Show Less
Open access

Science Fiction Literature in East Germany


Sonja Fritzsche

East German science fiction enabled its authors to create a subversive space in another time and place. One of the country’s most popular genres, it outlined futures that often went beyond the party’s official version. Many utopian stories provided a corrective vision, intended to preserve and improve upon East German communism. This study is an introduction to East German science fiction. The book begins with a chapter on German science fiction before 1949. It then spans the entire existence of the country (1949-1990) and outlines key topics essential to understanding the genre: popular literature, socialist realism, censorship, fandom, and international science fiction. An in-depth discussion addresses notions of high and low literature, elements of the fantastic and utopia as critical narrative strategies, ideology and realism in East German literature, gender, and the relation between literature and science. Through a close textual analysis of three science fiction novels, the author expands East German literary history to include science fiction as a valuable source for developing a multi-faceted understanding of the country’s short history. Finally, an epilogue notes new titles and developments since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Show Summary Details
Open access

Chapter Five Utopian Realism – The Case of Eberhardt Del Antonio's Return of the Forefathers

Chapter Five

Utopian Realism in Eberhardt Del Antonio’s

Return of the Forefathers

The dream of today is the reality of tomorrow!1

Then, some authors were considered to be wanton dreamers, visionaries – but even the boldest fantasy is not sufficient to imagine and portray our diverse reality in its entirety. To show that the sacrificial labor needed to build a new society was worth it, that it bore ample fruit.2

For the contemporary reader of Anglo–American science fiction, often accustomed to dystopian cultural narratives of degeneration and distrust, the utopian realist texts of East German science fiction might seem hopelessly naive and misguided. However, as Fredric Jameson has pointed out, the ideology of another culture is always more visible from the outside and is consequently labeled “utopian” in the pejorative sense (“Progress” 155). From such a distance it is easier to perceive the rootedness of an apparently ahistorical ideology in the specific events of the space and time that surround it. One should therefore not treat the genre of science fiction as a mirror of such events, as a “symptom of and reflex of historical change” as Jameson suggests (149). This approach demystifies and locates a text’s vision(s) as an aesthetic reflection upon the historical and cultural circumstances from whence it emerged. ← 131 | 132

This chapter addresses Eberhardt Del Antonio’s Heimkehr der Vorfahren (Return of the Forefathers, 1966) as a representative of utopian realism. It demonstrates how Eberhardt Del Antonio’s position as a member of the generation of Germans, which experienced defeat in World War II and the construction of an East German state, influenced his writing. Del Antonio’s Marxist–Leninist convictions and active adherence to official cultural policy shaped his science fiction. Through his stories, he hoped to re-educate and redirect the efforts of German amateur and professional technical intellectuals towards the construction of what he believed would culminate in a peaceful and global, communist society. Del Antonio emphasized the importance of a rational “dreaming ahead” through a scientific model based on cybernetics. His look into a socialist future presents a multifaceted vision of a technologically advanced, peaceful society populated by the ideal socialist person as an attainable goal. Placed in the context of the still immediate destruction of World War II, Del Antonio integrated a belief in the superiority of German technology into the communist narrative of scientific progress.

As utopian science fiction, Del Antonio’s text proved unstable in its visions. While he affirmed the hegemonic ideology of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) to which he subscribed, he also simultaneously undermined its interpretation of reality. The novel possesses formal tensions inherent to utopian realism. Heavily influenced by the Marxist–Leninist emphasis on the “real” and rational, the text simultaneously projected an imperfect future beyond what was perceived as the “end of history.” It is this future dialectic as well as the broadness of its utopian vision, which set apart Del Antonio’s text from his contemporaries.

Del Antonio portrays a static perfection in his novel, evident in its perpetual ethic of technological progress and the subsequent establishment of the cybernetic, socialist Earth. However, through his vision of the new socialist family, he also exposes the flaws in the premise of women’s emancipation in socialism and the political and cultural realities of the East German paternal, foundational narrative. The final section of this chapter addresses the affirmative and oppositional aspects present in Del Antonio’s text through his portrayal of the Communist woman and family of the future. In ← 132 | 133 this way, he articulated a voice separate from that of the SED’s official vision of the future. It is this voice that represents the outside or the blurring between what David Bathrick has termed an existence both inside and outside of the hegemonic ideology of the GDR (Powers 20–21).

Finally, Return of the Forefathers (Return) distinguishes itself from other early East German science fiction through a point of tension between the utopian and the “real,” the inside and the outside. This conflict focuses on notions of gender inequality in East Germany in the 1960s. Close textual analysis reveals the manner in which Return retains yet vastly redefines the structure of the bourgeois nuclear family in a communist future. The resultant new definition of the socialist family and incorporates traditional bourgeois definitions and official assumptions about the “socialist personality.” It also goes beyond both to present a more progressive view regarding women’s emancipation. Moreover, through its main female protagonist and its vision of the family, this particular science fiction text presents a view of the socialist woman and family alternate to that supported by the state and cultural institutions of East Germany in the 1960s. In doing so, Del Antonio addresses the institution of the family as a means of discussing unequal gender roles as the cause of conflict in many interpersonal relationships. Return does not resolve contradictions with the establishment of socialist gender equality. Nonetheless, Del Antonio saw the eradication of inter-personal conflict as a means of establishing a building block for peace based upon his revised definition of the nuclear family model.

Technology and the New Socialist Nationalism

Inspired by a utopian faith in scientific progress, the defeat of German technology in World War II led the first generation of East German science fiction authors to place new hope in the scientific socialism of Marxism–Leninism. The newly established German Democratic Republic promised to build a peaceful Germany based on a similar ← 133 | 134 belief in technological advancement. Since the latter half of the nineteenth century, Germany had been a conscious leader in scientific research and development as well as in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.3 Among the advances in military weaponry during World War II, rocket technology and the production of an atomic payload remained a central area of competition between Germany and the Allies. German popular interest in this technology before and during the war is evident in the existence of numerous model rocket clubs and in the popularity of Hans Dominik and other German science fiction authors of the twenties.4 The defeat of the German war machine in 1945 also signaled the failure of the science and technology of the Third Reich. A belief in the superiority of German technology had long formed an integral part of national identity. The central role of technological advancement within Marxist–Leninist ideology provided an opportunity to re-channel a desire for such progress in a new direction.

