Sunday, August 14, 2011

Free Fiction: The Magnetic Storm

This week, a Free Fiction item that comes from the closet, even though it was once on this site.

Hard as it may be to believe, it's tough to find services that will store your files indefinitely for free in a way you can hotlink them to your blog.  After my pdf file of "The Magnetic Storm" disappeared into the ether for the second or third time, I demonstrated my usual perseverance by declaring, "To hell with it," and deleting the post altogether.

But when I revived the blog, I decided to give another shot to getting something for nothing.  And now, with OpenDrive fitful, but at least there most of the time, I can bring this story back online.  As you'll see below, this was the first bit of free fiction I offered on the blog, then under the category of "Sunday Scientifiction."

(As usual, if OpenDrive is feeling cranky, there will be a question mark below instead of a thumbnail image, and you should try again later.)

(originally posted November 23, 2008)

Click here to download file (386KB pdf)

And what is scientifiction, you may ask? It's the name, a contraction of "scientific fiction," that Hugo Gernsback gave to the nascent genre, back when it began to appear in such magazines of his as Electrical Experimenter and Radio News. (Incidentally, the abbreviation is Stf.) He continued to use it when he founded Amazing Stories, the first true science fiction magazine.

Gernsback lost control of his first group of magazines in 1929, and immediately founded another—of which two titles were Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories. He then popularized the less ungainly term "science fiction" for his new magazines. (He unknowingly reinvented it; it was first used decades earlier, but didn't catch on.) Some fans stuck with the old expression for a while. Note our last Wednesday Feature, about Forrest J Ackerman's "Boys' Scientifiction Club."

Perhaps Gernsback was worried that the new owners of his old magazines would consider "scientifiction" a proprietary phrase. But some years later, Thrilling Wonder Stories' sister magazine Startling Stories billed itself as "Best in Scientifiction" with, presumably, no real protest from the owners of Amazing.

Anyway, what you'll see in Scientifiction Sundays is stories from before the advent of the specifically science fiction magazine, whether published in the Gernsback magazines or not. Every week or two, we will bring you tales, in pdf form, from the formative days of science fiction as a recognized genre.

Today's story is by Gernsback himself, and dates to 1918. As you will read, "scientifiction" at this stage very much fit the name, frequently falling to the far end of what's considered hard SF today, or even what they now call "mundane SF." (This particular one is more on the imaginative side.)  The stories use existing science, or fairly modest extrapolations therefrom, in settings seldom more than a few decades off. Here, Gernsback has the then-ongoing Great War (aka World War I) brought to a victorious conclusion for the Allies in a most amazing, but logical, fashion.


Perhaps I'm outing my scientific ignorance, but it seems to me what Gernsback is describing here is something akin to an electromagnetic pulse weapon, only one created by a stream of electricity carried by wires and broadcast into the air, rather than through the side effects of a nuclear explosion. And mind you, he's describing this in nineteen-freakin'-eighteen.

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