E.E. “Doc” Smith
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Radium Age SF

Though he wasn’t nearly as talented a stylist, nor as deep a thinker as, say, his exact contemporaries Olaf Stapledon, Thea von Harbou, and Karel Čapek, E.E. “DOC” SMITH (1890-1965) was something wonderful that these Radium Age sf authors were not: a pulp writer. He earned a living not as a litterateur, but as a food engineer; some claim that he developed the first process for making powdered sugar adhere to doughnuts. Pulp writers whose prose is particularly rococo can be forgiven any shortcomings — and Smith’s imagination was beyond far-out. Though not quite the first “space opera” writer, he almost single-handedly popularized that subgenre — not to be confused with “planetary romance” — via his epic Skylark (serialized 1928-65) and Lensman (1937-50) series. In these eleven books, innumerable stories, and his novel Spacehounds of IPC (serialized in ’31), Smith dreamed up: a future in which space travel was common; whiz-bang technology that would inspire stealth fighters, C3-based warfare, and the Strategic Defense Initiative; and the Galactic Patrol, an interstellar law-enforcement agency and military force without which we mightn’t have, e.g., Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” novels, or Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Also: no Smith, no Star Wars. Smith is better.

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Each day, HiLobrow.com pays tribute to one of our favorite high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes on that person’s birthday.

READ MORE about members of the Modernist Generation (1884-93).

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In 2012–2013, HiLoBooks serialized and republished (in gorgeous paperback editions, with new Introductions) 10 forgotten Radium Age science fiction classics! For more info: HiLoBooks.

MORE RADIUM AGE SCI FI ON HILOBROW: HiLoBooks homepage! | What is Radium Age science fiction? | Radium Age Supermen | Radium Age Robots | Radium Age Apocalypses | Radium Age Telepaths | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophes | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Radium Age Science Fiction Poetry | Enter Highbrowism | Bathybius! Primordial ooze in Radium Age sf | War and Peace Games (H.G. Wells’s training manuals for supermen) | J.D. Beresford | Algernon Blackwood | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Karel Čapek | Buster Crabbe | August Derleth | Arthur Conan Doyle | Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Cicely Hamilton | Hermann Hesse | William Hope Hodgson | Aldous Huxley | Inez Haynes Irwin | Alfred Jarry | Jack Kirby (Radium Age sf’s influence on) | Murray Leinster | Gustave Le Rouge | Gaston Leroux | David Lindsay | Jack London | H.P. Lovecraft | A. Merritt | Maureen O’Sullivan | Sax Rohmer | Paul Scheerbart | Upton Sinclair | Clark Ashton Smith | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Olaf Stapledon | John Taine | H.G. Wells | Jack Williamson | Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz | S. Fowler Wright | Philip Gordon Wylie | Yevgeny Zamyatin

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Joshua Glenn is an author, publisher, and semiotic analyst. He is co-author (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) of THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, co-editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and co-author (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) of the family activities guide UNBORED and three forthcoming spinoffs, including UNBORED Games. He is editor of HILOBROW and publisher of the Radium Age science fiction imprint HiLoBooks. Also: Glenn manages a secretive online community known as the Hermenautic Circle; he is founding editor of the e-book club Save the Adventure; and he's a frequent co-host of Boing Boing's podcast GWEEK. In the ’00s, Glenn was an editor, columnist, and blogger for the Boston Globe's IDEAS section, he co-founded the international semiotics website SEMIONAUT, and contributed to CABINET, SLATE, and elsewhere. In the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT, worked as a dotcom and magazine editor, and contributed to THE BAFFLER, FEED, and elsewhere. His publishing company is King Mixer, LLC; and his semiotic analysis consultancy is Semiovox LLC. He lives in Boston with his wife and children.