Norman Spinrad has published over twenty novels in the last fifty years. He became affiliated with science fiction’s New Wave when he began to contribute to Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds magazine during the 1960s. His 1969 novel Bug Jack Barron, serialized in New Worlds, provoked a firestorm of controversy for its forthright depiction of sex, drugs, and radical politics. Spinrad continued to push the satirical envelope with The Iron Dream (1972), written in the persona of an alternate-history Adolf Hitler who, having failed as a dictator, becomes instead a bestselling heroic fantasy writer, author of a series called “Lord of the Swastika.” Other major works include the space operas The Void Captain’s Tale (1983) and Child of Fortune (1985), which infuse the subgenre with an erotic edge. His novel Mexica still has not found an American publisher, and the future publishing prospects of his next two novels, Welcome to Your Dreamtime and Police State, are also uncertain.
“The inside of the studio was actually the inside of a hundred million television sets. There was a creature bearing his name that lived in there (seeing out through monitor eyes, hearing with vidphone ears, monitoring its internal condition through prompt-board kinesthetic senses, shifting image-gears with the foot-buttons, ordering, threatening, granting grace all through the circuitry and satellites of that great gestalt of electronic integration, the network, into which he was wired, the masterswitch in the circuit) for one hour a week, a creature indeed, designed and built by him like a Frankenstein android, a creature of his will but only a segment of his total personality.”
—from Bug Jack Barron
Norman Spinrad: Bug Jack Barron was a transformational novel for me and not just in terms of my literary reputation, which it made, and, I guess I dare say it since it has been said often enough by others, for speculative fiction as a whole, and the irony of it was that it probably would not have been written the way it was, or even perhaps at all were it not for a certain naiveté on my part.
My third novel, The Men In the Jungle, was first conceived as a novelette for Harlan Ellison’s deliberately taboo-breaking original anthology Dangerous Visions — where the rules were no rules, where taboos existed to be broken — and it metamorphosed into a novel that ended up published by Doubleday, whose SF editor, Larry Ashmead, had no complaints. Indeed, like Harlan, he told me not to concern myself with genre limits, sexual content, politics, or any other taboos or constraints, so when I wrote the next novel, which would be Bug Jack Barron, under contract to Doubleday, I naively took him at his word.
The initial inspiration for Bug Jack Barron was the way the question of immortality was generally treated in science fiction — that is, no one had seriously dealt with the inevitability that it would initially be very expensive, and that it would confer enormous political power on whoever controlled it, indeed on whoever might even be able to promise it one way or another. The political consequences, a...read more