It’s time to put on your Spock-ears or fire up your light sabre (depending on whether you’re in a Star Trek or Star Wars mood, of course), dig out your favourite science fiction book or movie, and settle back for a day of serious sci-fi appreciation. Today we celebrate the birth of Hugo Gernsback (16 Aug 1884 to 19 Aug 1967), the American inventor and publisher who is sometimes called the ‘Father of Science Fiction’ for the contribution he has made to the establishment of science fiction as an independent literary form.
Gernsback was a pioneer of the modern genre of science fiction. He founded the first sci-fi magazine, ‘Amazing Stories’, in 1926, and later, after losing ownership of this magazine through bankruptcy, founded two subsequent titles, ‘Science Wonder Stories’ and ‘Air Wonder Stories’. Gernsback also played a key role in starting the idea of science fiction fandom, by publishing the contact details of the people who wrote letters to his magazines – this allowed the fans to start contacting each other, and to organise themselves into an active social movement.
In honour of Gernsback’s contribution to the genre, the annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards are called the ‘Hugos’. He was also one of 1996’s inaugural inductees into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.