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Bookwaves – January 2, 2020: A.E. Van Vogt (1912-2000)

A.E. Van Vogt, born April 26th, 1912, died January 28, 2000 at the age of 87, was a science fiction writer who had his heyday from the mid 1940s through the 1960s, with such novels as The Weapon Shops of Isher, Slan, The Voyage of the Space Beagle and The World of Null A. Named a science fiction grandmaster in 1995, Van Vogt started by writing for Astounding Stories under editor John W. Campbell in the early 1940s, and most of those novellas and serialized novels found their way into hardback and paperback years later, as fix-ups, reworked material often with new titles. In 1950, he came under the spell – as did Campbell – of L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics, and later wrote through the lens of general semantics, founded by Alfred Korzibsky.

In 1980, with the publication of a new novel, Cosmic Encounter, and a lawsuit against Twentieth Century Fox over the film Alien, parts of which were derived from his story “Discord in Scarlet” in the book Voyage of the Space Beagle, he was available to be interviewed on February 23, 1980 by Richard Wolinsky’s former co-hosts on the radio show Probabilities on KPFA, the late Lawrence Davidson, science fiction book buyer for the legendary Cody’s Bookstore in Berkeley, and science fiction author Richard A. Lupoff.

A.E. Van Vogt continued to write after the interview, with three more novels, Computerworld, based on the screenplay mentioned in the interview, Null-A Three and To Conquer Kiber, translated into a French edition and never published in English. A.E. Van Vogt settled with Twentieth Century Fox and according to Wikipedia, received $50,000 but no credit for Alien. It! The Terror from Beyond Space is often credited as Dan O’Bannon’s inspiration for Alien, but no mention in Wikipedia is made of Van Vogt on that film’s page. Van Vogt’s name is not listed in the credits for either movie in IMDb. His collaboration with Harlan Ellison, “The Human Operators,” was adapted for the 2002 revival of the TV series The Outer Limits, and the previously mentioned Rod Serling adaptation of the Witch aired in 1971 on Night Gallery. Most of his novels and short stories can be found as e-books through Amazon and other booksellers, along with used paperbacks and hardcovers. This interview was digitized, remastered, and re-edited from two and a half hours of material by Richard Wolinsky in December 2019.

The complete 41-minute interview can be heard as a Radio Wolinsky podcast

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