During the Golden Age of Science Fiction, one writer towered over all others. The legendary Edmond Hamilton was the pulp pioneer who took over where Jules Verne and H. G. Wells left off. Hamilton wrote on a scale that dwarfed anything that had come before. Where other writer’s imaginations saw only expeditions to the Moon and Mars, Hamilton envisioned a future filled with an interplanetary police force, space pirates and fearsome weapons capable of destroying whole planets. Among readers of his early fiction in magazines ranging from Amazing Stories to Weird Tales, this penchant for galaxy-spanning space opera soon earned him the nickname of “World-Wrecker” Hamilton.
Although NASA has all but debunked the possibility of humanoid life on Mars and Venus—not to mention the frigid, inhospitable outer planets—21st century readers still thrill to Hamilton’s infectiously enthusiastic yarns, which influenced both Star Trek and Star Wars.
One of the most intriguing is The Three Planeteers, which ran in the January, 1940 issue of Startling Stories. Inspired by Alexandre Dumas’ classic adventure tale, The Three Musketeers, Hamilton’s reinterpretation of the concept brings together an Earthman, John Thorn, allied a pair of friendly aliens, Sual Av of Venus and hulking Mercurian, Gunner Welk, who are out to stop a sinister despot from shifting the balance of power from the peace-loving Alliance of Inner Planets to the planet-hungry League of Cold Worlds. When the resourceful trio are branded interplanetary outlaws, their only hope is to ally themselves with the renegade Companions of Space, led by the bewitching pirate princess, Lana Cain.
This swashbuckling space opera was the type of pulp Hamilton did best, and set the stage for his legendary Captain Future series, also from the publisher of Startling Stories. In that series, as in The Three Planeteers, Hamilton postulated a future Solar System inhabited by distinct races of aliens, each with their own characteristics and cultures. Against this backdrop, the non-stop action races from the inner worlds to the outer regions, with atom-pistols and ray-blasters frying combatants on both sides.