Ralph 124C 41+

Ralph 124C 41+, by Hugo Gernsback, is an early science fiction novel, written as a twelve-part serial in Modern Electrics magazine, which Gernsback edited, beginning in April 1911. It was compiled into novel/book form in 1925. While it pioneered many ideas found in later science fiction, it has been critically panned for its "inept writing".[1] The title itself is a play on words ( 1 2 4 C 4 1 + ), meaning "One to foresee for one another". In the introduction to the first volume of Science-Fiction Plus, dated March 1953, Gernsback called for patent reform to give science fiction authors the right to create patents for ideas without having patent models because many of their ideas predated the technical progress needed to develop specifications for their ideas. The introduction referenced the numerous prescient technologies described throughout Ralph 124C 41+.[2]

Ralph 124C 41+
Serialized in Modern Electrics
AuthorHugo Gernsback
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction novel
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Preceded bynone 
Followed bynone 

Plot summary

The eponymous protagonist saves the life of the heroine by directing energy remotely at an approaching avalanche. As the novel goes on, he describes the technological wonders of the modern world, frequently using the phrase "As you know..." The hero finally rescues the heroine by travelling into space on his own "space flyer" to rescue her from the villain's clutches.



Some successful predictions from this novel include television (and channel surfing), remote-control power transmission, the videophone, transcontinental air service, solar energy in practical use, sound movies, synthetic milk and foods, artificial cloth, voiceprinting, tape recorders, and spaceflight. It also contains "...the first accurate description of radar, complete with diagram...", according to Arthur C. Clarke in his "non-genre" novel Glide Path (1963).

"A pulsating polarized ether wave, if directed on a metal object can be reflected in the same manner as a light-ray is reflected from a bright surface or from a mirror..."[3]


Inevitably, some of the science predictions made in the story turned out to be wrong.

For example, in 1911 it was commonly assumed that, just as a sound wave needed a medium to travel in, so did a light wave. Ether was postulated as the unknown substance that light traveled in. In the story an ether vacuum occurred when too much energy was radiated at once. Radiation caused more ether to be drawn to an area of energy expenditure and the lack of ether resulting from this overusage caused a temporary blackout because light could not travel where there was no ether. Heat and cold could also not be transferred during such a blackout. It is now known that such ether does not exist and is not needed for light to travel. Such effects are impossible.

Influence and critical reception

Even though Ralph 124C 41+ has been described as pioneering many of the tropes and ideas found in later science fiction works,[4] it has largely been neglected due to what critics often describe as poor artistic quality.[5] Brian Aldiss has called the story a "tawdry illiterate tale" and a "sorry concoction" while Lester del Rey called it "simply dreadful".[6] Martin Gardner referred to the book as "surely the worst SF novel ever written".[7] Groff Conklin more generously described it as "thoroughly delightful ... [with] the genuine charm of a sound, workmanlike antique."[8]

Reviewing the 1950 Frederick Fell edition in the New York Times, Rex Lardner wrote that while the "fine" novel "contain[ed] a good deal of sound prophecy, ... it has a narrative style as quaint as the retarder on a Hupmobile."[9] Everett F. Bleiler similarly noted that "The literary treatment is on a very low level, but Ralph 124C41+ is renowned for its many highly imaginative technical projections."[10]

While most critics have little positive to say about the story's writing, Ralph 124C 41+, Gary Westfahl, one of the book's few public defenders, considered it "essential text for all studies of science fiction"[11] and The Economist called it "arguably the first major work of American science fiction".[12] According to Westfahl, "the novel merits attention because of the ways Gernsback uneasily blended several generic models – melodrama, the travel tale, Utopia, even touches of Gothic and Satire – in an effort to achieve a workable vehicle for a story emphasizing scientific facts and predictions. In this way, the novel foreshadows and makes explicit many of the generic tensions that permeate later sf."[13]

