Take a look at that cover: a swastika among symbols of America, isn't that controversial...? Well, maybe it is. It's a cover of Phil Dick's "The Man in the High Castle" which I briefly touch on below. It's a work of SCIENCE FICTION and that's what this post is all about, controversial science fiction. My focus is on the works of deceased authors but I also have some newer examples, the overall aim being to present science fiction literature with some bearing on the rightist, "controversial" topics of today. I have no textbook definition of "controversial" but let's say that I here discuss some SF works that are traditionally considered as contested and disputed. The disposition is: 1. Orwell 2. Heinlein 3. Nazi SF 4. Anarchism 5. Jünger and, lastly, an epilogue.
The number one controversial, politically oriented SF-novel of all times, which one is that? I'd say it's George Orwell’s ”1984” (1948). It’s got this towering, iconic quality to it. They say: if your author name becomes a label, like Lovecraftian, Dickensian or Dantesque, then you’ve succeed, and we all know what ”Orwellian” is.
Not least are our times, the 2010’s, truly Orwellian. We live in an Empire with perpetual, peripheral wars and we have our equivalents to Newspeak and Two Minutes Hate. ”Freedom is Slavery” (since eating, watching TV and fornicating is the ”true” freedom) and ”Ignorance is Strength” (since castigating opposing voices in the media is the highest form of good).
Orwell’s book has been read as an assault against both Communist Russia and Capitalist America. But in the changing times the novel has metamorphosed once again, now becoming useful in decoding the governing techniques of the current nihilistic, ”liberal”, anti-white establishment. For instance, take Tim Wise’s outpouring after the right’s self-proclaimed triumph in the 2010 congressional elections. Lambasting white people Wise said things like: ”The clock… reminds you how little time you and yours have left. Not much more now. - - - [I]n about forty years, half the country will be black or brown. And there is nothing you can do about it. Nothing.” To that, and substituting ”white man” for ”man”, compare Orwell’s O’Brien:
If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man. Your kind is extinct; we are the inheritors. Do you understand that you are alone? You are outside history, you are non-existent.
In other words, both Wise and O’Brien are dyed-in-the-wool nihilists. Orwell for his part wasn’t the first to write about nihilism, about totalitarian states crushing the sensitive individual. The original seems to have been Yevgeny Zamyatin’s ”We” (1921), about an engineer in a future dystopia who starts to doubt the propaganda only to end up as a brainwashed robot. In the same vein is Karin Boye’s ”Kallocain” (1941), dealing with the issue of mind control in a future totalitarian state.
Now let’s talk about Robert A. Heinlein. In 1959 he wrote ”Starship Troopers", commonly regarded as a controversial work of politically oriented SF with its totalitarian form of government, with only the military given the right to vote as man in this future is involved in a fight to the death with evil aliens. But in essence this isn’t so controversial, so far-flung. I'd like to put it like this: total war equals totalitarianism, war has a tendency to marginalize constitutional rights even in genuine democracies. Heinlein's only fault was to couple war with deliberate limitations of franchise. His proposed system can also be seen as a defence for the idea that rights come with obligations; we need to be reminded of that today, since for example we always hear about ”gay rights” but never about ”gay duties”. In ”Starship Troopers” on the other hand the right to vote is linked to the duty to serve in the armed forces. Alien war or not the idea has a nice symmetry to it: quid pro quo, you don’t get something for nothing.
But Heinlein has more controversial stuff up his sleeve. In ”Sixth Column” (1941) America is invaded by PanAsians, a combination of Chinese and Japanese. They are finally defeated with a racially selective weapon, only killing mongoloid people. Then we have ”Farnham’s Freehold” (1966) with a visit to a future America ruled by blacks with a taste for cannibalism and polygyny. How did Heinlein get away with that one? Beats me.
