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Hitler Victorious Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 1987
From Publishers Weekly
Eleven well-known British writersM. Kornbluth, Hilary Bailey, Greg Bear, Keith Roberts, David Brin, Brad Linaweaver, Sheila Finch, Algis Budrys, Howard Goldsmith, Tom Shippey and Gregory Benfordcontribute tales that delineate a theme: even if the Nazis had won World War II, it would have been a hollow victory. The Germans portrayed here are as gray as the field-grade uniform. The settings range from a psychedelic trip by an American physicist in Los Alamos to a house haunted by the fetuses of murdered Jewish mothers to excerpts from Joseph Goebbels' postwar diaries. The volume has a seminal flaw, however. No matter how powerful the fiction or symbolic the myth, neither is as compelling as what actually happened during the years of the Third Reich.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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First, the age factor. This anthology was initially published in 1986, which means a quarter of century ago and I believe it aged less well than many others SF publications from this time. The world changed a lot in those last 25 years and some of the fears and concerns of the 80s seem less relevant today, as they mostly didn't materialise, when new and unexpected sources of evil appeared in most surprising places. This age issue is the most obvious in the opening story by C.M. Kornbluth (written in 1958). However, age is not everything, as the oldest story in the anthology (see below), written by Algis Budrys in 1957, is also in my opinion one of the two really great ones.
The difficulty of the topic is in my opinion the main reason behind the lack of success of most of those stories. Few subjects are as emotional as Nazism and it is easy for a writer to run into trouble even when the intention is to denounce the evil of this murderous ideology. This difficulty pushes often to take too many precautions and as a result, in an anthology called "Hitler victorious", almost every story ends with Hitler (or his successors) being ultimately defeated... Being Polish, and for that reason, according to Nazi ideology, destined to slavery as "Untermensch" (sub-human), I am extremely happy that III Reich was defeated and only regret that it took so long - that being said, when you want an anthology about "Hitler victorious", you should have the courage to select (or order) stories in which he is REALLY victorious. In that context the editors showed a certain lack of temerity...
Also, the weird neo-pagan ideology of Nazi regime and the byzantine complexity of III Reich's institutions make it an even more difficult task to write something sensible on this topic. As a result some authors tend to fall into completely psychedelic and ridiculous visions when trying to imagine a world in which Hitler won - like for example describing how in the 60s the SS created a race of genetically enhanced 7-feet tall blond blue-eyed super-warriors, after which they armed them with battleaxes...)))
Below you will find more information about the stories, with some limited SPOILERS:
"Two dooms" by Cyril M. Kornbluth - this story is in the same time very good and very weak.
The strong point is the moral dilemma of the main hero, described on the very first page - he is a scientist working for Manhattan Project and he just made a major break which will finally make it possible to build the atomic bomb; but he didn't tell anybody about it yet, because he is really not certain if it is in the interest of humanity to develop such a weapon, even if it is in order to use it against Axis powers.
The possibility of Axis victory and the menace of atomic weapons are the two dooms between which he will have to choose; a sort of dream in form of travel to the alternative world dominated by victorious Axis powers will help him decide...This hesitation reflects quite well what the author himself probably was thinking about this subject, as Kornbluth was quite left oriented in politics (he was member of the circle of Futurians, mostly left winged group of SF writers) and therefore rather a pacifist, but on another hand he was also a battle hardened veteran of WWII in which he fought as infantryman with great bravery, receiving even the Bronze Star for courage during the Battle of the Bulge; as his unit marched into Germany and discovered the concentration camps, he could see with his own eyes the evil against which he fought... Hence the dilemma which he and the hero of this story both faced. This story is also interesting as it is one of the very last Cyril M. Kornbluth wrote, just before his untimely death at young age of 34.
There is however one big weakness, in the description of the world dominated by the Nazis. For some reason Kornbluth decided that in this not so brave new world the science and the scientists would be viewed with suspicion and subject to persecution - which is quite absurd as the neo-pagan ideology developed by Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler had a lot against Judaism and Christianity, but absolutely nothing against science; and the scientists (and especially engineers of all kind) were always held in great esteem by this regime (just think about Werner von Braun...). Also, now that the Cold War is over and nobody used atomic weapons in war since 1945, the fear of an atomic conflict is today much lesser than in 1958. Those two things make this story just an honest one, instead of a possible masterpiece.
