Fascism for Nice People

A few days ago, while working on a short story (see below) I made the comment on Twitter that I see Steampunk as “Fascism for nice people”. This was partly borne out from the story below, partly, of course, from the disconnect I feel at what that term, “steampunk” has come to represent in recent years and the worrying (to me) political and ideological implications of it. There are some fine steampunk critics, such as Ay-leen the Peacemaker (Beyond Victoriana) and Jaymee Goh (Silver Goggles) who have written extensively on the subject of empire, race and colonialism within the context of steampunk, and I can only recommend reading what they say.

It is also perhaps worth mentioning that I have written on steampunk for a number of years (see Steampunk in The internet Review of Science Fiction, 2005) or the recently reprinted on the blog Some Notes Towards a Working Definition of Steampunk, dating from around the same time. There is also, of course, my trilogy of steampunk novels, The Bookman, Camera Obscura (Airship Award nominee, Sidewise Award nominee) and The Great Game, and stories in anthologies such as The Mammoth Book of Steampunk (ed. Sean Wallace) or the forthcoming Steampunk Revolution (ed. Anne Vandermeer). Therefore, it would be nice to be extended the courtesy that while people may not like what I have to say they might credit that I know something of the topic under discussion.

I am told my publishers have received many unhappy e-mails since the comment was made. Here are some quotes:

this has (quite rightly) deeply angered and upset a vast majority of the Steampunk community in the UK, Europe and North America. (highlight mine)

I hope, therefore, you can understand why sales of books of his that you publish may diminish, and I am sure you can see the danger of collateral damage in the form of books by other authors you also represent also being hit. I am sure you can understand how yourselves, being his agents, are equally hit by his comments and how if you stand idly by as he pedals his diatribe some may take the view that you support and agree with his stance, which I am prepared to submit that you don’t.

I’m contacting you to inform you that I will no longer be purchasing Mr Tidhar’s work. His recent comments online have been offensive and disrepectful to the SF community as a whole and reached a new low on Friday when he compared steampunk to Fascism. Given what a foul and horrendous ideology that is I do not feel that his comments were in anyway excusable and therefore I will be boycotting his books in the future.

 

I am contacting you to inform you that I will be avoiding all future publications by both the author and Angry Robot Books.

So, a boycott. I don’t know, doesn’t it sound a bit, you know… like that other thing?

Anyway, in apology to those people who took offence at my thoughtless comments, I would like to say I hold no ill will if you choose not to purchase any of the books. I support your right not to! And moreover, to make amends, I offer a free short story, of sorts. I was saving it for some magazine or other but I may as well post it here. As before, if you liked the story, feel free to press the paypal donate button at the bottom, but do not feel obliged!

Thank you.

A Lexicon of Steam Literature of the Third Reich

By Lavie Tidhar

For the English, the ideal existence was represented in the society of the Victorian age. – Adolf Hitler, in conversation, 22 July 1941

The is a Sampler of material selected from A Lexicon of Steam Literature of the Third Reich, Third Edition. It is not for sale. All Rights Reserved (c) 1979, 1992, 2012 by World Free Media, a subsidiary of Goebbels Publishing GmbH. Available in all Reich Territories, Colonies and Protectorates. Winner of the Schmidt Award.

DAMPFKRAFTMYTHEN

Steam Power Myths, also abbreviated SPM. Popular genre of German – and, later, American – literature popularised in the immediate post-war period by Joseph GOEBBELS under both his GOEBBELS PUBLISHING and WORLD FREE MEDIA publishing houses (the first for the German nations, the second specialising in translations for the colonies).

Dampfkraftmythen are fantasies of an age of steam, sometimes taking place in a transformed 19th century (for which also see IRON CHANCELLOR, THE) sometimes in the prehistory of the ARYAN race, a GOLDEN AGE sometimes referred to, within the context of SPM if not historical narratives, as the FIRST REICH.

SPM is characterised by the use of steam machines and other fantastical inventions, for narratives of adventure and peril in which the heroes – almost always pure-blooded Aryans – face, and at last prevent, global threats from various monsters or from members of the lower races, often, though not exclusively, JEWS.

It was most popular between 1948 and 1977 and again, briefly,  from 1985 to 1991. A resurgence of interest – and a subsequent explosion of the genre – began in the 2000s and is still ongoing.

It is sometimes also referred to as Stahlmythen (Steel Myths) or Maschinenmythen (Machine Myths). However Dampfkraftmythen is the generally accepted term.

THULE

See also STEAM CITY. The greatest city of the ARYAN race and capital of the HYPERBOREAN lands in the works of, e.g., Ernst BLAU, Karl JUNKER, Bruno SCHAEFER and others.

Thule first appears in Blau’s now-classic The Swastika Gates (1950) in which a time travelling young hero of the Reich, Hanns von Himmel, finds himself in Hyperborea during the Age of the FIRST REICH, which is threatened by an invasion of JEWS equipped with advanced steam-powered weaponry. Von Himmel, naturally, eventually saves the day. already in that novel many of the recurring elements of SPM can be seen – MAD JEW SCIENTISTS, steam machines, Hyperborea, adventure narratives, improbable science – but, and perhaps most notably, also that sense of a glorious past, a GOLDEN AGE of Aryan supremacy not seen again for thousands of years.

We must remember that those early writers – Blau, Junker et. al. – had only recently come out of a devastating World War in which the forces of the Third Reich only triumphed at great cost. Many of these writers have been soldiers in the war (Junker would later become Hitler’s special envoy to the West African Land Reclamation Programme) and have suffered greatly in many instances. In 1950 Germany was only just recovering from the War, still busy subduing the new colonies (the United Kingdom, Russia) and carrying on a ground war in North America (which only ended decisively in 1954 with the formal surrender of guerrilla leader and last de facto president Richard Nixon). Dampfkraftmythen comes from that sense, that many long years were still to pass before the true dream of the Third Reich could be fulfilled. Until then, fiction would serve.

