Sunday, June 19, 2016

When the X-Men Met Star Trek: A.E. Van Vogt

If you’re interested in the origins of persecuted teenage mutant supermen, you’ll have to look earlier than 1963, the year the first issue of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s X-Men was published.
At least 23 years earlier, in fact, to A.E. Van Vogt’s 1940 pulp science fiction novel Slan.
His parents murdered, an exploited 9-year-old boy named Jommy Cross is on the run because he’s secretly a Slan, a member of a telepathic, super-strong, super-swift, super-intelligent mutant minority created by scientist Samuel Lann. Slans also have healing powers and super-scientific weapons, and some of them, like Jommy, can be recognized by the golden tendrils in their hair.
In novels like this one, The World of Null-A and The Silkie, Van Vogt explored the superman concept. The strange left turns of his stories are sometimes criticized, but he wrote his fiction through a hypnagogic technique, taking brief naps to come up with new plot angles, and I find the dream logic of his stories intriguing. Van Vogt also offered unique takes on the science fiction monster genre in novels such as Voyage of the Space Beagle, a clear precursor to Star Trek.

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