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|Author||Edward Elmer "Doc" Smith|
|Genre||science fiction space opera|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)
The Lensman series is a serial science fiction space opera 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:
- Triplanetary (1948. Originally published in four parts, January–April 1934, in Amazing Stories)
- First Lensman (1950, Fantasy Press)
- Galactic Patrol (1950. Originally published in six parts, September 1937 – February 1938, in Astounding Stories)
- Gray Lensman (1951. Originally published in four parts, October 1939 – January 1940, Astounding Stories)
- Second Stage Lensmen (1953. Originally published in four parts, November 1941 – February 1942, Astounding Stories)
- Children of the Lens (1954. Originally published in four parts, November 1947 – February 1948, Astounding Stories)
- 7. The Vortex Blaster (1960. Published with the title Masters of the Vortex in 1968)
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.
The series begins with Triplanetary, two billion years before the present time. At that time, the universe has few life-forms aside from the ancient Arisians, and few planets besides the Arisians' native world. The peaceful Arisians have foregone physical skills in order to develop contemplative mental power. The underlying assumption for this series, based on theories of stellar evolution extant at the time of the books' writing, is that planets form only rarely, and therefore our First and Second Galaxies, with their many billions of planets, are unique.
The Eddorians, a dictatorial, power-hungry race, come into our universe from an alien space-time continuum after observing that our galaxy and a sister galaxy (later to be named Lundmark's Nebula or more simply the Second Galaxy) are passing through each other. According to an astronomical theory current at the time of the publication of Triplanetary, called the tidal theory (the primary theory prior to the rehabilitation of the nebular hypothesis), this will result in the formation of billions of planets and the development of life upon some of 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 detect the Eddorians' invasion of our universe and realized that not only are the Eddorians a rapacious, power-hungry race but also that the Eddorians would defeat them in a direct physical confrontation. The Arisians hide from the Eddorians and begin a covert breeding program on every world that can produce intelligent life, in the hopes of creating a race which is capable of destroying this invading race, with a combination of mental and physical powers, and thus prove themselves better guardians of the universe than the Arisians.
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. It specifically details some of the interactions and natures of two distinct Earthly breeding lines, one always bearing some variant of the name "Kinnison" and always carried forth by a male, and another line which might survive through either female or male heirs but distinguished by possessing "red-bronze-auburn hair and gold-flecked, tawny eyes". Moreover, the two lines have a certain inherent "mutual repulsion"; while they respect and appreciate each other, they understand they are not to be attracted to one another. This is an Arisian compulsion inserted to prevent commingling of the two breeding lines as they coalesce to their penultimate forms.
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 part of the Arisian breeding program which will produce Clarissa MacDougall, the female half of the penultimate step of the process. Moreover, along with Roderick Kinnison, who belongs to the side which will produce the male penultimate step, 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 even a brief touch, if the Lens is not in contact with its owner, is extremely painful), and "disappears" shortly after the owner's death, by some means which is not explained but is described as "more like evaporation or sublimation, except that there was no gradual diminution in volume, and there was no detectable residue, either solid, liquid, or gaseous". Virgilia Samms, Virgil Samms's daughter, is sent to Arisia and is told when there that there is an inherent gender mismatch that renders the Lens largely incompatible with the nature of female minds and that only one woman will ever become a Lensman.
Using the Lens as a means to test mental qualities and identify the few individuals able to help him, Virgil Samms visits races in other star systems, recruiting the best of them and forming the nucleus of 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 them, ever truly learn 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 the four "best" planets, a single individual is born who realizes the limits of his initial training and perceives the need to return to Arisia to seek "second stage" training, which it is later shown to include: 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, including the ability to alter memories untraceably and imperceptibly; 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 nears its conclusion, humans are selected as the best choice; at the same time, the breeding programs of the other three planets – Rigel IV (home of Tregonsee), Velantia III (home of Worsel), and Palain VII (home of Nadreck) are terminated, and these three penultimates never meet their planned mates. Kimball Kinnison, the brown-haired, gray-eyed Second-Stage Lensman of Earth, finally meets and marries the most advanced product of the complementary human 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. It is also revealed around this point that Mentor (the Arisian who had been the point of contact with non-Arisian races) is himself a group mind consisting of four individuals, operating in sufficiently perfect union that no one prior to the Children, as The Unit, ever realized it.
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; the Eddorian High Council that had been protected by them is shortly destroyed too. It is stated that this one last thing was the only thing the Arisians could not have accomplished themselves, but without its accomplishment the Eddorians would have eventually turned the tide and beaten the Arisians.
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.
