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Black Destroyer by A.E. van Vogt

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“Black Destroyer” is a 1939 science fiction novelette by A.E. van Vogt. It is about a vicious alien who attacks the crew of an exploration space ship.

Displacer Beast?

Being the big fan of Dungeons & Dragons that I am, I have always been fascinated by some of the strange creatures in the Monster Manual. One of those fascinating monsters is the Displacer Beast. It is very cool, but I often wondered where they got the idea for it. Well, I think I now have the answer – the terrifying alien in this story most likely provided the inspiration for it. Now if I could just figure out the origin of the rest of the monsters I’d be set!

Non-spoiler Summary in a Nutshell

Black panther by Babirusa, cc 3.0 license

Coeurl is more than just a big, cat-like alien – he is also a highly developed killing machine. The only problem is that he has decimated the food supply of precious id on his planet. So imagine his good luck when a human exploration ship lands nearby to explore the ancient archaeological ruins. Coeurl is starved, but he plays it cool when he meets the humans, acting the part of a nice pussy cat. Poor humans – will they ever figure out the true nature of this beast? Let’s hope so.

My Two Cents…

  • Without a doubt the coolest part of this story is Coeurl – what’s not to love about a terrifying, tentacled alien?
  • The idea of Coeurl feeding on the precious id was quite interesting and not something I had seen before.
  • The final showdown between the humans and Coeurl was great fun to read about.

Interesting Tidbits About This Story:

  • Page Count: 20
  • Word Count: 12,057
  • Did you know that “Black Destroyer” is widely considered to be one of the stories that kicked off the Golden Age of Science Fiction? Yep. You can learn more about this story and its author at Wikipedia.

Where You Can Find Black Destroyer:

Craving More Science Fiction Short Stories?

If you liked “Black Destroyer” then you may also enjoy A Martian Odyssey by Stanley G. Weinbaum – about an astronaut who walks several hundred miles across the Martian landscape, and the amazing life forms he encounters.

4 thoughts to “Black Destroyer by A.E. van Vogt”

  1. Hi Rusty,

    This story was also the subject of a lawsuit between Van Vogt and the producers of Alien; It was a copyright infringement suit in which van Vogt alleged the makers of thaf movie stold Coeurl to make the alien. There was a settlment in that case.

  2. Omphalos,

    Wow – I didn’t know that. I can see where the idea of an alien stalking a ship is the same, but it seems that Coeurl was totally different than Alien in terms of anatomy and physiology. Pretty interesting though.

  3. I wish I knew what the amount of the settlement was. That would clue us in to how seriously the studio took the claims. I remember there was a lot of talk about it at conventions after the lawsuit was filed.

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