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Monday, May 26, 2008

A E Van Vogt cover gallery part 1

(* A slightly more extensive cover gallery this time round. Van Vogt was one of the authors I read most avidly in the mid-1970s and quite a few of the covers scanned below are the very copies I bought when I was still not quite in my teens. The biographical sketch that leads this off is a slightly longer version of the obituary I wrote for The Guardian in 2000 and a full biography can be found right at the end. Hope you enjoy this trip down my memory lane. The gallery is for British paperback editions only; a number of scans for various editions are from and from The A. E. Van Vogt Information Site and The Weird Worlds of A. E. Van Vogt websites which have more extensive galleries including American editions and some UK hardcover editions.)

A. E. Van Vogt

Alfred Elton van Vogt was born in Manitoba, Canada, on 26 April 1912, and educated at various schools in Winnipeg and Morden, graduating to the University of Ottawa in 1928. His first story sales were to True Story confession magazines in the early 1930s whilst working as a census clerk and representative of Maclean Trade Papers. It was here that van Vogt honed a unique style, based on his reading of John W. Gallishaw’s The Only Two Ways to Write a Short Story: each scene was built up on a five-step programme into a series of roughly 800 word blocks which established background, character and purpose and drove the story forward with dialogue, conflict and the introduction of sub-plots; to complicate things further, each of the 90 or so sentences in each block was a “fictional sentence” involving an emotion when writing for women’s magazines or, in his science fiction, what van Vogt called “a hang-up” - some piece of missing information which the reader’s imagination had to supply. A later system he developed was to solve any story problems by forcing himself to wake up every hour and a half to think about a solution; his subconscious would often have the problem resolved by morning.

Tiring of confessions and after a period of writing plays for Canadian radio, he rediscovered his early love of science fiction pulps, and began submitting stories and serials to Astounding Science Fiction in 1939. Of his 38 novels, his earliest are still regarded as classics: his first novel, Slan, dealt with a persecuted race of human-bred mutants and the attempts of Jommy Cross, learning to cope with his powers as he grows from adolescence to manhood, to bring peace between ‘normals’ and their physical and mental superiors; The Weapon Shops of Isher at its simplest level mixes future politics, immortality and galactic scale space opera; The World of Null-A and its sequel The Pawns of Null-A introduced Alfred Kotzybski’s General Semantics - a system through which the higher levels of the mind could be accessed via non-Aristotelian (or null-A) teaching - into a galaxy-spanning political intrigue whose hero - Gosseyn (go sane) - switches from one doppelganger body to another; the four stories that made up The Voyage of the Space Beagle revolved around ‘nexialist’ scientist Elliot Grosvenor and how he and the crew of an intergalactic spacecraft cope with a variety of alien attackers, one sequence a remarkable foreshadow of the Alien movie produced thirty-six years later.

The World of Null-A was published in book form in 1948, the first SF magazine serial to appear in hardcover from a major publisher (earlier titles had appeared from specialist houses); in France, it was translated by surrealist Boris Vian and created a market for science fiction. However, van Vogt’s interest in disciplines that would focus latent talent led him to Dianetics, the memory auditing system developed by fellow SF writer L. Ron Hubbard which became the cornerstone of Scientology. Although not interested in the mystical/religious aspects of Scientology, van Vogt maintained the Los Angeles Hubbard Dianetic Centre from 1950 until 1961, part financed by gathering together and reworking earlier stories into novels.

During this time he also worked on his only non-SF novel, The Violent Man, about Red China, which was finally published in 1962. At the invitation of editor Frederick Pohl, he returned to science fiction, producing a string of well-received stories for the magazine If. However, whilst some novels, notably The Silkie and The Battle of Forever, were well-paced and well-written, van Vogt’s fiction over the next two decades rarely achieved the fan or critical acclaim his earlier work had earned. Some of his later novels appeared only in France where he was championed by Jacques Sadoul, the editor at J’ai Lu, although many of his earlier novels remain in print.

In later years van Vogt suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease; he died from complications arising from pneumonia on 26 January 2000. He was married twice: in 1938 to the writer E. Mayne Hull (died 1975) and in 1979 to Lydia I. Brayman.

The Gallery

The Anarchistic Colossus. Pan, 1979.

Away and Beyond. Panther 1569, 1963. (not pictured)
Away and Beyond. Panther 2437, Apr 1968.
Away and Beyond. Panther 2437, 1973. Cover by Chris Foss.