Born in the state of Saxony in Germany, Eberhardt Del Antonio (1926–1997) learned to love technology at an early age from his father, who was of Italian heritage. He first worked as a metal worker, then as a technical illustrator and began an engineering degree before he was drafted into the German navy in 1944. After time spent in a prisoner-of-war camp in the Allied Zone, and related compulsory work at odd jobs, he returned home with falsified papers to what was then the Soviet Sector. In 1951, he joined a Meissen workshop, which illegally developed rocket technology for non-military purposes, and later became head of the Büro für Erfindungswesen (Bureau of Inventions).5 Although he never joined a political party, ← 134 | 135 Del Antonio remained actively engaged in the project of the Socialist Unity Party.6

During his time in Meissen, Del Antonio began to write. The workshop director encouraged him in this regard. After the director acquired funding for a position from the Ministerien für Kultur und Schwermaschinenbau (Ministries of Culture and Heavy Machinery), he made Del Antonio responsible for the shop’s “cultural development.” In 1953, Del Antonio joined the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Junger Autoren (Association of Young Authors) in Dresden and completed a distance-learning course in film psychology. Soon after, editor Ekkehard Redlin at the Verlag Das Neue Berlin (New Berlin Publishers) as well as editors at Rütten and Leoning encouraged him to write science fiction. His first book, Gigantum, appeared in the Verlag Das Neue Berlin in 1957, the year of Sputnik and one year after the Hungarian uprising. A series of books followed: Titanus (1959), Project Sahara (1962), and the sequel to Titanus, Return of the Forefathers (1966). In 1959, Del Antonio joined the German Writer’s Union and eventually became the head of its Dresden branch (Redlin, “Eberhardt Del Antonio” 428–429). Although he remained active in the science fiction scene, he did not publish again until 1988 with Okeanos. Always a consistent seller, Del Antonio continued to draw income from the successive editions of his first books and their translations into Hungarian, Czech, and Slovakian until 1989. In February 1997, he died at his home in Dresden.

Self-appointed as a developer of a new tradition of German science fiction, Del Antonio intended to recapture the weakened sense of (East) German national pride. He hoped to redefine the vision of German technological success and to incorporate it into the postfascist, foundational narrative of a socialism that used science only for the furtherment of peace (“Für oder wider” 37). Redlin, his editor, remembered the effect of Del Antonio’s novels: ← 135 | 136

We said, we do not know anything about science, and the first books were those by Eberhardt Del Antonio. They focused more on technology. He was an engineer. And technology then was of key importance to national self-esteem. Germany had been defeated, had collapsed. We had so little national pride and then he and our technology came. We had to develop it and he had certain plans. And that was successful with young readers. (Personal interview, 1999).

An avid science fiction reader himself, Del Antonio believed science fiction to be the ideal medium with which to (re)interest the populace in a subject that lay central to Marxism–Leninism and with which to illustrate the intimate link between enlightened scientific progress and historical materialism.7 Del Antonio’s texts often responded to policy issues present in the New Course (Neuer Kurs or NK) of 1952 and, a decade later, in the New Economic System of the Planning and Direction of the People’s Economy (NÖSPL) of 1963, as outlined by the Central Committee of the SED. Although he wrote for technical intellectuals, Del Antonio also emphasized science fiction’s pedagogical function. He sought to interest young people in science and technology, so that they might pursue careers and become leaders in this area.8 Del Antonio demonstrated his voluntary compliance with these policies in his article “Für oder wider utopische Literatur” (“For or against utopian literature”):

Next to the adventure novel, science fiction [der Zukunftsroman] is especially suitable to steer the youthful spirit of adventure in a healthy direction. It leads them to the ‘technical adventure,’ that allows young adults to tap into a rich and sensible field of activity, and corresponds absolutely to their wish to test their burgeoning abilities. (38).

By appealing to young readers’ sense of adventure and need for entertainment, Del Antonio wished to capture their imagination by ← 136 | 137 illustrating the primacy of the utopian “end goal” of communist ideology.

And [science fiction], itself an expression of the far sightedness of Marxism, points again and again to the primacy of the final goal. We are at the beginning of a developmental process. We will free ourselves from the shackles of a dark past on this course (37).

Del Antonio emphasized the challenges that lay ahead from a temporal position in the 1950s at the beginning of an emergence from a “dark [German] past” (37).

Julia Hell describes the process in which Marxist–Leninist ideology rewrote the individual fictions of memory through a sweeping declaration of itself and its citizens as anti-fascist (25). The science fiction of this period also served to displace preoccupations with the past by a concern for the future. Along socialism’s teleological time line, those activities or behaviors that Del Antonio identified as fascist in origin also became “archaic” or “childish.” Science and technology was not a backward destructive measure as in the “fascist West” exemplified by Nazism, Oppenheimer’s participation in the Manhattan Project, and the escalating Cold War. Rather, it became a progressive means towards the “inevitable” establishment of world, socialist peace.9 More than merely an escape from the recent past, these fictions appropriated and maintained the continuity of a notion of German future progress present since the Enlightenment. Fredric Jameson describes science fiction as a genre that, since Jules Verne, has “registered some nascent sense of the future” precisely in “the space on which a sense of the past had once been inscribed” (“Progress” 150). Where Jameson refers to the transition in historical consciousness between the pre-modern and modern historical periods, this statement applies to the more specific context of East Germany in the immediate post-war period. By reaching forward, towards the coming horizon, Del Antonio and his fellow colleagues in science ← 137 | 138 fiction engaged in the rewriting of the national past and present as history through the future.

The Utopian and the “Real”

Through his early scientific education and ensuing literary career, Del Antonio had much in common with both the writers of the Anglo-American “Golden Age” of science fiction and German author, Hans Dominik. Like Dominik, Del Antonio set his first three novels in the near future, focusing heavily on the industrial and technological application of scientific discoveries. Where Dominik provided entertainment through the chauvinistic spy adventure, Del Antonio incorporated class conflict in terms of an escalating Cold War, and identified both West Germany and the United States as threats. Although somewhat vague in areas due to the politically sensitive nature of the technology, Gigantum focuses on the experimental dangers in developing new sources of energy in a future Germany. It thematizes the continued attempts of capitalist thieves to steal socialist technology. Project Sahara predicts socialist mastery over climactic and agricultural planning in the face of numerous incidents of capitalist sabotage. Moving into the age of space exploration following Sputnik and Vostok I, Titanus incorporates easily understandable descriptions of a three-stage rocket, experiences in zero gravity, and the dangers of asteroids in space travel. The theme of class conflict still appears between the planets of Titanus I and II, albeit displaced five years distant from Earth.10

Return of the Forefathers shares many aspects of Del Antonio’s earlier novels and also with works by his contemporaries Carlos Rasch, Lothar Weise, Horst Müller, and Herbert Ziergiebel. For in ← 138 | 139 stance, its scientific and societal visions are organized around the prevailing cybernetic theory. This theory held that the interaction and interconnectedness of all systems, including the social and economic worlds, could be understood and controlled through the core language of mathematics. Official cultural policy maintained that the Marxist– Leninist future would be attained through the rationalization of society unified and steered by a common belief in cybernetics. As Taylorist workers each have their function, are well trained for a common purpose, and work together smoothly, so does the crew of the Titanus and the communist Earth of Return. This future Earth functions as a well-integrated system both in the coordination of its infrastructure and the integration of the individual members of its population.

