The Voyage of the Space Beagle

The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950) is a science fiction (SF) novel by A. E. van Vogt in the space opera subgenre. The novel is a "fix-up" compilation of four previously published SF stories:

  • "Black Destroyer" (cover story of the July, 1939, issue of Astounding magazine—the first published SF by A. E. van Vogt) (chapters 1 to 6)
  • "War of Nerves" (May, 1950, Other Worlds magazine) (chapters 9 to 12)
  • "Discord in Scarlet" (cover story of the December, 1939, issue of Astounding magazine—the second published SF by A. E. van Vogt) (chapters 13 to 21)
  • "M33 in Andromeda" (August, 1943, Astounding magazine, later published as a story in the book M33 in Andromeda (1971)) (chapters 22 to 28)

The book was republished in 1952 under the title Mission: Interplanetary.

A huge globular spaceship, manned by a chemically castrated all-male crew of nearly a thousand, who are on an extended scientific mission to explore intergalactic space, encounters several, mostly hostile, aliens and alien civilizations. On board the spaceship during its journey, both political and scientific revolutions take place.

The title of the book is a reference to The Voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin's book about his five-year voyage around the world on HMS Beagle.

The Voyage of the Space Beagle
The Voyage of the Space Beagle (book) front cover
Cover of the first edition
AuthorA. E. van Vogt
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
PublisherSimon & Schuster
Publication date
September 8, 1950[1]
Media typePrint (Hardcover & Paperback)
LC Class50-14253

Plot summary

The main protagonist of the novel is Dr. Elliott Grosvenor, the only Nexialist on board (a new discipline depicted as taking an actively generalist approach towards science). It is Grosvenor's training and application of Nexialism rather than the more narrow-minded approaches of the individual scientific and military minds of his other shipmates that consistently prove more effective against the hostile encounters both from outside and within the Space Beagle. He is eventually forced to take control of the ship using a combination of hypnotism, psychology, brainwashing, and persuasion, in order to develop an effective strategy for defeating the alien entity Anabis and saving the ship and our galaxy.

The book can be roughly divided into four sections corresponding to the four short stories on which it was based:

In the first section, the Space Beagle lands on a largely deserted desolate planet. Small scattered herds of deer-like creatures are seen, and the ancient ruins of cities litter the landscape. Coeurl, a starving, intelligent and vicious cat-like carnivore with tentacles on its shoulders, approaches the ship, pretending to be an unintelligent animal, and quickly infiltrates it. The creature kills several crewmen before being tricked into leaving the now spaceborne ship in a lifeboat. It then commits suicide when it realizes it has been defeated.

In the second part, the ship is almost destroyed by internal warfare caused by telepathic contact with a race of bird-like aliens, called Riim. The benign signals that the Riim send are incompatible with the human mind. Only Grosvenor's knowledge of telepathic phenomena saves the ship from destruction.

In the third section, the ship comes across Ixtl, a scarlet being floating in deep space. It is a vicious survivor of a race that ruled a previous universe before the Big Bang, the creation of our own universe. Ixtl boards the ship, and being obsessed with its own reproduction, kidnaps several crew members in order to implant parasitic eggs in their stomachs. It is eventually tricked into leaving the ship, after all the crew have left the ship temporarily, leaving no prey left for its offspring to feed on.

In the last section, Anabis, a galaxy-spanning consciousness, is encountered. Once again, it is both malevolent, starving and aggressive, and under all circumstances must be prevented from following the ship back to any other galaxy. Anabis, which is essentially a galaxy-size will-o'-the-wisp, feeds off the death of living organisms, and has destroyed all intelligent life in its galaxy. It transforms all planets it can find into jungle planets through terraforming, since it is these kind of worlds that produce most life. The crew of the Space Beagle lures the intelligence to chase the ship into deep space, causing it to starve to death.

Running concurrently to this, the book also covers a power struggle on the ship among the leaders of individual scientific and military groups.