Specially named inventions and technological devices

  • Accelerated Plant Growing Farms: Huge greenhouse farms used to feed the rapidly growing Earth population. They can grow five harvests per year as opposed to normal harvests of two in 1911.
  • Aeroflyer: A small flying transport that can reach speeds of up to 600 mph.
  • Appetizer: A large waiting room in more scientifically advanced restaurants. The room is flooded with gases that increase the appetites/hunger before eating.
  • Automatic-Electric Packing Machines
  • Bacillatorium: A decontamination chamber for the home. It uses fictional Arcturium rays to kill bacteria, which can extend a person's total life expectancy to 120–140 years.
  • Electromobiles: Basically an electric car that receives energy through a collector mast from city generators.
  • Gyroscope: This is used to fly to other planets. Rocket propulsion is not mentioned at all. The rotation of a gyroscope can be used to counter vertical gravity.
  • Helio-Dynamophores: Basically solar panels. To minimize atmospheric interference, Meteoro-Towers are used.
  • Hypnobioscope: A sleep learning device. Information is recorded on black film as a white wavy line that is transmitted to the sleeper via wires into a headband with metal plates.
  • Language Rectifier: A real-time translator built into the Telephot (see below).
  • Luminor: An automated lighting system that responds to voice commands to activate and change intensity of illumination. This is an example of fluorescent lighting or cold light, but the term fluorescent lighting is not used in the story.
  • Menograph: A device that can record a person's thoughts in writing using a type of mind-script.
  • Money: The value of money is based on the faith and credit of the government. It can be dispensed like a roll tape. Denominations can be torn off the tape. No mention of electronic money is made.
  • Meteoro-Towers: Weather control stations.
  • Newspaper: A postage stamp-sized newspaper consisting of 8 pages. It can only be read by inserting it into a projector or portable viewer to see the very tiny print. Each page can be revealed by exposing it to a different color of light, which will also hide the other 7 pages from sight. It is updated every 30 minutes. No mention of electronic news or an internet is made.
  • Packet-Post Conveyor: Underground postal delivery system using conveyor belts.
  • Permagatol: A green gas that preserves organic matter indefinitely without any deterioration whatsoever.
  • Phonolphabet Machine: A voice recorder that records speech graphically using a phonolphabet language. One can either read the recording or play it back as an audio recording.
  • Platinum-Barium-Arturium Eyeglasses: Basically X-ray specs that really work, except they can only detect radium-infused elements through solid matter.
  • Pulsating Polarized Ether Wave: Basically a type of radar device before the word "radar" was coined.
  • Radioperforer: A handheld weapon that shoots Radium beams that can stun or kill.
  • Signalizers: A searchlight guidance system for flying machines consisting of multiple colors and blinking patterns
  • Space Flyer: An interplanetary flying machine using gyroscopes.
  • Subatlantic Tube: An underground train that uses magnetism to move 300 mph. The path of the tube is through the Earth to make a direct path from Europe to North America.
  • Telautograph: A device to transfer handwriting through a Telephot (picture phone). Basically a fax machine, except handwriting transfers as the person writes.
  • Tele-Motor Coasters
  • Telephot: This is basically a picture phone. It also includes a universal translator, where language translation can be opted using a dial control.
  • Teleradiograph
  • Tele-Theater: This is like a television, but with differences. It is really a series of telephots that almost seamlessly combine to make up one large picture. Live events like an opera or a play can be seen from one's home with this device. Communications can be made in both directions while the device is broadcasting. It is not mentioned if it can be used to show previously recorded entertainment.
  • Vacation City: A domed city suspended 20,000 feet in the air using a device that nullifies gravity. No mechanical devices are permitted in such cities because they are strictly used as an escape from a mechanized world.

Popular references

In the anime Ergo Proxy, the main character, Re-l Mayer, has the ID number 124C41+.

The first issue of the comics series Crossed: +100 by Alan Moore and Gabriel Andrade is titled 124C41+. In the year 2108, main character archivist Future Taylor discovers in a preserved public library an Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and learns about the original novel.