The Swastika Gates was made into a film by Leni RIEFENSTAHL in 1957. Thule appeared again in Schaefer’s The Hyperborean Trilogy (1963), in Letta BRAUN’s City On The Edge of the World (1968) and widely elsewhere.

MAD JEW SCIENTIST, THE

A stock character of many SPM novels, the Mad Jewish Scientist (also see JEWS) represents the degenerative but cunning mind of the Jewish conspiracy. Often (see also RECURSIVE SPM, FALSE REALITY, HITLER LOST) the scientist is a resurrected Albert Einstein (1879-1954), a Jewish scientist of some notoriety. He expired in the rehabilitation camps established in North America following the American surrender. However as a fictional character he appears often, particularly in the works of Karl JUNKER, where he lives in an impenetrable fortress of ice on ARKTOS, the polar continent, from which he sends his minions to make war against the ARYAN nations of HYPERBOREA.

BLACK SUN, THE

Schwarze Sonne, also referred to as the Sonnenrad, or Sun Wheel. Variously a vast spaceship, a time-travelling device or a doomsday weapon, depending on the writer. Another stock element of SPM, the Black Sun represents the triumph of German science. In The Black Sun (1956) by Letta BRAUN, it is indeed a vast spaceship carrying ARYAN colonists to a nearby star system. Unbeknown to the colonists the ship is secretly infested by JEWS hoping to escape Earth. A steam-based culture is developed on board ship. At last its captain, Schmidt, decides to blow up the ship rather than let the Jew plague infest another planet. The SCHMIDT AWARD is named in his honour.

The Black Sun is a time machine in the classic The Swastika Gates, and a doomsday device in Bruno Schaefer’s mostly-forgotten masterpiece The Führer Machine (1960).

BRAUN, LETTA

Austrian writer, born 1915. A nurse during the War, she later moved to New Hamburg (formerly New York) in the American colonies, where she lived for the rest of her life. Braun worked across a range of genres but is best known for her SPM work, of which The Black Sun is perhaps the most notable.

THE SCHMIDT AWARD

An annual literary award given every year since 1962 at the DAMPFKRAFTMYTHEN WELTKONVENTION, for an SPM work best representing the ideology of NATIONAL SOCIALISM. Named after the heroic, doomed spaceship commander, Schmidt, in Letta BRAUN’s The Black Sun.

DAMPFKRAFTMYTHEN WELTKONVENTION

Steam Power Myths World Convention. Annual gathering of SPM enthusiasts from across the Reich who meet each year in a different city to discuss SPM, host a costume competition and award various prizes, the most important of which is the SCHMIDT AWARD.

WORLD FREE MEDIA

Joseph GOEBBELS’s outreach publishing company, this was the most important of the immediate post-war publishers to come out of Germany. Seeking to spread the German tongue, culture and values across the lands now under the rule of the Third Reich, particularly the ANGLOPHONE world, Goebbels set up an ambitious plan of translating, printing and distributing anything from the Führer’s immortal masterpiece, My Struggle (1925, 1926) to such lighter fare as Karl May’s enduringly popular Old Shatterhand Westerns and many important SPM titles translated from the German for the first time.

World Free Media’s American offices established several magazines in the new protectorate, of which INCREDIBLE STORIES had been perhaps the most influential in terms of SPM.

JUNKER, Karl

German author, born 1920. Served in the S.S. during the War in charge of an einsatzgruppe, a task force with the purpose of the purification of the races. Wounded in Leningrad, served as a senior member of the Gestapo in Moscow (now Hitlergrad) in the immediate post-War period. He later served in the West African Land Reclamation Programme, purifying that region of the world to make it habitable by the master race (see ARYAN).

Junker began writing early. A memoir of his time in the so called “death squads” was only published after his death. He also published two volumes of poetry. His abiding passion has been SPM, however, in which field he is best known.

He began publishing with short story “The Jew-Box Affair”, in which a soldier fighting the short-lived uprising of the Jewish GHETTO in Warsaw is wounded. When he awakens it is on ARKTOS, a frozen wasteland continent off HYPERBOREA in which the self-same ghetto Jews have found shelter by means of a TRANSDIMENSIONAL GATE. The soldier destroys their hideaway and returns to our world unscathed.

More ambitiously, Junker then began the Arktos Trilogy of novels, comprising Arktos Rising, Return to Arktos and The Fall of Arktos (published 1948; 1949; 1951; collected as The Complete Arktos in 1961). In the series a MAD JEW SCIENTIST, Albert Einstein, creates a JEWLAND on Arktos from which he assails the Aryan Hyperborea. He is defeated, at long last, by MENGELE (for which see separate entry).

Junker had an insightful understanding into the issue of creating racial purity, as well as an abiding interest in science, both of the Aryan (for which see WORLD ICE THEORY; GLACIAL COSMOGONY) and of the degenerate Jewish variety (see also RELATIVITY, THEORY OF). Though not as well known now as he was in the post-War period he remains one of SPM’s deepest and most important practitioners.

IRON CHANCELLOR, THE

Also Otto von BISMARCK, the legendary chancellor of Germany and an important figure in SPM literature. In Blau’s The Iron Chancellor Bismarck raises an army of mighty airships (see also COUNT FERDINAND VON ZEPPELIN) to take on the British Empire, eventually toppling Queen VICTORIA (an otherwise minor figure in SPM) and leading to a Third Reich fifty years earlier than in our own history. In the 1960s American Author Johannes WHITE wrote a series of adventure stories chronicling the adventures of “The Iron Chancellor” – now a gladiator in ancient HYPERBOREA – as he battles various Jewish (see JEWS) conspiracies and eventually rises from his humble position to become the first leader of the FIRST REICH. These were published in INCREDIBLE STORIES to much acclaim: they represent the first significant instance of SPM literature in a foreign language (today, of course, the children of the former “United States” are brought up in German, rather than the decadent English of their defeated parents).

