewildered by our joyful shouting and our colourful costumes, and lacking the intellect to look beyond their dreary life of guzzling beer and watching soap operas and sport?

The fact is that The Lord of the Swastika is fantastical escapist entertainment. Yes, Hitler's philosophy as expressed through it is fascinating, but the situation in Heldon is pure make-believe, and couldn't really happen in the real world. And yet, Whipple and other detractors of the book try anyway, most notably with respect to their insistence that there is some sort of allegorical meaning to the mutants in the book - just as Tolkien-bashers like to try and infer an allegorical meaning to the orcs, despite Tolkien expressing his distaste for allegory in the introduction to all but the earliest editions of The Lord of the Rings. The mutants, Hitler's critics claim, are supposed to represent "lesser races", and the Dominators are allegorical Jews. What rubbish! Nobody rational believes that Jews have secret mind powers, so what do Hitler's fictional telepaths have to do with them? And besides, Hitler makes it very clear in the book that the mutants represent a degeneration from "true humanity", and I'm sure he intended to include all the races we know today in that definition; it's just that most other races aside from the Heldonians went extinct in the nuclear war, and the Heldonians only survived through sheer chance. Yes, "true humanity" is much less diverse in the future than it is now, but that's a simple consequence of Hitler following through on the logical consequences of his timeline! Had the Heldonian homeland been in Africa, most of the characters in the book would, I am sure, have been black. The basis of the whole Jew thing seems to be that Zind has a star on their flag, and if that's the case then surely Zind could equally stand in for Australia, China, Morocco, the US, or any other country with a star on its flag?

To be fair, Whipple doesn't consider the "Jewish Dominators" interpretation to be very credible either. His argument that they represent Communism - which would imply that the Universalist political creed that is depicted as undermining Heldon represents socialist allies of communism - potentially holds a little more water. After all, Hitler was writing at the height of the Cold War, and the subversive activities of the Dominators shows the influence of the conspiracy in Robert Heinlein's The Puppet Masters - though that involved control through alien parasites as opposed to telepathic control, the depiction of the Dominators as parasites corrupting the body politic stands, and the Zind use of biotechnological constructs carries with it a lot of terminology reminiscent of disease and corruption of the flesh, so I guess you could construct an argument that Hitler was depicting Communism as a political plague. However, the Dominator agenda of eliminating the true human racial type and replacing it with a mongrelised slave race (which is surely far more racist than Jaggar's agenda to protect humanity from its enemies!) sounds nothing like the goals of Communism, so even this attempt to make a connection falls down. So what if Zind happens to be in the east, where Russia and China are? Everywhere is east of somewhere!

The other basis people use to argue that Hitler's depiction of subhuman mutants is racist is the harsh treatment they receive at the hands of Heldon's armies, but I think on this point Hitler also deserves more credit than he is usually given. It has to be remembered that like any science fantasy epic The Lord of the Swastika lives or dies by its worldbuilding, which is truly the most important and fascinating skill a writer can develop. (I pity authors whose imaginations are so stunted that they have to restrict themselves to writing about the real world). In the early parts of the novel, Hitler clearly and adeptly introduces the reader to the premises of the world of Heldon. We learn that mutants tend to be less intelligent, less physically healthy, and generally less developed than true humans; anyone who has studied genetics will tell you that almost all mutations to a healthy gene will cause disease in the resultant organism so this is a hyperbolic but essentially accurate reflection of real science. We also learn that the mutants reproduce rapidly; presumably this explains how they are able to exist in large numbers despite being less adapted for survival than the humans. We further learn that radiation has caused a lot of food produce to be contaminated - Jaggar, for instance, prefers a vegetarian diet because he's educated enough to realise that radiation-contaminated toxins would accumulate in animal life. We learn that the Dominators are insidious and are out to destroy the true human genome.

From these principles, the action Heldon takes is not only justified - it is the predictable and rational response to the world they live in. Applying our own civilised morals to the world of Heldon is as ludicrous as moralistically tutting at that great nihilistic hero Conan the Barbarian. The mutants are directly competing with the true humans for resources, and the Dominators are plotting to destroy them - therefore the true humans must fight to protect themselves. The mutants are mentally and physically incapable of rebuilding the world - therefore the true humans must take the initiative in doing so. The true humans require good-quality food which is not contaminated by radiation - therefore they must reclaim a whole bunch of farmland, far more than they might have otherwise needed before the nuclear armageddon contaminated so much land, and so a policy of expansion is inevitable. Zind wishes to drag everyone down into a biological nightmare of constant mutation and Chaos - therefore, Heldon must fight in the name of Law. To expect Hitler to deviate from his worldbuilding to satisfy the moral reservations of people in our world is to expect him to give up his artistic integrity altogether, and is a completely ludicrous suggestion. You might as well ask why there are no black hobbits.

