When you hear the word science fiction, the first thing that comes to your mind is lasers, spaceships, hovering cars, basically everything that you can imagine what could be invented in the future. But have you spent a second thought on the origins of science fiction and who its “father” may be?
Hugo Gernsback, born in Luxembourg in 1884, was not only an inventor, but also an editor trying (more or less successfully) to overcome financial hardship and simultaneously creating a word to define the genre he was a fanatic of.
Gernsback’s first work as an editor was the founding of the scientific magazine ‘Modern Electrics’. The magazine contained instructions which made it possible for the reader to recreate some of Gernsback’s inventions. After ‘Modern Electrics’ and other lesser known magazines, he moved away from purely scientific content towards literary production. In ‘Amazing Stories’ Gernsback published the work of authors that fitted his criteria: the use of scientific knowledge merged with fictional plots. The first edition published on 1st April 1926 featured stories by renowned authors like H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and Edgar Allen Poe. Unfortunately, after the Great Depression Gernsback went bankrupt and had to give up on the magazine in 1928. But that did not stop him from founding a new magazine in 1929 called ‘Science Wonder Stories’. It was in the first issue of this publication that Gernsback coined the term ‘Science Fiction’. Gernsback often did not pay the contributors appropriate wages. As a consequence, his reputation suffered and he acquired the nickname “Hugo the rat”.
Centre national de littérature, Hugo Gernsback: An Amazing Story, 2010