Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
(November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007)
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., was an American SF writer who liked to pretend that he didn't write SF. In an essay in the New York Times Book Review (September 5, 1965, later collected in Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons), he called himself “a sore-headed occupant of a file-drawer labeled ‘science-fiction’ [that] many serious critics regularly mistake ... for a tall, white fixture in a comfort station.” He called writers who embraced the label “joiners” and accused both sf writers and readers of “childishness.”
He did, however, contribute to Earl Kemp’s Who Killed Science Fiction?, commenting, “Anybody who announces that he is a science fiction writer is announcing that he is in damn bad company financially and artistically.”
In a writing career of over 50 years, Vonnegut published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of nonfiction. He is most famous for his satirical, best-selling novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969). His first published book was the SF novel, Player Piano, in 1952.
Vonnegut’s books, especially his 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle, with such concepts as the karass, granfalloon and Bokononism, were hugely influential on fandom, inspiring many catchphrases, interlineations and fanzine titles. See also: Duprass, So it goes.
Awards, Honors and GoHships:
- 2015 — Science Fiction Hall of Fame (posthumous)
Vonnegut’s novel God Bless You, Mr Rosewater (1965), though technically not science fiction, contains numerous in-joke references to it, and introduces sf writer Kilgore Trout: “Trout, the author of eighty-seven paperback books, was a very poor man, and unknown outside the science-fiction field.” Trout’s name was a gibe at Theodore Sturgeon.
Trout featured in several other Vonnegut works as well as those of other writers; was a penname for a short bibliography, SF-I: A Selective Bibliography (1971) by L. W. Currey and David G. Hartwell, and a novel, Venus on the Half Shell by Philip José Farmer (to Vonnegut’s displeasure); periodically shows up as a pseudonymous goh at cons; and serves as the name of an upscale clothing store in Cleveland.
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