JEWS

An inferior race. A villainous people often compared with rats (see also Fritz HIPPLER’s documentary film The Eternal Jew (1940)). Popular in SPM literature, in which they sometimes occupy the mythical continent of ARKTOS. Ruled by a secret council, THE ELDERS OF ZION. Control world banking and have secret tunnels dug under the world, through which they scurry on their seditious missions. Now mostly eradicated (see also BLACK RACE, THE).

INCREDIBLE STORIES

SPM magazine published from 1958 to around 1976 (published sporadically in the 1980s as a series of anthologies; revived as a magazine in 2005), in English. It mostly died out as the American Rehabilitation Programme began to take effect. Post-1976 incarnations were published in German.

Incredible Stories was edited by Howard W. Campbell Jr. from its inception onwards. It is notable for featuring the works of several American authors of SPM, including Johannes WHITE and Hans WEBER, who created a SPACE-based (for which also see VON BRAUN, Wernher, TRSA (THIRD REICH SPACE AGENCY, THE) etc.) version of SPM featuring his enduringly popular heroine, GLORY GESTALT, and debuting with the serialised novel A Mission of Glory (1964-1965; collected in book form 1970).

MENGELE, Josef

One of the most respected and admired of NATIONAL SOCIALIST scientists. Winner of the NOBEL PRIZE for Medicine in 1952, for his experiments on twins, and of the Hitler Medal for Extraordinary Services to the Reich one year previous. Served at Auschwitz (a lower races termination camp) during the War. After the Nobel Mengele retired to the Reich Protectorate of Argentina, where he died of old age.

Mengele is of interest to SPM scholars as an increasingly popular, recurring character in what we might term the SHARED WORLD of SPM. He first appears in a minor role in Karl JUNKER’s Return to Arktos (1949), where he develops a race of telepathic twins who assist the hero in toppling Einstein’s army of suicide GOLEMS. He next pops up as a significant secondary character in Soulless (1972), by COUNTESS MATILDA, a fantasy, where he is the charming yet eccentric companion to the heroine’s light-hearted escapades in a BISMARCKIAN Berlin complete with blood-sucking, vampirical Jews and hideous GYPSY werewolves, which he successfully – by means of a lethal vaccine – helps eliminate.

The anthology Monstrous Science (2002), edited by Koch and Gärtner is of interest. The titular story, by rising SPM star Bernhard VOGEL, in which Mengele faces off against Jew scientist Albert Einstein on the island of Madagascar (see JEWLAND, A) won the SCHMIDT AWARD for short fiction the following year.

JEWLAND, A

A common theme in SPM are plots or sub-plots in which JEWS seek to – or already establish – autonomous nations or JEWLANDS. Sometimes they occur in Palestine, at other times in Madagascar, Uganda or indeed fictional lands such as ARKTOS. They often end with the eventual destruction or complete annihilation of the forbidden Jewland by the ARYAN hero.

SCHAEFER, Bruno

An extract from The Hyperborean Trilogy (1963):

. . . ‘Look out!’ shouted Brunhilda. Her long blonde hair whipped in the wind as she clung for dear life to the underside of the mighty airship The Iron Chancellor. Rising ahead was the black airship King David, a dark oppressive presence in the skies. Its mighty guns were aimed at the Iron Chancellor. ‘We will not be defeated by a devolved race!’ cried Brunhilda’s companion, Conrad Bosch, the famed explorer and engineer. ‘Take my hand!’

Gratefully Brunhilda reached for him and his strong, graceful fingers clasped hers securely. ‘Jump!’ called Conrad. Brunhilda closed her eyes and let go. She swung through the air, held by Conrad, and landed in a heap of clothes and perfume in the Iron Chancellor’s lifeboat blimp’s gondola.

‘It could not be easier!’ laughed Conrad. He jumped after her and with the flash of his machete cut the ropes securing the lifeboat to the main hull of the larger ship. Above them the Chancellor was being pummelled with fire from the monstrous Jew ship.

‘But…’ stammered Brunhilda, quite overwhelmed, ‘the ship is on fire!’

And indeed it was so. As they detached from the Iron Chancellor in the blimp they could see the ship tilting to one side as it burned. ‘Damn those filthy Jews!’ cried Conrad. ‘But there are still some tricks up my sleeve!’

‘What will you do?’ cried Brunhilda. Conrad grinned at her disarmingly. She gazed longingly at his perfect Aryan profile as he piloted the blimp away from the Chancellor – and, she realised with horror, on a direct collision course with the Jew ship!

‘Conrad, no!’ cried Brunhilda.

‘I will show those dirty rats the might of the Reich!’ said Conrad, and Brunhilda could only gasp in surprise as Conrad brought forth a curious device, the length of a giant telescope, made of some shining metal unknown to Brunhilda. ‘This is a Krupp III Agitator!’ said Conrad with pride. ‘The most advance and deadliest of Hyperborean war machines ever developed!’ He aimed at the King David, one eye closed in concentration, and pressed the trigger.

. . .

On board the Jew ship the degenerate scientist, Einstein, could only watch in disbelief as the rocket sailed forward. Alone on the deck but for his army of mechanical golems, his mouth opened but no words would come out. ‘What –‘ he managed to say, at last – a moment before the rocket impacted with the airship.

. . .

