Orchideengarten, Der

Tagged: Publication

German large-quarto-size magazine, initially printed on Pulp paper. Fifty-one issues, monthly January to July 1919, then twice a month, August 1919 to May 1921, though only the first issue dated. Full title: Der Orchideengarten: Phantastische Blätter ["The Orchid Garden: Fantastic Pages"]. Founded and published by Karl Hans Strobl (1877-1946) through his publishing firm, Dreilander Verlag, in Munich, it was edited by Alf von Czibulka (1888-1969). Contents primarily ranged from Gothic fantasy through to the surreal, consisting of both reprinted and original material from various European countries, but occasional sf appeared. The second February 1920 issue, for instance, was labelled "Phantastik der Technik" and was the only issue devoted to Proto SF. It featured a translation of "Die Luftsäule" ["The Air Column"] by Ossian Elgström, "Die Lokomotive" by Leopold Plaichinger, "Mischa Strongins sieben Versuche" ["Mischa Strongins' Seven Experiments"] by Alexander Poljenow, and "Galvanostegie" by Hanns Wohlbold. The first one is about a car whisked up on a column of air; the second, labelled "a dream" is about a genuine flying car (see Transportation), illustrated by E Plaichinger-Coltelli; the third is set in revolutionary Russia where a scientist struggles to improve conditions through a series of new scientific developments, and is illustrated by a remarkable image of a Robot raising flying locomotives like a snake-charmer, by Heinrich Kley. This was the only special sf issue, although other issues included the occasional translation of work by Arthur Conan Doyle, E T A Hoffmann and H G Wells, but never sufficient to classify the full run as science fiction.

The magazine was heavily illustrated. Though printed on pulp, Der Orchideengarten was not a pulp magazine in any other sense, and indeed a later Collector's Edition appeared printed on art paper. Strobl attended the Technicum in Bingen, Germany at the same time as Hugo Gernsback, but there is in fact no significant connection between these two founding editors of the fantastic in the twentieth century. The contents and illustrations of Strobl's magazine rode the turbulent divide between Decadence and that intoxication with Technology which marked (or defaced) early Modernism, and the hectic ambivalence of authors like Karel Čapek found a home here. The overall intent of Strobl through his journal, with overriding and sometimes transgressive illustrations dominating each issue, was precisely counter to the balkanization of popular literature affirmed (though by no means created whole-cloth) by Gernsback in America. In the sense that it is not a specialized journal, Der Orchideengarten should not perhaps be thought of as the first sf magazine; though its importance in the History of SF is clear enough. The tragedy is that its espousal of the entire range of Fantastika as a properly recognized and central manifestation of the culture of Europe after World War One soon seemed naive and impractical. A century later, however, that espousal seems prophetic. [JC/MA]

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