Dystopian fiction and radical politics
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
The Unparalleled Invasion
Jack London is best known as the adventure writer who penned "Call of the Wild," but he was also the author of a 1907 pro-socialist dystopian novel, The Iron Heel, which is often cited as a possible inspiration for The Turner Diaries.
There are a number of similarities, including the format of a fictional diary (discussed at more length in my new paper The Turner Legacy, available here on Friday, September 16), the inclusion of a forward by a future historian praising the discovery of the novel's "found document" text, and the general plot line of America's fall and redemption through violent revolution. The Iron Heel describes the takeover of America by an oligarchy, and the seeds of a socialist insurgency.
It may be hard to reconcile The Iron Heel's socialism with the far-right themes of The Turner Diaries, but its protagonist is described as “superman, a blond beast such as Nietzsche had described.” Scholars tend to characterize his views on race as “complicated.”[i]
London was no stranger to dystopian race-baiting. In 1910, London wrote a short story called The Unparalleled Invasion, foretelling the rise of an imperial China, which spread its racial menace the old-fashioned way -- its citizens procreating prolifically and migrating to European colonies, parroting popular racial stereotypes of the day.[ii] As London wrote:
The real danger lay in the fecundity of [China’s] loins, and it was in 1970 that the first cry of alarm was raised. … there were more Chinese in existence than white-skinned people. … There were two Chinese for every white-skinned human in the world … and the world trembled.
In the story’s conclusion, which William Pierce may have admired, an American scientist invents a potent biological weapon, which is employed to genocidal effect by the U.S. and its European allies. The population of China is decimated by an engineered plague, and most of the few survivors are butchered by an invasion force, leaving the empty country to be resettled “according to the democratic American programme.”
This theme is echoed in a later work published by Pierce's neo-Nazi National Alliance. Serpent's Walk is attributed to an author called Randolph D. Calverhall, although some have speculated that Pierce may written it under a pseudonym (as he had his previous racist novels, Turner and Hunter). Written in the 1990s, Serpent's Walk is a science-fiction dystopia set in the early 21st Century, featuring the return of the Nazi S.S., wielding lasers and helped by a holographic artificial intelligence. But the major plot thread involves a multipolar biological warfare campaign that wipes out much of the world's population, paving the way for a new global Nazi Reich.
For more on the literary and political strains that shaped The Turner Diaries, read my new paper for ICCT -- The Hague, The Turner Legacy, available here.
[i] Reesman, Jeanne Campbell. Jack London's Racial Lives: A Critical Biography. University of Georgia Press, 2011.
RESEARCH STATUSBooks/short stories read: 95
Films and TV series watched: 124
THE TURNER LEGACY
The Turner Diaries, the infamous racist dystopian novel by neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce, has inspired more than 200 murders since its publication in 1978, including the single deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, the Oklahoma City bombing.
The book is arguably the most important single work of white nationalist propaganda in the English language, but it is not a singular artifact. The Turner Diaries is part of a genre of racist dystopian propaganda dating back to the U.S. Civil War. A new paper from J.M. Berger documents the books that directly and indirectly inspired Turner and examine the extensive violence that the novel has inspired.
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ABOUTJ.M. Berger is an author, consultant and analyst studying extremism. He is an associate fellow with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism -- The Hague and a fellow with George Washington University's Program on Extremism. For more about Berger, click here.
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