An enormous ball of flame engulfed the Jew ship, the sound deafening. The shockwave threw the small blimp this way and that, as if on an ocean’s tide, and Brunhilda lost her footing and fell to the floor of the gondola. But strong hands held her and, sobbing in relief and gratitude, she sank her face into Conrad’s strong, comforting, manly chest. ‘There, there,’ he said, his hand stroking her hair gently. ‘It is over.’ She raised her head and looked at him, her blue eyes moist, her lips parted. He was so handsome, she thought. So brave. He smiled, and his blond hair shone in the sun. ‘Oh, Conrad!’ she said. He leaned into her and their lips met as he passionately kissed her.

Brunhilda hoped the moment last forever.

DICK, PHILIP K. (KINDRED)

American author of pulp fiction. His novel The Man in the High Castle (1962) posits a world in which Germany lost the War (see also FALSE REALITY, HITLER LOST). All known copies of the novel have been destroyed. The author perished in a rehabilitation camp shortly after.

GOLEM

A JEW creation, born out of OCCULT PRACTICES and DEGENERATE SCIENCE. A mechanical man.

BLACK RACE, THE

Devolved race, mostly extinct – some are kept (alongside JEWS, GYPSIES, SLAVS, CHINAMEN etc. etc.) in specialised zoos. Perhaps the best way to see them is at the Berlin Zoologischer Garten, where many rare examples of near-extinct lower races can be seen in their native habitat, including such rare specimens as PYGMIES, AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES and the IRISH.

The Black Race is seldom seen in SPM, with the exception of Blau’s relatively minor work The Dark Continent (1958), set in a prehistoric Afrikaland. A Hyperborean airship carrying a BLACK SUN device travels by means of a TRANSDIMENSIONAL GATE to the black continent, encountering the natives, having many adventures and at last returning to HYPERBOREA, from which an invasion – for purpose of resettlement – of Afrikaland later launches. The book was meant as the first in a trilogy, yet the other two volumes, if written, were never published.

RIEFENSTAHL, Leni

Helene Bertha Amalie ‘Leni’ Riefenstahl, born 1902, was one of the greatest Aryan film directors of her time, and a close personal friend of the Führer himself. 1935’s Triumph of the Will is a masterpiece of German cinema, chronicling the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in which glorious speeches by Adolf Hitler are intersected with scenes of a worshipful assembly.

Of relevance to SPM, however, is Riefenstahl’s so-called Stahlmythen Trilogy (Steel Myths Trilogy) of films, the first of which was a faithful adaptation of Ernst Blau’s classic novel The Swastika Gates (filmed 1957). It was followed by Metal Fist of the Iron Chancellor (1965), based on an original script, in which an Aryan soldier during the War is wounded and remade into half-machine warrior who goes on a mission of REVENGE against a global conspiracy of JEWS masquerading as high-ranking Aryan officers (see also ELDERS OF ZION, THE).

The third and concluding film, Riefenstahl’s Seas of Hyperborea (1977), is considered one of the greatest films ever made, utilizing revolutionary new filming techniques and SPECIAL EFFECTS to truly – and for the first time – bring a grand vision of SPM to the big screen. Filled with magnificent AIRSHIPS and aerial battles, with larger than life monsters (including an entire horde of GOLEMS) and MAD JEW SCIENTISTS (the evil Einstein as Scientist-Emperor of ARKTOS complete with clones of himself), it also includes TIME TRAVEL and a magnificent re-creation of the BLACK SUN plot device as a DOOMSDAY WEAPON. Seas of Hyperborea combines all the classic elements of SPM to create something which is, in spirit, closest perhaps to Rifenstahl’s much earlier Triumph des Willens, showing us not only the essential nobleness of the Aryan race but, most importantly, the historic inevitability of its eventual triumph.

ALTERNATE WORLD

A world in which things turned out differently than in our own. See also FALSE REALITY, Philip K. DICK, HITLER LOST, STEAMPUNK.

THE END.

Hitler quote taken from Hitler’s Table Talk: 1941-1944, ed. by Hugh Trevor-Roper

64 thoughts on “Fascism for Nice People

  1. Well, I think it’s ridiculous to punish you for pointing out aspects of Victorianism and the cultural history surrounding steampunk which should be of concern to contemporary writers working in that genre. Frankly, there are implications which must be considered carefully in dealing with any historical data for fiction and all you are suggesting, from what I can see, is that perhaps it’s not always given appropriate consideration in steampunk writing. I think your books are fantastic. I thoroughly enjoy them, and I would think it’s a shame if people don’t get over this silliness and punish you for it.

  2. I agree with Bryan.

    I see what you did with this post, Lavie.

    The sheer fecundity of your imagination amazes me. If only the haters would see that. And your criticisms of a lot of steampunk, well, frankly, do stand up.

    There IS steampunk that engages with a lot of the darker side of the genre. (not just yours, either). That’s important to recognize, and I know that you do.

  3. thank you, sir. i’ve only read THE BOOKMAN, but now i’ll be seeking your work more actively

  4. I’m getting ready to read the short story, but I think it would have been nice if you could have put together a quick essay explaining why, with comments on information you have gathered during research, you made the statement. I’m not a die hard fan of steampunk, only getting into the literature rather recently, but I certainly enjoy its charm and its unique combination of scifi and fantasy.

    I will definitely check out your work though, so count me in as a replacement for any lost readers.

    ~Epheros

  5. “So, a boycott. I don’t know, doesn’t it sound a bit, you know… like that other thing?”

    What other thing? Just spit it out, Lavie.

  6. This is very Spinradish and Iron Dreamy. :)
    As a product of sorta totalitarian society I ‘d disagree on the fate of Philip Dick though. Everyone knows that he’s been successfully and rehabilitated.

  7. How dare you tarnish their brass goggles! (Did you see what I did there?)

    But seriously, I remember leaving the steampunk and colonialism panel at the Eastercon disappointed with the way people focused on the big shiny airships and ignored all the imperialism, racism, poverty, etc, that was rampant during the 19th century. The Victorians practiced scientific bigotry! What more do you need to know? But you don’t see it mentioned along with your steam-powered robots and humungous differential engines, do you?