On top of that, Hitler makes it clear that whilst Feric Jaggar is a man of action who does what the stark and indisputable facts of his situation demand that he do, he is no heartless monster - despite the revulsion he feels for the mutants, he is also capable of treating them with compassion. Take, for example, the Classification Camps that his elite SS security forces set up in order to process the population and identify those whose true human genome is pure and those who appear human but are either secret Dominators (who of course must be executed), or through no fault of their own have recessive mutant genes which it would be unethical for them to pass on to their offspring. Jaggar offers unfortunates in the latter category the choice of exile from Heldon or castration, and most of them happily accept castration as opposed to leaving the paradise Jaggar has made of Heldon. This demonstrates that the population as a whole supports and endorses Jaggar's policies, so to characterise him as some sort of tyrant as Whipple does is to defy the facts as Hitler presents them and isn't supported by the text.

Later, Jaggar even authorises the SS to painlessly euthanise the nonhuman mutants captured during the campaign of conquest as opposed to holding them in inhumane conditions. Again, Hitler makes it clear that this decision was made after careful consideration, and is in fact one of the few points in the novel where Jaggar shows serious uncertainty; it is only after careful consultation with Remler, leader of the SS, that he takes this momentous decision, and only after every other solution is clearly demonstrated to be unworkable. To latch onto this as evidence of some sort of racist, genocidal impulse on the part of Jaggar is to read too much into the text; at most, Jaggar's interactions with mutants in the book are the result of genetic chauvinism, of the kind which might be exhibited by anyone whose privilege as a true man was under attack.

Another ridiculous accusation against the book is that it's somehow sexist. Again, this is absurd. Granted, there aren't any significant female characters in it, but that's solely because Hitler was writing good old-fashioned boy's adventure fiction, and to say that he shouldn't have written books for a male audience is just plain misandry. So what if the leaders of the Sons of the Swastika are all men? They're all great characters - from the adept master of propaganda Seph Bogel to Jaggar's loyal sidekick Ludolf Best to the larger than life war hero and former flying ace Waffling. Would any of them have really been improved if they'd been a woman? No! So why chide Hitler for not doing so? It's not as though women are not valued in Heldon; Jaggar's researchers go to some lengths to find women who can breed with the genetic elite of the SS to produce a hardier stock of human beings, for instance. Nitpickers like to claim there's a plot hole towards the end of the book in the section regarding Jaggar's ambitious plan to send cloned SS warriors out to explore the universe and colonise other star systems, by pointing out that there is no direct mention of any female clones being sent with them; again, this misses the point. With the cloning technology, there is no need to arbitrarily set gender quotas for the colony ships, and indeed the ships would work best if staffed by clones of the elite candidates for the colonisation missions. So what if those candidates all happened to be male? Clearly, we can infer from the text that this is just how the selection process came out.

People also like to suggest that Feric Jaggar is some sort of Mary Sue self-insert character for Hitler, but this is nonsensical. At most, Hitler draws on his war experience for his depiction of the stirring heroism of battle, but otherwise Jaggar barely resembles Hitler - Jaggar is tall, blonde-haired and blue eyed, whereas if you track down pictures of Hitler hanging out with Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard back in the day you'll note he's a short man with brown hair. And yes, perhaps Jaggar's accomplishments are over the top, but this fits the messianic role he's cast in given his ability to wield the Steel Commander - to turn around and suggest that the Heldonians shouldn't fall in line behind someone who is clearly their true king is to ask Hitler to throw out the worldbuilding of the first third of the book. And even if it is mildly egotistical of Jaggar to provide a clone of himself to lead each of the colony-ships into space, hasn't he already proven his leadership qualities are up to scratch?

