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Short Fiction

Robert Sheckley


Robert Sheckley was one of science fiction’s most prolific short story writers. Though less known today than he was in his heyday, he was a giant of his time and was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Even though many of his stories deal with serious topics, they are most widely remembered for their comedic wit. His writing was compared to that of Douglas Adams, who held Sheckley in high regard: “He’s a very, very funny writer. He’s also a stylist. Very few science fiction writers write English well. Robert Sheckley can.” Sheckley was also well-respected by Kingsley Amis who, in his book New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction, included Sheckley in a list with Frederik Pohl and Arthur C. Clarke, and said their volumes should “be reviewed as general fiction, not tucked away, as one writer has put it, in something called ‘Spaceman’s Realm’ between the kiddy section and dog stories.”

Sheckley wrote about and pioneered many science fiction concepts, such as in his story “Watchbird,” where he explores the ability to detect murder before it happens—three years before Philip K. Dick’s “The Minority Report.” Or in “Ask a Foolish Question,” a story about an all-knowing Answerer to whom people pose the ultimate question of life—twenty-six years before Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Alongside these two stories, this collection includes all of his public domain short fiction ordered by date of first publication.

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