Using 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 is 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, 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 appearances 
In 1984, an anime film titled SF Shinseiki Lensman and an anime TV series titled Galactic Patrol Lensman was released in Japan. 4 episodes of the TV series were dubbed by Harmony Gold USA in 1988 as a compilation film for North America. The movie was later re-dubbed and released 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. The 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 parodies 
Garrett also referred to the Lenses in his Lord Darcy stories, in which similar lenses are the badges of the King's Messengers, invented by the wizard "Sir Edward Elmer".
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).
The GURPS role-playing game includes a source book describing how to conduct a role-playing campaign set in the Lensman universe.
The Lensmen also put in a brief appearance in Robert A Heinlein's Number Of the Beast as the primary characters from that novel pass through the Lensmen's universe in their wandering travels.
Planets and places 
The Lensman series takes place over a vast sweep of space and upon many different worlds. These include the following:
- Aldebaran 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 Clarissa 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.
- Klovia, an Earth-like planet made into Civilization's first base in Lundmark's Nebula. The heavily fortified home of the Children of the Lens. 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 new base called Ultra Prime is established and colonists begin arriving to supplement the native population. Klovia is the site of only one recorded battle between Civilisation and Boskone, its ancient rival, when the Boskonian Grand Fleet attacks. However, the use of the Sunbeam destroys most of the Boskonian fleet - but leads to a dogfight taking up a full sixth of the Klovian solar system as Boskonian command and control breaks down. The Galactic Patrol wins, however, and the threat of the Boskonian Grand Fleet to both Klovia and Civilisation is ended. With Klovia safe, it later witnesses the marriage of Kimball Kinnison and Clarissa MacDougall and their future children, and is also the headquarters for the Galactic Coordinator of the Second Galaxy.
- 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 Lundmark was an early 20th century Swedish astronomer. Although there are significant discrepancies in terms of both distance and structure, it has been suggested that Lundmark's Nebula is intended to refer to the Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte Galaxy, and 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, but inverse to Larry Niven'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, which allowed them to be the first to apply inertialess drive to an entire planet.
- 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 tachyonic, 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 regeneration technology.
- Rigel IV, a hot, high-gravity world, Home of Second-Stage Lensman Tregonsee.
- Tellus, or Earth. 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.
- Valeria, 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.
Lensman is full of exotic alien species and variants of humanity throughout the known space-time continuum.
Race-1 Arisian: A precursor race locked into combat with the Eddorians.
Race-2 Chickladorian: A 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.
Race-3 Delgonian: Information about Race.
Race-4 Eddorian: A precursor race from another time-space continuum, locked into combat with the Arisians.
Race-5 Humans (Tellurian): Information about Race.
Race-6 Kalonian: Information about Race.
Race-7 Lens (Sentient Life): 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 even a brief touch, if the Lens is not in contact with its owner, is extremely painful), and "disappears" shortly after the owner's death, by some means which is not explained but is described as "more like evaporation or sublimation, except that there was no gradual diminution in volume, and there was no detectable residue, either solid, liquid, or gaseous". Virgilia Samms, Virgil Samms's daughter, is sent to Arisia and is told when there that there is an inherent gender mismatch that renders the Lens largely incompatible with the nature of female minds and that only one woman will ever become a Lensman.
Race-8 Lyranian: Information about Race.
Race-9 Medonian: Information about Race.
Race-10 Nevian: Information about Race.
Race-11 Onlonian: Information about Race.
Race-12 Palainian: Information about Race.
Race-13 Plooran: Information about Race.
Race-14 Posenian: Information about Race.
Race-15 Rigellian: Information about Race.
Race-16 Thralian: Information about Race.
Race-17 Trenconian: Information about Race.
Race-18 Valerian: Information about Race.
Race-19 Velantian: An intelligent, winged, reptilian species, with serpentine bodies, of which Second-Stage Lensman Worsel is a member.
Race-20 Wheelmen: Information about Race.
Hyper-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.
Inertialessness: 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 parsecs per hour at touring speed and about 120 parsecs 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. The device can be made large enough to render a whole planet inertialess, or small enough for personal use – some armored spacesuits have individual inertialess drives installed.
The physical realisation of the inertialess drive generator appears to resemble some form of rotating electrical machinery such as an electric motor – it has windings whose arrangement determines the phase and shape of a waveform involved in its function, it has rotating parts, and it uses grease or oil, apparently for lubrication.
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.