  8. That was possibly one of the most revolting things I have ever read. Congratulations.

    Are you familiar at all with the “Taisho Romantic” movement? Motivated by, of all things, the release of the “Sakura Wars” video games, there developed in Japan a sort of redeemed version of the 1920s, one in which that country took a leading role in Asia without the collapse of democracy or a brutal invasion of China, combined with a sort (what I think people would call “dieselpunk”) of period supertechnology. So it’s by no means a purely Anglophone or Western impetus to sanitize & idealize a past which has serious conflicts. (The material prosperity of Korea advanced enormously under Japanese domination, but at the cost of cultural repression — Korea before the Russo-Japanese war had one of the most brutal, repressive political systems on Earth,of which North Korea is a worthy successor, so I don’t really count that.)

    On the other hand, it’s by no means only in the former colonizing states that people are re-visiting the scibboleth that “good government is no substitute for self-government”, in light of post-colonial history. While young radicals in India want to recast the Sepoy Mutiny as the “First Indian War for Independence” (what was the second one, the massacres following the Partition?), older people there will often, & in Pakistan very generally, say that things were better overall under the British. Part of that is nostalgia, undeniably, but it bears consideration.

  9. Lavie, I am surprised that your attackers are unaware of this view of steampunk, as this discussion is certainly not a new one. A similar case could be made for much of science fiction, historically speaking, and for the bulk of American popular novels over the last 200 years, etc., but steampunk in particular tempts the writer to succumb to unexamined waves of nostalgia for polished brass and rosewood accoutrements, without a thought for who polishes the brass or where the rosewood comes from. The steampunk authors, are there are quite a few, who resist that temptation, however, are given a rich opportunity to examine racism, classism, capitalism, imperialism, the horrors of colonialist violence, and, yes, fascism. I’m guessing that’s what you were driving at in the first place.

  10. Hm. Boycott, eh? I wonder if they’ll organise burnings for the books that they already own. That’ll show you.

  11. Eileen said everything I wanted to say, and better. Unfortunately, I’m not surprised that most of the steampunk community (I don’t mean necessarily the writers, even though there must be several examples out there in the Victoriana wilderness) are so focused on shiny, polished brass, and dismiss completely slavery, the extreme hardships of the working class, child labor exploitation and so many other things that we could easily write an essay, or a story…. oh, wait! You just DID!

    Kudos, man. Read, commented, twittered, and donated.

  12. So far as I was aware there was never any intention to boycott your work. Simply a refusal to publicise your name in connection with your comment. Primarily because nobody wished to be harrassed by your reputed habit, which precedes you, of slandering those with whom you disagree.

    You are not being boycotted. The tenants of Boycott were indebted to him. Nobody is indebted to you. So the Community you repeatedly seem to revile has simply navigated around you and moved on. Why spend your days in battles from the past when there is genuine poverty, suffering and injustice in the present.

    As to being Spinradish: fawning will never improve your circus pony. As to being Dickish: I refer to the previous fawning. Your journalism is adequate at best. Literate and almost relevant. Since you promote the notion of verity in literature, perhaps you might consider revising your puff piece for Totalitarianism by including some references to the execution of anarchists and the mentally infirm or communists or trade unionists or lesbians or gays. They seem to be significantly absent from your oeuvre.

  13. “Why spend your days in battles from the past when there is genuine poverty, suffering and injustice in the present.”

    Oh, I don’t know…because it matters to some of us? Look my country may have achieved independence from Europe many years ago, but when I was getting married my husband’s family chided my husband because he was marrying someone with my indigenous features. Thanks, casta system! There is a post-colonialist legacy in our lives. It’s not imaginary. There are scars. Some scars may have healed but I still get to look at it some mornings.

    • You poor lamb: hang your faux indignation at the door. So what if you live in a post colonial country? Two thirds of the world are post colonial countries. That is in the present. Either address the present or stop complaining.

      You husband’s family are obviously spending their time fighting battles in the past. You seem intent upon joining them in the past instead of addressing the present to change the future. That is the most insidious legacy of colonialism: living so thoroughly in the past that you area ineffectual in the present.

      The past has made you who you are. It has never made you who you will be. If you whine about the past and do not address the poverty, prejudice and injustice of the present then nobody will ever take your indignation as being serious.

      • Yeah, 2/3s of people. You know…it might be important then for it to be addressed ’cause…wow, a whole lot of people have been affected by this.

        The point is that the past has an impact on the present. The current situation of indigenous cultures is not a product of magic. Our current society did not appear out of thin air.

        And how long does something in the past have to be in the past for you to forget about it? Residential schools were still around a few decades ago.

        Furthermore, when your story is *set* in the past (as steampunk often is), do you ignore all of the not so nice stuff that was going on?

        You may want your speculative fiction to be escapist, but not all of us do. Readers and writers of spec fic *are* people who come from a post-colonialist background. And we are not just going to disappear because you don’t like what we say. Finally, I am addressing the present. I write about this stuff because it matters to me.

  14. So it seems those of you who support the comment that ‘Steampunk is Fascism for nice people’ feel that because there were grave injustices and horrible consequences of Imperialism from Victorian times it is now acceptable to say anyone dressing and/or celebrating other, often lighter aspects of a pseudo-Victorian theme are, by default, Fascists?

    As I am also a re-enactor of Viking and Saxon times then, extending the twisted same logic, presumably that makes me a back-door Nazi as I am celebrating my Germanic historical routes?

    Also, as the author writes his books based on such themes, then is he not a Fascist as well for promoting such historical evils in his books?

    That is a very wide and indiscriminate brush you are happy to tar people with is it not?

    This is a form of intellectual (?) bigotry of a most pitiful and tenuous order that merely demonstrates your intolerance and prejudices laid bare.

