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The Perversity of Things

Hugo Gernsback on Media, Tinkering, and Scientifiction

2016
Author:

Hugo Gernsback
Edited by Grant Wythoff

The Perversity of Things

The founder of science fiction and his other inventions

Grant Wythoff presents a wide array of texts by famed writer, publisher, and inventor Hugo Gernsback that were foundational both for science fiction and emerging media studies. Through painstaking research and extensive annotations and commentary, Wythoff aims to reverse the widespread misunderstanding of Gernsback within the history of science fiction criticism, reintroducing us to Gernsback and the origins of science fiction.

Grant Wythoff's splendid work of scholarship dispels the dank, historic mists of a literary subculture with starkly factual archival research. An amazing vista of electronic media struggle is revealed here, every bit as colorful and cranky as Hugo Gernsback's pulp magazines—even the illustrations and footnotes are fascinating. I'm truly grateful for this work and will never think of American science fiction in the same way again.

Bruce Sterling, author, journalist, and critic

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. In The 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 Things aims 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.

The Perversity of Things

Grant Wythoff is a postdoctoral fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities and a lecturer in the department of English and comparative literature at Columbia University.

Hugo Gernsback (1884–1967) was a Luxembourgish— American inventor, writer, editor, and magazine publisher who founded the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926. The annual Hugo Awards for the best works of science fiction and fantasy are named in his honor.

The Perversity of Things

Grant Wythoff's splendid work of scholarship dispels the dank, historic mists of a literary subculture with starkly factual archival research. An amazing vista of electronic media struggle is revealed here, every bit as colorful and cranky as Hugo Gernsback's pulp magazines—even the illustrations and footnotes are fascinating. I'm truly grateful for this work and will never think of American science fiction in the same way again.

Bruce Sterling, author, journalist, and critic

Hugo Gernsback was one of the strangest and most weirdly influential minds of the twentieth century, and his story has never before been fully told. Grant Wythoff’s The Perversity of Things is brilliant and beautiful—indispensible for anyone who wants to understand the collision of technology and culture in which science fiction was born.

James Gleick, author of Time Travel

The Perversity of Things

Thematic Contents
How to Use This Book
Acknowledgments
Introduction
“up-to-date technic”: Hugo Gernsback’s Pulp Media Theory
“a perfect Babel of voices”: Communities of Inquiry and Wireless Publics
“’phone and code”: Dynamophone, Radioson, and Other Emerging Media
“certain future instrumentalities”: The Mineral Proficiencies of Tinkering
“we exploit the future”: Scientifiction’s Debut
Part I. Tinkering
A New Interrupter (1905)
The Dynamophone (1908)
The Born and the Mechanical Inventor (1911)
The Radioson Detector (1914)
What to Invent (1916)
The Perversity of Things (1916)
Thomas A. Edison Speaks to You (1919)
Human Progress (1922)
Results of the $500.00 Prize Contest: Who Will Save the Radio Amateur? (1923)
The Isolator (1925)
The Detectorium (1926)
New Radio “Things” Wanted (1927)
Part II. History and Theory of Media
The Aerophone Number (1908)
Why “Radio Amateur News” Is Here (1919)
Science and Invention (1920)
Learn and Work While You Sleep (1921)
The “New” Science and Invention (1923)
Are We Intelligent? (1923)
Part III. Broadcast Regulation
The Wireless Joker (1908)
The Wireless Association of America (1909)
The Roberts Wireless Bill (1910)
The Alexander Wireless Bill (1912)
Wireless and the Amateur: A Retrospect (1913)
Sayville (1915)
War and the Radio Amateur (1917)
Silencing America's Wireless (1917)
Amateur Radio Restored (1919)
The Future of Radio (1919)
Wired versus Space Radio (1927)
Part IV. Wireless
[Editorials] (1909)
From The Wireless Telephone (1911)
From A Treatise on Wireless Telegraphy (1913)
The Future of Wireless (1916)
From Radio for All (1922)
Radio Broadcasting (1922)
Is Radio at a Standstill? (1926)
Edison and Radio (1926)
Why the Radio Set Builder? (1927)
Radio Enters into a New Phase (1927)
The Short-Wave Era (1928)
Part V. Television
Television and the Telephot (1909)
A Radio-Controlled Television Plane (1924)
After Television—What? (1927)
Television Technique (1931)
Part VI. Sound
Hearing through Your Teeth (1916)
Grand Opera by Wireless (1919)
The Physiophone: Music for the Deaf (1920)
The “Pianorad” (1926)
Part VII. Scientifiction
Signaling to Mars (1909)
Our Cover (1913)
Phoney Patent Offizz: Bookworm's Nurse (1915)
Imagination versus Facts (1916)
Interplanetarian Wireless (1920)
An American Jules Verne (1920)
10,000 Years Hence (1922)
Predicting Future Inventions (1923)
The Dark Age of Science (1925)
A New Sort of Magazine (1926)
The Lure of Scientifiction (1926)
Fiction versus Facts (1926)
Editorially Speaking (1926)
Imagination and Reality (1926)
How to Write “Science” Stories (1930)
Science Fiction versus Science Faction (1930)
Wonders of the Machine Age (1931)
Reasonableness in Science Fiction (1932)
Part VIII. Selected Fiction
Ralph 124C 41+, Part 3 (1911)
Baron Münchhausen’s New Scientific Adventures, Part 5: “Münchhausen Departs for the Planet Mars” (1915)
The Magnetic Storm (1918)
The Electric Duel (1927)
The Killing Flash (1929)
Index


Chronological Contents
How to Use This Book
Acknowledgments
Introduction
“up-to-date technic”: Hugo Gernsback’s Pulp Media Theory
“a perfect Babel of voices”: Communities of Inquiry and Wireless Publics
“’phone and code”: Dynamophone, Radioson, and Other Emerging Media
“certain future instrumentalities”: The Mineral Proficiencies of Tinkering
“we exploit the future”: Scientifiction’s Debut
A New Interrupter (1905)
The Dynamophone (1908)
The Aerophone Number (1908)
The Wireless Joker (1908)
The Wireless Association of America (1909)
[Editorials] (1909)
Signaling to Mars (1909)
Television and the Telephot (1909)
The Roberts Wireless Bill (1910)
From The Wireless Telephone (1911)
The Born and the Mechanical Inventor (1911)
Ralph 124C 41+, Part 3 (1911)
The Alexander Wireless Bill (1912)
Wireless and the Amateur: A Retrospect (1913)
Our Cover (1913)
From A Treatise on Wireless Telegraphy (1913)
The Radioson Detector (1914)
Sayville (1915)
Baron Münchhausen’s New Scientific Adventures, Part 5: “Münchhausen Departs for the Planet Mars” (1915)
Phoney Patent Offizz: Bookworm's Nurse (1915)
Hearing through Your Teeth (1916)
The Future of Wireless (1916)
Imagination versus Facts (1916)
What to Invent (1916)
The Perversity of Things (1916)
War and the Radio Amateur (1917)
Silencing America's Wireless (1917)
The Magnetic Storm (1918)
Amateur Radio Restored (1919)
Why “Radio Amateur News” Is Here (1919)
Grand Opera by Wireless (1919)
The Future of Radio (1919)
Thomas A. Edison Speaks to You (1919)
Interplanetarian Wireless (1920)
The Physiophone: Music for the Deaf (1920)
Science and Invention (1920)
An American Jules Verne (1920)
Learn and Work While You Sleep (1921)
From Radio for All (1922)
10,000 Years Hence (1922)
Radio Broadcasting (1922)
Human Progress (1922)
Results of the $500.00 Prize Contest: Who Will Save the Radio Amateur? (1923)
Predicting Future Inventions (1923)
The “New” Science and Invention (1923)
Are We Intelligent? (1923)
A Radio-Controlled Television Plane (1924)
The Dark Age of Science (1925)
The Isolator (1925)
A New Sort of Magazine (1926)
The Lure of Scientifiction (1926)
Fiction versus Facts (1926)
Editorially Speaking (1926)
Is Radio at a Standstill? (1926)
The Detectorium (1926)
Imagination and Reality (1926)
The “Pianorad” (1926)
Edison and Radio (1926)
Why the Radio Set Builder? (1927)
New Radio “Things” Wanted (1927)
After Television—What? (1927)
Wired versus Space Radio (1927)
The Electric Duel (1927)
Radio Enters into a New Phase (1927)
The Short-Wave Era (1928)
The Killing Flash (1929)
How to Write “Science” Stories (1930)
Science Fiction versus Science Faction (1930)
Television Technique (1931)
Wonders of the Machine Age (1931)
Reasonableness in Science Fiction (1932)
Index

