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Mike Moorcock
Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 07:26 pm:   

For some time now I've been telling the world, or whatever bit of it will listen, just how good and how original Bob Sheckley is. Anyone interested can go to The Guardian (.uk.co) where I reviewed a book by Steve Aylett. Here I was able to ride a particular hobby horse -- that Douglas Adams owed far more than he ever admitted or the general public seemed to realise to Robert Sheckley -- for Dimension of Miracles, Journey of Joenes and other books written long before Adams began the radio programmes which ultimately became best-selling books and TV shows. I remember someone telling me I should listen to the early Adams radio stuff, going home and tuning in and discovering to my bafflement not only that these were derivative, owing more to Sheckley than to anyone else, but that they were in my view rather thin versions of the Sheckley originals. I've never asked Bob about this, since in the past it never seemed to be much of an issue, not to mention a trifle unseemly, but I know that when this question was put to Adams he denied having read Bob's work. Which seemed odd since he'd done one of the blurbs for, as I recall, Dimension of Miracles and had at one time claimed to be a great admirer. While one doesn't begrudge Adams his fame and fortune, it does seem particularly unfair to me that the better writer, Sheckley, should not also have his place in the sun. That's my long-standing beef. Meanwhile, I remain a keen admirer of Bob's work and would like to say how stimulating and intelligent and just downright entertaining a writer he is. Not to mention a thoroughly enjoyable companion and the only guy who picked me out of the gutter one particular July 4th in Los Angeles many years ago...
Mike M
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Mastadge
Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 07:45 pm:   

I'm familiar with his Star Trek novel, and his Aliens novel . . . if this is the same Robert Sheckley. Since my days of rampant fanboyism, I don't think I've read anything of his.

Nathan
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Bob
Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 07:54 pm:   

Yup. Same one. If you want something a trifle less franchise-y, try Dimensions of Miracles. He also has quite a few collections out, though they're all out of print, I'm sure you know a good used bookstore, you being a broke college boy and all....
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Mastadge
Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 08:52 pm:   

Broke? Nope. When I've decided I'm getting a book, I'll pay handsomely for a nice edition. I just get finicky about paying overseas shipping and stuff like that. . .

Time is also a consideration. I've got so many books on The List -- and I might add that I've added quite a few based on recommendations from this board over the past week or so -- that any book I get now, I probably won't get around to reading for a couple of months or so.

Nathan
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Bob
Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 09:02 pm:   

Sheckley's good, Nate. Really good.
I think his newest is Godshome. He also has a book he self-published, Dimensions of Miracles Revisited, that I'm looking forward to getting my hands on.
Anyways, he has something like 50 books out there, so I'm sure you could find something to your taste.
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Mike Simanoff
Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 09:08 pm:   

Robert Sheckley deserves his day in the sun. He is one of my favorite writers ever. (I even liked the movie Condorman, despite Michael Crawford.)

If anyone wants a taste, track down his story "I See a Man Sitting on a Chair, and the Chair is Biting His Leg," or take a day to read his novel Mindswap. Pure genius. He should be read in concert with and as counterpoint to all speculative fiction.

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iotar
Posted on Friday, February 21, 2003 - 01:36 am:   

When Douglas Adams died there was a memorial thing on the BBC site. I submitted the comment "A great comic writer in the tradition of Sheckley and Lafferty" - they refused to use it.
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Mike Simanoff
Posted on Friday, February 21, 2003 - 08:09 am:   

So, everybody: what are your favorite Sheckley stories and books, and why?
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Bob
Posted on Friday, February 21, 2003 - 10:04 am:   

Well, I'm kind of partial to A Wind is Rising, but that may just be because it's the first Sheckley short story I ever read.
Dimensions of Miracles, of course, has to top the list. I think Sheckley surpassed himself with that book. And as I understand it, Dimensions marked the end of his most productive period.
I also liked the trilogy he did with Zelazny. There's something about the ludicrous situation that seemed to allow Sheckley unlimited room for social commentary.
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Josh Lukin
Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2003 - 02:57 am:   