    • A few weeks ago I attended an event at a local castle and Victorian prison. There were several (40+) of my friends there who were dressed in historical garb for the time for this Victorian Weekend (not a brass goggle in sight).

      They recreated a scuffle between some suffragettes and a small company of soldiers and a very well delivered talk was made about the whole subject and it’s ramifications to the genuinley interested public.

      Further talks were given in the prison about the harsh times for the poor and about prison life.

      The people who performed this fascinating and educational event were virtually all from the Steampunk community. They took on an accurate historical garb for the event and didn’t flinch from showing the public some of the darker sides of the Victorian Era ‘up close’.

      I was very proud to see them perform such an event and tackle such subjects head on.

      Hardly the actions of a bunch of Fascists, ‘nice’ or otherwise, I feel?

    • Well said Golding!

      What exactly is wrong with a group of proud white men coming together to celebrate their heroic Germanic ancestry in a torch-lit ceremony? It’s political correctness gone mad!

  15. As usual, Lavie starts everything with a big explosion. = )

    Leaving aside the tedious flurries of moral outrage, isn’t it worth saying that this isn’t really a genre issue?

    I’m sure there’s plenty of steampunk loaded with a kind of colonialist nostalgia for the days of the master race … on the other hand, there’s also plenty of steampunk that seems to be pretty much devoted to exploring exactly the issues of racism, colonialsm, etc. that are described above. And I’m not talking about minor, marginalized authors, I’m talking about Mieville and Di Filippo…

    It’s the same with all spec fic. Science fiction that opened minds and explored new worlds has always maintained a tenuous balance with lily-white space marines destroying the crawling alien (black … jewish … immigrant … ) menace. Sometimes from the same pen. Heinlein wrote both Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers. (And I still enjoy Starship Troopers … I’m just very cautious about the lessons it contains.

    It would almost seem so obvious as to not be worth arguing over … except that it’s important for people to be aware of those dichotomies, to call out prejudice and creepy ideologies when they appear. As they always will — in any genre, any medium. ) I think the error here is making this about steampunk:

    The majority of fascists are “nice people” … and vice versa …

    • I think there is an element of confusion here for some people (not your good self it seems) about the word Steampunk.

      There is the literary side and the side where people dress up in Steampunk stle clothing and have meetings and conventions and the argument here seems to be from both sides feeling they are either being censored or labelled as fascists.

      Those who are expressing dismay at the ‘fascism for nice people’ comment are those who dress up, as the implication here is they are all fascists, which clearly they are not.

      The darker side of Imperialism and Victorian times is cetainly acknowledged by many of the ‘dressing up Steampunks’ as well, many of whom are very well versed in Victorian history, although the movement is by it’s nature generally very upbeat and jolly.

      The Steampunk literary types here are reading the comment as ‘fascism did exist in Victorian times despite their being nice people’ and the Steampunks who dress up are reading it as ‘Steampunkers (ie you) are nothing but a nice people who are fascist’.

    • There are those who suppose that the big bang is nothing but self-aggrandising puff from a journalist. Obviously, the response to such suppositions is that they are driven by an ulterior motive. They are not. They are driven by a genuine perception that the talentless attention seeking has found a nifty slogan.

      • Come out in the open brave “Anonymous.” You are so obviously a sock puppet for the Author “Lavie Tidhar” trolling his own comments to prove his point. That’s just resorting to cheap tricks.

  16. There’s nothing racist about suggesting that there is something profoundly dubious about cherry-picking your historical legacy. The Holocaust is as much part of the history of the Germanic peoples as the Weimar Republic.

    The point that Lavie is trying to make is that we should not revisit the Victorian period without also acknowledging all of the ugly stuff the Victorians did: the racism, the sexism, the colonialism. They’re as much part of ‘Victoriana’ as the cool clothing and design.

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with exploring your roots whether your roots are in Victorian Britain or Medieval Germany. However, cherry-picking all the good bits of those legacies without acknowledging the ugly stuff? That’s wrong… that’s creepy… and that’s *precisely* the type of thing that the Nazis attempted to do.

    • I agree entirely, and many of the posts here do so as well. My post above about the Victorian event I recently attended hopefully demonstrated that and that people do openly discuss such matters with the public at events.

      Any Steampunk book worth it’s salt would touch on such subjects at the very least. They make for good writing if nothing else. Tea parties and chatting about your latest business venture is hardly exciting ground for a book, whereas warfare, conflict and oppression are.

      I think the offence the author has caused many is the implication, intended or orherwise, that people who dress in a Steampunk manner are some kind of closet ‘Fascists’. Clearly that is such a sweeping and loose statement covering hundreds if thousands of individuals as to be meaningless.

      It seems to me the ‘argument’ is almost about two largely different but related things. The recognition of the terrible injustices of Imperialism in Victorian times and the fact that those who dress as Steampunk seem to be being called fascists by the author.

      Alas a few trolls seem to be involved here to stir up the ‘argument’ unecessarily.

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  18. Criticizing steampunk people for being victorian quasi-fascists is like saying civil war re-enactors would like to actually enslave blacks and burn Atlanta to the ground. Yes, it is insulting.

    • American Civil War re-enactors could be seen as romanticizing the event. Not that I’ve known Civil War buffs who kept re-imagining ways to keep Sherman from taking Atlanta (or whatever the hell that was), etc. That never happens! And those Confederate flag bumper stickers I see on pickup trucks all over the place are hallucinations. No wait–”It’s just about us acknowledging our history! Reverse racism! Blaaarrrghghh!”

      • The South Shall Rise Again … And Wear Brass Goggles. And maybe have some of those nifty dirigibles … Piloted by Southern werewolves … Or vampires … Or robots dressed like Colonel Sanders … Fighting off the great mechanized steam-army of the Northern Industrial Complex … Headed by the demon possessed arch-technofier, Autarch-Elect Lincoln … Of course.

