Publishers: Hugo Gernsback
Hugo Gernsback, early-20th-Century immigrant to America
from Luxembourg, is honored for all of his many publishing efforts, though
he is probably best known as the originator of AMAZING STORIES, considered the first
true science-fiction magazine. But his contribution to the popular technical education of the
American public (and the world at large!) had a greater long-term effect.
Gernsback made many contributions to the popularization of science and technology, and to our general awareness of the future and its possibilities. Outside the tech and science-fiction communities, however, he is little known. We have many useful links on this page, and if you thread your way through them you will be amused, amazed, and frankly astonished at just what this man did.
All that said, there had never been a proper biography of Gernsback. While he did write occasional autobiographical pieces, no full life story of the man had ever been published until 2007. Larry Steckler, who worked for Gernsback and his publishing company for nearly fifty years, and was the last owner of Gernsback Publications, Inc., writes that when the publishing company finally closed in 2002, they found an unpublished manuscript biography of Hugo. Apparently written in the 1950's, a decade before his death at 83, it finally ties his life together. Gernsback scholar Mike Ashley has identified the likely writer(s) of this work, even though they are not directly credited in the manuscript.
This book also serves, apparently, as an outlet for his frustration at what he considered the lack of recognition he got for his work in predicting the future, and in developing his eighty patented ideas. The manuscript has been edited for publication, and is now available from the BookSurge division of Amazon. We'll have some quotes from it here and on the appropriate pages for his various magazine titles.
Copyright © Poptronix Inc., 2007
On October 28th 2007, Gernsback Memorial Day was held in Mamer (Luxemburg). Notable events included the issuance of a set of stamps honoring Gernsback, lectures, exhibits, and an SF book fair. Click Here for more information (in German and French).
Hugo was prolific, and besides the science-fiction and science and mechanics titles,
he created and published some of the most important technical
magazines for fans of radio, electronics, television, short-wave radionot to mention
magazines about gadgets, French humor, trailers and campers, your body, and the scientific
study of sex.
To learn more about Gernsback, start with Michael Banks' three-part article, "Hugo Gernsback: The man who invented the future," on the Citizen Scientist website. There's a Hugo Gernsback tribute site, which used to have plenty of material about him, but it is not being maintained and most of the links are now broken.
Wikipedia has a page on Gernsback, with a few links.
It's probably safe to say that as a fiction writer, he emphasized content and innovation over style. He was the author of several long works of SF, and many shorter articles in which he predicted or forecast the future. A
bibliography of his science-fiction related work can be found at the ISFDB.
At the bottom of this page we have links to some references which can add additional background to the man, his work, and his times.
Gernsback papers comprise some fifty linear feet at the Syracuse University
. The catalog list includes correspondence, manuscripts, and periodical runs of
magazines he published. Here is a (corrected and reorganized) list from their website,
with links to our website's cover image albums where available:
FULL LIST BY TITLE:
Air Wonder Stories
Amazing Detective Stories
Electrical Experimenter 1913 to 1920; became
Science and Invention
Everyday Mechanics founded apparently in 1929; name changed
to Everyday Science and Mechanics with October 1931 issue
Everyday Science and Mechanics see Science and Mechanics below
The Experimenter originally
Practical Electrics, the first issue under this name
was November 1924; merged into
Science and Invention in 1926
Facts of life
French Humor became Tidbits
High Seas Adventures
Modern Electrics 1908 to 1914 (sold in 1913 and merged by new owners into Electrician and Mechanic)
Motor Camper & Tourist
New Ideas for Everybody
Practical Electrics Dec. 1921 to Oct. 1924 became The Experimenter
Radio Amateur News July 1919 to July 1920 dropped the word "amateur"
and became just
Radio and Television
Radio-Craft July 1929 to June 1948 became Radio-Electronics
Radio Electronics July 1948 to ____
Radio Electronics Weekly Business Letter
Radio Listeners Guide and Call Book [title varies]
Radio News July 1919 (as Radio Amateur News) to July 1948
Radio Program Weekly
Science and Invention formerly
published August 1920 to August 1931
Science and Mechanics originally Everyday Mechanics;
title changed to Everyday Science and Mechanics in 1931. "Everyday" dropped
with the March 1937 issue, and published as
Science and Mechanics until 1976
Science Fiction Plus
Science Wonder Stories
Scientific Detective Monthly
Short-Wave and Television
Short-Wave Craft incorporated into
Tidbits, originally French Humor
We now have most of the cover images from
ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER and its successor SCIENCE AND INVENTION.
