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[WIreR] E. E. Smith's Lensman series - Comentary, Discussion and a hypothetical modern adaption.

Fabius Maximus

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Come to think of it, Helmuth's operation was probably one of the early beachheads of Boskone in the First Galaxy. He would've had to get very good at anticipating and countering Civilization's methods out of necessity. The later foes don't seem to be in quite the same kind of situation, so they're not quite on Helmuth's level.
It's interesting to note that the Arisian's let Helmuth live.

I wonder if it was because that he, unlike the Eich, was honest enough to realize that the Arisians were totally out of his league, rather than deciding that couldn't be right and it was time to keep poking Arisia.


Emperor of the Americas
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I think it's more that he's a known quantity for the lensmen, and his replacement wouldn't be.
And also they meant what they said, Lensmen have to be able to hand these guys or they won't be able to stand on their own, basically(without getting into spoilers).
They gave Civilization the minimal assistance they could get away with{as far as we can tell}.
I"ll save speculation why for later....

Nerik the Red

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And now, Civilisation strikes back!

And we get our first vague hint of the true nature of our foe!

Chapter 15: Klovia

Which begins with a confirmation of Haynes and the Galactic Council's surmise, Boskone has pretty much bet the house on the attack on Tellus, and, as apparently communications through a hypertube are impossible, has no idea what happened to its vast fleet.
The book points out that the Battle of Tellus was a close thing, but Boskone has no way of knowing that.
Also that, as far as Alcon of Thrale is concerned, anything that is not a complete success is a failure.
(He's the sort of jerk that considers 'second place' as 'first loser' isn't he).

As a result, Thrale is abandoning operations in the First Galaxy while they rebuild their forces.
...and they haven't yet had enough time to do so.
Second Stage Lensmen - page 164 said:
It takes time—lots of time—to build such heavy stuff as maulers and flying fortresses, and they had not been allowed to have it. They had plenty of lighter stuff, since the millions of Boskonian planets could furnish upon a few hours' notice more cruisers, and even more first-line battleships, than could possibly be used efficiently, but their back-bone of brute force and fire-power was woefully weak.
...interesting data point on ship construction times - that implies that they can churn out battleships in hours... or maybe what he's saying is that all of those worlds had some kind of home fleet that could be utilised at short notice?

It is pointed out that neither side has much of a mauler reserve, because 'Since the destruction of a solid center of maulers was, theoretically, improbable to the point of virtual impossibility'...
...and yet, it happened.
With the result that both sides are now building such a reserve.

It is mentioned that Boskone has 'many' dirigible plants, but that they're not much use against anything that can manoeuvre.

Looks like Haynes was right to attack just now.

It is mentioned that the Patrol has a couple of other advantages - the Lens and the Z9M9Z, and Haynes knows how to use both.

He's first tactic, as the Patrol fleet approaches the enemy, is to order a swerve, the Grand Fleet keeping co-ordination thanks to the Z9M9Z and its team of highly trained Rigellian Lensmen.
...which throws the enemy into disarray as they try to manoeuvre to block him.
...then he does it again...
...and again...
...until, finally, as the two fleets draw too close for another such swerve, he orders the engagement.

The fleet goes inert to engage.

And Haynes gets his first real worry, as it turns out that yes, Boskone do have negative matter bombs.

Civilisation's analysts hadn't been sure.

One school of thought that the Boskonian's were fully capable of reverse-engineering anything Civilisation could develop.

The other is that Boskone's tyrannical society would be unable to muster sufficient co-operation to make the breakthroughs necessary to develop nega-matter.

It is mentioned that nega-bombers will win against a conventionally armed ship of equivalent tonnage if it can get its bombs in first.
...however, to install the nega-bomb launchers, sacrifices had to be made.
...less conventional armament, less screens, less power...
...so if the conventionally-armed ship can avoid the nega-bombs, it'll now have the advantage.

Half the Grand Fleet's light cruisers are nega-bombers, the other half are conventional.

...and the Psychologists of the Patrol have an idea...
...based on Kim and Illona's testimony, they've devised a tactic whereby a conventionally-armed Patrol cruiser could defeat a Boskonian nega-bomber.

