Ralph 124C 41+, by Hugo Gernsback


Orthodox Herbertarian

According to most the modern era of science fiction began in 1926 when Hugo Gernsback, an inventor, magazine publisher and Luxembourg immigrant published the first issue of Amazing Stories, the very first of the pulp magazines that was dedicated to SF. Today we remember Gernsback at the annual Worldcon with the presentation of the Hugo Awards, the most important and prestigious awards that are currently and probably have ever been given to genre practitioners. Where John W. Campbell of Astounding and later Analog magazines (and those who followed in his footsteps) fleshed out the genre roughly as we know it today, Gernsback gave us with Amazing the bones of it. Gernsback may have had a good idea about marketing, but when it came to magazine SF he was not too innovative. Pulp-era style had already been developed, and was being published in other kinds of pulp magazines along with sports, air combat, spy, detective and other pulp fodder. What he did was to reject all those other pulp motifs from the pages of Amazing, and in doing so he confirmed the popularity of SF and proved that it was viable as a self-contained genre. But he understood how the genre worked in the early days, and largely out of economic concerns (but also for autocratic ones) he resisted any attempts to change the idiom that was used to tell story. Because of that many people feel that Gernsback bears much of the fault for ghettoizing SF. Prior to Amazing Stories SF-style novels were regarded as something greater than fetish stories for the not-quite-normal among us. The pulps did exist, and the quality of much of the "literature" that went into them was questionable at best, but authors like Wells, Twain, Poe, Verne Merritt, Burroughs and others were well regarded and respected. That adulation did not survive for authors that came later. I can't say that this opinion is wrong, because I share it. But, that is not why we are here today. Today we are here to discuss Gernsback's novel, Ralph 124C 41+. We will take on Amazing Stories later...Please click here, or on the book cover above, to be taken to the complete review..