Friday, October 14, 2011

31 Days of Halloween - Day 14

One of my very favorite monsters didn't come from a movie, but appeared as the central character of A.E. Van Vogt's first published story, "Black Destroyer" which appeared in the July 1939 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is said to have ushered in the Golden Age of science fiction.

The creature, who narratively refers to itself as Coeurl, is one of a sentient species (called coeurls) who have the appearance of a large cat with larger front legs, tendrils instead of ears, and tentacles growing from the shoulders ending in dextrous tips. The coeurls are highly intelligent predators who once lived in a highly civilized society which collapsed as competition for diminishing food began.  They feed off of what they call the id in other beings, which turns out to be phosphorous.

Coeurl also demonstrates that it can communicate through vibration, and alter the vibrational properties of other things such as molecular structure and energy. He can also breath both an oxygen based atmosphere or one of chlorineWhile facing extinction, Coeurl finds hope when a space ship lands nearby. He plans to ingratiate himself in with the scientists, then kill them all and steal their ship to take back to their world so he can feed on the id of the population there.

My introduction to Coeurl and "Black Destroyer" came through Worlds Unknown #5  from February 1974 by Roy Thomas and Dan Adkins and Jim Mooney and that great cover by Gil Kane. This was a particularly favorite comic of mine during my childhood and is one of the first comic books I remember buying.

My next meeting with Coeurl came via Van Vogt's novel The Voyage of the Space Beagle. Van Vogt reworked the story and incorporated it into his novel as one of the missions depicted by the crew of scientists of a spaceship named after the ship that Darwin sailed aboard as he made his own scientific discoveries. I recognized Coeurl immediately on the cover. The rest of the novel was good, but the "Black Destroyer" segment was the highlight.

The changes were modest. Coerl's tentacles which ended with hand-like features in the short story were now tipped with something more suction cup-like, and potassium replaced phosphorus as the id. There were also some alternate speculations as to the coeurl's place in the planet's extinct civilization.

The coeurls have since been appropriated for numerous outside properties from Dungeons & Dragons to Final Fantasy and other games.  I would love to make a movie adaptation of "Black Destroyer." You van feel its influence on movies such as The Thing (1951), It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) and Alien (1979).

Here are a number of interpretations of Coeurl from different publications of the original story, or The Voyage of the Space Beagle.

Above by  Felipe Budnich

Above by Bob Eggleton

Above by Dustin Wilson.

You can read "Black Destroyer" by A.E. Van Vogt for free here.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was hoping that Hollywood would turn 'Space Beagle' into a movie one day.
In the novel the Couerl creature was a bioengineered product of the dead civilization and not a member of such. That race that created these creatures destroyed themselves in an atomic war.