Slan is a science fiction novel by American-Canadian writer A. E. van Vogt, as well as the name of the fictional race of superbeings featured in the novel. The novel was originally serialized in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction (September – December 1940). It was subsequently published in hardcover in 1946 by Arkham House, in an edition of 4,051 copies. In 2016, Slan was awarded the Retro-Hugo Award for Best Novel for 1941.
|Author||A. E. van Vogt|
|Cover artist||Robert E. Hubbell|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
Slans are evolved humans, named after their alleged creator, Samuel Lann. They have the psychic abilities to read minds and are super-intelligent. They possess near limitless stamina, "nerves of steel," and superior strength and speed. When Slans are ill or seriously injured, they go into a healing trance automatically.
There are two kinds of Slans. One has tendrils and can read the minds of ordinary humans and telepathically communicate with other Slans. The tendrils are golden in color, making it easy to spot a Slan. These Slans are hunted to near extinction. The other type of Slan is tendrilless. They are still super intelligent but do not have psychic capabilities, only the ability to hide their thoughts from the first type of Slan. Kier Gray is the leader of the human society and vows to exterminate the Slans.
As the novel begins, nine-year-old Jommy Cross (a telepathic Slan of the first type) is brought with his mother to the capital, Centropolis. They are both discovered and Jommy's mother is killed. Jommy manages to escape. Jommy Cross is not only the heir to the brilliant inventions of his father, but he represents the last hope of his race to save it from genocide. Because of the importance of his mission, he is opposed by various enemies. Jommy seeks to destroy Kier and in confronting him discovers an astonishing secret.
Groff Conklin, reviewing a 1951 edition, described Slan as "a little overblown, considerably melodramatic, but still [a] really gripping adventure story." P. Schuyler Miller called Slan "van Vogt's first and most famous novel, perhaps his best." In a back-cover blurb in the 1998 Orb edition, Charles De Lint says this: "Over fifty years on from when it first saw print, van Vogt's Slan is still one of the quintessential classics in the field that other SF novels will inevitably be measured against."
R. D. Mullen reported Slan to be "perhaps the most widely read, and perhaps the best of [van Vogt's] novels." He described the situation of the Slan minority in the imagined society as "obviously intended" as analogous to "the position of the Jews in the Third Reich," while "there actually is a secret world-wide conspiracy, and the Slans actually do control the world in much the same way as is imagined about the Jews by students of The Protocols of Zion."
In American science fiction fandom, the slogan "Fans are slans" quickly developed, analogizing the perceived greater intelligence and imaginative capability of science fiction fans with the superior abilities of slans in the novel, and their harassment by non-fans to the persecution of slans in the novel. Although some regard the usage as a symbol of fandom's elitism, along with the related term "mundane" for non-fans, others regard it as a reaction to the disapproval of science fiction and the fans of it by non-readers/non-fans. The related term "slan shack" came to be used in fanspeak to designate a house or building occupied entirely or primarily by fans. The first Slan Shack to bear that name was established in 1943 in Battle Creek, Michigan. Initial inhabitants included Al and Abby Lou Ashley, Walt Liebscher, E. Everett Evans and fan artist Jack Wiedenbeck. Others have included the Bozo Bus Building in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Lytheria in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The manga and anime series Toward the Terra is influenced by Slan. Both stories feature a hero named Jommy/Jomy, who discovers that he is a member of a race of telepathic mutants who are persecuted by non-telepathic humans.
American science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson completed the sequel to Slan, titled Slan Hunter, that includes content from an unfinished draft by van Vogt. It was published July 10, 2007 and credited to both Van Vogt and Anderson. Van Vogt's widow Lydia van Vogt previously gave permission to publish her introduction online, which partly deals with the onset of Alzheimer's disease that van Vogt struggled with at the end of his life.
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