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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A world in which things turned out differently than in our own. See also FALSE REALITY, Philip K. DICK, HITLER LOST, STEAMPUNK.
Hitler quote taken from Hitler’s Table Talk: 1941-1944, ed. by Hugh Trevor-Roper