, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 527-539

Ray Guns and Radium: Radiation in the Public Imagination as Reflected in Early American Science Fiction

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Abstract

The 1920s and 1930s were a period which saw great popular interest in radiation and radioactivity in America, and the establishment of a new genre of pulp literature, science fiction. Radiation was prevalent in American popular culture at the time, and sf stories were dependent upon radiation for much of their color and excitement. In this case study of stories in Amazing Stories and Astounding Stories, two of the leading sf pulps, the connections between actual scientific ideas and discoveries and sf plots and imagery are analyzed, demonstrating the general optimistic belief in the possibilities of scientifically-controlled radiation.