Friday, December 23, 2011

On the affinity between Vonnegut and Dick (from a FB comment)

I've always felt a weird affinity between Vonnegut and Dick. Both are literary writers who happened to write a little SF, and who therefore got unjustly pigeonholed as SF writers. Dick was hugely inspired by Vonnegut's first book "Player Piano," while Vonnegut's Kilgore Trout character seems like a clear homage to the legend of Philip K. Dick: bleak and obscure but brilliant SF writer toiling in obscurity writing stories with brilliant concepts but terrible prose. Their writing styles and subject matter are very different, although both put a rare emphasis on compassion which I very much appreciate in my literary fiction. Did I ever tell you the story from college of when I was walking through the music stacks of the UCD library and found a PKD and KV book sitting together on the shelf? I thought it was a weird synchronicity since I had just read a ton of KV+PKD over the past year.


  1. Actually, Kilgore Trout is Theodore Sturgeon. And Phil would have referred to Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. Even so, your post is very interesting.
    ~~ Tessa Dick

  2. Dear Tessa,
    Thanks very much for the comment! It's an honor to hear from you, and I hope to hear more from you in the future. And thanks for the correction. I remember now that I had heard Ted Sturgeon was the explicit inspiration for Trout (interested readers can get it from Vonnegut himself here ) but I had always thought that the legend of PKD got kinda mixed up with the aura of Trout. Maybe that's just me...

    As for Cat's Cradle, thanks for letting me know that this book was important to Phil. I don't remember reading anything he had written about Cat's Cradle. I have turned up various mentions of Player Piano (in a letter to Boucher from 1957, and in one of his last interview) as well as a few player pianos in his stories (Electric Ant and Maze of Death). Can you say anything more about what Dick had to say about Cat's Cradle, or Vonnegut in general?

    Ted Hand, aspiring PKD Scholar