The reason Feric Jaggar is so fascinating is that he takes the self-certain, steely determination of Conan into the realm of politics; in that respect, The Lord of the Swastika is a spiritual successor to Robert E. Howard's own stories of Conan as King of Aquilonia (there's even the same recurring theme of foreign conspiracies seeking to undermine the realm). In fact, I'd say Hitler goes further than Howard and creates the one of the first convincingly "grimdark" works of science fantasy; yes, Jaggar does start massive wars, and he kills a lot of people, but this is because he lives in a grim and gritty world where this is necessary to ensure the survival of his people against almost impossible odds, such as the Tyranid-like hordes of Zind. In this respect he's the precursor to complex characters such as Kellhus in Bakker's novels, or the Emperor in Warhammer 40,000.

Then again, I suspect people who accuse Jaggar of being a Mary Sue simply don't think things through to that extent. (I wouldn't expect people who weren't experts in the Literature of Ideas to understand Hitler.) Literary snobs often accuse Hitler of being a poor author, but I find his prose style to be more or less on a par with other authors from the classic era of the pulps; for people to decry Hitler's prose as being "bad writing" is to attempt to impose objective standards on what is, after all, purely a matter of subjective taste, and perpetuates the myth that there is such a thing as "bad writing". I think Hitler's prose is great - it's exactly the sort of stirring stuff that gets your blood pumping, and it's because of authors like Hitler that I almost exclusively read SF and fantasy novels - what can boring literary snore-fests or shallow tripe like Twilight and other girl books for girls offer to compare to the Literature of Ideas?

Personally, I hope the Lord of the Swastika franchise goes from strength to strength. With Hollywood showing a new interest in looking back to the classic era of pulp fiction for material, from the Conan remake to the John Carter movie, we can but hope that some Hollywood executive will look to Hitler's bibliography, and that a little lightbulb will go on in the back of their head. After all, I think audiences are ready for a big screen adaptation of the Jaggar saga - hell, why not make it a trilogy? There's clearly a craving for this sort of material; 300 made its way into popular culture because at the end of the day people like seeing stalwart, manly warriors stand firm against a tide of corruption. It's past time Lord of the Swastika took its place alongside Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Star Trek in the annals of the great pop culture phenomena arising from the Literature of Ideas - imagine the Swastika action figures, the tie-in fiction, the renewed interest in Sons of the Swastika cosplay and roleplaying! Imagine a theme park inspired by the great man's fiction, full of Hitler rides and games! The sky's the limit!

Hopefully the reading public will take to Hitler's work too; Gollancz' SF Gateway line of Kindle-ised SF classics will soon be republishing the Spinrad edition of Lord of the Swastika (under the Iron Dream title again, of course), so perhaps now's the time for a revival. After all, doesn't the nihilistic chaos Westeros is plunged into in A Song of Ice and Fire teach us that strong leadership is necessary for a nation to thrive? Doesn't the grim and edgy action of Joe Abercrombie's books or the philosophical propaganda manipulations of Kellhus in Bakker's material show us that audiences are warming to the idea that a heroic protagonist may sometimes do distasteful things because they are necessary for the greater good? And let's not forget the success of Prince of Thorns; if the imitation is so well-received, shouldn't we be giving more plaudits to the original?

As various authors point out - R. Scott Bakker, Orson Scott Card, and Dan Simmons spring to mind - the world we grew up in is changing radically. The superpowers are getting soft, readers, and the rest of the world is getting tough. Very, very tough. We're entering savage new times, and we're going to have to be pure and direct and strong if we're going to survive them. Despite being written during the Cold War, The Lord of the Swastika has never been more relevant. And yet, even as a new generation of readers could rediscover this classic, which won the Hugo Award back in the 1950s, there are those who suggest we should turn our back on Hitler and cease promoting and supporting him as the best our genre has to offer - even going so far as to claim that people who aren't white men feel unwelcome in the SF community because of authors like Hitler.

This is effectively censorship, and it must stop. I hope this article will go some way to stopping it; after all, I think it will be obvious to anyone reading the above that I have completely discredited Whipple's attack on the series, and Whipple was writing from close to the time of publication. It would be insanely presumptuous of anyone of my generation to attempt to condemn Hitler now - a man who died decades before we were born. Those were simply different times, with different social mores, and it would be the height of hubris to presume to judge Hitler as being any better or worse than anyone else of his generation; after all, even if you could find a trace of sexism or racism in his writing, well, wasn't everyone equally racist back then? It is a reader's responsibility to bite back their objections and accept the author's worldview if they are going to achieve suspension of disbelief at all, and those who are not able to do this clearly lack the mental capacity to appreciate SF. If Hitler is such a bad man, why, that means I must be a bad person for enjoying his writing, and I for one will defend him against any and all attacks.

