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Erik Jan Hanussen was an Austrian charlatan who lived from 1889 to 1933, allegedly a clairvoyant and mentalist. He knew Adolf Hitler, personally, perhaps taught him a trick or two, and was killed by the Nazis. Among other things, he wrote a novel about New York's destruction, which may be considered SF or meant as a prophecy, but it's not what my question is about.

In the afterword to the Italian translation of Hanussen's novel, La fine di New York (published by Edizioni Mediterranee in 1989), Gianfranco de Turris, a respected Italian science fiction historian and author, talks (in Italian) about other texts containing speculations about the notion of “atom smashing” before Hanussen, among them H.G. Wells's The World Set Free and “The Secret Atom by the American Francis Lynch (1915)”.

Now, I am not able to find other information about Lynch or his novel/short story. Is anybody able to help? Is he completely forgotten? Might it be an erudite joke by de Turris?

  • 2
    Fascinating. I have found nothing so far. – FuzzyBoots Sep 20 '17 at 23:04
  • Possibly this chap; collections.nlm.nih.gov/… – Valorum Sep 21 '17 at 6:35
  • Wow!! I can find absolutely nothing about any of this. What is the internet coming to? – mwarren Sep 21 '17 at 8:46
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    So I've edited the tags. Because this doesn't seem to be asking about the history of the notion of "atom smashing" but instead the existence of a work. This is also not about the genre of science-fiction as a whole but about one Author. I have therefore removed the [history-of] and [tag:science-fiction-genre] tags and added in the [tag:story-identification] tag. If you disagree with the edits, feel free to change them back. – Edlothiad Sep 21 '17 at 8:49
  • FWIW, I just did a worldcat library search of "libraries worldwide", and got nothing. – Organic Marble Sep 21 '17 at 19:00
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I think that this is a reference to a story called The Inert Atom by Francis Lynde.

While being driven to distraction looking for the answer to this question I stumbled across the following extact from the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. "Inert" could be translated as Secret I feel

(1856-1930) US author, prolific in several popular genres, including detective thrillers and Westerns, these two forms being brought together in Scientific Sprague (coll of linked stories 1912), featuring the exploits of the eponymous detective-cum-engineer, who defends a Western railroad (see Transportation) against thieves, accidents and Inventions in the hands of villains. Several of his stories also revolve around inventions, including "The Great Electric Trust" (February 1898 Cosmopolitan) and "The Earthquakers" (7 January 1930 Popular Magazine), the latter story featuring the discovery of Nuclear Energy. It is not known if this is the same story as "The Inert Atom" (23 April 1915 Popular Magazine), as that journal often reprinted earlier stories. [JC/MA]

The date of the story fits (1915) and Lynde is similar to Lynch. The bold emphasis in the quote is my own.

Will try to find details of the actual story itself but not been able to do so yet.

  • Other content of the magazine can be found at webcache.googleusercontent.com/… but I have not found a copy yet. – FuzzyBoots Sep 22 '17 at 13:56
  • Great! It really looks like it! Actually in the Italian text the title The Secret Atom was mentioned in English, but, considering also the imprecise mention of the writer's surname, apparently the afterword's author quoted from memory, so I am pretty sure this is the right story. – DaG Sep 22 '17 at 14:49
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    @DaG - If this is the answer you're looking for, feel free to accept it :) – Alith Sep 22 '17 at 15:05
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    @Alith - That is a hell of a find. – JohnP Sep 22 '17 at 15:27
  • I am accepting it gladly, and I'd do so more than once if I could. – DaG Sep 22 '17 at 18:09

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