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Surprising literary ventures

Gary Dexter

28 November 2007

11:28 AM

28 November 2007

11:28 AM

A. E. van Vogt was a doyen of the Astounding generation of mid-20th-century science-fiction writers, a group whose senior members included Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein. Among van Vogt’s novels are The Voyage of the Space Beagle, Slan and The World of Null-A. He also produced this little book, published in 1992 but conceived much earlier, a pre-feminist and pre-pop-biology attempt to pin down the problem of the violent male, or as he also termed it, the ‘right man’ — ‘right’ in the sense of wishing always to be right. The ‘right man’ is abusive towards women, is prone to outbursts of jealous rage, has a secret death-wish, and can be found at the helm of ‘all Communist countries’. This places the booklet firmly in the 1950s: it is essentially a Cold War production, and the fear is that man’s innate

psychopathology will result in annihilation. Van Vogt’s parting words, in the section headed ‘Practical Recommendations’ are rather unhelpful. ‘Is there a solution for the violent man as he now exists? Statistically speaking, no … If you are a “right” man, don’t worry. In 95 per cent of cases you won’t know it, even after reading this.’


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