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Volume 1464
The ERB Connections Series
Part III: Gernsback in the News

The Amazing Hugo Gernsback, Prophet of Science
Life Magazine ~ September 9 1963
Science is now so big, so flamboyant and so barnacled with politicians, press agents, generals and industrialists that Hugo Gernsback, who invented it back in 1908 (and has re-invented it, annually, since) can scarcely make himself heard above the babble of the late-comers. Although he is now 78, Gernsback is still a man of remarkable energy who raps out forecasts of future scientific wonders with the rapidity of a disintegrator gun. He believes that millions will eventually wear television eyeglasses--and has begun work on a model to speed the day. "Instant newspapers" will be printed in U.S. homes by electromagnetic waves, in his opinion, as soon as U.S. publishers wrench themselves out of the pit of stagnant thinking in which Gernsback feels they are wallowing at present. He also believes in the inevitability of teleportation--i.e., reproducing a ham sandwich at a distance by electronic means, much as images are now reproduced on a television screen.

Gernsback pays absolutely no attention, while issuing such pronunciamentos, to the fact that the public is rapidly becoming inured to scientific advance and that scientists themselves may not actually stand in need of his advice and counsel. He paid as little attention to the head-tapping some of his announcements set of in the 1920s--a period in which he was often considered nuttier than Albert Einstein himself.

1922: Last word in sunny vacation spots is a floating cityGernsback, in fact, has felt himself impelled to preach the gospel of science ever since his youth in Luxembourg--not so much, apparently, for the good of science as for his own satisfaction and the delights of seeing his name in the papers. In 55 years as a self-appointed missionary, he has stiffly ignored both the cackling of the heathen and the cries of competing apostles. Moreover, as founder, owner, and guiding spirit of Gernsback Publications, Inc., a New York-based publishing enterprise which has produced a succession of scientific and technical books and magazines (among themAmazing Stories, the first science-fiction monthly), he has not only provided himself with a method of firing endless barrages of opinion, criticism and augury but the means of making a good deal of money as well.

Neither Gernsback's instinct for the unorthodox, however, nor his unabashed sense of theater has prevented his full acceptance as a member of the science community. Dozens of today's top scientists were attracted to their calling by reading his magazines as boys, and a good many--including Dr. Donald H. Menzel, director of the Harvard Observatory-- earned money for college tuition by writing for them. He is heralded as the "Father" of modern science fiction (the statuettes which are annually awarded to its top writers are, in his honor, known as Hugos, but he is simultaneously a member of the American Physical Society and a lecturer before similar learned groups. The greatest inventors and scientists of the early 20th Century--among them Marconi, Edison, Tesla, Goddard, DeForest and Oberth--corresponded freely with him and came, in many cases, to admire and confide in him as well. The Space Age caused no diminution of this cozy relationship with the great; RCA's General David Sarnoff is among his friends and pen pals, and so are former Atomic Energy Commissioner Lewis L. Strauss and President Kennedy's science adviser, Dr. Jerome Wiesner.

1931: Transatlantic flight in 20 minutes features retro-rocketsThis admiration is solidly based. Gernsback, in his unique career, has not only done his best to prepare the public mind for the "wonders" of science but has sometimes managed to tell science itself just what wonders it was about to produce. for instance, he conceived the essential principles of radar aircraft detection in 1911--a year when the airplane itself was barely able to stagger off the ground. This early concept was so complete that Sir Robert Watson-Watt, whose radar tracking devices helped save London in the Battle of Britain, considers him the original inventor.

Gernsback not only coined the word "television" (he refuses to accept credit for that since he has discovered a Frenchman used an equivalent of the word a little earlier) but in 1928, as owner of New York's radio Station WRNY, actually instituted daily telecasts with crude equipment. His list of successful scientific prophecies is almost endless and the persicacity with which he has reported scientific thinking on the part of others is remarkable. In the 1920s, to make the point, he was force-feeding his readers all sorts of crazy stuff about atomic energy and about the problems of weightlessness and orbital rendezvous to be encountered in "space flying."

1956: Blasting coffins into space eliminates cluttered graveyardsIt is, therefore, difficult not to believe that U.S. science has been influenced in many ways as a result of Gernsback's extraordinary career in evangelism; certainly it has absorbed a flavor, unobtainable by any other means, simply through harboring him in its midst, like a peppercorn in a pudding, for a full half-century. The effect, however, would hardly have been achieved were it not for a certain duality in Gernsback's nature. While he is cuckoo for science and takes a Barnum like joy in the bizarre (he is so proud of having invented a device for hearing through the teeth that he has listed it in Who's Who), he is also a man of real intellect in whose mind are mated astonishing scientific intuition, an instinct for command and a shrewd if exotic sense of business.

People who are only hazily aware of his background and accomplishments often expect to find him at a desk in a loft and dressed up like Thomas Alva Edison. They are almost uniformly taken aback when they meet him in person. Gernsback is a dude of the first order. He owns a vast collection of shirts and ties from Sulka and Charvet, uses a toilet water of splendid fragrance and wears suits reminiscent at once at Rome and Bond Street. He is an art collector, a world traveler and a connoisseur of champagnes. He not only speaks German, French, English and the patios of Luxembourg with equal facility, but he does so in tones of ducal authority. He is at his most impressive in restaurants. He screws a monocle into one eye while inspecting menus and rejects wine which does not live up to his expectations as well as any food served on a plate which has not, in his opinion, been sufficiently warmed. If the subsequent offering does not please him, he sends that back too. Gernsback's record of consecutive, one-sitting refusals now stands at three, for both food and wine.


He is perfectly capable of humor--he has, in fact, a genuine sense of comedy--but he habitually wears that grave and forbidding manner which was the hallmark of big-power diplomats before World War I. His effect on a listener who is only gradually becoming aware of his dearer interest can be fascinating. Gernsback devotes a good deal of thought toward sex (he publishes, among other works, a magazine entitled Sexology, which aims to present a scientific view of problems inherent in the reproductive processes). He also broods about funerals; he is against them, feels the world is gradually being converted into one huge graveyard, and had a plan for freezing corpses and firing them into space at speeds calculated to remove them, once and for all, from our planetary system. Gernsback delivers such monologues with epic gravity and assurance--with exactly the air, one cannot suspect, which Bismarck wore in directing the Congress of Berlin.

Gernsback is a firm believer in the effects of environment and conditioning and feels that both his personality and his career were firmly shaped in early childhood. He was as bald as an egg until he was five years old and his father, a wealthy wholesaler of wines, hustled him all over Europe diligently seeking a cure for this peculiarity. Gernsback eventually sprouted hair on his own, apparently out of simple boredom with travel, but not before concluding that he was, obviously, a very unusual fellow.

1954: Teledoctoring replaces inefficient house callsHe was introduced to electricity, and thus, in a sense, to science at the same early age; his father's superintendent, one Jean Pierre Gogen, gave him a Leclanche wet battery, a piece of wire and an electric bell and showed him how to hook them up. When the bell began ringing amid a shower of "wonderful green sparks," Hugo instantly decided that he stood on the threshold of a career worthy of his mettle.

