What would happen to human society if there was no death? In Kurt Vonnegut’s world, immortality isn’t exactly the gift it’s cracked up to be.
The editor of GALAXY magazine, Horace Gold, was obsessed with social trends and their extrapolation. The prototypical GALAXY story (often parodied in the magazine itself) would take a present-day, often overlooked trend, fad or demographic fact and posit a society in which they had become dominant. Thus Fred Pohl’s THE MIDAS PLAGUE in which obsessive consumerism and its unpleasant acquisitiveness had become negative social values. Thus Damon Knight’s BACKWARD TURN BACKWARD in which the lifespan reversed (from grave to cradle) becomes a mockery of 1950’s youth obsession. And thus THE BIG TRIP UP YONDER (January 1954) in which the increasing of the lifespan has led to a future America in which the old dominate simply because they will not die and yield their share of the diminishing stock of possessions...a circumstance which leads to the inevitable infantilism of the deprived younger generations. THE BIG TRIP UP YONDER is the second and last of the two stories which Kurt Vonnegut, a struggling mainstream writer and reluctant presence in science fiction, sold to GALAXY magazine. Characteristic of Vonnegut’s work, it is framed as comedy but is deathly serious and confronts the issue of overextended mortality with unbending grimness. Vonnegut spent no more time hanging around the genre science fiction markets; it was another 18 years before THE BIG SPACE F--- appeared in AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS and only did so because Vonnegut and that famous original anthology’s editor, Harlan Ellison, were old friends.
Kurt Vonnegut is a unique voice in the American canon-a writer whose works are hard to categorize, often straddling the space between literature and science fiction, and filled with cutting satire and dark humor. Like Mark Twain before him, Vonnegut's reputation and impact on American writing and reading will continue to grow steadily and increase in relevance as new insights are made.Vonnegut was born in 1922 in Indianapolis, and studied at the University of Chicago and the University of Tennessee. In the Second World War, he became a German prisoner of war and was present during the bombing of Dresden. This experience provided inspiration for his most successful and influential novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. Vonnegut-admired as much for his views and his "Vonnegutisms" as for his publications-wrote extensively in many forms, including novels, short stories, essays, plays, articles, speeches, and correspondence, some of which was published posthumously.
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