...the light-cruisers are under orders that if this idea doesn't work they should leg it out of there, no questions asked.

Haynes, it is pointed out, was in the camp that held that the Boskonians wouldn't have nega-bombs - he's just had a rather nasty surprise.

He gets in direct contact with one of the light cruisers to see how it all plays out.

And we get a good example of how, fundamentally, this is a war of ideals.
Second Stage Lensmen - page 166 said:
He watched it drive boldly toward a Boskonian vessel which was in the act of throwing bombs. He saw that the agile little vessel's tractor zone was out. He watched the bombs strike that zone and bounce. He watched the tractor-men go to work and he saw the psychologists' idea bear splendid fruit. For what followed was a triumph, not of brute force and striking power, but of morale and manhood. The brain-men had said, and it was now proved, that the Boskonian gunners, low-class as they were and driven to their tasks like the slaves they were, would hesitate long enough before using tractor beams as pressors so that the Patrolmen could take their own bombs away from them!
For negative matter, it must be remembered, is the exact opposite of ordinary matter. To it a pull is, or becomes, a push; the tractor beam which pulls ordinary matter toward its projector actually pushed negative matter away.
The "boys" of the Patrol knew that fact thoroughly. They knew all about what they were doing, and why. They were there because they wanted to be, as Illona had so astoundingly found out, and they worked with their officers, not because of them. With the Patrol's gun-crews it was a race to see which crew could capture the first bomb and the most.
Aboard the Boskonian how different it was! There the dumb cattle had been told what to do, but not why. They did not know the fundamental mechanics of the bomb-tubes they operated by rote; did not know that they were essentially tractor beam projectors. They did know, however, that tractor beams pulled things toward them; and when they were ordered to swing their ordinary tractors upon the bombs which the Patrolmen were so industriously taking away from them, they hesitated for seconds, even under the lash.
This hesitation was fatal. Haynes' gleeful gunners, staring through their special finders, were very much on their toes; seconds were enough. Their fierce-driven tractors seized the inimical bombs in mid-space, and before the Boskonians could be made to act in the only possible opposition hurled them directly backward against the ships which had issued them. Ordinary defensive screen did not affect them; repulsor screen, meteorite- and wall-shields only sucked them inward the faster.
And ordinary matter and negative matter cannot exist in contact. In the instant of touching, the two unite and disappear, giving rise to vast quantities of intensely hard radiation. One negabomb was enough to put any cruiser out of action, but here there were usually three or four at once. Sometimes as many as ten; enough almost, to consume the total mass of a ship.
A bomb struck; ate in. Through solid armor it melted. Atmosphere rushed out, to disappear en route—for air is normal matter. Along beams and trusses the hellish hyper-sphere travelled freakishly, although usually in the direction of greatest mass. It clung, greedily. Down stanchions it flowed; leaving nothing in its wake, flooding all circumambient space with lethal emanations. Into and through converters. Into pressure tanks, which blew up enthusiastically. Men's bodies it did not seem to favour—not massive enough, perhaps—but even them it did not refuse if offered. A Boskonian, gasping frantically for air which was no longer there and already half mad, went completely mad as he struck savagely at the thing and saw his hand and his arm to the shoulder vanish instantaneously, as though they had never been.

Volunteers vs. consriptees.

Then the heavier elements of the two fleets start tangling.

The Patrol heavy cruisers are like bulldogs - lots of defences, they tangle with the enemies and tie them down until something heavier can finish the job.

Then, finally, the maulers come into play.

It has already been mentioned that, at the moment, Boskone has a mauler gap, also, they lack the detailed co-ordination of the Grand Fleet.
...at which point, it's pretty much all over save for the clean-up.

Having dealt with, for now, the enemy forces, the Grand Fleet switches to an exploratory mode.
Second Stage Lensmen - page 168 said:
In the centre, of course, was the Z9M9Z. Around her was a close-packed quadruple globe of maulers. Outside of them in order, came sphere after sphere of super-dreadnoughts, of battleships, of heavy cruisers, and of light cruisers. Then, not in globe at all, but ranging far and wide, were the scouts. Into the edge of the nearest spiral arm of the Second Galaxy the stupendous formation advanced, and along it it proceeded at dead slow blast. Dead slow, to enable the questing scouts to survey thoroughly each planet of every solar system as they came to it.
They are looking for an Earth-like world...
...and, finally, one is found (Dr. Smith doesn't mention how long.)

