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. The novel starts as an edisonade, but turns into a space travel adventure when the characters goes into deep space. 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|
Dust-jacket from the first edition
|Author||Edward E. Smith|
|Illustrator||Charles Schneeman (frontispiece)|
|Cover artist||Allan Halladay|
|Publisher||The Buffalo Book Company|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|Followed by||Skylark Three|
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." Mike Ashley called it "the seminal space opera." 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", 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". 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." 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.
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.
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
Interstellar travel is a common feature of fiction such as science fiction and fantasy.Ken Krueger
Ken Krueger (October 7, 1926 – November 21, 2009) was an American publisher and retailer. Krueger co-founded and organized the first San Diego Comic-Con International convention, then called "San Diego's Golden State Comic-Con," in 1970. Krueger co-created the annual convention with a group of San Diego friends, including Shel Dorf, Richard Alf and Mike Towry.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.Retroactive continuity
Retroactive continuity, or retcon for short, is a literary device in which established facts in a fictional work are adjusted, ignored, or contradicted by a subsequently published work which breaks continuity with the former.Science fiction
Science fiction (often shortened to Sci-Fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction, typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as advanced science and technology, spaceflight, time travel, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations, and has been called a "literature of ideas".Science fiction magazine
A science fiction magazine is a publication that offers primarily science fiction, either in a hard copy periodical format or on the Internet.
Science fiction magazines traditionally featured speculative fiction in short story, novelette, novella or (usually serialized) novel form, a format that continues into the present day. Many also contain editorials, book reviews or articles, and some also include stories in the fantasy and horror genres.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!.Skylark Three
Skylark Three is a science fiction novel by American writer E. E. Smith, the second in his Skylark series. Originally serialized through the Amazing Stories magazine in 1930, it was first collected in book form in 1948 by Fantasy Press.Skylark of Valeron
Skylark of Valeron is a science fiction novel by American writer E. E. Smith, the third in his Skylark series. Originally serialized through the magazine Astounding in 1934, it was first collected in book form in 1949 by Fantasy Press.Space opera
Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, chivalric romance, and risk-taking. Set mainly or entirely in outer space, it usually involves conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, futuristic weapons, and other sophisticated technology. The term has no relation to music, but is instead a play on the terms "soap opera" and "horse opera", the latter of which was coined during the 1930s to indicate clichéd and formulaic Western movies. Space operas emerged in the 1930s and continue to be produced in literature, film, comics, television and video games.
An early film which was based on space opera comic strips was Flash Gordon (1936) created by Alex Raymond. In the late 1970s, the Star Wars franchise (1977–present) created by George Lucas brought a great deal of attention to the subgenre. After the convention-breaking "New Wave", followed by the enormous success of the Star Wars films, space opera became once again a critically acceptable subgenre. Throughout 1982–2002, the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel was often given to a space opera nominee.Space warfare in fiction
Space warfare has served as a central theme within the science-fiction genre. One can trace its roots back to classical times, and to the "future war" novels of the nineteenth century. An interplanetary, or more often an interstellar or intergalactic war, has become a staple plot device in space operas. Space warfare has a predominant role in military science fiction but is not believed to be a realistic possibility because of the distances involved and the logistical impracticalities.Timeline of science fiction
This is a timeline of science fiction as a literary tradition.William L. Crawford
William Levi Crawford (September 10, 1911 – January 25, 1984) was an American publisher and editor.