Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Less than just coincidence

Not many people know that when Edward Elmer Smith (Ph.D.) turned his hand to space opera in the 1930s, he had already written a series of popular novels of nautical derring-do.

Fortunately, only minimal revision was required to republish them when a new market emerged in the form of science-fiction magazines like Amazing and Astounding -- mostly the addition of the phrase "coruscating beam of pure energy" to every description of a naval battle.

The original cover art for Smith's juvenilia (the work of well-known cartoonist Lyonel Feininger) also required some alterations to fit the change in genre.


Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

mostly the addition of the phrase "coruscating beam of pure energy" to every description of a naval battle

Also, keel-haulings had to be recategorized as "ionizer housing haulings" and any references to barnacles had to be prefixed by "Antarean Hyper-".

Smut Clyde said...

I had always imagined Smith as coming from some sort of heavy-machinery background until the Whackipedia showed me his list of non-fiction publications:

# Some Clays of Idaho, (with Chester Fowler Smith) undergraduate thesis, University of Idaho, 1914.
# The effect of bleaching with oxides of nitrogen upon the baking quality and commercial value of wheat flour, Ph.D. thesis, George Washington University, 1919, approximately 100 pp.
# "A study of some of the chemical changes which occur in oysters during their preparation for market", Bureau of Chemistry, U.S. Department of Agriculture Bulletin 740, 1919, 24 pp.
# "Viscosity and Baking Quality", Cereal Chemistry 2, 178-89, 1925.
# "Report of the Subcommittee on Hydrogen-Ion Concentration with Special Reference to the Effect of Flour Bleach", Cereal Chemistry 9, 424–8, 1932.

My opinion of the guy went up.

Smut Clyde said...

Individuals who knew Dr. Smith confirmed that he had a role in developing mixes for doughnuts and other pastries, but the contention that he developed the first process for making powdered sugar adhere to doughnuts cannot be substantiated.

Substance McGravitas said...

to every description of a naval battle

And obviously it makes perfect sense to get your cover artists from the Pauhaus.

Dragon-King Wangchuck said...

By Klonos' technetium gall stones, it all makes sense now! A universe where people could negate inertia, had beams and shields so powerful that flinging entire planets as projectile weapons became standard - and yet the most feared weapon was an axe in the hands of a Space Viking.

Smut Clyde said...

I know not this 'Pauhaus' whereof Substance speaks.

The painting is in the Karl Ernst Osthaus-Museum in Hagen. There's a good collection of Feininger's early work there,* but do they have an on-line catalog? Do they bogroll.

* Also a branch of the Museum of Jurassic Technology.