If you attack Hitler, you're attacking me, and every other fan who, tortured during the hellish ordeal of mockery and ostracisation which the sensitive, intelligent geek boy endures going through school, turned to the haven of SF for escape. We true SF fans, who had no choice but to be part of this brave and often-misunderstood community, cherish the authors who guided us through the troubled years of youth, and fondly remember times sat wrapped in a novel, learning an educated and refined way of looking at the world through the stories of such eminent tutors as Howard, Lovecraft and Hitler. These hordes of whining, preaching moralists who seek to remove any idea they consider objectionable from our collective meme-pool are the true totalitarians, not Hitler and his fandom.

Worse than that; they're seeking to deny the comforting, harmless escapism of Hitler's works to the current generation. Boys of a geeky persuasion need role models like Hitler more than ever, because they are growing up in a world where there is no White History Month to encourage them to take pride in their ethnicity, where feminism has completely sidelined and creep-shamed the Men's Rights movement, and where nobody will ever throw them a Straight Pride parade to honour their sexuality. These young men are the nice guys who constantly see the girls they like running off to date jerks, the downtrodden social exiles who are alienated from their school peers by the common rabble's failure to appreciate their refined hobbies and interests, the young men who alone in this world truly understand what discrimination really is - for they have to endure the discrimination against them without any fashionable social justice mafia rallying to their defence.

The boys going through such tender formative years need an author like Hitler to tell them that everything will be alright, that it really does get better, and to above all reassure them that there is and always will be a place for diligent young lads like them to rise up and make a difference in this world, despite the barrage of misandry and reverse racism they face in these dark days. Surely, if we care about the Literature of Ideas at all, we must not shun Hitler - if anything, we should be celebrating him!
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Comments (go to latest)
http://ektheleon.myopenid.com/ at 05:49 on 2012-04-01
This confused me deeply until I remembered the time difference between America and England.
Fin at 06:50 on 2012-04-01
*applauds*
Bjoern at 08:11 on 2012-04-01
I read "The Iron Dream" last summer and shortly after reading it, I read (and hated with a passion) the "Hawkmoon" novels by Michael Moorcock. The striking thing was, how much "Hawkmoon" reminded me of "The Iron Dream". Especially in the first two books, when Hawkmoon is automatically beloved by all, overcomes every obstacle with ease and proclaims that he won't rest until every single Englishmen, -woman, and -child has been slain. After that I was sure that the books would end in a genocide.

On a different level: It's telling that the "Iron Dream" was banned over here in Germany for six years because the government considered it pro Nazi propaganda, despite the essay in the back that explained the meaning of the book. Seems like rightwing blowhards are not the only ones to misinterpret Spinrad's intentions.
Arthur B at 11:46 on 2012-04-01
Especially in the first two books, when Hawkmoon is automatically beloved by all, overcomes every obstacle with ease and proclaims that he won't rest until every single Englishmen, -woman, and -child has been slain. After that I was sure that the books would end in a genocide.

Yeah, that angle of Hawkmoon's character development seems to have completely fallen by the wayside over the course of the series. It's a shame, because it would have been interesting to see that tension come to a head at the conclusion; as it stands the whole series seems to be an exercise in frivolously tossing away all the potential established by the first book.

On a different level: It's telling that the "Iron Dream" was banned over here in Germany for six years because the government considered it pro Nazi propaganda

What's a Nazi?
Wardog at 11:49 on 2012-04-01
Great article, Arthur.

All the bad publicity surrounding Hitler is just political correctness gone mad.
Arthur B at 11:50 on 2012-04-01
I'm glad you're not a freedom of speech hating femi-communist!
Bjoern at 12:22 on 2012-04-01
Nazis. You know, the ruthless party led by Rudolph Gloder in Germany in the 1920s, at a time when Herr Hitler had already begun to write SF stories in the United States.
Arthur B at 13:24 on 2012-04-01
I'm afraid I know very little about them beyond that they had a role in reconstructing the US after World War II.
Janne Kirjasniemi at 13:56 on 2012-04-01
Wait a minute... wasn't Hitler the vanished Austrian in the alleged alien handshake attack case of 1924? At what point did he write stories. It makes no sense!
Arthur B at 15:17 on 2012-04-01
Well, maybe Hitler's a very common name in Germany. Probably inspired the whole cloning plot point in Lord of the Swastika.
James D at 23:25 on 2012-04-01
Not above cribbing a bit from Videodrome, eh Arthur?
Arthur B at 23:42 on 2012-04-01
Spoiler: I'm actually dead and my daughter splices my articles together from old bits of text.
For some reason, they've got it into their heads that Hitler was a racist.