What distinguishes Return as utopia from other contemporary science fiction is Del Antonio’s well-rounded vision of the future communist person and the world she or he occupies. In contrast to his contemporaries, Del Antonio defined his characters not merely by their position in a well-ordered research lab or ship, but also endowed them with an appreciation for select cultural advances including the fine arts. Here, the influence of Soviet writer Ivan Efremov is apparent. Efremov’s novel Andromeda (Tumannost’ Andromedy, 1957) set a literary precedent for an expanded notion of the real in science fiction publications in the Soviet Union and East Germany.11 He provided a sweeping view one thousand years into the future of a global communist society organized on the cybernetic model and on the brink of contact with other distant races through a universal communications network known as the Big Ring.12 ← 139 | 140

Set in the distant year 2345, the utopian content of Return demonstrates an increased tolerance on the part of the censor. After the successes of Sputnik and Vostok I, space flight came within the bounds of the “real.” This development led most science fiction authors of the time to displace their stories on another planet or spaceship in order to preempt the possibility of any minor conflict in their future vision with that of the censor.13 The Conference on Literature of the Future in 1962 recognized science fiction as a means of improving upon, not subverting, politically acceptable science. Del Antonio, a participant of this conference, agreed that science fiction had an important role to play in the development of GDR socialism: “The vision is inseparable from progress. It precedes any purposeful aspiration” (“Für oder wider” 35). Whereas official scientific policy had focused primarily on the natural sciences, now through the rationality of cybernetics, the policy expanded to include the social sciences and humanities. Truth in science fiction had previously required demonstrable scientific proof behind the author’s invention. The political justification of science fiction as a scientific model in the cybernetic Scientific-Technical Revolution now was accepted as a means of anticipating future problems and stimulating the technical imagination. In essence, this restricted the playroom of dreaming beyond the socialist real to the scientific rational.

In addition to the ideology that informed Del Antonio’s writing, it was this narrow definition of the real, which distinguished East German science fiction from its western counterparts of the same period. For instance, Del Antonio could not incorporate time travel into his narrative, as this had not been proven to be possible scientifically. As a substitute, he used Einstein’s theory of relativity to enable the crew of the Titanus to travel 345 years into Earth’s future, while only aging ten years themselves. This “real-life” time travel ← 140 | 141 functioned the same way in which the more fantastic western type does, by taking a representative(s) to another space and time as witness of that alternate space. Anglo–American and West German space opera often included seemingly impossible technologies and peoples, invading green-eyed space monsters in flying saucers for example. Through the 1980s, East German science fiction took place within the “real” coordinates of a universal historical determinism. All that existed had a basis in the reality of this worldview, or was in dialogue with its success or viability. In essence, where the western writer could choose from a number of ideologies to create a world, the East German writer already had existing world-creation rules. On the one hand, they were influenced by the power structures of the hegemonic ideology. On the other hand, they were informed by the author’s desire to further the development of communism adapting through self-censorship and his (all were male at this point) subscription to this same ideology. Those green-eyed space monsters could not exist as Marxism–Leninism deemed them western and irrational. When violence emerged, it was brought about by the last gasps of a capitalist society in a universe, which steadily evolved towards communism.

A Cybernetic Setting

The novel Return of the Forefathers is itself the conclusion of Del Antonio’s previous story Titanus. In Titanus, an all-male, international crew of 238 takes off in the spaceship Kosmos from a predominantly communist Earth in the year 2000. They are on a ten ship-year voyage to the Hyades star system. Explained through Einstein’s theory of relativity, Return is the story of this ship’s return some 345 Earthyears later, when communism has long since unified a peaceful humanity. However, the Kosmos does not return until the middle of the book. First we meet Vena Rendhoff, the main protagonist, a model student of cybernetics, and the partner of a leading physicist named Raiger Sajoi. The two have problems in their relationship due to ← 141 | 142 Rendhoff’s dedication to her research project, her pursuit of which leads her to believe that the Kosmos is about to return, despite its lostin-space status. This conflict is exacerbated after the Kosmos does arrive and Rendhoff becomes head of the commission in charge of the crew’s debriefing and reintegration. After we experience the various cultural conflicts of the returnees in their new present, the book ends when Rendhoff “marries” the ship’s party secretary, George Romain.14

Before addressing the characters and their romantic liaisons, I wish to touch upon the cybernetic aspects of Return’s utopian setting. Similar to Dominik, Return possesses a euphoric fascination with rationalized urban life and transportation. It outlines a multi-layered city under a protective bubble. Pedestrian zones dot the surface. While trains and streets disappear underneath.

There lay Atomos, the city of young scientists. [...] Far in front of the city, a train and highway disappeared underground. The train traveled under the city and stopped at a number of stations. The highway split into a subterranean network three stories high that was connected to the surface by elevator and escalator. (5).

Single-track trains, large people movers, and gondolas appear (194– 5), as well as communal rocket cars and ships that cross the stratosphere from Europe to Australia in the same time it took in 1966 to go from Berlin to Dresden (16).

Characteristic of the East German subscription to the Soviet model, Return takes place primarily in a Siberian city of scientists. Atomos remains well connected with the rest of the world. This ideal city incorporates Stalinist architecture with broad promenades and large living communities that hold no fewer than one thousand people. However, the text integrates German bourgeois values of privacy and individuality with its communist future vision. All share communal playgrounds, parks, gyms, pools, seminar rooms, theater, dance and ← 142 | 143 eating facilities. At the same time, individual inhabitants enjoy the special acoustics of the dining hall that dampen all neighboring table noise. The parks provide many small nooks and offer the privacy to read a book or have a personal conversation. “One feels draw into the big communal family and could converse without being disturbed.” (15). Persisting fears of the communist masses are tamed with a level of German, bourgeois respectability.

Return of the Forefathers not only presents a vision of a future communist society, it also demonstrates how adherence to cybernetics in the present leads to the development of this future. Through a visit to a history museum of the 24th century, it illustrates the teleological “inevitability” of Marxist progress through cybernetics, thus reorganizing the memory of the past and even present from its particular future. The museum is organized according to the Marxist developmental stages of history: “Individual and Communal Economy, the farther you procede, the more highly developed the economic system.” (50). While conducting research, Rendhoff comments how surprised she is that the cybernetic science of the year 2000 was already so advanced and on its way to the developmental level she knew in the present year 2345. With this comment, Del Antonio alludes to the accessibility of his vision through a solid effort in the present. He refers to tangible results in the not-so-distant future of 2000 first and then underscores their continuing linear success with his description of an even more advanced society in 2345. Through an emphasis on the teleological and tangible progression towards the “end goal” and references to established scientific theory, Del Antonio reiterates the possibility and rationality of his future dream as a logical and attainable consequence of efforts in the present.15

Much East German science fiction of the 1960s focused on partial images of a cybernetic system on Earth, another planet, or the mobile city of the space ship. Return stands out as literary utopia by providing an all-encompassing vision of the Earth of 2345. Not only ← 143 | 144 does Del Antonio describe city life in the future Siberia, he also includes glimpses of life in other places around the world, including France, the United States and the Gobi desert, to suggest that transition to a communist society is complete and global.