He wasted not a single moment in launching it. The boy sent off to Paris for a battery-actuated telephones and six-volt light bulbs and, after electrifying the family estate to his satisfaction, began contracting for similar jobs in the neighborhood. Business success led as it sometimes does, to vice; he carried every newly earned handful of francs to a poker game at Luxembourg's Grand Cafe and was cleaned out by his elders every time.

This involvement with the gaming tables ended, however, as soon as he read Mars by the American astronomer, Percival Lowell--a book which suggested that Earth's sister planet supported green vegetation and perhaps even higher forms of life. The prospect of sudden material gain, he discovered, was not half so exciting as the idea that creatures like himself might inhabit distant worlds.

Gernsback was subjected to rigorous bouts of education; he attended a French grammar school in Luxembourg, moved on to a Brussels boarding school for instruction in languages and then studied mathematics and electrical engineering for three years at the Technikum in Bingen, Germany. He found time, nevertheless, to invent the "most powerful dry cell battery in the world"--a stack of zinc and carbon plates packaged in a salammoniac jelly which produced 375 amperes and would melt a piece of metal as thick as a pencil. He read Mark Twain too, listened to the music of John Phillip Sousa and pored over comic books about the American "Wild West" which were popular in Germany at the time. In the process he fell in love with the U.S. and determined to invade and conquer it as soon as possible.

When his term of study at Bingen was done, he bought a first class ticket to Hoboken on the Hamburg American liner Pennsylvania, got himself a set of calling cards which identified him as "Huck" Gernsback, bundled up two models of the most powerful battery in the world, made a touch of $100 --his last--on the family exchequer and set out to seek his fortune in the new world. The year was 1904. He was 19. He spent $20 for a silk hat on the arrival in New York and, thus equipped, was able to discover that the big city, as he had anticipated, was an absolute pushover for a bright young man. He launched himself in business by remodeling his dry cell and talking the Packard Motor Car Co. into buying it for the ignition systems of their horseless carriages. In the meantime he founded a little mail-order house, the Electro Importing Company, and in three days of hard work designed a wireless sending and receiving set (the world's first home), which sold for just $7.50 and caught the public fancy in a matter of months.

He was able to afford Victor Herbert musicals and dinners at Delmonico's from the beginning, and by 1910 needed 60 workmen and a factory on Fulton Street to satisfy the demand for his radio set and the wide variety of condensers, spark coils, tuners and other accessories his firm offered the amateur wireless telegrapher. When the U.S. government banned amateur transmission during World War I, he was stranded with $100,000 worth of useless tools and useless parts, but extricated himself from financial disaster by an inspired blend of craftiness and constructive though. He dashed off a handbook of heady information on How To Make an Electric Fish ('One of the most mysterious tricks you can perform!') and How to Build a Wireless Telephone (Show 'Ma' and 'Pa" how you can actually talk through a brick wall!") and with this publication on hand divided his heaps of contraband into "electric experimental kits" for boys. The kits sold like hot cakes at $5 a throw--and made a profit of 400%.

This ability to dominate outrageous circumstance served to confirm a suspicion which Gernsback still nurses--that nothing could be "easier than becoming a millionaire many times over." Mere money-making bored him, however, and with honor satisfied and capital retrieved he sold the Elecrtro Importing company and launched himself wholeheartedly and for life as self-appointed front man, director, scene arist and prompter for the unfolding drama of science and invention.

It was a day when the physicist, the mathematician and even the astronomer went almost completely unsung; Gernsback was motivated, in the main, by a medicine-show barker's compulsion to yank them all out into the lamplight to the accompaniment of banjo music, whether they liked it or not, and to hold them up--not without certain mugging and cuff-shooting on his own part--before the wondering world.

He was well prepared to do so. His instinct for center stage and his bent for evangelism had already prompted him to found a little monthly magazine called Modern Electrics and he used it for a decade to thwack civilization onward toward destiny, Gernsback, for instance, was the first man to conclude that the power and wavelengths of radio stations would have to be regulated by the government to prevent anarchy on the airwaves. Thanks to the vigor with which he called this idea to congressional attention, one of his editorials on the subject was adopted, almost word for word, as the Wireless Act of 1912, thus initiating the whole present body of federal legislation on radio transmission. Also, and more significantly by far, he wrote a serial for Modern Electrics entitled Ralph 124C 41+, Thrilling Adventures in the Year 2660.

Ralph, which has been printed, reprinted and then translated into French, German, and Russian during its 52 years, is still regarded with awe, and in some cases with active loathing, by science fiction writers, editors and fans. It is Gernsback's contention and that of his followers that genuine science fiction (it was Gernsback who coined the term) must be scientifically feasible in all regards or else it is mere fantasy. By this yardstick Ralph was the first major work of science fiction, and all that went before and a great deal which has followed is to be considered mere crabgrass in the lawn of verity. This stiff-necked insistence on scientific validity is known among dissenters in the trade as the "Gernsback Delusion."

To describe the book as a novel is stretching the definition of that word to the screech-point. It begins with the hero, Ralph 124C41+ (who possesses one of 10 gigantic minds on Planet Earth) rescuing beautiful Alice212B 423 from an avalanche, simply by turning up the juice in his Manhattan power mast and melting the Alpine snows with long-distance heat waves. The book's tone and dialogue are reminiscent of Tom Swift and His Electric Runabout, its plot is illogical and the level of writing to be encountered in it is, to quote the author himself, "simply awful."

All this, however, is only critical niggling. Ralph 124C 41+ was whacked together simply as a vehicle for scientific prediction, and as such it is an astonishing performance. Gernsback's description of radar is probably the book's most brilliant stroke, but it also accurately prophesied advances in dozens of other new fields: fluorescent lighting, sky writing, plastics, automatic packaging machines, tape recorders, liquid fertilizer, stainless steel, loudspeakers, night baseball, microfilm, synthetic fabrics and even flying saucers.

A great many attitudes about science which were held in the U.S. during the 1920s, '30s, '40s and even throughout the early 1950s stemmed, if only subconsciously, from science fiction and it is difficult not to feel that they all had their beginnings in Ralph 124C41+ and in Gernsback's unbridled enthusiasm for the medium. It would doubtless be incorrect to suggest that Buck Rogers, motion picture space queens and box-top disintegrator guns would not have evolved without him, but all of them in fact germinated in a thick mulch of Martians, space ships, galactic empires and robots which Gernsback troweled into his early magazines.

In his decades of attempting to gauge the public temper and captivate, and occasionally browbeat the public mind, Gernsback has never hesitated to kill going magazines and to found new ones. Over the years, as a result, he has published literally dozens of them--including, at one point, a monthly called Coocoo-Nuts devoted to translating well-known sayings and clichés into funny illustrations. Most of his publications, however, have been technical by nature. In the beginning he leavened them continually with tales of space ships and distant worlds. But in 1926 he founded Amazing Stories, the first magazine devoted entirely to what he then described as "scientifiction" and the one which--simply by succeeding and fostering imitators--popularized the form and thus, in its own hyperthyroid fashion, forecast the fantastic realities of the Space Age.

