Uncanny Valley Outakes: The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad

spinradirondreamcoverHello readers! This is an obscure, previously unpublished session of the Science Fiction Summer Reading Group. We covered a novel a couple of summers back by a short story writer named Norman Spinrad. In some regards, Spinrad was in the same sci fi scene as Phil Dick. There’s a good reason you’ve probably never heard of this book. YET, despite not being very good, it has a mesmerizing thread running through it.

Imagine if Hitler had never risen through the political ranks, but instead moved to New York to be a failed artist, where he writes this fictional novel called The Iron Dream. The novel is couched in an afterword by the fictional scholar Homer Whipple which sets the entire satire into place like a keystone last-placed in a scaffolded arch.

No one liked the book, but that was part of the mesmerizing thread. No one is supposed to like the book: Hitler wrote it. (Albeit, while a starving artist in New York.) I liked it so little that it never became a blog post until now. So here are the minimal notes. We read this fascinating and mind-numbing entry in the annals of science fiction so you wouldn’t have to. But now that Trump is the incoming President, who knows? Thank you, Mr. Norman Spinrad, for making us think, no matter the cost!


GillconsidersIt says as much about Hitler as it does about that popular market of meathead pulp violent fascist storytelling. The aliens are the minorities. Any extra planetary life form is basically black people; the minorities of the time. Women being marginalized. Homosexuality. Different races draped in this exotic space opera garb.

What stamina. He really put in an effort to make this a full-fledged work. He could have made his point much shorter. By trade, Spinrad was a short story writer.

Order and organization, insistence on order. Deft commentary on fascism.

The “Homer Whipple” comments on the banality of that sterilized.

NikitaonpointStrange to think of the metafiction quality. It all leads up to the Afterword. It really makes you feel it, after coming out of the droning hum of pulp fascistalingo. You just have to shake your head at the overwhelming machismo and self-destructive sure sightedness. Strong headed, always correct, swinging his dick around, and everyone follows wherever it points. Go there, shoot that.

They all become irradiated at the end. All are mutated and sterilized, but they’re fine with it. They sacrifice themselves to make this race of clones. They become what they were trying to destroy.

Issue of mental health brought up, and homosexuality, has dated this novel and Spinrad. Implying that Hitler was gay was probably more insulting in 1972.

Spinrad destroys the field in which he works. He’s meticulously, consciously planed them there as Hitler’s own hangups. This makes Spinrad a kind of Maestro. Begs the question: Where is Spinrad on this? He’s just spinning and spinning.

Critique of science fiction by making this eventually abhorrent narrative fit and blend with all of the preconditions of the genre. He is a master of the genre but does not ever escape the genre’s conventions.

LeGuins Review

LeGuin’s Review

A well-written review of the novel, by Ursula K. LeGuin


Gill: It’s very snake-devouring-its-own-tail

Reminiscent of the Vonnegut story about the American spy working inside a German radio station. White Night, I think it was called. He thought he was leaking troop movements to the Allies, but he was also spewing so much effective Nazi Propaganda to cover his ass that the Nazis let him stay on the radio even after they’d found him out because of the benefit he was having on the public morale of the war effort. It was worth it for them to let him give away coded troop movements. Creepfest.

“To get the audience to think a bit about the implications of the fantasies they’re embracing.”


He wrote this while Vietnam was happening.

Starship Troopers is like this, but without being satire. Heh, nice.

Gill: The American Nazi party put this book on its recommended reading list. That is why Spinrad added the Homer Whipple Afterword.

He’s making fun of what he’s doing, and he’s doing it!

A book by Spinrad, written since 9/11, called Osama The Gun. He was only able to get it published in French.

I’d like to know if he was inspired by Man In The High Castle.

Reflecting the fervor that average people were swept into. The rising fascism, celebrating strength, illusion of racial purity and ethnic security.

he does live up to science fiction as a vehicle for social criticism.

Gill: A strong implication that Hitler’s fanaticism,

this novel makes it seem like all these notions of racial purity and contamination anxiety are latent in Hitler even if he doesn’t end up the leader of Germany.



Thank you for reading! Reading rules!


About Suhail Rafidi

Suhail Rafidi is a novelist and educator whose works explore the destiny of human values in a technological landscape. You can find him on Twitter, too, @shelldive.
This entry was posted in Authors and Writing, Book Reviews, Books, Sociey and Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Uncanny Valley Outakes: The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad

  1. Pingback: Uncanny Valley Digest: Manjula Padmanabahn | My Writes

  2. Pingback: Uncanny Valley Digest: Manjula Padmanabahn

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