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The Iron Dream (1972)
by Norman Spinrad
No current Talk conversations about this book.
Historical fiction taking place in 3000-something C.E., where Hitler's wypipo campaign is taking place in what's left of habitable land after nuclear war 1000-some years ago. Radioactivity has created a lot of mutants and the wypipo want to get rid of them. ( )
The Iron Dream is brilliant idea let down by a flawed execution. The conceit is Adolf Hitler emigrates to the United States in the 1920s, despairing of his political vision ever being realised in Germany. Instead, he becomes a pulp sf writer, and The Iron Dream reproduces his "Hugo-Award winning" novel "Lords of the Swastika". This trashy novel satirises both sword and sorcery stories and Fascist iconography. At 80 pages it would have been a triumph; at 250 the carpet wears very thin.
The problem is that "Lords of the Swastika" is not a very good novel. That's kind of the point, of course: a novel written by Hitler sublimating his Nazi visions could only ever be terrible. What at first is engaging as satire rapidly becomes wearing.
The Iron Dream has some interesting things to say about fascism, and neatly draws the parallel with Conan the Barbarian-style fiction. But in the end, it's all too reminiscent of a Nuremberg Rally, with the unfortunate reader exposed at length to a wearying and tedious rant.
Lord of the Swastika - Like a thick layer of stinking hot asphalt poured out on a driveway, a thick layer of racism and jingoism coats every single page of this appalling novel spun from the cramped, warped mind of an upstart writer of science fiction, a scribbler by the name of Adolf Hitler. What the hell was this clown thinking?!! To write such garbage is an act of complete irresponsibility and an insult to the reading public. We can only raise our eyes to heaven and give thanks Adolf Hitler’s vision never became reality.
I trust it is abundantly clear the above paragraph is what an outraged reviewer might have written in the alternative world author Norman Spinrad created in his 1972 novel within a novel. And what a novel! The Iron Dream was banned in Germany for eight years, from 1982 to 1990, prompting Spinrad to report how both the political left and right railed against his book – the left claiming it promotes fascism and the right asserting the novel was denigrating to a great man (Adolf Hitler). Now there’s an author who can’t win!
Turning to Spinrad's The Iron Dream itself, on the surface we are given a kitschy bit of pulp, post-apocalypse melodrama entitled Lord of the Swastika written as alternative history by one Adolf Hitler, an illustrator and hack science fiction writer who emigrated from Germany to the United States after World War 1.
Lord of the Swastika opens more than a thousand years following global nuclear war, a cataclysm which brought about the end of civilization as we know it. The gene pool of nearly all forms of human life are corrupted by radioactive fallout - humans possessing complete physical and mental health are rare; most of humanity have blue skin, lizard scales or parrot beaks, or, even more insidious, are wizened half-breed mutants or subhuman "Dominators" desiring to hold sway over the earth by their powerful mind-controlling psychic powers.
What this sorry world needs is a charismatic leader who will ruthlessly eliminate all those malignant subhumans and rid the planet forever of their odious, subversive stench. Enter Ferric Jagger. The tall, blonde, robust Jaggar takes on the role of Führer and Heldon, the land of genetically pure humans, begins to bear a striking resemblance to Nazi Germany.
Why write such a novel? Norman Spinrad tells us he wanted to demonstrate the close connection ideology of the fascist Nazi variety has with archetypal hero myths and much science fiction and fantasy - created worlds where good guys courageously combat evildoing bad guys, where the shining light of truth and justice eventually overcomes all the loathsome forces of darkness no matter where they are found - Middle Earth, Mars, or the middle of one's very own country.
And to make absolutely, positively sure even the least sophisticated, unlettered clod of a reader understood his intent, Norman informs us: “I appended a phony critical analysis of Lord of the Swastika, in which the psychopathology of Hitler's saga was spelled out by a tendentious pedant in words of one syllable.” Unfortunately, even with this laborious literary effort to reach the lowest possible readerly denominator, a number of those muddleheaded clods didn’t get it – one reviewer even took the book as an exciting action story and complained how Spinrad spoiled all the fun by adding a whole bunch of crap about Adolf Hitler.
Alas, this has always been the risk for an author of satire - even a number of jaws dropped in stunned disbelief back in the 1700s after reading Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. Sad fact: masterfully constructed satire requires a degree of subtle understanding beyond the capacity of many readers. And I can assure you The Iron Dream is one such satire masterfully constructed. And much of the pleasure in reading Spinrad’s novel is to suspend critical judgement and wholeheartedly support Ferric Jagger in his quest to conquer the world.
