This interview from Delos SF by Luigi Pachì and Roberto Quaglia
N.B. Luigi and Roberto's grammar isn't quite as good as Sheckly's!
Delos: Robert, you are quite note for your long appearence on one of the best SF magazine ever existed: Galaxy. What do you remember most about that period with regard to your life and the way SF was written in comparison to today SF?

Robert Sheckley: Life seemed a lot easier in those days. H.L Gold always wanted more stories from me than I could produce. Science fiction felt like belonging to a special club back then. Now sf has swollen into a megabucks proposition with the movie people defining the genre and the rest of us trying to shake a few dollars out of them. It was much better in the old days. But of course, everything was much better in the old days. Except for the women. They're better now. Except for a few.

Delos: Why did you choose to write humoristic and paradoxical SF novels? Was it 'cose you reckoned a lack in that particular area of science fiction stories, or was it for other reasons?

Sheckley: I by no means sat down and tried to consider lacks in the science fiction field. That would have been quite beyond me. I wrote what came to me--humor and paradox, and satire, the three horsemen of my own apocalypse.

Delos: And now a question I already asked to Douglas. In your opinion, what's the major difference between your paradoxical novels and the production by Douglas Adams?

Sheckley: Doug Adams makes a lot more out of his books than I do out of mine. That's the main difference between us. He's bigger than I am. That might account for some of the difference.

Delos: After many stories published in the Fifties you started moving around the world publishing less and less. "Dimension of Miracles", for instance, appeared after seven years from your latest book. That novel is still at the top of my list, and I wonder whether it took so long to be created 'couse it's not easy to write your kind of SF (speculative, sproof genre, etc), or 'couse you suddently discovered that travelling around the world was more exciting than writing novels.

Sheckley: I found that travelling around the world was a great substitute for writing. And shoddy hotels in exotic places have a certain charm when you're a certain age. And there was the rest of my life, too, refusing to sit back quietly and let me get on with my writing.

Delos: Reviewers like Brian Aldiss compared your works to the Lewis Carrol, Voltaire and Swift ones, while Sam Lundwall - instead - found your bizarre Universes close to the ones of Frantz Kafka and Boris Vian. How do you really feel about these comments?

Sheckley: I like and tend to believe any reviewer who compares me to anyone famous and dead.

Delos: Movies like "Spaceballs" by Mel Brooks or U.K. Television series like Red Dwarf, can help people in getting closer to the SF genre in a general sense?

Sheckley: I haven't seen the movies you mentioned. Why anyone would want to get closer to the sf genre is beyond me, however. It's best at arm's length.

Delos: Can you find one or more reasons why you decided to write about SF, instead of choosing a different genre (apart from the Thrilling you actually wrote in the Sixties)?

Sheckley: As Cab Calloway said, "It ain't got a thing if it ain't got that swing." Science fiction had that swing for me, and I took to it like a truck takes to water. Swimmingly.

Delos: "The Laxian Key", "Milk Run" and "Ghost V" in my opinion are certainly three of the best stories of yours ever written. Have you ever thought to write new stories about the AAA Ace Agency.

Sheckley: Yes, I have considered it from time to time, but have desisted due to the sad condition of the sf short story market, plus a feeling that I might as well leave sleeping dogs lie.

Delos: Your Novel "Mindswap" is dedicated to Paul Kwitney. Can you tell me a bit more about him.

Sheckley: Paul Kwitney was a brother-in-law of mine several wives ago. I would like to request anyone who has that book with that particular dedication to please strike it out. We aren't friends any longer. If we ever were.

Delos: You are also popular through the many readers of "Playboy" (note for our readers: do not double-check the central pages of your 1.000 issues of Playboy: Robert just published written stories in it. No naked pictures of Robert are available, sorry!). Why did you decided to appear on "Playboy": nice payments? payments in nature? in order to have an excuse to look inside the pages without scolding? to change public?

Sheckley: Playboy paid about ten times better than the best science-fiction markets. Need I say more?

Delos: Which one of your many characters in your stories like the most and why?

Sheckley: I guess that would be Marvin Flynn. His is the only name I can remember at the moment.

Delos: Could you kindly tell me your preferred authors and books (please avoid yourself and your many pseudonyms used in the Fifties...)?

Sheckley: Most of my favorite authors are dead: Italo Calvino, Henry Kuttner, John Collier, Ted Sturgeon, Edgar Rice Burroughs come to mind. The other favorite authors of mine haven't started publishing yet.

Delos: What are your major projects for the future. Can we expect other amusing novels from your clever brain? I really hope so.

Sheckley: My first major project for the future, as it has been for the past, is Getting By. I've got two science- fiction novels I hope to complete soon. Don't ask me what I think of them. I never know until some father-figure tells me.

And now, the additional questions by Roberto Quaglia...

Delos: Which are the best questions that you remember to have heard in your life, supposed there are good ones?

Sheckley: I like the question that asks, "What's going on in your head right now?" That's the one I never get around to answering.

Delos: Which is the best question that you happened to put to the universe, or to somebody else, supposed there is somebody else, supposed there is an universe? And which is your latest question, that you feel to be putting now?

Sheckley: My best question was, "Why is there purple?" Another good one is, "Why do you feel this compulsion to ask questions?"

Delos: What do you especially notice from existence?

Sheckley: Existence? Funny, I never noticed existence before. Is it something like pink Jello? Or is it something Jean- Paul Sartre invented between coffees in Deux Magots?

Delos: Who's convenience is it, that something seems to happen?

Sheckley: It is to the convenience of us all, my son, for if nothing happened, God would be very lonely up there with his Conjecture.

Delos: Tell us about your feeling to music. But what is in fact music? Or perhaps, if it is too difficult, what is it not?

Sheckley: My theory of music is that Debussy should have lived to the age of 112 and written ten times as much as he did.

Delos: Which definition of reality do you prefer, or perhaps, which do you dislike less?

Sheckley: Reality is what comes out of the end of my computer.

Delos: Well, this leads to a Very Classical Question: how would you best define Science Fiction?

Sheckley: Science fiction is what comes out of the end of my computer.

Delos: Why are there different places, if there are no distances? (You put this question in your short story "Ask a foolish question")

Sheckley: I'm glad you asked me that. Excuse me while I chew open this vein.

Delos: Why is every answer contained in the terms of a bigger problem?

Sheckley: Because on the first day, God said, "Let there be generalizations," and so it has been ever since.

Delos: Why is there something, instead of there being nothing?

Sheckley: There isn't something. There's only nothing masquerading as something and looking very like Gerard Depardieu. That, by the way, is the real meaning of cyber space.
Well! This wasn't as difficult as I had imagined. I've finished all the questions, and I still have time to phlogosticate the reprimand in a feemly manner. Wouldn't you?