It is doubtful that any single scientific work has so influenced science fiction--although this was not Gernsback's purpose in buying and publishing it--as a three-part article entitled "The Problems of Space Flying" which he ran in Science Wonder Stories in 1929. Very few Americans are aware, even today, that basic concepts of space travel now being applied by the U.S. and the Soviet Union were worked out in detail by a German scientist named Hermann Oberth during the 1920s. Gernsback, as a prodigious reader of German scientific publications, followed his career with vast excitement and managed to talk one of the physicist's disciples into writing a long dissertation on the master's concepts.

"The Problems of Space Flying" begins with a discussion of weightlessness--assuring the reader that humans can endure it for long periods, though at the risk of atrophy of important muscle systems in the body. It describes the behavior of liquids during free fall and suggests--since water escaping from a bottle would float about in spherical form--that food and drink be served in squeeze packages. It discusses orbital rendezvous, methods of building a space station and giving it an artificial gravity, the need of reflective surface painting to heat and cool space vehicles, and the means of generating electricity from solar heat. It describes space suits, problems of re-entry into the earth's atmosphere, methods of celestial navigation, time tables for trips to the nearer planets (Venus, 146 days; Mars 235), and the advantages to be derived from placing fuel depots and launching stations on the moon.

It does not overlook the civil and military benefits which could accrue to a nation with a strong position in space. Oberth strongly advocated construction of an orbital mirror 60 miles in diameter. This devise, with a surface composed of thousands of movable, shutterlike panels, would by his calculations have needed 15 years of work and the expenditure of $750 million for development. But the nation which owned it, he predicted, could control sunlight, and therefore weather, could eliminate night over big areas of countryside and also, with a few quick adjustments, burn its enemies to a crisp.

Gernsback dealt severely in his own articles with those who he felt were scientific pretenders. He looked with doubt on famed H. Grindell Matthews for "claiming" to have invented a death ray, noting acidly that "the possibility of Matthews having discovered a ray not known to the editor of this magazine is very slight." On the other hand, he allowed his imagination, and that of others, full swing, if he felt there was the slightest basis in fact to support a scientific premise. He was delighted, in 1920, to quote England's Sir Oliver Lodge on the "prodigious forces" inherent in the atom-- "there is enough energy in one ounce of coal to raise the German fleet from the bottom of Scope Flow and pile it on the Scottish Mountains." He was, and still is, fascinated by the idea of gravity-nullifying devises and ran a "city the size of New York" floating, apparently on a large platter, high above the earth "where the air is purer and free of disease-carrying bacteria."

His childhood enchantment with Mars left him with an enormous, sentimental regard for that planet and he has felt a constant compulsion to get in touch with it. As early as 1909 he advocated hooking all the wireless stations in the U.S. to one central key located in Lincoln, Nebraska and sending a super signal to alert the Martians-- a race of beings he seemed to feel ought to exist even if they didn't-- to the Earth people's interest in them. Eleven years later he published the details of another plan; blinking code messages into space with a battery of 1,000 powerful searchlights. He also invented a Martian--a tall, skinny, birdlike creature--who has been copied by cartoonists and illustrators ever since.

Gernsback's Martian has long since served his purpose--to startle and stir people who thought of Mars only as a remote point of red light in the eastern sky--and now he must be considered as extinct as the moon maidens and long-bearded Venusian seers who were his companions on the pages of forgotten pulp magazines. Time eroded the stuff of many another Gernsback prophecy and has taken many a scientist whose career he tracked and dramatized. Lee DeForest, who shopped at the Electro Importing Company for materials with which he developed the vacuum tube, is long gone. So is the great Nikola Tesla, who gave the world alternating current and wore shoes with wooden pegs because of his fear of it. The death mask of Tesla which Gernsback commissioned and now keeps in his office is the sole monument raised to the electrical genius in the U.S. Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, with whom Gernsback collaborated and broke bread in the early 1950s, is, too, only a name.

The considerable list of Gernsback's own inventions sounds quaint and archaic--the "Radiotrola" (first radio console with a loop aerial), the "Staccotone" (a radio piano), several obscure types of electronic circuitry and the "Osophone" (his bone-conduction hearing aid-- which unfortunately helped only those willing to walk around with a microphone in one hand and a hard rubber mouth-piece between their teeth).

Gernsback shows off a pair of teleglasses, an idea he first dreamed up in 1936, for which he feels the world is now ready.The tele-numbed 1960s make his laborious, excited and splendidly bull- headed 1928 telecasting seem more archaic yet. The devise by which Station WRNY emitted its primitive video signals--a whirling perforated "scanning disc" hooked to a set of photoelectric cells--produced a picture only one and a half inches square. Programs simply showed the head and shoulders of a singer, a speaker or a doll which was sometimes used as a substitute subject. They could be received in all New York by only a dozen or so rabid "experimenters" who had built similar disc machines from instructions in one of Gernsback's own magazines, Radio News. But those telecasts dramatized his own tenacity more pointedly than the process dramatized the inevitability of image by wireless.

Television constitutes but one stream in the flood of innovation which recently has threatened to wash Gernsback out of existence; the whole of science, in fact, has risen and gone roaring past him since the discovery of nuclear fission and the beginnings of the space race, and the placid little backwaters which he breasted as a young man have been lost forever beneath the torrent. He seems delighted by the whole phenomenon. "My only reaction is this," he says--"What took them so long?" But he still works at his self- appointed mission as intently as a prospector seeking the mother lode.

Food and wine are his only non-scientific interest, and the only hours of real relaxation he allows are spent at the most posh Manhattan restaurants. He arrives at his spacious, old-fashioned office in New York's Greenwich Village, dressed to the nines, by 8:30 every morning, and he sits up late in his handsome apartment overlooking the Hudson River reading piles of scientific publications. He goes over then with a beady eye, alert for the stuff of new predictions. Error--even if he chances to detect it in so lowly a medium as a comic strip--fills him with indignation. On finding a comic- page character floating in the infinite without a space suit recently, he cried, "Wrong! His internal pressure would exceed the external pressure. His eyes would pop out! His belly would swell out! He would blow up!"

He has abandoned all involvement with science fiction, now so overshadowed by fantastic reality, and published, with his book list, but two magazines: Radio electronics, the "bible" of television repair men, and the curious little monthly Sexology. Gernsback supports Sexology fiercely; with physics and the delights of space travel now being pawed over by armies of newcomers, he feels that sex offers a last, unexplored, scientific frontier.

Gernsback is fully prepared, even anxious, to answer the slavering critic who accuses him of prurience.. Sex, he feels, is a "cultural subject" and as such should not be "relegated to back rooms" but discussed openly--even its more peripheral phases. He finds the "non-scientific attitude" about it "appalling, abysmal stupidity....Let me tell you something very few people realize," he says. "Even physicians are not taught anything about sex in college! A horrifying situation!"

