Gernsback Country

By Maxime WeberLex Kleren

Despite being the birthplace of the father of science fiction, Luxembourg isn’t really known for works of fiction that deal with futuristic or fantastical subject matters. This is slowly starting to change though, as a new generation of artists shows.

Not so long ago (1884), in a place not far far away at all (Luxembourg-City), writer, publisher and inventor Hugo Gernsback was born. As the 2020 documentary Tune Into The Future about his life shows, Gernsback – who moved to the US at the age of 19 – would not only go on to patent over 80 different inventions (among them a device that allowed the hard of hearing to perceive sounds with their teeth). He would also publish the very first science fiction magazine. "I was initally drawn to the character for his eccentricities and weird anecdotes, and of course the fact that a pop culture phenomenon like Science Fiction could have been created by a fellow Luxembourger – there was obviously a thrilling story to be told", recounts Eric Schockmel, the director of Tune Into The Future, via e-mail. With a mixture of archive footage, interviews and mesmerizing animations in the vein of Frank R. Paul – who did the artwork for Gernsback’s magazines –, Schockmel’s film paints the portrait of a man that was way ahead of his time. Gernsback not only predicted technologies like radar and the impact of telecommunication on our social lives, but the stories in his magazines also tapped into science fiction’s endless potential to subvert societal norms like gender stereotypes with the help of imaginative storytelling.

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