Research for this project began in the Department of English at Princeton University, and I am grateful for the warm community of scholars and friends who supported both me and this book throughout my time there. In particular: Eduardo Cadava, Anne Cheng, Bill Gleason, Thomas Y. Levin, Meredith Martin, and Benjamin Widiss. A Summer Prize from the Program in American Studies allowed me to conduct some of the foundational research for this book at the Hugo Gernsback Papers in Syracuse, where I luxuriated in a collection containing every issue ever of Gernsback’s magazines.
My colleagues at the Columbia Society of Fellows saw this project through several iterations and provided invaluable feedback on the manuscript at many points along the way; thanks especially to Vanessa Agard-Jones, Teresa Bejan, Maggie Cao, William Derringer, Brian Goldstone, David Gutkin, Hidetaka Hirota, Murad Idris, Ian McCready-Flora, Dan-el Padilla Peralta, Carmel Raz, and Rebecca Woods. Christopher Brown and Eileen Gillooly are brilliant, devoted, and incredibly generous leaders of this community, and the quality of the work that comes out of the program is a testament to their leadership.
I express my gratitude to staff and curators like Bruce Roloson at the Antique Wireless Association Museum in Bloomfield, New York, for actually letting me touch artifacts that for years I was able only to read about. During this trip, I met Jim and Felicia Kreuzer, collectors and aficionados who told me the entire history of radio through a show-and-tell that I will never forget, and who are wonderful hosts as well. Thanks to Patrick Belk of the Pulp Magazines Project and David Gleason of American Radio History for their help in securing digital copies of Gernsback issues.
Many others provided input, encouragement, links, and rejoinders along the way, including Mike Ashley, Andrew Baer, Nolan Baer, John Cheng, Richard Dienst, Eric Drown, Bruce Franklin, Kristin Gallerneaux, James Gleick, Sean X. Goudie, Ben Gross, Michael Holley, Paul Israel, Eugenia Lean, Paul Lesch, Mara Mills, Phillip Polefrone, Sean Quimby, Eric Schockmel, Bernhard Siegert, Steve Silberman, Jim Steichen, Priscilla Wald, Lisa Yaszek, and Siegfried Zielinski.
Susan Lehre was immensely helpful in applying for funding from the Barr-Ferree Publication Fund at Princeton University, support that made possible the publication of such a richly illustrated volume. Nicolette Dobrowolski and Nicole Dittrich at the Syracuse University Special Collections Research Center tirelessly followed the trail of breadcrumbs I left for them in hunting down almost all of the images you see here. Special thanks to Doug Armato, Erin Warholm-Wohlenhaus, Mike Stoffel, Caitlin Newman, and Jeff Moen at the University of Minnesota Press for their patience and hard work throughout this entire process. Their belief in this wacky project gave me the confidence to write exactly the kind of book I wanted. The anonymous readers who provided comments on early drafts of the manuscript helped me to see this book as a whole for the first time. I am grateful for their insights.
Dave Prout provided timely and much-needed feedback on the index. And book designer Judy Gilats truly captured the spirit of Gernsback's magazines as well as the idea behind this book; Hugo would be proud.
Special thanks to the close friends who reviewed the manuscript front to back at a moment when I thought that I would never be able to let it go: Sand Avidar-Walzer, Ben Breen, Michael Johnduff, Sara J. Grossman, Jeffrey Kirkwood, and Hannes Mandel.
Above all, this book is a product of my family’s support. From the love of my parents, to my brother Dan Wythoff, who shares not only a passion for science fiction but also his books, to my sister Erin Wythoff, who loaned her design sensibilities to the making of The Perversity of Things, none of this would have been possible without them. And finally, to Sara: this is one of those rare moments that I can’t ask for the benefit of your brilliance and care to guide my writing, so of course I’m at a loss for words. I hope it’s enough to say how insanely lucky I am to share a world with you.