The Iron Dream is an intensely aesthetic dream, where every pore of Helder purebred skin tingles with excitement beholding the immense power, speed, dash and style of their new society, a land where every true human vows fanatical allegiance to Ferric Jagger. Here’s an example of the glowing rhetoric enlivening nearly every page: “Behind this elite guard were first the ranks of Knight motocyclists, and then the massed might of thousands of Knights of the Swastika, all heroic figures swaggering grandly in their uniforms of brown leather, most of which were liberally spattered with the blood of the enemy.”
But, but, but . . . similar to other more famous tales of adventure and conquest from Iliad and Odyssey to Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, at some point we are obliged to close the book and return to the everyday. How much do we really want our own world to resemble that of a conquering superhero forever in the right, taking aim to blast away the forces of darkness? Is life so simple? In my modest view, The Iron Dream is a key novel for our time. Highly recommended.
"The base of the tower was a circular grandstand of steps fifty feet high upon which stood a thousand SS purebreds, the absolute cream of the elite: none under six and a half feet tall, all with flaxen hair and piercing blue eyes, and decked out in spotless tight black leather uniforms, the chrome fittings of which had been polished to the point where the setting sun flashed orange fire off thousands of diamondlike facets. Each of these superhuman specimens held a flaming torch, the crimson brilliance of which matched the hue of their flowing swastika capes." - Norman Spinrad, The Iron Dream
Norman Spinrad, Born 1940, American critic, essayist and author of more than two dozen science fiction novels.
Think Atlas Shrugged but instead of objectivism, the subject is fascism. Also, the story is not written by Ayn Rand but rather, by Adolf Hitler. What?!? Read on for a few mild spoilers...
In this alternate-history tale, Hitler served in WWI and then briefly joined the National Socialist Party before quitting in disgust at their ineffectiveness. He then decides to emigrate to the United States where he becomes a celebrated science-fiction author. His most successful book being 'Lord of the Swastika', which won him a posthumous Hugo.
This is a great premise for a story so imagine my disappointment as I found myself reading another lengthy and heartfelt rant in the same vein as Atlas Shrugged; repetitious, bombastic, fetishistic, racist, and nearly unbearably tedious. From around the halfway point I skimmed to the end. I'm sure I missed nothing of importance because the outcome was never in question and none of the details really matter much to the fervent ideals splashed across each and every page.
By contrast, the afterword brilliantly deconstructs Hitler's strengths and failings as an author. Unflinchingly exposing and expanding on every single issue I had with the preceding meta-tale. Spinrad essentially rips the book - and its author - to shreds. Yet he does it in the most backhanded complimentary fashion imaginable. Spinrad has accomplished an interesting thing here; He writes as Hitler, expanding on many known aspects of his personality but translated from a powerful and influential national leader that united most of the world against him, to a frustrated author expounding those same ideas via his fictional writings. I have much admiration for how well Spinrad constructed and executed the idea of this novel. It's unfortunate that "Hitler's" fascist ramblings don't make for very compelling fiction.
The Iron Dream is a neat alternate history science fiction work where Adolf Hitler actually moved to the United States and became a Scifi writer. Inside is Lords of the Swastika the novel presented as written by Hitler.
It's an enjoyable read with events unfolding as you can imagine they would if written by a frustrated supremacist like Hitler.
Belongs to Publisher Series
Folio SF (239)
SF Rediscovery (6)
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Wikipedia in English (1)
"IF WAGNER WROTE SCIENCE FICTION THIS IS THE WAY HE WOULD DO IT." - Harry Harrison Renowned science fiction writer Adolf Hitler's Hugo Award winning novel Ferric Jaggar mounted the platform. A swastika of flame twenty feet high stood out in glory against the night sky behind him, bathing him in heroic firelight, flashing highlights off the brightwork of his gleaming black leather uniform, setting his powerful eyes ablaze. "I hold in my hand the Great Truncheon of Held. I dedicate myself to the repurification of all Heldon with blood and iron, and to the extension of the dominion of True Humanity over the face of the entire Earth Never will we rest until the last mutant gene is swept from the face of the planet "
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813 — Literature English (North America) American fiction
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