It's difficult today to appreciate the importance of the Lensman series to sf and sf fandom, since Smith's writing was never more than adequate, but the best brief comment is from John Clute: "…any revisit to his work should be made in the loving awareness that he is a creature of the dawn."
|from Fancyclopedia 2 ca. 1959|
|(E E Smith) The Lens is a semi-living telepathic transceiver, provided by the super-mentalities of Arisia to the Galactic Patrol [our side]. Special officers of the Patrol who by a training of Gothik rigor have Proved Their Worthiness are entrusted with these gadgets, and designated as Lensmen. Doc Smith was ever popular with fans, and in this series he surpassed himself. The saga (Triplanetary, First Lensman, Galactic Patrol, Grey Lensman, Second Stage Lensman, Children of the Lens) is the longest to come out of magazine science-fiction, and contributed many expressions to Fanspeak: Delameters, the standard sidearm; Grand Base and Prime Base, Boskonian and Patrol HQs; "free" (inertialess) faster-than-light flight; and superexplosive duodec. Clean-minded heroes swore by Klono, a god remarkable for the number of his anatomical appurtenances (all formed of some alliterative metal: brazen bowels, tungsten test tentacles, etc). Primary beams were ships' main armament; they were produced by overloading a normal ray-projector to the point of blowout, creating a beam against which nothing can stand (Campbell anticipated the obvious objection by pointing out that if Doc Smith knew how the ray projector worked before being overloaded he'd be writing for the Patent Office, not ASF). A Grey Lensman [they wear grey uniforms] is one responsible only to the Galactic Council; the Grey Lensman is Kimball Kinnison, hero of the last four volumes, and an uncommonly powerful superman. Galactic Civilization, the good guys, is relieved of governmental troubles by virtue of the absolute trustworthiness of the Lensmen and by implication is a kind of utopia — note the tacit assumption that there exist True Principles of Honest Government, Accept No Substitutes. Boskonia [the baddies] is a sort of totalitarian empire made in the image of what naive democrats believe totalitarian empires are like — caste systems, whip-wielding overlords in palaces, ktp; it derives its name from the Council of Boskone, the ruling body of the Eich, who direct operations during the second thru fourth volumes. For the same reason Boskonian biggies used the command-line "speaking for Boskone". [The Futurians held that Boskonia was more desirable than what Smith had described of Civilization, hence the gag-line, "Wollheim, speaking for Boskone".] Jarnevon was the home of the Eich; Ploor was a planet of baddies higher up in the hierarchy (now used as an exclamation, or as a synonym for any far-away place like Savannah, Ga); Eddore was the source of Boskonian culture, a planet of malignant immortal amoeboids, materialistic opposites of the Arisians. And Zwilniks were evil-minded folk generally, tho the word originally meant "any entity connected with the [interstellar] drug traffic".|