Cover of the Feminist Press edition of Swastika Night
|Publisher||Victor Gollancz Ltd|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|LC Class||PR6003.U45 S8 1985|
The novel was forgotten for many years, until it was republished in the 1980s.
The novel takes place seven hundred years after Nazism achieved power, by which time Adolf Hitler is worshipped as a god. Though no major character is a woman, the story concentrates on the oppression of women, portraying the Nazis as homosexual misogynists. Christians are marginalized, Jews eliminated, and women disenfranchised — deprived of all rights.
Germany and Japan won the "Twenty Years War" (analogous to World War II), the time that it took the Nazis to subdue the Soviet Union. The protagonist is an Englishman named Alfred on a German pilgrimage. In Europe, the English are loathed because they were the last opponents of Nazi Germany in the war. The story correctly postulates air power's importance in waging war. One of the religious sites Alfred was to visit was the "Sacred Aeroplane", which, according to long-established dogma, Hitler piloted on a mission to Moscow, thus achieving victory.
The drastic rewriting of history, after living memory of Hitler or the time when meaningful resistance to Germany existed, is the logical extension of Burdekin's contemporary view of Nazi Germany. Per official history, Hitler is a tall, blond god who personally won the war. Alfred is astounded when shown a secret, historic photograph depicting Hitler and a girl before a crowd. First, he is shocked that Hitler is a small man with dark hair and a paunch. The crowd seem more interested in the girl; this does not fit the worldview of Hitler as god. The photograph's most shocking betrayal of myth is the girl's appearance. Alfred believed her to be a boy — the attractive figure has a proud posture and long, blond hair — and is appreciated by the crowd. Women have developed self-loathing, becoming pathetic beings who have difficulty performing their sole, utilitarian function: reproduction.
Elsewhere, the Japanese rule the Americas, Australia, and Asia to the borders of European Russia and Persia. Though Japan is the only rival superpower to the Nazi West, their inevitable wars always end in stalemate. The fascist Germans and Japanese suffer much difficulty in maintaining their populations, because of the physical degeneration of their women. In the novel's conclusion, the SS murder Alfred, yet he passes the truth about Nazi history to his surviving son.
John Clute described Swastika Night as "a scathing feminist anatomy of war, sexism and power" and lists the novel as one of the "classic titles" of inter-war science fiction. Adam Roberts stated "Burdekin's pre-war story reads as horribly prescient and its feminist emphasis ... provides a very valid critique of fascism".
- Katherine Burdekin: Swastika Night: Old Westbury: Feminist Press: 1985: ISBN 0-935312-56-0
- Clute, John (1995). Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia. Dorling Kindersley. pp. 121, 215. ISBN 0751302023.
- Hopkins, Chris (2006). English Fiction in the 1930s: Language, Genre, History. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 138. ISBN 0826489389.
- Roberts, Adam. The History of Science Fiction. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0333970225 (p.171).
- Bleiler, Everett (1948). The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Chicago: Shasta Publishers. p. 83.
- Arnott, Jake (2012). The House of Rumour. Sceptre.