Sex has not distracted him in the slightest, however, from his lifelong interest in electronic gadgetry and in the new horizons being opened by the advance of more orthodox scientific knowledge. Neither has it inhibited his bent for invention on those occasions when he feels that duty and circumstance demand it--although he now invents only in broad outline, leaving the actual mechanics of the thing to others. His television eyeglasses--a device for which he feels millions yearn--constitute a case in point.

When the idea for this handy, pocket-size portable TV set occurred to him in 1936, he was forced to dismiss it as impractical. But a few weeks ago, feeling that the electronics industry was catching up with his New-Deal era concepts, he ordered some of his employees to build a mock-up.

"It is now perfectly possible to make thin, inch-square cathode tubes," he says, "and to run them with low-voltage current from very small batteries with no danger at all of electrocuting the wearer. Sound can be carried to the ear just as a hearing aid. Television eyeglasses should weigh only about five ounces. Since there will be a picture for each eye, the glasses will make a stereoptical view possible and since they will be masked--like goggles--they can be used in bright sunlight. The user can take them out of his pocket any where, slip them on, flip a switch and turn to his favorite station." A V-type aerial protrudes from the top of Gernsback's mock-up of the TV glasses. he likes the effect--which can only be described as neo-Martian.

Amidst these preoccupation's Gernsback also plans, writes, edits and makes up a gaudily illustrated pocket-size booklet called Forecast, which he mails out annually at Christmas to 9,000 people--a great proportion of them newspaper and periodical editors and writers, scientists and executives in electronic industries--who may not necessarily have availed themselves of the opportunity to follow his thinking during the year. A certain amount of publicity accrues to him because of Forecast, which is now in its 29th year, but more importantly it allows him to keep the minds of influential men and women properly adjusted to the Gernsback view--something, no human alive is capable of achieving without assistance from Gernsback.

Each issue of this little annual contains references to his past and his more spectacular predictions--into which certain overtones of self congratulation sometimes creep--so that even the newest reader is not left in doubt as to its publisher's identity and place in the scheme of things. Forecast's major function, however, is the dissemination of Gernsback's latest predictions, and his latest and most vehement opinions on the state of science and of civilization.

He feels certain, for instance, that the "doctor shortage" is nonsense or could be quickly solved, at any rate, if only patients were equipped with "medi-wrist radio transmitters," which would send temperature, pulse rate, respiration and other clues as to their condition to a central monitoring station.


Neither the size, cost, nor the impressive achievements of the U.S. space program prevent his giving NASA occasional advise. It is his opinion that the U.S. should immediately cease this "senseless" orbiting of the earth with manned space capsules--since the Russians, in effect, have already done it for us--and get on the moon with all dispatch. In a recent issue he worked out plans for the transport of metals from the moon after it is explored and after mining camps have been set up there to exploit its "fantastic mineral riches." Two-way traffic will, in his view, be unnecessary. Moon colonists, if they are wise, will simply construct 50-foot, spherical, unmanned, one-way space ships of valuable beryllium, load them with 300 tons of gold and lob them into one of earth's oceans. Since each beryllium ship would float, it could easily be retrieved and, after removal of the fold, be melted down for use on earth. Total profit per ship-trip; $606 Million.

Gernsback does not arrive at the sum of the year's augury for Forecast without steady, month-by-month cerebration. He is not, in fact, above wishing that the electronic-brain-with-memory-cells which he recently forecast were already in being to give him occasional assistance. His expression, in its absence, is habitually grim. "Mr. Gernsback," says a merchant on Manhattan's West 14th Street who has watched the prophet heading for his office every morning for years, "always looks as though he is carrying the world on his shoulders." The statement needs only minor editing. For complete accuracy delete "always looks as though" and replace "world" with "our planetary system."

Montana: Helena Independent ~ 1928.11.19

New York, Nov. 18 -- (AP) -- A 3-year-old girl was fatally injured by a taxicab today when she darted away form her nurse, while crossing West End avenue at 90th street, to retrieve a penny she had dropped.

The child was Bernette Gernsback, daughter of Hugo Gernsback, publisher of radio and scientific magazines and owner of radio station WRNY.

Mysteries of Fading Unexplainable as Yet, Declares Radio Expert
Body Capacity, Dead Spots and Static Continue to Baffle Solution Despite Authorities, Says Hugo Gernsback
New York Syracuse Herald ~ March 28, 1926
"Mysteries of fading, body capacity, dead spots and static still remain unsolved in spite of all that experts may tell us," according to Hugo Gernsback, radio expert and editor, who here discusses the problems facing radio listeners.

"Take, for instance, fading, one of the common radio mysteries," Mr. Gernsback says. You listen in with your good three or four-tube set to a station 1,000 miles away. You do not touch your set at any time, and the concert to which you listen suddenly starts to fade out, growing weaker and weaker until finally you cannot hear it at all. Soon the condition reverses itself, and the concert comes in, faint at first, then loud, until it is back to normal audibility.

"The radio expert will tell you that the answer to this mystery is a common, everyday garden variety of cloud. Says he, a cloud will be interposed between your radio set and the broadcast station, and while the cloud is in the way, the fading occurs. A good explanation.

A Different Case.
"However, your friend sitting at your elbow is using a supersensitive outfit, let us say a superheterodyne. He does not use an outdoor aerial as you do, but just a loop aerial. He is listening to the same station, and he does not experience any fading at all. The expert will immediately tell you: "Ah, the second set is so sensitive that the few waves that get through the could are picked up by the super-heterodyne." Also a good explanation, but somehow not very convincing.

"Next on the list are dead spots. For instance, if you are in a large city surrounded by skyscrapers or other large buildings, you will find that it is extremely difficult to receive from certain broadcast stations. In other words, you are located in a dead spot where receiving is extremely difficult. We know that large buildings absorb energy and tend to cast a sort of shadow for electromagnetic waves over certain sections, which then become known as dead spots. On the other hand, there are large regions free from any obstruction, and these are also dead spots. Certain parts of the Atlantic Coast, which are flat and without obstructions does not hold good, but these dead spots exist and even the radio expert is hard pressed for a plausible answer.

DX On Crystal Sets.
"Next we come to the crystal records -- a deep thorn in the flesh of every radio expert since radio began, and particularly since the advent of broadcasting. The crystal set is supposed to work only within 15 and probably no more than 25 miles from the average broadcast station. No reputable manufacturer will claim a greater distance. Hundreds and thousands of crystal sets perform well within these limits, but increase the distance to 30 or 40 miles from the broadcast station and a crystal set becomes as silent as a tomb. That, is 99.9 per cent of them do. On the other hand, every radio paper is frequently in receipt of letters from crystal set owners who receive up to 500 and 1,000 miles without any trouble.

"Moreover, they can cover these distances regularly at will; in other words, not because of freak atmospheric conditions. The radio editors promptly send out investigators to inquire into these extravagant statements, and to their surprise they find that the statements are true. Here, then, is an impossible situation. The radio expert steps in and says that the crystal act is simply receiving energy from some vacuum tube set nearby but this is also investigated and found not to be so, because in certain cases investigated there was not a vacuum tube set within a 50-mile radius. Furthermore, a crystal set owner can get stations he wants at will, consequently there could be no question of borrowing the energy from a nearby vacuum tube set. Moreover, the crystal sets that accomplish the impossible often are very mediocre, and as a rule, are home-made, being of the same old circuit with the same old galena crystal.

