Born and raised in rural Canada, A.E. Van Vogt (April 26, 1912 – January 26, 2000) would grow up to become one of science fiction’s most complex and talked about authors. Always a fan of the fantastic, Van Vogt got his start writing regular old pulp fiction. He sold his first science fiction story in 1939. Like many golden age science fiction writers, most of his early works were short stories for the magazine industry. As the industry later changed to short novels and chapbooks, Van Vogt attempted to weave together short stories that took place in the same universe into a longer coherent story. Known as “fix-ups”, some of the them were very successful, others, not so much.
He moved to California in the 1940s, and watched as World War II unfolded. Obsessed with humanities reaction to totalitarian police states, the concept of governments that had complete control would be a theme that showed up in many of his works, along with the concept of superbeings that took control, or had to be kept from taking control.
Known for highly complex yet episodic stories, many critics weren’t quite sure what to do with Van Vogt. Damon Knight couldn’t stand him, and Philip K Dick thought he was brilliant. If you like strange and surreal, Van Vogt is for you. If you want a neat and tidy explanation at the end of the story, maybe this is an author you should skip. Regardless of what the critics said, Van Vogt was most certainly ahead of his time.
In 1996, A. E. Van Vogt was award the Damon Knight memorial Grand Master Award by the SFWA (ironic!) and he has received special awards for lifetime achievement. Near the end of his life, he suffered from Alzheimer’s. After his death in 2000, his widow Lydia Van Vogt worked with Kevin J Anderson to write Slan Hunter, based on notes Van Vogt had left. It was published in 2007.