->''"Holy Klono's tungsten teeth and curving carballoy claws!"''

Creator/EEDocSmith's classic series, one of the very first {{Space Opera}}s. As such, many classic SpaceOpera tropes were [[TropeMaker first seen]] in Smith's books, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the genesis of ScienceFiction.

The series, assembled from initially-unconnected short stories in ''Astounding Stories'' magazine from 1937 onwards, details an epic battle between [[BalanceBetweenGoodAndEvil Good and Evil]] as personified by Civilization (and their sponsors, Arisia) and Boskone (and ''their'' sponsors, Eddore). Each faction is, in fact, the pawn of a different race of SufficientlyAdvancedAliens who each have a [[ScaryDogmaticAliens grand plan]] for the sentient beings of the universe.

The Kinnison bloodline plays an important role for Civilization, since it was [[GambitRoulette carefully bred over millennia]] by the Arisians to [[EvolutionaryLevels produce a race of super-beings]] that would ultimately [[AGodAmI supplant the Arisians themselves]].

The title object, the Lens of Civilization, is an EmpathicWeapon that initially grants its users PsychicPowers which vary in strength and effectiveness from user to user, as well as providing an identification for Law Enforcement that cannot be forged or duplicated and instantly kills anyone attempting impersonation. For certain, [[TheChosenOne special]] individuals, the Lens is no more than a MagicFeather.

As originally written in the 1930s and early 1940s, the ''Lensman'' series consisted of four novels:
* ''Galactic Patrol''
* ''Gray Lensman''
* ''Second-Stage Lensmen'' (note plural)
* ''Children of the Lens''

In the early 1950s, however, Smith wrote a lengthy prologue to an earlier (and previously unrelated) book of his named ''Triplanetary'', which brought it into the Lensman universe. He also wrote an {{interquel}} novel, ''First Lensman'', to bridge the gap between the events in ''Triplanetary'' and the events in ''Galactic Patrol''.

''Masters of the Vortex'' came along later, and although it exists in the same universe, the events of the Boskonian war are both peripheral and irrelevant to the plot. Atomic powerplants around the galaxy have for many years been exploding, turning into all-consuming, all-polluting, inexorably-growing fireballs that defy analysis, explanation or control. Neal Cloud, a mathematical prodigy who heads up the scientific efforts to do all three, is inspired to develop a means for their destruction when he loses his family to one and sets out to clear the galaxy of them. Along the way, he has various adventures, foils a criminal mastermind and - with the help of a female cybernetic engineer every bit as brilliant as he is - finds out the stunning truth of exactly what the Vortices are and why.

The ''Lensman'' series was later used as the starting point for a (non-licensed) Japanese Anime movie ("SF New Century Lensman") and series ("Lensman: Galactic Patrol") , which took the [[BroadStrokes basic outline]] and the [[InNameOnly names of most of the major characters]] and turned it all into a ''StarWars'' ripoff. Doc Smith's estate attempted to sue the anime's creators over the series but the lawsuit was thrown out on a technicality (they waited too long before doing anything about it and thus failed to protect their copyright). The movie and a CompilationMovie of part of the series were dubbed in English by Harmony Gold USA; later, Creator/StreamlinePictures redubbed the movie with the original soundtrack and no cuts for content.

In 1963 the New England Science Fiction Association named their annual SF convention "Boskone" (a play on "'''Bos'''ton '''Con'''vention) in Smith's honor. The convention newsletter is named "Helmuth", of course.[[note]]Helmuth is an intermediate [[TheDragon Dragon]] who always begins his messages to his underlings by saying "Helmuth, speaking for Boskone!"[[/note]] After a group of fans got [[PersonaNonGrata in trouble with the Boskone organizers]], they started up an alternative convention...and, of course, called it "Arisia."

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!!Tropes used in the ''Lensman'' series include:

* ActionGirl - Clarissa Kinnison is surprisingly badass, given the time period.
** Especially later on, Clarissa is quite badass for ''most'' time periods.
** Her daughters, two sets of twins aged eighteen and nineteen, aren't far behind her and later on they turn it {{up to eleven}} - possibly twelve.
* AGodAmI - [[spoiler: The Arisians and Eddorians]], and even more so, [[spoiler: Kimball Kinnison's children]].
* AlienLunch: The planet Trenco, where anything has to be willing to eat anything in order to survive, and usually does - to the point where a creature will take pains to finish its lunch even while being lunched upon itself.
* AlliterativeName - Conway Costigan, Kimball Kinnison. Joan Janowick (in ''Masters of the Vortex'').
** Oh, it doesn't stop ''there'': Christopher "Kit" Kinnison, Kathryn "Kat" Kinnison, Camilla "Cam" Kinnison, Karen "Kay" Kinnison, Constance "Con" Kinnison...
* AlwaysChaoticEvil - Nearly all of Boskone is so evil that virtually no prisoners are ever taken. On ''both'' sides of the war. Several entire Boskonian homeworlds (all of them effectively planet-sized fortresses) are destroyed with no survivors over the course of the series, and no one in Civilization ever thinks twice about it.
** On at least one occasion, Kinnison notes that the previous life on that planet had been exterminated to make way for the base; this is hinted at as being standard Boskonian technique.
* AlienNonInterferenceClause: The Arisians and Eddorians do not engage in direct conflict with each other or with the lesser races, and instead work through cutouts and manipulation. This is because the Arisians are strong enough to keep the Eddorians more or less bottled up, but not strong enough to kill the Eddorians' elite council members, and too much Arisian meddling with Civilization will hinder the development of the lesser races.
* AmuletOfConcentratedAwesome - Played straight by having the Lensmen's lenses amplify their PsychicPowers. [[spoiler: For the Second-Stage Lensmen they turned out just to be [[MagicFeather magic feathers]], as Second-Stage Lensmen are advanced enough to use mind powers on their own.]]
** The Lens amplifies psi power in humans, it does other things for other species (some of whom are already naturally powerful psionically).
** Even a Second (and on occasion a Third) Stage Lensman is advised to wear it when a maximum effort is required. Despite having done everything up to that point without it, Kim Kinnison makes sure he puts his on before duelling Thralian Prime Minister Fossten, and Kim's teenage daughters [[spoiler:materialise Lenses for themselves ''out of thin air'']] when directing their share of the space combat at the Battle of Arisia.
** Due to being LoyalPhlebotinum, and the nature of mind-to-mind contact, it also functions as an [[MembershipToken impossible-to-counterfeit badge of rank]], and a justification for Lensmen being incorruptible and thus able to operate above the law when necessary.
* AnAxeToGrind - The Valerian [[RecycledInSpace space]] axe. The universe's personal battle armour (and its associated energy shield) deflects most hand-held projectile and energy weapons, and the Valerians are fast enough, thanks to their origin on a high-grav world, to close the distance before the few exceptions can do much good.
* AncientConspiracy - The Eddorian master plan to dominate all life in the Universe is older than our own solar system.
* AncientTradition - The Arisians are committed to guarding every intelligent species' right to determine its own way of life, and are both older and more powerful than even the Eddorians.
* AnimalEyeSpy - Kinnison does this mostly, using everything from dogs to worms to infiltrate enemy bases or perform critical tasks. Nadreck takes a hint later.
* AnimatedAdaptation - Obscure anime adaptation, ''LensmanGalacticPatrol''.
* AppealToForce: In ''First Lensman'', Roderick Kinnison suggests that the Galactic Patrol simply conquer North America by right of the bigger fleet. First Lensman Samms convinces him to cool his jets and challenge the Morgan political machine through free and fair elections instead, because Virgil Samms believes in the rule of law and seizing power by force would undermine the legitimacy of the Galactic Patrol. (Instead, the Lensmen rewrite the rules so that they are ''legally'' above the law.)
* AppliedPhlebotinum - Ultrawaves, good for everything from [[FasterThanLightTravel FTL]] [[SubspaceAnsible communication]] to XRayVision!
* AuthorAvatar - In ''Triplanetary'', Ralph Kinnison is reading a ''Lensman''-like sci-fi story when the news about Pearl Harbor comes on the radio. He comes out of retirement, taking a job in a munitions factory where his training in organic chemistry makes him a useful asset. E.E. "Doc" Smith, SF author, had a [=PhD=] in organic chemistry (although specifically related to foodstuffs rather than explosives). Would be a CanonSue, except that Kinnison is ultimately defeated: ([[spoiler: shells and mines loaded at the factory are going off prematurely, killing good men; Kinnison walks away from the job rather than accept orders to violate quality control and safety standards - orders which could be implied as being issued under Eddorian influence]]).
