by Edward Elmer "Doc" Smith
. It was a runner-up for the Hugo award
for best All-Time Series (the winner was the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
The series was published in magazines, before being collected and reworked into the better-known series of books. The complete series in internal sequence and their original publication dates are:
- TriplanetaryTriplanetary (novel)Triplanetary is a science fiction novel and space opera by E. E. Smith. It was first serialized in the magazine Amazing Stories in 1934. After the Lensman series was published, Smith expanded and reworked the novel into the first of two Lensman prequels...
(four parts, January–April 1934, Amazing StoriesAmazing StoriesAmazing Stories was an American science fiction magazine launched in April 1926 by Hugo Gernsback's Experimenter Publishing. It was the first magazine devoted solely to science fiction...
- First LensmanFirst LensmanFirst Lensman is a science fiction novel and space opera by author Edward E. Smith, Ph.D.. 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 last written...
(1950, Fantasy Press)
- Galactic PatrolGalactic Patrol (novel)Galactic Patrol is a science fiction novel by American author Edward E. Smith, Ph.D.. It was first published in book form in 1950 by Fantasy Press in an edition of 6,596 copies. The novel was originally serialized in the magazine Astounding in 1937...
(six parts, September 1937–February 1938, Astounding Stories)
- Gray LensmanGray LensmanGray Lensman is a science fiction novel by author 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....
(four parts, October 1939–January 1940, Astounding Stories)
- Second Stage LensmenSecond Stage LensmenSecond Stage Lensmen is a science fiction novel by author Edward E. Smith, Ph.D.. 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...
(four parts, November 1941–February 1942, Astounding Stories)
- Children of the LensChildren of the Lens (novel)Children of the Lens is a science fiction novel by author Edward E. Smith, Ph.D.. 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...
(four parts, November 1947–February 1948, Astounding Stories)
Originally, the series consisted of the final four novels published between 1937 and 1948 in the magazine Astounding Stories. However, 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, originally published in Amazing Stories
, 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.
PlotThe series opens in Triplanetary, two billion years before the present time. The universe has few life-forms, except for the elder race of our galaxy, the Arisians and few planets besides their native world. The Arisians, a peaceful race native to this universe, are already ancient at this time and have forgone physical needs in preference for contemplative
mental power which they have developed and refined to an exceedingly high degree. The underlying assumption (based on then-accepted theories of stellar evolution
) is that, while stars are common, planetary formation is very rare. Thus there are comparatively very few planets in the universe.
Into this universe, from an alien space-time continuum, the Eddorians come, a dictatorial, power-hungry race. They have been attracted to this universe by the observation that our galaxy and a sister galaxy (later to be named Lundmark's Nebula
, still later called the Second Galaxy) are passing through each other. According to an astronomical theory current at the time of writing Triplanetary called the tidal theory (the primary theory prior to the rehabilitation of the nebular hypothesis), this will result in a unique galactic formation of billions of planets and thus the development of life upon 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, 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, detecting the invasion of our universe by the Eddorians, recognize their rapacious, intractable nature. So they try to hide their existence from the Eddorians and then begin a covert breeding program on every world that can produce intelligent life, with the aim of producing a means to eventually destroy the Eddorian race. This they grasp that they cannot do by mental power alone, and they decide that much time is needed (during which Eddore must be kept ignorant of their plans) and new races must be developed which will better be able to breach the Eddorians' mental powers than they themselves are. The new races, having done so, will naturally be better guardians of civilization than the Arisians can be, and so the Arisians' role in the universe will be ended.
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.
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 is one side of the vast Arisian breeding program which will produce Clarissa MacDougal, the female half of the penultimate result of their breeding program. Moreover, along with Roderick Kinnison (a member of the other side, which will produce the male half), they are natural leaders as they are supremely intelligent, forceful, and capable. The Arisians, through the scientist Bergenholm (actually an Arisian entity appearing as a human, and who "invented" the interstellar drive), make it known that if Samms, the head of the Triplanetary Service which administers law enforcement to Tellus, Mars and Venus, visits the Arisian planetary system—and only if he visits the Arisian system—he will be given the tool he needs to build the Patrol he dreams of. 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. They otherwise maintain a highly distant profile and refuse to talk to other beings, stating that they have given civilization the tool it needs to bring about a good future and that people should otherwise not have reason to contact them.
