Samantha Hunt is the author of The Invention of Everything Else, which has been shortlisted for the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction. In this recording from the 2009 Key West Literary Seminar, Hunt discusses the subject of her historical novel, Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla, whose revolutionary inventions included alternating current and wireless technology. Briefly employed by Thomas Edison, Tesla routinely found himself on the wrong side of American capitalism and died impoverished and marginalized. In Hunt’s passage, Tesla recounts his initial meeting with the financially-driven American inventor who sought to keep Tesla’s inventions from reaching the public.
“‘Capitalism! Ever heard of it?’
‘Yes, I have,’ I said. ‘I’ve heard of it. I’m not certain I agree.’
“There’s nothing wrong with capitalism,’ he told me.”
‘Except that in order to sell something, a person must first own it, and how can a person own these things that we are inventing? How could I own alternating current? That’s like owning thunder or lightning.’
‘Men own thunder all the time. That’s how America works. And please, I’ve heard enough about your alternating current. … AC is dangerous, and more importantly’– Edison drove his finger once directly into the center of my chest– ‘my light bulbs don’t work on it.'”
From KWLS 2009: Historical Fiction and the Search for Truth