P. Schuyler Miller, while praising the original stories, found that the rewriting needed to stitch them into an original novel was inadequate, so that "the whole is less than its original parts."[2]

The novel was reprinted in 2008.[3] The critic Joe Milicia took the opportunity of this re-issue to revisit the novel in a comprehensive review for the New York Review of Science Fiction.[4] Milicia looks at what today’s reader might find in the novel, noting:

Thus the stories read as if they were the inspiration for those episodes of Star Trek where some particularly odd and hostile entity must be ingeniously defeated by the Enterprise crew before that entity continues on its marauding path. (Indeed, they very likely were direct inspirations).[5]

Among the surprises identified by Milicia that it may hold for the modern reader are the disharmony aboard the Space Beagle, (“Clearly, Machiavelli rather than Darwin is the true spirit guiding the Space Beagle.”) and that the Space Beagle’s mission is like the original Beagle’s and very unlike the U.S.S. Enterprise’s.[6]

References in other works

A sentient panther-like species named Coeurl (or Zorl in French editions), with psi capabilities and tentacles coming out of its shoulders, was adapted as the character Mughi (or Mugi) in the anime Dirty Pair. It also appears in several versions of the Final Fantasy video games, and as the Displacer beast in the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. The Coeurl suck phosphorus ("id")[7] from their victims; the "salt vampire" in the Star Trek episode "The Man Trap" removes sodium.

At first glance, the alien Ixtl also appears to be an inspiration for the film Alien,[8][9][10] though those involved with the film denied any influence on its part. Van Vogt initiated a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox for plagiarism, but the case was settled out of court, the details of which were never disclosed.[11]

The book was translated into several languages and, as was the case for most of van Vogt's work, was very popular in France. In Japan it is noted that Korita, the character who explains the demise of the first monster, is Japanese, and presented without racist slights.

Two of the races, the Riim (pp 82–83) and the Ixtl (pp 52–53) are depicted in Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials.

In David Gerrold's Chtorr novel A Season for Slaughter, a robot probe called a "prowler" is used. The prowler makes a distinctive "coeurl" sound, described several times as "the prowler coeurled on." The reference to the Coeurl in the first story of the Voyage of the Space Beagle, where the phrase "Coeurl prowled on" occurs, is unmistakable.


  1. ^ "Books Published Today". The New York Times: 29. September 8, 1950.
  2. ^ "Book Reviews", Astounding Science Fiction, May 1951, p.152
  3. ^ A E van Vogt: The Voyage of the Space Beagle ; Reprint edition, Orb Books, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7653-2077-3
  4. ^ Milicia, Joe: “A E van Vogt’s The Voyage of the Space Beagle,” New York Review of Science Fiction, Number 262 Vol. 22, No. 10, June 2010, page 1
  5. ^ Milicia (2010), page 4
  6. ^ Milicia (2010), page 6
  7. ^ A. E. van Vogt. "Chapter 5". Black Destroyer. Baen Books. ISBN 978-0-7653-2077-3. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  8. ^ Reeves-Stevens, Garfield; Judith Reeves-Stevens; Brian Muirhead (2004-12-21). Going to Mars: The Stories of the People Behind NASA's Mars Missions Past, Present, and Future. London: Simon & Schuster. pp. 124–125. ISBN 978-0-671-02796-4.
  9. ^ Rogers, Michael (1992-08-01). "Book reviews: Classic returns". Library Journal. 117 (13): 156. ISSN 0363-0277.
  10. ^ Smith, Don G. (2005-11-29). H.P. Lovecraft in Popular Culture: The Works and Their Adaptations in Film, Television, Comics, Music and Games. McFarland & Company. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-7864-2091-9.
  11. ^ BBC - My Science Fiction Life - The Voyage of the Space Beagle

External links

A. E. van Vogt

Alfred Elton van Vogt (; April 26, 1912 – January 26, 2000) was a Canadian-born science fiction author. He is regarded as one of the most popular, influential and complex practitioners of the mid-twentieth century, the genre's so-called Golden Age.

Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials

Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials (1979; second edition 1987) is a science fiction book by artist Wayne Barlowe, with Ian Summers and Beth Meacham (who provided the text). It contains Barlowe's visualizations of different extraterrestrial life forms from various works of science fiction, with information on their planetary location or range, biology, and behaviors, in the style of a real field guide for animals. It was nominated for an American Book Award and for the 1980 Hugo Award for Best Related Work.

The second edition has an added foreword by Robert Silverberg.After the success of the work, in 1996 Barlowe and Neil Duskis wrote a second book, Barlowe's Guide to Fantasy.

Black Destroyer

"Black Destroyer" is a science fiction short story by Canadian-American writer A. E. van Vogt, first published in Astounding SF in July 1939. It has been marked as the story that represents the start of the Golden Age of Science Fiction."Black Destroyer" was combined with several other short stories to form the novel Voyage of the Space Beagle. It was claimed as an inspiration for the movie Alien and van Vogt collected an out-of-court settlement of $50,000 from 20th Century Fox.

Children of Tomorrow

Children of Tomorrow is a 1970 science fiction novel by Canadian-American author A. E. van Vogt.