In the DC comic Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!, the Crew battle an alien named Ralf-124C4U.

See also


  1. ^ "Authors : Gernsback, Hugo : SFE : Science Fiction Encyclopedia". www.sf-encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2018-05-19.
  2. ^ "Science Fiction Plus v01n01".
  3. ^ Gernsback, Hugo (2000). Ralph 124c 41+. University of Nebraska Press. p. 207. ISBN 0-8032-7098-4.
  4. ^ The Mechanics of Wonder: The Creation of the Idea of Science Fiction by Gary Westfahl, Liverpool University Press, 1999, page 135.
  5. ^ Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Volume 3: Lest Darkness Fall by T. A. Shippey and A. J. Sobczak, Salem Press, 1996, page 767.
  6. ^ The Mechanics of Wonder: The Creation of the Idea of Science Fiction by Gary Westfahl, Liverpool University Press, 1999, page 92.
  7. ^ Introduction to "Science-fiction: The Gernsback Years : a Complete Coverage of the Genre" by Everett Franklin Bleiler, Richard Bleiler, Kent State University Press, 1998.
  8. ^ "Galaxy's Five Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1950, p.64.
  9. ^ "Spacemen's Realm", The New York Times, September 17, 1950
  10. ^ Everett F. Bleiler, Science-Fiction: The Early Years, Kent State University Press, 1990, p.282
  11. ^ The Mechanics of Wonder: The Creation of the Idea of Science Fiction by Gary Westfahl, Liverpool University Press, 1999, page 93.
  12. ^ Books, arts and culture Prospero (December 26, 2011). "Science fiction: Rejoice for Utopia is nigh!". The Economist. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  13. ^ "Authors : Gernsback, Hugo : SFE : Science Fiction Encyclopedia". www.sf-encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2018-05-19.

External links

1911 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1911.

1911 in science fiction

The year 1911 was marked, in science fiction, by the following events.

1926 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1926.

Amazing Stories

Amazing Stories is an American science fiction magazine launched in April 1926 by Hugo Gernsback's Experimenter Publishing. It was the first magazine devoted solely to science fiction. Science fiction stories had made regular appearances in other magazines, including some published by Gernsback, but Amazing helped define and launch a new genre of pulp fiction.

As of 2018, Amazing has been published, with some interruptions, for ninety-two years, going through a half-dozen owners and many editors as it struggled to be profitable. Gernsback was forced into bankruptcy and lost control of the magazine in 1929. In 1938 it was purchased by Ziff-Davis, who hired Raymond A. Palmer as editor. Palmer made the magazine successful though it was not regarded as a quality magazine within the science fiction community. In the late 1940s Amazing presented as fact stories about the Shaver Mystery, a lurid mythos that explained accidents and disaster as the work of robots named deros, which led to dramatically increased circulation but widespread ridicule. Amazing switched to a digest size format in 1953, shortly before the end of the pulp-magazine era. It was sold to Sol Cohen's Universal Publishing Company in 1965, which filled it with reprinted stories but did not pay a reprint fee to the authors, creating a conflict with the newly formed Science Fiction Writers of America. Ted White took over as editor in 1969, eliminated the reprints and made the magazine respected again: Amazing was nominated for the prestigious Hugo Award three times during his tenure in the 1970s. Several other owners attempted to create a modern incarnation of the magazine in the following decades, but publication was suspended after the March 2005 issue. A new incarnation appeared in July 2012 as an online magazine. Print publication resumed with the Fall 2018 issue.

