Having needlessly padded out an email to Danny I thought I should put this where it belonged, on a poorly thought out self indulgent blog.... and it just so happens I have one of those!
‘The Iron Dream’ by Norman Spinrad
I’m sure those in the know are well aware of this, but ‘Johnny Come Lately’ are my middle names (and whilst you snobs out there sneer at my not on the ball tendencies, I simply chuckle and enjoy picking the wheat from the chaff and letting you do all the hard work) I recently discovered than Michael Moorcock is actually a very good writer, for some reason his image (and more importantly, self image, man does he like to talk about himself, I think it was his introduction to Luther Arkwright that put me off) really bugged me even though I knew he was well respected by those I, well, respected. A 2nd hand bookshop supplied me with a Moorcock book that a few friends independently recommended and many months later I finally read the thing. And loved it. Being slightly obsessive I proceeded to pick up some more Moorcock on the cheap and then prowled the internet looking for information, trivia and nonsense. Wikipedia is a great resource so inevitably I ended up there and as well as finding out a bit more about Moorcock I notice something else. Back when Moorcock edited the ‘New Worlds’ anthology he ran something called Bug Jack Barron which caused a bit of a stir. No real idea why but this caught my interest so I checked out it’s author. Norman Spinrad seems to be a bit of a dated sci-fi writer, but at least he’s one of the ones who doesn’t write sci-fi because he enjoys it’s trappings (have I ever mentioned my dislike for sci-fi and fantasy novels? Probably, but in the context of this post I guess that’s a bit odd), he does it to allow him to do other things, in the way Wells and Dick did I suppose. Anyway, Spinrad causes a bit of a stir with Bug Jack Barron (as far as I can tell it’s about a shock jock type tv host who finds that the powerful are up to something - I’m trying to remain spoiler free in reading about it) and then writes another ‘controversial’ oddity with Iron Dream. And what do you know, a couple of weeks later I’m back in the 2nd hand shop I got my Moorcock book from and sat on a shelf is Spinrad’s Iron Dream (couldn’t spot Bug Jack Baron though)
Iron Dream is actually a book called ‘Lord of the Swastika’ by Adolf Hitler (who left Germany in 1919 for America where he became a pulp illustrator and eventually writer) with an afterward by ‘Homer Whipple’. Lord of the Swastika is, as Whipple unneccasarily points out (because Spinrad is not subtle, I’m not even sure he’s trying to be), the cheesy pulp wish fulfilment fantasy absolutely brimming with military fetishism, barely suppressed homoerotisim, outrageous phallic objects, and who knows what else. Of course WE know what else, and so does Spinrad as he writes as Whipple - just what are these disease carrying filthy ‘mutant’ characters that the strong genetically pure ‘true human’ hero Feric Jagger (blonde and blue eyed of course) meant to represent. Oh, I wonder?! As an added bonus Whipple informs us that before Hitler died (shortly after completing Lord of the Swastika) he was probably suffering the tertiary stages of syphilis.
And so The Iron Dream is simply an exercise in reducing Adolf Hitler to a pathetic, albeit scary, joke. The whole thing manages to be cliched, inspired, ridiculous, chilling, funny and cringeworthy all at once. I’m sure it was seen as being dodgy back when it came out (‘72, I think) with a few people proclaiming it as powerful serious literature and a few more calling a crass sick joke, with the benefit of living in our ever so clever modern world it’s terribly cheesy, which is what gives it a very peculiar charm.