Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Scientifiction: Eddy Currents

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I don't pretend to be an expert at... well, anything, really, but not science fiction, either. But it seems to me like there aren't that many science fiction stories written about World War I as it was happening.

I suppose that's not too much of a stretch as observations go, seeing as there were no dedicated science fiction magazines until 1926, but as we know from meeting here each week, there were several venues for what we now call "science fiction" at the time.

Our book release of the month, Between Worlds, doesn't quite count. The Venusian characters are responsible for several events of the war, from the apparition of the Angels of Mons, to the Bolshevik Revolution, to the flu pandemic that was still going on as the novel was written in 1919.

We've previously presented in this space "The Magnetic Storm," by Hugo Gernsback, published in his Electrical Experimenter magazine for August 1918. In that story, the Allies win the war through, unsurprisingly, electrical means. What those means are, however, is pretty surprising.

The second installment of "Baron M√ľnchausen's New Scientific Adventures," of which we presented the sixth last month, was also by Gernsback, and published in the June 1915 issue of Electrical Experimenter. It was subtitled "How M√ľnchausen and the Allies Took Berlin." I don't have that issue, but I'll make the bold guess that it had to do with the war.

After all that buildup, I have to tell you that "Eddy Currents," from the May 1917 issue, doesn't specifically mention that it takes place during the same war then ongoing. It clearly takes place in what was then the future, when the United States is at war (as it was not yet in May 1917), and has a considerable submarine fleet. However, the enemy is clearly Germany. America also seems to be alone against overwhelming odds, which suggests to me that in this now-alternative timeline, Germany has won the war in Europe. If it is a World War I story, it's the only one I've read in which the situation is considerably worse than it ever became. You could make the argument that even if this is a future war, it presupposes that World War I went far more badly than it did. After all, even the real World War II was never this bad.

Again, I'm not spoiling the story too much by saying our hero wins the day through electrical means. The "feeler" of the story is, in function, rather like sonar, which was under development in its earliest forms during the war, although how it works is quite different.

Incidentally, "Eddy Currents" sounds to me like either a vaudeville singer, or a member of the old-time Jewish mob. ("Don't cross Eddie Kurantz, or he'll bris you at the stalk.")

1 comment:

lartronics said...

For more information on Hugo Gernsback check out a new biography available on Amazon.

The document was found by me when we closed down Gernsback Publications in 2003. It was an old ms that I edited and produced as a book.

Follow the link and you can go to the book and thanks to Amazon’s “look inside” feature, you can even get an idea of what it covers.

Hope you find it interesting.

The book is also available as an E-book for the Kindle or your PC or Mac at Amazon. Here is the link:

For more information feel free to contact me, Larry Steckler, at

Here are some links to other e-books that should be of interest to Gernsback Fans.

Hugo Gernsback E-book

Hugo Gernsback Paperback

100 Radio Hookups E-book