Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Van Vogt, Marlon Brando, Boris Karloff and Gilbert Gosseyn

I met A. E. Van Vogt just as he was experiencing the first onset of Alzheimer's. I had been brimming with so many questions about the deeper psychological currents that run throughout The World of Null-A. A novel which starts when the hero realizes he is not the person he believed himself to be and so sets out on a quest to discover who he is, a quest that reaches a culmination of some profundity for a science fiction novel of the 1940s. It is no coincidence that the protagonist of this futuristic tale is named Gilbert Gosseyn (go sane). The method by which he does so is soundly based on the science of the time, involving a "cortical-thalamic pause" and the application of non-Aristotelian thinking. Van, alas, could shed no light on the writing of his earlier books or what the intentions behind them were. He had forgotten it all.

What I want to share with you here is a little known sidelight on the cover of an early hardcover edition  of The World of Null-A.

Pulp magazine cover artists are never paid so well that they can afford to hire professional models. To make up for this lack, many artists, including the astounding Virgil Finley of Famous Fantastic Memories fame, copied photographs of movie stars because they were easy to come by free. Hence, if you will study below, you will see Marlon Brando as Van's mental superman, Boris Karloff as the villainous onlooker to his right, Barry Fitzgerald as the impish figure on the left, and a (by me) unidentified female star of the era on the right (though she is very familiar looking).

Jean Marie Stine
Futures-Past Editions
author, Herstory & Other Science Fictions, ebook and paperback

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