This Unique Document

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Westfahl, Gary. "'This Unique Document': Hugo Gernsback's Ralph 124c41+ and the Genres of Science Fiction." Extrapolation 35.2 (1994): 95-119. *

GW conceded the novel's esthetic weaknesses but argues nonetheless that Ralph is "the one essential text for all studies of science fiction." Gernsback uses no fewer than five generic science fiction models—melodramatic adventure, travel tale, Gothic novel, utopia, and satire—in this work. All five models fail ruinously in Ralph but instructively. Ralph "anticipates and incorporates" the tensions and themes of science fiction literature in the years following its serialization in Modern Electrics in 1911-12 (96). Some of the tensions "illustrate Gernsback's dilemma in using melodrama," and some of the other genres, "as a model for science fiction: for in celebrating the value of science, Gernsback theory of science fiction promoted intellect over emotion; in depicting new inventions to replace manual labor, his theory advocated indirect action over direct action; and in supporting the scientific community, his theory favored the interests of an elite over those of the common man. Yet melodrama was a form that was directly antithetical to all these concerns" (97). (RFS, 27/04/95)