** While details are sketchy at this late date, it was well known to fans who knew Smith that the explosives factory section, including the firing, was autobiographical.
* AwesomenessByAnalysis - The Arisians' "Visualization of the Cosmic All", which effectively gives them precognition from [[SufficientlyAdvancedAliens sufficiently]] analyzing a person or object.
** Costigan also has a talent for figuring out the details of how to operate, repair, and modify both alien technologies and alien social interactions with a brief observation.
* BadassArmy - The Lensmen may have been SF's first, being equipped with small arms that vaporize a person, personal shields that can survive said small arms, a machine gun equivalent that can boil steel in seconds, 'caterpillars' giant tanks fitted with starship-grade weaponry...
* BadassUnintentional - Nadreck the Palainian kills three of Boskone's highest-ranking leaders in single combat in an OffscreenMomentOfAwesome. He considers that mission a fiasco because he failed to get them to kill one another instead, and [[BlueAndOrangeMorality his species values self-preservation as much as those strange, warmblooded Tellurians value courage]].
* BalanceBetweenGoodAndEvil - Civilization v. Boskone
** That is, initially. Once they [[LetsGetDangerous gear up for total war]], this ceases to apply.
* BastardUnderstudy - Among Boskone (and their controllers, e.g. the Eddorians) it is regarded as quite acceptable, even praiseworthy, for [[TheStarscream an underling to scheme]] to [[YouKillItYouBoughtIt supplant their superior]] – the idea being that if he's successful the superior is no longer fit (e.g. not cunning and ruthless enough) to hold their position anyway.
* BatmanGambit
* BeamSpam - on a regular basis, escalating throughout the series.
* BeardnessProtectionProgram - Kinnison grows a beard to go undercover as Chester Q. Fordyce.
* BeethovenWasAnAlienSpy - Several tyrants throughout Earth history, including Nero, GenghisKhan, and AdolfHitler, were actually guises used by Gharlane of Eddore. Also, an in-universe example with the scientist Bergenholm. In the second book, he comes up with the breakthrough to make the Inertialess Drive safe and efficient. Later, they find out that [[spoiler:he was an Arisian]].
* BewareTheNiceOnes - Lensmen get referred to as "sublimated boy scouts" by one character, but by Klono's amazingly alliterative appendages, don't let them catch you engaging in piracy or dealing drugs. Not to mention that they use planets as strategic weapons.
* BFG - The Standish, the equivalent of a machine gun, and it replacement, the semi-portable.
* BigBad: Helmuth, the leader of the Boskone.
* BiggerBad: The Eddorians.
* TheBigBoard - TropeMaker, to the extent that the [[LifeImitatesArt US Navy borrowed the idea]].
* BizarreAlienBiology - The Palainians' metabolism has to extend into the fourth dimension in order to function in their native environment (Pluto is as far inside Earth's solar system as they feel comfortable living), and there are other races that take this to even greater extremes.
* BizarreAlienSenses: The Rigellians (and many other races) use a bizarre sense that gives a worldview much like the best solid-modeling programs. They can even see things like the innermost components of shielded power reactors. [[note]]The flip side of this is that they rely ''exclusively'' on that sense and lack both sight and hearing. In consequence, it's sheer torture for other species to spend time in their cities, because their cars have no windows, their buildings have no sources of light and they make no attempt whatsoever to avoid loud noises... a visit to Rigel therefore involves a great deal of sitting around in the dark being startled by loud bangs, screams and howls of various kinds.[[/note]] High-stage Lensmen can also develop this sense.
** The Cahuitans (''Masters...'') are such high-energy beings that the only relics or evidence of Galactic Civilzation they can perceive are the cores of nuclear power plants. Even their thoughts are on such a high bandwidth that communication with ordinary beings is almost impossible. This lets them down badly when they [[spoiler:try to ensure they're doing no harm before turning what they perceive as 'kindling' into incubators for their offspring.]]
* BlackAndWhiteMorality - Yes and no. The Arisians [[DefiedTrope defy]] this on numerous occasions, repeatedly stating that good and evil are ultimately relative, and the Arisians and the races of Civilization recognize that different races will have BlueAndOrangeMorality. However, from the perspective of the races of Civilization, personal liberty is recognized as a pole star to be desired by everyone, the rigid fascism and [[TheSocialDarwinist Social Darwinism]] of Boskone are utterly inimical to this, and the narrator does use "evil" as a shorthand for Boskonian actions.
* BlueAndOrangeMorality - Recognized among the races of Civilization, to the extent that different races' Lensmen have entirely different codes of honor and conduct. However, BlackAndWhiteMorality still applies between Civilization and Boskone.
** An example may help. Nadrek, the Palanian Second-Stage Lensman, is regarded as every bit as much a hero by his race's standards as Kinnison is by human standards. The Blue and Orange part comes in because Palanians consider cowardice and guile to be ''virtues''. Nadrek is so thoroughly ashamed of "botching" his ''single-handed'' elimination of a major Boskonian base so badly that three (out of, at the very least, hundreds) of the Boskonians failed to kill each other/themselves and he ''personally'' had to eliminate them using (shudder) physical conflict that he records the details of this operation only under strong protest, and immediately places the recording under "Lensman's Seal", which effectively means "Ain't nobody seeing this never." Kinnison's reaction is pretty similar to the reader's: "Took out an entire base all by himself, something nobody else could have done, heroically risked his own life in personal combat to finish up the job, and he's embarrassed because he thinks it wasn't elegant enough. Palanians are weird."
* BoardingParty - many, many times. Justified in that the villains are space pirates by nature, and interested in loot as much as interruption of trade.
* BoringInvincibleHero: The main characters may appaer as this to some readers since they tend to be good at nearly everything in the story.
* BreakTheCutie - Herkimer Herkimer III wants Virgilia Samms to tell him the secret of the Lens, and there are no lengths he won't go to in order to make her talk. It ends very badly for him.
* BrotherSisterIncest - Never happens in the books themselves, but the five Kinnison kids are the new ultimate beings – a race seperate from the rest of humanity and the founding population of a new species of SufficientlyAdvancedAliens. One brother, four sisters, do the math. Vaguely foreshadowed (as strongly as the era would allow, anyway) in the last book.
** [[spoiler: There are also hints at one point that Christopher Kinnison might harbor a few unfilial feelings for his mother Clarissa... and maybe it's mutual.]]
* CallToAdventure
** Dronvire, the first Rigellian Lensman, especially.
* CasualInterstellarTravel - After the Bergenholm drive was created.
* TheChosenMany - The Lensmen as a whole. In point of fact, according to some sources, the Lensmen inspired another famous Chosen Many, the Green Lantern Corps. (The Corps' creators deny this, although later they made amends by adding [=GLs=] named after elements of ''Lensman''.)
* CigaretteOfAnxiety - Before the final battle in ''Children of the Lens'', one of the Kinnison girls is trying to chain-smoke, but is so wound up that she only manages one or two puffs before stubbing the cigarette out and lighting a new one.
* ClothesMakeTheSuperman - The [[RecycledInSpace space]] armor in ''Triplanetary'' incorporates forcefields that can resist steel-cutting [[strike:lasers]] rays. It only goes up from there.
** True in a psychological sense as well, at least for Clarissa, who at one point thinks that she's competent enough wearing anything, or nothing at all for that matter, but when she's in her "grays" she can hit "Service Maximum".
* CodeName - "Boskone" originated as the Galactic Patrol's secret codename for operations against the space pirates, unaware that the code name was devised by a Patrol scientist who was [[spoiler:a physical manifestation of Arisian telekinetic power. They deliberately fed the Patrol the right name.]]
** "Zwilnik" was the Patrol's codename for their operations against a drug smuggling ring at around the same time as Operation Boskone; by Kimball's time, the word "zwilnik" has become standard [[FutureSlang slang]] referring to drug traffickers.
*** This may well be due more to the properties of the Lens, and the way its translation function works, than to anything else. When translating the Boskonians' own word for themselves, it would be "aware" that a suitable new English word had already been invented to translate it, and would therefore use that word in preference to either reproducing the sound of the Boskonian word or making up a new word itself.
* ColonyDrop - One weapon (that eventually becomes standardized for both sides) is the "free planet" - a small, rocky, generally otherwise-useless planetoid given a network of inertialess drives so that it can be dragged off wherever needed, then turned loose to seriously wreck someone's day.
