On and on Coeurl prowled! The black, moonless, almost starless night yielded reluctantly before a grim reddish dawn that crept up from his left. A vague, dull light it was, that gave no sense of approaching warmth, no comfort, nothing but a cold, diffuse lightness, slowly revealing a nightmare landscape.
Black, jagged rock and black, unliving plain took form around him, as a pale-red sun peered at last above the grotesque horizon. It was then Coeurl recognized suddenly that he was on familiar ground.
He stopped short. Tenseness flamed along his nerves. His muscles pressed with sudden, unrelenting strength against his bones. His great forelegs — twice as long as his hindlegs — twitched with a shuddering movement that arched every razor-sharp claw. The thick tentacles that sprouted from his shoulders ceased their weaving undulation, and grew taut with anxious alertness.
Utterly appalled, he twisted his great cat head from side to side, while the little hairlike tendrils that formed each ear vibrated frantically, testing every vagrant breeze, every throb in the ether.
But there was no response, no swift tingling along his intricate nervous system, not the faintest suggestion anywhere of the presence of the all-necessary id. Hopelessly, Coeurl crouched, an enormous catlike figure silhouetted against the dim reddish skyline, like a distorted etching of a black tiger resting on a black rock in a shadow world.
So began A.E. van Vogt’s “Black Destroyer” and so began the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Though the writing seems in retrospect florid and stilted, the imagery remains strong. This is something new. It is a place and a time we have never before seen, and we are seeing it through eyes quite unlike our own. The original cover art showed Couerl stark and simple.
Astounding Science Fiction, July 1939
Over the years, many interpretations on the destroyer have appeared on the covers of reprints and in graphic novel adaptations. Some excellent examples can be seen at The Weird Worlds of A. E. van Vogt and at Monster Brains. Couerl was even appropriated by Gary Gygax to populate the dungeons of D&D.
AD&D Monstrous Manual, 1994
Now, AE invites you to share your own interpretation of one of Science Fiction’s great horrors. The rules are simple:
- The illustration must be your own original unpublished work.
- The illustration must be in TIFF or PSD file format, printable at 10cm x 15cm or larger at 120 pixels per cm (that’s 4 x 6 inches @ 300dpi).
- The illustration must be received at firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight November 30, 2010.
- And, of course, the illustration must feature the Black Destroyer, in all his tentacled, feline splendour.
One winning entry will be awarded a $75 cash prize, and up to two runners-up will each receive $20 cash prizes. The winner and runners-up will also be published in AE – The Canadian Science Fiction Review.
By entering the contest you agree, if chosen as a winner or runner-up, to release your entry under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivatives license. Additionally you agree, if chosen as the winner, to grant AE the worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable and royalty-free right to use, reproduce and distribute your entry (including derivative works) in connection with the AE magazine and website (including commercial and promotional uses) in any media formats (including, without limitation, in print, online and on merchandise). AE reserves the right to alter these rules as needed.
That’s it! We can’t want to see what you come up with. Please send any questions to email@example.com or find us on twitter at @aescifi.