    • Tidhar tweeted: “Steampunk is fascism for nice people”. That is not a critical dialogue. That is a slogan. He tweeted one single phrase. Other people have taken up his faux-injury with literate comment. Tidhar was being obnoxious and was caught out being obnoxious.

      • Yeah. He should have tweeted it anonymously. Seriously, you do know that he writes steampunk novels, don’t you?

  19. No, not everyone who celebrates steampunk is fascist. Not is everyone who celebrates the Civil War with reenactments racist or pro-slavery. But there is value in recognizing the symbolism of cultural periods, the ideology from which they spring and taking the time to thoughtfully consider the periods in full rather than just glossing over because it “looks cool.” I think failure to recognize the realities of a period can lead one to romanticize it incorrectly or elevate celebration of it to a point that by inference celebrates the abhorrent aspects which were a part of it. And I think that’s all that’s been suggested here by those decrying the overreaction to Lavie’s statement.

    • As a re-enactor I agree completely with that, it is our duty to show the historic realities ‘warts and all’. This is exactly what I do at my societies re-enactment events.

      As a member of the Steampunk community I think that that approach is perhaps overthinking things too much for something that is neither historically nor socially accurate. Yes, Steampunk costume and some of it’s ideals are based, often very loosely, on Victorian themes but it is still a fantasy. It is not accurate re-enactment.

      There are many in the Steampunk community who do attend events where historical accuracy is presented and they frequently tackle such issues as the suffrage movement and prisons and the like without flinching – I attended such an event only two weeks ago where 40 or more Steampunks did just that – but not all Steampunks do this, nor should they feel they have to.

      There are also many in the Steampunk community who have discussions and debate on these very subjects in great detail, just as is occuring here. There are also those who simply enjoy dressing up and meeting people in a pleasant and friendly community and many in between.

      The issue is not really about if Steampunk literature should reflect the darker social and political side of Victorian times and comment or examine it. It should, and I don’t think anyone really disputes that. The issue is that the comment Steampunk is ‘fascism for nice people’ and the authors well known and publicly declared distain of the Steampunk community has combined to offended or upset people who see it as they themselves being branded fascist in a public forum.

      Remember that Steampunk isn’t actually historical, it may follow historical themes and echo historical events but it is not historical. Most people in the Steampunk community simply enjoy the warmth and social interaction that it brings, they enjoy dressing up and being ‘splendid’. This does not mean they are either fascists or cold hearted bigots who choose to forget historical and political injustices of the past and it is deeply unfair of many of you here to imply this is the case.

      As a serious re-enactor of over 25 years who does regularly tackle dark historical themes (including slavery, murder and religious bigotry amoungst others) I actually enjoy the light hearted, mildly satirical and polite Steampunk community as a nice break from it all. Yet, if I choose to, such themes are available within the community to explore and discuss and many historically accurate Victorian based re-enactment societies exist as another excellent outlet for such thoughts.

      The Steampunk community may not be for you and you may share the authors view it should remain as purely a literary genre, but please don’t assume that all, indeed even most, Steampunks are uncaring Imperialistic bigots who revel in past ‘glory’. I can say from first hand experience that that view is utterly wrong.

    • Oh gosh, yes. We’ve seen it in its most blatant form as “nazi chic” but it’s common across all sorts of historical and pseudohistorical interests.

      No-one’s saying that any particular person is a fascist, in fact there are re-enactors who are all about the social realism, but I think it’s disingenuous to deny that there are aspects of both steampunk and some types of re-enaction that are deeply problematic. This is because historical nostalgia in the wider sense can be deeply problematic.

      Here’s another example: I’m from Scotland, and I get troubled by Scottish nationalist appropriation of Jacobite history and culture. It’s all washed in a Walter Scott-like misty romanticism that glances over the vile sectarianism and class conflict of the Jacobite rebellion itself.

      Worse, it helps feed into modern-day racism and anti-English bigotry. While the nice people are singing “will ye no come back again”, somebody somewhere’s getting a kicking.

  20. Plus, knowledge of the injustic, poverty, bigotry, etc. of the past is very much a part of informing our response to such things in our present world. How can we really address the issues well without this historical knowledge?

  21. It is so well known and widely recognized that steampunk is almost ostentatiously regressive (despite the brave efforts to rehabilitate it by non-whiteAnglomales) that the outrage rings — fittingly enough — tinny.

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    • To elaborate: The defeat of Hitler is a common rationalization of empire; the US crushed democracies and supported brutal dictators throughout its post-WW2 economic empire, leading up to our current President, who claims the power to imprison and assassinate citizens without trial. So, Tidhar, care to comment on your imperialist fantasy?

  23. Apologies for reposting but this was placed as a reply rather than a more open remark as wea intended:

    As a re-enactor I agree completely with that, it is our duty to show the historic realities ‘warts and all’. This is exactly what I do at my societies re-enactment events.

    As a member of the Steampunk community I think that that approach is perhaps overthinking things too much for something that is neither historically nor socially accurate. Yes, Steampunk costume and some of it’s ideals are based, often very loosely, on Victorian themes but it is still a fantasy. It is not accurate re-enactment.

    There are many in the Steampunk community who do attend events where historical accuracy is presented and they frequently tackle such issues as the suffrage movement and prisons and the like without flinching – I attended such an event only two weeks ago where 40 or more Steampunks did just that – but not all Steampunks do this, nor should they feel they have to.

    There are also many in the Steampunk community who have discussions and debate on these very subjects in great detail, just as is occuring here. There are also those who simply enjoy dressing up and meeting people in a pleasant and friendly community and many in between.