* CombatPragmatist - Costigan. Kinnison also.
** The standard Galactic Patrol hand-to-hand combat textbook largely follows his advice.
* CoolStarship - The ''Boise'', the ''Brittania'', and the ''Dauntless'' all come to mind.
** When one runs the numbers for the starship ''Dauntless'', one learns that its power system can generate six times the solar insolation experienced by Earth. That is, ''Dauntless'' could, using 1/6th of its full power, take the place of the Sun for the planet Earth.
** The ''Boise'' from ''Triplanetary.'' Humanity's first interstellar space ship, natch.
* TheCorrupter - Everyone involved in the galaxy-wide Boskonian thionite smuggling operation is this to some degree or another, working to subvert Civilization from within. In-universe, the Lensmen seem to regard this as an even more insidious danger than the {{Space Pirate}}s attempting to assault them from without.
* [[DarkIsNotEvil Dark Is Not (Necessarily) Evil]]: Initially, the [[StarfishAlien frigid-blooded, poison-breathing]], [[AlienGeometries multidimensional]] [[EldritchAbomination Eich]], briefed in a perpetual aura of [[EvilIsDeathlyCold near-absolute zero cold]], are truly scary monsters and the epitome of evil. But later, the Palainians (a closely related species, about as similar to them as we are to HumanAliens) turn out to be honorable and reliable (if [[BlueAndOrangeMorality weird]]) allies of Civilization.
** From Kinnison's perspective, yes. The reader meets the Palainians first, in ''First Lensman'', and doesn't encounter the Eich for another two books.
* DeceptivelyHumanRobots - Most of [[spoiler:Gray Roger's crew]] look outwardly identical to people, but given the setting's lack of processing power, they're effectively remote-controlled puppets.
** Where's it say that latter bit? The setting has independently working robots elsewhere – Whole space fleets crewed by them towards the end of the series!
* DeflectorShields - Usually referred to as "ether-walls" or "screens." Unlike their ''Star Trek'' successors, for ships these are almost always multi-layered (two or three layers is typical) and there's a final layer ("wall-shield") that's almost integral with the outer skin of the ship. When the wall-shield fails, that's it. Screens also reradiate the incoming energy as light of frequency dependent on the intensity of the attack — failing screens are described as going through the spectrum to ultraviolet, then — black.
** Personal shields are also standard protection for Patrolmen. As was later the case in ''Literature/{{Dune}}'', a shield's repulsive force is proportional to the speed of the impacting object -- or in this case, proportional to the speed of the impacting object to the 5th power -- so ray gun blasts are completely intercepted while an axe swing might just make it through.
* DemocracyIsBad: ''First Lensman'' is ambivalent at best about democracy, as one of the main adversaries is a SleazyPolitician who manages to gather a significant amount of populist support, and a heroic character openly suggests [[AppealToForce resolving the problem with a military coup]] (the Patrol ultimately decide that the rule of law is important enough to let the voters decide, however). Later in the timeline, galactic government is replaced with an unelected Patrol governed by TheChosenMany, who are completely above the law and answer to no one, and this is unambiguously a good thing.
** Not quite; there is a representative (and presumably civilian) "Galactic Council" that governs, or at least legislates, and most planets we see also have democratic-seeming local governments. ''First Lensman'' is generally more about DemocracyIsFlawed. That said, the Patrol ''is'' a very powerful executive agency within this framework -- Almost a sort of heroic StateSec.
** When the Patrol moves into the Second Galaxy, they resort to a manipulated Democracy Imposed From Without, in the hope that in time the ex-slaves of Boskone will get used to the idea of real democracy.
* DidWeJustHaveTeaWithCthulhu: Virgil Samms feels like this after establishing [[FirstContact maybe second or third contact]] with the Palainians.
** Averted when Mentor of Arisia assists Kimball Kinnison in destroying Prime Miniser Fosteen (Gharlane of Eddore), then convinces him that Fosteen was a renegade Arisian and that Kinnison dispatched him without help.
* DisintegratorRay - Without the later trappings of safety and convenience. The beams used really ''do'' vaporize their targets, with all the attendant thermodynamics, so best wear a shielded suit when firing unless you want your front half to be blackened cajun-style.
** Depends on the weapon. Kim Kinnison fires his [=DeLameters=] while unarmoured on several occasions, and it's hinted that its ancestor, the Lewiston, can also be fired by an unprotected user. The Semi-portable projectors, on the other hand...
*** The [=DeLameters=] do have [[HoldingBackThePhlebotinum power settings]], also.
* DolledUpInstallment: The "first" novel in the series, ''Triplanetary'', was originally unconnected to the saga, but later rewritten and expanded as a "{{Prequel}}".
* EarthShatteringKaboom - In the third volume the bad guys' main base has a scuttling charge that [[ColonyDrop pulverizes the crust of the planet it's on]]. This being the origin of the LensmanArmsRace, they have to find [[SoLastSeason a way to beat that]]. So starting in the forth book, the superweapons of choice are ''planet-sized antimatter bombs'' and planets travelling in opposite directions and smashing the target between them. Yeah, beat that. ([[UpToEleven And they do]], with colliding planets from [[AnotherDimension another universe]] travelling at fifteen times the speed of light.)
* EldritchAbomination: Not only are the Eddorians already from a [[HyperspaceIsAScaryPlace horribly different other continuum]], but they have to disguise their appearances or [[PunyEarthlings mere humans]] will [[BrownNote go insane]] upon seeing them.
* EmpathicWeapon - The Lens.
* EnigmaticEmpoweringEntity - The Arisians serve this role for much of the plot, bestowing Lenses on those they judge worthy of them.
* EqualOpportunityEvil - Boskone dosn't really care what planet its mooks come from, as long as they don't screw up. On the other hand, the Eddorians ''are'' looking for the perfect race to be their front; and because of the very nature of the Eddorians, the more sexless, the better.
** The Kalonians got the job initially because the only function of their women is the production of men. The Lyranians, on the other hand, are a Matriarchal society to the same degree. Give them a few years and a little bit of help... [[spoiler: Helen of Lyrane and Clarissa Kinnison put a firm stop to that.]]
* EternalProhibition - All illegal drugs are still illegal in the far future, [[StatusQuoIsGod as they should be]]; indeed, much of the Galactic Patrol's work is replicating a galactic DEA ([[JudgeJuryAndExecutioner with Judge Dredd's plenipotentiary powers]]). Drug pushing seems to be regarded as the most serious of crimes; the punishment is either death or [[BrainwashingForTheGreaterGood corrective psychological therapy]].
** The Patrol focuses its efforts on thionite, which is really nasty stuff (and more importantly, whose dealers are part of the Boskonian food chain). Bentlam weed, on the other hand, seems to be the equivalent of marijuana - the Patrol doesn't even bother mentioning it. (Not that using it, even for an undercover job, doesn't make Kinnison feel disgusted...)
* EverybodySmokes - [[DoubleStandard Even the women]]. Tobacco is never once maligned in the series. Fine brand cigarettes are imported to Tellus all the way from Alsakan, all the way across the galaxy. Society marches on...
* EvilOnlyHasToWinOnce - Averted. The Arisians point out to Helmuth that there is absolutely no way to defeat them, and that if humanity proves incapable of using the Lens to defeat Boskone, then they'll just let him conquer and corrupt this iteration of Civilization while they wait for another one. Indeed, ''Triplanetary'' reveals how the Eddorians have managed to ruin Earth's civilization more than once in the ancient past, only for humanity to keep evolving anyway.
* EvolutionaryLevels - Lensmen are graded on stages from First to Third; only specially bred individuals get past First-Stage Lensman at the time of the story. It is hinted at that humanity would evolve as a whole to the point that achieving Second Stage would be common.
* ExplosiveOverclocking - Primary beams, which take the mechanism of a regular beam projector and use it as a one-shot cartridge.
* FasterThanLightTravel - the "inertialess drive" and later, [[OurWormholesAreDifferent Hyperspatial tubes]].
* FakeMemories - supplied by the Boskonians whenever their agents [[spoiler:bite the amnesia pill]] and on one occasion more benignly by Kim Kinnison in order to rehabilitate one of those agents, who had been their puppet [[{{Squick}} since she was fourteen.]]