We also have
most of the early cover images from Gernsback's other technical titles
such as MODERN
ELECTRICS, PRACTICAL ELECTRICS, and THE EXPERIMENTER,
and earlier issues
of his radio magazines RADIO NEWS and RADIO-CRAFT, and his short-wave and television magazines; some of them continued to be published
into the latter part of the 20th Century. Finally, a few issues of some miscellaneous titles
HUMOR, SEXOLOGY, and YOUR BODY.
Special thanks to Dennis Lien, Reference Librarian at UMinn, and to OCLC's FirstSearch facility
for the publication information given above for some of the titles. Thanks to Guy Gordon for some additional corrections and clarifications. We still have more work to do.
Further references on Hugo Gernsback
- The Gernsback Days by Mike Ashley is a discussion of Gernsback's influence on science fiction and an overview of the SF of that time.
- The bankruptcy of Gernsback's company Experimenter Publishing is covered in detail in a wikipedia article created by another Gernsback enthusiast.
- Wikipedia is also the place to find a detailed history of RADIO NEWS, both as a Gernsback magazine and in its later history. Ziff-Davis eventually became the publisher of this magazine, and in the 1970's it, and its younger sibling POPULAR ELECTRONICS, can be said to have started the personal computer revolution. [Thanks, Michael Holley!]
- Twenty-four issues of the ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER online as individual PDF files, cover and contents!
- Gernsback's most important science fiction / futuristic prediction novel is
Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660. Apparently there is a
hardcover edition at only a slightly higher price.
- A discussion of Gernsback's work as a pioneer in wireless communication, especially his early assistance to ham radio operators, appeared in the ARRL's magazine QST in the 1960's, and was updated and reprinted in the April 2008 issue. This will be online at John Dilks K2TQN website.
- Gernsback's "Ultimate World" has been dragged back from obscurity, thanks to Patrick Merchant (original, 1997) and the Internet Archive, via John Mark Ockerbloom's wonderful Online Books website.
- Short discussion of Gernsback's career, with pictures, on the PulpWorld site.
- Hugo Gernsback, skeptical crusader against fraudulent pseudo-science: five-page article from THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER.
- Another blog of tribute to Gernsback, with extensive coverage of his radio publications. Click "Go to Radio" at the bottom and then "Take the Tour."
- Gernsback on "How to Write 'Science' Stories," originally published in WRITER'S DIGEST in 1930 and republished in 1994 in SCIENCE FICTION STUDIES.
- Many more details on Gernsback, with articles and cover illustrations, particularly in regard to his connection with E. R. Burroughs. Well worth a visit.
- A reprint of the special issue of Radio-Craft: 50 Years of Radio : March 1938 (Jubilee Souvenir Number 9, Vol 9).
- For collectors and enthusiasts of early radio, there is a reprint of the
Official Radio Service Manual and Complete Directory of All Commercial Wiring Diagrams, 1930, which builds on the materials published in RADIO NEWS and especially in RADIO-CRAFT.
- The quintessential Gernsback book:
One Thousand and One Formulas.
- The Mechanics of Wonder is Gary Westfahl's serious study of that period of SF. He argues that "Hugo Gernsback, for decades a derided figure, was the true creator of the genre, and [he] examines the way in which the Gernsback tradition was adopted and modified by later magazine editors and early critics."
- One volume of a projected series of reprint anthologies of classic SF stories, named in honor of Gernsback, was published, focusing on 1926. There are
- The ultimate guide to SF of this period has to be Bleiler and Bleiler, Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years : A Complete Coverage of the Genre Magazines Amazing, Astounding, Wonder, and Others from 1926 Through 1936.
- More books about Gernsback. on Amazon.
- The best way to find old, vintage, and original Gernsback-related materials is to search eBay.
Update history: This page originally created 9 September 2002; latest revision 29 April 2012.