Robert Sheckley, author of classic stories like “Are These People Who Work?” and “Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?”, was one of the best sci-fi authors of the 1950s. Humor writer Tom manages for almost ten years he corresponded regularly with Sheckley.
“He was so open to talking to me, this to anyone who just loved him, and answering my questions about writing and his work,” Gerencer says in episode 475. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “He was an amazing man, an incredible talent, but also an incredibly kind, gracious person.”
Sheckley’s brand of cynicism has helped pave the way for writers such as Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison and JG Ballard, and his novels The dimension of miracles i Danger reward prefigured genre classics such as Hitchhiking guide through the galaxy i The man who runs.
“A lot of his ideas are so predictable,” Gerencer says. “He just extrapolated, basically looking at the problems and saying, ‘Well, if it goes in that direction, in the next 50 years it’s going to be like this.’ And you look at it and say, ‘Yeah, we’re close to that now. It’s worse now.’ and worse. ‘So I think they’re such classics in that sense. “
Sheckley is often remembered as a writer whose talents have declined over the years, but Gerencer thinks the reality is more complex and that Sheckley has never lost his sense of ridiculous science fiction. “I don’t think he could have done things like that later, I just don’t think he wanted to,” Gerencer says. “He considered it frivolous and wanted to write about things that are important for a man aged 70 and over, and these are not the same things that are important for a 20 or 30 year old man, and those things, unfortunately, are not things that scientific readers will get to fiction be so much cared for. “
Sheckley’s work has experienced a minor renaissance in recent years. Many of his best stories are collected in a 2012 book Trade worlds, edited by Jonathan Lethem and Alex Abramovich, and an version of the audio book from The dimension of miracles published in 2013, read by John Hodgman. Gerencer says Sheckley was consistently an inventive writer and that everything he wrote is worth reading.
“I read somewhere that he wrote over 400 stories and I feel like I’ve read maybe 150 of them and I love them,” Gerencer says. ‘And I’m like,’ Wow, there’s another 250 out there? ‘ I’d like to find out the others. “
Listen to the complete interview with Tom Gerencer in episode 475 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And take a look at some of the most important parts from the discussion below.
Tom Gerencer on the discovery of Robert Sheckley:
“While I became a fan of Douglas Adams, I read a few excerpts from an interview with him; I think it was in Neil Gaiman’s book Don’t panic, which features several interviews with Douglas Adams. But there, he asks Douglas Adams about Robert Sheckley – this controversy about “people say you copied Robert Sheckley,” and Douglas Adams says, “Well, I never read his stuff, but when I did, it was like,“ Wow, it’s really similar to my stuff. “” And so I was like, “Oh, really similar to Douglas Adams? Let’s check.” , and since then I have always been looking for them. “
Tom Gerencer in correspondence with Robert Sheckley:
“1998. I said, ‘I’m going to see if this guy is still around. Because I know his stories were written in the 50s and 60s, but I want to see if he’s still around. So I googled ‘Robert Sheckley’s email address’ and the email address popped up – aol.com – so I sent him an email. … I started a conversation with him that lasted for years and I asked him, ‘Hey, can we ever work together in a short story?’ And he said, yes, he would be happy. And it grew and grew and grew. We went back and forth with notes, and it became a novel, and at one point for both of us. I don’t know if I was a good enough writer, and I also think he had a crisis of faith in himself, where he thought, ‘I don’t know if I can achieve this.’ We just fell away from it and tragically, I think it was in 2005, he died. It was very sad. “
Tom Gerencer on Robert Sheckley’s reputation:
“In other countries – in Russia, Italy, all over Europe, China, all over the world, outside the United States – he has been going through this renaissance of his work, which I think may now be happening here. I’m starting to feel like it is, and give him more strength – if anyone deserves it, it’s him. He is simply brilliant. But then he was telling me, ‘I’m traveling to Venice. It’s a vacation, but I’ll tell my stories. I talked to this person in Italy, I am traveling to Russia on a book tour. ‘… And he loved it, you know, I think he ate it. He just said, ‘This is so beautiful. I didn’t expect this to happen, but it’s fun. ‘It was happening for him and I was really happy it was happening. “
Tom Gerencer on writers and alcohol:
“I don’t know where that stereotype came from, but it’s so sad because it’s not so true that you have to experience pain before you can write. Don’t worry, life will give you a lot of pain, you don’t have to go out and look through the bottle. But that’s what I thought when I was a kid. I remember buying bottles of whiskey and saying, “I’m a writer. I have to have a bottle of whiskey in my apartment.” And then thank God I stopped and ran away from it. And now that I’m older and I know some successful authors, they do it they don’t work. … It’s those who are disciplined and who understand that stereotype is just a stereotype, and I think they do in the end. “