** Kinnison once had Worsel give ''him'' false memories in order to sow disinformation among the Eich leadership.
* FateWorseThanDeath - After the trio has been captured by Gray Roger, Clio has the following conversation with her guide:
-->"But I wouldn't want to keep on living!" Clio declared, with a flash of spirit. "And I can always die, you know."
-->"You will find that you cannot die," the passionless creature returned monotonously. "If you do not yield, you will long and pray for death, but you will not die unless Roger wills it. I was like you once. I also struggled, and I became what I am now - whatever it is."
** Later Conway remarks that the woman "isn't alive - she's full of the prettiest machinery and communicators that you ever saw!" Which leads to a ''major'' FridgeHorror moment when one stops to wonder just how many other of Roger's robots started out as human.
*** That's the original version of ''Triplanetary'', before it was rewritten for the ''Lensman'' series. In the revised version, it's never implied the woman was anything but a robot.
**** It is deliberately left ambiguous at first; in the revised version of the above quote, the words from "I was like you..." onwards are replaced by "Look at me: I cannot die". Clio assumes that she is a living being rendered unable to die, and is vastly relieved when Costigan informs her of the truth.
* TheFederation - A multi-species multi-planet civilization is common these days in science fiction, written and visual (see ''StarWars'', ''Franchise/StarTrek'', Brin's ''Uplift'' Universe, et cetera) but it had a [[UrExample definite start]], and it was here. Ironically enough, unlike most modern portrayals where the bad guys tend to be a [[PlanetOfHats single species]], both the heroes and the villains were multi-species and multi-planet (the heroes unusually so for the time period and possibly still to this day).
* FinishHim - Mentor to Kim Kinnison, regarding Gharlane, and with good reason: "Destroy him therefore, forthwith, before he regains consciousness, lest much and grievous harm befall you."
* FlorenceNightingaleEffect - The Chief Surgeon and the Port Admiral try to set this up between Clarissa and Kinnison, only for the two of them to [[BelligerentSexualTension annoy the hell out of each other]] at first. Later, of course, they do fall in love. [[spoiler: As the Arisians had intended them to do all along. They were the penultimates in their breeding program.]]
** This is lampshaded early on: in the first book ''Triplanetary'' it's mentioned ... and demonstrated ... that [[spoiler:the two breeding lines would instinctively be incompatible with each other until the time was right.]]
* FriendOrFoe - telling the difference was one of the reasons the Lens became a necessity.
* FutureSlang - Lots of it, including "zwilnik" as mentioned above, but the most prevalent is "QX" as a replacement for "OK."
** "Jets" replace "balls," as in "having the jets to pull this off."
* FuturisticSuperhighway - In the BigApplesauce of the future, Lensman Virgil Samms drives his gyro-stabilised two-wheeler onto the Wright Skyway, a limited-access superhighway with a maze of feeder ramps running all the way up the skyscraper he's working in, and higher (presumably exits for {{Flying Car}}s). The only problem is learning to ignore the bombardment of very noisy advertising (which he later discovers is NOT limited to humanity!).
* GadgeteerGenius - Practically every inventor or engineer in the series can whip up new devices or radically modify and rebuild existing ones in a matter of minutes, often in the middle of a raging battle. Justified in Fred Rhodebush and Lyman Cleveland's case, since they are the acknowledged world experts in their fields. LaVerne Thorndyke is their equivalent in Kim Kinnison's era.
** Kinnison (a combat officer) plays the role himself to a degree, on Velantia, but even here it's justified because the technical breakdown of the captured Boskonian battleship has already been performed by experts and the Velantian engineers are mostly duplicating from blueprints. When it comes to tapping the enemy's communications, however, he has to wait until his Chief Communications Officer arrives. Later in the series, he has technical experts to do the work for him.
** He does work out off his own bat that it is possible to adapt the Velantian thought-screens to function without the need for a metallic conductor to carry them, and then performs the necessary modifications himself.
* GambitRoulette - not just the Arisian billion year plan ([[CrazyPrepared with redundancies]]!), but many of Kimball Kinnison's infiltration gambits require him to completely assume a new identity, at one point going so far as to systematically (and [[FakeMemories psychically]]) write himself into each and every portion of an enemy soldier's past!
** To say nothing of the identity that required him to become an [[spoiler:alcoholic drug addict, deflecting attention from himself by getting so smashed and high simultaneously that he could barely move a muscle. His mind, on the other hand...]]
* GenderRestrictedAbility - Smith's stories had only one woman who was deemed worthy of the Lens. ''First Lensman'' had the Arisians HandWave it by explaining that the Lenses were intrinsically "masculine". Some of the authorized sequels just threw other Lenswomen in anyway. And a canon Lenswoman ''did'' eventually appear, throwing the original claim somewhat into question, but that's Arisians for you... they [[FromACertainPointOfView say whatever]] [[BatmanGambit elicits the desired reactions]].
** The Arisians told the first crew of Lensmen Candidates that there would be, eventually, just one human woman Lensman, which was Clarrissa. Her daughters [[spoiler: are not fully human, therefore the Arisians were not lying.]]
*** This was mostly Virgilia Samms' conjecture, rather than anything said verbatim by the Arisians.
* GenericanEmpire - The civilization that the protagonists work for is only referred to as "Civilization."
* GladiatorRevolt - In ''Triplanetary'', a small group tries to overthrown Emperor Nero (who is really [[spoiler:Gharlane of Eddore]].)
* GogglesDoSomethingUnusual - The ultra-wave "spy ray"
* GreatOffScreenWar - The Jovian Wars. There were at least four of them, they they resulted in the Triplanetary League forming from Venus, Tellus, and Mars.
* GreenLanternRing - the Lens.
* GuileHero - While Kinnison himself is certainly one, and every Lensman is expected to be one to some degree, the real shining example of this trope in the ''Lensman'' 'verse is Nadreck of Palain VII, who prefers to manipulate his enemies into fighting one another by using his powers to amplify their natural flaws, hatreds, and jealousies. He wipes out one Boskonian base that we see using these methods, and there's evidence that he's pulled the same trick on others.
* GuiltFreeExterminationWar - Depending on the book. In ''First Lensman'', this is averted, but in chronologically later books, as the Boskonian war heats up, it becomes an axiom of battle that no quarter is ever asked or offered by either side, and belonging to Boskone is grounds for death without trial. Relaxed after [[spoiler: the destruction of Ploor. The Patrol is getting thoroughly sick of the {{Mook}} turkey shoot, and lets the fleeing Boskonians return to their homeworlds.]]
** Aversions do occur in later books where circumstances permit - when time constraints are sufficiently relaxed and/or the numbers of Boskonians involved are sufficiently small that it is practical to "rehabilitate" them rather than simply disposing of them. Examples include the crew of the base in the Blakeslee incident, Illona Potter, and indeed Thrale, where vast resources are deployed to rehabilitate the entire planet.
* HarmfulToTouch - Lenses, when not being worn by their proper owners.
* {{Heavyworlder}} - The Valerians, who were originally human colonists, evolving into a HumanSubspecies because of it.
* TheHero: Kim Kinnison.
* HeroOfAnotherStory - See the entry for Nadreck the Palainian under MagnificentBastard.
* HeroesWantRedheads - Kim and Clarissa.
** The SF-nal tradition of redheaded heroines may trace back to Heinlein, or it may trace back to Smith.
* HiredToHuntYourself - Kinnison, while disguised as Major Gannel, arranged for this to happen to himself. He had the Patrol plant evidence that THE Lensman was tracing Boskonian communication lines, and then as Major Gannel had to show only a slight willingness to investigate before being ordered to do so. [[spoiler:This was set up to let Kinnison go off-planet and join the ''Dauntless'' in investigating a Boskonian ship traveling down a hyperspatial tube.]]
* HiroshimaAsAUnitOfMeasure - From a footnote, “Detet: the distance at which one spaceship can detect another.” A useful unit for ensuring there are no gaps in your watch-formation.
* HowDoIShotWeb - Lenses do not come with instruction manuals; each Lensman learns how to operate their own Lens in the manner they find most intuitive. Kimball Kinnison is able to unlock vast powers beyond anyone else's imagination, one of the first signs that he's Arisia's ChosenOne.
* HumanAliens - Kinnison not only manages to pass as a native on Thrale (a planet Civilization's run of humanity could not ''possibly'' have colonized – [[TransplantedHumans knowingly, anyway]]), but even manages to impersonate one of Boskone's officers there.