The Lens is a form of "pseudo-life," created by the Arisians who understand life and life-force
in a way no other race does. It 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. Thus, it can provide mind-reading and telepathic abilities while connected directly or indirectly to the skin of its user. It cannot be worn by anyone other than its owner, will kill any other wearer, and sublimates
shortly after the owner's death. Virgilia Samms, Virgil Samms's daughter, is later told that there is a gender difference that renders the Lens more compatible with male minds and that only one woman will ever become a Lensman.
Using the Lens as a means to test quality and identify the very few exceptional individuals able to help him, Virgil Samms visits races in other star systems, recruiting the best of them and forming a Galactic Patrol of exceptional individuals from a wide range of species. Their opponents in turn are discovered to be a widespread civilization based around dominance hierarchies
and organized crime
. The leaders of this civilization are the Eddorians, but only the Children of the Lens, who must ultimately defeat these, know of their existence.
The series contains some of the largest-scale space battles ever written. Entire worlds are almost casually destroyed (see "Super-Science Weapons" below), while some weapons are powerful enough to warp space itself. 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 races of "Boskone".
Centuries pass and eventually the final generations of the breeding program are born. On each of four planets, a single individual is born who realises the limits of his initial training and perceives the need to return to Arisia to seek "second stage" training, including: 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; the ability to perfectly split attention in order to perform multiple tasks with simultaneous focus on each; and to better integrate their minds for superior thinking.
As the breeding program reaches its ultimate conclusion, Kimball Kinnison, the brown-haired, gray-eyed second-stage Lensman of Earth, finally marries the most advanced product of the complementary 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, with mental abilities from birth that are difficult to imagine. 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.
Undergoing advanced training, they are described as "third-stage" Lensmen, transcending humanity with mental scope and perceptions impossible for any normal person to comprehend. 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, which they have not tried since before their various third-stage trainings, and discover that this is completely changed. No longer are they simply five beings in mental contact as before. Now they discover they can merge their minds into a hive-mind
, to effectively form one mental entity, a being with incalculable abilities called the Unit. The Arisians call this the "most nearly perfect creation the universe has ever seen" and state that they, who created it, are themselves almost entirely ignorant of almost all its higher 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 Eddore and make the universe safe for their progeny species. The Galactic Patrol, summoned to work together in this way for the first time in its existence, contains billions of beings who in total can generate immense mental force. The Children of the Lens add their own tremendous mental force to this. As the Unit gather, they focus all power onto one tiny point of the Eddorians' shields. Thus attacked with this incalculable strength and precision, the Eddorians' strongest shields finally, after billions of years, are destroyed and the Eddorians with them.
The Arisians, with their child races successful and safe, remove themselves from the Cosmos in order to leave the Children of the Lens uninhibited in their future as the new guardians of Civilization.
SequelsUsing the same fictional universe, but not concerning the central plot, Smith also wrote the Vortex Blaster stories, including "Storm Cloud on Deka" (June 1942) and "The Vortex Blaster Makes War" (October 1942) for Astonishing Stories
. 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.
This story collection can be explicitly identified as set in between Second Stage Lensman and Children of the Lens. During the course of the story in Vortex Blaster, the protagonists make first contact with a race of aliens known as the "Dhilans." During Children of the Lens, explicit reference is made to a "Dhilan Roadster" as a type of vehicle, clearly setting the events in it after that first contact.
The story Spacehounds of IPC
, while very similar to the Lensman series in some ways, is not part of it. The technology and the lifeforms in the story can't be reconciled with the Lensman series so it must be considered a non-series, stand alone story.
In Larger Than Life, a tribute to E.E. Smith written by Robert Heinlein, and included in Expanded Universe, Heinlein writes:
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 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 Dragon Lensman (Worsel, the Velantian)
- Lensman from Rigel (Tregonsee, the Rigellian)
- Z-Lensman (Nadreck the Palainian)
- A fourth novel, which was to have told the story of the Red Lensman, was discussed, but never completed.
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.