That's impossible. No actual person apart from David Duke is or was actually a racist. Racism is anything that exists to make us feel better about our own actions, which are totally devoid of racism.
Arthur B at 23:55 on 2012-04-01
I hate to break it to you, but there's a lot of people out there who are insanely racist against white people.
Which is fine, because white people should get to feel like victims too. The rest of us shouldn't be having all the fun.
Arthur B at 00:04 on 2012-04-02
OK, it's past midnight my time so I can give my Axis of Awesome pick back to The Haunting.

Word of warning to people interested in Spinrad after reading the article: although it's a lot of fun to discuss, The Iron Dream is actually kind of a chore to read because, true to form, Hitler's prose style is completely terrible. I'm glad I own the book because the attention to detail of its presentation is great - right down to it having "About the Author" and "More By This Author" sections for Hitler instead of Spinrad, which can't have helped the guy's career any - but it's more of a conversation piece/souvenir from a parallel universe than it is something to actually sit down and wade through.

I'd have warned people of that earlier but it'd have broken character. :)
Oh, I didn't realize this was an April Fool's Day thing. Every day is April Fool's Day around here, I guess.
Arthur B at 00:09 on 2012-04-02
Oh, I didn't realize this was an April Fool's Day thing.

Well, there's that and doing the SF supremacist neckbeard act for more than 24 hours would be a right pain. :)
Wardog at 00:59 on 2012-04-02
Oh, I didn't realize this was an April Fool's Day thing. Every day is April Fool's Day around here, I guess.


Eeeek - you mean this is the sort of article you normally expect us to produce :P
Janne Kirjasniemi at 07:08 on 2012-04-02
Well, even if it was a gag, as a satire it is quite good in exposing the fallacies of such handwaving, even if some people will probably read it as a serious article at some point in the future. Now you can compare yourself to Swift! And it's very much in the spirit of the original text!(Well, obviously)
Arthur B at 08:48 on 2012-04-02
even if it was a gag

D:

as a satire it is quite good in exposing the fallacies of such handwaving

Thanks. :) Pretty much every argument is something I've seen someone say with a straight face in defence of other texts. A few are the sort of things I would have said in the past.

even if some people will probably read it as a serious article at some point in the future.

I'm sure they did - some neo-Nazis enjoy the book unironically, Spinrad recounts getting fan mail from people saying they loved the story but they wished he hadn't lumbered it with all that preachy Hitler stuff. I guess if you're coming to the text and you don't already know that death camps and totalitarianism are bad things then your moral compass is already severely broken and one satirical book isn't going to break it any further.
Janne Kirjasniemi at 10:44 on 2012-04-02
I guess if you're coming to the text and you don't already know that death camps and totalitarianism are bad things then your moral compass is already severely broken and one satirical book isn't going to break it any further.

Well that is certainly true of most of things. Actually that is probably the greatest problem with comparing stuff to Hitler and the nazis. I mean if the comparison is fair, then they're morale compass does not really show north any more and on the other hand the comparison is so strong that it might be a bit unfair, which of course is why the whole Ad Hitlerum thing is a thing. There is of course the middle ground of people, where they hold ideas that taken to a logical conclusion is as bad, or nearly as bad, when that might be a good thing to point out. And in this there's always the risk of people outsmarting you. Which is a term from the philosophical lexicon:

outsmart, v. To embrace the conclusion of one's opponent's reductio ad absurdum argument. "They thought they had me, but I outsmarted them. I agreed that it was sometimes just to hang an innocent man."

Eeeek - you mean this is the sort of article you normally expect us to produce :P

Now that you mention it, if I did actually think I were engaging with some neo-Nazi shut-in, my previous comments might just pass as serious, without material alteration.
http://grendelkhan.livejournal.com/ at 15:42 on 2012-04-16
Arthur B: I guess if you're coming to the text and you don't already know that death camps and totalitarianism are bad things then your moral compass is already severely broken and one satirical book isn't going to break it any further.

I think one of the things that really surprised me is that the primary result of "Holocaust: Never Forget!" has been that no one will Ever Forget... that swastikas, Stahlhelms, snappy black uniforms and thick German accents are evil.