** He ''did'' telepathically absorb practically all of the memories and skills of the Thralian officer he was replacing, and [[spoiler:unknowingly had the Arisians filling in the blanks where he couldn't.]] His Lens also enables him to tell when someone is suspicious and blank their suspicions accordingly.
** Also, in the ''Lensman'' universe, convergent evolution is a scientific fact: all the separate branches of humanity are virtually identical, even if they arose in entirely different galaxies. This is attributed to all non-Eddorian life in the known universe sharing an ultimate ancestor (the Arisians), meaning that species differentiation would be produced only by evolving in different environments. This is brought up by characters in the series, where they will mention how close to baseline Tellurians a particular alien is, often saying something like "Tellurian to within ten decimal places." There is a two-dimensional scale, with characteristics listed left to right on some basis of decreasing significance, rated from A for "identical to Tellurian" to Z for "as different as possible" (the places are not "decimal"). The first seven places are stated to refer to, in order: type of atmosphere the being breathes, blood type (warm, cold, frigid etc), stance (bipedal, quadrupedal, etc), type and arrangement of head, type and arrangement of arms, type and arrangement of legs, type of skin. A species described as "Tellurian to ten places" has a classification of AAAAAAAAAA... and from what details of the code are described this can be decoded as meaning an oxygen-breathing, warm-blooded, upright biped with Tellurian-type head, arms, legs and skin.
* HumanityIsSuperior - Guess who runs Civilization? There were four species the Arisians selectively bred and eugenically improved for millions of years. The four races were the humans, the Velantians, the Rigellians and the Palainians. Humanity was considered the most desirable candidate of the four races because each of the others, despite being [[PunyEarthlings superior to humanity]] in many qualities, had a [[PlanetOfHats significant flaw]]: the Palainians were intrinsically cowardly and very bad at multitasking, the Rigellians too nonaggressive and unambitious, and the Velantians deficient in resistance to mind control and in attention span. Humanity, on the other hand, while having [[PunyEarthlings the fewest special strengths]], had ''[[JackOfAllStats no specific weaknesses]]''.
* IHaveYouNowMyPretty - Gray Roger, like any good SpacePirate, tries to force himself on TheHero's LoveInterest.
** Subverted in that Roger [[spoiler:is actually an asexual alien who reproduces by binary fission and is mainly just trying to figure out what this "sex" thing is and why other races think it's such a big deal anyway.]] When he says he wants to use her for experiments pertaining to sex, what he means and what she... and TheHero... think he means are two entirely different things.
*** Earlier Roger mentions that he enjoys the "society of young and beautiful women," [[FridgeHorror implying that Clio isn't the first]].
*** Roger is not saying that ''he'' "enjoys the society of young and beautiful women"; he is quoting it as an example of the rewards he is able to procure for those who work for him, in an attempt to "turn" the Patrolmen. It doesn't work.
* IncorruptiblePurePureness - Incorruptibility is one of the prerequisites that determines whether or not someone is worthy of becoming a Lensman. It's more emphasized for human recruits, though, as not all non-human beings are subject to the same vices.
* InertialDampening - The Bergenholm inertialess drive, which was the [[TropeMaker origin of the trope]].
* InterstellarWeapon - The hyperspatial tube-launched planets are probably one of the more effective examples in play.
* JackOfAllStats - Of the five Children of the Lens, Christopher. More generally, humans compared to other races of the Galaxy.
* JudgeJuryAndExecutioner - With their telepathic powers (and incorruptibility), the Lensmen generally don't bother with trials or due process. That said, quite a few Boskonians Kim Kinnison encounters not only keep their lives but get help to rebuild them.
* KlingonPromotion - Standard operating procedure among the Boskonians, as their hierarchy is built on power and intimidation. If you can't keep your underlings from killing you and taking your job, you clearly weren't doing that well at it in the first place.
* LensmanArmsRace - TropeMaker and TropeNamer. To give merely the first incident in a long stream of one-upmanship: Triplanetary's first contact with the Nevians end badly when a single Nevian ship destroys a small fleet of spaceships and the city of Pittsburgh while hardly breaking a sweat. Within weeks, humanity has reverse-engineered their allotropic iron technology, developed an inertialess drive which can outrun anything the Nevians can field, and refitted an existing prototype spaceship, the ''Boise'', to take full advantage of these technologies and repay the Nevians in kind. [[SerialEscalation This trend continues throughout the series]].
* LoyalPhlebotinum - The Lenses, which kill anyone other than their owners who tries to wield them.
* LudicrousPrecision - The slang phrase "I check you to nineteen decimals" invokes this for effect, as a rather over-the-top way of saying "Your conclusions / suspicions match up with my own."
* MadMathematician - Sir Austin Cardynge. (Not actually insane, just... focused. Or perhaps Heinlein would call him ''un''sane.) And he's not necessarily the worst. Among Tellurians and similar species, it's an accepted fact that high levels of mathematical intellect will lead to a bit of instability, and the exceptions are at least Second Stage.
* TheManBehindTheMan: Boskone works like a giant onion around the Eddorians. Each layer plays TheManBehindTheMan to its subordinate group, which in turn has its own subordinate bunch.
* MechaMooks - Grey Roger's minions in ''Triplanetary''. Played with in that the escaping heroes unhesitatingly gun down both robots and humans on sight without a moral quiver (they are enemy troops after all).
* MentalFusion - Mentor of Arisia is actually a fusion of four different Arisian minds, a technique the Children of the Lens later learn for themselves.
* MindRape - Used heavily by the villains. Also [[WhatTheHellHero occasionally by the heroes]]. Particularly [[MagnificentBastard Nadreck of Palain]], although his entire race's moral philosophy differs radically from that of humans.
** Kim Kinnison pulls a neat trick when rehabilitating the drug-blasted mind of a young woman who had been hypnotised into being an enemy agent prior to biting an amnesia capsule when captured. He leaves something in her head as protection for her, against the next person who tries that on.
* MinovskyPhysics - Ultra-waves, ether, [[spoiler: thought-waves]], the Bergenholm (extended right to and past to the logical conclusion of "just how big an object can we throw around?").
* MouthOfSauron - Helmuth, "speaking for Boskone," appears to be the BigBad of the series at first (if you read the series in publication order), but he turns out to be only a part of a much vaster scheme orchestrated by the Eddorians themselves. Note that Helmuth actually predates Sauron; ''Galactic Patrol'' was published fifteen years before ''The Fellowship of the Ring''.
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone - Played with in ''Masters of the Vortex.''. Medury took great pains to ensure he was doing no harm before he [[spoiler:triggered the first Vortex.]] By the time the Cahuitans realise what [[spoiler:the 'kindling' for their incubators actually was]], they've evolved beyond remorse but they do act immediately to minimise the damage they've caused.
* NeverFoundTheBody - The nature of high-energy space warfare means you usually don't have a body to find, which Grey Roger uses –''twice''– to his benefit.
* NiceJobBreakingItHero - In ''Masters of the Vortex'', a loose atomic vortex can be destroyed with high explosives if you can match the characteristics of the charge to the activity of the vortex at the time of detonation. If not, you either feed the vortex (and make it larger) or spread it into multiple smaller vortices all over the place. Played straight, it's a mistake of the latter type which costs Neal Cloud his wife and children.
* NiceToTheWaiter - Even when he's infiltrating the bad guys' organization to work his way up the hierarchy, Virgil Samms refuses to take credit for work those under him did. And when Kim Kinnison sifts through a broken-down, burned-out meteor miner's head to find the information he's looking for, he cures the man's epilepsy and gives him the drive to go back out into space and succeed. In fact, when Kimball uses a ''spider'' as part of his scheme, he makes sure to find a nice, juicy fly for the spider to eat as well, and it's all part of the same thing.
* NoConservationOfEnergy - Averted; whether it's ray guns ''[[DisintegratorRay actually]]'' [[FamilyUnfriendlyDeath vaporizing people]] or DeflectorShields reradiating energy to their surroundings and setting them on fire, Smith is one rare sci-fi author who understands that not only does energy have to be generated, it also has to ''go somewhere''.
** Metal objects don't simply disappear - they glow, melt, and even evaporate if the beam is powerful enough.
** In the climactic battle of the last book, anti-matter projectiles are used, and Smith very explicitly states that when an electron and positron collide, they annihilate, giving to two photons of *very* hard radiation. The really ''big'' anti-matter projectiles can fill volumes with diametres best expressed in light-minutes with lethal levels of ionizing radiation.
