Alfred Elton van Vogt (photo ©Pip R. Lagenta of San Mateo) was born on April 26, 1912 in Edenburg, Manitoba, Canada.
After moving to the U.S.A., A.E. van Vogt had his first experiences as a writer with love and adventure stories published under various pseudonyms, but also radio dramas. In 1939, van Vogt made his debut in science fiction with the story “Black Destroyer”, published in the July issue of the magazine “Astounding Science-Fiction”.
The success of the story convinced A.E. van Vogt to continue writing science fiction and he quickly became one of the greatest authors of those years. He wrote three sequels to his debut story, which were fixed-up in the novel “The Voyage of the Space Beagle”.
In 1940, the magazine “Astounding Science-Fiction” serialized his novel “Slan”, which introduced the theme of the superhuman, which became one of the most important in A.E. van Vogt’s stories.
In the early ’40s, A.E. van Vogt worked for the Department of Defense but in 1941 he decided to become a full time writer and started the cycle of Isher, later collected in the novels “The Weapon Makers” and “The Weapon Shops of Isher”.
In 1944, A.E. van Vogt discovered an essay by Alfred Korzybski with his non-Aristotelian logic and the idea led him to begin another of his most famous cycles, the Null-A one, fixed up in the novels “The World of Null-A” and “The Pawns of Null-A”.
His interest on para-religious and philosophical doctrines led A.E. van Vogt to spend more time looking for a mental enhancement and during the ’50s and ’60s his novels are often fix-ups of previously published short stories.
A.E. van Vogt never stopped writing altogether but he never had the success of his best years again. His attempt to return to writing full time also failed due to the illness of his wife Edna Mayne Hull, married in 1939, who died in 1975.
In 1985 he published his last novel, “Null-A Three”, the latest chapter in the Null-A cycle. It was also meant to clarify some obscure points of the previous novels but the critics weren’t very favorable.
In the last years of his life, A.E. van Vogt suffered from Alzheimer’s and he died on January 26, 2000. In 2007 “Slan Hunter” (“Slan Hunter”) was published, the sequel to “Slan” started by van Vogt and finished by Kevin J. Anderson.
A.E. van Vogt was one of the greatest science fiction writers of the ’40s and ’50s but also one of the most controversial. His style was chaotic, with constant twists and turns that often, however, were meant to cover a lack of global consistency in the plot. On the other hand, van Vogt was also one of the authors who were better able to write stories full of sense-of-wonder.
It’s inevitable that a writer such as A.E. van Vogt has received high praise but also fierce criticism over the decades and science fiction evolved a lot since the genre of his best years. However, it’s undeniable that van Vogt was an important author who inspired readers and also some writers of later generations.