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).
|Author||Edward Elmer "Doc" Smith|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)|
The series was published in magazines before being collected and reworked into the better-known series of books. The complete series in internal sequence with original publication dates is as follows.
Originally, the series consisted of the four novels Galactic Patrol, Gray Lensman, Second Stage Lensmen, and Children of the Lens, published between 1937 and 1948 in the magazine Astounding Stories.:40 In 1948, at the suggestion of Lloyd Arthur Eshbach (publisher of the original editions of the Lensman books as part of the Fantasy Press imprint), Smith rewrote his 1934 story Triplanetary to fit in with the Lensman series. First Lensman was written in 1950 to act as a link between Triplanetary and Galactic Patrol and finally, in the years up to 1954, Smith revised the rest of the series to remove inconsistencies between the original Lensman chronology and Triplanetary.
The series begins with Triplanetary, beginning two billion years before the present time and continuing into the near future. The universe has no life-forms aside from the ancient Arisians, and few planets besides the Arisians' native world. The peaceful Arisians have foregone physical skills in order to develop contemplative mental power. The underlying assumption for this series, based on theories of stellar evolution extant at the time of the books' writing, is that planets form only rarely, and therefore our First and Second Galaxies, with their many billions of planets, are unique.
The Eddorians, a dictatorial, power-hungry race, come into our universe from an alien space-time continuum after observing that our galaxy and a sister galaxy (the Second Galaxy) are passing through each other. This will result in the formation of billions of planets and the development of life upon some of them. Dominance over these life forms would offer the Eddorians an opportunity to satisfy their lust for power and control.
Although the Eddorians have developed mental powers almost equal to those of the Arisians, they rely instead for the most part on physical power, which came to be exercised on their behalf by a hierarchy of underling races. They see the many races in the universe, with which the Arisians were intending to build a peaceful civilization, as fodder for their power-drive.
The Arisians detect the Eddorians' invasion of our universe and realize that they are too evenly matched for either to destroy the other without being destroyed themselves. The Eddorians do not detect the Arisians, who begin a covert breeding program on every world that can produce intelligent life, with particular emphasis on the four planets Earth (Tellus), Velantia III, Rigel IV, and Palain VII, in the hope of creating a race that is capable of destroying the Eddorians.
Triplanetary incorporates the early history of that breeding program on Earth, illustrated with the lives of several warriors and soldiers, from ancient times to the discovery of the first interstellar space drive. It adds an additional short novel (originally published with the Triplanetary name) which is transitional to the novel First Lensman. It details some of the interactions and natures of two distinct breeding lines, one bearing some variant of the name "Kinnison", and another distinguished by possessing "red-bronze-auburn hair and gold-flecked, tawny eyes". The two lines do not commingle until the Arisian breeding plan brings them together.
The second book, First Lensman, concerns the early formation of the Galactic Patrol and the first Lens, given to First Lensman Virgil Samms of "Tellus" (Earth). Samms and Roderick Kinnison are members of the two breeding lines and they are both natural leaders, intelligent, forceful, and capable. The Arisians make it known that if Samms, the head of the Triplanetary Service, visits the Arisian planetary system he will be given the tool he needs to build the Galactic Patrol. That tool is the Lens. The Arisians further promise him that no entity unworthy of the Lens will ever be permitted to wear it, but that he and his successors will have to discover for themselves most of its abilities.
The Lens gives its wearer a variety of mental capabilities, including those needed to enforce the law on alien planets, and to bridge the communication gap between different life-forms. It can provide mind-reading and telepathic abilities. It cannot be worn by anyone other than its owner, will kill any other wearer, and even a brief touch is extremely painful.
Using the Lens as a means to test mental qualities and identify individuals able to help him, Virgil Samms visits races and species in other star systems, recruiting the best of them and forming the nucleus of a Galactic Patrol. Their opponents are discovered to be a widespread civilization based on dominance hierarchies and using organized crime merged with crony capitalism to assume control of new planets.
The series contains some of the largest-scale space battles ever written. Entire worlds are almost casually destroyed. Huge fleets of spaceships fight bloody wars of attrition. Alien races of two galaxies sort themselves into the allied, Lens-bearing adherents of "Civilization" and the enemy "Boskone".
