December 9, 2005 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Robert Sheckley passes on: It does not come as a shock, as mentioned in this thread from may of this year he has been ill. However, as with Zelazney I considered him a great science fiction writer. An end of an era is fast approaching.
posted by edgeways (27 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite


A giant in OTR. I'm gonna go listen to my "X-Minus One" mp3s.
posted by RavinDave at 9:27 PM on December 9, 2005

I'm embarassed to say that I've never heard of him. What's a good book to start with?
posted by brundlefly at 9:32 PM on December 9, 2005

I'd start with short stories. imo that is where he rocked the most. The People Trap was good... check used book stores, they usually have some of his. Its older sci fi, so adjust accordingly
posted by edgeways at 9:39 PM on December 9, 2005

brundlefly: Most of his work is out of print. But these two books are must purchases and good places to start. Truly a major loss.
posted by ed at 9:44 PM on December 9, 2005

An end of an era is fast approaching.

When has this not been true?
posted by freebird at 10:27 PM on December 9, 2005

Warm was undoubtedly my favourite short story as a teenager. Embarrassingly, I didn't even realise he was still alive.
posted by RokkitNite at 10:30 PM on December 9, 2005

I loved his stuff.

posted by pointilist at 10:49 PM on December 9, 2005

Sad, though not unexpected.

For those who don't know: he was an SF writer, mostly writing comic and somewhat surreal books and stories. Douglas Adams seems to have been heavily influenced by him.

Good books by him: my favourites are "Journey Beyond Tomorrow" and "The Alchemical Marriage of Alastair Crompton". Other people swear by "Mindswap" and "Dimension of Miracles". I quite liked "Dramocles" as well, but that's cruder and not many other people do.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:07 PM on December 9, 2005

I read Untouched by Human Hands when I was about ten, and I can honestly say that it's the only piece of science fiction that I've thoroughly enjoyed. It was smart, hip. witty and provocative.

I've kept an eye out for his work since, but never actually come across anything else.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:08 PM on December 9, 2005

Sad news. "Cordle to Onion to Carrot" a particular`favourite of mine
posted by James_in_London at 11:55 PM on December 9, 2005

I had no idea, but will look into him, since Zelazny's Amber Chronicles were a great escape for me.. Had no idea about the Douglas Adams connection either. Currently looking into Dawkins for the same reason.
posted by hypersloth at 12:28 AM on December 10, 2005

I happened across his "Mindswap" and "Dimension of Miracles" when I was in high school and found them outstanding, and quite unlike anything I'd ever read before then.

Later, I'd recognize similarities in Douglas Adams and Stanislaw Lem. But twenty years later, the reverberations of my initial reads of Sheckley are still with me.

Rest in Peace, Robert.
posted by darkstar at 12:30 AM on December 10, 2005

I always thought the courtroom speech in Journey Beyond Tomorrow parodied a certain kind of rhetoric quite nicely.
"Excuse me, sir," Senator Trellid said to Pelops, "and excuse me all of you who are waiting for this man's answer. I just want to say one thing, and I want it to go on the record, because sometimes a man must speak out no matter how painful it is to him, and in spite of that it might harm him politically and economically. And yet, it is the duty of a man such as myself to speak out when he must, and to speak in spite of consequences and in full conscience, even if what he has to say goes against the great power of public opinion. Therefore I want to say this, I am an old man, and I have seen many things in my time, and I have witnessed even more. Perhaps I am not wise to so speak, but I must tell you that I am dead set against injustice. Unlike some, I cannot condone the slaughter of the Hungarians, the unlawful seizure of China, nor the communization of Cuba. I am old, I have been called conservative, but I cannot condone these things. And, no matter who calls me what, I hope I will never see the day when a Russian army occupies the city of Washington, D.C. Thus I speak against this man, this Comrade Jonski, not as a senator, but rather as one who was once a child in the hill country south of Sour Mountain, who fished and hunted in the deep woods, who grew slowly to an awareness of what America meant to him, whose neighbours sent him to Congress to represent them and their dear ones, and who now feels called upon to make this declaration of faith. It is for this reason and this reason only that I say to you in the words of the Bible, 'Evil is Bad!' Some of the sophisticated among us may laugh at this, but there it is and I believe it."

The committee burst into spontaneous applause at the old senator's speech. Although they had heard it many times, it never failed to elicit in them emotions of the deepest and most exquisite sort. Now white-lipped, Chairman Pelops turned to Joenes.

"Comrade," he asked with simple irony, "are you at this present time a card-carrying member of the Communist Party?"
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:38 AM on December 10, 2005

Thank you, freebird. And a new era is beginning. It's the circle of life.
posted by Eideteker at 1:56 AM on December 10, 2005

posted by Smart Dalek at 2:32 AM on December 10, 2005

I read Options in High School and thought he was a genius.
I have oftern wondered whether it would hold up on re-reading. Maybe nows the time.
Thanks for the post.
posted by archaic at 3:43 AM on December 10, 2005

posted by Slithy_Tove at 5:20 AM on December 10, 2005

I barely recognized the name, but considering when he was the fiction editor at OMNI, I owe him a debt of gratitude for exposure to some enjoyable short stories.
posted by alumshubby at 5:52 AM on December 10, 2005

Sorry to hear that; he was a wonderful writer. (I don't get the "end of an era" thing, though. It's the end of one man's life.)
posted by languagehat at 6:09 AM on December 10, 2005

posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:57 AM on December 10, 2005


Anyone remember "A Thief in Time"? That was one of my favorite short stories when I was a kid.

I need to find that again. Anyone know if it is online?
posted by codswallop at 7:36 AM on December 10, 2005

posted by extrabox at 9:04 AM on December 10, 2005

Of course it is always the end of some era. I guess what i am referring to is the twlight of authors like Sheckley, Zelazney, Heinlein... Which in my mind represent a sort of middle passage in sci-fic. There was great stuff before, and great stuff currently, but these guys where the standard barrer for a good chunck of time, and that is passing, as it should. But still....
posted by edgeways at 10:02 AM on December 10, 2005


The world needs more free thinkers, and the feckers just keep on dying... maybe there's another world that needs 'em more than we do...

BTW I think you meant Roger Zelazny. (someone with admin rights should correct the spelling in your FPP, if they find time...)
posted by cleardawn at 2:37 PM on December 10, 2005

I found an old beaten-up copy of one of Sheckley's short story collections in my grandparents' basement when I was 10. It had belonged to my dad. It was among of the very first science fiction I read and for the next 6 years or so I read little else but. I reread that collection many times in those years. I wish I was in Iceland so that I could hunt down that collection so I could read it again. Oh well... I guess I must make do with the short stories that are online. I linked to a number of his stories in the post mentioned in the fpp.
posted by Kattullus at 6:57 PM on December 10, 2005

Late jumping in here... his short story A Ticket to Tranai is, for my money, the single funniest sci-fi story every written. I wrote him a fan e-mail a year ago or so, to which he responded to. A nice man as well as a unique writer. Did I mention funny?
posted by QuietDesperation at 9:37 PM on December 10, 2005

posted by Smedleyman at 8:32 AM on December 11, 2005

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