Coeurl is a fictional alien race of predators created by science fiction novelist A. E. van Vogt (1912–2000) and featured in his first published short story "Black Destroyer" (1939), later incorporated in the novel The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950). The species' appearance is comparable to a large cat, except in that its forelegs are twice as long as its hind legs, and it possesses tentacles attached to its shoulders that terminate in suction cups. Its skin coloration is not mentioned (except as implied by the title), but was depicted as black in the cover art for its original magazine appearance. It sustains itself by feeding upon a substance it calls the Id of other beings.

The species appears indifferent to environment and can survive in different atmospheres. It can manipulate EM radiation (referred to as "electric vibrations" in the story) at will and seems to communicate via that method.


A fix-up (or fixup) is a novel created from several short fiction stories that may or may not have been initially related or previously published. The stories may be edited for consistency, and sometimes new connecting material, such as a frame story or other interstitial narration, is written for the new work. The term was coined by the science fiction writer A. E. van Vogt, who published several fix-ups of his own, including The Voyage of the Space Beagle, but the practice (if not the term) exists outside of science fiction. The use of the term in science fiction criticism was popularised by the first (1979) edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by Peter Nicholls, which credited Van Vogt with the creation of the term.

The name comes from the modifications that the author needs to make in the original texts to make them fit together as though they were a novel. Foreshadowing of events from the later stories may be jammed into an early chapter of the fix-up, and character development may be interleaved throughout the book. Contradictions and inconsistencies between episodes are usually worked out.

Some fix-ups in their final form are more of a short story cycle or composite novel rather than a traditional novel with a single main plotline. Examples are Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, both of which read as a series of short stories which may share plot threads and characters but which still act as self-contained stories. By contrast, van Vogt's The Weapon Shops of Isher is structured like a continuous novel although it incorporates material from three previous Van Vogt short stories.

Fix-ups became an accepted practice in the 1950s, when science fiction and fantasy—once published only in magazines—began appearing in book form. Large book publishers like Doubleday and Simon & Schuster entered the market, greatly increasing demand for fiction. Authors created new manuscripts from old stories to sell to publishers. Algis Budrys in 1965 described fixups as a consequence of the lack of good supply during the "bad years for quality" of the mid-1950s, although citing The Martian Chronicles and Clifford D. Simak's City as among exceptions.

M33 in Andromeda

M33 in Andromeda is a collection of six science fiction stories by Canadian-American writer A. E. van Vogt, first published in April 1971.

Masters of Time

Masters of Time is a collection of two science fiction novellas by author A. E. van Vogt. It was first published in 1950 by Fantasy Press in an edition of 4,034 copies. The novellas originally appeared in the magazine Astounding.

Monsters (collection)

Monsters is a collection of eight science fiction short stories by Canadian-American writer A.E. van Vogt; written during 1940 and 1950, they were assembled by Forrest J. Ackerman in 1965.

More Than Superhuman

More Than Superhuman is a collection of science fiction short stories by Canadian-American writer A.E. van Vogt, published in 1971.

Null-A Three

Null-A Three, usually written Ā Three, is a 1985 science fiction novel by A. E. van Vogt. It incorporates concepts from the General semantics of Alfred Korzybski and refers to non-Aristotelian logic.

The novel is a continuation of the adventures of Gilbert Gosseyn from The World of Null-A (1945) and The Pawns of Null-A (1948).

Out of the Unknown (collection)

Out of the Unknown is a collection of fantasy short stories by Canadian writers A. E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull. It was first published in 1948 by Fantasy Publishing Company, Inc. in an edition of 1,000 copies. The stories originally appeared in the magazine Unknown.

Supermind (novel)

Supermind is a science fiction novel by A. E. van Vogt first published in complete form in 1977 by publisher DAW Books. It is a fix-up of "Asylum," a short story first published in Astounding Science Fiction in May 1942.

The Mind Cage

The Mind Cage is a 1957 science fiction novel by Canadian-American writer A. E. Van Vogt, adapted from the short story "The Great Judge" (1948).

The Weapon Makers

The Weapon Makers is a science fiction novel by Canadian writer A. E. van Vogt.

The novel was originally serialized in Astounding Science Fiction from February to April 1943. The serial version was first published in book form in 1947 with a print run of 1,000 copies. It was then thoroughly revised in 1952. All subsequent printings contain the 1952 text.

The events in the novel take place approximately seven years after the events described in The Weapon Shops of Isher (1951) even though the serial was published before some of the other Isher stories contained in The Weapon Shops of Isher. The first paperback edition, part of an Ace Double, was retitled One Against Eternity.

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