Gernsback's initial editorial approach was to blend instruction with entertainment; he believed science fiction could educate readers. His audience rapidly showed a preference for implausible adventures, and the movement away from Gernsback's idealism accelerated when the magazine changed hands in 1929. Despite this, Gernsback had an enormous impact on the field: the creation of a specialist magazine for science fiction spawned an entire genre publishing industry. The letter columns in Amazing, where fans could make contact with each other, led to the formation of science fiction fandom, which in turn had a strong influence on the development of the field. Writers whose first story was published in the magazine include John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Howard Fast, Ursula K. Le Guin, Roger Zelazny, and Thomas M. Disch. Overall, though, Amazing itself was rarely an influential magazine within the genre after the 1920s. Some critics have commented that by "ghettoizing" science fiction, Gernsback harmed its literary growth, but this viewpoint has been countered by the argument that science fiction needed an independent market to develop in to reach its potential.

Amazing Stories Quarterly

Amazing Stories Quarterly was a U.S. science fiction pulp magazine that was published between 1928 and 1934. It was launched by Hugo Gernsback as a companion to his Amazing Stories, the first science fiction magazine, which had begun publishing in April 1926. Amazing Stories had been successful enough for Gernsback to try a single issue of an Amazing Stories Annual in 1927, which had sold well, and he decided to follow it up with a quarterly magazine. The first issue of Amazing Stories Quarterly was dated Winter 1928 and carried a reprint of the 1899 version of H.G. Wells' When the Sleeper Wakes. Gernsback's policy of running a novel in each issue was popular with his readership, though the choice of Wells' novel was less so. Over the next five issues, only one more reprint appeared: Gernsback's own novel Ralph 124C 41+, in the Winter 1929 issue. Gernsback went bankrupt in early 1929, and lost control of both Amazing Stories and Amazing Stories Quarterly; his assistant, T. O'Conor Sloane, took over as editor. The magazine began to run into financial difficulties in 1932, and the schedule became irregular; the last issue was dated Fall 1934.

Authors whose work appeared in Amazing Stories Quarterly include Stanton A. Coblentz, Miles J. Breuer, A. Hyatt Verrill, and Jack Williamson. Critical opinions differ on the quality of the fiction Gernsback and Sloane printed: Brian Stableford regards several of the novels as being important early science fiction, but Everett Bleiler comments that few of the stories were of acceptable quality. Milton Wolf and Mike Ashley are more positive in their assessment; they consider the work Sloane published in the early 1930s to be some of the best in the new genre.

Flying car

A flying car is a type of personal air vehicle or roadable aircraft that provides door-to-door transportation by both ground and air. The term "flying car" is also sometimes used to include hovercars.

Many prototypes have been built since the first years of the twentieth century using a variety of flight technologies and some have true VTOL performance, but no flying car has yet reached production status.

Their appearance is often predicted by futurologists, with their failure ever to reach production leading to the catchphrase, "Where's my flying car?"

Flying cars are also a popular theme in fantasy and science fiction stories.

Frank Key

Frank Key is a British writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his self-published short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. Key co-founded the Malice Aforethought Press with Max Décharné and published the fiction of Ellis Sharp.

Frank R. Paul

Frank Rudolph Paul (German: [paʊl]; April 18, 1884 – June 29, 1963) was an American illustrator of pulp magazines in the science fiction field.

A discovery of editor Hugo Gernsback, Paul was influential in defining the look of both cover art and interior illustrations in the nascent science fiction pulps of the 1920s.The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2009.

Hard science fiction

Hard science fiction is a category of science fiction characterized by an emphasis on scientific accuracy. The term was first used in print in 1957 by P. Schuyler Miller in a review of John W. Campbell's Islands of Space in the November issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The complementary term soft science fiction, formed by analogy to hard science fiction, first appeared in the late 1970s. The term is formed by analogy to the popular distinction between the "hard" (natural) and "soft" (social) sciences. Science fiction critic Gary Westfahl argues that neither term is part of a rigorous taxonomy; instead they are approximate ways of characterizing stories that reviewers and commentators have found useful.Stories revolving around scientific and technical consistency were written as early as the 1870s with the publication of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870 and Around the World in Eighty Days in 1873, among other stories. The attention to detail in Verne's work became an inspiration for many future scientists and explorers, although Verne himself denied writing as a scientist or seriously predicting machines and technology of the future.