Didn't Sheckley admit to having been inspired to write satrical SF by the work of William Tenn? Not that that doesn't make him the best (his midfifties collection, Untouched by Human Hands, is hard to beat), but maybe not the first.
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Bob
Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2003 - 01:11 pm:   

Not sure it's relevant, Josh. I think what Mike was referring to was Douglas Adams success writing what Aldiss called 'Sheckleyan' science-fiction. Compare, say, Dimensions of Miracles with Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy. The similarities are legion. Adams waffled on whether or not he was a fan of Sheckley's. In one quote he denied ever having read Bob's work, yet in another he said he owed much to Sheckley (actually he said, "I owe my towel to Bob Sheckley", I'm just assuming that's a compliment...Adams could be kind of weird sometimes).
I took the title of the message as, first and best as pertaining to the strange synergistic relationship between Sheckley and Adams -- that, unfortunately, only Adams benefited from -- and the bulk of Mike's text seems to support me.
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Mastadge
Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2003 - 03:55 pm:   

Well, I'm now thinking of picking up Dimensions of Sheckley, an omnibus containing: Immortality, Inc.; Minotaur Maze, Journey Beyond Tomorrow, Mindswap, and Dimension of Miracles.

But my plate's pretty full right now. Perhaps over the summer.

I hate everyone who recommends books that look good, and I hate everyone who writes good books that I'm compelled to read.

Nathan
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Josh Lukin
Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2003 - 03:01 am:   

Oh, okay. I see. Not first of his kind, but ahead of DNA chronologically and qualitatively. Sorry for the non sequitur.
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Bob the younger
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2003 - 12:47 am:   

...but that doesn't mean your post had no merit, Josh. Considering some -- read me, and apparently you and Moorcock and Mike -- view Sheckley as the undisputed master of satirical sf, it's not a bad idea to then examine his own influences, eh? So rock on, I hadn't heard about the Tenn angle.
And maybe if we could get the man himself to comment....
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Rhys
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2003 - 04:49 am:   

I love the work of Sheckley but I haven't read a fraction of what I'd like to have.
As for influences, I always think that's an interesting question.
I can't think of too many SF satirists before Sheckley. Lots of satirical fantasy writers, yes, but not many SF writers.

Anyway it's nice that any discussion about Sheckley is taking place here. The man is a fabulous writer.

Coincidentally, I recall reading an article about him recently in a national newspaper. It was only a few weeks ago. Can't remember if it was in The Guardian or The Times... The article writer spoke of his love for Sheckley and specifically mentioned one multi-perspective story set in a restaurant (can't remember the title) as a particular favourite. As soon as I read that I wanted to seek that story out, but I've lost the article!
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Montmorency
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2003 - 05:51 am:   

What you mention would be this article:

http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/sciencefiction/story/0,6000,886325,00.ht ml

Michel Faber, who wrote this article, is a very good writer as well.
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Rhys
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2003 - 06:27 am:   

Thanks Montmorency!

Now I know the title of that story. It's 'Pas de Trois of the Chef and the Waiter and the Customer', which maybe explains why I forgot it so easily!!!

It sounds like a great story, so now I shall seek it out!
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LeslieWhat
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2003 - 09:49 am:   

I'm another big time Sheckley fan. He was the first SF writer I came across at the library. Once my sister and I read his short story collections, our lives were immeasurably bettered.

