The Skylark of Space

The Skylark of Space is a science fiction novel by American writer Edward E. "Doc" Smith, written between 1915 and 1921 while Smith was working on his doctorate. Though the original idea for the novel was Smith's, he co-wrote the first part of the novel with Lee Hawkins Garby, the wife of his college classmate and later neighbor Carl Garby.[1] The novel starts as an edisonade, but turns into a space travel adventure when the characters goes into deep space.[2] The Skylark of Space is considered to be one of the earliest novels of interstellar travel and the first example of space opera. Originally serialized in 1928 in the magazine Amazing Stories, it was first published in book form in 1946 by the Buffalo Book Co. The novel was followed by three sequels, beginning with Skylark Three.

The Skylark of Space
Skylark of space
Dust-jacket from the first edition
AuthorEdward E. Smith
IllustratorCharles Schneeman (frontispiece)
Cover artistAllan Halladay
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
PublisherThe Buffalo Book Company
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback)
Pages218 pp
Followed bySkylark Three 

Plot synopsis

Note: This synopsis is consistent with the novel in its later forms (1946 and subsequent editions) but differs in detail from the original 1928 text as transcribed at Project Gutenberg. There were significant changes between the 1928 magazine publication and the 1946 hardcover, and between the early hardcovers and the late 1950s and later paperback editions.
The Skylark of Space, Amazing Stories, August 1928

The Skylark of Space is the first book of the Skylark series and pits the idealistic protagonist, Dick Seaton, against the mercantile antagonist Marc "Blackie" DuQuesne.

At the beginning of the story, Seaton accidentally discovers a workable space drive in combining pure copper with a newly discovered [fictional] element "X" (suggested to be a stable transactinide element in the platinum group) in solution. Having failed to re-create the effect, Seaton realizes that the missing component is a field generated by DuQuesne's particle accelerator, and thereafter sets up a business with his millionaire friend, Martin Crane, to build a spaceship. DuQuesne conspires to sabotage Seaton's spaceship and build his own from Seaton's plans, which he uses to kidnap Seaton's fiancée, Dorothy Vaneman, to exchange for the "X". In the resulting fight, DuQuesne's ship is accidentally set to full acceleration on an uncontrolled trajectory, until the copper 'power bar' is exhausted at a vast distance from Earth's solar system. Using an "Object Compass" that once locked on an object, always points toward that object, Seaton and Crane follow DuQuesne in their own spaceship (the eponymous Skylark) to rescue Dorothy and her fellow-hostage, Margaret "Peg" Spencer, until the Skylark discovers DuQuesne's ship derelict in orbit around a massive dead star (resembling a cold neutron star). Having obtained the hostages, Seaton extracts a promise from DuQuesne to "act as one of the party until they get back to Earth", in which relationship they leave orbit and travel further in search of additional fuel.

On an Earthlike exoplanet, they obtain "X" from an outcrop almost purely of that mineral; then leave that planet in search of copper. Following an encounter with a "Disembodied Intelligence" (Star Trek's "Q" would later show similar attributes), they enter a cluster of stars nicknamed “The Green System” and locate a planet having copper sulfate oceans. On the Earth-like "Osnome", they befriend the rulers of Mardonale, one of the two factions of the Osnomian natives. When the Mardonalian ruler attempts to betray Seaton and his friends, they find allies in Prince Dunark (a crown-prince of Mardonale's rival "Kondal") and his consort Princess Sitar, whom they later assist in destroying Mardonale. In gratitude, the Kondalians make new copper "power bars" and rebuild the Skylark as Skylark Two, with new weapons known to Kondalian science. Thereafter Seaton's marriage to Dorothy, and Crane's to Margaret, are solemnized by the Kondalian monarchy, and Seaton himself declared nominal "Overlord" of Kondal. The Skylark then returns to Earth, laden with jewels, platinum, radium, and a plenitude of "X"; but near Earth, DuQuesne leaves the Skylark by parachute, and the story ends with the Skylark's landing on Crane's Field.


Frederik Pohl says of the book, "With the exception of the works of H. G. Wells, possibly those of Jules Verne—and almost no other writer—it has inspired more imitators and done more to change the nature of all the science fiction written after it than almost any other single work."[3] Mike Ashley called it "the seminal space opera."[4] Despite its influence, its critical reputation is mixed; Groff Conklin's review of the 1950 edition noted that "This tale is the sort of thing that only insatiable fans will enjoy, being . . . uncommonly amateur and awkward",[5] and Isaac Asimov wrote that "It had adventure of an unprecedented kind ... the first great 'classic' of American science fiction", but "As literature, it was a total flop".[6] Damon Knight, however, praised the novel for its "fast, lean plot, an air of excitement, . . . four characters who are comfortingly bigger than life [and] the feeling that adventures are waiting everywhere," concluding that "In The Skylark, everything is big and simple."[7] R. D. Mullen wrote that Smith's "great success" was "surely due first of all to the skill with which Smith mixed elements of the spy thriller and the western story . . . with those of the traditional cosmic voyage.[8]

