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This was prompted by the mention of the Lensman as a possible inspiration for Jedi over here, and them being mentioned on the Green Lantern Wikipedia page as an inspiration. I'm not familiar with older sci-fi/pulp/space operas, so I'm curious if Lensman pioneered the idea of space cops or space military.

edit: Per the comment below, I'm looking for something prior to 1937.

  • A hard reference point would be useful here: The original stories that were published in 1950 as the book Galactic Patrol were first serialized in 1937. So I guess the question becomes "Were there any stories of Space Cops were published prior to 1937?" – Bevan Mar 14 '11 at 23:34
  • I thought "A Columbus of Space" by Garret P. Serviss (1909) would be an answer but looking closely at it I have to say, no... – Darius Mar 15 '11 at 2:46
  • E.E. Smith actually wrote an essay "The Epic of Space" about writing the Lensman series. He mentions various space war and space police stories he studied when planning the Lensman series. The list could be interesting. Even if the earliest story he mentions turns out to be after Edmund Hamilton's first interstellar patrol story, some of the stories could be interesting to those who like really old space operas. – M. A. Golding Jan 13 '17 at 4:44
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"The Star-Stealers" by Edmond Hamilton, the first story in his Interstellar Patrol series, was published in Weird Tales, February 1929 (available at the Internet Archive), a good year before Sewell Peaslee Wright's John Hanson series which began with "The Forgotten Planet" in Astounding Stories of Super-Science, July 1930. (There is no Interstellar Patrol in Hamilton's 1928 story "Crashing Suns" which the ISFDB for some reason lists as the first story in the series.)

Excerpt from "The Star-Stealers":

It was the yellow star that I was watching, now, as our ship fled on toward it at eighty times the speed of light; for more than two years had passed since our cruiser had left it, to become a part of that great navy of the Federation of Stars which maintained peace over all the Galaxy. We had gone far with the fleet, in those two years, cruising with it the length and breadth of the Milky Way, patrolling the space-lanes of the Galaxy and helping to crush the occasional pirate ships which appeared to levy toll on the interstellar commerce. And now that an order flashed from the authorities of our own solar system had recalled us home, it was with an unalloyed eagerness that we looked forward to the moment of our return. The stars we had touched at, the peoples of their worlds, these had been friendly enough toward us, as fellow-members of the great Federation, yet for all their hospitality we had been glad enough to leave them. For though we had long ago become accustomed to the alien and unhuman forms of the different stellar races, from the strange brain-men of Algol to the birdlike people of Sirius, their worlds were not human worlds, not the familiar eight little planets which swung around our own sun, and toward which we were speeding homeward now.

Hamilton's Interstellar Patrol series has also come up in answer to the questions First story that takes place outside the Milky Way and Which Sci-Fi work introduced the idea of "FTL Travel"? and Was the original Enterprise truly the first sci-fi spaceship designed purely for exploration? and Which Sci-Fi work was the first to depict "Multi-Alien Culture"?.

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    Also reasonably up-to-date by counting only eight planets in our solar system :-) – Flash Sheridan Feb 3 '16 at 3:04
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Sewell P. Wright's "The Commander John Hanson" series (e.g. "The Forgotten Planet") features Special Patrol Service, the space-police arm of the mercantile space empire known as Interplanetary Alliance.

They were published in Astounding Stories, from 1930 to 1933, well before 1937 (the full list can be found in "Science-fiction: the Gernsback years : a complete coverage of the genre" By Everett Franklin Bleiler, Richard Bleiler).


Also, a minor mention of the existence of space police (though the police per se don't play major role, so this might not fit the spirit of your question though it fits the letter) is "Uncertainty" by John Campbell (published in Astounding Stories, 1936).

There are other minor mentions of the existence of space police (again not as main part of the story) in several other works published in the 30s, as can be seen by searching for "space police" in the Google Books version of "Science-fiction: the Gernsback years".

Edit. The ten stories in Sewell Peaslee Wright's John Hanson series are available at Project Gutenberg:

"The Forgotten Planet" from Astounding Stories of Super-Science, July 1930, etext here;
"The Terrible Tentacles of L-472", from Astounding Stories of Super-Science, September 1930, etext here;
"The Dark Side of Antri", from Astounding Stories of Super-Science, January 1931, etext here;
"The Ghost World", from Astounding Stories, April 1931, etext here;
"The Man from 2071", from Astounding Stories, June 1931, etext here;
"The God in the Box", from Astounding Stories, September 1931, etext here;
"The Terror from the Depths", from Astounding Stories, November 1931, etext here;
"Vampires of Space", from Astounding Stories, March 1932, etext here;
"Priestess of the Flame", from Astounding Stories, June 1932, etext here;
"The Death-Traps of FX-31", from Astounding Stories, March 1933, etext here.

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To quote the Wikipedia article on Roman Starzl (which I started, but didn’t write all of): “His writing is largely forgotten now, but he was called a "master" by the pioneer of space opera E. E. Smith. Starzl's Interplanetary Flying Patrol, in The Hornets of Space, may have influenced Smith's Galactic Patrol.”

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E.E. Smith actually wrote an essay "The Epic of Space" about writing the Lensman series.

He mentions various space war and space police stories he studied when planning the Lensman series. The list could be interesting. Even if the earliest story he mentions turns out to be after Edmund Hamilton's first interstellar patrol story, some of the stories could be interesting to those who like really old space operas.

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    This doesn't actually answer the question; it suggests a line of inquiry that might update the answers, but doesn't answer it, itself. It would probably work better as a comment; flagging as non-answer for hopeful conversion to comment. – K-H-W Jan 10 '17 at 16:51

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