Other appearancesIn 1984, an anime
movie titled SF New Age Lensman
was released in Japan
. It was released in North America
by Streamline Pictures
in 1990. The movie is not faithful to the series, with nearly the only points of similarity being the names of some of the characters, the "Good versus Evil" struggle, the outer-space setting, and the Lens itself, which possesses characteristics distinctly different from those given for it in the novels. It spawned a Japanese anime TV series, which ignored the movie's dubious continuity in favor of returning closer to the original story material, as well as a comic book series published by Eternity Comics
and another one from Malibu Comics
, both of which stuck to the movie's variant continuity. There was also a Lensman manga released in Japan (collected in three tankōbon volumes) which adapted the basics of the story in a hazy mixture of the TV series and the original books; this manga was never translated into English.
In addition, a Lensman appears in Robert A. Heinlein's
Number of the Beast
and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls
, both of which refer to "Lensman Ted Smith" who interacts directly with Heinlein characters such as Lazarus Long
and Hilda Burroughs.
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 are 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 as well. On 17 June 2008, Straczynski wrote that he had begun work on the project.
Homages and parodiesWith Smith's knowledge, the parody "Backstage Lensman
" was written by Randall Garrett
Garrett also referred to the Lensmen in his Lord Darcy
stories, in which similar lenses are the badges of the King's Messengers, invented by the wizard Sir Edward Elmer (a reference to Smith himself).
In the DC Comics
universe, the Green Lantern Corps
bears many parallels to the Lensmen, although its principal creators deny any connection (later creators, however, would introduce Green Lanterns named Arisia
and Eddore as an homage).
role-playing game includes a source book describing how to conduct a role-playing campaign set in the Lensman universe.
Planets and placesThe Lensman series takes place over a vast sweep of space and upon many different worlds. These include the following:
- AldebaranAldebaranAldebaran is a red giant star located about 65 light years away in the zodiac constellation of Taurus. With an average apparent magnitude of 0.87 it is the brightest star in the constellation and is one of the brightest stars in the nighttime sky...
I, occupied by the Wheelmen, who are never stated to be a native species. This is the scene of Kimball Kinnison's first major injury requiring hospitalization, which leads to his first meeting with Clarrissa MacDougall.
- Aldebaran II, one of the first human-settled planets, is the scene of several of Kimball Kinnison's adventures.
- Arisia, one of the most ancient worlds of our universe, originally Earth-like, is inhabited by the Arisian Elders.
- Chickladoria, planet with a native humanoid species possessing pink skin pigmentation and triangular eyes. Frequent references are made to the fact that they consider clothing optional. Chickladorians are described as "thinking on a wave" unused by most species in the galaxy, which means that hostile telepaths (such as the Overlords of Delgon, below) may completely overlook them.
- Delgon (Velantia II), located in the same system as Velantia, Delgon is home to the soul-devouring Overlords, bred by the Eddorian Gharlane to prey on the Velantians of Velantia III.
- Eddore, world inhabited by malevolent creatures from another space-time continuum. It is implied (though never stated) that the physical laws of the native plenum of Eddore were grossly different from those of the Lensmen's universe; that the atmosphere was composed of elements that were different from those of our universe (it was explained that by the time they migrated to our galaxy, they had become completely independent of their 'native' physical form). The Eddorians themselves were physically similar to various lower Earthly life-forms, reproducing by fission, but by a process more similar to budding than to cell division, except that each being's memories were preserved in toto. The Eddorians were highly competitive, extremely long-lived and almost impossible to kill by any mechanism known to their own science by the time they decided to unify and search for planets in other universes to subjugate.
- Jarnevon, world in Lundmark's Nebula, home of the Eich and their infamous "Council of Boskone," the first Eddorian puppet state to penetrate the First Galaxy. Destroyed at the end of Gray Lensman by being crushed between two "free" (inertialess) planets with opposite intrinsic velocities, inerted just prior to the points of impact.
- Kalonia, a Lundmark's Nebula planet with a humanoid native race marked by cut-steel-blue pigmentation. As hard as their pigmentation suggested, individually they were the most able executives under the sway of Eddore. The agents of Boskone in the First Galaxy, though reporting to Boskone, were typically from Kalonia despite its independent status as a center of Boskonian operations. Discovered by Kim and Christopher Kinnison during Children of the Lens, its conquest was alluded to but never chronicled.
