Welcome to Roger Russell's
A. E. Van Vogt Page

Copyright 1996-2004 by Roger Russell
All rights reserved
No portion of this site may be reproduced in whole or in part
without written permission of the author.


This symbol, or Null-A, means non-Aristotelian, or a multivalued logic (all shades of gray). In comparison, Aristotelian means a two valued logic (only black or white).

Any additions, comments or corrections are welcome.


Since 1945 A. E. Van Vogt has been called Van instead of his first name, Alfred.

A. E Van Vogt died on January 26, 2000 at age 87. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for the past 10 years. He died of complications of pneumonia. I hope that he will always be remembered for the greatest reading experiences, ever.

What Is
General Semantics?


I had my own definition for general semantics after reading the Null-A books, but the Institute of General Semantics (IGS) gives a better definition. Includes links.

General Semantics and Roger Russell


I joined the ISGS after learning it actually existed and wasn't just something in The World of Null-A.

General Semantics and McIntosh Laboratory


Gordon Gow and Dirk Roos of McIntosh Laboratory were both on the board of directors of the ISGS.

About A. E. Van Vogt


An interesting biography and pictures.

The Null-A Stories


Although this series was not his first work, it's the one that made the biggest impression on me.

Null-A and a Search for The Truth


Personal experiences in my search for reason and sanity in a world of superstition and ignorance.

List of Van Vogt Stories


 An extensive list of stories by A.E. Van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull. Includes both short stories and novels. Listed alphabetically and by date.



Links to other Van Vogt related sites.

So what is general semantics?

After reading the Null-A novels, I had thought of GS as a discipline for making evaluations and decisions. Van Vogt refers to this system as the cortical-thalamic pause. Instead of reacting immediately and often blindly to a situation, Null-A teaches us to stop and consider our total reaction and options before responding. This requires training for a person to use successfully, particularly on an automatic level. General Semantics, then, offers a method for improving our ability to reason, evaluate, communicate, etc. It involves the recognition and understanding of our thoughts, feelings, bias, judgments, perceptions, assumptions and inferences. It is definitely beneficial for our best interests and survival.

Since then, I have increased my knowledge. A better introduction can be found on the pages of the Institute of General Semantics that was founded by Alfred Korzybski and incorporated in 1938. See how you can relate to the varied aspects of general semantics. Also, check out the pages of the International Society for General Semantics founded in 1943 by S. I. Hayakawa.

General Semantics and Roger Russell

These novels also intrigued me when I was in high school. I had no idea there was a real general semantics institute as there was nothing mentioned at the beginning or end of the 1953 paperback edition of "The World of Null-A." It wasn't until the early 1960's that I learned from Richard Trout, a tape correspondence friend and ISGS member, about the connection between the novels and an organization called the International Society for General Semantics. I became a member at that time.

The ISGS has many books available. When I first received the list of books, it was like a list of treasures. I couldn't decide which ones to order first. I have never tired of reading them as I always find something new that I had not paid attention to before. I even learned why I was finding different things at different times.

General Semantics and McIntosh Laboratory

In 1967, I went to McIntosh to interview for an engineering position. You can imagine my surprise when I learned that the executive vice president, Gordon Gow, and the advertising manager, Dirk Roos, were on the board of directors of the ISGS!!

At McIntosh, the teachings of GS were valuable in understanding human behavior and the thought process. From this, a greater understanding of beliefs and motivation that related to selling techniques could be found. I personally found these topics fascinating because it offered several perspectives of myself that I had not seen before.

A.E. Van Vogt has written many superb science fiction stories. Today, he is nearly unknown.

A.E. Van Vogt was born on April 26, 1912 in the house of his mother's parents. The little farm was in Manitoba, south of Winnipeg, Canada. His parents were Dutch. He had an older brother, Arthur and a two younger brothers, Edmund and Ira. He also had a younger sister, Edna. He lived in the small town of Neville for his first ten years. His father was a lawyer. When he was 10, they moved to Morden, Manitoba. Then they moved to Winnipeg where his father became manager of the Holland-America steamship line.

