Literature / The Iron Dream
The Iron Dream
is a 1972 Heroic Fantasy
/ Science Fiction
novel by Norman Spinrad
... sort of. The majority of the book is the full text of the brilliantly popular fantasy novel Lord of the Swastika
, written by famed SF author Adolf Hitler
; the rest of the book is a framing device setting up the world in which this alternate Hitler lives, and a concluding essay hammering the point home for those who didn't get it the first time through.
This book contains examples of:
- Adolf Hitler: His alternate-history version illustrated for the pulps, then moved on to writing cheesy fiction.
- Alternate History: A world in which Hitler moved to the US in 1919, got involved in Science Fiction Fandom, and died in 1954. Without his presence, the Nazi party fell apart in 1923, and eventually Germany fell to a Communist revolution in 1930, and by the time of the book's "afterword" the Greater Soviet Union dominates Eurasia and Africa and is moving into South America, leaving only the United States and Japan as the bastions of freedom on the Pacific.
- Contemptible Cover
- Just try explaining to a horrified busgoer why the book you're reading features a blond Nazi triumphantly raising a truncheon above his head.
- Later editions openly put Hitler on the cover (see here for examples)— and then there's the edition that shies away from Nazi imagery (barring one swastika).
- Cosplay: It's mentioned that dressing up as the Sons of the Swastika is quite popular at sci-fi conventions.
- Deconstruction: Of the Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction genres, intended to show the creepy fascist aspects at their core.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?
- Done both by Hitler and the actual writer.
- Notable instances include a reference to a "holocaust of fire" and the protagonists warming themselves by a "heap of burning faggots."note
- The Dominators' symbol, prominently featured on their flag, is a yellow star.
- Don't Explain the Joke: The Afterword outright explains every single subtlety and satirization in the book, which takes quite a bit of the fun out of writing entries for this page.
- Framing Device: The novel framed with "nonfiction" materials.
- Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Of the "something even worse takes his place" type, despite the lack of time travel. The framing story is set in a world where Hitler never went into politics and the Nazis never mattered much. The Cold War is going very badly, and Europe and a lot of the rest of the world are probably much worse off than in our world.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Inverted, having Hitler become a popular American science-fantasy novelist.
- New Wave Science Fiction: Like most of Spinrad's works of the time, this controversial and deconstructive work was very much a part of the New Wave.
- Putting on the Reich: The alternate universe sci-fi fans do this with the uniforms described in the story.
- Stylistic Suck: Hitler's not a very good author. As anyone who's read even a few short passages of Mein Kampf can attest, he really wasn't.
- Take That: The book suggests that in the real world, the works of certain specific sf and fantasy writers, their Fandom, and the science fiction and fantasy genres as a whole at large have Unfortunate Implications - see the YMMV page.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Spinrad expected his readership to, in effect, get the joke. Of course, not everyone did.
- Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: The author analyzing Hitler's story notes that while some fans may yearn for such a decisive and iron-willed leader to save them from Soviet domination, he concludes that no rational person would ever stand such a clearly delusional, bloodthirsty tyrant, and that they certainly wouldn't be swayed by snappy uniforms, precision marching, and gigantic displays of stirring imagery◊.
- He also rejects the idea that Doms are an anti-semitic metaphor, as given the Soviet Union's persecution of their own Jewish population, no-one would seriously believe that Communism was a Jewish conspiracy.
- Word Of God: The framing commentator/literary agent says that Hitler in the alternative timeline died of syphilis, which slowly ate away at his brain. This accounts for (some of) the wild excesses of the later part of the novel.
The Show Within a Show Lord of the Swastika contains examples of:
- After the End: A nuclear apocalypse has tainted the human gene pool.
- Always Chaotic Evil: The Dominators.
- Astral Finale: When the Dominators pollute Earth with radiation all over again, Feric responds by colonizing the stars.
- Attack! Attack! Attack!: The Dominators' Mooks are mind-controlled to keep on fighting even though the hero's forces are cutting them down by the score.
- Author Avatar: Feric Jaggar is an obvious avatar of Hitler.
- Awesome McCool Name: Feric Jaggar! See also Meaningful Name, below.
- Body Horror: The descriptions of some of the mutated wildlife in the radiation jungles are just nauseating.
- Contrived Coincidence: No sooner does Jagger decide that the Black Avengers have Outlived Their Usefulness when one of his men rushes in to breathlessly reveal that the leader of the group is conspiring with the Doms to launch a coup. Of course this mirrors the real-life Night of the Long Knives where the SA leadership was executed on trumped-up conspiracy charges.