Body Capacity
"We next turn our attention to body capacity. This refers to the howling heard in the phones or loudspeaker which is produced in your set, particularly when listening in to long distance stations, when the hand is brought near certain parts of the outfit. It is not always necessary to bring the hand near the outfit. For instance, I once had a large set which was so sensitive to body capacity that when listening to a DX station, if I walked away from the set, the station faded out, but came in strong again when I walked toward the outfit.

Experts tell us that our bodies act as a sort of condenser plate which, having a certain amount of capacity disturbs the very fine electrical equilibrium in a vacuum tube outfit. They also tell us that in certain cases the body acts as an aerial and collects waves which tend to upset the electrical balance in the radio outfit when the hand or other parts of the body are brought near it.

"But we were not convinced by this explanation, so the other day we suspended a large piece of tin sheeting on a string which was attached to a walking cane, and moved the tin sheeting close to the radio outfit while it was in operation. The capacity of this tin sheet was actually larger than that of a man, but strange to say, nothing happened, and it did not disturb the reception to any great extent.

"To be sure, there was a slight effect, but not at all to be compared with the effect produced by the human body -- which causes me to question: Are there many kinds of body capacity, or does another element enter into it, when we put our hands on a condenser knob, bringing forth cat-calls and shrieks in the loud-talker?

Task for Spiritualists.
"This statement is made with diffidence, because we may immediately start the spiritualists and others to work on body capacity effects. But, who knows, perhaps something will come of it if the phenomenon is really investigated by scientists and radio engineers -- which so far has not happened.

"Then we have our good friend, or rather arch enemy, static. What our experts and scientists do not know about it would fill many heavy volumes. If you look through the literature on static, you come to the following results: 1, there is no static; 2, there is static; 3, we do not know the origin of static; 4, we know it; 5, static travels in a wave form; 6, static is an electrical surge, and so on, ad infinitum. In the meantime, when the conditions for static are really good, that is, in the winter time, when the air is really dry and when static electrical effects are much greater than in summer, we have no static.

Phenomenon Makes Itself Felt Especially in Long Distance Receiving
By Hugo Gernsback
New York Syracuse Herald ~ 1926.07.11
As is well known, the sun goes through an 11-year cycle of sun spots. This phenomenon has been observed for several centuries, and while there is also a major cycle, the minor 11year cycle seems to be pretty well proved by the observations of many generations of investigators.

The sun, according to the latest researches, is composed of a molten interior and a gaseous envelope. This gaseous envelope, composed of heated gases, much hotter than anything we have here on earth, is not a uniform envelope at all times, but occasionally rifts appear in it, which, seen through a powerful enough telescope, have the appearance of dark holes. They are, in fact, vortexes of swirling gases and volatilized metals, making it possible for us to see the underlying surface of the sun's sphere. These holes are called sun spots and can be observed at the present time with the naked eye by using darkened glasses.

Oddity in Heat.
One would at first think that when the sun sends us more heat it would be hotter on earth. The reverse is actually true. When the sun sends us more heat there is faster evaporation of the waters of our planet which, naturally, gives rise to more clouds and more clouds mean rainy weather and a lowering of the temperature on the planet. For that reason, at the height of the sun spot cycle the weather on the earth is usually appreciably cooler than at the minimum of the sun spot cycle. The next two years will therefore probably witness cooler and more rainy weather, if previous experiences may be taken as a guide.

There is also a popular misconception that we receive heat rays from the sun. No such thing happens. It has been definitely proved that between the sun and the earth there is no appreciable atmosphere. The two bodies, along with the rest of the universe, are in a pretty good vacuum. Now we know that heat rays cannot be transmitted through a vacuum, otherwise we would not have the principle of the thermos bottle. No heat can be sent across a vacuum. The sun, however, does send us elecro-magnetic waves, and we do receive light from the sun, but no heat is actually received until the light rays strike the earth's atmosphere; where, by impact, the light rays undergo a certain change, with a result that makes itself perceptible as heat.

Another phenomenon takes place at the same time, and that is the retention of heat by the atmosphere, which acts as a storage reservoir for the heat thus generated. An aviator going up to about seven miles above the surface of the earth must be wrapped in furs and must take heat along with him if he does not wish to freeze, even on the hottest summer day, although only seven miles above the surface of the earth. The sun is still shining there and the rays are still striking the airplane, but there is no heat, because the atmosphere is so thin and attenuated here that no heat can be stored by the sun's light rays.

Differ in Frequency.
But the light rays of the sun are really electro-magnetic waves, as demonstrated by Clerk Maxwell. All ether waves that we know of are electro-magnetic, whether they be light waves, X-ray waves or radio waves. The rays differing frequency, that is in the length of the waves. They are all of the same family. So when there is increased solar activity , as at present, the effect makes itself felt on earth, not only in the resultant weather changes, but in various other ways, and these various ways will make themselves felt more as scientific progress goes on.

Before the advent of radio broadcasting there was no known effect on radio due to sun spots. Today there is. It makes itself felt in poor radio reception, particularly as to long distance reception. In 1922, at the minimum of the sun spot cycle, it will be remembered that a one-tube regenerative receiver had no trouble in picking up signals from 1,000 to 1,500 miles distant. This was an everyday occurrence. Today when we are going towards the sun spot maximum, radio reception is extraordinarily poor, and only very seldom may conditions be called fair for DX (long distance) radio reception.

In 1922 such radio reception was good, summer and winter, when the usual static did not interfere too much. Now reception, even in the winter, is notoriously bad, as witness the last international radio tests in February, which were most disappointing for this reason. The explanation lies in the fact that the increased solar activity, by sending us more electro-magnetic waves, tends to ionize the atmosphere on our planet to such a degree that it amounts to something akin to a short circuit.

The atmosphere through which the radio waves must pass is now of such high conductivity that the waves soon become absorbed and consequently do not travel as far as they do when the air is less ionized. This is the present accepted theory and if this theory is correct we should not have really excellent radio reception again until 1933. The maximum of atmospheric conductivity is supposed to be 1928, after which conditions probably will slowly improve again.

How You Can Easily Make a Radio Christmas Tree
Combining the Fir and Music to Express the Spirit of the Yuletide.
Ohio: Zanesville Times Signal ~ 1926.12.12
Christmas trees and music are synonymous -- almost. It takes both of them to give the spirit of the Yuletid its fullest expression. How much more effectively this can be done by combining the two; in other words, make a musical Christmas tree! And so the thought of a radio Christmas tree becomes self-evident to an astonishing degree. Moreover, it is not only simple to accomplish, but double in its purpose, for you make your Christmas tree musical and a the same time provide the necessary base for the tree. The idea, in other words, is simply to make a box which will become the holder for the tree and at the same time, being of wood -- and therefore sonorous -- becomes a good radio loud speaker. Such a box, according to Hugo Gernsback, who explains in Radio News how to make the device, works astonishingly well as a loud-speaker, and with a a five-tube radio receiver produces sufficient volume to fill a large room. . . .

