Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A E van Vogt's "The Purpose" (novelette, zombie, free): An attempt to spread love ends up spreading terror

Illustration accompanying the original publication in Astounding Science Fiction of the short story The Purpose by A E van Vogt
One of the less interesting stories of van Vogt. I found the magical device employed here outright illogical, rather than just utterly incomprehensible that is the case in his many other stories.

Story summary.

Dr Dorial Cranston is the ultimate pacifist: he would like more people, complete strangers, to physically touch each other. He thinks this will spread love.

Since humanity is not ready for stranger-touch, he's developed a device that does the next best thing: when two individuals pass close to each other, there is a microscopic "life force" transfer; his machine amplifies it.

Only the electronic engineer he's employed is a crook, & has sabotaged his machine to overtake the world via an organization called "Futurian Scientific Laboratories": an organization that deliberately kills people so Dr Cranston will turn them into zombies because good doctor cannot stand to see someone dying.

Villains will meet their match when they choose Virginia Mention as their victim. Her husband, Prof Norman Mention, will make sure their terrorizing ends.

See also.

  1. John Scalzi's "The President's Brain is Missing" (download): The main gimmick here is keeping the brain of a man not inside the brain case but elsewhere - at least till the suspense is revealed. In this van Vogt story, heart of a man is physically kept half-way around the world from his body!
  2. I recall a Medgadget story where kissing has become a requirement for population's physical well being. I don't recall the title though, & I don't seem to have a post on it.

Fact sheet.

First published: Astounding, May 1945.
Download full text as part of the scans of Astounding issue where it originally appeared in.
Note: One page of story text in these scans has incomplete left scans, missing first 2-3 characters of every line.
Rating: B.
Among the stories from Analog/Astounding issues edited by John W Campbell, Jr.
Related: Stories of A E van Vogt.