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The Skylark of Space
By E.E.  Doc Smith
Bison Books  Frontiers of Imagination
Commemorative Edition

Something remarkable happened exactly one hundred years ago. In 1915, a young man named Edward E. Smith began work on a novel in his spare time while working on his doctorate.  He finished The Skylark of Space by 1920 and then could not find a publisher.  The theme of men building a spaceship and flying around the universe having adventures, going where no man had gone before, was simply too daring, too new.  Finally, in 1928, Amazing Stories picked it up as a serial.  The results were explosive!  Space Opera had been born.  There may have been earlier pulp stories one could call space opera, but it was Skylark of Space that made the genre, the way Lord of the Rings made epic fantasy.  It is the great-great-grandfather to Star Trek and Star Wars.

E.E. “Doc” Smith, as he was known, went on to become a top writer of the Thirties and Forties with sequels to Skylark followed by his great Lensman series.

Today his work is being forgotten and yet, Skylark is still a good yarn. Oh, you have to make allowances for the fact the women in the story are mostly along for the ride and don’t have much to do but that is typical of the day and time in which it was written.  There’re some more serious cultural issues to overlook by today’s standards and if you do, the reward is to know you are looking at the birth of a subgenre.  Even more important, there is a contagious sense of wonder, of joy and amazement at what man is capable of achieving.

Obviously, a novel so old has been reprinted in many editions. I highly recommend Bison Books for any of Doc Smith’s work because each one has an introduction by a currently famous author.  Thus Skylark has an introduction by Vernor Vinge in which he discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the story and the amazing fact that after all these years, the story still works. ~~ Marian Powell

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