** In ''Masters...'' Neal Cloud realises this aversion just before he blows out Vortex Number One - the resultant explosion is considerably more violent than he had originally anticipated, and the careful preparations made for his safety are woefully inadequate. He barely gets away with his life.
* NotTheFallThatKillsYou: Smith was also capable of telling physics to take a hike when it suited the story. For instance, he had characters matching "intrinsic velocities" in ways that conveniently ignored just how astronomical (in the literal sense) those velocity differences must have been, up to and including high fractions of lightspeed. Smith's {{Technobabble}} explanation of the impossibly stormy atmosphere of the planet Trenco pretty much ignores the laws of thermodynamics, and his calculations for the destructive power of his ultimate explosive Duodec are an elaborate joke in the form of a mathematical formula. Smith was reportedly delighted to be called on this, because it meant his fans were paying attention.
* NuclearOption - More like CasualNuclearWar, for lack of a better term. Several variants of atomic weapons are used: ''Super-atomic bombs'' which convert their entire rest-mass into energy, and ''duodecaplylatomate'' (or "duodec," for short), an extremely high-yield nuclear explosive described as "the quintessence of atomic destruction" and similar phrases. And of course, the famous ''negabombs'', [[ScienceMarchesOn "antimatter"]] projectiles that come in every size [[ThereIsNoKillLikeOverkill up to planetary mass]]. All are used increasingly liberally as the war escalates; expect no trace of any NuclearWeaponsTaboo.
* OhMyGods - Spacemen have their own god, named Klono, who shows up in expletives like "Holy Klono's tungsten teeth and curving carballoy claws!" The Valerians prefer Noshabkeming, but quite a few spacemen say prayers to both.
* OldSchoolDogfight - Averted - the closest thing they have would be speedsters, used for scouting and transportation.
* OmniscientMoralityLicense - The Arisians like to jerk the lesser races' chains a lot, but it's for their own good. (Eventually.)
** Of course, the Atlanteans, the Romans, and the Americans (and the rest of the modern-day nations of Tellus) might have a different opinion of 'their own good', considering what the Arisians permit to happen to them. And that's just Tellus...
* OneRiotOneRanger - Kinnison frequently takes on Boskonian bases single-handedly and wins. He's rarely far away from backup forces that are ready to move at his signal, but even then, most of the time they only come into play to mop up after he's already dealt the deciding blow.
* OurDragonsAreDifferent - The Velantians.
* OurNudityIsDifferent - Some physically human societies have either radically different nudity taboos or none at all, and Lensman are expected to adopt local customs unless some pressing reason not to do so is in play. Most of them are so used to it that they do not even think about it, but Clarissa strongly dislikes working in the nude (though she can and will do it if necessary).
** A few human races are the opposite, as well, with clothing rules that cover everything, like the Tomingans.
* OutsideContextVillain - The Nevians in ''Triplanetary'' - when they first show up wreck both the patrol and the pirate fleets. Once the ''Boise'' gets the proper upgrades, however...
* PardonMyKlingon - The Lenses assign random words to alien concepts with no direct human equivalent, and all the lenses use the same word afterwards.
* PerpetualStorm: ''First Lensman'' has the planet Trenco, which has forty seven feet of rainfall each night, the worst electrical storms in known space, and wind velocities of over 800 miles per hour.
* PoweredArmor - According to many, the UrExample, certainly a very early one (decades before Literature/StarshipTroopers). Includes [[DeflectorShields protective force-fields]], [[InertialDampening inertial dampening tech]], [[JetPack rocket thrusters]], a generous [[FrickinLaserBeams heat ray]], and [[ReallyHeavyArmor the multi-kilohorsepower engines required to move it around]].
* PowerOfLove: This is what enables Clarissa to [[spoiler:find and bring back Kinnison after he went through the [[HyperspaceIsAScaryPlace Hell Hole]] and was trapped in a far off dimension that not even Mentor and the children could find.]] The chapter's even ''called'' "The Power of Love".
** Given the early publication date, would that make this the TropeNamer?
* {{Prequel}} - ''First Lensman'', the last Lensman novel written by Smith, which finishes linking ''Triplanetary'' to the rest of the series.
* ProudWarriorRaceGuy - Worsel of Velantia, and also the confusingly named (Human) Valerians and their scion, Van Buskirk (who are a HumanSubspecies because of the high gravity of their planet).
* PsychicBlockDefense
* PurpleProse - Each space battle seems to be a test to see if Smith can one-up himself.
-->"And from the mouth of that gargantuan cone [of battle] there spewed forth a miles-thick column of energy so raw, so stark, so incomprehensibly violent that it had to be seen to be even dimply appreciated. It simply cannot be described." (... And he was only up to the second book in the series by this point!)
* RayGun
* RaygunGothic - Before it was retro, even.
* ARealManIsAKiller: All Tellurian Lensmen are male, because a Lensman must be able to kill without a conscience if the situation calls for it and only men can be natural-born killers like that; women, supposedly, just don't have that kind of sociopathy in them. Virginia Samms is disqualified from being a Lensman for this reason, and she says that there will one day be a woman Lensman, but she'll be an absolute freak of nature. [[spoiler: Actually, Virginia's being fed a crock of bullshit. The Arisians don't want women in the Lensman corps because it might screw up their breeding program.]]
* RedOniBlueOni - In ''First Lensman'', Roderick Kinnison and Virgil Samms have this sort of dynamic going, with Rod's impulsive charisma balanced by Samms's methodical cunning.
* ReverseMole - one of Kinnison's usual tactics, successful to the point that he eventually ends up running the Evil Empire in time for their (at that stage in the story) climactic battle with Civilization.
* RuleOfCool - Averted, surprisingly; the basic fictional scientific principles such as the Bergenholm drive, hyperspatial tubes, force fields, rays etc are all handled with consistency and care. Smith finds new ways to apply these principles, rather than whipping out more AppliedPhlebotinum. Even his predilection for the BoardingParty, and, of course the Valerian Space Axe RecycledInSpace, are solidly justified.
** The Bergenholm drive only averts it in the basic view; in the details it is more an example of playing it straight. "Inertialess" objects still display inertial behaviour in cases where it would be too awkward to behave "realistically". For example, true inertialessness would halt all thermal motion of atoms and molecules, which would wreak lethal havoc on any biological system, far beyond the "space-sickness" which is the worst such effect described (and then only in the case of the first prototype, later developments avoid this). A spaceship going inertialess in a gravity well would instantly, without perceptible time-lapse, fall to the bottom of the well and likely be vaporised in the heart of a star; again this simply does not happen, and the behaviour of the Bergenholm drive in relation to gravitational fields can only be explained by assuming it to also function as a Cavorite-style gravity shield - the first test of the initial prototype inertialess drive indeed does exactly this.
*** Effectively, it reduces gravitational as well as inertial mass to zero or near-zero? That actually sounds vaguely like it might follow physics. (They're assumed to be the same under the Einsteinian equivalence principle.) On the matter of biochemistry, though, you do need additional technobabble to avoid that. One novel mentioned "pseudo-inertia" in a similar context.
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge - Worsel, to avenge the millennia his people suffered at the hands of the Overlords of Delgon (not to mention his own suffering), vows to obliterate the entire species from the universe. Pretty much does. Considers the fact that he has to torture some of them for information to be a bonus.
** This is a species that tortures its victims slowly to death in order to enjoy their agonies and then consume their life-force as they die. Not because they need to do so to live or anything, they just like it. Little wonder that the Velantians' allies saw fit to help them destroy it.
* ScaryDogmaticAliens - Boskone is TheEmpire pitted against the benevolent and free [[TheAlliance Civilization]]. Consider the stories were written in the run-up to, and during, WWII and I think you can see who they stand for.
** It's probably not coincidence that the title of the Eddorian leader is also one of the titles of the German Kaiser ("All-Highest").
** Also Cf. Helmuth von Moltke, German commander at the start of the First World War.
* SchematizedProp - any and all weapons, but particularly the [=DeLameter=] blaster. Almost all spaceships.
* ScienceHero - Quite often, the tide of the war against Boskone is changed as a result of brilliant scientists whipping up the newest Big Thing just in time to give the {{Space Pirate}}s a thrashing.
* ScienceMarchesOn - Spaceships developed on slide rule, with fantastic beam weapons that use vacuum tubes! Given that every spaceship which flew in Smith's lifetime (d.1965) was probably drafted on slide rule, he wasn't doing too badly. It's also helpful to keep in mind that when he started writing, the concept of an entirely electronic programmable computer was itself the stuff of science fiction.
