Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A E van Vogt's "War of Nerves" (novelette, space opera, free): Cultures reach an _inferior_ stage, & then forever stay there!

Illustration by Bill Terry accompanying the original publication in Other Worlds Science Stories of the short story War of Nerves by A E van Vogt
Main story is a juvenile adventure: human inter-galactic exploration ship, Space Beagle, is telepathically attacked by "birdlike people" of Riim, a world in "one of a hundred star groups accompanying Earth's galaxy through space." Aliens quickly take over the minds of the ship's crew & send the ship to its suicide mission of plunging into a star. Except for the hero - Elliot Grosvenor, a "Nexialist". He will use aliens' own weapon on themselves to single-handledly save the ship.

How one reads the subtext, however, depends on reader's own prejudices. The key thesis of the story is: cultures eventually fall, a stage author calls "fellah". Once in fellah stage, a culture forever remains there. And all individuals comprising the culture suddenly turn into inflexible idiots - hence easy pickings, even individually, for anyone from a more vigorous culture! Since India is specifically named a "fellah" culture in the story, I'm obviously biased in how I take the thesis.


  1. Aliens in the story are "hymenopters" - apparently, beings that grow a copy of themselves from their body - on the outside rather than inside; copy later detaches to become a separate individual.

Fact sheet.

First published: Other Worlds, May 1950.
Download full text as part of the scans of the magazine it originally appeared in.
Rating: B.
This story is part of author's "Space Beagle" series.
Related: Stories of A E van Vogt.


Larry said...

Hmmm, I have one of his books, The Voyage of the Space Beagle and I'm prety sure this story here is part of it!
You can read my thoughts on it here:

Tinkoo said...

"Space Beagle" name, however, comes from HMS Beagle, the ship Darwin traveled in.

I cannot honestly say I loved the series that would later become the book. "Black Destroyer" was cool, but other two I've read so far are pretty average. In fact, I'm finding van Vogt a pretty inconsistent author - sometimes superb, other times superbly forgettable.

Larry said...

Ah yes I have read Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle many years ago.

As for van Vogt, have you read any others of his books, like Sland and Weapon Shops of Isher? That is where he is more highly regarded, and I have them on my book shelf to read sometime.

Tinkoo said...

I don't think I've read many of his novels, mostly short fiction - but a good amount of that, including a couple of stories from Weapon Shop series; didn't like the original one but "The Seesaw" was good.