"The fall of Frenchy Steiner" by Hilary Bailey - that story is rather good in its description of Great Britain after 20 years of Nazi occupation and especially in the economic aspects of daily life in those dark times. The scarcity of food described in this story really happened in Nazi occupied countries of Eastern Europe (especially in Ukraine and Poland) between 1941 and 1944 but also in Netherlands during the winter 1944-45. The ending of the story is however much weaker, although I really appreciated the absolutely unique weapon (quite widely available and not so hard to use...) which causes the doom of III Reich at the end...)))))
"Through road no whither" by Greg Bear - in my opinion the worst story in the collection - around 1985 in France still under Nazi occupation two German officers are lost in the woods and make a strange encounter. I absolutely can't understand why this story is considered such a classic that I found it already in three different anthologies as I found it completely without interest - but it is also mercifully short
"Weichnachtsabend" by Keith Roberts - this story is very famous amongst SF fans and I was expecting a lot from it - but I found it surprisingly disappointing and even by moments ridiculous, because of the grotesque ways in which the villains are acting. Now I am certain that in 1972, when it was first published, it could be a shocker - but since then there were so many "III Reich victorious" stories that the subject lost much of its "fire power". And the story itself is simply weak, with actions of the protagonists not making much sense. But, if you do not know it yet, read it and make up your own mind.
"Thor meets Captain America" by David Brin - I believe this story is the SECOND BEST in the whole collection. The title can be misleading so I prefer to inform you straight away, that in this story you will NOT meet the heroes from Marvel comic books. Instead you will find a story in which the hardly pressed Nazis used the darkest possible magic to summon help - and now both them and allies are stuck with the consequences... A very well thought and very well written story with unique atmosphere and an extremely dark deep secret which, when finally revealed, shocked me to the core! Enjoy it, but be warned - it is tough stuff!
"Moon of Ice" by Brad Linaweaver - here, please be aware that it is just a part of a longer novel under the same title. The story takes place in 1965, it begins the day of Hitler's state funerals and has the form of diary written by Goebbels himself. The first half is not bad at all, but then it turns weirder and weirder - towards the end I felt more and more like in the old "Wolfenstein" computer game. The finale is simply ridiculous, at least to anybody who has even the slightest understanding how totalitarian regimes function, or even the smallest knowledge about Third Reich security apparatus and its hold on the population and the country. Ultimately, a big disappointment.
"Reichs-Peace" by Sheila Finch - this story mixes the good stuff with weird and ridiculous; the good is the description of a III Reich which not only won the WWII but also it reformed itself to the point that it doesn't persecute Jews and Gypsies anymore; in this reality Fuhrer's widow, Eva Braun, is a Nazi Empress Dowager and she holds a kind of regency in the name of her young son; the III Reich has also won the space race and in 1969 the first men on the moon are Nazi astronauts... the principal story line however is totally ridiculous and the solution of all the mystery simply idiotic beyond any description.
"Never meet again" by Algis Budrys - to my personal taste, this is the BEST story in this collection; Algis Budrys (deceased in 2008) was a Lithuanian refugee, before becoming an American citizen. As his country was successively invaded and occupied first by USSR in 1940, then by the III Reich in 1941 and then again by USSR in 1944, he knew a lot about totalitarian regimes and their oppression of invaded nations - and it shows well in this very good, very twisted and very very sad story about a desperate escape to an alternative world...
"Do ye hear the children weeping?" by Howard Goldsmith - a rather weak and very predictable ghost story; the one redeeming thing about it is its shortness
"Enemy transmissions" by Tom Shippey - that one is situated in the 60s, twenty years after Axis victory in WWII; it is rather good and it describes very successfully and even with some (very dark) humour the nonsensical and weird racial ideology of the III Reich; the plot is not bad but at one moment author painted himself into a corner and had to use a "deus ex machina" solution to get out - that reduces the rating of this story from masterpiece to "rather good"
"Valhalla" by Gregory Benford - this one begins with Hitler and Eva Braun preparing to commit suicide on the 30th of April 1945, as Red Army soldiers are pushing through the last line of defence around the ruins of Reich Chancellery; for that reason it is not really a story about Axis victory and I do not understand why it figures in this collection. It is also a rather dull thing with the plot not making sense at all.
