Breakfast of Champions
London: 1988; Cox & Wyman Ltd.
Untitled - (Chicken Soup)
[Trout] wrote a novel about an Earthling named Delmore Skag, a bachelor in the neighborhood where everybody else had
enormous families. And Skag was a scientist, and he found a way to reproduce himself in chicken soup.
He would shave living cells from the palm of his right hand, mix them with the soup, and expose the soup to
cosmic rays. The cells turned into babies which looked exactly like Delmore Skag.
Pretty soon, Delmore was having several babies a day, and inviting his neighbors to share his pride
and happiness. He had mass baptisms of as many as a hundred babies at a time. He became famous as a family man.
And so on.
Skag hoped to force his country into making laws against excessively large families, but the legislatures and
the courts declined to meet the problem head-on. They passed stern laws instead against the possession by unmarried persons
of chicken soup.
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Plague on Wheels
The words in the book, incidentally, were about life on a dying planet
named Lingo-Three, whose inhabitants resembled American automobiles.
They had wheels. They were powered by internal combustion engines. They ate
fossil fuels. They weren't manufactured, though. They reproduced. They laid
eggs containing baby automobiles, and the babies matured in pools of oil
drained from adult crankcases.
Lingo Three was visited by space travelers, who learned that the creatures
were becoming extinct for this reason: they had destroyed their planet's
resources, including its atmosphere.
The space travelers weren't able to offer much in the way of material
assistance. The automobile creatures hoped to borrow some oxygen, and to have
the visitors carry at least one of their eggs to another planet, where it
might hatch, where the automobile civilization could begin again. But the
smallest egg they had was a forty-eight pounder, and the space travellers themselves
were only an inch high, and their space ship wasn't even as big as an Earthling
shoebox. They were from Zeltoldimar.
The spokesman for the Zeltoldimarians was Kago. Kago said that all he could
do was to tell others in the Universe about how wonderful the automobile creatures had been.
Here is what he said to all those rusting junkers who were out of gas: "You will
be gone, but not forgotten."
So Kago and his brave little Zeltoldimarian crew, which was all homosexual,
roamed the Universe, keeping the memory of the automobile creatures alive. They
came at last to the planet Earth. In all innocence, Kago told the Earthlings about the
automobiles. Kago did not know that human beings could be as easily felled by
a single idea as by cholera or the bubonic plague. There was no immunity to cuckoo ideas on Earth.
And here, according to Trout, was the reason human beings could not reject
ideas because they were bad: "Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their
content didn't matter. Friends agreed with friends, in order to express friendliness.
Enemies disagreed with enemies, in order to express enmity.
"The ideas Earthlings held didn't matter for hundreds of thousands of years,
since they couldn't do much about them anyway. Ideas might as well be badges
"They even had a saying about the futility of ideas: 'If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.'
"And then Earthlings discovered tools. Suddenly agreeing with friends could be a form of suicide or worse.
But agreements went on, not for the sake of common sense or decency or self-preservation, but for friendliness.
"Earthlings went on being friendly, when they should have been thinking instead. And when they built
computers to do some thinking for them, they designed them not so much for wisdom
as for friendliness. So they were doomed. Homicidal beggars could ride."
Within a century of little Kago's arrival on Earth, according to Trout's novel,
every form of life on that once peaceful and moist and nourishing blue-green
ball was dying or dead. Everywhere were the shells of the great beetles which men had made and worshipped.
They were automobiles. They had killed everything.
Little Kago himself died long before the planet did. He was attempting
to lecture on the evils of the automobile in a bar in Detroit. But he was so tiny
that nobody paid any attention to him. He lay down to rest for a moment,
and a drunk automobile worker mistook him for a kitchen match. He killed Kago
by trying to strike him repeatedly on the underside of the bar.
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The Dancing Fool
A flying saucer creature named Zog arrived on Earth to explain how wars could
be prevented and how cancer could be cured. He brought the information from Margo, a planet
where the natives conversed by means of farts and tap dancing.
Zog landed at night in Connectitut. He had no sooner touched down than he saw a house
on fire. He rushed into the house, farting and tap dancing, warning the people about the
terrible danger they were in. The head of the house brained Zog with a golf club.
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Untitled - (Dirty Movies)
It was about an Earthling astronaut
who arrived on a planet where all the animal and plant life had been killed by pollution,
except for humanoids. The humanoids ate food made from petroleum and coal.
