by Kurt Vonnegut – a Kilgore Trout story…
The premise of the book was this: Life was an experiment by the Creator of the Universe, Who wanted to test a new sort of creature He was thinking of introducing into the Universe. It was a creature with the ability to make up its own mind. All the other creatures were fully programmed robots.
The book was in the form of a long letter from The Creator of the Universe to the experimental creature. The Creator congratulated the creature and apologized for all the discomfort he had endured. The Creator invited him to a banquet in his honor in the Empire Room of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, where a black robot named Sammy Davis, Jr., would sing and dance.
And the experimental creature wasn’t killed after the banquet. He was transferred to a virgin planet instead. Living cells were sliced from the palms of his hands, while he was unconscious. The operation didn’t hurt at all.
And then the cells were stirred into a soupy sea on the virgin planet. They would evolve into ever more complicated life forms as the eons went by. Whatever shapes they assumed, they would have free will.
Trout didn’t give the experimental creature a proper name. He simply called him The Man.
On the virgin planet, The Man was Adam and the sea was Eve.
The Man often sauntered by the sea. Sometimes he waded in his Eve. Sometimes he swam in her, but she was too soupy for an invigorating swim. She made her Adam feel sleepy and sticky afterwards, so he would dive into an icy stream that had just jumped off a mountain.
He screamed when he dived into the icy water, screamed again when he came up for air. He bloodied his shins and laughed about it when he scrambled up rocks to get out of the water.
He panted and laughed some more, and he thought of something amazing to yell. The Creator never knew what he was going to yell, since The Creator had no control over him. The Man himself got to decide what he was going to do next — and why. After a dip one day, for instance, The Man yelled this: “Cheese!”
Another time he yelled, “Wouldn’t you really rather drive a Buick?”
The only other big animal on the virgin planet was an angel who visited The Man occasionally. He was a messenger and an investigator for the Creator of the Universe. He took the form of an eight hundred pound male cinnamon bear. He was a robot, too, and so was The Creator, according to Kilgore Trout.
The bear was attempting to get a line on why The Man did what he did. He would ask, for instance, “Why did you yell, ‘Cheese’?”
And The Man would tell him mockingly, “Because I felt like it, you stupid machine.” Here is what The Man’s tombstone on the virgin planet looked like at the end of the book by Kilgore Trout:
Dear sir, poor sir, brave sir: You are an experiment by the Creator of the Universe. You are the only creature in the entire Universe who has free will. You are the only one who has to figure out what to do next — and why. Everybody else is a robot, a machine.
“Some persons seem to like you, and others seem to hate you, and you must wonder why. They are simply liking machines and hating machines.
“You are pooped and demoralized. Why wouldn’t you be? Of course it’s exhausting, having to reason every time in a universe which wasn’t meant to be reasonable.
“You are surrounded by loving machines, hating machines, greedy machines, unselfish machines, brave machines, cowardly machines, truthful machines, lying machines, funny machines, solemn machines. Their only purpose is to stir you up in every conceivable way, so the Creator of the Universe can watch your reactions. They can no more feel or reason than grandfather clocks.
“The Creator of the Universe would now like to apologize not only for the capricious, jostling companionship he provided during the test, but for the trashy, stinking condition of the planet itself. The Creator programmed robots to abuse it for millions of years, so it would be a poisonous, festering cheese when you got here. Also, He made sure it would be desperately crowded by programming robots, regardless of their living conditions, to crave sexual intercourse and adore infants more than almost anything.
“He also programmed robots to write books and magazines and newspapers for you, and television and radio shows, and stage shows, and films. They wrote songs for you. The Creator of the Universe had them invent hundreds of religions, so you would have plenty to choose among. He had them kill each other by the millions, for this purpose only: that you be amazed. They had commited every possible atrocity and every possible kindness unfeelingly, automatically, inevitably, to get a reaction from Y-O-U.”
This last word was set in extra-large type and had a line all to itself, so it looked like this:
Y — O — U
“Every time you went into the library, the Creator of the Universe held His breath. With such a higgledy-piggledy cultural smorgasbord before you, what would you, with your free will, choose?
“Your parents were fighting machines and self-pitying machines. Your mother was programmed to bawl out your father for being a defective money-making machine, and your father was programmed to bawl her out for being a defective housekeeping machine. They were programmed to bawl each other out for being defective loving machines.
“Then your father was programmed to stomp out of the house and slam the door. This automatically turned your mother into a weeping machine. And your father would go down to a tavern where he would get drunk with some other drinking machines. Then all the drinking machines would go to a whorehouse and rent fucking machines. And then your father would drag himself home to become an apologizing machine. And your mother would become a very slow forgiving machine.
Now It Can Be Told appears in the Kurt Vonnegut novel Breakfast of Champions, available at Amazon.com