Centuries pass, and eventually the final generations of the breeding program are born. On each of the four "best" planets, a single individual realizes the limits of his Arisian training and perceives the need to return to seek "second stage" training, which it is later shown to include the ability to slay by mental force alone; a "sense of perception" which allows seeing by direct awareness without the use of the visual sense; the ability to control minds undetectably, including the ability to alter memories untraceably; the ability to perfectly split attention in order to perform multiple tasks with simultaneous focus on each; and the ability to better integrate their minds for superior thinking.
As the breeding program nears its conclusion, humans are selected as the best choice; at the same time, the breeding programs of the other three planets are terminated, and their penultimates never meet their planned mates. Kimball Kinnison meets and marries the product of the complementary human breeding program, Clarissa MacDougall. She is a beautiful, curvaceous, red-haired nurse, who eventually becomes the first human female to receive her own Lens. Their children, a boy and two pairs of fraternal twin sisters, grow up to be the five Children of the Lens. In their breeding, "almost every strain of weakness in humanity is finally removed." They are born already possessing the powers taught to second-stage Lensmen. They are the only beings of Civilization ever to see Arisia as it truly is and the only individuals developed over all the existence of billions of years able finally to penetrate the Eddorians' defense screens.
After undergoing advanced training, they are described as "third-stage" Lensmen, transcending humanity with mental scope and perceptions impossible for any normal person. Although newly adult, they are now expected to be more competent than the Arisians and to develop their own techniques and abilities "about which we [the Arisians] know nothing".
The key discovery comes when they try mind-merging. They discover they can merge their minds to effectively form one mental entity called the Unit. The Arisians describe this as the "most nearly perfect creation the universe has ever seen" and state that they, who created it, are themselves almost entirely ignorant of its powers.
The Children of the Lens, together with the mental power of unknown millions of Lensmen of the Galactic Patrol, constitute the Arisians' intended means to destroy the Eddorians and make the universe safe for Civilization. The Galactic Patrol, summoned to work together in this way for the first time, contains billions of beings who in total can generate immense mental force. The Arisians add their own tremendous mental force to this. The Unit focuses the accumulated power onto one tiny point of the Eddorians' shields. The Eddorian shields are destroyed along with the Eddorian High Council. It is stated that this was the only thing the Arisians could not have done by themselves, but without its accomplishment the Eddorians would have eventually turned the tide and beaten the Arisians.
The Arisians remove themselves from the Cosmos in order to leave the Children of the Lens uninhibited in their future as the new guardians of Civilization.
Using the same fictional universe, but not concerning the central plot, Smith wrote the Vortex Blaster stories, including "Storm Cloud on Deka" (June 1942) and "The Vortex Blaster Makes War" (October 1942) for Comet Stories but the magazine closed after publishing Vortex Blaster (July 1941) and the rest were first published in Astonishing Stories.:70 These stories and later additions were collected and published by Gnome Press as The Vortex Blaster in 1960 and later reprinted by Pyramid Books as Masters of the Vortex in 1968. They are set in between Second Stage Lensman and Children of the Lens.
The Lensman [series] was left unfinished. There was to have been at least a seventh volume. As always, Doc had worked it out in great detail, but never (so far as I know) wrote it down ... because it was unpublishable—then. But he told me the ending orally and in private.
I shan't repeat it; it is not my story. Possibly somewhere there is a manuscript—I hope so! All I will say is that the ending develops by inescapable logic from clues in Children of the Lens.
On July 14, 1965, Smith gave written permission to William B. Ellern to continue the Lensman series, which led to the publishing of "Moon Prospector" in 1966, New Lensman (which contained "Moon Prospector") in 1975 and Triplanetary Agent in 1978.
Three additional Lensmen novels that feature the alien Second-Stage Lensmen (known as the Second-Stage Lensman Trilogy) were written by David Kyle, published in paperback between 1980 and 1983 and reissued in 2004:
The events in these books take place between Second-Stage Lensmen and Children of the Lens and refer to events and characters in Vortex Blaster.
Lensman: Secret of The Lens (SF 新世紀 レンズマン SF Shinseiki Lensman?) is a 1984 Japanese animated film based on the Lensman novels. The movie is a loose adaptation of the series. It was dubbed by Harmony Gold USA in 1988. This was re-dubbed by Streamline Pictures in 1990 with some of the same voice actors.
