E. E. Smith

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(May 2, 1890 – August 31, 1965)

Edward Elmer Smith, Ph.D., aka E. E. Smith, Doc Smith and "Skylark" Smith, was the father of space opera and the first great in the SF genre. He was born in Wisconsin, attended the University of Idaho and then George Washington University and earned his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 1918. Like Dick Seaton, Smith was a chemist at the Bureau of Standards (but unlike, Seaton, he did not discover any marvelous new elements). During this period, he began the Skylark of Space, a seminal and highly influential novel of super science.

After graduation, he worked as a chemist in the food industry, developing new doughnut mixes, while continuing his writing. He was unable to get Skylark published until Amazing Stories was launched and it was published in the August–October 1928 issues. It was an immediate success, and sequels quickly followed. In the late 30s, F. Orlin Tremaine bought his new, Lensman series for Astounding.

By this time, Smith was the Grand Old Man of SF (though at no time was he ever the Most Senior SF Writer) and in 1940, at Chicon I, he was the first writer to be honored as Worldcon GoH. NESFA's Skylark Award is given for people who, like Smith himself, are pros who are also mensches.

While he was a pro, he was also fannish and beloved by all. He was involved in a Michigan club, the Galactic Roamers, and was an honorary member of the Misfits. His daughter Verna Smith Trestrail was his literary executor.

He attended every Worldcon he could, but missed the 1964 Worldcon due to surgery for lung cancer, and died a year later at age 75 of a heart attack.

E. E. Smith was not a particularly good writer, but he was a great one.

For a long obituary by Richard Lupoff (and shorter ones and tributes by many others) see the November 1965 issue of Science Fiction Times. A special Doc Smith issue of Paperback Parade (January, 2015) had articles on Smith and his work by Lupoff, Gary Lovisi, Philip Harbottle, Richard Kellogg, and Jon D. Swartz.

Swartz also wrote a tribute to Smith in the November, 2016 issue of The National Fantasy Fan (Volume 74, Number 11), honoring him as a charter member of the National Fantasy Fan Federation in 1941, along with his daughter Clarissa.

Awards, Honors and GoHships:

Person Reasonator 18901965
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