A. E. van Vogt

From Academic Kids

Alfred Elton van Vogt (April 26, 1912 - January 26, 2000) was a renowned Canadian-born science fiction author who achieved a degree of immortality as one of the most prolific, yet complex, writers from the mid-20th century 'Golden Age' of his genre.


Sci-fi's Golden Age

After starting his writing career by writing for 'true confession' style pulp magazines, van Vogt decided to switch to writing something he enjoyed, science fiction. His first published sci-fi story, "Black Destroyer" (Astounding Science Fiction, 1939), depicting a fierce, carnivorous alien stalking the crew of an exploration ship, was extremely popular and set the style for a number of science fiction films over the years. This was the cover story of the pulp sci-fi issue considered to have ushered in the start of the 'Golden Age' of science fiction.

van Vogt was one of the most popular and highly esteemed science fiction writers of the 1940s, during the ascent of the genre's Golden Age. Many fans of that era would have named van Vogt, Robert A. Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov as the three greatest science fiction writers.

Extremely prolific for a few years, van Vogt wrote a large number of short stories, many of which were retrospectively patched together into novels, or "fixups" as he called them, a term which entered the vocabulary of science fiction criticism. Sometimes this was successful (The War against the Rull); other times the disparate stories thrown together made for a less coherent plot (Quest for the Future).

A post-war philosopher

In 1944, van Vogt moved to Hollywood, California, where his writing took on new dimensions after World War II. van Vogt was always interested in the idea of all-encompassing systems of knowledge (akin to modern meta-systems), the characters in his very first story used a system called 'Nexialism' to analyze the alien's behaviour, and he became interested in the General Semantics of Alfred Korzybski. And he was profoundly affected by revelations of totalitarian police states that emerged after WWII. He subsequently wrote three novels merging these overarching themes, The World of Null-A and The Pawns of Null-A in the late 1940s, and Null-A Three in the early 1980s. Null-A, or non-Aristotelian logic, refers to the capacity for, and practice of, using intuitive, inductive reasoning (fuzzy logic), rather than reflexive, or conditioned, deductive logic.

van Vogt systematized his writing method, using scenes of 800 words or so where a new complication was added or something resolved. Several of his stories hinge upon temporal conundrums, a favorite theme of his. He said many of his ideas from dreams, and indeed his stories at times had the incoherence of dreams, but at their best, as in the fantasy novel The Book of Ptath, his works had all the vision and power a dream can impart.

In the 1950s, van Vogt briefly became involved in L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics. van Vogt operated a storefront, for the secular precurser to Hubbard's Scientology sect), in the Los Angeles area for a time, before winding up at odds with Hubbard and his methods. His writing more or less stopped for some years, a period in which he bitterly claimed to have been harassed and intimidated by Hubbard's followers. He resumed writing again in the 1960s, while remaining in Hollywood with his second wife, who took care of him through his declining years.


In 1946, Van Vogt and his first wife, E. Mayne Hull, were co-Guests of Honor at the fourth World Science Fiction Convention,

In 1980, van Vogt received a 'Casper Award' (precursor to the Canadian Aurora Awards) for Lifetime Achievement. In 1995 he was awarded the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award. In 1996, van Vogt was recognized on three occasions: the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) designated him a 'Grand Master', the World Science Fiction Convention presented him with a Special Award for six decades of golden age science fiction, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame included him among its initial four inductees.

Critical praise

Noted sci-fi author Philip K. Dick has said van Vogt's stories spurred his interest in science fiction, with their strange sense of the unexplained, that something more was going on than the protagonists realized.

"Van Vogt knew precisely what he was doing in all areas of his fiction writing. There's hardly a wasted word in his stories...His plots are marvels of interlocking pieces, often ending in real surprises and shocks, genuine paradigm shifts, which are among the hardest conceptions to depict. And the intellectual material of his fictions, the conceits and tossed-off observations on culture and human and alien behavior, reflect a probing mind...Each tale contains a new angle, a unique slant, that makes it stand out." Paul Di Filippo


External links

  • Earthlink.net (http://www.home.earthlink.net/~icshi/) - 'Icshi: the A.E. van Vogt information site
  • AngelFire.com (http://www.angelfire.com/art/megathink/vanvogt/index.html) - 'A. E. van Vogt, 1912-2000: Al's van Vogt pages'

', Alan Nicoll

  • LocusMag.com (http://www.locusmag.com/2000/News/News01e.html) - 'A.E. van Vogt, 1912 - 2000: Golden Age SF writer A.E. van Vogt died Wednesday, January 26 of complications of pneumonia'
  • MMedia.is (http://www.mmedia.is/vanvogt/) - 'Weird Worlds of A. E. van Vogt: 1912-2000'
  • SciFan.com (http://scifan.com/writers/vv/VanVogt.asp) - 'Writers: A. E. Van Vogt (1912 - 2000, Canada)' (bibliography)
  • SciFi.com (http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue326/books2.html) - 'Transfinite: The Essential A.E. van Vogt: Vast conceptions, startling actions and average people rendered into tomorrow's supermen' Paul Di Filippo
  • SmartGroups.com (http://www.smartgroups.com/group/group.cfm?GID=1768914) - van Vogt discussion group
  • Template:Isfdb namebg:Алфред ван Вогт

de:Alfred Elton van Vogt eo:Alfred Elton VAN VOGT fr:A. E. van Vogt it:Alfred Elton van Vogt ja:A・E・ヴァン・ヴォークト nl:A.E. van Vogt sv:A.E. van Vogt th:เอ.อี. แวน โวกท์ zh:范·沃格特


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