Backstage Lensman

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"Backstage Lensman"
Author Randall Garrett
Country United States
Language English
Series Lensman
Genre(s) Science fiction
Published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact
Publication type magazine
Media type Print (Paperback)
Publication date June 1978

"Backstage Lensman" is a short story by Randall Garrett, a parody or pastiche of the Lensman series of E.E. 'Doc' Smith. It was first written in 1949, lost and then rewritten in 1978.

Garrett claimed that "Doc read the first version of 'Backstage Lensman' and laughed all through the convention. It was his suggestion that I call the spaceship Dentless rather than Dauntless."

Garrett plays on the rather breathless and adjective-heavy prose of Smith—long strings of adjectives and adverbs, many of them compounded by hyphens, or offering the highest extremes, e.g. inconceivable, completely, irresistible, unimaginably, ultra-, indescribable. "The awesome awfulness of the unimaginable vastness of the intergalactic void", "the depths of degradation, the valleys of vileness, the caverns of corruption" or "beams, rods, cones, stilettos, icepicks, corkscrews, knives, forks, and spoons of energy raved against the screens of the Dentless."

There is an almost complete lack of levity, for example the character Ginnison observes with a complete lack of irony that, "I got a line through Banjo Freeko, the planetary dictator, but only after I blew up the mining industry on his planet and killed a few thousand innocent people -- regretfully, of course. But I do that all the time. It revolts me, but I do it." However, the long, stern descriptions are given a final twist in an appended sentence. The "blocky" plotting and the characteristic long background discussions are parodied, as is the unevenly applied physics (Smith often has problems with mass, inertia and gravity).

Character names are often puns—Frite of the Meich, Gimble Ginnison, the Starboard Admiral Partisipple, Hess von Baschenvolks, Flatworthy, Woozle, Shadrack, Houston Carbarn, Banlon of Downlo, Banjo Freeko. Personal characteristics are exaggerated—- Ginnison uses phrases like "Jeepers!" and "Gee whiz!"; Shadrack describes himself as "a yellow-bellied, chicken-livered, jelly-gutted coward."

This story appeared in:

  • The magazine Analog, June 1978
  • Takeoff, a collection of short fiction and poems by Randall Garrett, 1980
  • Shaggy B.E.M. Stories, an anthology edited by Mike Resnick, 1988

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