The Amazing Stories of E.E. Doc Smith

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.

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2 thoughts on “The Amazing Stories of E.E. Doc Smith

  1. I grew up on Smith (and Heinlein, and Clarke, and too many other authors to mention — not all SF; I was reading history and political science at 14 too (having supposedly explained the meaning of 2001 to my parents in ’68). I’ve always hoped someone would get around to doing Smith himself on film (as opposed to every “space navy” flick & series, all derivative of Smith). With luck, we’ll live to see Straczynski pull that off…

    Recently, I got inspired (or went insane), began a trilogy of sequel novels to the Lensman series, then got sidetracked onto a standalone spinoff novel to that series (“Spacewomen Off the Vortices”). None are revisionist in the least bit, expanding, rather, on the multi-level conspiracy of Boskone. Style and content ARE (deliberately) Smith-ian, as in the following:

    “The two women gazed out the open aft of Inestimable’s former engine room, though which, at the moment, there could be seen little more than the slow-dispersing cloud of wreckage. No; on close examination, one could discern a backdrop of what appeared as stars – but weren’t. Each pinpoint of light was barely seeable to be some whit elongated, as well it might – for each was in fact a galaxy. Behind the lot, evanescent as the most wispiest cloud, was what the women presumed might be the incredulously, all-but-inconceivably-distant megastructure of the Local Supergroup, a.k.a. the Virgo Supercluster: one of millions of such in the observable universe (or “Cosmic All,” as Lensman had it), itself composed of some one hundred galactic groups and clusters, comprising in toto an assemblage some 33 megaparsecs – 110 million lightyears – across. Or perhaps it was some other supercluster. They were a long, long, long way from home.”

    Could I interest you — or anyone following this blog — in further excerpts?

    David Winfrey

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