3. Nazi SF
”Nazi SF”, for its part, is mostly a post-war genre. I’ve only found one pre-war novel with a racial-chauvinist theme, Rütger Essén’s ”The Darkened Metropolises” (De släckta metropolerna, 1937). Fair, heroic supermen battle against chandalas in a post-debacle future, the Aryan side eventually winning out and building a world along Nazi guidelines. It slightly rings of H. G. Wells’ ”The Time Machine” (1897) with its future conflict between ethereal upperclass people and troglodyte workers. It also reminds you of Thea von Harbou’s ”Metropolis” (1926), immortalized in Fritz Lang’s movie. That film’s payoff seems wise enough: ”The mediator between head and hand should be heart.”
Moving on to post-war Nazi SF, let’s take a look at Norman Spinrad’s ”The Iron Dream” (1970) which stirred up some controversy at the time. For example the book was prohibited in Germany. It’s supposed to be a book that Adolf Hitler could have written had he not become the leader of Germany but instead emigrating to the US, subsequently drawn into the science fiction subculture as an illustrator and a writer. The novel itself relates how a certain Feric Jaggar (= Adolf Hitler) rises to power in Heldon (= Germany) along with his cronies Waffing, Boggel and Best (= Goering, Goebbels and Hess). The final challenge comes in facing up to the Zind (= Soviet) empire.
Spinrad had the noblest motives for writing this novel, showing Nazism ”as it really is”. However, things didn’t quite work out as he had planned. Some real Nazis, The American Nazi Party took the novel to their heart, including it on some website’s To read-list. And some ordinary reader, too unsophisticated to get the metafictional approach, the Spinrad-writing-how-Hitler-could-have-written thing, actually liked the book: ”This is a rousing adventure story and I really enjoyed it. Why did Spinrad have to spoil the fun with all this muck about Hitler?” (Source: Wikipedia/”The Iron Dream”) So who got the last laugh? In writing like Hitler you have to pay the price. Nothing comes for free.
In treating ”SF and Nazism” I guess you have to mention Philip K. Dick’s ”The Man in the High Castle” (1962). Here the Axis powers have won the war and split America between them, Japan taking the western part and Germany the eastern. This isn’t exactly a controversial book but it’s a good book, ”a good read” as they say. Dick’s views goes down well with any right-minded liberal but other than that his police-state dystopia (”Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said”, 1974) and his satirizing of left-wing and right-wing minds alike (”Eye in the Sky”, 1956) shows the conceptual strengths of the SF mode.
Now let’s talk about anarchism. Anarchism seems to keep its allure through thick and thin, being the Gordian Knot answer to all political questions: how about no government and no laws, just citizens making mutual agreements? Eric Frank Russell seems to think that that could work. But his ”And Then There Were None” (1951) depends entirely on its other-worldly setting, the action taking place on a future space colony. Russell stages his anarchist utopia without common limitations such as ethnicity, traditions and scaricity of resources so it gets rather artificial. That said the story is rather witty and elegant in itself.
Another work of short fiction dealing with anarchy is Larry Niven’s ”Cloak of Anarchy” (1972). Here we have a future Los Angeles with the freeways turned into parks – free parks – since cars as we know them have been replaced by soaring vessels, hovering craft of the today generic SF type. Niven's enclosed parks with entry fees are a social experiment with some hippie connotations, their only prevailing rule being ”no violence”. The parks are supervised by soaring cameras called copseyes; at the sight of any violence the police can arrive and uphold the law. The park’s visitors practise micro-level anarchy like preaching for dumbass religions, wearing outrageous costumes or just hanging out, an anarchy that can exist as long as there’s macro-level, state-executed violence to safeguard it.