It is not clear whether conservation of energy is also maintained. The inertialess drive appears to function as a gravity shield (otherwise any spaceship going inertialess would fall instantly to the bottom of the nearest gravity well) but, since the drive has a power source, this may not necessarily involve the same conceptual difficulties as would a "passive" shield such as Cavorite. Inertialess drive generators small enough for a single person are used by Galactic Patrol staff, and Patrol members can travel upward and downward within tall buildings, via drop shafts, by rising or falling while inertialess at speeds of "a hundred or so miles per hour". No means of propulsion is cited in connection with this means of travel, and how the changes in gravitational potential energy involved are dealt with is not explained.
Objects under the influence of the inertialess drive appear to have a kind of "pseudo-inertia". There are many references to people or objects, drifting under inertialess, weightless conditions, maintaining their motion until they are stopped – with no perceptible shock – by some trivial physical contact such as a strand of their hair hitting the wall. The up-and-down inertialess travel in drop shafts operates on this basis – people launch themselves up or down on entering the shaft (by muscle power), travel up or down without means of propulsion, then bring themselves to a shockless halt at their desired exit point by grabbing some hold. A variety of phenomena dependent upon inertia are unaffected by the operation of the inertialess drive – for example, the thermal motion of gas molecules continues under inertialess conditions, so inertialess gases remain as gases instead of condensing as soon as they become inertialess.
As originally devised, the inertialess drive induced extreme nausea, vertigo and disorientation in the spaceship's personnel. It did not become suitable for widespread use until improved by Bergenholm as mentioned above – the improvements consisted of altering the windings to change the phase of a significant waveform, and substitution of uranium for iron in some unspecified function.
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: Destroyers, cruisers, dreadnoughts (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.
Ultra-wave: 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 or fusion 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 may be replaced by an unnamed form of atomic power. Uranium is mentioned, but not explicitly as an energy source – its role as a vital ingredient in the Bergenholm is apparently 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 never stated what form of matter is used as the input to the engine. Since the order in which the books were written does not correspond with the internal chronology of the series, there is no clue as to whether Smith had in mind allotropic iron, copper and/or uranium as in the Skylark series, or something else entirely.
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.
Overall, however, the method used must be extremely efficient – at one point a device is described as converting about 1000 lb/hr (0.126 kg/s) of matter, which corresponds to an energy input of about 110 petawatts. The device is about the size of a human foot and has either no provision for cooling or only what limited means can be physically interfaced to so small an object, implying a rate of waste heat production of the order of 1 in 1014 or so.
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 engines, 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 rules, adding machines, 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.
The 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. Note that this device, while activated and aimed by thought from Kinnison, was not a thought-based weapon, and so thought screens were ineffective against it. No defense against it was ever suggested in the series, one reason Kinnison was considered the only person to be trusted with its power.
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. It is also capable of firing conventional explosive shells. 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 from 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. While it is explicitly described as "atomic" (i.e. "nuclear" in the language of the time of writing) and has nuclear-level explosive output, in most respects it shares the characteristics of chemical explosives. It is as though someone created "atomic dynamite". 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 single-element molecules, with different spatial layouts. For example, carbon occurs in the allotropes diamond and graphite; the former has a tetrahedral organization, the latter a hexagonal-sheet organization. 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[disambiguation needed]. 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. This is, in Solar terms, 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 Suns 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 parsecs. 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.
See also 
- The Locus Index to SF Awards: 1966 Hugo Awards
- e.g., Astounding September 1937 p. 34 vs. Galactic Patrol p. 42.
- Robert A. Heinlein, 'Larger Than Life', Expanded Universe, Ace SF, Trade Paperback 1st Ed., pp. 499
- Staff (8 January 2008). "Imagine, Uni Eye Lensman Books". Sci Fi Wire. Archived from the original on 2008-01-13. Retrieved 2008-01-11.
- Erik Amaya (24 February 2008). "WonderCon: Spotlight on Straczynski". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2008-03-04.
- Straczynski, J. Michael (2008-06-17). "from jms: research help". JMSNews, originally published on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated. Retrieved 2008-12-05.
- Barrett, Sean (1994). GURPS Lensman. Austin: Steve Jackson Games. ISBN 1-55634-283-7.
- Ellik, Ron and Bill Evans (1966). The Universes of E.E. Smith. Chicago: Advent:Publishers. ISBN 0-911682-03-1.
- Sanders, Joe (1986). E.E. "Doc" Smith (Starmont Reader's Guide 24). Starmont House. ISBN 0-916732-73-8.
- Heinlein, Robert (1980). Expanded Universe. New York: Ace Books. ISBN 0-441-21888-1.
- Triplanetary at Project Gutenberg (First book of the Lensman series, rewritten from the pre-Lensman serial version)
- Lensman FAQ originally by Gharlane of Eddore