February 19, 2010

Hugo Gernsback

Who is Hugo Gernsback and why are the Hugo Awards named after him?   Good question since I had never heard of Gernsback until I decided to read the Hugo Award winners.   

Hugo Gernsbacher, born August 16, 1884 in Luxembourg immigrated to the United States in 1904 to New York.  Hugo was fascinated by electricity and invented a dry battery which he patented upon arriving in the United States.   He established a radio and electrical supply house called Electro Importing Company and developed a small portable radio transmitter called the Telimco Wireless Telegraph.    He went on to patent 80 inventions. 


Long story short, Gernsback  published a magazine for electrical experimenters called Modern Electronics which was later taken over by Popular Science.   To fill up some empty space in the magazine, he decided to write a futuristic story which ran in 12 installments.

That story was later published in 1926 as a novel called "Ralph 124C 41+"  which was set in the 27th century and is still available today.  He started a number of magazines including the first magazine dedicated exclusively to science fiction called  "Amazing Stories." the magazine of scientifiction in 1926. 

First Issue April 1926

Hugo coined the term scientifiction which later went on to be known as Science Fiction.  Thanks to the beauty of the internet I found an original pdf of an article of Gernback's called Plausibility in Scientifiction on Mumpsimus (thank you, Matthew)


Gernsback unfortunately went bankrupt and lost control of Amazing Stories. He quickly bounced back and went on to publish three more magazines:  Air Wonder Stories, Science Wonder Stories and Science Wonder Quarterly.

Air Wonder and Science Wonder were merged into one magazine Wonder stories in 1930 and sold it in 1936 to Beacon Publications where it continued to be published for 20 more years. 

Gernsback is lauded as the father of science fiction.  The first annual Science Fiction Achievement awards was awarded back in 1953 with retro awards handed out for the years 1946 in 1996, retro award 1951 given in 2001 and 1954 retro award presented in 2006.  The award were unofficially called the "Hugo's" until the name was officially changed and use beginning in 1993.    In 1960 he was given a special Hugo Award as "The Father of Magazine Science Fiction."  The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame was founded in 1996 and Hugo Gernsback was one of the first inductees along with Jack Campbell (1908-2006), A.E. van Vogt's (1912-2000) and John W. Campbell Jr. (1910-1971)

Hugo Gernsback died in New York on August 19, 1967 at the age 83.    

If you want to know more about Hugo Gernsback, his electronic accomplishments, all about his magazines and his life, you find everything you want to know here and  here.


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