The World of Null-A by A. E. van Vogt

The World of Null-A

I love reading and writing short stories. A few years ago I came up with the idea of writing a nonfiction article on the five most influential pre-1950 computers in science fiction. In researching that list of potential computers, I read a number of books and short stories. E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” topped off the list. It left me speechless and amazed. I wrote a review about that story last week. You can find it HERE. A second short story on the list was Misfit by Robert A. Heinlein. You can find it HERE. The third computer I found was “The Engine.” The Engine is a fictional device described in Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift in 1726. You can find it HERE.

The World of Null-A, sometimes written The World of Ā, is a 1948 science fiction novel by A. E. van Vogt.  Originally published as a three-part serial in Astounding Stories, it incorporates concepts from the General Semantics of Alfred Korzybski. The name Ā refers to non-Aristotelian logic.

Gilbert Gosseyn, a man living in an apparent utopia where those with superior understanding and mental control rule the rest of humanity, wants to be tested by the giant Machine that determines such superiority. However, he finds that his memories are false. In his search for his real identity, he discovers that he has extra bodies that are activated when he dies (so that, in a sense, he cannot be killed), that a galactic society of humans exists outside the Solar system, a large interstellar empire wishes to conquer both the Earth and Venus (inhabited by masters of non-Aristotelian logic), and he has extra brain matter that, when properly trained, can allow him to move matter with his mind.

The World of Null-A appeared originally as a 1945 serial in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction, which was edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. Van Vogt revised and shortened the tale for the 1948 novel release by Simon and Schuster. In 1970, van Vogt revised it yet again (though only slightly this time), and added an Author’s Introduction in which he both defended the controversial work, and admitted that the original serial had been flawed.

Book Cover Artist: Leo Manso

Sources: Wikipedia and The World of Null-A.

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