Ohio Lima News 1957.04.05

The public will soon be able to see a model of the very first home radio set ever put on the market -- way back in the radio dawn of 1905. 

In a ceremony at Dearborn, Mich., Hugo Gernsback, 72-year-old New York inventor, presented models of his transmitter and receiver to the Henry ford Museum. 

Gernsback's right hand rests on the transmitter model. The entire outfit cost $7.50 when it first went on sale.

New York Syracuse Post Standard ~ 1960.11.27
Today's television receivers may one day be replaced by devices that will "tickle" the brain, breaking right through to man's inner consciousness. At least that's what electronics traiblazer Hugo Gernsback believes.
Brain tissue conducts electricity. What woud be more logical then, asks Gernsback, than the development of a "super-ceptor" whose impuses would create images directly in the mind, like dreams, instead of lighting up a television screen? And three UCLA scientists have suggested that with the introduction of such a receiver, everyone in the family would be able to tune in his individual program -- with eyes open or closed, whichever he prefers!
Next week: Year-Round Farming

Americans Now Involved in Big Numbers Game
by Peter Edson ~ Ohio Coshocton Tribune 1961.10.12

Washington (NEA) - Life in these United States has become a huge numbers racket, and it's mostly Washington's fault.
If there is anyone else around to remember it, a Luxembourger named Hugo Gernsback published the first string of "Modern Electrics" magazines about 50 years ago, in which the science fiction for boys was simply wonderful.

One of his heroes was a character named "Ralph 124 C 41 Plus." He was named that because the world population was so great that the same first, middle, and last names were held by so many people that it was confusing. So everybody got a number.

What the "C" and the "Plus" stood for escapes the feeble memory at the moment, but no matter. "Ralph" was a handy name to yell at him, and he was "Plus" all over.

He talked and saw pictures over the radio, when in real life it was a system of dots and dashes called the wireless telegraph.
He wore a space helmet and suit. He visited the distant planets n his rocket ship and did all the things Cmdr. Alan Shepard, Maj. Yuri Gagarin and other astronauts are just beginning to do.

And he had a number for a name. Lucky Ralph. He had only one number to remember. But now, 50 years later, it turns out that everybody has to have not one number but a score of 'em. Life is dominated by numbers. And it takes a whole battery of electric computers to keep the numbers straight.

In the beginning, man had a house number or a rural route number and the date of his birth to remember, which wasn't too difficult. Then he got a telephone simple like "812 Green."

If you forgot your hat, neck, bust or chest, waist, hips, socks, shoe or glove sizes, you tried something on till you got a fit, and that was that.

It wasn't so bad, either, when four million Americans went into World War I and were assigned identification numbers. If you forgot for a moment who you were, your hand made an automatic cootie-scratching gesture and out came your dog tag.
Things got a little more complicated when automobile tag and driver's license numbers had to be paid for. But the real trouble began in the New Deal 30 years ago, when Social Security was introduced and everyone insured was given a number.

The original intention was that everyone except the bookkeepers could forget Soc-Sec. numbers until the retirement age 65 was reached. Then the number was dug out to collect benefits, which was compensation. But next the Internal Revenue Service took over this number system and required it on income tax forms. What's worse, they're going to assign income tax account numbers to people who don't have Social Security numbers.And according to a new law which President Kennedy is signing, anybody who forgets to put his number on his tax return can be fined. $5.

This is going too far, but it is only the beginning of what's ahead in this world of numbers. The telephone companies, having accustomed everyone to remembering two letters and five digits, is switching over to an 8-digit system, without letters. And if this space communications business develops as they're saying it will, 10 or 12 digit numbers are likely in t he next generation, so you can dial Moscow and Luang Prabang direct. Moreover, the banks are taking it up now. Checking accounts must have 7- or 8-digit numbers in impossible combinations of spaces with or without commas so that some electronic brain can sort out your checks and deposit slips, to say nothing of your overdrafts. Poor Ralph 124 C 41 Plus. See what you started.

What will it be like when you die, go to heaven, and St. Peter tells you that you can't get in unless you give him the  numbers on your credit cards and charge plates? It will be like the other place for you, that's what it will be.

Why Go To The Moon
An expert spells out the reasons, which include vast riches, 
a greater knowledge of the universe, and possibly even peace on our own planet
By Hugo Gernsback 
Ohio Mansfield News Journal ~ 1962.01.14

Rockets to carry the moon's riches to earth may look like this. 
Unmanned transport is guided electronically to land in ocean for recovery.

On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy proposed that the country -- at a cost of $20 billion -- send a man to the moon and back by 1970. Despite this, the average American is still highly skeptical that we will ever set foot on our natural satellite which is 288,000 miles distant.

Last September when one of the five finalists in the Miss America contest was asked when she thought we would land on the moon, she told millions of TV listeners: "We will never get there! We were born here, and I think God wants us to stay on this planet!"

If a young woman of more than average intelligence can express such a negative opinion, despite the positive assurance of scientists from every part of the world as well as our own National Aeronautics and Space Administration, we should not be too surprised that the man in the street puts little credence in our ever reaching the moon. Besides, the average person asks, why spend billions on such a "harebrained" project?

Our better-informed citizens know that the Russians landed a space missile, Lunik II, on the moon in September 1959, and that in October, 1958, they sent up Lunik III, which circumnavigated the moon and photographed and televised the rear side of it. Yet even these people still believe that the U.S. moon project is only a propaganda effort to match the Soviets.

There are, however, many compelling practical reasons for conquering the moon, which most people fail to grasp. Even the voyages of Columbus, leading to the discovery, exploration, and exploitation of the New World, pale when we compare them with the opening up of the moon -- a real new world more than one-quarter as large as the earth.

Let us now consider some of the most important reasons why the earth's inhabitants must soon conquer our nearest neighbor in space:

1. The moon is the first natural stepping stone to general exploration of our solar system. Once we gain the moon, it will be comparatively simple to explore the other planets. The reason that our natural satellite makes an almost ideal way station is that its gravity is only one-sixth that of the earth. Hence, a 150-pound man weighs only 26 pounds on the moon, and a 1,000-ton spaceship weighs only a little more than 166 tons. Therefore, to launch it toward Venus or Mars will require only 1-20th as much energy or fuel as if launched from earth.

True, it is possible to build a so-called space platform which could gravitate as an artificial satellite around our earth, say, 500 miles up. Such a launching platform has been discussed since 1928 by its originator, German space pioneer Herrmann Oberth of V-1 and V-2 rocket fame. Recently, James E. Webb, head of NASA, reviewed the possibility of such a platform, to cost more than $35 billion -- an estimate which other Administration Officials consider too low. For this and other reasons, it is believed that in the long run a lunar station might prove more practical. 

2. In comparison with the earth, the moon is far richer in all the precious and strategically valuable metals. It seems reasonably certain that all the ores and metals existing on earth are also present on the moon. Yet on earth it is often impractical to mine precious metals at great depths because of the high costs. On the moon you can dig six times deeper due to its low gravity.

