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Schicklgrubers on Parade

2. Are we not the Super-Men?


The Third Reich has been called "a little 12-year vacation from humanity," and as someone said, "only off by 988 years!"

We're almost sixty years from the end of it, and still it haunts us.

Not only that; it started haunting people even before it happened.

There's an entry in the SF Encyclopedia called Hitler Wins, and there are references to it scattered all over the same book.

The earliest are Storm Jameson's In the Second Year (1936) and Katherine Burdekin's (under the name Murray Constantine) Swastika Night from 1937. These novels were written, respectively, only three and four years after the NSDAP came to power. At the time, all Germany's troubles were internal (the race laws, the take-back of the Saar) — there were only the faintest murmurs of lebensraum, the occasional hairy eyeball at the Sudetenland and Austria and the Polish Corridor.... Besides, Hitler has an Olympics to put on, and a shiny new National Socialist face to show the world....

These writers had their snouts in the wind; what they picked up (as I once said) smelled a whole lot like burning human flesh, and they had visions, like Orwell, of "a boot stamping on a human face — forever."

And, as the SF Encyclopedia goes on to tell us, any story or novel written about Hitler Winning was not alternate history until May 10, 1945 — before then it was in the Dire warning/Future Invasion mode, like The Battle of Dorking (1871).

What we got, once the war broke out ("De Chermans. Dey comink." — the grandfather in Herman Wouk's The Winds of War), we got some of those, too. The list (it says here) goes Loss of Eden (When Hitler Comes) by Douglas Brown and Christopher Serpell (1940), the (truly) inappropriately-named Grand Canyon by Vita Sackville-West (1942).

Storm Jameson (again) with Then We Shall Hear Singing (also '42); When the Bells Rang, by Anthony Armstrong and Bruce Graeme, and When Adolf Came by Martin Hawkins, both 1943.

The next two entries I could find are by someone names Harry Edmonds, who wrote the first true Hitler Wins novels, The Clockmaker of Heidelberg (1949) and The Rockets (Operation Manhattan) 1952.

That's leaving out Heinlein's first juvenile, Rocket Ship Galileo, the basis of Destination Moon, which hardly anybody remembers the plot of — when the intrepid Americans first reach the Moon, they find it's full of Nazis. Well, some Nazis anyway, there on their souped-up V-2s, during the last days of the war. (You can't get away from Hitler by leaving the Earth....)

The Fifties produced a couple of masterpieces of the genre — Sarban's (John W. Wall) The Sound of His Horn, set a hundred years after the conquest of England, where, like in Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game," undermen and other troublesome types are hunted down by a pseudo-Goering type, heir to the Third Reich.

Then there was Kornbluth's novelette, "Two Dooms." Not only does he posit Hitler Wins; if you read carefully, you'll find that Germany also won WWI — all this from the point of view of a conscience-ridden physicist at Los Alamos during WWII.

Two publications came out in 1960 — not SF, but speculative non-fiction by people who know their business, that led to a boom in Hitler Wins fiction later. In England, C.S. Forester wrote "If Hitler Had Invaded England" (There had been an earlier book in the late 1950s on Operation Sea Lion, Germany's plans for amphibious landings on the English Coast in 1940.) In America, Look ran William L. Shirer's "If Hitler Had Won WWII," going into the plans for each country, for a Berlin-to Baghdad autobahn — a thousand years of plans for everyone. (In the last days, in the bunker under the Chancellery, while Russian soldiers were blasting down the buildings a block away, suing 155mm howitzers like shotguns, Hitler was studying Speer's scale models of the monumental Pan-Germanic Festival Center to be built in his hometown of Linz, Austria, then some five hundred miles behind the Russian lines....) Shirer, coming off Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich, seemed to have read everything Hitler and the others — especially Himmler — had envisioned for the future. (A wave of speculation had gone through historians that year — Look also published MacKinlay Cantor's "If the South Had Won the Civil War.")

Soon after came Dick's masterpiece The Man in the High Castle (1962), which owes a direct debt to the Shirer article.

I'm not sure there's a cause-and-effect relationship with the Forester article, but the next thing that showed up - the film It Happened Here, about England under Hitler — took three years to complete, mostly on weekends and holidays, and was released (barely) in 1963. The co-directors were Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, and it was filmed in a semi-documentary fashion., using a non-professional cast (much like Peter Watkins' Culloden and The War Game).

Soon after came Hilary Bailey's "The Fall of Frenchy Steiner" (1964). And in 1972, another couple of hard looks — Keith Roberts' Weinachtsabend and Norman Spinrad's admirable The Iron Dream. (More about these works later.)

Slowly Hitler Winning was seeping out into the mainstream. There was Eric Norden's The Ultimate Solution (1973) and Frederick Mullalley's Hitler Has Won (1975). Then of course came a book not reviewed as SF at all: Len Deighton's SS-GB (1978).

And you could say Hitlers Win (or were supposed to) in Ira Levin's The Boys from Brazil (1976).

In the Eighties we got the definitive collection Hitler Victorious) (edited by Greenberg and Benford) — all the short stuff in one place; The Torch of Honor by Roger McBride Allen (1985) and Brad Linaweaver's Moon of Ice. Jerry Yulsman, who is known much better as a photographer, wrote Elleander Morning in 1984, in which supposedly everything is different because Hitler was killed as a young man. (I'm still looking for a copy.) [Editor's note: Howard, if you ever get Web access, click on the book name to find the book.]

With the Nineties, we got Robert Harris's Fatherland, and the Harry Turtledove WWII series — in those, everything is so different — including aliens — that I'm not sure they fit exactly in the Hitler Wins mode; it's a Whole Different WWII.

Neal Barrett wrote the comic-book script "Heilage Nacht" (which appeared in Mojo Press' Weird Business) set in San Antonio in 1949, which I can only describe as a cross between Visconti's The Damned and Suddenly, Last Summer....

I've written directly about Hitler twice - once, in "Der Untergang des Abendlandesmenschen," a pre-Beer Hall Putsch Hitler meets up with Nosferatu (1976), and "The Effects of Alienation," set in 1960: I wanted to see what the effect of Hitler winning WWII would have had on Peter Lorre, Shemp Howard, and Zero Mostel.

And now, some words about all these works themselves.


I C London, I C France, which may be the Web's most technologically primitive blog, is brought to you through the typing, proofreading, editorial, and coding efforts of Team Waldrop, also known as Mary Kay Kare (proudly reality-based) and L. Blunt Jackson (Seattle, Philadelphia, Tau Ceti), and via the steadfast couriers of the United States Postal Service. Much thanks to all involved!

New: Locus Magazine is offering a special deal on the issue with the superb Heart-of-Waldrop photo and interview. Che'ekidaou'ut.

Howard Waldrop is a legend in his own time. He writes, he fishes, he builds bookcases. He does not have a cellphone, a computer, or an email account.

For someone who is about as wired as an echidna, Howard has a pretty substantial online career. He has had a website since 1997. You can read The Ugly Chickens, The Other Real World, Winter Quarters, D = R x T, and his collaboration with Leigh Kennedy, One Horse Town, on SciFiction. Mary Margaret Roadgrader is available on the excellent Strange Horizons. He has an occasional column, Crimea River, on Electric Story. And now he has a blog. Go figure.

For additional embellishments of the Waldrop legend, see Who Is Howard Waldrop, Anyway? For extravagant lies about Howard, see Alternate Waldrops, on Strange Horizons. Howard's most recent books are Custer's Last Jump and Other Collaborations and Dream Factories and Radio Pictures. Buy 'em.

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