His newer mystery series is swell, too.
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rsheckley
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2003 - 08:45 pm:   

Here it is. Something Iím planning to send out to people I donít know, but who know meÖor think they do. I have always prided myself on being a professional writer. Ideally, I think at the electronic page, and the words appear, obedient to my fingers. But of late, of recent years, I have felt a growing inner constriction, of thought, of the ability to write. A fear of setting forth my opinions in public. A sense of shame at myself over this, and shame at even revealing this sense of shame.
With this sense of restriction, shame, and general creeping internal paralysis, I also have been unwilling to accept this state of affairs, unwilling to admit my disabilities, unwilling to go gentle into that good night, unwilling to not be who and what I believe I am. So I write these words, dangerous only to my self-esteem.
I forgot to mention that I am ashamed at having no opinions on topics of general or even specific interest. Although it occurs to me that I probably do have opinions, but am too ashamed to admit that I have them, and too ashamed to talk about them.
But the constriction is proving unbearable. I have to write to you.
All I can do now is try to make sure that my sentences make sense. The sentence feels like the unit I can work in.
I am going to go out very soon, go downtown to a coffee shop or library, and there continue this account in longhand. When I return Iíll type it up. I really need to get out of here. I stayed in all yesterday. Today the library, my usual home away from home, is closed. But I need to move my body, and maybe find a fresh outlook as I walked the cold, windy streets.

Iím downtown at Borderís Books. Iíve been browsing. Sat down and skimmed through ďWhat Would I Do With My Life?Ē by Po Bronson. Looks interesting and apropos of what Iíve been thinking. I may buy this book.
Also I just read the first chapter of Phil Dickís ďValis.Ē I may buy that one, too, and say something about it to you. All of that is still to come. For now, I think Iíll buy the Bronson, then go up to Powellís and see if I can find a used ďValis.Ē

Back home. Took a short nap. Read some of Bronsonís book. Checked email. Checked Greyhound fares to Phoenix. Not too bad. $69 round trip for a senior. Why Phoenix? I want to get to a mild to warm climate for a while. A Spanish one by preference. I want to live for a few days in a motel, eat diner food, write in my room, and go out for nature walks. And come home.
What Iíd rather do is fly to Spain, France or Italy. But donít have the bucks for that at present. With the fares to Phoenix so low, and I suppose for similar prices I could fly to San Diego or Gallup, N.M. I could get a little break from Portland. Get a look at something I havenít seen before. Get a look at the desert. Maybe, in my motel room, I could get some writing done. Certainly I could get some reading done. And some journal writing and correspondence. I could travel again, and see how I like it this time around.
Well, itís the end of the day, and the end of todayís entry. See you again soon, I hope. RS
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Bob
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 11:13 am:   

By constriction, do you mean writer's block, Mr. Sheckley? Or are we talking about something deeper? Something more insidious, say a sense of futility or a loss of self-confidence?
I know I've hit the wall a few times and started to wonder whether what I was writing wasn't just crap. Usually it happens right after I've sent out a story, and before the notices -- generally rejections -- roll back in, just as welcome as a red tide, if you want the truth. That sense of anticipation sometimes kills any chance for productivity. I start looking over my old stories, trying to think how I managed to write them so quickly and easily -- many of them in just a single 8 hour, caffeine induced haze.
For me, it passes. I begin writing again, reading again. Maybe, just a little, we have the same problem. Maybe, this too shall pass.
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Jack Dann
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 11:05 pm:   

Hey, Bob, how's it going, man?

Good to see you have a topic.

To all and sundry: I agree with Mike. Bob's work is a treasure.

Cheers!

--JACK
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rsheckley
Posted on Friday, February 28, 2003 - 03:26 pm:   

Hi, Jack--
I have a topic, but what will I say about it? Hey, Jack, it was great to see you. I hope all is well with you and yours. And thanks for the lovely comment on my work.
Bob S
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Ellen
Posted on Friday, February 28, 2003 - 03:57 pm:   

Hi Bob,
I'm here too. It's good to see you in the ether if not in person.
For anyone who hasn't read Bob's work definitely check out his short stories--they're wonderful. We have four of his classics up at SCIFICTION.