    The issue is not really about if Steampunk literature should reflect the darker social and political side of Victorian times and comment or examine it. It should, and I don’t think anyone really disputes that. The issue is that the comment Steampunk is ‘fascism for nice people’ and the authors well known and publicly declared distain of the Steampunk community has combined to offended or upset people who see it as they themselves being branded fascist in a public forum.

    Remember that Steampunk isn’t actually historical, it may follow historical themes and echo historical events but it is not historical. Most people in the Steampunk community simply enjoy the warmth and social interaction that it brings, they enjoy dressing up and being ‘splendid’. This does not mean they are either fascists or cold hearted bigots who choose to forget historical and political injustices of the past and it is deeply unfair of many of you here to imply this is the case.

    As a serious re-enactor of over 25 years who does regularly tackle dark historical themes (including slavery, murder and religious bigotry amoungst others) I actually enjoy the light hearted, mildly satirical and polite Steampunk community as a nice break from it all. Yet, if I choose to, such themes are available within the community to explore and discuss and many historically accurate Victorian based re-enactment societies exist as another excellent outlet for such thoughts.

    The Steampunk community may not be for you and you may share the authors view it should remain as purely a literary genre, but please don’t assume that all, indeed even most, Steampunks are uncaring Imperialistic bigots who revel in past ‘glory’. I can say from first hand experience that that view is utterly wrong.

  24. This is surely about the Steampunk genre, not Steampunk subculture.

    Genre mutates while subculture dictates.

    The original Steampunk stories were pure fantasy with a touch of laudanum-laced pseudohistorical licence. To be honest, the idea of punk as a reaction against the establishment wasn’t particularly visible within those early tales.

    Modern Steampunk fiction occasionally touches upon the antiestablishment viewpoint, but it doesn’t change the fact that most stories within the genre simply revisit scientific romance with hindsight, or else offer their readers a glimpse of alternate histories inspired by historical possibilities.

    Scientific romance hardly evokes a punk edge, but the naïveté of the “Imperialist civilizers of lesser nations” is surely more about the imposition of moral values than anything else.

    Alternate histories clearly should, and do, explore the consequences of the societal models they present, but that’s more about the author than it is about the genre. No author has a duty to expose their audience to, or to protect them from, the dark side of history. They just tell it as they choose.

    Whatever Steampunk now *is* or will become, the fact remains that it is driven by two things: who the publishers *think* are their target audience, and what genre they *want* to fit the books into.

    The perceived audience is presumably (and, in my view, erroneously) the Steampunk subculture, who aren’t about politics but aesthetics. The harsh reality is that the wearing of brass goggles and frock coats isn’t seen as particularly sabulous, and therefore a publisher sees Steampunk more as light entertainment than as a prize winning docu-drama. This means that many uncomfortable historical truths will be glossed over in favour of the adventure. 

    Again, this is based on the numbers, not on the genre. By all means criticise the choices that publishers make, but ultimately those choices are about the demographic.

    Compare Verne with Dickens. The former is offering up pure escapism while the latter is consciously offering up a social commentary. Are either of them less representative of the Victorian age? or less popular because of their idealogical standpoint?

    Similarly, compare Wells with Haggard or Kipling. The former considers the often negative consequences of scientific discovery, while the latter tell jolly good yarns that occasionally read as un-PC because time for the reader has moved on. Oddly, many readers miss Wells’ moral lessons but feel mildly queasy about the behaviour and attitudes of traditional Victorian heroes.

    It is for the author to decide if they offer up a gritty, historically accurate anti-Imperialist viewpoint or to simply emulate the language and ignorance of the Victorian Age, not the genre.

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  29. Adrian Middleton’s glib dismissal that Kipling ‘occasionally reads as un-PC’ tells me more about the steampunk community then I’d ever want to know. There’s a lot of deeply racist assumptions ingrained in Kipling’s fiction and poetry and thorough praise of Empire – and while not in the mood to go on some scorching rant about it here I’d probably point out these three simple words: White Man’s Burden.

    And of course there’s the added bonus of using ‘un-PC’, as if PC wasn’t just a term thrown around by reactionary critics.

    Oh, and Tadhir, while I’d admittedly never heard of you before being linked this post, I found your Norman Spinradish short story absolutely hilarious

    • Glib in the superficiality of the reference to Kipling, yes, but I’d rather say my comments were restrained, and they certainly werent about excusing the jingoism of period writers: quite the opposite. In the context of my reply the reference to political correctness is very much an ironic observation, as there was no such thing when Kipling was writing in the zenith of Empire, and the racism of that time was very much endemic BECAUSE of the innately fascist nature of a conquering Empire.

      I’m not part of Steampunk culture, so much as an outside observer who occasionally dips a toe into the genre, but to me the ‘punk’ label means that Steampunk should be told from the perspective of the outsider, and not from the self-congratulatory Imperialist point-of-view. This is mostly picked up in the casting of suffragettes as viewpoint characters, and there seems to be a lack of genuine outsiders as they would be defined by the period. Most Steampunk heroes remain terribly British, having their outsider viewpoint thrust upon them by circumstance rather than birth. Where the likes of Haggard may have given us the badly portrayed supporting character (Umslopagaas springs to mind), it would certainly be nice to see more Steampunk challenging these archetypes and maybe turning them on their head, as even more modern stories seem to reinforce the idea that the post-colonial world is little more than a white man’s playground. Even Spielberg and Lucas perpetuate the concept of the great white hero with his army of ethnic sidekicks.

      However, while steampunk certainly provides authors with an opportunity for this kind of thing to be challenged (and I for one would be glad to see more of it), it doesn’t give them the responsibility to do so.

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  37. I heartily agree with your analysis. I’ve never really gotten into Steampunk for this reason — it glamorizes Victorian colonialism, enthrones the soft (or not so soft) racism of Kipling, glossing over it with adolescent gee-whiz gadgetry.

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