History of US science fiction and fantasy magazines to 1950

Science fiction and fantasy magazines began to be published in the United States in the 1920s. Stories with science fiction themes had been appearing for decades in pulp magazines such as Argosy, but there were no magazines that specialized in a single genre until 1915, when Street & Smith, one of the major pulp publishers, brought out Detective Story Magazine. The first magazine to focus solely on fantasy and horror was Weird Tales, which was launched in 1923, and established itself as the leading weird fiction magazine over the next two decades; writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard became regular contributors. In 1926 Weird Tales was joined by Amazing Stories, published by Hugo Gernsback; Amazing printed only science fiction, and no fantasy. Gernsback included a letter column in Amazing Stories, and this led to the creation of organized science fiction fandom, as fans contacted each other using the addresses published with the letters. Gernsback wanted the fiction he printed to be scientifically accurate, and educational, as well as entertaining, but found it difficult to obtain stories that met his goals; he printed "The Moon Pool" by Abraham Merritt in 1927, despite it being completely unscientific. Gernsback lost control of Amazing Stories in 1929, but quickly started several new magazines. Wonder Stories, one of Gernsback's titles, was edited by David Lasser, who worked to improve the quality of the fiction he received. Another early competitor was Astounding Stories of Super-Science, which appeared in 1930, edited by Harry Bates, but Bates printed only the most basic adventure stories with minimal scientific content, and little of the material from his era is now remembered.

In 1933 Astounding was acquired by Street & Smith, and it soon became the leading magazine in the new genre, publishing early classics such as Murray Leinster's "Sidewise in Time" in 1934. A couple of competitors to Weird Tales for fantasy and weird fiction appeared, but none lasted, and the 1930s is regarded as Weird Tales' heyday. Between 1939 and 1941 there was a boom in science fiction and fantasy magazines: several publishers entered the field, including Standard Magazines, with Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories (a retitling of Wonder Stories); Popular Publications, with Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories; and Fiction House, with Planet Stories, which focused on melodramatic tales of interplanetary adventure. Ziff-Davis launched Fantastic Adventures, a fantasy companion to Amazing. Astounding extended its pre-eminence in the field during the boom: the editor, John W. Campbell, developed a stable of young writers that included Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and A.E. van Vogt. The period starting in 1938, when Campbell took control of Astounding, is often referred to as the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Well-known stories from this era include Slan, by van Vogt, and "Nightfall", by Asimov. Campbell also launched Unknown, a fantasy companion to Astounding, in 1939; this was the first serious competitor for Weird Tales. Although wartime paper shortages forced Unknown's cancellation in 1943, it is now regarded as one of the most influential pulp magazines.

Only eight science fiction and fantasy magazines survived World War II. All were still in pulp magazine format except for Astounding, which had switched to a digest format in 1943. Astounding continued to publish popular stories, including "Vintage Season" by C. L. Moore, and "With Folded Hands ..." by Jack Williamson. The quality of the fiction in the other magazines improved over the decade: Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder in particular published some excellent material and challenged Astounding for the leadership of the field. A few more pulps were launched in the late 1940s, but almost all were intended as vehicles to reprint old classics. One exception, Out of This World Adventures, was an experiment by Avon, combining fiction with some pages of comics. It was a failure and lasted only two issues. Magazines in digest format began to appear towards the end of the decade, including Other Worlds, edited by Raymond Palmer. In 1949, the first issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction appeared, followed in October 1950 by the first issue of Galaxy Science Fiction; both were digests, and between them soon dominated the field. Very few science fiction or fantasy pulps were launched after this date; the 1950s was the beginning of the era of digest magazines, though the leading pulps continued until the mid-1950s, and authors began selling to mainstream magazines and large book publishers.