Living and Working Underground
Then, too, on account of the vast lunar caves created by thousands of dead volcanoes, mining becomes comparatively simple, similar to surface mining. Although the moon has no atmosphere and is in fact immersed in an almost perfect vacuum, it would be feasible nevertheless to do most lunar work below its surface. The huge caves can be made airtight, air-pressured, and air-conditioned for all living quarters, offices, and even the mines. Thus, space suits won't be necessary.

The precious ores of gold, platinum, silver, mercury, palladium, beryllium, and dozens of others, can be processed in special surface smelters to extract the metals. Shipping ores to the earth would be impractical due to the great weight. Hence the necessity for moon smelters.

All metals may then be shipped by special electronically guided rocket transports to earth. These almost-round ball-shaped transports are airtight and watertight. Unmanned, they are directed into assigned areas in the earth's oceans. Being airtight, they float and can be easily recovered. The trip will last less than two days.

Diamonds and other precious stones may abound in the deep lunar volcanic caves and fissures. They are, of course, small in bulk and thousands weigh very little. These may be shipped home by manned spaceships.

3. Man in his search for knowledge must go to the moon. On earth, because of our dense atmosphere, astronomers can see the universe only imperfectly. It is as if they were on t eh bottom of a deep lake. Fog, smog, clouds, rain, and lights from nearby cities rob astronomers of more than 60 percent of their observation time.

On the moon, where all the important observatories of the future will be located, conditions are ideal. Wit never a cloud or fog or mist, our knowledge of the universe will be enhanced a thousand fold. So will be one of our newest research tools -- radio astronomy -- and practically all branches of science.

4. Those who have experienced hurricanes understand only too well that we know next to nothing about these terrible scourges. Special meteorological observatories of the future, located on the moon, will observe 24 hours a day and indicate exactly when and where hurricanes are born. That is the only chance we have to do something to divert or split them up.

We already have the means to do something about hurricanes, but, unfortunately, it is usually too late when we get our information, it is usually too late when we get our information.  On the moon, where the oceans of the earth are spread out like a map, we could actually witness the birth of every storm. The proper earth station could be alerted by radio within minutes.

5. The moon is apparently not a completely dead world, as we have thought for centuries. A British astronomer, V. A. Firsoff, recently stated that "the difference of shade and color between neighboring areas on parts of the moon look suspiciously like living growth of some kind." Another scientist, Patrick Moore, believes that the colored bands that appear around certain crater walls may be vegetation of some sort. It could perhaps originate along cracks in the lunar crust  from which life-sustaining vapors from t he interior of the moon may issue. 

Other astronomers agree with these findings because they know that for billions of years meteorites colliding with the moon and porous dust from the now-extinct lunar volcanoes have blanketed many parts of the moon. This protective blanket is also an excellent insulator against heat and cold. Astronomers think, therefore, that a few feet below the surface of the dust blanket the temperature may be mild and constant. This would induce certain hardy plants to grow. 

Settling the Moon
How will the great powers "colonize" and divide the moon among themselves? Wherever man went on our planet, he conquered other countries to settle his own people. On the moon this is impossible, for the land is barren and manless.

Because the word "colony" derives from the Latin colonus -- farmer -- the term becomes ludicrous on the moon, where there will be hardly any farming, with perhaps the exception of future hothouse cultivation. A better word would be "selenization" (selene being Greek for moon). How do we selenize the moon? Nations which send their citizens to become temporary moon workers may be entitled to slices of the moon in proportion to the number they send. The term "slice" is used advisedly because lunar real estate should not be measured only by the surface but by the depth, too. Take an orange, peel it, and remove the wedge-shaped slices. This gives an example of ow to divide the moon, with slices that run from pole to pole, from the center of the moon to the surface. In this manner, each nation can exploit its entire slice without encroaching on anyone else's territory.

Some Fringe Benefits
All workers on -- or rather inside -- the moon will probably work six-hour shifts underground. With certain few exceptions, they cannot work on the surface. The work in the caves will be strenuous and not too pleasant. Hence after a few days the workers must be replaced. 

They may then go to a lunar surface hotel for rest and leisure. But such hotels, like the moon itself, will be immersed in a deadly vacuum. These structures must be airtight and fully air-conditioned to withstand the terrific moon heat that often reaches 200oF. 

Lunar daylight lasts 14 1/4 earth days; the night brings a temperature of minus 250oF. It, too, lasts 14 3/4 earth days; thus one lunar "day" lasts 29 1/2 earth days. This makes for a strenuous life, more so because few -- even the hardiest -- will wish to go outside in a space suit.

You don't walk around just for fun on the moon even if you have a space suit, just as you would not walk for relaxation on the bottom of the ocean. Moon explorers may walk about the surface for one or two hours but not much longer. You can't eat or drink in a space suit, and you must carry your own oxygen tank, which cannot be too large or it becomes too cumbersome.

Hence, moon workers will not stay on the moon for long at one time -- one year at the very most. Then they will want to return to the earth.

Exploring and selenizing the moon will keep the earth's nations busy for hundreds of years. Nor will the various nations war with each other on the moon. Its deadly vacuum, its harsh and debilitating climate, and its rugged surface will discourage warfare.

Indeed, the moon may yet prove to be a vital factor in encouraging peace among the nations of the earth.

Death Rays, Television, Radar, Space Probes -- Fiction Writers
By H. D. Quigg ~ Reno Nevada State Journal ~ 1965.09.15

NEW YORK (UPI) - Who is ahead in the space race? Forget about Russia and the United States. They're way behind.
And no matter how far those countries probe into things out yonder, they'll find that a far out group -- the science fiction writers -- has been there ahead of them and moved on to ore distant galaxies.

Science Fiction predicted television and radar in 1911 (Hugo Gernsback). It predicted Antimatter in 1934. It predicted long ago that we'd have tranquilizers and the Laser (death ray, it was called).

But now that wild dreams such as moon shots, Martian probes, men walking in space and space guns have come true, where will the writers take us? They'll keep right on going to other systems and scientific regions imponderable. And probably move with greater emphasis into sociology and politics.

That's the word from H. L. Gold, a topflight science fiction writer and from 1950 to 1961 editor of Galaxy Magazine.
"The wildest predictions we make become the most timid sort of speculation," he said. "For example, the New York World's Fair of 1939 tried to present 'the world of Tomorrow.' It conceived of atomic power and of rocketry. But the latter they expected within generations and atomic power within centuries. In five years, both became a fact.
"Somewhere in the 1920s Liberty Magazine ran a story called 'Red Napoleon' by Floyd Gibbons predicting Communist China. It was preposterous.

"Antimatter was written about in 1934 by a guy named Jack Williamson. Called it contraterrene matter -- or cee-tee shock. As for the death ray -- Matter of fact, I read recently of the army having an experimental laser rifle.

