EXHIBITIONS / SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME
A. E. van Vogt

1912 - 2000

Canadian-born writer

A.E. van Vogt moved to the US in 1944, shortly after establishing his name with a flood of material in Astounding Science Fiction magazine. After his conversion to Dianetics in 1950, he became virtually silent until the early 1960s, when a smaller spate of new material came from his pen.

While van Vogt catered to the pulp press (from 1939 to 1947 he published at least 35 stories in Astounding Science Fiction alone), he simultaneously intensified the emotional impact and complexity of the stories it would bear. Although his prose used crude, dark colors, it nonetheless conveyed a striking sense of wonder with dreamlike conviction, and his work consequently earned him a reputation as a master of intricate, metaphysical space opera.

Van Vogt also became well known for abrupt complications of plot. Though often illogical, these sudden shifts of perspective, rationale, and scale are best considered similar to those of a dream. Grippingly void of constraints, the resulting "hard science fiction dreams" have convincingly haunted generations of children and adolescents. Nonetheless, critics have tended to treat the typical van Vogt tale as a failed effort at hard science fiction.

Consequently, stories others have written in the van Vogt mode — including ones by Philip K. Dick, Charles L. Harness and Larry Niven — have been described as "improvements" on the original model. In some ways, of course, these writers and their works have significantly rationalized van Vogt's convulsive shuffling and reshuffling of storylines. But at their heart, van Vogt's space operas remain enacted dreams, with no dependence upon misunderstood science, cosmography, or technology. As such, there is no "improving" van Vogt.

Selected Bibliography:
Slan (1940)
The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1939)
The World of Null-A (1948)
Other Worlds (1950)