This is why we get weirdness like people expecting that fascism in America would involve "Germans goose-stepping across the countryside shoving cornfed Midwesterners into ovens", rather than pleasant Middle Americans doing the oven-shoving. How easily we miss the point.
Arthur B at 12:43 on 2012-04-24
Apparently there is a misconception that this article is some sort of satire of Robert E. Howard. It's a good thing there are stalwart defenders of the Literature of Ideas to set me straight on this point.
Wardog at 12:51 on 2012-04-24
Well, Arthur, satire is in such bad taste...
Arthur B at 13:18 on 2012-04-24
They've made me look so silly! After all, the whole basis of this article was making fun of myopic SF/fantasy fans who deny and excuse even the most repugnant flaws in their favourite books because they're utterly invested in defending Howard (or whoever) to the hilt. I should have known that nobody really does that!
Bjoern at 13:30 on 2012-04-24
Arthur, you struck the motherlode there. I stumbled over that blog a few months ago when I read the entirety of Howard's Conan works in one setting and I was impressed by the fundamentalism that bloke exhibits.

His approach is beyond nitpicking: The words of REH shouldn't be regarded as literature, they are to be regarded as gospel. And there is only one correct school of reading REH, who clearly is above and beyond any such nonsense as literary analysis or postmodern literary criticism.

The thing is that SF and Fantasy appear to be breeding grounds for people unwilling to engange on any given text in a broader, cultural context. Morgan's rape fest "The Cold Commands". The unfortunate pieces of subtext in Abercrombie's novels. The implied fascism in "Ender's Game". I'm convinced that at some point I'll stumble onto a blog where the Gor novels are defended in the same, quasi-religious manner.

... sometimes subcultures scare me... I must really be getting old...
Arthur B at 14:54 on 2012-04-24
Bjoern: google "Gorean" and enjoy. :)
Wardog at 15:01 on 2012-04-24
Yes, I thought it was interesting the way he bypassed literary analysis altogether and started challenging random factual details. It's, err, not the same thing, nor can the latter constitute rebuttal of the former.
James D at 16:10 on 2012-04-24
I think it was supposed to demonstrate that Arthur was an outsider and not one of the initiated, and therefore everything else he had to say about Conan could be safely dismissed. One of the guys in the comments mentions a couple of times that Arthur is apparently all wrong about Babylon 5, and that that somehow makes him an anti-authority on Conan too.
Arthur B at 16:26 on 2012-04-24
Given that my B5 review says that about three and a half seasons of the show are pretty good fun which are badly let down by the remaining 30%, I can't imagine what upset them so much? Was it the war crimes thing? Because Sheridan's totally a war criminal.
James D at 16:37 on 2012-04-24
No, see, you're not allowed to express anything less than undiluted worship. And even then, it has to be expressed in precisely the right way, or you're Dumb and Wrong.
Wardog at 16:53 on 2012-04-24
God, those people would have me thrown to bears... Dan tried to make me re-watch B5 recently and I REBELLED and started passive-aggressively falling asleep in the middle of episodes. I've seen the full thing once before and I really enjoyed it but it has not aged well, at all, and it is so profoundly immature I find it genuinely boring to watch when you don't have "oooh, what happens next" to keep you going.

Unlike DS9 which I love to pieces...

*is thrown to bears*
Arthur B at 17:12 on 2012-04-24
Babylon 5 doesn't have an O'Brien though! One of the true joys of DS9 is the "let's give O'Brien a good kicking" episodes.
TheMerryMustelid at 22:44 on 2012-04-24
Why do I find posts on Babylon5 & DS9 on a Hitler thread disturbing? Perhaps I'm even more disturbed by the fact that my good ol' Yoo-Us-uv-Ay seems more frighteningly fundamentalist & totalitarian even without cool goose-stepping uniforms.

B5 was my fave space opera but my stoopid TV station over here changed its schedule too many times for me to keep up with it. I'd be happy to catch up on B5 with Dan if he's satisfied I'm not an axe murderer. I'll bring blackberry crumble & Lion Bars.
TheMerryMustelid at 23:28 on 2012-04-24
Arthur, I too stand in awe of your essay skills but where in heck do you find the time to write all this stuff?