- KloviaKloviaKlovia is an Earth-like world in Lundmark's Nebula, the Second Galaxy in E. E. Smith's Lensman series. After the native, near-human inhabitants go through a horrific world war, the Galactic Patrol arrives and decides to use Klovia as its base of operations in the Second Galaxy...
, a planet made into Civilization's first base in Lundmark's Nebula. The heavily fortified home of the Children of the Lens.
- Lundmark's Nebula, the "Second Galaxy," which collided with the "Milky Way" or "First Galaxy" two billion years ago, leading to the large populations of planets nurtured by Arisia and discovered by Eddore. Home of the Eddorians, the Ploorans and the major races of their empire, including the Eich, the Thralians, and the Kalonians. Historical Note: Knut LundmarkKnut LundmarkKnut Emil Lundmark was a Swedish astronomer, professor of astronomy and head of the observatory at Lund University 1929–1955....
was an early 20th century Swedish astronomer. It is possible that Lundmark's Nebula is intended to refer to the Wolf-Lundmark-MelotteWolf-Lundmark-MelotteThe Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte galaxy is an irregular galaxy discovered in 1909 by Max Wolf, and is located on the outer edges of the local group. The discovery of the nature of the galaxy was accredited to Knut Lundmark and Philibert Jacques Melotte in 1926. It is in the constellation Cetus.-Star...
Galaxy, though Lundmark made numerous other contributions to the study of other galaxies.
- Lyrane II, home of a matriarchal civilization. Its dominant beings are women (or highly humanoid females) who retain their nearly non-sentient males only for breeding purposes (similar to Larry NivenLarry NivenLaurence van Cott Niven / ˈlæri ˈnɪvən/ is an American science fiction author. His best-known work is Ringworld , which received Hugo, Locus, Ditmar, and Nebula awards. His work is primarily hard science fiction, using big science concepts and theoretical physics...
's Kzinti). They refer to themselves with the neuter pronoun "it". Lyranian women possess powerful minds, capable of telepathy and of slaying by mental force, though they do perform the latter by what is described as a "crude, childish technique."
- Medon, originally located in Lundmark's Nebula, Medon was moved to the First Galaxy by its technologically-advanced natives with the assistance of the Galactic Patrol. Its people contributed extremely efficient electric insulators and conductors.
- Nevia, the amphibious Nevians invented the first crude inertialess drives appearing in the series. They warred on the Triplanetary League, but eventually joined Civilization when they realized that humanity was as advanced as their own species.
- Nth Space, an alternate dimension, accessed by hyper-spatial tube, where all matter is tachyonTachyonA tachyon is a hypothetical subatomic particle that always moves faster than light. In the language of special relativity, a tachyon would be a particle with space-like four-momentum and imaginary proper time. A tachyon would be constrained to the space-like portion of the energy-momentum graph...
ic, moving swifter than light. Ploor and Ploor's sun were destroyed by planets transported from Nth Space.
- Onlo (Thrallis IX), see Thrale below.
- Palain VII, an extremely cold planet and home world of Second Stage Lensman Nadreck. Like all ultra-cold planets in Smith's cosmogony, the inhabitants require a metabolic extension "into the fourth dimension" in order to survive the liquid-helium temperatures of their planetary surface. Smith suggested, with little elaboration, a twelve-point scale used to describe intelligent (and possibly other) species. On this scale, humans were classified as "AAAAAAAAAAAA" and Palainians as "ZZZZZZZZZZZZ." It is stated that a Palainian colony had existed on Pluto for millennia before the events of First Lensman, suggesting that the Palainians may have had the first inertialess drive in the First Galaxy. Within the Second-Stage Lensmen, Nadreck's ultra-caution counterbalanced Kinnison's occasional near-recklessness and it is suggested that, were the Palainians less cautious, their species rather than humanity would have given birth to the Third-Stage Lensmen.
- Ploor, the first-tier planet of Eddorian puppets and the only one with direct knowledge of the Eddorians. The leaders of Jarnevon, Kalonia and Thrale were, unknown to the bulk of their populations or to most of Civilization, under the direct control of Ploor. Since Ploor was a planet of a highly variable sun, its inhabitants were evolved to morph their bodies on a precise annual cycle, though none of their manifestations were even remotely human (their winter form was ZZZZ+ or nearly Palainian). The planet and its sun were destroyed by planet-sized projectiles from the "Nth Space" dimension with intrinsic velocity greater than the speed of light.
