Edward Elmer Smith (1890 – 1965), publishing as E. E. Smith, Ph.D. and later as E. E. “Doc” Smith, was an American food engineer (specializing in doughnut and pastry mixes) and science-fiction author, best known for the Lensman and Skylark series. He is sometimes called the father of space opera.
In his 1947 essay “The Epic of Space”, Smith listed (by last name only) authors he enjoyed reading: John W. Campbell, L. Sprague de Camp, Robert A. Heinlein, Murray Leinster, H. P. Lovecraft, and A. Merritt (specifically The Ship of Ishtar, The Moon Pool, The Snake Mother, and Dwellers in the Mirage, as well as the character John Kenton), C. L. Moore (specifically “Jirel of Joiry”), Roman Frederick Starzl, John Taine, A. E. van Vogt, Stanley G. Weinbaum (specifically “Tweerl”), and Jack Williamson. In a passage on his preparation for writing the Lensman novels, he notes that Clinton Constantinescu’s “War of the Universe” was not a masterpiece, but says that Starzl and Williamson were masters; this suggests that Starzl’s Interplanetary Flying Patrol may have been an influence on Smith’s Triplanetary Patrol, later the Galactic Patrol. The feeding of the Overlords of Delgon upon the life-force of their victims at the end of chapter five of Galactic Patrol seems a clear allusion to chapter 29 of The Moon Pool, Merritt’s account of the Taithu and the power of love in chapters 29 and 34 also bear some resemblance to the end of Children of the Lens. Smith also mentions Edgar Rice Burroughs, complaining about loose ends at the end of one of his novels.
E. E. Smith’s novels are generally considered to be classic space operas, and he is sometimes called the first of the three “novas” of 20th-century science fiction (with Stanley G. Weinbaum and Robert A. Heinlein as the second and third novas).
Robert A. Heinlein credited him for being his main influence:
I have learned from many writers—from Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and Campbell and Sinclair Lewis, et al.—but I have learned more from you than from any of the others and perhaps more than for all the others put together …
E. E. Smith expressed a preference for inventing fictional technologies that were not strictly impossible (so far as the science of the day was aware) but highly unlikely: “the more highly improbable a concept is—short of being contrary to mathematics whose fundamental operations involve no neglect of infinitesimals—the better I like it” was his phrase.
Lensman was one of five finalists when the 1966 World Science Fiction Convention judged Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation the Best All-Time Series.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted Smith in 2004
E. E. Smith – First Edition Identification Guide
Note: This list only includes works published prior to 1977.
|Year||Title||Publisher||First edition/Printing Identification Points|
|1975||THE BEST OF E. E. 'DOC' SMITH||[London}: Futura Publications Limited, ||Wrappers. First published in 1975 ... on © page. Orbit Science Fiction 0 8600 7873 6 (75p). |
ALSO: London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. . Boards. First published in hard cover by Weidenfeld and Nicolson ... on © page. First hardcover edition.
Note: Orbit edition was published in November 1975. The Weidenfeld & Nicolson edition was scheduled for October 1975 release but was not published until January 1976.
|1954||THE CHALLENGE FROM BEYOND||N.p.: [A Weltschmerz Publication/Bill Evans /Franklin Kerkhof, Printer /The Pennsylvania Dutch Cheese Press/February 1954]||Self wrappers. No statement of printing. Mimeographed, stapled. Cover title. With STANLEY G. WEINBAUM, DONALD WANDREI, HARL VINCENT, and MURRAY LEINSTER. |
Notes: (1) Published by William H. Evans for distribution through the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA), (2) Not to be confused with a booklet of identical title and format with a different round-robin story by C. L. Moore and others.
|1954||CHILDREN OF THE LENS||Reading, Pennsylvania: Fantasy Press, Inc., [1954}||Four bindings, priority as listed: |
|1950||FIRST LENSMAN||Reading, Pennsylvania: Fantasy Press,1950||Two issues, no priority: (A) 500 copies with numbered leaf signed by the author inserted; (B) Trade issue. First edition so stated on © page.|
|1950||GALACTIC PATROL||Reading, Pennsylvania: Fantasy Press,1950||Four bindings, priority as listed: |
|1965||THE GALAXY PRIMES||New York: Ace Books, Inc., ||Wrappers. No statement of printing on © page. Ace Book F-328 (40c).|
|1951||GRAY LENSMAN||Reading, Pennsylvania: Fantasy Press,1951||Two issues, no priority: |
|1953-1955||[THE HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION]||Reading: Fantasy Press, Inc., 1953-1955||Cloth with leather shelf back. Six volumes. 75 sets, each volume having a numbered leaf signed by the author inserted. Issued without dust jackets, enclosed in a card-stock box. Reprint. Includes TRIPLANETARY, FIRST LENSMAN, GALACTIC PATROL, GRAY LENSMAN, SECOND STAGE LENSMEN, and CHILDREN OF THE LENS.|
|1976||IMPERIAL STARS||New York: Pyramid Books, ||Wrappers. February 1976 on © page. Pyramid V3839 ($1.25). With STEPHEN GOLDIN. An enlargement by Goldin of Smith's short novel "The Imperial Stars" which originally appeared in "Worlds of If", May 1964. Subsequent volumes in The Family d'Alembert series were written by Goldin.|
|1976||MASTERS OF SPACE||[London]: Futura Publications Limited, ||Wrappers. First published in Great Britain in 1976 ... on © page. Orbit 0 8600 7901 5 (50p).|
|1965||MASTERS OF THE VORTEX||New York: Pyramid Books, [196S]||Wrappers. August, 1968 on © page. Pyramid Science Fiction X-1851 (60c). Reissue Of THE VORTEX BLASTER.|
|1953||SECOND STAGE LENSMEN||Reading, Pennsylvania: Fantasy Press, [1953 ]||Four bindings, priority as listed: |
|1966||SKYLARK DUQUESNE||New York: Pyramid. Books, ||Wrappers, November, 1966 on © page. Pyramid Books X-1539 (60c). |
ALSO: [New York & London: Garland Publishing, line. , 1975].
|1946||THE SKYLARK OF SPACE||[Providence, Rhode Island: The Buffalo Book Co., 1946]||No statement of printing on © page. With MRS. LEE HAWKINS GARBY.|
|1949||SKYLARK OF V ALERON||Reading, Pennsylvania: Fantasy Press,1949||Two issues, no priority: |
|1948||SKYLARK THREE||Reading, Pennsylvania: Fantasy Press,1948||Two issues, no priority: (A) 500 copies with numbered leaf signed by the author inserted; (B) Trade issue. First edition so stated on © page.,|
|1947||SPACEHOUNDS OF IPC||Reading, Pennsylvania: Fantasy Press,1947||Two issues, no priority: |
|1965||SUBSPACE EXPLORERS||New York: Canaveral Press, Inc.,1965||No statement of printing on © page.|
|1948||TRIPLANETARY||Reading, Pennsylvania: Fantasy Press,1948||Two issues, no priority: |
|1960||THE VORTEX BLASTER||Hicksville, New York: Gnome Press, Inc., ||Two issues, priority as listed: |
E. E. Smith – First Printing Dust Jacket Identification Points
Gallery of First state Dust Jackets of E. E. Smith’s works. Only includes the first appearance in book form. Either the UK or US edition and does not include later printings.
- L. W. Currey, Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors: A Bibliography of First Printings of Their Fiction and Selected Nonfiction.