I came here to praise Robert Sheckley.

I came here to praise Robert Sheckley.

He was a prolific short story writer. In the fifties and sixties his work was featured in many of the science fiction magazines of the day (and there were more of them then.) Sheckly was witty. He could write a hell of a story about an alien who burned down orphanages on many planets.

I have all of his old short story collections. Some of them are tattered. One of my favorites, Shards of Space, is the most tattered. It is almost split in two. It came that way. The lady at the used bookstore, years ago, said, “I’m only going to charge you a quarter for this, but I won’t buy it back.” As if I would trade back a Sheckley collection.

While a master of the short story he did write a small number of novels. They tend to be episodic in nature, novels that are really groups of short stories with the same characters. Novels such as Journey Beyond Tomorrow aka The Journey of Joenes. This is a great novel presented as the biblical text of a religion in the future which follows the life of Joenes, who travels the world before and after WWIII. Intermixed is ancient myth. There is also political commentary about McCarthyism, the book was written in the late 50s.

For a time he lived not 50 miles from me and I regret that I did not go see him. My friend Richard F. Yates was also a fan and Sheckley was mostly forgotten as an author by then in the US. He was considered a master of the golden age abroad and died while in Russia speaking about his work in 2005.

A number of his stories that appeared in Galaxy magazine were adapted for radio and appeared as episodes of X Minus One. Here is the episode The Native Problem. (By the way, the ebook of The Status Civilization is free.)

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