Like Efremov, Del Antonio provides other cultural details of his future world. While visiting France, Romain, a returnee, witnesses a folk festival celebrating a woman’s 150th birthday. The culinary and nutritional sciences have merged so that cooks can influence moods through various food combinations. Where in medieval times clothing color often demonstrated social class, here color-coded clothing indicates the nature of personal relationships, much like the meaning placed on red or yellow roses. For both men and women, brown indicates camaraderie, while a shimmering outfit of unstable color with a hint of pink shows romantic interest.

Del Antonio’s vision is driven by a long-held notion of scientific progress in industrialized countries as the human domination and control of nature. For instance, he describes in detail the transformation of the Gobi desert into a thick, lush forest and a vast, mechanized and highly productive farm. Efremov’s Andromeda, Alexei Tolstoy’s Aelita, and Frank Herbert’s more recent publication, Dune, also contain deserts, which have become green.16 However, unlike his “production novels” (Gigantum and Project Sahara), Return shows an awareness of issues that will occupy the center of the environmentalist movement in five to ten years. For instance, agricultural settlements, facilities for seafood harvest, radio towers, solar power plants, and wind turbines surround each of Earth’s cities (47). The ocean has become the main resource of food and energy (106, 108). At one point, after a blanket of new snow has fallen, Rendhoff admires the beauty of this unspoiled, natural occurrence and “regretted the human interference with the process of nature” (68). Del Antonio does not recognize the environmental problems of industrial waste and pollution, so central to the work of Johanna and Günter Braun just six years later. ← 144 | 145

Gender Conflict and The New Communist Family

In the wake of World War II, East German science fiction authors did not focus on technology as a potential threat to humanity, as was done often in Anglo-American science fiction. Rather these authors embraced technology and focused instead on the nature and responsibility of the humans, which controlled and used it.17 Informed by Marxist–Leninism, their novels were characterized by a postfascist, post-Hiroshima discourse, which perceived continuity between Nazi Germany and the western Allies as aggressors in the rapidly escalating Cold War. This belief criticized the West’s dangerous mismanagement of its nuclear arsenal as “imperialist,” seeing it as typical of an “archaic” society that uses its own science fiction to spread “unscrupulous, antihumanist tendencies, from racism to genocide” (Del Antonio, “Für oder wider” 38). Unlike the West, East Germany and the Soviet Block appeared to some in the new GDR as heralds of an ever-lasting peace through the appropriate use of technology, particularly via their own nuclear capability ostensibly only in the civil rather than the military sector. In the immediate postwar era, the basis for this peace lay in the (re)education of German individuals, according to socialist moral values implemented by the Soviets and adopted and adapted by the SED.18

Advances in technology soon transferred the desire to maintain the peace from the Earth to the stars. The euphoria surrounding the advent of space exploration in 1957 led to the transference of the Cold War to space. Despite the intensification of the space race, some science fiction authors in the Soviet Union, East Germany, West Germany, and the United States envisioned a peaceful exploration of the galaxy through international cooperation.19 During this period a ← 145 | 146 notable amount of science fiction appeared that included international crews of women and men.20 A number of East German science fiction writers appropriated the sanctioned model of the socialist personality and projected it into the future. In novels such as Asteroidenjäger (Asteroid Hunters, 1961) and The Blue Planet (Der blaue Planet, 1963) by Carlos Rasch, women crewmembers shared equal duties and responsibilities with their male counterparts in a diverse human collective. A wise, male party secretary heads the crew, which remains united through communism in their adventures in space exploration.

Regardless of how well educated, intelligent, and politically loyal the female figures of 1960s science fiction were, they primarily appeared as mirror images of their objectified male counterparts. The subjective experience of gender or racial difference remained secondary in a rationalized, future world united by a belief in the Marxism–Leninism. In part, this limited portrayal of women in East German science fiction can be attributed to the fact that it was predominantly a genre written by men for men.21 Both male and female characters existed more as an extension of technology, rather than the reverse. While scientific theory provided an acknowledged reality upon which to base future visions, little scientific “proof” existed for the vision of the new Communist person and her or his social context. ← 146 | 147 The arrival of the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, in June 1963, made the premise of a co-ed crew “real.” Nevertheless, only scientific approximations and limited first-hand accounts of human experience aboard ship provided a guide. Thus, authors often remained either unwilling or unable to stray too far from that which was knowable according to official Marxist–Leninist cultural codes.

To some extent, Del Antonio’s Return is symptomatic of this difficulty. His characters often correspond to the sanctioned model of the socialist personality which entailed a) active participation in the process of societal production b) the attainment of the highest possible career qualifications, and c) the combination of these with a definitive, internalized class consciousness (Blunk 63). Self-selected to demonstrate Parteilichkeit (loyalty to the party), Del Antonio accepted his task as an East German writer to instruct readers in this model. In the 1960s, when the GDR experienced its own Economic Miracle, the picture of the socialist personality focused on the development of intellectual leaders in the areas of science and technology, and strove to bring the GDR to the level of Ulbricht’s desired “world class status.” Women, especially, were encouraged to participate in this technological revolution. They were portrayed in leadership positions in engineering, medicine and mathematics. In reality, women received less glamorous industrial work on the assembly line or in more traditional industries such as clothing manufacture (Merkel 369).

In his interdisciplinary future based on a common mathematical language, both women and men have multiple specialties. Rendhoff is a top student at the highly respected Cybernetic Institute, where “[…] today [we] value the disemination of logical and dialectical thought the most. However, Mathematics is the most difficult subject.” (Return 200). She harbors artistic talent as well, and paints from time to time. Rendhoff’s partner, Raiger Sajoi, is a premier researcher in physics and biology; her friend Pala Benari is a physician, historian and also celebrated theater actor. Cybernetics does not merely encompass the natural or social sciences, but also integrates the arts. Rendhoff’s adopted uncle, Maro Lohming, an historian of technology and an actor, illustrates this point.

In part, Rendhoff epitomizes the official image of the communist superwoman. As with his other characters, Del Antonio instills her ← 147 | 148 with a Protestant work ethic. In completing her studies, Rendhoff throws herself into her work, forgetting food, sleep, friends, and her partner (22). She dedicates herself to attaining the highest level of scientific achievement, so that she may gain access to the most desirable research projects.

The persistence of male anxiety surrounding women’s return to the workplace in East Germany is evident in the asexual or even male manner in which Rendhoff operates in the workplace. To counteract more masculine qualities, she and other communist future women are still individually desirable to men. The Kosmos captain, Nasarov observes the following:

The women of the present were all pretty. They were educated like never before. Sports made them agile and graceful. Life made their faces harmonious and gave them a growing sense of worth. Every disharmony of proportion was corrected by the most advanced cosmetic medicine. (225).

Intelligent and precocious women are also more beautiful and live longer than their 20th century counterparts.22 To some extent, the woman of the communist future has been fine-tuned, shaped into the perfect female object.

