Saturday, December 9, 2017

Science Fiction Saturday: A. E. van Vogt

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Super-science! Telepaths! Galactic empires! Time travel! Monsters and supermen! A. E. van Vogt was a leading light of the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction (late '30's to early '50's) when American science fiction was starting to escape from its pulp magazine origins (but not completely!). Van Vogt's hallucinatory, mind-boggling stories, including Slan, The Weapon Makers of Isher, The Voyage of the Space Beagle, The World of Null-A and many, many others, set a standard for bold imagination and complex plotting. The nature of van Vogt's brilliance is well-captured by science fiction critic John Clute:
Although van Vogt catered for the pulps, he intensified the emotional impact and complexity of the stories they would bear: his nearly invincible alien Monsters, the long timespans of his tales, the Time Paradoxes that fill them, the quasi-messianic Supermen who come into their own as the stories progress, the Galactic Empires they tend to rule and the states of lonely transcendental omnipotence they tend to achieve – all are presented in a prose that uses crude, dark colours but whose striking Sense of Wonder is conveyed with a dreamlike conviction. The abrupt complications of plot for which he became so well known, and which have been so scathingly mocked for their illogic and preposterousness – within narratives that claimed to be presenting higher forms of logic to the reader – are best analysed, and their effects best understood, when their sudden shifts of perspective and rationale and scale are seen as analogous to the movements of a dream.
It is these "Hard-SF dreams", so grippingly void of constraints or the usual surrealistic appurtenances of dream literature, that have so haunted generations of children and adolescents...
Yup, his stuff was pretty awesome. Maybe particularly if you were 13 or so, but still..... 

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