I got into science fiction through my love of Star Wars. The geeky primer had already been charged with earlier stories, but George Lucas’s films pushed my geeky little mind into overdrive.
Space Opera is said to have begun with a fellow known as E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith. Last time we talked about science fiction, we left with Hugo Gernsback and his contributions to the genre, and between his work and the beginnings of John W. Campbell’s Golden Age, Smith’s a major figure to look at. He’s a fascinating character, and his contributions to the genre deserve quite a bit more notice.
In a lot of ways, Smith invented the intergalactic space opera, from which so many well known books, television shows and films owe their existence. Read up on The Amazing Stories of E.E. Doc Smith over on Kirkus Reviews.
Here’s the sources that I used:
Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction, Brian W. Aldiss: Aldiss’s reliable book has some excellent commentary on Smith’s place in fandom and the legacy of his novels, as well as some background information on the book’s creation. There’s nothing extensive: what we have here is a small nugget of information, but it’s a valuble piece of information.
Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, John Clute: This has become a favorite source of mine – There’s a great entry on Smith’s works and their importance. Most importantly, it pointed me to some other sources, and provided some good dates.
The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World, Thomas Disch: Small mention of Smith here, but there’s some background information.
Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, James Gunn: Gunn’s’ book has a great couple of pages on Smith’s life and works, providing some contextual information in addition to covers.
Seekers of Tomorrow, Sam Moskowitz: Probably one of the most valuable sources, Moskowitz’s text is one that needs to be taken with some salt: it’s not a hugely reliable source in most circles, and reportedly, Moskowitz didn’t divulge his sources. However, it provides a look at Smith’s early life, filling in the gap between his birth and the time he began to write.
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with his Century, Volume 1: Learning Curve: 1907-1948, William Patterson Jr.: Heinlein was a friend of Smith’s, and he popped up several times in its pages.
The History of Science Fiction, Adam Roberts: Roberts provides a good overview of Smith’s works, and their placement within the pulp era.
Survey of Science Fiction Literature, volumes 3 & 5, Frank Magill: These two volumes of literary criticism looks at the Lensman and Skylark stories that Smith authored in great detail, providing an excellent literary overview and some biographical information.