Galactic Patrol Lensman (GALACTIC PATROL レンズマン) is a Japanese anime television series based on the Lensman novels. The 25-episode series aired from October 6, 1984 to August 8, 1985 in Japan.
Both the 1984 long-running theatrical animation and the animated TV Series were adapted into manga. The movie's adaptation was created by Moribi Murano and divided into three volumes. The TV Series adaptation by Mitsuru Miura was serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine and then reprinted in three tankoubon pocket volumes. No English translation of these two manga has been published so far.
Initially, Eternity Lensman comics consisted almost entirely of adaptations of the Lensman TV episodes. However, they also began writing additional material.
In 2008, Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment and Universal Pictures began negotiations with the author's estate for rights to film the Lensman series. The negotiations were for an 18-month renewable option. At the WonderCon convention in San Francisco in February 2008, J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of Babylon 5, confirmed that Howard had acquired the rights and also hinted that he was involved in the project. On 17 June 2008, Straczynski wrote that he had begun work on the project. On 2 April 2014, Straczynski wrote that Universal had scrapped the project, citing excessive cost and that the rights had reverted to the estate.
With Smith's knowledge, the parody "Backstage Lensman" was written by Randall Garrett in 1949. Garrett also referred to the Lenses in his Lord Darcy stories, in which similar lenses are the badges of the King's Messengers, invented by the wizard "Sir Edward Elmer".
In the DC Comics universe, the Green Lantern Corps bears many parallels to the Lensmen, though the original editor (Julius Schwartz) denied any connection. Later writers would add characters that directly referenced the Lensman series, such as the extraterrestrial Green Lanterns Arisia and Eddore.
"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, 1988Boskone
Boskone is an annual science fiction convention ("con") run by the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA) in Boston, Massachusetts. In the words of the convention organizers, "Boskone is a regional Science Fiction convention focusing on literature, art, music, and gaming (with just a dash of whimsy)". It is held every February, in Boston. The name is a reference to the classic Lensman series by E. E. Smith, in which "Boskone" is a council of villains, and also a name for their civilization. The obvious name for a con in Boston would, of course, be "Boscon"; the similarity was noticed and embraced. Continuing the trend, when a new Boston-area convention was formed, the organizers of that event named it "Arisia".Children of the Lens
The Children of the Lens are characters in the fictional Lensman universe created by E. E. "Doc" Smith. The book which describes them and their story is Children of the Lens, the sixth and final book in the Lensman series.
One male (Kit) and two pairs of twin females (Camilla, Constance, Karen, and Kathryn), they are the children of Kimball Kinnison and Clarissa Kinnison, both of whom are second-stage lensmen. Their children are third-stage lensmen, and are the only entities with powerful enough minds to defeat the invading inhabitants of the planet Eddore.The Children of the Lens were the culmination of an eons-long breeding program set up by the inhabitants of Arisia, a race of entities with third-stage intellects, as are the Eddorians. The Arisians set up equivalent breeding programs on three other worlds, Rigel IV, Velantia III, and Palain VII, but decided that the human stock was the most promising, so the other races' equivalents of the Kinnisons never met.The Children of the Lens were developed to replace the Arisians as guardians of the races of Civilization, after the close of the war against Eddore. They were developed to be the progenitors of the new race that would replace the Arisians, who departed the Cosmos after the close of the struggle against the Eddorians.Children of the Lens (novel)
Children of the Lens is a science fiction novel by American author E. E. Smith. It was first published in book form in 1954 by Fantasy Press in an edition of 4,874 copies. It is the last book in Smith's Lensman series. The novel was originally serialized in the magazine Astounding beginning in 1947.
