Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Kilgore Trout in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Today's post is another from Marek Vit's wonderful Kurt Vonnegut Corner, detailing the Kilgore Trout stories in God Bless You, Mr Rosewater. The original post used to be located here: www.geocities.com/Hollywood/4953/kt_ros.html, but as Geocities is no longer available, Marek has allowed me to repost the stories here. I hope you enjoy them!

The page numbers referred to in this post are from the following edition of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater: New York: November 1978; Dell Publishing Co.

2BR0TB
Trout's favorite formula was to describe a perfectly hideous society, not unlike his own, and then, toward the end, to suggest ways in which it could be improved. In 2BR0TB he hypothecated an America in which almost all of the work was done by machines, and the only people who could get work had three or more Ph.D's. There was a serious overpopulation problem, too.

All serious diseases had been conquered. So death was voluntary, and the government, to encourage volunteers for death, set up a purple-roofed Ethical Suicide Parlor at every major intersection, right next door to an orange-roofed Howard Johnson's. There were pretty hostesses in the parlor, and Barca-Loungers, and Muzak, and a choice of fourteen painless ways to die. The suicide parlors were busy places, because so many people felt silly and pointless, and because it was supposed to be an unselfish, patriotic thing to do, to die. The suicides also got free last meals next door.

And so on. Trout had a wonderful imagination.

One of the characters asked a death stewardess if he would go to Heaven, and she told him that of course he would. He asked if he would see God, and she said, "Certainly, honey."
And he said, "I sure hope so. I want to ask Him something I never was able to find out down here."
"What's that?" she said, strapping him in.
"What the hell are people for?"
(pages 20-21)




Venus on the Half-Shell
Queen Margaret of the planet Shaltoon let her gown fall to the floor. She was wearing nothing underneath. Her high, firm, uncowled bosom was proud and rosy. Her hips and thighs were like an inviting lyre of pure alabaster. They shone so whitely they might have had a light inside. "Your travels are over, Space Wanderer," she whispered, her voice husky with lust. "Seek no more, for you have found. The answer is in my arms."

"It's a glorious answer, Queen Margaret, God knows," the Space Wanderer replied. His palms were perspiring profusely. "I am going to accept it gratefully. But I have to tell you, if I'm going to be perfectly honest with you, that I will have to be on my way again tomorrow."

"But you have found your answer, you have found your answer," she cried, and she forced his head between her fragrant young breasts.

He said something she did not hear. She thrust him out at arm's length. "What was that you said?"
"I said, Queen Margaret, that what you offer is an awfully good answer. It just doesn't happen to be the one I'm primarily looking for."
(pages 114-115)


Oh Say Can You Smell?
"You know--" said Eliot, "Kilgore Trout once wrote a whole book about a country that was devoted to fighting odors. That was the national purpose. There wasn't any disease, and there wasn't any crime, and there wasn't any war, so they went after odors."
. . .
"This country," said Eliot, "had tremendous research projects devoted to fighting odors. They were supported by individual contributions given to mothers who marched on Sundays from door to door. The ideal of the research was to find a specific chemical deodorant for every odor. But then the hero, who was also the country's dictator, made a wonderful scientific breakthrough, even though he wasn't a scientist, and they didn't need the projects any more. He went right to the root of the problem."
"Uh huh," said the Senator. He couldn't stand stories by Kilgore Trout, was embarassed by his son. "He found one chemical that would eliminate all odors?"

"No. As I say, the hero was dictator, and he simply eliminated noses."
(page 156)


The First District Court of Thankyou
It was called, The First District Court of Thankyou, which was a court you could take people to, if you felt they hadn't been properly grateful for something you had done. If the defendant lost his case, the court gave him a choice between thanking the plaintiff in public, or going into solitary confinement on bread and water for a month. According to Trout, eighty per cent of those convicted chose the black hole.
(page 163)


Pan-Galactic Three-Day Pass
It was an exciting story, all about a man who was serving on a sort of Space-Age Lewis and Clark expedition. The hero's name was Sergeant Raymond Boyle.

The expedition had reached what appeared to be the absolute and final rim of the universe. There didn't seem to be anything beyond the solar system they were in, and they were setting up equipment to sense the faintest signals that might be coming from the slightest anything in all that black velvet nothing out there.

Sergeant Boyle was an Earthling. He was the only Earthling on the expedition. In fact, he was the only creature from the Milky Way. The other members were from all over the place. The expedition was a joint effort supported by about two hundred galaxies. Boyle wasn't a technician. He was an English teacher. The thing was that Earth was the only place in the whole known universe where language was used. It was a unique Earthling invention. Everybody else used mental telepathy, so Earthlings could get pretty good jobs as language teachers just about anywhere they went.

The reason creatures wanted to use language instead of mental telepathy was that they found out they could get so much more done with language. Language made them so much more active. Mental telepathy, with everybody constantly telling everybody everything, produced a sort of generalized indifference to all information. But language, with its slow, narrow meanings, made it possible to think about one thing at a time--to start thinking in terms of projects.

Boyle was called out of his English class, was told to report at once to the commanding officer of the expedition. He couldn't imagine what it was all about. He went into the C.O.'s office, saluted the old man. Actually the C.O. didn't look anything like an old man. He was from the planet Tralfamadore, and was about as tall as an Earthling beer can. Actually, he didn't look like a beercan, either. He looked like a little plumber's friend.

He wasn't alone. The chaplain of the expedition was there, too. The padre was from the planet Glinko-X-3. He was an enormous sort of Portuguese man-o'-war, in a tank of sulfuric acid on wheels. The chaplain looked grave. Something awful had happened.
The chaplain told Boyle to be brave, and then the C.O. said there was very bad news from home. The C.O. said there had been a death back home, that Boyle was being given an emergency three-day pass, that he should get ready to leave right away.

"Is it--is it--Mom?" said Boyle, fighting back the tears. "Is it Pop? Is it Nancy?" Nancy was the girl next door. "Is it Gramps?"
"Son--" said the C.O., "brace yourself. I hate to tell you this: It isn't who has died. It's what has died."
"What's died?"
"What's died, my boy, is the Milky Way."
(pages 173-174)

Photo by Kenn Wilson.

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