So this small-scale utopia is rather silly and harmless but let’s go with it for the sake of the narrative. Because, as the story unwinds, some day at L. A.:s King’s Free Park some genius takes down all the copseyes, as if on cue: they all drop to the ground thanks to the clever guy’s hacking abilities. So what does that turn the park into? Hell. With no restraint, no threat of public interference the fabric of civility cracks. Among other things some heavies post guard around the drinking water fountain, only letting selected people come for a drink. The queues line up. And this is a perfect picture of what a collapsing society would mean: scarcity of necessities, violence, unsecurity. In time the copseyes come up again and everything reverts to normal but the central charachters have a scary night behind them, depriving them of what delusions of anarchy they might have had. ”Anarchy isn’t stable” is Niven’s terse conclusion and I can go with that.
Like Larry Niven Ernst Jünger is sceptical about the common view of anarchism, giving eternal bliss to everybody as soon as it’s installed, but Jünger doesn’t discard anarchism altogether. In ”Eumeswil” (1977) he redefines it in the role of the Anarch, being an antipole to the ruler but not bent on destroying him, just content with watching him and be near him to extract some metaphysical essence of history and grandeur. In doing this the anarch can be free; he doesn't want to change society since he has mentally seceeded from it.
The narrator in Jünger's novel alternates his duties between the university and the casbah, the seat of power. Here he tends the nightbar listening in on the governing clique’s discussions in this post-war, post-debacle future. ”Eumeswil” is a rich novel, echoing Jünger’s other utopian/dystopian works like ”Heliopolis” (1949) and ”On the Marble Cliffs” (1939). Here however I'll focus on some subjects in ”Eumeswil” relevant for current debates:
. Precious metals: ”The powers that be always rob the common man of his gold.” All throughout history those in power have robbed the people of their gold, either by diminishing the gold content of coins or by issuing paper money. The standard investing advice of 2011 seems to be buying gold as a hedge against a crashing dollar and there’s a rebellious trait to this, in the common man exchanging dollars for gold and storing it in his private cache.
. Survivalism: what to do if there’s an upheaval, an interregnum? The narrator concludes that the best is to furnish a dug-out in the woods to use as a safe heaven. This is like a miniature of the mega-crisis we face today. ”Stock up on food, water, ammunition...”: we all read that on the internet today but Jünger was way ahead of these preppers.
. Spiritual values: We can’t do without myths, legends, dreams. Having food on the table isn’t enough. Many prophets have said that throughout history so having Jünger propagating the same isn’t original in itself, but since no one listened last time it has to be said again and again.
More on Jünger here.
I’ve taken you through a survey of the more controversial works of SF. We’ve seen some classics and some old books, so how about the new ones? Well, looking at more contemporary controversial SF you could mention titles like Randolph D. Calverhall’s ”Serpent’s Walk” (1991, with post-1945 underground Nazis coming to the fore again with economic and metapolitical means) and William Pierce’s ”The Turner Diaries” (1978), about a white nationalist going guerilla. A precursor of sorts to Breivik...?
As for modern dystopias we have for instance Scott Wilson’s ”Utopia X” (2004). Here the America of 2048 is ruled by a totalitarian goverment disguised as a tolerant, anti-racist democracy. And so, with mind control and the outlawing of ”insensitivity” and freedom of speech the stage is set for a modern ”1984”, only here there’s a ray of hope in the form of a guerilla movement that begins to take shape, intent to defend liberty and freedom for all. More complex is Alex Kurtagic’s ”Mister” (2009) with a sombre future characterized by political correctness, corruption, crime and globalism; the book has been lauded for its avant-garde style, erudition and humour. And finally, as for the more race oriented dystopias, there’s titles like Jean Raspail’s ”The Camp of the Saints” (1973), Ward Kendall’s ”Hold Back This Day” (2003) and Kyle Bristow’s ”White Apocalypse” (2010).
In other words, it’s clear that science fiction lends itself to hot topics and non-PC narratives, to more or less controversial political discussions. So artistically and philosophically speaking the future looks bright; there are still stories to be told and issues to be debated in future settings. We might live in a politically correct dictatorship of sorts but the perceived censorship can be dodged by telling futuristic, other-worldly stories with a rightist slant.
The Infantryman of the Future
Why I Hate "Avatar"