The Scientific Adventures of Baron Münchausen

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years after publishing Ralph 124C 41+ in the pages of his pop technology magazine Modern Electrics, Hugo Gernsback published a second, far less studied work in his second imprint, The Electrical Experimenter. This novel, The Scientific Adventures of Baron Münchausen, ran from May 1915 to February 1917.

As a work of fiction, the novel is insufferable. It reads as a series of lectures on physics, chemistry, and astronomy, all situated within a stock fantastic setting and strung together with the thinnest of narrative expositions. But because this is a budding work of “scientifiction,” and beholden to the Gernsbackian tenets of scientific rationality, the narrative has to explain exactly how these lectures are transmitted from locations such as the Moon or Mars.

And here’s where things get interesting. Münchausen, before leaving for Mars, sets up a relay station on the Moon capable of receiving his long distance audio transmissions and amplifying them for reception by the novel’s narrator, I.M. Alier, on Earth. Gernsback selects the obscure recording device known as the telegraphone, patented by Valdemar Poulsen in 1898, to be the substrate on which Münchausen’s transmissions are recorded for rebroadcast in the form of serial fiction.