Hugo Gernsback

Hugo Gernsback (; born Hugo Gernsbacher, August 16, 1884 – August 19, 1967) was a Luxembourgish-American inventor, writer, editor, and magazine publisher, best known for publications including the first science fiction magazine. His contributions to the genre as publisher–although not as a writer–were so significant that, along with the novelists H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, he is sometimes called "The Father of Science Fiction". In his honour, annual awards presented at the World Science Fiction Convention are named the "Hugos".

List of years in literature

This page gives a chronological list of years in literature (descending order), with notable publications listed with their respective years and a small selection of notable events. The time covered in individual years covers Renaissance, Baroque and Modern literature, while Medieval literature is resolved by century.

Note: List of years in poetry exists specifically for poetry.

See Table of years in literature for an overview of all "year in literature" pages.


A Martian is a native inhabitant of the planet Mars. Although the search for evidence of life on Mars continues, many science fiction writers have imagined what extraterrestrial life on Mars might be like. Some writers also use the word Martian to describe a human colonist on Mars.

Modern Electrics

Modern Electrics was a technical magazine for the amateur radio experimenter. The magazine existed between 1908 and 1914.


Ralph (pronounced RALF; or, more rarely, RAYF,) is an English, Irish, Scottish, Dutch, Scandinavian, and German masculine given name, derived from the Old Norse Raðulfr (rað "counsel" + ulfr "wolf") through Old English Rædwulf and the longer form Radulf. It is also a surname.

The most common forms are:

Ralph, the common variant form in the English language, traditionally pronounced but now commonly , as spelled.Other forms of the name are:

Rafe, variant form which is a relatively rare male first name; it is pronounced /reɪf/.

Raife, variant form which is a very rare male first name.

Raif, variant form which is a very rare male first name.

Ralf, the traditional variant form in the Dutch, German, Swedish and Polish languages.

Raoul, the traditional variant form in the French language.

Raúl, the traditional variant form in the Spanish language.

Raul, the traditional variant form in the Portuguese and Italian languages.

Raül, the traditional variant form in the Catalan language.

Rádhulbh, the traditional variant form in the Irish language.

Science-Fiction Plus

Science-Fiction Plus was an American science fiction magazine published by Hugo Gernsback for seven issues in 1953. In 1926, Gernsback had launched Amazing Stories, the first science fiction magazine, but he had not been involved in the genre since 1936, when he sold Wonder Stories. Science-Fiction Plus was initially in slick format, meaning that it was large-size and printed on glossy paper. Gernsback had always believed in the educational power of science fiction, and he continued to advocate his views in the new magazine's editorials. The managing editor, Sam Moskowitz, had been a reader of the early pulp magazines, and published many writers who had been popular before World War II, such as Raymond Z. Gallun, Eando Binder, and Harry Bates. Combined with Gernsback's earnest editorials, the use of these early writers gave the magazine an anachronistic feel.

Sales were initially good, but soon fell. For the last two issues Gernsback switched the magazine to cheaper pulp paper, but the magazine remained unprofitable. The final issue was dated December 1953.

In addition to the older writers he published, Moskowitz was able to obtain fiction from some of the better-known writers of the day, including Clifford Simak, Murray Leinster, Robert Bloch, and Philip José Farmer, and some of their stories were well-received, including "Spacebred Generations", by Simak, "Strange Compulsion", by Farmer, and "Nightmare Planet", by Leinster. He also published several new writers, but only one, Anne McCaffrey, went on to a successful career in the field. Science fiction historians consider the magazine a failed attempt to reproduce the early days of the science fiction pulps.


Sleep-learning (also known as hypnopædia, or hypnopedia) is an attempt to convey information to a sleeping person, typically by playing a sound recording to them while they sleep. It is almost certainly a pseudoscience, as this particular kind of sleep learning is almost certainly impossible. Many studies have claimed to discredit the technique's effectiveness, but some others claim to have found that the brain indeed reacts to stimuli and processes them while asleep, though these have been criticised for spurious methodology (for instance, the researchers couldn’t be sure that they hadn’t just awoken to listen to the recording).

Timeline of science fiction

This is a timeline of science fiction as a literary tradition.

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