*blinks in amazement*
Arthur B at 00:01 on 2012-04-25
It's a combination of typing speed, setting aside a few minutes each day to do this stuff rather than trying to do it all in one chunk, and really, really loving the sound of my own voice (or whatever the written-word equivalent of that is).
I have nothing to add other than that I hope the "We Need to Talk About X" snowclone never gets old.
Arthur B at 16:43 on 2012-04-25
We need to talk about snowclones.
Snowclones are the new black.
Arthur B at 17:14 on 2012-04-25
I, for one, welcome our new snowclone overlords.
Houston, we have a snowclone.
Arthur B at 17:20 on 2012-04-25
Comedy, thy name is snowclone.
Bjoern at 18:15 on 2012-04-25
"We need to talk about..." is my new snowclone. ♫
Best. Snowclone. Ever.
Arthur B at 20:32 on 2012-04-25
If you're having word problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but snowclones ain't one.
There are some things cliches can't express. For everything else, there are snowclones.
Robinson L at 18:02 on 2012-04-30
Hmm, I'm not very familiar with Mr. Hitler's speculative fiction (or with any other Golden Age author's for that matter). However, I was touched by his obviously heartfelt reaction to the ending of Mass Effect III.

Seriously though, it's a shame the writing is apparently subpar, as that sounds like the sort of book which one really has to read to absorb the full effect of it.

Fishing in the Mud: I have nothing to add other than that I hope the "We Need to Talk About X" snowclone never gets old.

Dooon't mess with me, I'm a snowclone.

Grendelkahn: This is why we get weirdness like people expecting that fascism in America would involve "Germans goose-stepping across the countryside shoving cornfed Midwesterners into ovens", rather than pleasant Middle Americans doing the oven-shoving. How easily we miss the point.

Very astute. People do seem to have an incredibly hard time wrapping their heads around the idea that the ones doing the fascist ruler's murderous grunt work would most likely be “people like us” for their own definition of “us.”

Kyra: Dan tried to make me re-watch B5 recently and I REBELLED and started passive-aggressively falling asleep in the middle of episodes. I've seen the full thing once before and I really enjoyed it but it has not aged well, at all, and it is so profoundly immature I find it genuinely boring to watch

Ptolemaeus and I tried the first episode of Babylon 5 last summer; it was kind of … stupid and took itself much too seriously. I was sufficiently interested to say I might try some more, but I still haven't gotten around to it yet. Ptolemaeus told me to let her know when it gets good.
Arthur B at 19:13 on 2012-04-30
Seriously though, it's a shame the writing is apparently subpar, as that sounds like the sort of book which one really has to read to absorb the full effect of it.

That's true, but then again I think it's funnier that the writing is bad because decent prose which shows a decent level of craft is sorely undervalued in the SF community and having the Hugo in this alt-universe go to something written quite this poorly is a good way of flagging that.

Dooon't mess with me, I'm a snowclone.

Watch out, we've got a snowclone over here.

Ptolemaeus and I tried the first episode of Babylon 5 last summer; it was kind of … stupid and took itself much too seriously. I was sufficiently interested to say I might try some more, but I still haven't gotten around to it yet. Ptolemaeus told me to let her know when it gets good.

B5 more or less never stops taking itself seriously aside from a very few brief gags, which fall flat because Straczynski isn't actually comfortable with the idea of the audience laughing at his creation.

One of the important edges DS9 has over it is that DS9 is content to occasionally just be a fun space adventure show.
Robinson L at 20:30 on 2012-04-30
I think it's funnier that the writing is bad because decent prose which shows a decent level of craft is sorely undervalued in the SF community and having the Hugo in this alt-universe go to something written quite this poorly is a good way of flagging that.

Good point.

B5 more or less never stops taking itself seriously aside from a very few brief gags, which fall flat because Straczynski isn't actually comfortable with the idea of the audience laughing at his creation.

Okay, but does the plot ever calm down to semi-reasonable levels, or is it always that melodramatic, too?
Dan H at 21:17 on 2012-04-30
Okay, but does the plot ever calm down to semi-reasonable levels, or is it always that melodramatic, too?


hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

So far you have seen one border skirmish and lots of SHOUTING and SPEECHMAKING.