** The {{GURPS}} RPG supplement [[JustifyingEdit threw in the explanation]] that the Arisians deliberately [[FakeDifficulty prevented anyone]] in Civilization from inventing the transistor or modern computing theory, because the entire point of the Arisian breeding program was to improve the powers of the mind. Allowing the existence of surrogate minds (i.e., computers) would have interfered with that development, by removing most of the need for heightened intellectual capacity beyond the current human average. Some canonical support for this theory exists – when the Arisian breeding program finally reached its end (i.e., when the Children of the Lens were finally born), Civilization ''did'' immediately start to develop advanced computing technology, as seen in both ''Children of the Lens'' and ''Masters of the Vortex''.
** Well before that, they already had MechaMooks to crew at least some of their war fleets, and robots (albeit more primitive ones) were around before humanity had expanded beyond the solar system. Lensman information technology is ... [[SchizoTech weird]] by modern standards.
** The early version of the Nebular Hypothesis that dominated the books' ideas of stellar and planetary formation, and the pre-DNA eugenics and EvolutionaryLevels concepts used in the Lensman breeding programs.
** The inertialess drive was theoretically possible when the books were written, but advancements in relativity and quantum mechanics have both made hash of it.
** Negamatter. It's essentially antimatter, but as originally imagined by Paul Dirac in the 1930s. As such, it has negative mass and some other weird properties most scientists today don't believe it should have.
*** The vacuum tubes might not qualify, give that transistors can only handle very small power loads and tube circuits are very much more resistant to [=EMP=]s and hard radiation.
*** The vacuum tubes are best described as qualifying in some cases and not in others. In low-power benchtop gadgets such as the apparatus used by the Delgonians to extract life-force they certainly do. At the other end of the scale, however, the "sunbeam" works by converting an entire solar system into a giant "vacuum tube", and the description of its operation only makes sense in terms of vacuum-tube physics; a solid-state version would just be silly... In any case, vacuum tubes are far from obsolete in Real Life - specialised vacuum tubes are still the device of choice for a lot of high-frequency, high-power applications.
** Atomic power generation. As hinted in the "main sequence" and explicitly described in ''Masters of the Vortex'', atomic power plants generate power from a "vortex of atomic destruction" which eats ''everything'', not just fissile materials... and is self-sustaining. So the Lensman-universe equivalent of China Syndrome is an atomic vortex which escapes from the power plant's control, fuelling itself on ordinary rock and spewing a continuous effluvium of highly radioactive reaction products, like a version of Chernobyl that doesn't stop.
*** The climax of ''Masters of the Vortex'' is Neal Cloud and Joan Janowick's discovery of just ''why'' those powerplants are exploding, who is responsible, and what can be done about it.
** At one point in the main series, Kimball Kinnison needs to find Civilization's absolutely smartest minds to work on a weapons project of utmost importance. To figure out who he needs, he performs an index search on the personality profiles listed in Civilization's main records database... using a mechanical sorting device to process stacks upon stacks of hardcopy files.
* SciFiWritersHaveNoSenseOfScale: Averted; Smith appears very much aware that he's portraying a galaxy-wide civilization. Here's the Gray Lensman on leading the assault on a major Boskonian stronghold:
--->'''Kinnison:''' "With around a million fleets to handle we can't spend spend much time on any one."
** The starships of the Galactic Patrol use total conversion of matter to energy for their engines. At first, the power was conducted in meters-thick, liquid-helium-cooled silver busbars, because nothing less could handle it. It's specifically noted that to utilize their extreme power sources to their fullest, they needed to go a step further than that and discover [[UnObtainium room-temperature superconductors]].
* ScrewThisImOuttaHere: After [[spoiler:Ploor]] is destroyed, the remnants of the Boskonian fleet flee back to their respective planets. The Patrol, thoroughly sick of killing mooks like shooting fish in barrels, lets them go.
* SecretWeapon: Primary beams, kept secret from the Boskonians throughout most of ''Gray Lensman.'' The Galactic Partrol only used them when they knew none of its victims could escape to tell the tale.
* SequelReset: Every one of the original four novels ends with the Lensmen thinking they've ''finally'' destroyed the nerve center of Boskone's operations and wrapped things up for good... which means that every sequel has to have a scene establishing that, no, there's still one level higher to go (at least until they finally confront the Eddorians).
* SerialEscalation: Goes hand-in-hand with the Lensman Arms Race. Each book introduces at least one superweapon that's ultra-powerful at the moment it's revealed but that becomes so ubiquitous by the sequel that it's practically the new baseline for weapons tech, resulting in scientists on both sides developing still more powerful superweapons in an effort to break the status quo. Wash, rinse, repeat.
* ShowDontTell: Smith's character descriptions tend to be "This is what you should think about this character."
* ShownTheirWork: For such a dated (and [[UpToEleven often over-the-top]]) series, Lensman can be surprisingly hard science-fiction at times.
** TwoDSpace: Averted. Englobement is a standard tactic, as is the Cone of Battle.
* SpaceBattle: While most of the action centered on the larger-than-life heroes as individuals, occasionally the emphasis shifted to the larger-than-life fleets of space battleships they commanded.
* SpaceIsCold: During Virgil Samms's visit to a sub-zero planet, Smith takes pains to explain that vacuum is a very poor conductor. Heat loss to the metallic ground is a much bigger danger, on the other hand.
* TheSpartanWay: Present, though somewhat downplayed. In ''Galactic Patrol'', it's mentioned that out of an initial selection pool of one million, only about one hundred are deemed worthy of receiving a Lens. Given that a typical Lensman is among the most physically, mentally, and morally tough people in the galaxy, it's to be expected that the selection process must be quite demanding.
* SleazyPolitician: In the prequel ''First Lensman'', [[EvilChancellor Senator Morgan]], who mixes shady political dealing and ties with [[EvilInc corrupt corporations]] and [[TheMafia the mob]] with [[ReliableTraitor secret subservience]] to the [[ScaryDogmaticAliens evil alien empire]]. His [[TheDragon chief aide]], Herkimer Herkimer III, is probably the closest thing ''Lensman'' has to an utter monster. (Well, [[EldritchAbomination as far as human beings are concerned, at least]].)
** Morgan can probably also be considered a mild StrawmanPolitical against left-wing economic populism.
* SleepCute - Costigan and Clio Marsden
* SoLastSeason - The powers of Civilization, Boskone, and the Lensmen keep going up and up and up...
* SortingAlgorithmOfEvil - Boskone, played to the hilt.
* SpaceFriction - When you're totally inertialess, running into a hydrogen atom in the almost-perfect vacuum of space actually ''does'' qualify as friction. Friction from the interstellar medium, in fact, is the ''only'' limiting factor on the acceleration of an inertialess drive.
* SpacePirates - The Boskonian empire was mistaken as being merely these at first.
* StalkerWithATestTube - The Arisians have been interfering with most of human history, conducting a breeding program to produce humans with mental powers [[strike:rivaling]] exceeding their own. The Kinnisons become the end result.
* StateSec: The Galactic Patrol in ''First Lensman'' is a heroic example. They function as SecretPolice and spy on Boskone's organization, but also quickly absorb the Triplanetary Service (a regular military outfit) and other military forces of Civilization, as well as building their own fleet. By the time of ''Galactic Patrol'', they have completely subsumed Civilization's government.
* StarfishAliens - The Nevians, Palainians and Rigellians, among many others. Thoroughly inhuman and occasionally monstrous aliens who (at least insofar as the named examples are concerned) are either humanity's allies from the start or become so.
* StunGuns - The Nevian Paralyzer gun. Most of the other hand weapons don't have this setting as default, although it's implied that they can be tuned or modified in the field to produce it.
* SubspaceAnsible - The Lens grants this functionality. If they're advanced enough, Lensmen in different galaxies can communicate with each other with no more difficulty or inconvenience than an online chat room.
* SufficientlyAdvancedAliens - Arisians and Eddorians. Arguably the Ploorans. All three races appear to be [[spoiler: naturally evolved Level Three telepaths.]]
* SuperPrototype - numerous {{Cool Ship}}s, from the ''Brittania'' to the ''Chicago''.
* SupportingLeader - Kinnison's controller, Port Admiral Haynes, doesn't get himself directly involved much unless there's a space battle of stupendous scale to coordinate. Nevertheless, his leadership and support often prove invaluable whenever Kinnison finds himself in a tight spot.
