I am trying to remember the name and the author of a short story that seems to have a similar plot to the Besson's movie "Lucy".

I read that stories more than 30 years ago: A scientist made an evolution experiment on a man and a woman. The man de-evolves to a beast and the woman evolves to have God-like power, having to fight against people trying to control her.

I remember having read classic "pulps" authors at that time.

I have browsed lot of novella descriptions. There is one that seems to match, "Research Alpha" - Van Vogt (1965). It features an "evolution serum" and "big IQ levels". Unfortunately, I don't have the book at hand. If someone would check it that would be great.

This list has been submitted by Deepak

  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  • The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn
  • Understand by Ted Chiang.
  • Are you saying it's got the same plot (e.g. that one is based on the other) or just that it employs similar tropes (e.g. tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DevolutionDevice)
    – Valorum
    Jul 28, 2014 at 11:57
  • @Richard The movie remembered that story, I'm just trying to remember the title. Similarity is : "some science gave power to the woman, the woman has growing power, others are trying to stop her".
    – Emmanuel
    Jul 28, 2014 at 12:14
  • Do you remember his or her name, what powers she gained, why they wanted to fight her, did you used to subscribe to any magazines/where did you read it?
    – Valorum
    Jul 28, 2014 at 12:17
  • There's another one that I thought was more similar to Lucy, that does not match your description. It already has a story-id question somewhere on here, though
    – Izkata
    Jul 28, 2014 at 12:34
  • @Richard I think I have found, sorry for the misdirection, that's not a "pulp".
    – Emmanuel
    Jul 28, 2014 at 13:57

2 Answers 2


You've pinpointed the correct story in the comments, so if you want to add your own answer I'll delete this. For now I'll answer in case anyone wants more information.

The story is called "Research Alpha" and was cowritten by Van Vogt and James H. Schmitz. It appeared in the anthology More than Superhuman, and also also appeared as a subplot in the novel Supermind. Van Vogt had a tendency to bolt together his short stories to make novels - not always with happy results.

Spoilers follow:

The underlying idea is that the Great Galactics have injected some of their own genes into the races they encounter, but during human evolution these genes have become unevenly distributed. The scientist Dr Gloge is working on a project called Point Omega Stimulation which aims to enhance human evolution. Gloge secretly injects two people, Barbara Ellington and Vincent Strather with the Omega serum. Barbara possesses an unusually favourable package of Great Galactic genes and the serum enhances these so she basically turns into a Great Galactic. In Vincent the serum enhances other genes and he becomes a goblin like figure - it's implied but not stated explicitly that he's become mentally subnormal.

In Supermind it's made clear that this is a deliberate manipulation by the Great Galactic William Leigh. He had detected the favourable genes in Barbara and wanted her to attain her full potential so he can have her as a companion. Vincent was included in the experiment to demonstrate to mankind that the process would mostly fail so it shouldn't be used routinely. As far as I recall this aspect of the plot is absent from the original short story.

Vincent recovers, so it's a happy ending :-)

  • 1
    I'm glad you answered, writing in English causes me some troubles.
    – Emmanuel
    Jul 29, 2014 at 14:33
  • @user14111 Thanks. Somehow I have managed to spend the last fifty years believing Van Vogt was the sole author. Dec 17, 2021 at 5:28

The short story "Understand" that's in the book "Stories of Your Life and Others" by Ted Chiang follows a very similar premise. A man in a coma is injected with an experimental drug called Hormone K which regenerates neurons and allows the subject to develop hyper intelligence which they can use to even influence other people's biological processes

  • 2
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Is there another character who, injected with the same drug, devolves? That seems to be an important part of the question.
    – DavidW
    Dec 16, 2021 at 23:47

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