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What if Wednesday: Raygun Gothic

Variable DensityRay-Gun 3MTL

Raygun Gothic was a term coined in the short story, The Gernsback Continuum (pdf) . I encountered William Gibson’s story in the anthology, Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Highly recommended). Gibson uses the story to explore the dark side of the bright shiny future first envisioned in the early Science fiction pulp magazines introduced by Hugo Gernsback.


Cohen introduced us and explained that Dialta [a noted pop-art historian] was the prime mover behind the latest Barris-Watford project, an illustrated history of what she called “American Streamlined Modern.” Cohen called it “raygun Gothic.” Their working title was The Airstream Futuropolis: The Tomorrow That Never Was.

William Gibson, The Gernsback Continuum


This future society was depicted as the triumph of technology in the service of mankind. This fictional world, like most of the pulp fiction of the time was full of the biases that filled American Media. The future would be an idealized American society that contained only a white-anglo culture. Robots and aliens would replace other races and ethnicities.


Amazing Stories Magazine

In Gibson’s story a photographer is hired to gather images of the architectural remnants that were based on this vision of the future. As he explores the American country-side taking photographs, he becomes aware that reality is shifting. He is somehow entering this alternate America. Is he having a mental breakdown ? Is he tuning into parallel time line ? Or is reality bending to accommodate his photographic vision ?

Invisible Spectrum Particle Ray Gun fd

Note: While double checking background information, I discovered a short British film, Tomorrow Calling, an adaptation of The Gernsback Continuum. It is an an interesting & effective adaptation, but I suggest that you read the story first ( see link above).


9 responses

  1. Very interesting!

    June 13, 2013 at 8:56 am

    • elmediat

      It is intriguing how a TWZ-style Speculative Fiction Tale can raise issues of social values, mass media impact and the nature of perception & reality. 🙂

      June 14, 2013 at 9:05 pm

  2. Pretty interesting stuff. Personally I think you have mastered bending reality to accommodate your photographic vision

    June 13, 2013 at 9:43 am

    • elmediat

      Thanks very much. I just wish those Semiotic Ghosts would stop stepping out of the screen. 😀

      June 14, 2013 at 9:08 pm

  3. Pingback: Imperial Satellite 127 toy camera photos and review - Daniel J. Schneider : Daniel J. Schneider

  4. Very interesting. Love the old magazine covers. Old sci fi is a guilty pleasure of mine, a way of reclaiming the nostalgic innocence of childhood. But when I view certain movies and series now, I can see the social and psychological ideas embedded within.

    March 28, 2015 at 2:31 am

    • elmediat

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Two of the principles of Mass Media are that all Mass Media contain values, beliefs & ideologies and that Mass Media convey intended & unintended messages. The old Dick & Jane early reader books are an excellent example. The family was white middle class. Father goes to work in a suit & carries a briefcase – very Mad Men . No factory workers, no other ethnicities or racial groups. Do not resist you will be assimilated or segregated.

      March 28, 2015 at 10:02 am

  5. Pingback: “The Old New World” – an example of Necro- Media | Dark Pines Media

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