Backstage Lensman

"Backstage Lensman" is a short story by Randall Garrett, a parody or pastiche of the Lensman series of E.E. 'Doc' Smith. It was first written in 1949, lost and then rewritten in 1978.

Garrett claimed that "Doc read the first version of 'Backstage Lensman' and laughed all through the convention. It was his suggestion that I call the spaceship Dentless rather than Dauntless."

Garrett plays on the rather breathless and adjective-heavy prose of Smith—long strings of adjectives and adverbs, many of them compounded by hyphens, or offering the highest extremes, e.g. inconceivable, completely, irresistible, unimaginably, ultra-, indescribable. "The awesome awfulness of the unimaginable vastness of the intergalactic void", "the depths of degradation, the valleys of vileness, the caverns of corruption" or "beams, rods, cones, stilettos, icepicks, corkscrews, knives, forks, and spoons of energy raved against the screens of the Dentless."

There is an almost complete lack of levity, for example the character Ginnison observes with a complete lack of irony that, "I got a line through Banjo Freeko, the planetary dictator, but only after I blew up the mining industry on his planet and killed a few thousand innocent people -- regretfully, of course. But I do that all the time. It revolts me, but I do it." However, the long, stern descriptions are given a final twist in an appended sentence. The "blocky" plotting and the characteristic long background discussions are parodied, as is the unevenly applied physics (Smith often has problems with mass, inertia and gravity).

Character names are often puns—Frite of the Meich, Gimble Ginnison, the Starboard Admiral Partisipple, Hess von Baschenvolks, Flatworthy, Woozle, Shadrack, Houston Carbarn, Banlon of Downlo, Banjo Freeko. Personal characteristics are exaggerated—- Ginnison uses phrases like "Jeepers!" and "Gee whiz!"; Shadrack describes himself as "a yellow-bellied, chicken-livered, jelly-gutted coward."

This story appeared in:

  • The magazine Analog, June 1978
  • Takeoff, a collection of short fiction and poems by Randall Garrett, 1980
  • Shaggy B.E.M. Stories, an anthology edited by Mike Resnick, 1988
"Backstage Lensman"
AuthorRandall Garrett
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesLensman
Genre(s)Science fiction
Published inAnalog Science Fiction and Fact
Publication typemagazine
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Publication dateJune 1978

External links

E. E. Smith

Edward Elmer Smith (May 2, 1890 – August 31, 1965), better known by his pen name 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.

Lensman (disambiguation)

Lensman is a science fiction book series by Edward Elmer Smith.

First Lensman, the second novel of the series, published in 1950

Gray Lensman, the fourth book in the series, published in 1951Lensman may also refer to:

Lensman: Secret of The Lens, an anime movie based on the Lensman novels

Galactic Patrol Lensman, an anime television series based on the Lensman novels

Backstage Lensman, a short story parody of the Lensman series by Randall Garrett, first written in 1949

Lensman microscope, designed by Rick Dickinson

Lensman (game), a game based on the Lensman novels

Lensman series

The Lensman series is a series of science fiction novels by American author Edward Elmer "Doc" Smith. It was a runner-up for the 1966 Hugo award for Best All-Time Series (the winner was the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov).

List of science fiction short stories

This is a non-comprehensive list of short stories with significant science fiction elements.

Randall Garrett

Randall Garrett (December 16, 1927 – December 31, 1987) was an American science fiction and fantasy author. He was a contributor to Astounding and other science fiction magazines of the 1950s and 1960s. He instructed Robert Silverberg in the techniques of selling large quantities of action-adventure science fiction, and collaborated with him on two novels about men from Earth disrupting a peaceful agrarian civilization on an alien planet.

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