Science fiction author, specialising in satire, spoofs and paradoxes, highly imaginative and, in rare moments of non-frivolity, surprisingly dark.

He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1921, did a spell in Korea and started writing professionally soon after he graduated, having entered university on his return from service.

His early short fiction inhabited the 'golden age' in scifi publishing, appearing during the mid-late 50s in pulp magazines like If, Galaxy and Thrilling Wonder Stories.

The Lifeboat Mutiny (1955) is a typical early work: two planetary developers acquire a cheap lifeboat from a shady dealer, for use on a planet with only one tiny piece of land. Foolishly attempting some ad-hoc repairs, they find the lifeboat, when fully activated, is a war model with a strong sense of duty, created by an ancient and extinct race.

"Yeah, feed us," Gregor demanded.

"Of course," the lifeboat said. A tray slid out of the wall. It was heaped high with something that looked like clay, but smelled like machine oil.

"What's that supposed to be?" Gregor asked.

"That is geezel," the lifeboat said. "It is the staple diet of the Drome peoples. I can prepare it in sixteen different ways."

Gregor cautiously sampled it. It tasted just like clay coated with machine oil.


"I won a nationwide contest in geezel preparation," the lifeboat esped, with pardonable pride. "Nothing is too good for our boys in uniform. Do try a little."

It will not take orders from them, and they battle desperately to avoid their own extinction as the boat insists on 'improving' their conditions.

Of the longer works, my favourites are Mindswap and Journey Beyond Tomorrow. The former (1966) is an inspired, playful romp through a crazed and surreal galaxy where ganzer eggs smoothtalk you out of harvesting them, sages must speak in rhyme to fend off predators, and in which you will inevitably succumb to metaphoric deformation syndrome, mistaking your alien surroundings for genre novels, giant beetles for friendly Mexican bandits, and so on.

In the unfortunately titled Journey Beyond Tomorrow, Sheckley creates a charming post-armageddon mythos, a hazy view of the glories and mysteries of 20th Century civilisation, seen at a fabular distance through the dim but rosy lenses of the only survivors - inhabitants of a few small islands in the middle of the Pacific - in their folktales of the journeys of legendary hero Jones in America.

Quotes on Robert Sheckley

"Sheckley at his best is Voltaire-and-soda."

-- Brian W. Aldiss

"One of the few acknowledged humorists in SF, and by far the funniest, Sheckley plays with myths the way Mel Brooks plays with classic movies."

-- New York Times Book Review

"Robert Sheckley is one of the great funny writers."

-- Douglas Adams

Quotes from Robert Sheckley1
"I wrote what came to me - humor and paradox, and satire, the three horsemen of my own apocalypse."
(On the difference between Sheckley and Douglas Adams:)
"Doug Adams makes a lot more out of his books than I do out of mine. That's the main difference between us. He's bigger than I am. That might account for some of the difference."
(On travel:)
"I found that travelling around the world was a great substitute for writing."
(On the inevitable comparisons to Franz Kafka, James Joyce, Philip K. Dick, etc.:)
"I like and tend to believe any reviewer who compares me to anyone famous and dead."
(Who are his favourite authors?)
"Most of my favorite authors are dead: Italo Calvino, Henry Kuttner, John Collier, Ted Sturgeon, Edgar Rice Burroughs come to mind. The other favorite authors of mine haven't started publishing yet."
(What is his best question?)
"My best question was, 'Why is there purple?' Another good one is, 'Why do you feel this compulsion to ask questions?'"
("Why are there different places?")
"I'm glad you asked me that. Excuse me while I chew open this vein."

1. From an interview available online at

Other information from
and Mr Sheckley's own site at

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