Robert Sheckley was born 90 years ago

Robert Sheckley
Robert Sheckley

Robert Sheckley (photo ©John Henley) was born on July 16, 1928, in Brooklyn, New York, USA.

Robert Sheckley discovered science fiction while attending high school. After graduating, in 1946, he went to California and tried various jobs then joined the army. He served in Korea and was discharged in 1948.

After graduating from New York University in 1951, Robert Sheckley tried more jobs, also to maintain the family he created after his first marriage and the birth of his son Jason. He also started to work as a science fiction writer by selling his first story, “Final Examination”, at the end of 1951 to the magazine “Imagination”.

The science fiction market of the 1950s, based mainly on magazines, allowed him to publish short fiction with continuity, and for Robert Sheckley that was the ideal situation since it allowed him to express himself at his best. For this reason, in the early years of his career, he published only short fiction with great success. In addition to science fiction magazines, Robert Sheckley also wrote short fiction for other magazines including “Playboy”, for his admission because they paid well.

Among the stories published in the 1950s, there’s “Seventh Victim”, which appeared in 1953 in the magazine “Galaxy”. It was adapted into the 1965 movie “The Tenth Victim” (“La decima vittima”) by Elio Petri with Marcello Mastroianni, Ursula Andress, and Elsa Martinelli. Robert Sheckley also wrote the movie’s novelization with the same title.

Robert Sheckley’s first novel was “Immortality Delivered”, later published as “Immortality Inc.“, in 1958. It contains elements typical of the author’s works, in particular, a future society with a dark side told with satirical elements. This trend continued in the following years with the publication of “The Status Civilization” (1960), “Journey beyond Tomorrow”, also known as “Journey of Joenes” (1963), “Mindswap” (1966), “Dimension of Miracles” (1968), “Options” (1975) up to “The Alchemical Marriage of Alistair Crompton”, also known as “Crompton Divided” (1978).

In the 1960s, Robert Sheckley also started writing detective and spy stories, such as the Stephen Dain series. “The Game of X” (1965) freely inspired the 1981 movie “Condorman”, of which Sheckley also wrote the novelization. In the 1990s Sheckley published the Hob Draconian series.

Also in the 1990s, Robert Sheckley wrote the fantasy-humorous Millennial Contest series together with Roger Zelazny composed of: “Bring Me the Head of the Prince Charming” (1991), “If at Faust You Don’t Succeed” (1993), and “A Farce to be Reckoned With” (1995).

In those years Robert Sheckley also wrote some novels connected to television and cinema sagas, sometimes original novels, and in the case of “Babylon 5: A Call to Arms” the novelization of a TV movie.

During a trip to Ukraine in 2005, Robert Sheckley fell ill and was admitted to a hospital in conditions that remained serious for some days. When his condition improved he returned to the USA but in November of the same year he needed brain aneurysm surgery. Sheckley died on December 9, 2005.

Robert Sheckley’s humor, with strong elements of satire, made him famous from the beginning of his career, also thanks to the fact that in his short stories, he was able to exploit them with greater intensity. Several of his stories got adapted in a more or less faithful way for radio, television, and cinema. He’s an author who became famous among readers and also inspired authors of later generations.

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