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The Iron Dream and the Short Skip from Science Fiction to Racism

In yesterday’s Iron Fist article, I wasn’t surprised with how many people disagreed with it, but I was surprised with just how some of them disagreed with it. When presented with the “Mighty Whitey” trope, some stated that it could not possibly apply to Iron Fist because K’un L’un was an alien city and it’s not even on Earth, but rather on another dimension.

Where to begin with this? Well, I kind of don’t have to refute it. Norman Spinrad did this back in 1972 when he published The Iron Dream.


The Iron Dream, actually, is a review about a completely different novel, contained within its pages: a book called The Lord of the Swastika by an obscure author named Adolf Hitler.

Yes, Hitler. In this timeline, instead of failing at painting and becoming a politician, Hitler moved to the United States and became a science fiction author.

The Lord of the Swastika is, on the surface, very similar to a lot of science fiction novels that came before and after: it takes place in a post-apocalyptic society devastated by global nuclear war and the main character, Feric Jagger, is trying to help rebuild society. However, as you look closer at the setting and the characters, it becomes quite obvious that Hitler (or, rather, Spinrad) isn’t just writing a post-apocalyptic science fiction story, but rather one based on pure white Aryan supremacy of Germany (or the “Truemen of Heldon”) and the demonization of Jews (or “the Dominator country of Zind”).

All of these are pointed out in the review of the novel that is The Iron Dream’s framing device. There is simply no way you can avoid realizing that the entire book is completely and utterly racist and fascist. After all, it’s written by Hitler. But the point wasn’t to have a racist narrative — the point of the book was to show how all of these science fiction tropes can easily be used in fascistic ways.


In Ursula LeGuin’s review of the book, she writes:

This is the kind of story best exemplified by Robert Heinlein, who believes in the Alpha Male, in the role of the innately (genetically) superior man, in the heroic virtues of militarism, in the desirability and necessity of authoritarian control, etc., and who is a very persuasive arguer for all these things. Here The Iron Dream may have an effect as a moral counterweight: for in reading it, reading all the familiar things about the glory of battle, the foulness of enemies of the truth, the joys of obedience to a true leader, the reader is forced to remember that it is Hitler saying these things—and thus to question what is said, over and over. The tension and discomfort thus set up may prove salutary to people who are used to swallowing the stuff whole.


And yet, despite the fact that the book completely satirizes these science fiction tropes and shows us a sci-fi book as written by Hitler, there are still people who take it at face value. Such as the American Nazi Party, who put the book on their recommended reading list. As Norman Spinrad himself wrote:

To make damn sure that even the historically naive and entirely unselfaware reader got the point, 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. Almost everyone got the point... And yet one review appeared in a fanzine that really gave me pause. “This is a rousing adventure story and I really enjoyed it,” the gist of it went. “Why did Spinrad have to spoil the fun with all this muck about Hitler?”


Think about that the next time someone says that K’un L’un is simply an alien city.

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