Edward Elmer Smith was born on this day, 123 years ago.
His first novel, The Skylark of Space, although written between 1915 and 1920, did not see print until eight years later, when it was serialised in Amazing Stories – whose editor, the legendary Hugo Gernsback (after whom the Hugo Awards are named) who added ‘PhD’ at the end of Smith’s name, giving rise to the nickname ‘Doc’. In fact, Smith’s doctorate was in chemical engineering, specialising in food engineering – the day job of ‘the father of Space Opera‘ was to make better doughnuts!
The Skylark of Space and its follow-ups established Smith as a major – if not the major – voice in space opera, it is his subsequent creation that made his reputation. The Lensman series, beginning with Triplanetary and running through another five books (First Lensman, Galactic Patrol, Gray Lensman, Second-Stage Lensmen and Children of the Lens) established almost all of the tropes of modern space opera, from mysterious and all-powerful forerunner civilisations to elite galactic police/military forces.
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction entry on ‘Doc’ Smith and his works is as insightful and authoritative as we’ve come to expect from that august publication – we’d recommend it to anyone interested in the development of modern space opera – and, rather less inevitably, Wikipedia also has a fascinating entry.
And, of course, you can find E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith’s books available at the SF Gateway (with the regrettable exception of the Lensman books, which we are still working on acquiring).