And he's had new ones in F&SF over the past couple of years. Bob! C'mon. Blow your own horn.
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Marcos
Posted on Sunday, March 02, 2003 - 06:00 am:   

Hi Sheckley fans,
just in case you don't know I have a tribute site at http://sheckley.tripod.com/
I will try and update it soon(ish).
Also, the sci-fi site have just put up an article of interest: see http://www.sfsite.com/columns/trent147.htm
(about half way down the article).
Marcos
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Mahesh
Posted on Monday, April 07, 2003 - 08:16 pm:   

I've been a fan of Mr. Sheckley's work since I read the first sentence of "The Status Civilization" and couldn't put it down until I finished it. It was an old paperback from England that belonged to my late uncle, who read it in '67. Masterful work. I also really enjoyed Bob's interview on the s1ngularity site. I look forward to more books, new and old.
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Dave Suo
Posted on Thursday, April 17, 2003 - 10:14 pm:   

Just wanted to add my admiration to everyone else's.

You're a wonderful writer, Mr. Sheckley. Your work is always fun to read, and you have one of the cleanest writing styles that I've ever read. You never waste a word. Thanks.
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Adam-Troy Castro
Posted on Monday, June 30, 2003 - 11:22 am:   

And allow me to raise my hand as another long-time Sheckley fanatic, who remembers 'Pas de Trois of the Chef and the Waiter and the Customer' as a major tour de force. (Thanx to whoever provided the title!)

I did a buncha stories inspired in large part by the AAA Ace Planetary Decontamination Service, a few years back, and I very much acknowledge the Shecklian genesis of same.

Glad to pass along a hi...!!

Adam-Troy Castro
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Adam-Troy Castro
Posted on Monday, June 30, 2003 - 11:24 am:   

Oh, and btw: the Douglas Adams quote about owing a towel to Sheckley is easily explained. In his stories, nobody should travel anywhere without a towel. For him to say he owes his towel is Sheckley is a major compliment, though only readers of his stories would get it. ATC.
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Marcos
Posted on Friday, July 04, 2003 - 02:48 pm:   

Confession:
I made up that quote about Douglas Adams owing Sheckley his towel. It was a joke! However, Adams always acknowledged his debt to Sheckley in interviews. Two greats, one still with us, one in the great bath tub in the sky...
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Bob the Younger
Posted on Sunday, July 06, 2003 - 08:20 am:   

Bob made the Boston Globe today!
Thank you Mr. Sallis.
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Lou Antonelli - East Texas, USA
Posted on Sunday, July 06, 2003 - 09:31 pm:   

Thanks for the link. It is a great article, and so true.
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chok
Posted on Wednesday, December 31, 2003 - 03:21 am:   

I lived in Malaysia and one lucky day i got an old copy of Robert sheckley short stories omnibus and I was hooked. Contains immortiality Inc, Ask a foolish question, prize of peril, ghost V, a ticket to Tranai etc. Please advise how I can get more of his works as I have searched everywhere in bookstores and used-book stores in Singapore n Malaysia.

Amazon does not cover malaysia and neevr try online purchase as the shipping charges is hard to understand but means real expensive.
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Lou Antonelli
Posted on Wednesday, December 31, 2003 - 10:31 am:   

I have a couple of paperback collections of Sheckley stories you could have if you send me your mailing address.

I've always greatly admired his work and I'd be honored to share these books with you. They're old and beat up, but you can have them.

My e-mail address is chpaper@juno.com
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, February 27, 2004 - 09:29 am:   

I had the pleasure of meeting Bob Sheckley this past weekend in Dallas at ConDFW. He and Barry Malzberg and I were on a panel together called "Forgotten Giants of SF," and Bob's and Barry's banter with each other was, of course, the highlight (they decided to talk about each other, rather than Cyril Kornbluth or Henry Kuttner, since they're both still alive and can use the attention and income!). I got to hear Bob read his story, "The Same to You, Doubled," which was laugh-out-loud funny, particularly since we'd been playing "Jewish Geography" out in the bar just before. I picked up the NESFA omnibus volume, "Dimensions of Sheckley," at the con, and I'm really looking forward to diving into it.

Bob is looking to try to get his collected short fiction back into print. Let's all wish him lots of luck with this extremely worthwhile endeavor.

Best to you, Bob!
--Andy Fox

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