In 1926 the first science fiction specialized magazine was born, Amazing Stories. It was founded by Hugo Gernsback, and “published on the 10th of each month. There are 12 numbers per year. Subscription price is $ 2,50 a year in U.S. and possessions. Canada and foreign countries $ 3 a year.”
The first issue of Amazing Stories had a sub-title, The Magazine of Scientifiction. Gernsback with this title intended to indicate stories like those of Wells and Verne, namely where the plot merged with scientific facts and predictions about the future. In the first two or three issues of his magazine, Gernsback published authors already known, like Verne (A Trip to the Center of Earth) and Edgar Allan Poe (Mesmeric Revelation), but then he began to publish works by new authors, like The Man from the Atom, by G. Peyton Wertenbaker, and The Green Splotches by T.S. Stribling, in which he narrated the story of the encounter between humanity and extra-terrestrial visitors. Stribling won the Pulitzer Prize in 1933.
The plot proposed here (written by the editors of Amazing Stories) refers to the events narrated in The Man from the Atom, by G. Peyton Wertenbaker:
“Professor Martyn was an inventor of genius, and Kirby — one of the very few friends he had — was always a willing test object for many of his inventions. Somewhat even to his own surprise, Professor Martyn invents a machine whereby anyone can at will, either increase or diminish in size, and Kirby agrees — with foreboding in his heart — to test the machine. It is put into operation by merely pressing the middle button on this little machine, which is attached with straps, over his chest. He is fitted with an elastic suit, specially made for the purpose of keeping out intense cold or heat and retaining an even degree of temperature. He begins to increase in size and soon is so large that he just naturally slips away from the Earth and goes off into ultra-planetary space.”
“ After the first rush of excitement, Kirby becomes alarmed about it all and decides to come back to Earth. He presses the right button and immediately begins to diminish in size. But he has traveled so fast and is so far away that he becomes panic-stricken and decides to press the “stop” button. The velocity of his motion is so great that he travels for hundreds of miles more before he can stop. Then he suddenly finds himself coming up out of water — floating. He swims ashore, but he is so exhausted, he falls right off to sleep.”
“ When he awakes, he gets into a state of utter despair, for instead of being on the Earth, he finds himself on some unknown planet. He rages and fumes around for some time and finally decides to decrease to a size small enough to enable him to go back to earth and forthwith sets out to find the same nebula through which he originally left the Earth. He cannot find it and does not reach the Earth, but lands instead on a strange planet, with strange inhabitants, so far advanced in intellect that he feels like a savage among them. He does not understand their language and cannot understand their customs. He is there alone in utter desolation and despair, ever pining for those he left behind, whom he can never hope to see again.”
- Peyton Wertenbaker intrigues the reader, creating an incredible suspense at the beginning of the chapter entitled The Return:
“ Never hoped — never dreamed, when I wrote the tale you have read, that I should ever see the earth again. Who in the universe could have hoped against all the knowledge of insuperable fate which had come to me? Who could hope to overcome Time and Space, to recapture that which was gone forever? Yet it is just this that I have done — or something very like it. And it is a story a thousand times more fantastic, more impossible, than the story of my journey. And like that it is true.”
G. Peyton Wertenbaker, “The Man from the Atom”, in Amazing Stories, Vol. 1, No 2, May 1926, pp. 97, 140-141.