However, as utopian narrative, Del Antonio’s novel transgresses the border of the socialist real. Where the portrayal of the communist superwoman in GDR science fiction did not normally address her negotiation of a woman’s double burden, Return stands out in its acknowledgment of this dilemma. As a solution, Return’s vision of marriage in the 24th century resembles more as a partnership, in which men and women are free to pursue their own interests. Rendhoff is also childless. Consequently, she is free to dedicate her mind and body to the improvement of her personal position and duty to a communist society. “To be human, didn’t that mean: being strongminded, dedicated to life, driven, in order to perfect oneself spiritually and physically?” (293). It is notable that she identifies herself not as a woman, but as socialist realist humanist, thus ← 148 | 149 collapsing these two categories in a manner congruent to the SED’s material-based definition of women’s emancipation.

Assuming a traditional interpretation of Marxism–Leninism, the SED maintained that women’s emancipation automatically followed from the progression towards a communist society. Emancipation was

solely the project to free labor from capital and therefore only possible in a socialist society. Similarly, the reverse was also true. The construction of a socialist social order requires the emancipation of women as a nonnegotiable condition (“Frauen” 443).

Focusing on a woman’s economic freedom as the primary vehicle towards her independence, this policy also played pragmatically into the enormous demand for labor in the period of reconstruction in the 1950s and in the Scientific-Technological Revolution of the 1960s.

However, as women (re)turned to work, they still functioned as the primary care-provider at home. In the 1960s, women received better training and experienced an upward mobility through evening study and school (often away from their families). Yet, they still bore familial responsibilities and often the guilt that resulted from their double burden (Wierling 23). In addition, despite women’s specialized training, particularly in the areas of science and technology, men remained in positions of power in development and management, while women operated equipment or occupied other subordinate positions (Merkel 369). The fantastic dreams of women engineers, scientists, and inventors still remained in the science fictional future.

From the beginning, there was a significant gap between the ideal “reality” promised by Marxism–Leninism and a woman’s real existence in East Germany. It is this gap, which Del Antonio addresses in Return. He employs a science fictional form to critique the limitations of the contemporary familial narrative as a basis for women’s emancipation in East Germany.

After returning from exile in the Soviet Union, Walter Ulbricht and other supporting members of the German Communist Party worked with the Soviet Military Administration to re-establish German sovereignty. Designed to be a transitional authority working towards a centralized Communist state, the new command was eager ← 149 | 150 to attain the support of the civilian population through the integration of existing core power structures into the new system. Despite promises of emancipation for women, Julia Hell argues that, at this point, the leading cultural functionaries of the Communist party built the foundations of the East German system on the “symbolic politics of paternity, a cultural discourse revolving around the anti-fascist father” (Hell 25). In her study of the post-fascist foundational narrative, this anti-fascist father served as a role model to the “positive” hero and son, whose real father was either fascist or missing, thus aiding him in the acquirement of “consciousness” (Hell 34). Where strong men dominated the discourse, the communist woman, on the other hand, continued to appear in the supportive role as wife or girlfriend, or as the stabilizing mother where the father has failed. While the communist woman also fulfilled her obligation to society, her first duties remained directed towards her husband and her family. Similar to production novels where the factory brigade often functioned as familial substitute, in early East German science fiction, this metaphor is applied to the research collective or ship’s crew. In Return of the Forefathers, the returning ship, Kosmos, contains an allmale, international crew, in which every member demonstrates the objective ideal behavior in communism. Minor emotional transgressions are reassured or reinforced through collective support to fortify the correct ideological “consciousness.” Each crewmember finds mentors in the captain, Nasarov, and the Party secretary, Romain, who function as substitute anti-fascist father figures for the missing fathers abandoned on the Earth of the past.

In Return, at the advanced stage of communist development in the year 2000, the United States is the only remaining capitalist power. James Stafford, son of an American working-class family, feels alienated during his first several years on the ship. His alienation is explained by his participation in the creation of an illegal nuclear weapons facility in the Pacific. His German mentor Jansen serves as his anti-fascist friend and father figure. He introduces to and instructs him in the communist society on the ship. Despite his “antiquated” social upbringing, Stafford has been made to feel at home during the ten-year journey. In Return of the Forefathers, Stafford remembers the time when he first arrived on the ship in the first novel Titanus: ← 150 | 151

How had it been, as he had boarded the Kosmos? Lonely, always fleeing from worries, adversity, malice, injustice, jealousy – and from himself. Always defensive, often unfair, egotistical.

What was he today? Part of a collective, accepted, equal. People addressed him as comrade, although he did not belong to any party – before he would have held a grudge, now he was proud of it. (Return 88).

Stafford thus becomes an instructive model for the transition from “fascism” to “anti-fascism.” However, he does not feel truly integrated until he is required to replace his “father” in the position of chief engineer, when Jansen dies a socialist hero’s death on Titanus. Stafford thus succeeds Jansen, and takes on his full responsibilities and ideological consciousness as part of the crew collective.

The Kosmos is a well-organized, cybernetic collective, a type of familial substitute. However, Del Antonio’s Kosmos crew from a lessadvanced communist past does not include any women. Here the novel incorporates the clichéd heterosexual narrative of the male soldier cut off from any female contact. As illustrated in Titanus, the crew has left family behind and Del Antonio ensures that they rejoin family in the year 2345. According to Rendhoff’s reintegration plan, each returnee is paired with a female guide to insure smooth reincorporation into the new Earth society. These women are placed in bourgeois occupational and familial roles. In Stafford’s (the American’s) opinion, “there must be a reason that more women study medicine than men, more women teach children, more women raise children.” (Return 58). The “aids” serve as teachers and mothers. To underscore the continuity of the family, a female descendant of Nasarov, the captain, volunteers to “mother” the “father.”

At several points during their reintegration, Kosmos crew members comment on their feelings of infantalization or youth. Stafford expresses his frustration with fitting into the new Earth society:

Were the cosmonauts [Raumfahrer] sick or even children then? At least they had one thing in common: they landed on an unknown world, were inexperienced and helpless! They needed to be protected from danger (58). ← 151 | 152

Romain, the party secretary, comments on his own naive assumptions: “How naively he had perceived the world” (334). The women guides are present to aid in the personal reintegration of their assigned returnee where possible. Predictably, many of these pairs fall in love and form heterosexual family units.

Through his portrayal of Rendhoff as communist superwoman, Del Antonio acknowledges her double burden both as the director of the reintegration plan and as the caretaker for the Kosmos’ crewmember, Romain. By thematizing the double burden, the text criticizes SED policy. Authorities were slow to recognize and help reconcile emotional and professional conflicts between the ideological vision of the workingwoman and of the communist wife and mother. Rather than ignoring this conflict, Return addresses it from the point of view of the woman as subject.23 What follows is a reexamination of the institution of the nuclear family, and the recognition of the continuity of its bourgeois structure in East German socialism. Limited primarily to a focus on the elimination of the concepts of labor and ownership within the nuclear family, Del Antonio retains this institution as a building block for his future communist society. In this way, he preserves the family not the collective as the institution with which to integrate the individual into the state.

First, Del Antonio addresses the issue of woman’s labor in the home. He contrasts bourgeois notions of a woman’s role in marriage from the year 2000 with the liberated wife and mother from the communist Earth of 2345. Del Antonio does this in a manner that addresses the German boy or man directly, the typical audience of science fiction in the 1960s.

