Edmond Hamilton (1904-1977) has been hailed as one of the three pioneers of the space opera. Indeed, of the three writers credited with creating this beloved science fiction subgenre, Hamilton, Edward E. Smith, Ph. D., and Jack Williamson, Hamilton’s first space opera, “The Comet Doom”, beat both his colleagues into print, by almost a year, in the case of Smith’s unprecedented universe-spanning epic, “The Skylark of Space”, and by almost three years in the case of Williamson’s “The Cosmic Express”. Since Smith had begun his book around 1919, clearly neither he nor Hamilton influenced the other, while Williamson has tipped his hat to the inspiration of both. So, in the final analysis, sole credit must be given to Edmond Hamilton and E. E. Smith as the progenitors of the space opera as so many know and love it today.
But Edmond Hamilton’s contributions to science fiction and to popular culture don’t end with the creation of space opera. They begin there. As science fiction matured, Hamilton’s colorful adventure sagas matured, and he produced a series of poignant, poetic space operas that helped extend the form and widen its possibilities. Among them were “Battle for the Stars”, “The City at World’s End”, “The Star of Life”, and “The Haunted Stars”.
At the same time, one of Hamilton’s magazine editors, Mort Weisinger had been picked to helm the DC comics line, including its new hits, Superman and Batman. Soon Weisinger had tapped several top sf pulp writers, including Hamilton, to become full-time scripters for the company’s comic books. Hamilton had been picked because he was the creator of Captain Future, a pulp magazine rival to Doc Savage, a character who survived today, in much altered form as the hero of an animated series. As a result of Weisiner’s act, Hamilton became a trailblazing pioneer in a new medium, creating characters like Adam Strange, whose science fictional adventures appeared in the comic “Mystery in Space”, and superhero teams like the Legion of Superheroes, whose euphonious comic book has been hailed for its strong, feminist slant (not surprising considering he was married to tomboy and tough-guy novelist Leigh Brackett). And it was Hamilton who was responsible for scripting the first-ever Superman-Batman team-up.
But it is as a writer of novels of colorful, poetic interstellar adventure that Hamilton is most fondly remembered.