Hugo Gernsback created the first Science Fiction Magazine, invented the term Science Fiction, and was a major influence on the literature of SF right up to the middle 1930s.
One thing about old Hugo was that he thought the science in Science Fiction had to be scientifically possible. If the science was not at least feasible the story was not Science Fiction, but fantasy. This strict adherence to “Hard Science” became associated with the term “The Gernsback Delusion”. Some in the SF community disagreed with Hugo’s ideas.
According to Hugo Gernsback, Science Fiction was the hook for catching new scientists. By creating interest in science and technology, Science Fiction would be way in which the science of the future would be created. Hugo’s wasn’t all that delusional and a generation of engineers and scientists got started by reading SF.
The negativity of the phrase “Gernsback Delusion” came about because some SF fans wanted to go much further than just creating light reading to interest kids in science.
There was a political battle going on at the 1937 Third Eastern SF convention in Philadelphia where the Futurians (a group of a dozen or so fans) wanted more for Science Fiction. This faction called the Michelists (after John Michel) wanted SF to create activist idealists who would change the word, not only though technology, but through idealism.
Here is the manifesto that was read and voted down at the Third Eastern.
“THEREFORE: Be it moved that this, the Third Eastern Science Fiction Convention, shall place itself on record as opposing all forces leading to barbarism, the advancement of pseudo-sciences and militaristic ideologies, and shall further resolve that science-fiction should by nature stand for all forces working for a more unified world, a more Utopian existence, the application of science to human happiness, and a saner outlook on life.”
The groups in favor of the Michelist text formed the Committee for the Political Advancement of Science Fiction and actively promoted these ideals. The were accused of being communists.
So the question is this, 73 years later, is Science Fiction just trash with a touch of tech? Is SF the stuff of poorly written movies with expensive special effects? Is SF just comic books?
Or could SF be a vehicle for change? Could SF be a mirror darkly to our society so we can see how the world must change to be safer, saner and better place?
Or is this view of SF just an echo of my own liberal agenda? (As I have been accused of promoting in comments on this blog.)