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I'm a little amazed that I haven't heard of this author because I feel like I am quite familiar with SciFi writers from the beginning to at least the 80s and 90s. I'm reminded to some degree of Spider Robinson, who was notable for his short story output. I have a dim memory of a college SciFi writing course I took in the early 80s and the teacher introduced us to folks like this. Short stories being so much easier to deal with with college students and their short attention spans. Having said that, thank you for the new writer to look for and consider. He does sound very much worth reading. As a closet SciFi reader it is always good to find writers in that genre who can actually write!

I'm the same, EG. I read every sci-fi book I could get my hands on in the late 60s and early 70s, but that name is not familiar. Maybe I've read something by him, though. Maybe they weren't around in the US?

So, I've always wondered. What does godescalc mean?


I vaguely recognized the name, but that's all. He does sound interesting.

No need to stay closeted, EG. I predict that A Canticle for Liebowitz will be around for a long time. And I'm sure there are others.

Janet, "godescalc" is explained in the About page on James's blog:




I'm surprised at Sheckley's apparent obscurity. I've always thought of him as one of the sci-fi standards. And he is an American author, so I'm not sure what might account for him being better known in Britain.

He looks like he might have been a fun person to know:


I'm not sure he is better-known in Britain, actually. He was well-known *in my family*, but the only other people I've ever met who've heard of him are Russian. (They also asked me if I knew Chesterton, although they only knew the Father Brown stories, to which I am indifferent.)

I posted this on Facebook, and someone there recommended a short story called "A Pilgrimage to Earth". Well, I guess it was a recommendation: "A twisted tale of morality..."

I read a fair amount of s/f in the late 70s and early 80s, and I definitely remember Sheckley's name, but I don't recall if I ever read anything by him or not.

He wrote The Tenth Victim!


That kept turning up when I was searching for images. I vaguely remember hearing the title--it's a movie, right?

Yes, a movie with Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress about a TV show not too far in the future--probably the past now--reality TV--and Victims and Hunters are paired with each other in a contest. They take turns as victims/hunters. If you kill your 10th victim, I think you get lots of money and get to retire. So, those two are paired and I think there's a love interest, and I don't remember how it ends, despite the fact that when we were first married, Bill was taking film classes and we spend many evenings sitting in an office at Memphis State watching the movie projected on the wall while Bill analyzed it for the class.


We'll probably have shows like that pretty soon.

Firesign Theater had a skit involving a game show called (if I remember correctly) Beat the Reaper, in which people were injected with some kind of toxin or disease and had a certain amount of time to identify it based on their symptoms. If they got it right, they were given an antidote.

That sounds like something straight out of a Sheckley story.

I don't think I read "Tenth Victim", although I did read a few other stories along the same lines - Sheckley never seemed to get tired of writing about that kind of reality-TV death-sports. Which makes me a bit curious - you can see how such ideas might be in the Zeitgeist today (by contemplating reality TV and wondering how far it might go), but Sheckley had a bee in his bonnet about it waaay back when - the first of his lethal-reality-TV stories, The Prize of Peril, was released in 1958. I'm curious what he descried in 1950's America to put him several decades ahead of the Zeitgeist like that.

"I'm curious what he descried in 1950's America to put him several decades ahead of the Zeitgeist like that."

Boxing, football?

Also, there was a Gilligan's Island episode about a man who comes to the island to hunt Gilligan.

You can see MY cultural pedigree!

Well, Gilligan's Island wasn't around in 1958.


Boxing, football?

My initial reaction to this was that there's a bit of a gap between very kinetic sports and liking to watch people getting shot at. But then I googled "The Prize of Peril", found an e-text ( http://www.baenebooks.com/chapters/9781625791412/9781625791412___2.htm ) and read down to this:

"Six years ago, Jim, Congress passed the Voluntary Suicide Act... You know what the Act really means? It means the amateurs can risk their lives for the big loot, not just professionals. In the old days you had to be a professional boxer or footballer or hockey player if you wanted your brains beaten out legally for money. But now that opportunity is open to ordinary people like you, Jim."

(Also it occurs to me the idea of watching deathmatches for entertainment goes back to ancient Rome, and Sheckley knew his classics well enough.)

Here's Beat the Reaper. I'd forgotten that quiet voice explaining things that quiz shows used to have. (Still do? Are there still quiz shows?)

Is watching deathmatches for pleasure a common feature of sophisticated civilizations?

I like the Don Pardo announcer.


I'd forgotten that name. Yeah, that's the quiet voice I was referring to.

He just died in August. It was the day of mother's funeral.


"Is watching deathmatches for pleasure a common feature of sophisticated civilizations?"

Ever watch UFC or MMA? Horrible stuff.

No, but I've seen commercials, and wondered if it was as bad as they made it look. I gather it is.

It's ridiculous, like a combination of boxing and "pro" wrestling, but with full contact and very little by way of rules.

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