Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Astounding Science Fiction, October 1939


I have a confession to make: I've never read any of E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman novels. I've meant to for years now. I read his Skylark series (which this cover refers to, even though the story in this issue isn't a Skylark story) when I was in college and enjoyed the books. They were pretty dated even then, but I didn't care. I know the Lensman series is thought to be the inspiration for the Green Lantern Corps. So I still plan to get around to it. But so far, not yet . . .

Isn't that a great cover painting by Hubert Rogers, though? And in addition to the first part of Smith's serial "Gray Lensman", there are several short stories and a novelette by Malcolm Jameson, a science column by Willy Ley, the usual editorial by John W. Campbell, and assorted features. Looks like a good issue to me, even though I don't read much SF from that era anymore. (I don't read much SF, period, anymore, and I'm not sure why. That bothers me, since I grew up reading a lot of it.)

12 comments:

Keith said...

I don't read much sf anymore, either, or at least not as much as I used to, and I lived and breathed the stuff for decades. Part of the reason I don't is that I started a blog focused on fantasy, but that's only part of the reason. It's not as easy to find something I like in sf anymore. Everything seems to be parts of series, and I don't have time to go back and read the first X volumes. There don't seem to be many stand-alone novels being written. Most of the sf I read these days is either short fiction or stuff from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Allthough I still haven't read the Lensman books either.

Charles Gramlich said...

I read "The Gray Lensmen" as a kid and at least one other Lensmen novels, but even as a kid I thought they were rather slow and somewhat dull. I bought the others at a sale one time when I was an adult but have never read anymore

Walker Martin said...

I like this cover also and at the Windy City Pulp Convention a couple years ago, they had a great Hubert Rogers art exhibit with many of his cover paintings from ASTOUNDING and ADVENTURE.

Doc Smith I gave up on many years ago. His characters act sort of childish and silly and the dialog is painful to read. His work gives new meaning to the word "dated".

Todd Mason said...

I've read a little of "Doc" Smith over the years, but I think I enjoyed Randall Garrett's close parody "Backstage Lensman" in ANALOG in 1978, in one of the first issues I read of the latter-day ASTOUNDING, that much more...

James Reasoner said...

I think Doc Smith is one of those writers, like Zane Grey, that you really have to be in the right mood for if you're going to read them.

Anonymous said...

The Lensman series was one of my first great literary loves.
I read and re-read them in grade school, and was so passionate about the books that I would not read the final volume because that would bring the series to an end.
It would be over, and I couldn't stand the thought of that.

I still haven't read it.
And now there isn't much point in reading it really. Doc Smith was an author who worked perfectly for me when I was a kid, but for me his work now belongs to (my) times past.

John Hocking

Rick said...

The SF section in book stores is mainly filled with sword and sorcery fiction. I occasionally buy one of the Science Fiction magazines to see if I like the newer authors but it is rare and thus I don't read nor buy SF books anymore..

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have never read much.
That not reading the final volume thing that John mentions is familiar. I have done that with many series.

Richard R. said...

I read the Skylark and Lensman books (yes, all of them I could find which was a lll but one, I think) when I was in high school in the 1950s. I'm sure I couldn't do it now, too out of date in subject, language and style. I enjoyed them at the time though, and think they are historically important.

Beb said...

I've read just about everything EE Smith wrote, mostly in my teens when I could read anything, but even then I recognized that, as Walker Martin notes, that the characters are childish and the dialog awful. Smith wanted to be hip but he had not ear for how people speak. Still his stories were filled with big ideas that reverberate through SF. The Lensman series was a foundation element of Babylon 5, for instance.

Your essay is a tad confusing because it implies that the cover for "Grey Lensman" illustrated one of the Skylark stories. The cover is striking both because it's just a big picture of a man, and makes no sense unless you already know what the Lensman series was about. I find it endearingly campy with those jodhpurs. They always seemed like a ridiculous style. But the cover really is a classic for the field.

rocketranger said...

Maybe it's an age thing. I started reading the Winston sf series in 1956, I think,Wollheim's "Secret of the Martian Moons." Fell in love with the endpaper painting by Alex Schomburg; then I became an sf addict. Read all of Heinlein, Asimov, Sturgeon, Simak, Bradbury, Clarke, many more. It was a pain to have to do school reading assignments since it took me away from science fiction. Went to the 1962 World SF Con in Chicago. Heinlein won the Hugo for "Stranger in a Strange Land" that year. Sturgeon was the guest of honor. Great time.
Now, I read very little. I've never been able to get through Doc Smith. Too pulpy! Current sf doesn't attract me. Read a couple Brin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Spider Robinson; not terribly impressed. But again, it may be an age factor.

James Reasoner said...

I don't read much current SF, either. The books tend to be too long for my taste.