Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A E Van Vogt's "Cataaaa" (short story, philosophy, free): Showing-off is intrinsic to human nature

Illustration accompanying a reprint in Narvel Science Stories, November 1950, of short story Cataaaa by A E Van Vogt
This is unlike anything else I've read of van Vogt. Text could use some editing - scene shifts are very abrupt. But I liked the story.

Story summary.

Philip, a biology professor, has received a curious postcard - an invitation to an a circus in town. Specifically, a certain freak show in the circus involving a very strange cat where his old school buddy is the ringmaster.

Event unfolds into something literally out of this world--an interview with an alien post-graduate student on an galactic tour, & a discussion of what's "the dominating character" of humanity.


  1. "Man is primarily a religious animal. From times too remote to be a written record, he has needed a faith in something. Once, he believed almost entirely in animate gods like rivers, storms, plants, then his gods became invisible; now they are once more becoming animate. An economic system, science--whatever it will be, the dominating article of it will be that he worships it without regard to reason, in other words, in a purely religious fashion."
  2. "Religion is self-dramatization before a god. Self-love, narcissism--in our own little way we show ourselves off...& so a strange being could come in our midst unsuspected."

Fact sheet.

First published: Fantasy Book, July 1947.
Read online at Slideshare (slow page load).
Download full text as part of the scans of Marvel Science Stories, November 1950, where it was reprinted.
Rating: A.
Related: Stories of A E van Vogt.