edited by Grant Wythoff – The Perversity Of Things: Hugo Gernsback On Media, Tinkering, And Scientifiction


University of Minnesota Press, ISBN-13: 978-1517900854, English, 359 pages, 2016, USA

This is an eclectic book with a selection of texts by one of the most prolific authors interested in innovation and media. Hugo Gernsback, mostly known for the eponymous science fiction literature prize has been, among different other things, an entrepreneur with his Electro importing Company Store, and editor of the seminal Amazing Stories magazine, which published what he pre-emptively called “scientifiction”. This curated collection of some of his articles is organised in a way that allows multiple entrance points, instead of a classical sequential structure. But there’s a remarkable element which glues together most of these controversial writings, which is Gernsback’s open and boundless imaginary. He edits, stimulates, fosters and publishes the inexplicably forgotten creative tinkering and DIY entrepreneurship which in turn generated the first wave of popular science fiction, and was the basis for the morally driven “progress” propaganda. This publication is a feast for the eyes of the media archaeologist, an amazing collection of ideas integrating original pictures or even full page reproductions. The wireless (radio), pervasive and infinite opportunities are probably the most present, with the enthusiasm and the failures typical of pioneering times. The book covers the first three decades of the 20th century, giving a thrilling and refreshing view on testing both the technical and the imaginary. It opens a multitude of windows to a past-future which was fairly practiced even more than imagined.