A. E. van Vogt

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Alfred Elton van Vogt (April 26, 1912 – January 26, 2000) was a Canadian-born science fiction author regarded by some as one of the most popular and complex[1] science fiction writers of the mid-twentieth century: the "Golden Age" of the genre.


Early life and writings

Van Vogt was born on a farm in Edenburg, a Russian Mennonite community east of Gretna, Manitoba, Canada. Until he was four years old, van Vogt and his family spoke only a dialect of Dutch in the home.[2] Van Vogt's father, a lawyer, moved his family several times and his son found these moves difficult, remarking in later life:

After starting his writing career by writing for "true confession" style pulp magazines like True Story, van Vogt decided to switch to writing something he enjoyed, science fiction.[3]

Van Vogt's first published SF story, "Black Destroyer" (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1939), was inspired by Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin.[4] The story depicted a fierce, carnivorous alien stalking the crew of an exploration spaceship. It was the cover story [5] of the issue of Astounding that is sometimes described as having ushered in the "Golden Age" of science fiction.[6] The story served as the inspiration for a number of science fiction movies.[note 1] In 1950 it was combined with "War of Nerves" (1950), "Discord in Scarlet" (1939) and "M33 in Andromeda" (1943) to form the novel The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950).

In 1941, van Vogt decided to become a full-time writer, quitting his job at the Canadian Department of National Defence. Extremely prolific for a few years, van Vogt wrote a large number of short stories. In the 1950s, many of them were retrospectively patched together into novels, or "fixups" as he called them, a term which entered the vocabulary of science fiction criticism. When the original stories were related (e.g. The War against the Rull) this was often successful. When not (e.g. Quest for the Future) the disparate stories thrown together generally made for a less coherent plot.

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