"Tranquilizers were predicted by Wyman Guin in a story, 'Beyond Bedlam.' TV was predicted in 1911 -- the writer made very clear what it would look like and approximately how it would work and it was called 'television' and 'tv.' Hell, up to about the 1940s, until it became a reality, scientists were calling it 'distant electrical viewing.'"

It was Hugo Gernsback, now 81, who described radar's wonders back in 1911, and he did an imaginative "exploration" of Mars.

But nowadays the boys have gone far beyond merely exploring our sister planets. As Gold says:

"The other planets are old hat. We've been talking for many years about going to other stars. To go from solar system to solar system, it's necessary to circumvent, or go around, the limitation of merely travelling at the speed of light -- so we have this device known to science fiction as "the space warp" and other terms. This would be traveling in the fourth dimension.

"Now, using the fourth dimension, we'll find that even universes may be just a short distance away. This is based on the experimental work that is being done in mathematics where the fourth dimension is a mathematical reality.
"You come as close as you can get to another solar system by this means, and then you go the rest of the way, to one of their planets, by, say, antigravity drive or maybe by utilizing photon winds (youhave gigantic sailing ships with enormous sails). Or, you could go by something as inefficient as rocket drive.

Talk about your wild predictions. Take the rivalry between Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. VErne was the scientific writer working within the frameworkof the scientifically feasible. Wells was a pseudo-scientist, working on things that were impossible to science of that time. Verne had a giant cannon shoot his explorers to the moon. Wells used antigravity.
"Now, Verne's cannon never became a reality. But today we're working on antigravity. The guys who were working on it some time back expected to have it in working model within 40 years. The point is that Verne became outdated before the end of his lifetime, and we're just beginning to catch up with Wells -- who incidentally, invented most every theme of science fiction from time travel to biological travel."

 Hugo Gernsback and Amazing Stories Magazine
Reference: SCOOP ~ April 30, 2021
Amazing Stories was the first science fiction magazine and a catalyst for the new sci-fi pulp genre. Science fiction had been featured in other publications, but this was the first magazine completely devoted to the subject. It was launched 95 years ago in April 1926 by Hugo Gernsback and his Experimenter Publishing.

As a genre, science fiction picked up steam at the turn of the 20th century with imaginative tales of the future and bewildering inventions. Sci-fi stories were carving out a niche in pulp magazines like The Argosy, though some mainstream literary magazines like McClure’s and Munsey’s Magazine also printed a few science fiction stories.

In 1908, Gernsback started publishing the science magazine, Modern Electrics, and as its success was building, he began introducing some articles about imaginative science. This started with “Wireless on Saturn” in December ’08, then he started serializing his sci-fi novel, Ralph 124C 41+, in April 1911. Two years later, he sold his portion of the magazine to his partner and introduced Electrical Experimenter, which would also publish some sci-fi content.

In 1920, the magazine was retitled Science and Invention, featuring a combination of real science articles with science fiction. Soon after, he created Practical Electrics, which ran for three years until it was renamed The Experimenter in ’24. At that point, he sent a letter to subscribers asking if they’d be interested in a magazine that was completely devoted to science fiction, but the response was not strong enough to warrant a new publication. After two more years of combining sci-fi stories with real science articles, he dropped The Experimenter and introduced Amazing Stories.

The magazine was conceived as a mix of the educational aspect of a science text with the entertainment found in imagining possibilities free of real world constraints. Gernsback introduced the idea of “scientifiction” (the term “science fiction” wasn’t coined yet) in the first issue’s editorial, noting that the stories could educate and entertain. This was innovative thinking at the time since pulps were generally regarded as lowbrow entertainment.

The first issue featured all reprinted material, opening with the serialization of Jules Verne’s Off on a Comet, and accompanied by H.G. Wells’ “The New Accelerator” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” It also contained a few more recent stories, including “The Man from the Atom” by G. Peyton Wertenbaker and “The Thing from – ‘Outside’” – both reprinted from Science and Invention – and The Man Who Saved the Earth, which had been in All-Story Weekly. Then the first original story, “The Man from the Atom (Sequel)” by G. Peyton Wertenbaker was published in the May 1926 issue.

Editor T. O’Conor Sloane, who was editor on The Experimenter, took the same position for Amazing Stories. The staff included Conrad A. Brandt and Wilbur C. Whitehead, who were brought in to find stories they could reprint. Frank R. Paul, who had been working with Gernsback for several years and created illustrations for The Electrical Experimenter, was brought in as the cover artist.

The magazine was successful right off the bat, achieving a circulation of 150,000 within a year. Gernsback announced a competition in June 1926 to write a short story that would pair with a cover Paul had drawn. From the over 360 entries submitted, Cyril G. Wates won the competition, and he would go on to have three more stories published in the magazine. Seven other entries would be published in Amazing Stories, including Clare Winger Harris’ “The Fate of the Poseidonia” and A. Hyatt Verrill’s The Voice from the Inner World.

Some of the writers regularly featured in Amazing Stories included Jack Williamson, David H. Keller, and Stanton Coblentz, as well as Edward E. Smith with his space opera The Skylark of Space. It was in Amazing Stories that Buck Rogers saw his first appearance in print in Philip Francis Nowlan’s “Armageddon – 2419 AD.”

In 1927, Gernsback introduced a “Discussions” section where readers could comment on the stories and interact with each other. The audience for science fiction was still a smaller community, so this gave fans the chance to connect. Gernsback would print the full address for those who sent letters, which led to direct correspondence between readers. This forum for discussing the genre introduced the concept of the sci-fi fandom.

Gernsback also debuted Amazing Stories Annual in 1927 and when it sold out, he launched Amazing Stories Quarterly to be a regular companion for the main title.

Much of the stories featured gadgetry and inventions until Gernsback recognized that readers were becoming more attracted to fantasy adventures. He started serializing A Merrit’s The Moon Pool, a story that was more about the fantastical elements than scientific basis. The covers Paul created to accompany the stories were considered garish and some readers voiced their disapproval. After a toned down cover sold poorly, they returned to the more shocking covers.

Issues with the cover were coupled with some poor story quality because Gernsback was unable to secure bigger name writers. He gained a reputation for being slow to pay authors, so more established scribes like H.P. Lovecraft and H.G. Wells were reluctant to write for the magazine. This meant that some of the new stories published in the magazine were written by less talented authors looking to be published even if it meant waiting on payment.

Though the magazine was successful, Gernsback had invested in so many projects that he had limited liquid funds to pay contributors and creditors. In February 1929, his printer and paper supplier filed bankruptcy proceedings against him and Experimenter Publishing declared itself bankrupt a few days later. The magazine was sold to Bergan A. Mackinnon in April 1929.

Since then it has changed hands between publishers but has remained a fairly steady force in science fiction since it initially laid the groundwork for an entire genre in literary publications.

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The Edgar Rice Burroughs / Hugo Gernsback Connection
The Connection: Intro & Bio
Bibliography & Themes
Gernsback Clippings
Hugo's Annual Forecasts
Paul Art for Master Mind
Gernsback Publications
Cover Art Galleries
Master Mind C.H.A.S.E.R.
1. Electrical Experimenter
2. Science and Invention I
3. Science and Invention II
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