Benari, the actor/psychologist, volunteers to take care of Stafford’s reeducation process since she feels especially qualified to deal with the problems of a person who lacks the benefit of a socialist upbringing. Like many of the caretaker-returnee pairs, they fall in love. Stafford is simultaneously “fascist” and also the returning German soldier, when he returns to his birthplace of Rivertown, Iowa to marry Benari and create a home. He expresses his dreams to her: ← 152 | 153 “You could wave to me from the roof garden then, when I leave or return” (159).

Through a juxtaposition of the reality of Stafford’s experiences that follow with Benari’s reaction, Del Antonio subverts the contemporary cultural codes concerning gender roles in marriage. Since Stafford has no formal function in society as a returnee, it is he who ends up the feminized capitalist. He waits at home for Benari and takes care of what was previously the women’s housework.

She was away almost every day, while he sat at home and counted the hours. Neither housework, nor errands, nor garden work satisfied him. Even sporadic private study did not help […] (180).

Benari continues her usual, busy work schedule on stage, at history conferences, and at public speaking engagements. Del Antonio literally reverses the traditional bourgeois male and female roles, thus placing what he believed to be female frustration with limited opportunity expressed in a male voice. Stafford waits at home for Benari.

This waiting was horrible, you stood and watched and hoped and seemed so excluded, isolated, useless. When would this phase end? Or would it always be like this? (181)

When Stafford demands that the situation change, Benari confronts him:

What kind of a life did your mother have then – hers or yours? [...] You mean, it would be my duty to take care of your house and go to bed with you? Do you think I am an object that exists to satisfy your needs? (183)

Several issues are involved here. First, in the tradition of August Bebel, Del Antonio emphasizes the interpretation of women as a type of property in a capitalist system versus the perceived freedom of his future communist vision. Instead of being a slave to the husband, he frees his new communist woman to pursue her own goals. At the same time, he addresses the role of mother versus child, again in the terms of property relations and emphasizing that the mother must not ← 153 | 154 sacrifice her life for her children’s. Notable here is the issue of education. As Benari educates Stafford, she functions as caretaker and mother of the “imperialist” and also as partner and woman. Read more broadly, she instructs “men” as a “woman.” The character of Stafford serves as a clever means of displacing a critique of East German men onto the character of capitalist origins.

While GDR social policy in the sixties began to address the double-burden placed upon a growing number of employed mothers, more effective measures, like state-provided daycare and the designated cleaning day, did not come until 1977.24 In 1965, the SED declared in its family legal code (Familiengesetzbuch) the equality of wife and husband both in marriage and in the family.25 Since 1989, Ina Merkel has researched the inability of such top-down measures to alter the patriarchal structure of East Germany and the difficulty of comparing the unique development in this area with West Germany. Here the utopian form of his science fiction allowed Del Antonio to envision a society in which he believed women to be emancipated. His oversimplified model contrasts with the more complicated experience of women in the 1960s. Through a reversal of gender roles the narrative voices a frustration with the absence of a swift implementation of women’s economic freedom in East Germany.

Return continues on to include a number of suggestions in which to solve the double burden. To free women from the necessity of childcare, Del Antonio borrows the concept of the mother island (Mutterinsel) and future communal care facility from Efremov. An island for mothers is designed as a retreat for women, who are ready to give birth. There is also no pressure to become a mother on Earth ← 154 | 155 in the year 2345. The film The Silent Star (1959) explains the participation of its woman crewmember through her desire to fulfill her societal duty in her dead husband’s place and through her inability to have children. In contrast, Return grants women the agency to postpone motherhood. For instance, at one point, Rendhoff wonders why she did not yet have children, but is determined first to complete her degree. “She planned to spend the last few months before the birth of her child on a mother island and concentrate solely on her pregnancy.” (69). Del Antonio still links the expectation and desire for motherhood to his construction of female identity, but does not define his female characters through motherhood.

In the year 2345 it is also common, although not required, for the majority of children to be brought up in communal boarding schools. These schools release the mother from her perceived burden of childcare, without causing feelings of guilt on her part. Benari, who has a daughter from a former partnership, talks with her frequently on the videophone and still sees her as the “center of her life” (288). Yet, Benari would much rather have her child in such a school, as she feels her daughter receives a better education there than she could at home.

Although the positive portrayal of such boarding schools (Kinderkrippen), can be interpreted as state propaganda, it is not in this case, due to the fact that such measures were not introduced until a decade later. Del Antonio’s use of the mother island goes beyond what was then considered to be real, and then limited by the East German law which only proclaimed equality in marriage.26 Thus, Del Antonio’s heavy emphasis on cybernetics transfers into the personal relationships between women and men, in which he suggests several rational solutions to a continuing problem of emancipation in the future. The emphasis on the rational as well as the setting on Earth in the distant future, granted Del Antonio a narrow band of narrative ← 155 | 156 freedom. He used this freedom to “dream ahead” to a better communist future that went beyond the sanctioned vision of the party.

The Imperfect Socialist Personality

Del Antonio used the capitalist character as negative element to critique contemporary East German cultural values, with regards to gender roles and motherhood in his vision of the communist family of the future. East German authors often employed the capitalist or fascist character to introduce an element of narrative conflict for ideological reasons, and also to create necessary plot tension. In Return of the Forefathers, however, Del Antonio transgresses the code of a lack of conflict (Konfliktlosigkeit) with the inclusion of his dislikable communist protagonist, Sajoi. He is Rendhoff’s partner and an outstanding physicist and biologist. Sajoi’s imperfection represents a deviation from the vision of a socialist future as ideal. He also personifies the conflict between the continuity of the (bourgeois and socialist) male’s anxiety towards the emancipation of woman in East Germany, and what Del Antonio represents as the presumed equality of woman in a communist future.27

For example, as might have been the reaction of a husband in the 1960s to his wife’s employment, Sajoi grows increasingly concerned with the intensity of Rendhoff’s research, which consumes long hours of her time. “A young, picture perfect woman climbs into dusty crypts instead of turning to the future to discover something new. The study of History. That was something for old men” (25). Where Del Antonio portrays Rendhoff’s long hours lost in study and without food in a positive light, he instills the traditional male-female stereotypes in Sajoi. Rendhoff continually wonders if Sajoi respects her not only personally, but also professionally. “Did he take her seriously? As a ← 156 | 157 woman, sure – but also as a scientist?” (17). For his part, Sajoi becomes increasingly concerned about her body, its health, and its shape. At one point Rendhoff comments “I would like to have your concern for my figure,” to which he responds: “Isn’t it [...] my affair?” (17). At one point, Sajoi blocks the continuation of her project, because he is convinced that her review tapes of the Dresden firestorm left her not far from “a nervous break down” and endangered her “delicate disposition” (29). Sajoi’s reactions and his resulting angry flight to Pluto, once Rendhoff’s coordination of the entire Kosmos project leaves no time for him, are labeled “archaic” and “egotistical” since he had “tried to place himself at the center” (101).