* TakingYouWithMe: When fighting a losing battle, Boskonian gun crews purposely overload their weapons. This burns out the gun and kills the gun crews, but the resulting high powered beam is enough to break through the shields of the Patrol's defensive cruisers. [[NiceJobFixingItVillain It backfires when Patrol scientists figure out a way to safely use method]], creating the devastating primary beam.
* {{Technobabble}}: mixed liberally with actual science, and Smith was reportedly delighted by fans who could spot the difference.
* TelepathicSpacemen - The point of the story.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: Helmuth receives one when he tries to visit Arisia:
-->'''Mentor''': "Inflated -- overwhelmingly by your warped and perverted ideas, by your momentary success in dominating your handful of minions, tied to you by bonds of greed, of passion, and of crime, you come here to wrest from us the secret of the Lens, from us, a race as much abler than yours as we are older -- a ratio of millions to one.
--> "You consider yourself cold, hard, ruthless. Compared to me, you are weak, soft, tender, as helpless as a newborn child. That you may learn and appreciate that fact is one reason why you are living at this present moment. [[MindRape Your lesson will now begin]]."
** Later, one of the lesser Guardians does the same to a couple of trespassing Eich leaders.
* TheSoCalledCoward - Nadreck refers to ''himself'' as a DirtyCoward. He's also probably the second most effective Lensman in Civilization, prior to the Children of the Lens; the fact that he doesn't stick his neck out leads him to take no risks and defeat the enemies of Civilization with consummate skill, efficiency and [[GuileHero guile]].
** His race regards cowardice as a ''virtue''. At one point, he's acutely embarrassed by the fact that he was forced to personally kill three enemies in single combat, instead of manipulating them into killing each other.
** Eventually, the human penultimate, Kimball Kinnison, reluctantly comes to the conclusion that Nadreck is right about this, and that he has to adopt the same sort of ruthless, coldly pragmatic thinking to succeed.
* TooAwesomeToUse - Invoked and discussed within the context of the perpetual game of one-upmanship that is the Lensman Arms Race. Every so often, Civilization's scientists will come up with something leaps and bounds ahead of what the Boskonians are capable of dealing with. However, they'll intentionally hold off on using it until a decisive moment or unless they can guarantee no enemy survivors will report back to headquarters because they know that the Boskonians will be able to analyze, reverse-engineer, and develop their own countermeasures for anything wielded against them.
* TouchedByVorlons - Several characters are touched by the Arisians to varying degrees, particularly the second-stage Lensmen in the later books.
* TractorBeam - They appear here first, as an offshoot of research into anti-inertia forcefields. Interestingly, against negamatter bodies, they behave in the exact opposite fashion, repelling them instead of capturing them.
* {{Transhuman}} - The end goal of the Arisians' great eons-long plan, realized by Kim and Clarissa Kinnison's offspring, is the creation of a species of superbeings to whom the powers of even a Second-Stage Lensman are second nature from birth.
* TranslatorMicrobes - The Lens of Civilization.
* {{Tsundere}} - Clarissa Kinnison (''nee'' [=MacDougall=]) may be one of the prototypes for the "feisty, temperamental redhead that ultimately falls for the hero" archetype that's so prevalent in science fiction.
* TwinSwitch - First Lensman Samms does a variation on this so he can [[ReverseMole infiltrate a drug cartel]] while under Patrol protection. The reason he can switch with his cousin is carefully explained.
* TypesOfNavalShips - Played with. Speeders are smallest (room for one or two people) and fastest. Covettes, frigates, and destroyers aren't used at all. Cruisers are generally designed for specialized tasks, such as prevent hostile ships from going "free", scouting, or launching negabombs. Battlecruisers are used for commerce raiding (by the Boskonians), or for fighting commerce raiders (by the Patrol). Battleships and super-dreadnoughts are front-lime combat units although we see far more of the later then former. Finally, the slow maulers and super-maulers were designed for planetary bombardment, although thanks to the strength of theater shields they proved more successful in ship to ship combat.
* UncannyValley - In-Universe. Both Grey Roger's robot slaves, and Roger himself, receive comments to this effect by various characters.
* TheUnfettered - Gray Lensmen, officially called Unattached Lensmen, are free to pursue whatever avenues they desire in pursuit of their moral duty to protect Civilisation, and are given pretty much a blank check to use Civilization's resources as they see fit in that pursuit. Technically they are answerable to the Galactic Council and the Port Admiral of the Galactic Patrol, but in the field they answer only to their own conscience.
* {{Unobtainium}} - Dureum, a "super-dense" metal which allows it to be used inside of Hypertubes.
* UnusualEuphemism - By Klono's Carballoy Claws! Also a FutureSlang version of CurseOfTheAncients.
** Klono seems to have whatever alliterative attributes the person swearing by him wants him to have: iridium intestines, gadolinium guts, ''und so weiter.''
* UnwillingRoboticisation: What happened to Clio's guide - and possibly others - in Triplanetary.
* WallOfText - It seems [[TalkingIsAFreeAction Talking and Talking and Talking is a free action...]]
** To be fair, it's mentioned that telepathic communication is vastly faster than speech.
* WeDidntStartTheFuhrer, or the Kaiser, or Nero, or the Tyrant of Asia...
* WeHaveReserves: When Patrol marines storm a Boskonian battlecruiser, the defending officers have no reservations about tossing armour-piercing grenades into the melee, which kill almost as many of their own forces as they do of the Patrol attackers.
* WeWillSpendCreditsInTheFuture — possibly the TropeCodifier.
* WhatCouldHaveBeen: There was going to be a Lensman movie written by J. Michael Straczinsky and directed by Ron Howard, but it immediatley fell in DevelopmentHell before Universal decided to drop the project due to budget issues.
* WorthlessYellowRocks - Iron, the basis of the Nevians' technology and economy: five pounds is a king's ransom, but to humans it's so common we build our ships' hulls out of it!
** The "super-atomic motor" in the stories works by converting the total mass of the fuel into energy. "Allotropic Iron" is an artificially produced allotrope that packs a lot of mass into a very dense liquid, and as such, makes a very efficient and easy to handle fuel for their ship's atomic motors.
* WorthyOpponent - Kinnison and Helmuth ''deeply'' respect each other's capabilities, which is part of why they each try so hard to kill each other. Two books later, Helmuth is still Kinnison's gold standard for a careful and skilled opponent.
* WouldntHitAGirl - Kinnison can mow down ''male'' thugs left and right without batting a lash, but he would never harm a woman... which causes him no small headache when he is forced to deal with the genocidally misanthropic matriarchs of Lyrane II.
* YouGottaHaveBlueHair - Helmuth is described as having blue hair, blue eyes, and blue-tinted skin. The anime adaptation, for whatever reason, chose to turn him into a forty-foot monstrosity. Something like Leader Desslok of Gamilon, of ''Space Battleship Yamato'' fame, is probably what was intended.
* YourPrincessIsInAnotherCastle - Except for the two prequels that he is not in, all of the novels end with Kim thinking that [[SortingAlgorithmOfEvil THIS time he's finally obliterated Boskone's leadership for sure...]] Although in ''Children...'' he begins to think that "there IS no top."

!!The ''Lensman'' anime contains the following tropes:

* ConspicuousCG: For several spacecraft, a holographic Helmuth communicating to his minions, an illusionary chase sequence, and the Lens. The anime was one of the first uses of CG for the mass market.
* DoomedHometown: Boskone destroys Anime!Kimball's peaceful farm world practically as soon as the Lens is on his hand.
* EvilIsVisceral: Boskone ships are purple organic-looking blobs, in contrast with the silver geometric shapes of Galactic Patrol ships.
* RecycledSoundtrack: The Harmony Gold dub used part of the score for the unreleased ''{{Robotech}} II: The Sentinels''.
* Creator/StreamlinePictures: Released a dubbed version of the anime movie. Harmony Gold also produced a CompilationMovie of the first episodes of the [[RecycledTheSeries series]].
* SufficientlyAdvancedAliens: Helmuth, oddly enough, in the books he's just a blue skinned humanoid with a machine gun.
* TakeUpMySword: Kim is given his lens by a dying Lensman he finds when he saves the ''Britannia'' from crashing. (Of course, Lenses ''just don't work that way'' in the original series.)
** The anomaly is immediately [[LampshadeHanging lampshaded]] in the film.
* TronLines: Spreading from the Lens on the back of Kim's hand.
* YouHaveFailedMe: Helmuth loves this trope.
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