- Posenia (or possibly just "Posen"?) No description of this planet occurs anywhere in the books and even its name is not explicitly stated. However, it is the homeworld of "the Posenian surgeon Phillips", whose research enabled the development of regenerationRegeneration (biology)In biology, regeneration is the process of renewal, restoration, and growth that makes genomes, cells, organs, organisms, and ecosystems resilient to natural fluctuations or events that cause disturbance or damage. Every species is capable of regeneration, from bacteria to humans. At its most...
- RigelRigelRigel is the brightest star in the constellation Orion and the sixth brightest star in the sky, with visual magnitude 0.18...
IV, a hot, high-gravity world, Home of Second-Stage Lensman Tregonsee.
- Tellus, or EarthEarthEarth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...
. Home to the humans including the Kinnison and Samms lines.
- Thrale (Thrallis II), the capital of the Boskonian Thrale-Onlonian Empire in Lundmark's Nebula. The inhabitants were "independently"-evolved humans like those of Klovia and many other worlds. They are ultimately traceable back to Arisian life-spores permeating space at the time of the Coalescence.
- Trenco, a planet where a major fraction of the atmosphere condenses each night and evaporates each day, giving rise to exceptionally violent weather. The planet's plant life yields the illicit psychotropic thionite.
- ValeriaValeria (Lensman)In the Lensman universe, Valeria is a Terran colony planet settled by the Dutch. The planet's gravity is nearly three times that of Earth, and the people of Valeria have, over the centuries, become large, brawny, and strong. The Galactic Patrol often employs Valerians as marines and shock troops....
, a high-gravity planet where natural diamonds formed in great quantity, settled by Tellurian Dutchmen who developed immense strength in response to the natural stresses of their planet, making them ideal space marines.
- Velantia III, home of an intelligent, winged, reptilian species, of which Second-Stage Lensman Worsel is a member.
TechnologyHyper-spatial Tube: A "tunnel" through hyperspace
, allowing galactic distances to be traversed in minutes, as well as allowing access to other universes. Objects and people from different origin points meeting each other in the tube pass through each other rather than interacting. The artificial, ultra-dense material "dureum" is an exception; it is therefore used to create objects and weapons (axes, clubs, knives) capable of interacting with anything and anyone in a tube. Originally invented by the Eddorians and used for their explorations of other universes prior to their arrival in the Lensman universe, it was given to the Boskonian subject races, and was eventually discovered and copied by the Patrol. It has points in common with the modern idea of wormholes
to link distant points in space.
Spaceships are able to vastly exceed the speed of light
by eliminating the inertia
of their mass. When the "inertialess drive
" (which does not actually provide propulsion) is turned on, the "free" (inertialess) ship instantly attains a velocity at which the force of the ship's propulsion jets is matched by friction
of the medium through which it travels (such as widely scattered hydrogen molecules in the vacuum of space
), avoiding the Einsteinian light-speed limit on normal (inert) matter, and so attaining a speed of about 90 parsec
s per hour at touring speed and about 120 parsec
s per hour at full blast. The vacuum of Intergalactic space is even more rarefied, and the speed there is about 100,000 parsecs per hour. An inertialess drive unit is called a "Bergenholm
" after the scientist (actually an Arisian student appearing to be a human) who improved and perfected the original inertialess drive.
Conservation of momentum is maintained; when the inertialess drive generator is switched off, the spacecraft's original velocity is restored. If a ship has traveled a great distance, inert maneuvering will be required in order to match velocity relative to the local planet or moon. There are similar velocity-matching difficulties with ships docking in space, and in transferring "free" passengers from one ship to another.
Inertialess drive generators small enough for a single person are used by Galactic Patrol staff. Patrol members can travel downward within tall buildings, via drop shafts, by falling while inertialess. Some armored spacesuits have individual inertialess drives installed.
Screens: Spaceships are protected by several layers of defensive force field "screens", including the innermost and strongest "wall shield." Smaller vehicles and even spacesuits can carry screens of lesser power.
