Saturday, July 30, 2011

Free Fiction: Plan "T"

More closet-cleaning this week, although this one was always intended to be free fiction.  It was going to be the "Sunday Scientifiction" for February 28, 2010, and the only reason it didn't appear was that I accidentally saved it as a draft instead of set it to post automatically.  Here it is, just as it was going to be, both the text below and the pdf file, complete with 2010 copyright date and ad for our then-current publication, Between Worlds.

OpenDrive is still, as they say, "experiencing technical difficulties," so if there's a question mark below instead of a thumbnail image, please try again later.

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click image to download story (287KB pdf)

A big part of the audience of Hugo Gernsback's Electrical Experimenter, it seems, was radio enthusiasts. Gernsback had a separate magazine, Radio News, especially for this audience, featuring, along with the articles, radio-based fiction. Almost none of it was what we would generally call science fiction, except perhaps in the "mundane science fiction" sense of being fiction about contemporary technology.

All the same, Electrical Experimenter had this kind of "radio fiction," as well, particularly Thomas N. Benson's "Wireless Wizz" series. (This week's story isn't one of those.)

To be honest, I usually go by Mike Ashley's The Gernsback Days to determine whether a story is science fiction or not, and therefore whether or not the issue containing it is worth obtaining. The book calls "Plan 'T'" science fiction, but it seems pretty borderline to me, inasmuch as there's nothing in it that couldn't actually be done in 1919. It's mainly the thought process involved in the story, the use of scientific deduction involving technology, that gives it any affinity to the genre as it developed.

But in that very sense, "Plan 'T'" is an interesting example of "scientific fiction" of that era, before "science fiction" developed... and along with it, science fiction fans.  And those fans, through their bibliographies and letters to the magazines, were at the forefront of deciding what the boundaries of the genre would be... what was "science fiction," and what was not—a discussion we're having again in our own time.

(By the way, when the hero/narrator first calls the criminals "probable counterfeiters," I wondered where he'd gotten that idea. I'd missed the significance of Watkins and Short being paper manufacturers. Also, for quite a while, I had no idea what the conversation meant about whether there was "any 'queer' in circulation now." He's talking about funny money.)

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