19 August 2013

7 Scifi Literary and Journalistic Hoaxes that Readers Believed

The idea of sophisticated life on the moon might seem absurd today, but when a story about lunary civilization appeared in newspapers in 1835, many wondered if it could be true. And that's hardly the only sci-fi story readers have found credible enough to believe.

Lithograph of the Great Moon Hoax, via Wikimedia Commons.
Hoaxes, of course, have a long history in science and science fiction. Just this month, the Discovery Channel aired a fake documentary about the Megalodon with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it disclaimer. But there are decades of fake robots, fabricated scientific discoveries, cryptozoological taxidermy, and scifi movie productions that were actually scams. That's before we even get around to mentioning the Orson Welles' production of War of the Worlds.

In print science fiction, hoaxes hold a particular special place. A lot of proto-scifi took the form the "hoax stories," some of which appeared in newspapers. Sometimes these were stories that were genuinely meant to deceive the reader, but in other cases, they were simply a way to frame a fantastical story in a semi-realistic way. And even as science fiction matured and grew, sometimes tall tales were made even more engaging when the author claimed they were true.

This is by no means an extensive list, and while some of these fall clearly into the category of science fiction, others are false accounts of scientific discoveries and achievements by famous fantasists. And while some of these were deliberate hoaxes, others were accidental—and sometimes the authors continued to assert the truth of these tales after they were generally disbelieved...more

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