Spaceships: The smallest are called "speedsters" or "flitters" and carry only the pilot, or a very small crew. They are generally used for scouting or covert missions. Larger military ships have designations equivalent to early-twentieth-century surface naval vessels: Destroyer
s (battleships), superdreadnaughts. In addition, there are "maulers", which are huge, slow-moving vessels so powerful they can attack planetary bases. Slower ships are spherical; faster ones have teardrop shapes; the fastest of all are the "ultrafast" cigar-shaped speeders and later (Dauntless-class) superdreadnaughts.
Thought Screens: In a universe where many alien races have powerful telepathic abilities
, and even mind control
is possible, thought screens can be a valuable asset. They are proof against penetration by even a second-stage Lensman's mind. The Children of the Lens are able to bypass ("think over or under", suggesting thought as a spectrum) or even, if necessary, penetrate any non-Eddorian thought screen, and in the final battle the Unit and the collected Lensmen penetrate even Eddorian thought screens.
: Vibrations in the "sub-ether
", used for interstellar "radio"-like communications and detection. Ultra-wave travels at about 19 billion times the speed of light. The use dates from the time of the latter part of Triplanetary. Sean Barrett, in the GURPS Lensman game, has suggested that ultra-waves form the basis for the so-called "vacuum tubes" used in the series.
Power Armor: While never explicitly given to supplying increased strength in the manner of a powered exoskeleton
, armored space-suits available to both the Patrol and to Boskone nonetheless contain energy shields and inertialess drive units. Further, during the career of Kimball Kinnison (father of the Children of the Lens) a suit was fabricated in order to permit him to survive an assault upon the command centre of an enemy fortress which is quite obviously both armored to the point where a normal man could not operate it and yet fully mobile, implying some form of load-carrying augmentation. This would make it the first known example of powered infantry battle armor in science fiction.
Power production: Prior to the extended version of the novella Triplanetary for book publication, no out-of-the-ordinary power technologies are described; however interplanetary travel with the ship sizes and capabilities implied requires terawatt power sources, so we can infer some version of nuclear fission
power. After the advent of the Nevians and through the rest of Triplanetary, the primary power source for spaceships and planetary installations is the controlled matter-to-energy conversion of "allotropic iron", an allotrope of iron which appears to be a dense, viscous, red liquid at room temperature.
By the time of First Lensman, allotropic iron is replaced by an unnamed form of atomic power. Uranium is mentioned, but not explicitly as an energy source; it is a vital ingredient in the Bergenholm, however, not as a power source, but as part of the structure and/or circuitry. It can be inferred that a total-conversion engine is used throughout that book, and the remainder of the series. It is noted that power production generates radiation that can be detected by other ships at a considerable distance and cannot be perfectly screened. Stealth ships for covert missions can be fitted with large diesel
generating sets, capable of powering the Bergenholm and providing limited drive power for short periods, so that the atomics can be shut down for sensitive parts of the mission.
Atomic-power units appear to have a minimum feasible size which prevents their use on installations smaller than a spaceship. The Bergenholms and drivers fitted to personal space armor are powered by electrical accumulators
, which despite their portable size have capacities of many myriawatt-hours and whose charging load represents a significant drain on the power stations of a less technologically advanced planet such as Delgon.
Some time prior to the start of Galactic Patrol, the Boskonians had developed a method of using their on-board power systems as exciters to gather power from "cosmic energy" sources with an amplification factor of a million times the exciter power. The Galactic Patrol, capturing this technology during Kimball Kinnison's first major assignment, not only reverse engineered
it for routine use, but also developed shields and screens to block enemy systems from drawing the power, and upgraded the power systems for their "Mauler" class of attack vessels to defeat systems reliant on cosmic-energy collection.
Spaceship drive: The Bergenholm nullifies the inertia
of a spaceship, but does not of itself provide any driving force. Driving projectors, or "jets", are reaction engine
s, using as reaction mass nascent fourth-order particles or corpuscles which are formed, inert, in the inertialess projector, by the conversion of some form of energy into matter. The process produces, as by-products, a certain amount of heat and a considerable amount of light. This light, shining through the highly tenuous gas formed of the ejected particles, produces a "flare" which makes a speeding spaceship one of the most beautiful spectacles known to man, but also makes it visually detectable at long range. Stealth ships therefore make use of "flare baffles" to prevent the escape of the light; the disadvantage is that, because the waste energy cannot escape from the projector in the usual way, it must be dissipated to prevent overheating, so baffles are only fitted when absolutely required.