Later on we get wars. More wars. Then galactic wars with ANCIENT IMMORTAL ALIENS. All punctuated with more SHOUTING and SPEECHMAKING. We have a weak, ineffectual political leader honestly using the phrase "peace in our time" with a straight face. We have sinister government organisations *literally* quoting 1984 *to camera* (and not in a "this character is making a reference" way in a "I am going to pretend that this character just decided to say that" way). We have a major galactic power being taken over by the Emperor Caligula. We have practically every single major character in the show turning out to be the *literal messiah* of their respective cultures. We have ACTUAL MOTHERFUCKING WIZARDS and A SHADOW GATHERING on a planet WITH THE WORD DOOM IN ITS NAME.
We have a lot more SHOUTING and SPEECHMAKING to the extent that the war with the ANCIENT IMMORTAL ALIENS ends because the main character MAKES A SPEECH at them and in the final episode of the penultimate season, we get a flash-forward which shows that people WILL STILL BE TALKING ABOUT HOW AWESOME ALL THESE CHARACTERS ARE IN A THOUSAND YEARS.

So umm, no, it doesn't get much less melodramatic really.
Robinson L at 22:00 on 2012-04-30
So, subtlety and/or restraint ... not so much, then?

That being the case, well, I might still enjoy it, but my sister probably won't.
Arthur B at 14:58 on 2012-06-25
This blog post is not presented as a spiritual sequel/tribute to/fanfic of The Iron Dream, but it's a timely visit to the same ballpark. (Thanks to valse, from whose blog I got the link.)
http://lightcastle.livejournal.com/ at 20:59 on 2012-08-28
Arthur B.
I stumbled across one of your reviews... well, I'm not sure how, exactly, but have spent the last few days reading them with voracious glee. Especially the Moorcock ones, since I think I have a very similar view of him as you do.

This was pure genius, because I've had every one of these arguments thrown at me one way or another and this just made me gleeful.

(Side note, I was on the usenet of B5 back in the day and predicted that Delenn had started the war. I got flamed like mad, and then I got flamed again when I said that the actual reveal was chickenshit for not really having consequences or shaking the whole "Sheriden and Delenn are always right about everything" aspect of the whole thing.)

Anyway. Thanks so much for these, they have been tremendous fun. I look forward to more.
Arthur B at 22:42 on 2012-08-28
Anyway. Thanks so much for these, they have been tremendous fun. I look forward to more.

More reviews, or more reviews in the voice of a reactionary neckbeardy blowhard? I've plenty of the former in the pipeline but I have to keep the latter for special occasions. ;)
http://lightcastle.livejournal.com/ at 00:40 on 2012-08-29
More reviews.
Hell, I'd necromance some of the comment threads on a few, but this was as far back as I felt seemed not ridiculous.

Arthur B at 01:25 on 2012-08-29
Oh, necromance away, we're not fussy.
So, after reading this post, I went and googled "literature of ideas", since you were using it in that way that indicates referencing something.

I just don't know what to say now.
Arthur B at 07:40 on 2012-08-30
I wasn't thinking of anything specific there beyond "literature of ideas" being a term I've seen used a) by people who want to excuse SF/fantasy from living up to the standards we apply to everything else and/or b) reactionary sorts who aren't sure they like this newfound concern for people who aren't straight white boys in some quarters of the genre. Did you find anything specifically hilarious or awful?
More just the general confirmation that, yes, people do indeed say that, apparently with a straight face. I mean, the third link was the wikipedia article on sf. (Although the second link was an article about how stupid the phrase is.)

I did have a good boggle at this, though. Gosh! Did you know that sf is the only genre left with new or interesting things in it? I sure didn't. I don't think it's particularly a) or b) but it is an utterly bizarre claim.
Arthur B at 22:10 on 2012-08-30
I did have a good boggle at this, though. Gosh! Did you know that sf is the only genre left with new or interesting things in it? I sure didn't. I don't think it's particularly a) or b) but it is an utterly bizarre claim.

BRB, writing article.
BRB, writing article.


My work here is done.
Any of you guys ever read E. E. Smith's work? Because I've been going through the Skylark series, and... well, I'm definitely seeing where Spinrad got the other half of The Iron Dream's inspiration from.
Arthur B at 16:09 on 2013-06-25
I haven't, mainly because I'm under the impression that it's dated poorly. Which I guess you've just confirmed in a way...
Yeah, I wouldn't recommend them in terms of entertainment-reading (apart from the iffy politics, they tick off most of the basic flaws of amateur/pulp writing), though they do serve as an interesting and often alarming historical artefact - it's quite eye-opening to see how much of later space-opera was inspired by them, particularly since they make their themes of eugenics and casual genocide so much more explicit than their later imitators.
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