Sci-Fi Lensmen (E.E. “Doc” Smith)


An Old Friend
Doc Smith was one of the real pioneers of the science fiction genre, author of two massive, epic series of books. His first, the “Skylark” series, was written in 1920. His second success, the “Lensman” series, was started in the late 30s. I’ve always preferred “Skylark”, but Smith always maintained that “Lensman” was his best work (he regarded it as his only real work of science fiction since he used a lot of advanced, headache-inducing, actual science concepts), and apparently Ron Howard and Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski agree.

Late last week Sci Fi Wire got the ball rolling when they reported that Universal and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment are negotiating with Smith’s estate for the film rights to the “Lensman” series. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re serious about making it into a movie, it really only means they’re thinking about it.

What does make this whole thing a little more realistic is that on his official site Straczynski has started hinting that he might be the guy adapting E.E. Doc Smith’s work into a script. When asked by a poster on his message board if Howard’s Lensman project might be related to something JMS is working on, Straczynski responded coyly, “Who can say...?” That’s sounds a lot closer to a yes than a no to me.

So two big names may be involved in this thing, one of them the most respected people in modern science fiction. You’re probably wondering what the heck this Lensman thing is all about. It’s weird. I’ve read them, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan. For my father, who was born in the 40s and grew up in the 50s, E.E. Doc’s Smith’s work was huge; but for me, even when I first read it back in the 80s it was dated. Not because the stories use out of date ideology, more because so much of what Smith did has since been copied, done, and redone by everyone who’s come after him. The parts which haven’t been copied can probably be best described as pretty weird.

The books follow a universe spanning story in which two rival groups of trans-dimensional super-beings wage a battle for supremancy. The bad guys are out to rule, the good guys attempt to help lesser races like men grow and combat them. They do that by helping create the Galactic Patrol, and giving its members something called the “Lens”. The Lens is like The Force meets Green Latern’s ring, with all kinds of crazy, surreal, inter-dimensional powers. Like I said, it gets confusing. But if JMS can distill the whole thing down to the story of a group of humans gifted with a super-powerful device and tasked with protecting the universe, well then maybe they might have something. If JMS is really the guy Howard has tapped to write this, then he’ll have his work cut out for him. They may be short little paperbacks, but the "Lensman" books are almost frighteningly complex.

I've read a few of these. Should make for an interesting serial or TV mini-series at least.
I'm happy to hear about this.


Indie Audio producer
I read the Lensman series as a boy, I lived out in the sticks and had a long boring bus ride to school before my mates got on the bus nearer town.

I really got into them and think they'd make a brilliant TV series. But, if I remember correctly, they MUST change the main protaganist's name to something other than Kimble Kinnison.

Even at that young age I thought that was an embaressing name for a hero.

Anthony G Williams

I read the series at least 20 years ago, and remember little about it - except that it was dated, as you say, in style as much as content. Lots of "purple prose", and I doubt that it would find a publisher today. I did read through to the end, but then disposed of the books as I couldn't see myself reading them all again.


Indie Audio producer
Inspired by this thread, I fought my way to the back of the attic, searched behind some boxes and found a case of old books that have been undisturbed since we moved in.

Inside was some books from my youth. among the yellowing paperbacks were

(No....No .....Not porn!)

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke, Catweazle and the Magic Zodiac by Richard Carpenter, The Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher AND.........

(Would you believe?)

Triplanetary, Galactic Patrol, Second Stage Lensman, First Lensman and Grey Lensman (I'm sure I've got the others - Children of the Lens & Masters of the Vortex, somewhere).

Triplanetary was literally falling apart but...Wow, what a blast from the past.

Has anyone else ever had a moment like that?


Indie Audio producer
...Now, if only I had a few weeks spare to read them all again......

A quick flick through them brings back the emotions of why I was so impressed by them as a boy.

They're filled with epic space battles and luridly described alien life forms. The characters seem a bit two dimensional in hindsight but the actual adventure was a blast.

I wonder if a hollywood film could capture the grandure of a battle between two enormous fleets of battlecruisers, where one fleet move into a cone shaped formation, then fire all at once along the axis to shoot a super-condensed beam at the opposition.
Then the other fleet form a cylinder shape to enshroud around the length of the cone and fire inwards to destroy the enemy.

This would play out in my imagination as the old bus trundled along the bumpy road, way back when I first got into Sci-Fi.

It makes me think that Audiostories are going to become more popular as people rediscover how their imagination can take them places and let them experience things in ways that a movie screen can't.


An Old Friend
Looking thru the old threads in Forums > To Serve Man... > Movies I came across this announcement and figured I would look into it.
I went to google and searched for this adaptation by Ron Howard.
The movie has a title page on IMdb but they list it as 'In Development'.
Lensman - IMDb
More like 'In Development Hell'
With Ron Howard attached I figured this was going to be a reality but with J. Michael Straczynski I realize that this will NEVER be completed.

A quick video search does reveal a cartoon made in 1984
Published on Jun 3, 2012 by Huck24Q
The 1987 anime by Harmony Gold, based loosely on E.E. "Doc" Smith's space opera novels.
This is the alternate plotline to the "Lensman: Secret of The Lens" version.

Listed on the side as a 'Related Video' I found
A Japanese Anime dumbing down of E.E. Doc Smith's Lensmen

I did find a more 'Comfortable' Toon that is closer to the intended story
Published on Apr 29, 2012
When Kimball Kinison goes to Earth his current planet is being destroyed. He sees a dying man who is called a Lensmen. He gives Kim, what was on his hand called, the lens. Kim now has these supernatural powers that can aid him and stop that empire from threatening the galaxy. This is a rough adaption of the Lensmen novels by E.E. "Doc" Smith.