The aesthetic of apocalypse in Hans Dominik's early science fiction
Keywords:Aesthetics; Hans Dominik; Early science fiction; Science fiction; Topoi; Technology and fantasy; History of physics
Though the term ‘science fiction’ was coined somewhat later, the early twentieth century saw an enormous rise in an interest in technological tales set in the near future, mirroring a general awareness of the growing importance of science.
Hans Dominik was one of the most prolific – and successful – German authors of this kind of popular literature. According to estimates millions of copies of his books have been sold, making Dominik’s work an interesting case study illustrating the sorts of ideas about science that German-speaking audiences entertained. Being a trained engineer and a public relations officer by profession, Dominik drew heavily on scientific topics that were headline news at the time and yet he also managed to create something new on the basis of these.
One of the methods he employed was the use of religious motifs and topoi. Dominik magnified the relevance of scientific enterprises and depicted the consequences of science – or scientific misconduct, rather – as the beginning of a catastrophe, or even an apocalypse. By the same token, Dominik often introduced the figure of the scientist as a protagonist who would save the world. Thus Dominik was able to draw the attention of a large audience to concepts of the use of atomic energy or nuclear weapons – to name only two – and their creative or destructive potential, decades before such devices were technically feasible.
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