Publication history

  • 1928, USA, Amazing Stories, Pub date August 1928, serialized magazine publication in 3 parts
  • 1946, USA, The Buffalo Book Company, Pub date 1946, Hardback, 500 copies
  • 1947, USA, The Hadley Publishing Co., Pub date 1947, Hardback, 1,000 copies
  • 1950, USA, FFF Publications, Pub date 1950, Hardback, 1,000 copies
  • 1954, France, Le Rayon Fantastique, Pub date 1954, Hardback, as La curee des astres
  • 1958, USA, Pyramid Books, Pub date 1958, Paperback, revised
  • 1958, Germany, Der Weltraumfahrer, Pub Date 1958, Hardback, as Geheimformel QX 47 R
  • 1959, UK, Digit, Pub date 1959, Paperback
  • 1961, Spain, Cenit, Pub date 1961, Paperback, as La estrella apagada
  • 1962, USA, Pyramid Books, second printing
  • 1975, USA, Garland Library of Science Fiction, Hardback
  • 1984, USA, Berkley Books ISBN 0-425-06561-8, Pub date March 1984, Paperback
  • 1992, USA, Easton Press, Pub date January 1992, Hardback
  • 2001, USA, Bison Books ISBN 0-8032-9286-4, Pub date March 2001, Paperback
  • 2007, USA, Wildside Press LLC, ISBN 1-4344-0053-0, Paperback

All of the American paperback editions published before 2007, as well as the Garland hardcover, feature a text heavily abridged by Smith, which reportedly is marked by "Garby's contribution having been reduced to invisibility." These editions do not credit Garby as a coauthor.[9]

See also


  1. ^ See historical data at Edward Elmer Smith#Skylark series.
  2. ^ Science Fiction After 1900: From the Steam Man to the Stars
  3. ^ Frederik Pohl, introduction to The Skylark of Space, Easton Press, 1991.
  4. ^ The Time Machines, Mike Ashley, Liverpool University Press, 2000, p.60
  5. ^ "Galaxy's Five Star Shelf," Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1951, p.54.
  6. ^ Asimov, Isaac (1974). "Part One: 1920 to 1930". In Asimov, Isaac. Before the Golden Age, Book One. Doubleday. p. 25.
  7. ^ "In the Balance". If. December 1958, pp.110-11
  8. ^ "Reviews: November 1975", Science Fiction Studies, November 1975
  9. ^ Joe Sanders, "The SF Reprint Series: Scholarship and Commercialism ", Science Fiction Studies, November 1976


External links

1928 in science fiction

The year 1928 was marked, in science fiction, by the following events.

Argosy (magazine)

Argosy, later titled The Argosy and Argosy All-Story Weekly, was an American pulp magazine from 1882 through 1978, published by Frank Munsey. It is the first American pulp magazine. The magazine began as a children's weekly story–paper entitled The Golden Argosy.

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.

E. E. Smith bibliography

This is complete bibliography by American space opera author E. E. Smith.

Because he died in 1965, the works of E.E. Smith are now public domain in countries where the term of copyright lasts 50 years after the death of the author, or less; generally this does not include works first published posthumously. Works first published before 1923, are also public domain in the United States. Additionally, a number of the author's works have become public domain in the United States due to non-renewal of copyright.

Grant-Hadley Enterprises

Grant-Hadley Enterprises was the first of three names used by an American small press publishing house specializing in science fiction titles. The company was founded in 1945 by Donald M. Grant and Thomas G. Hadley and published one title as Grant-Hadley Enterprises. Kenneth J. Krueger joined the company in 1946 and the name was changed to The Buffalo Book Company. Later in 1946, Hadley continued the company on his own as The Hadley Publishing Co.

Interstellar travel in fiction

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Ken Krueger

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Lee Hawkins Garby

Lee Hawkins Garby (1892–1953) was the co-author with Edward Elmer Smith of the 1928 serial novel The Skylark of Space, the first science fiction story in which humans left the solar system. She was the wife of Dr. Carl DeWitt Garby, a friend of Dr. Smith's from college at the University of Idaho.

The novel was first published as a book in 1946, as The Skylark of Space: The Tale of the First Inter-Stellar Cruise (Buffalo Book Company(?)), naming Garby and Smith on the title page but Smith alone on the cover —with frontispiece by Charles Schneeman. The Library of Congress catalogs it as "by Edward E. Smith, in collaboration with Mrs. Lee Hawkins Garby"; publisher Southgate Press. A revised edition by Smith alone was published by Pyramid Books in 1958 and reissued many times. From 2007 the original by Garby and Smith has been in print again.

Mort Weisinger

Mortimer "Mort" Weisinger (; April 25, 1915 – May 7, 1978) was an American magazine and comic book editor best known for editing DC Comics' Superman during the mid-1950s to 1960s, in the Silver Age of comic books. He also co-created such features as Aquaman, Green Arrow, Johnny Quick, and the original Vigilante, served as story editor for the Adventures of Superman television series, and compiled the often-revised paperback 1001 Valuable Things You Can Get Free.

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Skylark (series)

Skylark is a science fiction/space opera series by American writer E. E. Smith. In the first book, The Skylark of Space (first published in Amazing Stories in 1928), a scientist discovers a space-drive, builds a starship, and flies off with three companions to encounter alien civilizations and fight a larger-than-life villain.

The Skylark of Space was the first of a series which continued through three subsequent books—Skylark Three and Skylark of Valeron written during the 1930s, and Skylark DuQuesne, written in 1963. R. D. Mullen declared that "The great success of the stories was surely due first of all to the skill with which Smith mixed elements of the spy thriller and the western story (our hero is the fastest gun in space, our villain the second fastest) with those of the traditional cosmic voyage." The series influenced the design of the early video game Spacewar!.

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Skylark of Valeron

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