... Norman Spinrad on SF, Iron Dreams and commercial censorship
: The quick answer is anything published as SF. The serious answer is that the fantasy incorporated into SF is the fiction of the impossible, and the science fiction is the fiction of the possible though not necessarily probable. I detest the whole concept of genre, and I believe it is dying out, slain by tv, movies, video games, delivering its formulaic content better, easier, and more vividly
: I was home from school sick for several days and someone gave me a pile of sf magzines to read.
: Its called POLICE STATE, its set in New Orleans in the near future, and its about a leftist takeover... by the police. It will first be published in France by Fayard, but since I havent finished writing it yet, theres no publication date. Probably Spring of 2012.
: I never believed the simple poltical or economic theories about how something like the Third Reich could take over a country like Germany. And I had a conversation with Michael Moorcock about how to write formula heroic fantasy, in which he said something like just pick a myth, or a historical template, and crank a lot of Freudian and phallic imagery through it. And it clicked, I saw the psychological relationship between Nazi imagery and psychosexual neurosis and space opera of the period. Hitler, after all, was a big fan of Wagnerian opera.
Pictures at 11, or anyway the German aspect, came out of something my friend, the Ossie novelist Karl-Heinz Steinmuller said to me in relation to THE IRON DREAM: why dont you write something about the German reunification. I had been in Leipzig during the reunification process, and visted Karl Marx University, and thats how an unemployable Ossie history professor with a degree from there became the Green Army Commando leader, and I was also in East Berlin during part of it, and shown a building taken over by certain groups, which appeared to me as seeming like a hiring hall for unemployed terrorists.
: Who knows? I seldom think more than one book ahead.
: Heyne Verlag was very supportive during 8 years of legal battles. And in the end, we did win. And aside from the German court case, the novel, which was published in a dozen or more countries and extensively reviewed, was almost never misunderstood.
: Yes, if you want to call it subtle. I read almost all of the court cases material (in German, in which I am not all that fluent)and it seemed to boil down to: We understand that this is an anti-Nazi novel, but people who are stupider than we are, particularly young people, might not.
Besides which, the novel was not intended as Youth Literature. LORD OF THE SWASTIKA, the internal novel written by Hitler was indeed a piece of Nazi propaganda in a way, or a satire of it. The French novelist Roland Wagner wrote a very interesting forward to one of the French editions. He came from a Pied Noir background, and when he read the novel as a young teenager, it turned his political consciousness around in a postive anti-fascist direction. Exactly what I intended the novel to do for young people!
: Yes, I might be the last person to have read MEIN KAMPF all the way through. I also found a little known book that Hitler had written about foreign policy and plowed through it too. But the most useful book was HITLERS DINNER CONVERSATIONS. For several years, Martin Bormann sat in the corner taking down shorthand records of everything that Hitler said over dinner. Hitler in his own natural voice.
: The world was indeed ready for such a novel. It made my reputation, it was translated world-wide, and its still in print in several languages. And it helped break science fiction out of the kind of literature for youth stereotyping that created a kind of commercial censorship, and not only in Germany.
: No taboos seem to remain unbroken. But PICTURES AT 11 is a kind of JACK BARRON up to date. And, well, I suppose GREENHOUSE SUMMER, in which both Communism and Capitalism have fallen and been replaced by something like Syndicalist Anarchism might have run into taboos if Communism had been the dominant economic model of that future.
: I dont think of style that way. There is no Spinrad style. I believe that literary style is the only means of conveying the consciousness style of the characters, and so the prose style should vary with the consciousness of the characters, the ambiance of the setting, and so forth. Sometimes I call this Method Writing, like Stanislavsky Method Acting. I try to become the viewpoint character in each scene when Im writing it, telling the story from the inside.
: I was well aware of the tactics of the Baader-Meinhof Gang in trying to provoke the German government into being represive enought generate revolution against it. It didnt work, but it wouldnt surprise me to learn that Osama bin Laden was consciously trying to do the same thing. Indeed after 9/11, he said that he would destroy American democracy. In effect creating the Great Satan.
There is always an internal tension in a democracy forced to defend its democratic principles against an enemy out to destroy them without violating them itself. See A WORLD BETWEEN, which is centrally about this paradox.
And a novel that I havent been able to get published in the US that was just published in France is OUSSAMA in French and OSAMA THE GUN in English. A kind of sympathy for the jihadhist devil--now theres a taboo that at least American publishers are scared shitless of violating!
: A lot of novels like that are being written. But an sf writer should never, ever, put a specific date in a story of the relatively near future, let alone the title!
: Excellent thoughtful questions.