Information processing: Computing technology as we understand it is practically unknown, being limited to slide rule
s, adding machine
s, and punched card tabulating machines
. A "computer" is not a calculating machine but an intelligent being performing calculations by brain power with the assistance of the abovementioned limited aids. Large concentrations of computing power, as required by the C3 system of the Patrol Grand Fleet flagship Directrix, are implemented using squadrons of Rigellians, a naturally telepathic species, in mental communication with each other. In the (non-canonical) GURPS Lensman gaming supplement, the lack of electronic computers (and other advanced electronics) in the future setting of the Lensman universe was retroactively explained as follows: Wanting the races of Civilization to develop their own mental powers to the fullest extent possible, rather than relying on electronic aids, the Arisians intervened with the normal course of history to retard the development of transistors and other advanced electronics.
WeaponsThe science fiction sub-genre of "super-science" is nowhere more apparent in the Lensman series than in its (sometimes literally) world-shaking weapons.
Space-axe: The shields of space armor are capable of indefinitely resisting the output of a blaster. Moreover, their resistance to material projectiles varies as the cube of the velocity of the projectile, rendering bullets also ineffective. To counter this, the space-axe was developed. It has an axe blade on one end and a needle-sharp spike on the other and is shoved into targets rather than swung. To increase its deadliness, the weapon may be inlaid with or even entirely composed of ultra-dense dureum (see "Hyper-spatial Tube" above).
Mind Killer: Never actually given a name, this tiny device conceived by Worsel and constructed by master technician Thorndyke produced a vibration that caused the disintegration of a compound vital to thought in all living beings. The effect was so deadly that Worsel and Thorndyke agreed that Kinnison was the only person who could be trusted with it and so presumably only one was ever made. It was small enough to fit in a ring or other jewelry, or even to be implanted in Kinnison's body.
Blaster: In First Lensman, the standard blaster pistol was the Lewiston Mk 17. The main sequence of the series uses the DeLameter, a raygun
so powerful it can atomize its target and reduce a wall behind it to smoking ruins. The aperture of the DeLameter can be opened so as to emit a wide and comparatively less powerful cone of destruction or narrowed so as to emit a pencil-thin and extremely intense beam.
Semi-Portable: The Lensman universe equivalent of a heavy machine gun, the semi-portable is a large beam weapon designed to be carried by more than one man. It projects a beam powerful enough to overcome personal defense screens (mounted on an individual's space armor) which cannot be penetrated by DeLameters or other hand blasters. The semi-portable is small enough to be used in a spaceship corridor, though it may need to be secured with magnetic clamps.
Macro Beam: These ship-mounted beams can vaporize any matter in moments. Only screens can provide any defense to these bluish-green beams, all normal matter is instantly broken down into its component elements. The word "macro" refers to the fact that the beams operate using "conventional" wavebands, as opposed to the "ultra" bands used by other beam weaponry.
Primary Beam: These became the primary weaponry of the warships of space. A Macro Beam projector is so massively overloaded that it burns out almost instantly while emitting a beam much more intense than is otherwise possible. Invented as a dying act of desperation by a Boskonian vessel (on which it killed each gun crew using the technique), it was adapted in more controlled form by the Galactic Patrol, using highly-shielded primary projectors whose spent emitters were ejected like massive shell-cases.
Secondary Beam: This is essentially the same technology as the primary beam, but the projector is not used outside its continuous rating. The beam is of considerably lower power than the primary, but can be maintained for as long as a power source is available.
Duodec: In Galactic Patrol, the superior screens of a Boskonian ship are overcome with the power of the explosive duodecaplylatomate, described as "the quintessence of atomic destruction," whose power is comparable to a nuclear explosion as produced by current real-world technology and has few of the drawbacks of atomics: there is apparently no radiation danger, it is easy to handle, simple to use, powerful and easy to detonate. Duodec is also used by the Boskonians to self-destruct their bases to prevent capture, by Kinnison to destroy Menjo Bleeko's mining complex on Lonabar and in many other situations calling for an extremely powerful explosive.
