Protection — Robert Sheckley

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Robert Sheckley (July 16, 1928–December 9, 2005) was one of the most highly regarded short story writers of the 1950’s through the 1970’s, though he would continue to write sporadically until his death.  “Protection” saw print in the April 1956 issue of Galaxy and aired on X Minus One on March 20, 1957.  We’ve all heard of guardian angels, but in “Protection” Sheckley gives us a guardian alien. This altruistic alien’s over-protective nature leads to all sorts of complications for one human being, and inevitably asks the counter-intuitive question (among others), Does total protection from potential risk lead to the need for even greater protection of a different kind? How might it limit the freedom with which we choose to live our lives? And if total awareness of all possible future risk (from which day to day choices might incur possible harm) is refused, would we become paranoid, second-guessing our every move for fear of incurring a future risk to ourselves–including death?

Of Sheckley, Brian W. Aldiss once remarked:  “Sheckley at his best is Voltaire and soda.” And Harlan Ellison has observed that “If the Marx Brothers had been literary rather than thespic fantasists…they would have been Robert Sheckley.”

In 2001 SFWA honored Sheckley with its Author Emeritus award for Lifetime Contributions to the field.

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