So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007

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Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday. I wrote an obituary-slash-tribute for him here. You can almost smell the smoke rising from the ears of all the literary journalists racing to get their Vonnegut eulogies up online. Very sad, though at the same time it’s hard to imagine a writer better-prepared to face death than Vonnegut.

I almost kind of forget that Vonnegut was an SF author, even though he wrote a ton of it, starting with his very first novel, Player Piano, in 1952, which was set in a high-tech future dystopia. (I always remember the scene where, after the Luddite mob has wrecked all the machines, they’re all excited when they manage to get an orange-drink vending machine working again. Irony.) Then there’s the time-travel of Slaughterhouse-Five, the we’re-all-equal future-gone-horribly-wrong of Harrison Bergeron, and the general weirdness of Sirens of Titan and Slapstick. (I have the general impression that nobody but me likes Slapstick, but come on: the entire world is inadvertently sickened by a plague that turns out to be microminiaturized Chinese people! What more can you ask of a book?)

There was nothing “hard” about his SF, which I suppose makes him kinda less nerdy. (I mean, really, how would a race like the Tralfamadorians have evolved? They have only one hand! And one eye! And their eye is on their hand! It’s like a Spore demo gone horribly wrong.) But you have to give it up for Cat’s Cradle and ice-nine, a deeply disturbing idea that he thought through pretty thoroughly. And when it came time to destroy the world, by gum, Vonnegut destroyed it.

Favorite Vonnegut SF moments? Hug it out in the comments.

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