Hugo Gernsback, (born Aug. 16, 1884, Luxembourg, Lux.—died Aug. 19, 1967, New York City, N.Y., U.S.), American inventor and publisher who was largely responsible for the establishment of science fiction as an independent literary form.
After receiving a technical education in Luxembourg and Germany, Gernsback traveled to the United States in 1904 to market an improved dry battery that he had invented. He formed a radio supply house, and in 1908 he founded Modern Electrics (later absorbed by Popular Science), a pioneer magazine for radio enthusiasts. In 1911 the magazine published a serialized story by Gernsback that later became the novel Ralph 124C 41+ (1925). Set in the 27th century, its plot was a rather formulaic pulp adventure, but the richly imagined future, filled with fantastic inventions and spaceship travel, established many of the conventions that came to characterize science fiction.
In 1926 Gernsback began publishingAmazing Stories, one of the first magazines devoted exclusively to what he referred to as “scientifiction.” The stories were often crudely written, but the very existence of the magazine and its successors, including Wonder Stories, encouraged the development and refinement of the genre. His contribution was later recognized with the establishment of the annual Hugo Award for the best science fiction novel.
In 1905, a young Jewish immigrant from Luxembourg founded an electrical supply shop in New York. This inventor, writer, and publisher Hugo Gernsback would later become famous for launching the first science fiction magazine,Amazing Stories, in 1926. But while science fiction's annual Hugo Awards were named in his honor, there has been surprisingly little understanding of how the genre began among a community of tinkerers all drawn to Gernsback's vision of comprehending the future of media through making. InThe Perversity of Things, Grant Wythoff makes available texts by Hugo Gernsback that were foundational both for science fiction and the emergence of media studies.
Wythoff argues that Gernsback developed a means of describing and assessing the cultural impact of emerging media long before media studies became an academic discipline. From editorials and blueprints to media histories, critical essays, and short fiction, Wythoff has collected a wide range of Gernsback's writings that have been out of print since their magazine debut in the early 1900s. These articles cover such topics as television; the regulation of wireless/radio; war and technology; speculative futures; media-archaeological curiosities like the dynamophone and hypnobioscope; and more. All together, this collection shows how Gernsback's publications evolved from an electrical parts catalog to a full-fledged literary genre.
The Perversity of Thingsaims to reverse the widespread misunderstanding of Gernsback within the history of science fiction criticism. Through painstaking research and extensive annotations and commentary, Wythoff reintroduces us to Gernsback and the origins of science fiction.
Subjects: Language & Literature, History of Science & Technology