from science fiction by
A. E. van Vogt

This page:

The Weapon Shop
The Great Engine
Film Library
Secret Unattainable
The World of Null-A


science fiction

index pages:

The Weapon Shop

Copyright © 1942 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc.

All their married life, she had had a pleasing habit of obedience that had made cohabitation a wonderful thing.



“He’s as cold as steel, but without steel’s strength or integrity. He took a long time, but he hates even me now, because I stood up for your side so long, knowing you were wrong.”

Something of the intense excitement that was in the crowd surged through Fara, the feeling of big things brewing. It was the most delicious sensation that had ever tingled along his nerves, and it was all mixed with a strange pride that he had been so right about this, that he at least had never doubted that here was evil.

He did not recognize the emotion as the full-flowering joy that comes to a member of a mob.

The amazing, the unforgivable thing was that all his life he had watched the march of ruined men into the oblivion of poverty and disgrace—and blamed them.

[...] we have watched the tide of government swing backward and forward between democracy under a limited monarchy to complete tyranny. And we have discovered one thing:

People always have the kind of government they want. When they want change, they must change it.”



“I’ve been a stubborn man in my time; and though I’ve changed sides, I haven’t changed that.”

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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The Great Engine

Copyright © 1943 by Street & Smith Publishers,
for Astounding Science Fiction

A genuine introvert like Eleanor acquired an emotional momentum in a given direction. Getting her out of that involved forces similar to the basic laws of hypnosis: The more direct the pressure to change her, the greater would be her innate resistance. Even if she herself willed to be free, the more determined she became about it, the more deeply she would become involved in the morass of emotions that was her psychic prison.
[...] “Strength is a curious quality. A dog can strain at a leash until it rots—or break it the first day if he lunges against it with enough snap.”

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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Film Library

Copyright © 1946 by Street & Smith Publishers,
for Astounding Science Fiction

She was a survival type in a sense that would have startled Darwin. Regardless of the variation in his income, she managed to spend it all, month in, month out. Her adaptability sometimes amazed even that defeatist Mr. Arlay.

Time is the great unvariant, but the unvariance is no simple relation. Time is here where you are. It is never the same elsewhere. A starbeam penetrates the atmosphere. It brings a picture from seven hundred thousand years in the past. An electron makes a path of light across a photographic plate. It brings a picture from fifty, a hundred years in the future—or a hundred thousand years. The stars, the world of the infinitely large, are always in the past. The world of the infinitely small is always in the future.

This is a rigor of the universe. This is the secret of time.



text checked (see note) Feb 2005; Apr 2022

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Secret Unattainable

Copyright © 1942, by Street & Smith Publishers,
for Astounding Science Fiction

My invention does not fit into our civilization. It’s the next, the coming age of man. Just as modern science could not develop in ancient Egypt because the whole mental, emotional, and physical attitude was wrong, so my machine cannot be used until the thought structure of man changes.



text checked (see note) Apr 2022

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The World of Null-A

Copyright 1945, 1946, by A.E. van Vogt

Note (Hal’s):
“Null-A” is “non-Aristotelianism”: not only a non-Aristotelian philosophy, but also, as revealed in some of these quotes, very much an “-ism”; in fact, it has all the characteristics of a (non-theistic) religion.

— end note

II Behind the training was the non-Aristotelian technique of automatic extensional thinking, the unique development of the twentieth century which, after four hundred years, had become the dynamic philosophy of the human race. “The map is not the territory. . . . The word is not the thing itself. . . .”




Gosseyn took his time remembering. It was an intensional world into which he strove to penetrate and as nonexistent as all such worlds. Memory never was the thing remembered, but at least with most people, when there was a memory, there normally had been a fact of similar structure.


Fear must derive from the very colloids of a substance. A flower closing its petals for the night was showing fear of the dark, but it had no nervous system to transmit the impulse and no thalamus to receive and translate the electric message into an emotion. A human being was a physico-chemical structure whose awareness of life was derived from an intricate nervous system. After death, the body disintegrated; the personality survived as a series of distorted impulse-memories in other people’s nervous systems. As the years flew by, those memories would grow dimmer. At most, Gilbert Gosseyn would survive as a nerve impulse in other human beings for half a century; as an emulsion on a film negative for several score years; as an electronic pattern in a series of cathode-ray cells for perhaps two centuries.





Any student of philosophy, even in the olden days, knew that two apparently identical chairs were different in ten thousand times ten thousand ways, none of them necessarily visible to the naked eye. In the human brain, the number of possible paths that a single nerve impulse could take was of the nature of ten to the twenty-seven-thousandth power. The intricate patterns set up by a lifetime of individual experience could not ever be duplicated. It explained beyond all argument why never in the history of Earth had one animal, one snowflake, one stone, one atom ever been exactly the same as another.

Compare to:

H.G. Wells


“There are psychiatrical explanations for Blayney hitting me as he did,” Gosseyn explained. “His nervous system is beginning to react as strongly to things that might have happened as it would if they had actually occurred. It’s a purely functional disorder, but its outward form is distressing to the individual. A gradual loss of courage. Sadistic outbursts to cover up the developing cowardice. By the time he’s forty he’ll be having nightmares about the damage he might have suffered in some of the danger spots he was in as a youth.”

XXV There was a curious psychological law that protected men with purposes from those who had none. The important thing was not to arouse counterpurpose.
XXXI “It’s all very childish and murderous, an extreme example of how neurotic a civilization can become when it fails to develop a method for integrating the human part of man’s mind with the animal part. All their thousands of years of additional scientific development have been wasted in the effort to achieve size and power when all they needed was to learn how to co-operate.”
XXXIII It was the nature of Aristotelian man that he did not share willingly. All through history the struggle for power, murder of rivals, and exploitation of the defenseless had been the reality of unintegrated man’s nature.

Somberly, Gosseyn paused, and read the ancient inscription:



It was like a sigh across the centuries. Some of the reality of meaning, as it affected the human nervous system, was in that phrase. Countless billions of people had lived and died without ever suspecting that their positive beliefs had helped to create the disordered brains with which they confronted the realities of their worlds.

text checked (see note) Jul 2006

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Background graphic copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen