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INTERVIEW


Here are some questions I wrote to Robert Sheckley via e-mail in July 1998.
MS: What are your personal favourites of your novels and stories, and which have been most successful?

Robert Sheckley: At the moment, I don't have any personal favorites. As for their success, that calls for a greater knowledge of the marketplace than I possess. I like the ones that earned the most money. These are the ones that picked up movie sales.

MS: Many of my favourite science fiction writers seemed to emerge in the fifties, writing for the thriving magazine market. Did You feel part of a group or movement? Did you feel influenced by (or influential on) other authors? e.g. Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison etc.

Robert Sheckley: At first, when I was just beginning, I felt like there was a club out there to which I wanted to belong. No, that's not exactly it, either. I wanted to work like those other guys worked. I wanted to be a professional. After a year or so of sales, I met many writers, including Harlan, Fred Pohl, Lester Del Rey, Cyril Kornbluth, and many others. We were very social back in those days when all of us (not Phil Dick, however) lived in New York and wrote regularly for the magazines. Nowadays we're scattered all over the country, each of us in our own split-level nightmare, isolated, for the most part, and wondering, at least in my case, what ever happened to the good old days.

MS: you wrote many stories for Galaxy, edited by Horace Gold. Did he ever tamper with your stories? (other writers have complained about this).

Robert Sheckley: I know other writers have had their complaints about Horace. I never had any difficulties at all. Horace never rewrote my stories, and I can't even remember him asking me for rewrites. He just wanted more, more. Delicious stuff to hear.

MS: You wrote a huge number of short stories during the fifties. Were sparks flying off the typewriter?

Robert Sheckley: Yes. I had a million ideas in those days. I filled notebooks with them. I wrote them quickly and got them out fast because that was my penchant.

MS: when you choose the stories for an anthology (e.g. "Citizen in Space") can you include anything you like or are there problems with copyright and/or publishers?

Robert Sheckley: I always owned my own book rights on all my short stories. There never were any difficulties. I picked what I wanted.

MS: How closely were you involved with the film "The Tenth Victim"? N.B. I know the short story "The Seventh Victim" was the original inspiration, but did you write the novel version before, after or during the film?

Robert Sheckley: I wasn't involved with the film at all. I wrote the novel version based on the script I was given. That was before I saw the movie.

MS: "Dimension of Miracles" is extremely funny, yet there's something dark and disturbing about the journey of Thomas Carmody. Was this your intention or just the way it came out?

Robert Sheckley: It just came out that way.

MS: Your novel "Options" (1975) is pretty strange and experimental, as are several short stories from this time. Strange days?

Robert Sheckley: They're all strange days. I wrote "Options" in Palma de Mallorca. I could say a lot of erudite things now about deconstruction and experimentation, but the fact is, at the time I just began the novel with the premise of a guy looking for a part for his spaceship and wrote a chapter a day until I completed it.

MS: You seem fond of short chapters. Is this significant?

Robert Sheckley: My natural length seems to be 500 to 1500 words a day. I like to finish a chapter or a story in a day. When I'm at work on a novel project, I usually do write one a day.

MS: Recently you have been putting your work directly onto the web at Galaxy eZine ("Fugue Players of New Venice" etc.). What inspired this move?

Robert Sheckley: Difficult to say what inspired the move. Annoyance at the long periods of time between writing something and seeing it published was a part of it. A desire to work more directly with what was going on in my head at the time, without the endless work of revision. A caprice. A way to get unstuck. Take your pick.


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