That move changed his life. The city schools were ahead of him and he became withdrawn and repeated 10th grade. It was at that time he began reading two books a day. He was up until 3am with a light under the sheets. After he graduated he kept on reading. At age 14 he picked up an issue of Amazing Stories science fiction magazine. He read many of them after that until a new editor took over, that he didn't like, and then he stopped. He also borrowed books from the library. In the depression, the manager job for his father ended. They moved several times more. He worked as a truck driver, farmhand and statistical clerk. Between jobs he began to write.

While in Ottawa, he took a course in writing at the Palmer Institute for Authorship. He discovered that he could write about the ocean that he had never seen and realized this had verisimilitude (having the appearance of truth). The moment he understood that, he knew he could write fiction. He wrote his first story and entered a contest in True Story magazine. He didn't win the contest but they sent him a check for $110. The story was published as "No One to Blame but Herself." He wrote more stories for them and eventually wrote one that earned him a year's salary. He went on to write not only confession stories, but also love stories and an occasional radio play. It was about this time that he met Mayne, his future wife.

His first science fiction story was inspired by John W. Campbell's Who Goes There? [August 1938 Astounding Science Fiction]. It later was adapted for film as The Thing From Outer Space. Campbell returned his first story, Vault of the Beast, for rewriting. His second story, Black Destroyer, made the cover of the July 1939 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and won first place in the reader voting for July. It was also patterned after Who Goes There?

On May 9, 1939, he married Edna Mayne Hull who was also a professional writer. When WWII began, Van Vogt was turned down by his local draft board for poor vision. However, he was able to get a job working for the Department of National Defense. In the evenings, he wrote Slan and sold it for $835. It was a tremendous success. It was published as a four part serial in the September-December 1940 issues of Astounding Science Fiction. Unfortunately his job began requiring him to work weekends as well, and for the same pay. He decided to quit in 1941 and move to Farm Point, Quebec where he wrote steadily 7 days a week for 14 hours a day. He wrote several short stories and then The Weapon Shop. Campbell, the editor of Astounding, contracted with him after that. The door was open. He was writing 300,000 words per year.

They moved to Los Angeles in 1944. His work output was decreasing to only 180,000 words a year and he was still working long days every day. He met a writer, Richard Sale, at a Simon and Schuster party. Richard worked directly on the typewriter and had much free time as a result. Van Vogt then found he could do at least half of his writing directly on the typewriter, instead of writing longhand and transcribing. He too became a free man.

His wife, Mayne, was born in Brandon, Manitoba. At age 20 she was a secretary. Three years later, she started free lance writing. She joined an authors group and that's where they met. She was called Mayne because, in 1945, Van Vogt's sister Edna, whose husband died in a plane crash, and her daughter, came to live with them in Los Angeles. To solve the problem of two Ednas in the house, they decided to use his wife's middle name. About that time, he ceased to be known as Alfred and began to be called Van.

Los Angeles was the hub of all kinds of religions, cults and sciences. He was very impressed after reading Science and Sanity, an introduction to non-Aristotelian systems and General Semantics by Alfred Korzybsky. Van Vogt used these theories to create The World of Null-A, starting in August, 1945 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It was a tremendous success, and also very controversial. Some readers didn't understand what the story was all about and began to explore general semantics and Korzybski for answers. In 1948 he wrote the much awaited sequel, The Players of A.

Van Vogt found that he could not consciously plot stories that would sell. However, he could sometimes dream his ideas or, more often, aspects of them. For him, that worked. Perhaps each writer has his own way. His was a conscious not knowing what's next, dreaming about it, and then incorporating it into the story.