The Children of the Lens are the culmination of the Arisian breeding program, and are to be their weapons in the final assault on Eddore. The book introduces the five Kinnison children: Kit, Camilla, Constance, Karen, and Kathryn. Born with the abilities that Second Stage Lensmen possess only through years of intensive training, they become the Third Stage Lensmen with abilities that even the Arisians do not fully understand. Here, battles between massive fleets and super-weapons no longer have the main role. The battles may be just as intense, but most are more low-key, with brains and subtle maneuvering being more important than who has the biggest fleets and most powerful weapons.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.First Lensman
First Lensman is a science fiction novel and space opera by American author E. E. Smith. It was first published in 1950 by Fantasy Press in an edition of 5,995 copies. Although it is the second novel in the Lensman series, it was the sixth written. The novel chronicles the founding of the Galactic Patrol by Virgil Samms, the first sentient being in our cosmos to wear the "Lens", a unique badge of authority which is actually a form of "pseudo-life" that grants telepathic powers to the defenders of Civilization.Future History (Heinlein)
The Future History, by Robert A. Heinlein, describes a projected future of the human race from the middle of the 20th century through the early 23rd century. The term Future History was coined by John W. Campbell, Jr. in the February 1941 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Campbell published an early draft of Heinlein's chart of the series in the March 1941 issue.Heinlein wrote most of the Future History stories early in his career, between 1939 and 1941 and between 1945 and 1950. Most of the Future History stories written prior to 1967 are collected in The Past Through Tomorrow, which also contains the final version of the chart. That collection does not include Universe and Common Sense; they were published separately as Orphans of the Sky.
Groff Conklin called Future History "the greatest of all histories of tomorrow". It was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series in 1966, along with the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Lensman series by E. E. Smith, the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, and The Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkien, but lost to Asimov's Foundation series.Galactic Patrol
The Galactic Patrol was an intergalactic organization in the Lensman science fiction series written by E. E. Smith. It was also the title of the third book in the series.Galactic Patrol (novel)
Galactic Patrol is a science fiction novel by American author E. E. Smith. The novel was originally serialized in the magazine Astounding in 1937. The stories in this volume were the first parts written of the original Lensman saga. It was later published in book form in 1950 by Fantasy Press. Although portions of Triplanetary were written earlier, they were not originally part of the Lensman story and were only later revised to connect them to the rest of the series. First Lensman was written later to bridge the events in Triplanetary to those in Galactic Patrol.Galactic Patrol Lensman
Galactic Patrol Lensman (GALACTIC PATROL レンズマン) is a Japanese anime television series based on the Lensman novels. The 25-episode series aired from October 6, 1984 to August 8, 1985 in Japan.
Harmony Gold USA dubbed a compilation of the first four episodes in a heavily edited form, which they released under the title Lensman: Power of the Lens. The other episodes were never dubbed. This compilation is no longer available on video, although it was available in the UK in the late 1980s. Despite sharing character and organization names, as well as central themes common to the books, artistic license produced a final product altogether different from the source material. The series was broadcast in Spain by TV3 in 1994.Although it was produced with the knowledge and consent of Smith's estate, the executors were so displeased with the result that for several years they rejected any other suggestions of adaptation.Gray Lensman
Gray Lensman is a science fiction novel by American writer E. E. Smith. It was first published in book form in 1951 by Fantasy Press in an edition of 5,096 copies. The novel was originally serialized in the magazine Astounding in 1939.
Gray Lensman is the fourth (originally the second) book in the Lensman series and the second to focus on the adventures of Lensman Kimball Kinnison.Inertialess drive
The inertialess drive is a fictional means of accelerating to close to the speed of light or faster-than-light travel, originally used in Triplanetary and the Lensman series by E.E. "Doc" Smith, and later by Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke,
Larry Niven, Julian May and Alastair Reynolds.Innermost Circle of the All-Highest
The Innermost Circle of the All-highest were the most powerful members of the fictional race known as the Eddorians, the inhabitants of the planet Eddore, as described in the Lensman series of books written by E.E. Smith ("Doc" Smith).
The Eddorians are portrayed as a very ancient race, who have developed their mental powers to a very high degree, and whose sole motivation, both individually and as a race, is the acquisition of power. Having fought among themselves for untold millennia, they have finally arrived at a situation where no Eddorian is powerful enough to destroy any other. The dozen or so individuals who are marginally more powerful than their fellows become the Innermost Circle, and the most powerful of all becomes known as the All-highest.
In their battle with the forces of good, led by the inhabitants of the planet Arisia, a planet older than Eddore, the 'Innermost Circle' direct the activities of a large number of subjugated races until being finally destroyed by the massed might of the lensman and the Arisians, controlled by the Children of the Lens.Lensman (1984 film)
Lensman (SF新世紀 レンズマン, SF Shinseiki Lensman, lit. "Science Fiction New Century Lensman") is a Japanese animated film based on the Lensman novels by E. E. Smith.Port admiral
Port admiral is an honorary rank in the United States Navy, and a former appointment in the British Royal Navy.Second Stage Lensmen
Second Stage Lensmen is a science fiction novel by author Edward E. Smith. It was first published in book form in 1953 by Fantasy Press in an edition of 4,934 copies. The novel was originally serialized in the magazine Astounding beginning in 1941. Second Stage Lensmen is the fifth volume in the Lensman series, and the last to feature Kimball Kinnison as the most powerful Lensman in the service of the Galactic Patrol. Second Stage Lensmen also features the first female Lensman, Clarissa MacDougall. The story mainly focuses upon the exploits of the "Second Stage" Lensmen: those who have gone through the advanced Arisian training Kinnison underwent in Galactic Patrol. These four superior Lensmen, Kinnison, Worsel, Tregonsee, and Nadreck, are armed with mental powers allowing them to control the minds of others and see, hear, and feel without using their physical senses (the "sense of perception"). This elite cadre allows Civilization to tip the balance against Boskone as Second Stage Lensmen abilities are ideally suited to spying and information gathering.The Vortex Blaster
The Vortex Blaster is a collection of three science fiction short stories by American writer Edward E. Smith. It was simultaneously published in 1960 by Gnome Press in an edition of 3,000 copies and by Fantasy Press in an edition of 341 copies. The book was originally intended to be published by Fantasy Press, but was handed over to Gnome Press when Fantasy Press folded. Lloyd Eshbach, of Fantasy Press, who was responsible for the printing of both editions, printed the extra copies for his longtime customers. The stories originally appeared in the magazines Comet and Astonishing Stories.
In 1968, Pyramid Books issued a paperback edition under the title Masters of the Vortex, promoting it as "the final adventure in the famous Lensman series." While the stories are set in the same universe as the Lensman novels, they are only tangentially related. They reference events that happen in the Lensman series, but only “off stage”. No characters from the other Lensmen books show up in this book. From the events spoken of in this book it apparently falls between Second Stage Lensmen and Children of the Lens.Triplanetary (novel)
Triplanetary is a science fiction novel and space opera by American writer E. E. Smith. It was first serialized in the magazine Amazing Stories in 1934. After the original four novels of the Lensman series were published, Smith expanded and reworked Triplanetary into the first of two prequels for the series. The expanded Triplanetary was published in book form in 1948 by Fantasy Press. The second prequel, First Lensman, was a new original novel published in 1950 by Fantasy Press.
The novel covers several episodes in an eons-long human breeding project by the super-intelligences of the Arisians. This alien race is breeding two genetic lines to become the ultimate weapon in Arisia's cosmic war with their arch-enemies, the Eddorians. The initial chapters cover the Kinnison genetic line during the fall of Atlantis and Nero's reign in Rome. These tales were inserted into the novel following the serialized release, along with chapters covering members of the Kinnison line in World Wars One, Two, and Three.
The final chapter of Triplanetary tells of the discovery of the inertialess drive that allows faster-than-light travel. Patrolman Conway Costigan and his friends engage in a space battle with Gray Roger the pirate gangster. This conflict is complicated by the arrival of the technologically superior, extra-Solar, amphibian-like Nevians, resulting in the first interstellar war involving humans. In this story Virgil Samms and Roderick Kinnison, important members of the two breeding lines, are introduced.William B. Ellern
William B. Ellern (born November 30, 1933) is an American science fiction author. Ellern has worked as an engineer, including for JPL, Raytheon, Boeing, Hughes Aircraft and Northrop Corporation.
He was born in Portland, Oregon to May Eileen Ellern and William C. Ellern.
In July 1965 he asked for, and received, permission from E. E. Smith to extend the Lensman series of novels. After that he continued to produce science-fiction short stories, including "Moon Prospector" (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, 1966), "New Lensman" (serialized in 14 parts in Perry Rhodan #61-74, 1975) and "Triplanetary Agent" (serialized in 6 parts in Perry Rhodan #100-105, 1978). There is a fourth unpublished story.
In 1976 New Lensman was published, which contained "Moon Prospector" along with the "New Lensman" serial from Perry Rhodan. "Triplanetary Agent" has yet to be reprinted in book form.
Ellern served on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society until January 2009.Ellern married Anne Morrel.
William Ellern has four children, William A., Scott A., Gillian D. and Lorita E.