The World of Null-A

I reread the ancient A. E. van Vogt classic The World of Null-A because I’d come across his name more than once recently. He’s famous for the frenetic pace of his writing - apparently, he liked to insert a major plot twist every 800 words (the standard length of a scene).

For those of you who keep count, there were two female characters in this story, the hero’s false wife and a villain’s good wife. There was one sentient machine, and everyone else was male. As usual, that didn’t bother me. What did bother me was the alleged use of non-Aristotelian logic (null-A). Not once did any of the null-A positive characters actually use non-Aristotelian logic. Van Vogt based the novel on General Semantics, yet another wacky pseudo-science from the Golden Age of sci-fi that brought us Dianetics, among other things. I suppose this sort of superman (as opposed to superhero) myth has been going on since Vril, The Power of the Coming Race.

It never ceases to amaze me what people could get away with writing fifty years ago, all gender issues aside.

2 Responses to “The World of Null-A”

  1. Jim French Says:

    Science fiction aside, I would point out that two of the most prominent general semanticists of the 20th Century were women, M. Kendig and Charlotte Schuchardt Read, both of whom at different times held the top position at the Institute of General Semantics (Director).

    As for “wacky pseudo-science”, the late, prominent scientist, Doctor W. Horsley Gantt, who had worked with Pavlov in Leningrad for several years, wrote the following:

    “I have read with great interest Count Korzybski’s Science and Sanity and feel that it is very important for science as well as general education and progress of human thinking. . . I was particularly interested in the chapters dealing with conditional reflexes. Korzybski discusses the matter with profound and accurate understanding, and the suggestions he makes are most timely and helpful to those who are working in this field. Anyone interested in the broader aspects of science I am sure will find in Korzybski’s book an original and far-sighted view of the whole modern teaching of the subject.”


  2. Jim French Says:

    P.S. Don’t try to understand general semantics by reading about it on the Web (as most sites will only confuse you). Rather, read Science and Sanity. As the late neurologist Dr. Russell Meyers once described it: “The most profound, insightful, and globally significant book I have ever read.”