Allotropic iron torpedo: The primary power source for Nevian spaceships in Triplanetary is the controlled matter-to-energy conversion of "allotropic iron," an allotrope of iron which is a dense, viscous, red liquid at room temperature. In conventional chemistry, allotropes are substances with the same atomic composition, but different molecular arrangements. Thus, phosphorus
occurs in the allotropes white phosphorus and red phosphorus. However, these transformations are purely chemical and not nuclear. Smith's fictional allotropic iron can be made to undergo nuclear conversion as a power source, analogous to the nuclear conversion of the catalyzed copper fuel rods of The Skylark of Space
. Allotropic iron can also be "sensitized" so as to undergo uncontrolled matter-to-energy conversion under a suitable stimulus, thus producing an extremely powerful explosive. A torpedo carrying a sensitized allotropic iron charge is detonated on Nevia in Triplanetary with devastating results. In later times, duodec is the atomic explosive of choice, perhaps due to its apparent greater ease of handling.
Negasphere: A sphere of "negative matter" first created in Gray Lensman. In some respects its properties resemble antimatter. If brought into contact with normal matter, mutual annihilation results, releasing an enormous flood of energy. But it differs from antimatter in that it absorbs light so that it is utterly black. Tractor
and pressor beams have reversed effects when used on a negasphere. Perhaps a negasphere is better described as having properties of both negative matter and negative energy
. The negasphere is an expression of the original Dirac Sea
conception of antimatter
by Paul A. M. Dirac
as a "hole" in space which has been evacuated of normal matter (this is of course a gross conceptual simplification of Dirac's ideas).
Free Planet: An entire planet is rendered inertialess. If fitted with massive power plants and screens, it can be used as a mobile fortress with enough power to easily brush off attacks by spaceships. If properly positioned and inerted, it can be used to crush an enemy planet in an extreme form of kinetic bombardment
Nutcracker: In Gray Lensman, two "free planets" (see above) with opposing inert velocities were positioned on either side of an enemy planet. Simultaneously inerted, they crushed the other planet between them. Such approach will crush even a "free" planet.
Sunbeam: In Second-Stage Lensman, an entire solar system is converted to a vacuum tube
, with asteroids and planets as grids and plates, to focus nearly the entire output of the sun into a beam capable of melting the surface of a planet in seconds. That's the conversion of 4.26 million metric tons per second of matter into energy, or 9.15 × 1010 megatons of TNT per second. Thus, it is a defense against attacks by "free" planets, which are rendered inert when their Bergenholms (inertialess drive units) are destroyed. The Sunbeam is an ultrawave vacuum tube rather than a normal one. This is demonstrated by the fact that its beam moves faster than light and can be retargeted on different objects in the outer reaches of the solar system in a matter of seconds.
Nth-Space Planet: The ultimate material weapon in the Lensman series. Also called a "Super-Nutcracker." In Children of the Lens, an expedition travels to "Nth Space," another space-time continuum where physical laws are different and all matter moves faster than light. There, a planet is rendered "free" (see "Free Planet" above) and moved via hyper-spatial tube into our universe. The planet is then moved close into an enemy stellar system and inerted. The result is so violent that the Nth-Space planet launched against Ploor's sun makes it go supernova
, still radiating the energy of 550 million Sun
s several years later. It was so powerful, in fact, that there was a theoretical possibility that its mass would be "some higher order of infinity" and that the entire universe would coalesce around it in zero time (rather like an instantaneous Big Crunch
). Fortunately, Mentor of Arisia assured Kit Kinnison that "operators would come into effect to prevent such an occurrence" and that untoward events would be limited to a radius of ten or fifteen parsec
s. During the Battle of Ploor, an Nth-Space planet was launched against Ploor. A second planet was launched into Ploor's sun to destroy Ploor's remaining military forces in the area.
External links(First book of the Lensman series, rewritten from the pre-Lensman serial version)
- Old Earth Books Recent publisher of the original E. E. Smith Lensman series, in facsimile reprints of the original Fantasy PressFantasy PressFantasy Press was an American publishing house specialising in fantasy and science fiction titles. Established in 1946 by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach in Reading, Pennsylvania, it was most notable for publishing the works of authors such as Robert A. Heinlein and E. E. Smith...
- Red Jacket Press Publisher of the "Second Stage Lensman" Trilogy by David A. Kyle
- Books-In-Motion Publisher of the Lensman Series in Audiobook Format