Death Rays and the Popular Media, 1876-1939

I came across this book when researching the background behind Fröis Fröisland’s “The Man with the X-ray Eyes”, specifically the history of one Giulio Ulivi. So, when I saw this book offered later for review, I eagerly requested it.

I was not disappointed. Ulivi’s story is, in fact, a linchpin of the book, and I’ll be updating my entry for Fröisland’s story.

My inner pedant is also gratified to see that Fanning completely omits any mention of Fröisland.

Review: Death Rays and the Popular Media, 1876-1939: A Study of Directed Energy Weapons in Fact, Fiction and Film, William J. Fanning, Jr., 2015.Death Rays and the Popular Media

Let’s play a game.

Which of the three quotes below is from a piece of pulp science fiction?

… death ray that will bring down airplanes, halt tanks on the battlefields, ruin automobile motors and spread a curtain of death like the gas clouds of the recent war.


At one hundred kilometers, all the bullets of the soldiers, all the belts of the machine guns, all the shells loaded in the cannons, all the bombs, all the grenades, … all will explode. The blue rays will leave nothing, not even a gram of explosive …


Think of it as a death ray sweeping across an advancing army’s front – picture each gun sparkling like a superstatic machine, charring each soldier’s hand and arm

Not terribly obvious, is it? The answer is the last quote from Eando Binder’s “Static” published in the December 1936 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. Continue reading