BLOG Claudia Vila Verde

The many faces of Hugo Gernsback 1/7

Back to the roots

When you hear the word science fiction, the first thing that comes to your mind is lasers, spaceships, hovering cars, basically everything might be invented in the future. But have you spent a second thought on the origins of science fiction and who its “father” may be?

Even after emigrating to America, Hugo Gernsback, who was born in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in 1884, didn't forget his roots.

Hugo Gernsback never failed to mention where he came from: the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. While living in the States, Gernsback changed his name from the German version ‘Gernsbacher’ to Gernsback which was easier to pronounce. Born in Luxembourg, he lived for 18 years in Hollerich with his parents. Gernsback attended the Athenée du Luxembourg. He did not finish his studies in Luxembourg but moved to Bingen. Apart from physics and electricity, where Gernsback excelled, his academic performance was poor. At the age of 13, Gernsback installed electric bells all around his neighbourhood. An urban legend claims that young Gernsback received special permission by Pope Leo XIII to enter the Karmel convent in order to install an electric bell. At the age of 18, Gernsback composed the popular Luxembourgish march ‘Rôd, Weîs, Blo’. After emigrating to the States, Gernsback continued to make ample references to his birth place. He mentioned Luxembourg frequently in his literary work. In the leaflet ‘Forecast’, the drawing shows a spaceship registered in Luxembourg. In the posthumously published book ‘Ultimate World', several of the characters are named after Luxembourgish towns. During World War II, Gernsback wrote a plea to the United States to respect Luxembourgish independence in the peace negotiations.

Illustration sources:
Centre national de littérature, Hugo Gernsback: An Amazing Story, 2010

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