(urth) Van Vogt. (Was: Re: I Claudius)

Jesper Svedberg jsvedberg at gmail.com
Thu Sep 7 11:56:19 PDT 2006

Andy Robertson skrev:

> I'd be astonished if Wolfe had not read Van Vogt.   I cannot say if any of 
> VV's work was an inspiration to Wolfe, but I think that merely setting it in 
> the distant future is not enough. 
> TBOTNS is a "Dying Earth" story - a story set in a future in which the Sun 
> (and therefore creation itself) has become senile, and reality frays. 
> This theme descends (like all SF does, I believe) from ancient Indo-European 
> religious and cultural forms, in this case the idea that the Universe is 
> cyclically renewed through flood and flame. 
> VV, as far as I know, never wrote in this vein.   In fact VV was really 
> writing, and wrote again and again (to the point of wearying at least this 
> reader),  about quite another ancient Indo-European theme - the idea that a 
> man can effectively become a god. 

_The Book of Ptath_ is set in a far future earth (it has also been 
published under the title _Two Hundred Million A.D._) where civilization 
has regressed , much like it has done in Vance's Dying Earth and Wolfe's 
Urth. It isn't an obvious Dying Earth setting like these two (The Sun is 
for instance not in danger of going out IIRC), but it does share a 
number of features and the general feeling of the world isn't a million 
miles away. (Some further research shows that _The Encyclopedia of 
Fantasy_ actually calls it an early example of a Dying Earth.)

I do think though that theme of godhood that was there on _Ptath_ (and 
that you say is common to most work of Van Vogt's) is something that 
Wolfe grapples with in BotNS. Severian isn't really a godlike figure, 
but his story does echo that of _the Book of Ptath_ and many similar 
stories of mythological origin.

I'm not saying it's an obvious source for inspiration, but I think it 
does deserve a closer look before it's discarded.

   // Jesper

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