The worst of the lot is from the normally reliable Greg Bear. His "Through No Road Whither" has SS officers from an alternate 1985 Germany get their just deserts after crossing the path of a Gypsy woman. There is almost no explanation for this alternate timeline, no exploration of its details. The ghosts of fetuses experimented on by a death camp doctor come back to wreck justice in Howard Goldsmith's "Do Ye Hear the Children Weeping?", but it's not as moving as it wants to be and we learn little about this world except that Nazi genocide proceeded apace and, somehow, America fell under Nazi rule. Editor Gregory Benford at least provides something of an interesting alternative in "Valhalla" which has the Third Reich only surviving till 1947 -- but that's long enough to complete its plans of racial extermination. But the inhabitants of another timeline asserting their jurisdiction over Hitler and his pending judgement are little more than empty wish fufillment.
Long before the Nazi-occult was established in pop culture -- if less firmly in history -- Hilary Bailey's 1964 story, "The Fall of French Steiner", featured sort of a prophecying Nazi Vestal Virgin. That, of course, puts a different spin on the title. Shelia Finch's "Reichs-Peace" provides a somewhat detailed alternate history and some realistic technological jargon before veering off on a plot involving Romany pre-disposition to telepathy. The story also suffers from an implausibly influential Eva Braun and that peculiar 1980s fear that America was headed towards theocracy. (Here America is ruled by an isolationist Protestant government that forbids science fiction!)
The flavor of fantasy is strongest in David Brin's peculiar "Thor Meets Captain America". This melange of military adventure, the Norse gods, high tech, alternate history, magic, comic books, and slapstick really shouldn't work. But it does and quite well. It's definitely one of the high points of the book.
Several of the stories postulate sort of an alternate Cold War with the Nazis filling in for the USSR. (Of course, all the stories in the book were written during the Cold War.) That flavor is strongest in the oldest story here, Algis Budrys' "Never Meet Again" from 1957. Budrys is the only author here to have actually seen, as a small Lithuanian boy, Hitler in person. The USSR, which occuppied Budrys' homeland, also chills the soul of his protagonist who flees a prosperous Germany -- and a regime which indirectly killed his wife when she was in a concentration camp -- for a better world. Unfortunately, what he gets is a Russian occuppied East Berlin.
The nuclear apocalypse so much in the public mind during the Cold War features in C. M. Kornbluth's 1958 story "Two Dooms". The dooms in question aren't the Japan and Germany that have occuppied an alternate America but the hero's choice -- a world of nuclear weapons or a world of fascist tyranny. It was also interesting to see a characteristic Kornbluth theme, overpopulation, show up here too.
Another sort of Cold War also features in Tom Shippey's "Enemy Transmissions" which even reflects, in its discussions of space weapons built by the Germans and Americans as each vies, client states in tow, for world supremacy, similar discussions in our version of 1985. Shippey's basic plot centers around the science of prophetic dreams, the discipline which lead Hitler to make wiser decisions about technological development than he did in our world. But literary critic Shippey, in his first piece of fiction, does what the best stories in this anthology do: not give us easy stories of Nazis being punished but, rather, show us the culture and mindset and politics of worlds where Nazis thrive.
Besides Brin's and Shippey's tales, the strongest stories here are Brad Linaweaver's "Moon of Ice", an early run of his excellent novel of the same name, and Keith Roberts' "Weihnachtsabend". Told through Joseph Goebbels' diaries, "Moon of Ice" gives us a Hitler reflectiive on his deathbed, Nazi cinema and pseudo-science, intrigue, a Dr. Mabuse-like figure, and SS men so fanatical they regard Goebbels as a traitor. It's also a family drama with two of his children choosing very different paths from him. Roberts give us a characteristically English story of a Nazi England returning to its thinly veiled pagan roots. Among the wonderful description of land and storm, Roberts gives us one of his tales of futile, despondent rebellion. I don't think it's a coincidence that the anthology's best stories, with the exception of Brin, feature protagonists who are, themselves, part of the Nazi machine.
The allure of that machine and, especially, its symbols and fantasies, is explored in Norman Spinrad's introduction. Hack sword-and-sorcery author Adolf Hitler intuitively grasps these concepts in Spinrad's alternate history The Iron Dream.
Benford's preface gives a good overview of the "Hitler Wins" sub-genre of alternate history -- at least in the English language.
There are some weak stories here, but there are enough good stories, and four really good stories, to make this anthology worth the time.