Van Vogt had met L. Ron Hubbard in 1945. Early in 1950, Hubbard began calling from New Jersey and even sending money, trying to get him interested in Dianetics. To put a stop to it, he finally accepted. At the same time an article appeared in the May, 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction It was Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Healing by L. Ron Hubbard. Dianetics was to influence both him and his wife for many years. Mayne had been affected with headaches for over 13 years. Using auditing techniques from Dianetics, she was permanently cured. As a result, she also became involved in Dianetics and in 1950, stopped writing.

His own writing nearly stopped, as well. Several new titles were reworks of older stories. After the process of auditing, he was able to break out the dead end of "automatedness" and move to another level. His method of writing changed. In 1957, The Mind Cage was written, consciously. It was also his first attempt to look objectively at the violent male.

Then he wrote The Expendables that was published in the September 1963 issue of Worlds of If magazine. A note on the front cover, shown at the left, claimed that it was Van Vogt's first new story in 14 years. In the early 70's, Van Vogt ended his involvement with Dianetics.

In 1967, I was fortunate to be in touch with Richard Trout who was corresponding with Van Vogt by tape. Richard was a member of the ISGS and was getting some assistance from him about creating his first story. They were kind enough to let me have copies of those tapes. "Van" mentioned at that time his intention to write six novels for 1970, as well as give lectures. He said his best year was 1943, and this could be another active time. The novels gradually appeared over the next few years.

In 1975, Reflections of A.E. Van Vogt, an autobiography, was published. It was also the year his wife, Mayne, died. He later married again.

His last few books were Cosmic Encounter [1980], Computer Eye [1983] and Null-A Three [1985].

I sent him a printout of this page to his home in Hollywood a few years ago, but according to his agent Dan Hooker, "Van Vogt and his wife Lydia were now living a life of retirement." The agent also conveyed that Mr. Van Vogt was happy to hear that folks are being kept aware of him and his work through fan sources such as my internet page. He died on January 26, 2000 at age 87.

Much of the material for this biography comes from "Reflections of A. E. Van Vogt". Other material is from various notes and personal tape recordings made by Van Vogt in the 1960's.

The Null-A stories

In 1945 Van Vogt wrote The World of Null-A, one of the most controversial and successful novels in science fiction literature. It was based on the work of Alfred Korzybski, titled Science and Sanity, An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. This is how many readers learned of general semantics and it became very popular. The Institute of General Semantics (IGS) was founded by Korzybski and incorporated in 1938. It is very active today. The International Society for General Semantics (ISGS) was founded in 1943 by S. I. Hayakawa and is also very active today.

In the World of Null-A, it is the year A.D. 2560. Earth had become a world of Null-A, controlled by the super computer games machine. Gilbert Gosseyn (pronounced Go-Sane), is the main character, who finds himself with strange memories. He came to the games machine only to learn he is not who he thinks he is. He finds he is a pawn, not only in an interplanetary struggle between Earth and Venus, but also with an incredible interstellar empire. He is the only man in the galaxy with a highly developed brain. He must learn to use the full potential of his mind through Null-A training and the cortical-thalamic pause. The fate of Earth is somehow linked to his actions, but there is a mysterious cosmic chess player that appears to be manipulating events.

In 1948 Van Vogt wrote the much awaited sequel, The Players of A. In this continuing saga, Gosseyn finds himself in the body of another person and must attempt to retrain the earlier conditioning of its nervous system. He also seeks the secret of Gosseyn's original purpose and the multiple Gosseyn bodies. He learns of the mysterious Follower, the Predictors and the cosmic chess player who is a third force in a deadly game that spanned the entire galaxy.

In 1985, Van Vogt wrote Null-A Three, the grand finale of the saga of Gosseyn, the man with the extra brain.