When the character of Sajoi is placed into the discourse of the anti-fascist father, it becomes apparent that Del Antonio has taken this narrative and rewritten it, substituting the role of the son with Rendhoff, the daughter. Instead of the missing or fascist father, she leaves her partner behind. Rendhoff is essentially an orphan. Her father was killed in space, while her mother is an expert in Astromedicine, on a deep-space mission, and gone for years at a time.28 The only family that Rendhoff has is her adopted “Uncle” Maro Lehming, who took care of her when her mother had little time. Maro represents the ideal Communist father figure to replace Raiger Sajoi, who is intent on playing the more traditional fatherly role of husband to Rendhoff, despite her protestations. Already quite independent, Rendhoff acquires the courage to forget Sajoi through her discussions with Uncle Maro, who also plays a pivotal role in her research and subsequent discovery of, and preparation for, the Kosmos’ impending return. Thus, Del Antonio’s understanding of the foundational anti-fascist narrative of the GDR encompasses not only men, but also women in a process of attaining political “consciousness” that includes the realization of gender equality.

Del Antonio does not give up the nuclear familial model, since the SED’s interpretation of Marxism–Leninism was indeed based on it. Even so, he changes not only its traditional paternal form, but also ← 157 | 158 its legal constitution. I have used the term “partner” instead of husband and wife or marriage, since these terms no longer exist in Return’s year 2345. Portrayed solely as a positive development, which does not disadvantage one party or the other economically, long-time partners may separate when desired with no legal ramifications, economic burdens, or custody battles. Children often remain in central care facilities. In addition, and this is perhaps Del Antonio’s most radical supposition for his time, he advocates sexual freedom, somewhat stereotypically illustrated through a visit of Romain, the Kosmos’ party secretary, to France. Romain, believing Rendhoff and Sajoi to still be married in the 20th-century sense,29 leaves the returnee community, embarrassed and ashamed of having wanted to pursue a relationship with Rendhoff. While wandering about the Earth, Romain meets Jacquelaine, a French woman, at a festival and has a romantic encounter with her. Believing now that he must fulfill his obligations to Jacquelaine, Romain offers to stay permanently. However, Jacquelaine explains to him that in the 24th century: “our hour last night does not obligate you. [...] You cannot attach any conditions to it, at least we do not know something of the sort.” (257). Not only are women freed from any marriage bond, but also from the stigma of unwanted sexual bonds, and even children. Compared to more conservative family policies of the SED, this advocacy of “free love” reflects the growing youth revolution of the 1960s.30

Despite the progressive notion of gender equality, Del Antonio nevertheless resolves his novel in a more conservative manner. Once Romain returns to camp, he joins Rendhoff in a 20th-century marriage ceremony. On one hand this gesture symbolizes the union of the past with the present, the returnee with the woman of the future. As Raiger Sajoi is also present at the ceremony, it signals a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Sajoi, Rendhoff and Romain. His attendance indicates Sajoi’s correction of his “archaic” personality and the restoration of Konfliktlosigkeit. In addition, as Romain is the Kosmos’ party secretary, the assumption is that the relationship ← 158 | 159 between Rendhoff and Romain will be an equal one, balanced in a manner defined by Return. However, the presence of a wedding at the end of Return of the Forefathers points to the continuing imperfection of marital relations in contemporary East Germany and reminds the reader of the differences between this wedding and those in 1966. At the same time, Rendhoff and Romain’s wedding inscribes Del Antonio’s vision of familial relationships in the future into the more familiar institution of the present.

Despite the redefinition of the nuclear family almost to the point of its dissolution, Del Antonio includes a utopian image of what this future family might look like when they visit each other:

Father and mother, sister and brother. Father shows how to put together a model airplane. He is an expert conveyor belt mechanic. Mother explains the remote control steering on the model and the regulation of the engine speed. Now father listens, because mother is a radio engineer and the absolute authority. But outside, on the grass in from of the house, the parents become children (84).

In its ideal version, what remains of the nuclear family is not a relationship dependent upon ownership of the other, but rather the equal partnership of mother and father centered around technology, who share a social duty to educate their children in a manner consistent with the socialist personality. By his inclusion of an ideal image of the communist family, Del Antonio also underscores the importance of the existence of familial relationships, despite his advocacy of sexual freedom.


While utopian realist texts flowered in East Germany in the 1950s and 1960s, they continued to appear through 1989. Del Antonio’s Return of the Forefathers is representative of this science fiction in its euphoric portrayal of technological discovery and advancement towards peaceful ends by the cybernetic “socialist personality” in the defense and service of socialism. However, it is worth noting that Del ← 159 | 160 Antonio does differ from many of his colleagues in his deviation from the portrayal of a static communist future utopia. Rather, his society continues along its progressive dialectic path even in the year 2345, which can be compared with Del Antonio’s recognition that the transition in East Germany had not occurred in the near future, as the Socialist Unity Party maintained. Despite hundreds of years of resocializing, Del Antonio thematizes the imperfection of this future communist society through the existence of gender difference, a phenomenon, which still led to conflict.

In Return the primary focus remains the heterosexual relationship between man and woman, theorized in a manner, which is concerned mostly with notions of property. The text thematizes various instances in which women have been considered the property of men, as wives, as mothers, and in sexual relationships, stressing the importance of women’s equality in each instance. Return advocates the socialist premise that each individual should be free to develop to the best of his or her ability, with an emphasis on the woman (233). Despite its inclusion of the mother island and communal child care, though in the year 2345, the nuclear familial model remains intact. By removing what he perceived to be the cause of this conflict, primarily the inequality in familial relations, Del Antonio envisioned a still more perfect peaceful future society beyond Return.

Del Antonio’s narrative can be interpreted as merely reinforcing SED policy, which needed the work of its women employees to rebuild and retain the country’s economic viability. Due to the uniqueness of this particular critique of gender roles in the context of the science fiction of the time, however, the novel contains aspects of both affirmation and dissent. It points to both the inability of the SED to fulfill its promised emancipation and the resistance to such a change inherent in entrenched social structures. Even the majority of science fiction written in the next two decades, granted women primarily supporting roles with the exceptions of works by Johanna and Günter Braun, Irmtraud Morgner, Christa Wolf, and Angela and ← 160 | 161 Karlheinz Steinmüller (Blume 5).31 In the 1970s and 1980s the terms of discourse on women’s emancipation changed as well, so a comparison with Del Antonio’s text is difficult. Suffice to say, Return of the Forefathers was revolutionary for its genre and time.

Finally, Return of the Forefathers contains a narrative of reintegration that acknowledges the difficulties that German soldiers had upon returning home after World War II, particularly for those who remained captive in the Soviet Union until the fifties. The Germany they discovered was the antithesis of the country they had left. Return educates its returnees in the narrative of progress of a future society and aids them in finding a place in this society. The returnees find employment almost exclusively in fields of science and technology and are integral to the continued development of this new society. Thus, where the past has failed them, the novels’ returnees are able to leave it behind and become part of yet another technologically driven society. With this in mind, I suggest that Del Antonio’s novel also appealed to the returning soldier, by presenting the scientifically inclined among them with a renewed task, this time in East Germany. ← 161 | 162 ← 162 | 163 →

1       See Del Antonio, “Für oder wider” 35. This article was originally submitted to the Tribüne but not published.

2       Vena Rendhoff, the main protagonist in the Return of the Forefathers read science fiction novels of 2000 set in her time, the 24th century. By commenting here on the limitations of this science fiction, she also validates its attempt to envision a socialist future. See Del Antonio, Heimkehr 131.

3       This rapid economic and industrial development began in the Dresden/Leipzig area in Saxony at the beginning of the nineteenth century. See Dorn Brose 187– 188; Davis 29–31, 155–156.

4       It was the German V-2 rocket, which provided the common rocket shape of the science fiction’s space ships in the 1940s–1970s. German rocket clubs disbanded once the technology became classified under the National Socialists. See Clute 76.

5       This information comes from his long-time editor and friend Ekkehard Redlin, “Er liebte” 5.

6       Redlin, his editor, maintains that Del Antonio never joined a party, “because he wanted to preserve independent judgment an literary creativity. That did not keep him from working in the interests of the leading party and bluntly critiquing abuses.” See “Er liebte” 6.

7       Del Antonio argued the merits of science fiction: “Science fiction [der Zukunftsroman] can help to popularize the more recent scientific discoveries.” See “Für oder wider” 37.

8       For the directives of the NK and of the NÖSPL see the II Party Conference July 1952 and VI Party Conference, January 15–21, 1963 as referred to in the DDR Handbuch 944–945. Science fiction also served a similar function in the United States at this time.

9       Here Wernher von Braun’s employment by the United States is also interesting here as he helped to develop the Explorer, America’s answer to Sputnik. Von Braun was a former German V-2 scientist. See Clute 69.

10     Both Gigantum and Titanus contained an afterward by Del Antonio in which he sharply defined which technology was realistic, i.e. illustrations of known phenomena, and which extrapolated to a realistic future development of this existing technology.

11     In East Germany, this novel appeared as Das Mädchen aus dem All. Fredric Jameson writes of Efremov’s text: “for all its naïveté, [it] is one of the most single-minded and extreme attempts to produce a full representation of a future, classless, harmonious, world-wide utopian society. We may measure our own resistance to the utopian impulse by means of the boredom the sophisticated American reader instinctively feels for Efremov’s culturally alien ‘libidinal apparatus,’” see “Progress” 154.

12     As in the Anglo–American tradition, East German science fiction authors often wrote in dialog with each other as well as with Soviet and other publications in Eastern Europe.

13     See Erik Simon, Personal interview 1997, who mentioned that, when the external reviewer, editor or official censor objected to a contradiction in a science fiction text with the Party’s interpretation of Marxism–Leninism, they could point to the fact that it took place on another planet and thus did not conflict with the reality in East Germany. To the best of my knowledge, from my extensive research of the applications for publication, in the sixties, the majority of objections concerned minor aesthetic and scientific issues.

14     On the former Earth, George Romain was the Sekretär der Gruppe der Vereinten Arbeiterparteien des Staatenbundes (Secretary of the United Worker’s Party) and also the second in command after Wassil Nasarow, see Return 71.

15     For instance, Raiger Sajoi conducts experiments involving gravity. Socialist realist utopia often incorporated relatively realistic extrapolations on current scientific findings. Einstein published his Generalized Theory of Gravitation in 1949.

16     Efremov melts polar ice caps through the construction of artificial suns. These visions stem from the massive industrialization efforts in the Soviet Union and in post-war East Germany.

17     See also Karl Böhm’s chapter “Der Sozialismus und Kommunismus - die Zukunft der Menschheit” and particularly the subheading “Keine Angst vor Robotern!” in Böhm and Dörge, Weltall 391.

18     Authors in the West also struggled with similar issues. See Dürrenmatt’s Die Physiker and Kipphardt’s In der Sache Robert Oppenheimer.

19     In contrast to his infamous statement to the Americans, “We will bury you,” Karl Böhm and R. Dörge quote Nikita Krushchev in their popular science book Auf dem Weg zu fernen Welten 206. “Our satellites circle the earth and wait for American and other satellites to join them and create a friendly alliance of satellites. Such an alliance, such competition will be much better than an arms race in the production of deadly weapons.” This comes from his speech at the Anniversary Conference of the Supreme Soviet on 7 November, 1957. Such sentiment also appeared among western nations, leading to the signing of the multilateral Outer Space Treaty on 27 June, 1967 that prohibited all weapons of mass destruction in space, see U.S. Department of State n.p.

20     An early example can be found in Tolstoy’s Aelita. Later examples included Efremov’s Andromeda, Roddenberry’s “Star Trek,” and Maetzig’s Der Schweigende Stern. The West German Star Trek spin-off, Raumschiff Orion, did not include a multi-ethnic cast, but did cast women.

21     Even into the 1980s, apart from Anna Seghers, Christa Wolf and Irmtraud Morger, only Johanna Braun, Angela Steinmüller, Anne Geelhaar, Ursula Wilke, and Gerda Zschocke wrote science fiction in East Germany. Geelhaar and Wilke wrote a few children’s stories and Zschocke a few short stories.

22     The average life expectancy is 150 years for both men and women, and in general these men and women are taller and more beautiful.

23     By contrast, the female characters in Rasch’s The Blue Planet, function as integrated asexual ship’s crew members and have no family.

24     The Arbeitsgesetzbuch (AGB) of 16 June 1977 included: “the construction of daycare facilities, kindergardens, after-school care, of stores in the workplace, laundromats and other services. They also meet special regulations, which protect the jobs of and govern the hours worked by pregnant and nursing mothers.” See “Frauen” 445.

25     The Familiengesetzbuch (Family Legal Code) of 20 December, 1965 outlined the equality of women in marriage and family as well as equal responsibility of both partners in “education and care of children, household management, material expenditure for the home and family” as well as the right of the woman to work outside of the home. See “Frauen” 444.

26     At the same time Christa Wolf was beginning to explore her concept of subjective authenticity in her books Der Geteilte Himmel (1963) and Nachdenken über Christa T (1969). She, Irmtraud Morgner and Sarah Braun and other authors and filmmakers became part of the growing feminist movement in East Germany, which also resulted in science fiction texts such as Wolf’s “Selbstversuch.”

27     Del Antonio also touches upon this in his first novel Gigantum, which describes the success of a woman research scientist despite the tension she experiences with her male research colleagues.

28     That the mother has taken her husband’s place, echoes a common wartime occurrence and also a more traditional justification of a woman’s (and mother’s) more emancipated role in society, see Return 16.

29     And really as understood in East Germany of the 1960s.

30     In the 1960s, the divorce rate grew as well, as women discovered their own economic freedom through employment.

31     The later works of Alexander Kröger can be included in this list as well although his female protagonists often resemble the socialist personality (Die Kristallwelt der Robina Crux and Souvenair vom Ataïr).