With the exhibition The Gernsback Prophecy, the ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art
presents for the first time in Germany the work of father of science fiction, Hugo Gernsback. As editor and author of numerous science fiction magazines along with a number of journals and books comprehensible to the general public on such themes as radio, television, (domestic) electronics, bionics, the conquering of outer space, automation and telematics, he made an immense contribution to popularizing electronic culture in America and beyond.
His family originally stemming from Baden, Luxemburg-born Hugo Gernsback (18841967) received his technical education in Bingen before immigrating to America in 1904. With the publication of such journals as Amazing Stories (19261929) and Wonder Stories (19291936), it was in America that he was to found the modern literary genre of science fiction. As early as 1908 he published numerous magazines on technical subjects and inventions such as Modern Electrics, Electrical Experimenter and Science and Invention. Not only did the best contemporary minds and engineers, from Nikola Tesla through to Lee de Forest and Edwin Howard Armstrong, publish their work in these magazines, but they also contained many instructions for the selfassembly of technical devices something which amounts to routine practice in the Internet. Gernsback thus exerted a major influence on the American population interested in new technical inventions and experiments. While himself an inventor since his youth Gernsback had been interested in electro-magnetic waves and their application and having disposed over a series of patents, he was thus able to communicate his enthusiasm, expertise and knowledge to his readership. Several from his many prophecies have been realized, for instance, solar power plants, flat screen TVs and radar equipment.
Dating from 1963, and published in LIFE magazine, the photograph of Gernsback wearing the Teleyeglasses, which had been designed as early as 1936 and clearly anticipated the head-mounted displays by Ivan Sutherland and others, is especially famous. Hugo Gernsback was also a source of inspiration for many science fiction authors, among others William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker. The Hugo Award, thus named in honor of Hugo Gernsback, is considered the most coveted prize for science fiction literature, and has been awarded annually by the World Science Fiction Society since 1953. For the design of his magazines, which are on display in the exhibition, Gernsback engaged the best draftsmen and graphic artists of the time, among others, Frank Rudolph Paul.