1/09/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: H.L. Drake, 2001. 116 page small enlarged paperback. Price: about GBP 5.60 (UK) if you look around). ISBN: 1-59113-054-9.
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I came across this book, ‘A.E. Van Vogt: Science Fantasy’s Icon’, when I was looking for something else recently and in one of my moment’s of madness of looking through the entire list of choices from a word search on Amazon. These automated selectors don’t know what I’m after and I was curious as to what it thought I was after. In this case, serendipity worked in my favour.
H.L. Drake’s book, researched over thirty years and from interviewing Van Vogt himself several times is an examination of his use in General Semantics, a subject I’ve covered occasionally in my editorials, so I was even more curious and I ensure no cats are killed in such activities.
What I wasn’t aware of was Van Vogt was using General Semantics in his stories as far back as his first novel ‘Slan’, which indicated that it wasn’t a subject he got interested in purely for his ‘Null-A’ novels. In many respects, I wish Drake had gone into a bit more depth of General Semantics to explain a bit more about the subject to the readers who might not know too much about it but the bibliography cites various books needed to research the subject for yourself.
Rather oddly, when it comes to ‘The Voyage Of The Space Beagle’, Drake infers reference of the ‘Alien’ film settlement and even as a ‘Star Trek’ template than outright declaring it as such. The first is public knowledge, the second less so but I hardly think Drake would have been sued over it had he revealed names. I also find it odd that he thinks that with Van Vogt’s ‘fix-up’ novels that he wouldn’t embellish any part of the story to make it fit better or provide details to any of the sections used.
Drake’s summation at the end of the book about how Van Vogt was very much into self-education is very revealing. When I connected this to Van Vogt’s mini-autobiography, ‘Reflections Of-’, it was pretty obvious that he didn’t like the idea of being stuck with any one regime or doctrine and tended to think deeply on subjects. That would probably explain why although he got involved in Dianetics, he steered well clear of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology.
One thing I did find odd is how Drake points out Van Vogt using his characters’ voices to put his views over as if it was something unusual. I would have thought that would something all writers do. Heinlein made a living out of doing it after all.
I would have liked to have seen some of the interviews Drake had with Van Vogt over the years but I suspect the time between this book’s release and me reading it would make that impractical now.
There is certainly some insight and a splash of naivety about this book but at such a low price and if you want to collect information about AE Van Vogt then you ought to add this book to your collection.
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