Hear a Complete Reading of the Newly-Discovered Kurt Vonnegut Story, “The Drone King”

Twen­ty some years before a young engi­neer named Ray Tom­lin­son invent­ed email, writer Kurt Von­negut invent­ed bee-mail in “The Drone King,” a sto­ry that didn’t see the light of day until his friend and fel­low author Dan Wake­field unearthed it while going through old papers for a new Von­negut col­lec­tion.

The col­lec­tion’s co-edi­tor, Von­negut schol­ar Jerome Klinkowitz, esti­mates that it was writ­ten in the ear­ly 50s, like­ly before the pub­li­ca­tion of his first nov­el, Play­er Piano, in 1952.

This ear­ly work, recent­ly pub­lished in The Atlantic as well as Wake­field and Klinkow­itz’s col­lec­tion, shows an author whose gal­lows humor is already firm­ly in place.

Sev­er­al of his favorite themes crop up, too: the enthu­si­asm of the mis­guid­ed entre­pre­neur, the bat­tle of the sex­es, and tech­nol­o­gy tak­en to absurd extremes (i.e. bees deliv­er­ing scraps of mes­sages in soda straws tied to their tho­rax­es).

If we’re not mis­tak­en Indi­anapo­lis, Vonnegut’s boy­hood home, now host to his Memo­r­i­al Library, puts in an unbilled appear­ance, as well. The story’s Mil­len­ni­um Club bears an uncan­ny resem­blance to that city’s Ath­let­ic Club, now defunct.

The self-pity­ing male hap­less­ness Von­negut spoofs so ably feels just as skew­er-able in the post-Wein­stein era, though the dod­der­ing black waiter’s dialect is rather queasy-mak­ing, espe­cial­ly in the mouth of the white nar­ra­tor read­ing the sto­ry, above.

You can buy “The Drone King” as part of Kurt Von­negut Com­plete Sto­ries col­lec­tion or read it free online here. The Atlantic was also good enough to cre­ate an audio ver­sion. It’s excerpt­ed up top. And it appears in its entire­ty right above.

“The Drone King” will be added to our Free Audio Books and Free eBooks col­lec­tions.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Good Short Sto­ry

Hear Kurt Vonnegut’s Nov­el, Cat’s Cra­dle, Get Turned into Avant-Garde Music (Fea­tur­ing Kurt Him­self)

Kurt Von­negut Pon­ders Why “Poor Amer­i­cans Are Taught to Hate Them­selves” in a Time­ly Pas­sage from Slaugh­ter­house-Five

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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