Death Rays and the Popular Media, 1876–1939
A Study of Directed Energy Weapons in Fact, Fiction and Film
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About the Book
Death rays! Absurd idea peddled by con artists and amateurs and promoted by a sensationalist press? Not quite. Government and military leaders and mainstream scientists endorsed the possibility of such a fantastic weapon in the years before World War II.
A concept born out of research with electricity and other energy sources, the death ray or “directed energy weapon” was widely reported for nearly five decades. Claims for its invention appeared as early as 1876, and increased thereafter, until the “death-ray craze” of the 1920s and 1930s. The idea influenced fiction, making its way from newspapers and magazines into novels, short stories, films, theatrical productions and other media. This book takes a first-ever look at the historical death ray and its impact on fiction and popular culture.
About the Author(s)
William J. Fanning, Jr.
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Part I: The Historical Death Ray
1. An Idea Is Born: Harnessing Directed Energy as a Weapon, 1876–1918 21
2. The Catalyst Years, 1919–1924 49
3. The Death-Ray Craze, 1925–1939 76
4. Death Rays and Their Connection to the Second World War 106
Part II: The Death Ray in Fiction and Popular Culture
5. Early Death-Ray Novels and Short Stories 123
6. Death-Ray Novels and Short Stories of the Interwar Years 149
7. Death Rays in Other Media: Movies, Theater, Pulps, Radio and Humor 184
Chapter Notes 221
Book Reviews & Awards
“in addition to scholars of popular fiction, and especially detective, crime, and science fiction, military historians interested in next war projections and the intersection of popular culture and military concerns will also find it useful”—H-Net; “a wealth of information…a fine volume”—SFCrowsnest.