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Book Note: Edward E. Smith, The Best of E.E. 'Doc' Smith (Brit)

I read this book about 23-May-2013. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1975. This note was last modified Thursday, 30-May-2013 18:51:35 PDT.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


I have previously reported on reading the American edition of this book.

Smith seems to have written remarkably little below novel length. In fact, his output is nearly entirely in series (even if you exclude the two posthumous ones). That puts him solidly ahead of the genre.


The preface, by Philip Harbottle, just gives a brief pitch for each story. He sounds like he means it, anyway.

Edward E. Smith—Civilization's Historian

In this forward, Walter Gillings goes into more detail about Smith and his history of writing. I have the feeling the publisher was worried too many fans (already by 1975) didn't really know who Smith had been. This is about when Asimov described him as one of the novas of science fiction (along with Heinlein and Weinbaum), too.

"To the Far Reaches of Space"

This is an extract from The Skylark of Space, the section where Duquesne kidnaps Dorothy, but she manages to kick Perkins when they are trying to tie her up, and Duquesne gets knocked into the control board and puts on full power. So they go very fast until the power bars are exhausted, and then eventually recover consciousness and try to figure out what to do.

Eventually, they run out of things to try with any chance of working, but Seaton and Crane show up to rescue them.

"Robot Nemesis"

This one I haven't seen anywhere other than this book (both American and British versions).

We're at war with our own robots, and a scientist has made really understanding them his life's work. He manages to anticipate and eventually defeat their final ploy to have our entire space fleet dive into the sun.

"Pirates of Space"

Conway Costigan rescues himself, the crew of the Hyperion, and his future wife Clio from the pirates operating out of Gray Roger's mysterious planetoid.

Since Gray Roger is a construct of Gharlane of Eddore, it's some pretty serious competition.

This is part of the long story "Triplanetary" that forms about half of the book Triplanetary. It runs until they've reached the rescue fleet sent for them; which is to say it ends before Nerado shows up and condenses Pittsburgh into allotropic iron for transport back to Nevia.

"The Vortex Blaster"

The first story from that volume; where Cloud first figures out that he actually can blow out vortexes, and demonstrates it.


Tedric is a master smith, who happens to have his workshop set up over a meteor perfect for making modern super-stainless steel. Skandos thinks that Tedric could be used to overthrow religion and thus make mankind's path much smoother (putting off the ultimate collapse of everything another hundred years or so), and finally decides to use his power to change the past.

They've been able to change the past for a long time, but been afraid to do it. Skandos and his assistant finally decide it's worth it for this one. Skandos, as it works out, ends up needing to kill the version of himself from this alternate timeline to keep things moving forward.

"Lord Tedric"

Tedric falls for the daughter of the king when Skandos arranges to exhibit her naked to him (in preparation for a sacrifice). He helps overthrow the priests finally, and is rewarded by being named Lord of the Marches.

"Subspace Survivors"

"Babe" Deston unexpectedly marries the Warner Oil heiress a few minutes after meeting her (they're both tremendously psychic, and she knows it).

Then the Procyon runs into something in subspace and is wrecked and knocked back to normal space. Babe, Barbara, another officer and his new wife, Andrew Adams of the College of Science, and some gangsters are the only survivors. After rubbing out the gangsters when they try to kill the good guys, they navigate Procyon to a planet and Adams shows them how to bleed off the field that wrecked them without actually killing them.

This is the beginning of Subspace Explorers. This matches my memory of the magazine version as available from Project Gutenberg.

"The Imperial Stars"

The top agents of the Service of the Empire are the whole Circus of the Galaxy. Hailing from Desplaines, a high-gravity world, they are strong and fast. Being trained from childhood as acrobats, fighters, and agents, they're also very very good.

This is the Smith story that kicked off the series that Stephen Goldin wrote.

In this one, SOTE is compromised fairly high up, and the succession of the empire is at stake.

The Epic of Space

Doc Smith's famous essay on the topic (first delivered as his speech at the second World Science Fiction Convention in 1940).

Smith was clearly an early pre-Joycean; he talks of the importance of "adventurous surface stories", feeling and imagery, "perfection of wording and phraseology", and "a bedrock foundation of philosophy", and background material (setting, I think; especially inmportant in SF), and characterization.

This essay also mentions his having written three stories that are not science fiction; that happens to exactly correspond to the short stories bundled with Have Trenchcoat, Will Travel. Is it possible that every word of fiction Smith ever wrote was published? It seems pretty unlikely!


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David Dyer-Bennet