Kurt Vonnegut's Short Stories

Kurt Vonnegut's Short Stories Study Guide

Though Vonnegut is now known primarily as a novelist, his short stories were quite popular during the 1950s and 60's, in leading magazines such as Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post.

Vonnegut began writing short fiction while working in public relations at General Electric in Schenectady, New York in the late 1940s. "Report on the Barnhouse Effect" was his first story to be accepted for publication; it ran in Collier's in 1949.

Collier's later published many other of Vonnegut's short stories, including "EPICAC" in 1950, "Mnemonics" and "All the King's Horses" in 1951, and "Any Reasonable Offer," "The Package," and "Thanasphere" in 1952. "2BR02B" was published in the science fiction digest magazine If in 1962; a short story of this name is mentioned in Vonnegut's 1965 novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and attributed to his recurring character Kilgore Trout.

Galaxy Science Fiction published "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" in 1954, originally titled "The Big Trip Up Yonder." "Deer in the Works" was published by Esquire in 1955, and the next year, The Saturday Evening Post published "Miss Temptation." The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction published "Harrison Bergeron" in 1961; also in 1961, The Saturday Evening Post published "Who Am I This Time?" "Welcome to the Monkey House" was published in 1968 by Playboy.

A collection of Vonnegut's short fiction was published in 1961, under the title Canary in a Cathouse. All but one of those twelve stories were later included in Welcome to the Monkey House, published in 1968. Welcome to the Monkey House comprises twenty-three stories, including "Harrison Bergeron," "Who Am I This Time?," "Welcome to the Monkey House," "Miss Temptation," "All the King's Horses," "Report on the Barnhouse Effect," "Deer in the Works," "EPICAC," and "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow." With the release of Bagombo Snuff Box in 1999, the rest of Vonnegut's short fiction became available to readers, including "Thanasphere," "Mnemonics," "Any Reasonable Offer," "The Package," and "2BR02B." Each collection features several stories outside of these lists.

As part of the American fiction tradition, Vonnegut's short stories often draw upon the tall tale form attributed to Mark Twain, in that they come to an abrupt, humorous ending. "Mnemonics" and "Any Reasonable Offer" exemplify this tall tale form.

In 1970, Welcome to the Monkey House was adapted into a play by Christopher Sergel. Over twenty years later, in 1991, Kurt Vonnegut himself hosted a Showtime television series called Monkey House, also based on the stories in the collection.