Store of the Worlds
The Stories of Robert Sheckley
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
An NYRB Classics Original
Robert Sheckley was an eccentric master of the American short story, and his tales, whether set in dystopic cityscapes, ultramodern advertising agencies, or aboard spaceships lighting out for hostile planets, are among the most startlingly original of the twentieth century. Today, as the new worlds, alternate universes, and synthetic pleasures Sheckley foretold become our reality, his vision begins to look less absurdist and more prophetic. This retrospective selection, chosen by Jonathan Lethem and Alex Abramovich, brings together the best of Sheckley’s deadpan farces, proving once again that he belongs beside such mordant critics of contemporary mores as Bruce Jay Friedman, Terry Southern, and Thomas Pynchon.
Robert Sheckley (1928–2005) was born in New York City and raised in Maplewood, New Jersey. He joined the army shortly after high school and served in Korea from 1946 to 1948. Returning to New York, Sheckley completed a BA degree at New York University and later took a job in an aircraft factory, leaving as soon as he was able to support himself by selling short stories. In the 1950s and ’60s his stories appeared regularly in science-fiction magazines, especially Galaxy, as well as in Playboy and Esquire. In addition to the science fiction for which he is best known, Sheckley also wrote suspense and mystery stories and television screenplays; from 1979 to 1982 he was the fiction editor of Omni magazine. Sheckley traveled widely, settling for stretches of time in Greenwich Village, Ibiza, London, and Portland, Oregon. Many of Sheckley’s more than fifteen novels and roughly four hundred short stories have been translated and four have been adapted for film. In 2001 he was named Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Alex Abramovich has been an editor of Feed, Flavorpill, and Very Short List and a writer for The New York Times, The London Review of Books, and other publications. He lives in Oakland, California, and Astoria, Queens.
Jonathan Lethem is the author of eight novels, including Girl in Landscape and Chronic City, and five collections of stories and essays, including The Ecstasy of Influence (2011). He has previously written the introductions for the NYRB Classics editions of A Meaningful Life by L.J. Davis and On the Yard by Malcolm Braly. He teaches at Pomona College and lives in Los Angeles and Maine.
“Sheckley is . . . powerful . . . fantastic . . . brilliant . . .his wry twistings of reality . . . are absolutely unique.” — Roger Zelazny
“Because Sheckley leavened his darkest visions with wit and aburdist plotting, he is considered one of science fiction’s seminal humorists, a precursor to Douglas Adams.” — The New York Times
"The late Sheckley was known for a dark satirical style that keeps some of the more dated material in this retrospective collection fresh….Editors Lethem and Abramovich provide an insightful introduction but otherwise let the individual stories stand on their own." — Publishers Weekly
"….collection of classic sci-fi stories from the '50s and '60s, which melds the wit of Ray Bradbury with the philosophical undertones of Philip K. Dick….comic and thought-provoking gems." — The Bookseller (UK)
"Science fiction’s premier gadfly." —Kingsley Amis
"Witty and ingenious . . . a draught of pure Voltaire and tonic." — J. G. Ballard
“If the Marx Brothers had been literary rather than thespic fantasists, they would have been Robert Sheckley.” —Harlan Ellison
"Sheckley is my hero" —William Nye
"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.” —The New York Times Book Review
"Mr. Sheckley—as might be expected of a writer who can wring praise from as diverse a group of peers as Kingsley Amis, Harlan Ellison, John le Carre and J. G. Ballard—has an engagingly madcap manner all his own." —The Wall Street Journal
“Sheckley is one of SF’s all-time masters of the humorous or satirical short story. . . . much of Sheckley's work has been hard to come by for a good many years” —Booklist
"Let’s say you are a devoted fan of Kurt Vonnegut’s books, love the sardonic comeuppance stories of John Collier and Roald Dahl, own all of Edward Gorey’s little albums and enjoy watching reruns of 'The Twilight Zone.' Where else can you find similar instances of sly, macabre wit, of such black-humored, gin-and-tonic fizziness in storytelling? The answer may be unexpected: among the many masters of satirical science fiction and fantasy. Robert Sheckley...is certainly a leading example."—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post