Is Radio at a Standstill? (1926)
Edison and Radio (1926)
Why the Radio Set Builder (1927)
Radio Enters a New Phase (1927)
The Short-Wave Era (1928)
Part V. Television
Television and the Telephot (1909)
A Radio-Controlled Television Plane (1924)
After Television---What? (1927)
Television Technique (1931)
Part VI. Sound
Hearing Through Your Teeth (1916)
Grand Opera by Wireless (1919)
The Physiophone: Music for the Deaf (1920)
The “Pianorad” (1926)
Part VII. Scientifiction
Signaling to Mars (1909)
Our Cover (1913)
Phoney Patent Offizz: Bookworm's Nurse (1915)
Imagination Versus Fact (1916)
Interplanetarian Wireless (1920)
An American Jules Verne (1920)
10,000 Years Hence (1922)
Predicting Future Inventions (1923)
The Dark Age of Science (1925)
A New Sort of Magazine (1926)
The Lure of Scientifiction (1926)
Fiction Versus Facts (1926)
Editorially Speaking (1926)
Imagination and Reality (1926)
How to Write “Science” Stories (1930)
Science Fiction vs. Science Faction (1930)
Wonders of the Machine Age (1931)
Reasonableness in Science Fiction (1932)
Part VIII. Selected Fiction
Ralph 124C 41+, part 3 (1911)
The Scientific Adventures of Baron Münchhausen, part 5: “Münchhausen Departs for the Planet Mars” (1915)
The Magnetic Storm (1918)
The Electric Duel (1927)
The Killing Flash (1929)
Notes
Index
{~?~ST: end chapter}
{~?~ST: begin chapter}
Chronological Contents
Preface: How to Use This Book
Acknowledgments
Introduction
A New Interrupter (1905)
The Dynamophone (1908)
The Aerophone Number (1908)
The Wireless Joker (1908)
The Wireless Association of America (1909)
[Editorials] (1909)
Signaling to Mars (1909)
Television and the Telephot (1909)
The Roberts Wireless Bill (1910)
From The Wireless Telephone (1911)
The Born and the Mechanical Inventor (1911)
Ralph 124C 41+, part 3 (1911)
The Alexander Wireless Bill (1912)
Wireless and the Amateur: A Retrospect (1913)
Our Cover (1913)
A Treatise on Wireless Telegraphy (1913)
The Radioson Detector (1914)
Sayville (1915)
The Scientific Adventures of Baron Münchhausen, part 5: “Münchhausen Departs for the Planet Mars” (1915)
Phoney Patent Offizz: Bookworm's Nurse (1915)
Hearing Through Your Teeth (1916)
The Future of Wireless (1916)
Imagination Versus Fact (1916)
What to Invent (1916)
The Perversity of Things (1916)
War and the Radio Amateur (1917)
Silencing America's Wireless (1917)
The Magnetic Storm (1918)
Amateur Radio Restored (1919)
Why “Radio Amateur News” is Here (1919)
Grand Opera by Wireless (1919)
The Future of Radio (1919)
Thomas A. Edison Speaks to You (1919)
Interplanetarian Wireless (1920)
The Physiophone: Music for the Deaf (1920)
Science and Invention (1920)
An American Jules Verne (1920)
Learn and Work While You Sleep (1921)
From Radio for All (1922)
10,000 Years Hence (1922)
Radio Broadcasting (1922)
Human Progress (1922)
Results of the $500.00 Prize Contest: Who Will Save the Radio Amateur? (1923)
Predicting Future Inventions (1923)
The “New” Science and Invention (1923)
Are We Intelligent? (1923)
A Radio-Controlled Television Plane (1924)
The Dark Age of Science (1925)
The Isolator (1925)
A New Sort of Magazine (1926)
The Lure of Scientifiction (1926)
Fiction Versus Facts (1926)
Editorially Speaking (1926)
Is Radio at a Standstill? (1926)
The Detectorium (1926)
Imagination and Reality (1926)
The “Pianorad” (1926)
Edison and Radio (1926)
Why the Radio Set Builder (1927)
New Radio "Things" Wanted (1927)
After Television---What? (1927)
Wired Versus Space Radio (1927)
The Electric Duel (1927)
Radio Enters a New Phase (1927)
The Short-Wave Era (1928)
The Killing Flash (1929)
How to Write “Science” Stories (1930)
Science Fiction vs. Science Faction (1930)
Television Technique (1931)
Wonders of the Machine Age (1931)
Reasonableness in Science Fiction (1932)
Notes
Index