[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

SFWRITER.COM > Canadian SF > Remembering A. E. van Vogt

Remembering A. E. van Vogt

by Robert J. Sawyer

Copyright © 2000 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved

The happiest day of my career was Saturday, April 27, 1996 — that's when my The Terminal Experiment won the Nebula Award. But it also, in a way, was one of the saddest. That night, A. E. van Vogt received the really big prize, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Grand Master Award, honoring a lifetime of achievement. It should have been a joyous occasion, but it was actually quite tragic to see.

There was no doubt that van Vogt should have received this honor much earlier — the injustice of him being overlooked, at least in part because of damnable SFWA politics, had so incensed Harlan Ellison, a man with an impeccable moral compass, that he'd lobbied hard on the Sci-Fi Channel and elsewhere on van Vogt's behalf.

Harlan, I'm sure, simply wanted van Vogt, born in 1912, to be honored during his lifetime, and he knew time was running short, but I don't think any of us, prognosticators all, predicted the sad way the future was really going to unfold: that, by the time SFWA got around to bestowing its Lucite obelisk, van Vogt would indeed still be alive but that much of the greatness that had been within him would be gone, stolen by the cruel thief of Alzheimer's.

After the awards ceremony, I was surrounded by well-wishers, for which I was very grateful, but it meant I had a hard time making it across the ballroom of the Queen Mary to see van Vogt. I felt, in a way, that we shared a bond, and I wanted to express that to him: we were both Canadians, you see, and we'd both succeeded (he obviously to a much greater degree) in an American-dominated industry. When I finally did get near him, I heard him say words that crush my heart still: "I remember having been a writer," Alfred Elton van Vogt said, "but I don't remember anything I wrote."

And now all we have is our memories of him. May they never fade.

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