The Null-A books are as follows:

  • The World of Null-A {1945] was first published as a 3 part serial in the August-October issues of Astounding Science Fiction. (also published as The World of A [HC]) and revised in 1970 as The World of Null-A.
  • The Players of A [1948] was first published as a serial starting in the October issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It was later published as The Pawns of Null-A and then revised in 1974 as The Players of Null-A.
  • Null-A Three

The World of Null-A
Now available from the
ISGS. 196 + xii pages. 5-1/2 by 8-1/2 inches. Softcover. Reprinted 1989, Ariel Press. Catalog No. 1945WONA. $9.00 plus shipping


The Players of Null-A
Now available from the
ISGS. 233 pages. 5-1/2 by 8-1/2. Soft cover. Reprinted 1990, Ariel Press. Catalog No. 1665PONA. $9.00 plus shipping

Null-A and a Search For the Truth

To me the Null-A stories paint a world where men can live by sanity, reason and clear thinking. A world where self understanding and logic replaces superstition and ignorance. Van describes a future world of rational people who, with Null-A training, fight the vestigial forces of imperialism. More than the action in the story was the concept that such a world of sanity might someday exist.

Men and women can at last learn to recognize who and what they are by controlling some of the ancient and perhaps obsolete genetic programming that had earlier been a social survival factor in our evolution. As a teenager, I was eager to learn the truth, but people didn't want to talk about the truth. When I was a freshman in college, I interviewed a psychologist. When asked some questions about religion, he suggested that I consult a clergyman about these things. This, of course, was the last place to look for the truth. I didn't realize then that I was an atheist and applying reason to people obsessed with strong programming for a way to compensate for the realization of their inevitable mortality and death. Atheism back then was not discussed or publicized very much. I had heard of Madeline Murray and the removal of prayer from school but this didn't really meet the goals I was looking for. I needed a way to develop my thinking ability--to respond to a discipline based on reason and logic instead of following well traveled paths of fear and self ignorance. I was a prime candidate for Null-A training after reading The World of Null-A back in 1953.

Later, I was attracted to the works of Ayn Rand because it contained some sanity. However, in the Objectivist Newsletters she was very abstract and used long unfamiliar words. I did enjoy her books such as The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged and We the Living. It still didn't really fill in missing pieces for me.

Finally, in my early 50's, after seeing Ayn Rand on a Donohue program, I realize I truly was an atheist and that was it. At that time I sought out a local group of other "closet" atheists and found that I wasn't alone in my outlook after all these years.

I had been looking for the assurance of the truth of my fate. All I found was what others believed and they seemed deaf to any questions. In fact, it often stirred anger. To them, to question these things was a threat to their beliefs. This obsession with an afterlife is found in all known civilizations, past or present. I didn't understand what they were talking about. These words had no meaning for me. What I was looking for was what Matthew Alper had to say in his book published last year, The "God" Part of the Brain. "Nevertheless, once our brain dies, once its cognitive processes stop functioning so does the consciousness. In whatever form our present store of energy will be redistributed into the vast universe after physical death, whether it is soil, gas, or cosmic dust, it will bear no relation to what we are today. Never again will we exist in the same exact molecular combination. Consequently, never again will we experience the same conscious state."

Our society has changed a lot since the 1950's. Restrictions on books, movies, sex information, etc. have decreased dramatically. Matthew Alper says: "...Rather than having to be stuck in the same delusional framework nature forged for us, we could use this self knowledge to reach toward something better, something through which we could perhaps make ourselves more survivable, more energy efficient--one based on scientific reason--it might mark the advent of a new stage in our species' evolution." I immediately thought of The World of Null-A.

Links to Van Vogt related sites

Advanced Book Exchange.


A great place to buy other books by Van Vogt, or anyone else for that matter?

The Weird World of A. E. Van Vogt


A nice page by Magnus Axelsson. Contains essays, bibliography interviews and an excellent gallery.

Science Fiction Resources


Lots of information on science fiction, authors and many links.

Email to


More text and pictures about A. E. Van Vogt will be added as my research continues. Any comments, corrections, or additions are welcome.

Return to the top of this page

Roger Russell's
Science Fiction Fun Page

Roger Russell's
main page



Are you ready to similarize yourself elsewhere? Be certain you have memorized your previous location to twenty decimal places within the last 26 hours.



Created by Roger Russell
All contents are copyright 1996-2004
by Roger Russell All rights reserved