A world near-identical to Tellus... different-shaped continents, a slightly higher ocean:land ratio, population 'human to the limits of classification'...


...a world that, surprisingly, has never heard of Boskone!

A world to who's population space travel or atomic energy are merely theoretical possibilities.

...but the Klovians have problems of their own...
Second Stage Lensmen - page 169 said:
They had no planetary organisation, being still divided politically into sovereign states which were all too often at war with each other. In fact, a world war had just burned itself out, a war of such savagery that only a fraction of the world's population remained alive. There had been no victor, of course. All had lost everything—the survivors of each nation, ruined as they were and without either organisation or equipment, were trying desperately to rebuild some semblance of what they had once had.
Ok, so they managed to nearly wipe themselves out without having nukes?! :eek:

OTOH, when this story was published (Jan. 1942), space travel nuclear power (and weapons) were only a theoretical possibility for Earth as well. Also, I've just checked the relevant issue of Astounding, that bit of text is unchanged.

The Psychologists of the patrol breath a sigh of relief - at least these people won't have picked up any bad habits from the Boskonians.
[ooc]Adaption Note: Imagine the scene - a post apocalyptic world - a small band of survivors struggle to rebuild their society.
Then, one night, the person on watch looks up and sees a lot more stars than usual, and realises...
The lights in the sky are (not) stars!
The Patrol sets to work re-building Klovia, and fortifying the system against the inevitable Boskonian onslaught.

The locals are happy to have them, especially once they realise that none of their erstwhile rivals will be taking charge.

Now Haynes brings in the heavy stuff, free planets, nega-spheres (the planet-sized ones), sunbeam arrays, orbital fortresses, etc.
...also a few million colonists (as Klovia's population is a bit sparse ATM)- all who know they're moving to a big fat target.
The locals see an immediate improvement in standard of living.

But yeah, Haynes, you know you're painting a multi-AU wide target on Klovia.
Second Stage Lensmen - page 170 said:
People came, and worked, and stayed. Ships came, and trafficked. Trade and commerce increased tremendously. And further and further abroad, as there came into being upon that formerly almost derelict planet some seventy-odd gigantic defensive establishments, there crept out an ever-widening screen of scout-ships, with all their high-powered feelers hotly outstretched.
...and how long does this take?

Meanwhile, Kim and Nadreck trace the communications line back to Onlo, and thus, Thrale.

...a job that was every bit as difficult and dangerous as they anticipated... and, mostly, unsubscribed.
Second Stage Lensmen - page 170 said:
As Kinnison and Haynes had foreseen, that line was heavily trapped. Luckily, however, it had not been moved so radically that the searchers could not re-discover it; the zwilniks were, as Haynes had promised, very busily engaged with other and more important matters. All of those traps were deadly, and many of them were ingenious indeed—so ingenious as to test to the utmost the "cowardly" Palainian's skill and mental scope. All, however, failed. The two Lensmen held to the line in spite of the pitfalls and followed it to the end. Nadreck stayed upon or near Onlo, to work in its frightful environment against the monsters to whom he was biologically so closely allied, while the Tellurian went on to try conclusions with Alcon, the Tyrant of Thrale.
Kim starts preparing for the most important undercover mission of his carrier, with minimal backup.

This time, he's going to replace an existing Thralian officer...
...one of Kim's build...
...one that, while not one of Alcon's personal troups, should be from near enough in the chain of command...
...inconspicuous, but with a record of accomplishment, someone who people wouldn't be surprised to start earning promotions...

After a while, he finds his man, a lieutenant in the Royal Guard named Traska Gannel.
And, I presume, after studying the guy's entire memory in detail, replaces him.
(I think we can all safely assume that the original Traska Gannel is now dead).

Thanks to Kim's mental abilities, any of Traska Gannel's friends or associates recognise Kim as Traska.
Physical records, such as photos, etc. are replaced (with Worsel's aid) by cunningly made forgeries...
...but tracking down every photo of Gannel ever taken, when even Gannel himself might not remember them all?
When Gannel graduated from military academy, his photo was taken for the academy annual... about a thousand copies of which were printed, and now scattered across Thrallian space.
No way to find them all, Kim just relies of the fact that people rarely look at old annuals.
But he picks that as a cut-off point, all photos of a more recent vintage are tracked down and replaced.

So, having plugged every hole in his new ID that he can (and Kim knows that there will be a few holes he missed, he just hopes everyone else misses them as well), and with Worsel sticking around for a few weeks as backup and, if necessary, a decoy, Kim prepares to enter his new role.

But what he didn't know...
...what he couldn't know...
Was that he was getting aid from an unexpected source...
Second Stage Lensmen - page 173 said:
Mentor of Arisia, however, knew many things that Kinnison of Tellus did not; he had powers of which Kinnison would never dream. Mentor knew exactly what entity stood behind Tyrant Alcon's throne; knew exactly what it could and would do; knew that this was one of the most critical instants of Civilisation's long history.
Wherefore every negative of every picture that had ever been taken of Traska Gannel, and every print and reproduction made therefrom, was made to conform; nowhere, throughout the reaches of space or the vistas of time, was there any iota of evidence that the present Traska Gannel had not borne that name since infancy.
..the Arisians are getting involved.
...and hints that whatever is really in charge is really, really scary!

(Also, that entire quoted paragraph is not in the Jan. 1942 Astounding version of the story!)

Lieutenant Traska Gannel of the Royal Guard returns to duty.

Yup, finally the ultimate big bads of the setting! The FNORDs come into play!
Lensman Reference Page

Fabius Maximus

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One thing that any series or movie should bring up is that this is a team effort--Nadrek and Kinnison aren't just good--the fleet is distracting their enemies. A lensmen show should never fall into the trap of "Kim Kinnison and ensign extras."


Tolerant Ent
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...interesting data point on ship construction times - that implies that they can churn out battleships in hours... or maybe what he's saying is that all of those worlds had some kind of home fleet that could be utilised at short notice?
I always put it down to treating local fleets as reserves. Elsewhere reference has been made to it taking substantial time to build Civilisation's warships. Being able to rebuild a galactic fleet in hours would change the game substantially: the strike at Tellus would have turned into a siege as more and more ships were plunged into the fray.

As to why individual planets have their own fleets... space is big and solar systems are small. To protect a world from pirates freedom fighters and upstart rivals would require local defences to at least hold off incursions until they could call in a favour from higher up Boskone's chain of command (or however these things are organised in the Second Galaxy).


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Remember in Jan 1942, Word War II was raging, without Nukes. Cities were bombed, Operation Barbarossa had killed millions, the Japanese had used Poison gas in China. Real World, not SF.

The Great War was a living memory, with it's 'hurricane' bombardments of explosives and poisons. Millions of artillery shells fired in a single battle. Wide swaths of territory looked like the craters of the moon, with corpses ground into the mud And then the Spanish Flu epidemic striking...

Klovia's situation was all too easy for the Historian and his audience to visualize.
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I don't know how much of a US run the film Things to Come got, but Smith at the least would have gotten a thorough description through the fan press. And Things to Come was just a movie representation of 50 years of post-apocalyptic war stories.

Nerik the Red

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Remember in Jan 1942, Word War II was raging, without Nukes. Cities were bombed, Operation Barbarossa had killed millions, the Japanese had used Poison gas in China. World

The Great War was a living memory, with it's 'hurricane' bombardments of explosives and poisons. Wide swaths of territory looked like the craters of the moon, with corpses grounded into the mud And then the Spanish Flu epidemic striking...

Klovia's situation was all too easy for the Historian and his audience to visualize.
Good point, in fact, that reminded me of...
I don't know how much of a US run the film Things to Come got, but Smith at the least would have gotten a thorough description through the fan press. And Things to Come was just a movie representation of 50 years of post-apocalyptic war stories.
...well, actually Well's original book, if the Klovian's had suffered a few decades of continuous war + incidental pandemic...
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