The Battle of Forever
NEL 01652, 1973. Cover by Bruce Pennington.

NEL 02778,
Nov 1974; Aug 1976. [same as above]
NEL, Apr 1980. Cover by Gerald Grace.

[The Beast] Moonbeast. Panther, 1969.
[The Beast] Moonbeast. Panther 2937, Jun 1975; Nov 1978. Cover by Chris Foss.

The Best of A. E. Van Vogt. Sphere 8774, May 1974. Cover by Tony Roberts.
The Best of A. E. Van Vogt Volume 1. Sphere, Mar 1979. Cover by Peter Elson.
The Best of A. E. Van Vogt Volume 2. Sphere, Mar 1979. Cover by Peter Elson.

[The Book of A. E. Van Vogt] Lost: Fifty Suns. NEL, Dec 1980.

The Book of Ptath. Panther, Apr 1969. (not pictured)
The Book of Ptath. Panther 02753, 1973; Jul 1975.
The Book of Ptath. Panther, (date unknown). Cover by Peter Elson.

Children of Tomorrow
NEL 01447, May 1973; Jul 1973. Cover by Bruce Pennington.

NEL 04598, Apr 1980. (same cover)

Computerworld. NEL, Feb 1986.

Cosmic Encounter
NEL 05354, Dec 1981. Cover by Gerald Grace.

The Darkness of Diamondia. Sidgewick & Jackson 98228, Dec 1975. Cover by Tim White.
The Darkness of Diamondia. NEL, Jul 1980. (same cover)

Destination: Universe! Panther 1063, Jun 1960; 1963.
Destination: Universe! Panther, 1968. (not pictured)
Destination: Universe! Panther 02484, Apr 1972. Cover by Tony Roberts.
Destination: Universe! Panther 02484, 1973. (same cover as above)
Destination: Universe! Panther 02484, Nov 1978; 1980. Cover by Tony Roberts.

Earth's Last Fortress. Sphere 8732, Nov 1977. Cover by Chris Foss.

Empire of the Atom. NEL 02326, Mar 1975. Cover by Ray Feibush?.
Empire of the Atom. NEL 03698, Dec 1978. Cover by Joe Petagno.

The Far-Out Worlds of A. E. Van Vogt. NEL 01735, Feb 1974.
The Far-Out Worlds of A. E. Van Vogt. NEL 02747, May 1975. Ray Feibush.

[Future Glitter] Tyranopolis. Sphere 8734, Oct 1977. Cover by Peter Elson.

The Gryb. NEL, 1980. Cover by Paul Monteagle.

The House That Stood Still. Digit D361, Jun 1960. (not pictured)
The House That Stood Still. Digit R623, Oct 1962. Cover by R. A. Osborne.
[The House That Stood Still] The Undercover Aliens. Panther 02324, Jun 1976. Cover by Peter Jones.

The Man With a Thousand Names. Sidgwick & Jackson 98229, Dec 1975. Cover by Tim White.
The Man With a Thousand Names. NEL 98652, Jul 1980. (same cover but not wraparound)

The Mind Cage. Panther 1112, Sep 1960. (US reprint?)
The Mind Cage. Panther 1112, Oct 1963. (US reprint?)
The Mind Cage. Panther 011129, Aug 1975. Cover by Peter Jones.


Justin said...


A few suggested amends/additional credits to the Vogt gallery. Personally I'm really enjoying the paperback galleries and if they're a reflection of the book you're pulling together, it'll be a cracker!

All my suggestions are around the NEL covers. I know that Empire of the Atom is definitely not Pennington and is probably Ray Feibush. The Battle of Forever is Jan Parker. Far Out Worlds, Feibush again. The Silkie is Pennington. And I think Out of the Unknown is Clifton-Dey, although not up to his normal standards.


Justin The Paperback Fanatic.

Steve said...

Thanks for the additions, Justin.

The Sci-Fi Art book has nothing to do with these cover galleries, although it was the inspiration as it was because of the book that I started pulling all my old SF books off the shelf. I have a few more on the way, not all SF.

Anonymous said...

The cover to the 1973 edition of "The Battle Of Forever" isnot by Jan Parker but by Bruce Pennington. Evidence is on his webpage:
Cheers, John

Steve said...

Thanks for the correction, John. I should have spotted it myself as I've looked through Pennington's excellent website a number of times.

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