- Drop the Hammer: The Steel Commander, aka the Great Truncheon of Held, is as light as a feather (to its rightful bearer) but strikes with the mass of a mountain.
- Elite Mooks: As their last stand, the Dominators of Zind unleash special mutated warriors capable of fighting on independently.
- Even Evil Has Standards
- Feric Jaggar is horrified by the prospect of using nuclear weapons against Zind (because the fallout would taint the gene pool of the true humans).
- Truth in Television in that Hitler was known to be very negative toward the idea of nuclear weapons. He was forced to conduct research into nuclear weaponry only because the Germans knew that the other Powers would do so. (Surprising? Likewise he was against police brutality and would not allow German police to carry guns or truncheons, which he considered demeaning to the public.).
- It is surprisingly obscure knowledge, but Hitler was for a short time a member of a secret police and was tasked with infiltration of political movements. (He attended his first German Workers' Party (later renamed the National Socialist German Workers' Party, or Nazi Party) meeting as a police spy, liked what he heard, and joined up for real.) He quickly concluded, that brute force only causes the dissenters to hide and the covert intelligence operations are much more likely to yield good results. And his aversion to WMDs might have been caused by being wounded in a gas attack during Great War.
- Fantastic Racism: A bit of that, yes.
- Gang Initiation Fight: Feric has to fight the commander of the Black Avengers in order to gain entry, this goes on until the commander decides that Feric is worthy.
- Gorn: In spades. Battle scenes are written like orgies, with splashing fluids flying everywhere while Jaggar thrusts his truncheon every which way.
- Guilt-Free Extermination War: Kill all mutants!
- Hell-Bent for Leather: The tight black leather uniforms of Jaggar and his army are repeatedly described in loving detail.
- Invincible Hero: Jaggar's one of these. Every decision he makes is right, his army wins against forces which vastly outnumber him, and even a little thing like a second nuclear holocaust can't stop him from creating his master race.
- Keystone Army: The Warriors of Zind are all brutish mutants, but lack the brains to coordinate their own activities and rely on Dominator direction. Once Feric's forces kill the mutant masterminds, the Warriors begin attacking each other (and lose control of their bladders and bowels in their frenzy, and yes, this is usually described each time they do it).
- Meaningful Name
- Feric (or "ferric," for iron) Jaggar (or "Jaeger," German for "hunter"). Other characters, usually ones loyal to Feric, have vaguely Germanic names.
- The higher-ups in Jaggar's party also have names similar to those of their real-life Nazi counterparts: Joseph Goebbels becomes Seph Bogel, Rudolf Hess becomes Ludolf Best, and so on.
- The name of the country that is clearly meant to be Germany, Heldon, comes from the German "Helden" for "heroes".
- The Dominators' country is called Zind, which could be meant to recall "Zion".
- Mind Control: How the Dominators dominate. Jaggar is the only one able to resist them.
- Mutants: Quite a few distinct species exist (at least before the purge), such as Parrotfaces, Pinheads, and Toadmen.
- One-Gender Race: Humanity, at the end. Since the Dominators' spiteful radiation bomb has ruined mankind's genome, cloning is used to create the next generation of ubermensch, who are all tall, blue-eyed, blond males.
- Only the Chosen May Wield: Only Jaggar can wield the Truncheon of Held.
- Phallic Weapon: The Great Truncheon of Held is described in unambiguously phallic terms. And then Feric Jaggar forces his new underling to kneel and kiss it.
- Schizo Tech: The book starts in a post-apocalyptic world where steam-powered buses are common transportation, but swiftly moves through World War II-level weaponry before ending with cloning and interstellar spaceships.
- Diesel Punk: as Feric Jaggar ascends to power, the Held air force uses giant aircraft with ten gasoline engines each and just as big steam tanks. Both existed in Real Life in the period between World War One and 1933 and performed poorly, just as Jaggar himself admits. Reason for which our hero pushes the Helden industry to develop smaller, faster and more practical designs.
- The Smurfette Principle
- Space Jews: The Dominators of Zind, intentionally.
- You Cloned Hitler!: Well, Feric Jaggar.
- Zerg Rush: Army of mind-controlled, disposable creatures, few of them...
- We Have Reserves: Millions and millions of them, in the Dominators' case.