In this article, Muireann Maguire examines the cultural construction of the trope of the engineer-inventor in Russia during the 1920s and 1930s, focusing on the changing representation of this archetype in three science fiction novels by Aleksei Tolstoi: Aelita (1922-23), Soiuzpiati (The Gang of Five, 1925), and Giperboloid inzhenera Garina (Engineer Garin's Death Ray, 1925-26). Tolstoi's fiction portrays engineers as misguided and self-centred at best and as amoral, megalomaniacal, and irredeemably un-Soviet at worst. This increasingly negative portrayal of the engineers in these novels, and in their later redactions and cinema versions, helped to prepare the way for the alienation of engineer and technical specialist within Soviet society, providing cultural justification for Iosif Stalin's show trials and purges of both categories in the 1930s. Tolstoi's alienation of the engineer-inventor, the traditional hero of early Soviet nauchnaia fantastika (science fiction), prefigured the occlusion of science fiction as a mainstream literary genre. As a trained engineer, former aristocrat, and returned émigré whose own status in Soviet Russia was deeply compromised, Tolstoi's literary demonization of engineers effectively purchased his own acceptance within the Stalinist literary hierarchy.