They gave a feast for the astronaut, whose name was Don. The food was terrible. The
big topic of conversation was censorship. The cities were blighted with motion picture
theaters which showed nothing but dirty movies. The humanoids wished they could put them
out of business somehow, but without interfering with free speech.
They asked Don if dirty movies were a problem on Earth, too, and Don said, "Yes."
They asked him if the movies were really dirty, and Don replied, "As dirty as movies
This was a challenge to the humanoids, who were sure their dirty movies could beat
anything on Earth. So everybody piled into air-cushion vehicles, and they floated to a dirty
movie house downtown.
It was intermission time when they got there, so Don had some time to think about what
could possibly be dirtier than what he had already seen on Earth. He became sexually excited
even before the house lights went down. The women in his party were all twittery and squirmy.
So the theater went dark and the curtains opened. At first there wasn't any picture. There
were slurps and moans from loudspeakers. Then the picture itself appeared. It was a high quality
film of a male humanoid eating what looked like a pear. The camera zoomed in on his lips and
tongue and teeth, which glistened with saliva. He took his time about eating the pear. When
the last of it had disappeared into his slurpy mouth, the camera focused on his Adam's apple.
His Adam's apple bobbed obscenely. He belched contentedly, and then these words appeared on
the screen, but in the language of the Planet:
It was all faked, of course. There weren't any pears anymore. And the eating of a pear
wasn't the main event of the evening anyway. It was a short subject, which gave the members
of the audience time to settle down.
Then the main feature began. It was about a male and a female and their two children,
and their dog and their cat. They ate steadily for an hour and a half--soup, meat,
biscuits, butter, vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy, fruit, candy, cake, pie. The camera
rarely strayed more than a foot from their glistening lips and their bobbing Adam's apples.
And then the father put the cat and the dog on the table, so they could take part in the
After a while, the actors couldn't eat any more. They were so stuffed that they were
goggle-eyed. They could hardly move. They said they didn't think they could eat again for
a week, and so on. They cleared the table slowly. They went waddling out into the kitchen,
and they dumped about thirty pounds of leftovers into a garbage can.
The audience went wild.
When Don and his friends left the theater, they were accosted by humanoid whores, who
offered them eggs and oranges and milk and butter and peanuts and so on. The whores couldn't
actually deliver these goodies, of course.
The humanoids told Don that if he went home with a whore, she would cook him a meal
of petroleum and coal products at fancy prices.
And then, while he ate them, she would talk dirty about how fresh and full of natural
juices the food was, even though the food was fake.
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This Means You
...It was set in the Hawaiian Islands, the place where the lucky winners of Dwayne Hoover's
contest in Midland City were supposed to go. Every bit of land on the islands was owned by only
about forty people, and, in the story, Trout had those people decide to excercise their property
rights to the full. They put up no trespassing signs on everything.
This created terrible problems for the million other people on the islands. The law of
gravity required that they stick somewhere on the surface. Either that, or they could go out
into the water and bob offshore.
But the Federal Government came through with an emergency program. It gave a big baloon
full of helium to every man, woman and child who didn't own property.
There was a cable with a harness on it dangling from each baloon. With the help of the
baloons, Hawaiians could go on inhabiting the islands without always sticking to things other
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"Gilgongo" was about a planet which was unpleasant because there was too much creation
The story began with a big party in honor of a man who had wiped out an entire species
of darling little panda bears. He had devoted his life to this. Special plates were made
for the party, and the guests got to take them home as souvenirs. There was a picture of a
little bear on each one, and the date of the party. Underneath the picture was the word:
In the language in the planet, that meant "Extinct!"
People were glad that the bears were gilgongo, because there were too many species
on the planet already, and new ones were coming into being almost every hour. There was no way
anybody could prepare for the bewildering diversity of creatures and plants he was likely to
The people were doing their best to cut down on the number of species, so that life could
be more predictable. But Nature was too creative for them. All life on the planet was suffocated
at last by a living blanket one hundred feet thick. The blanket was composed of passenger
pigeons and eagles and Bermuda Erns and whooping cranes.
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Hail to the Chief
Trout couldn't tell one politician from another one. They were all
formlessly enthusiastic chimpanzees to him. He wrote a story one time
about an optimistic chimpanzee who became President of the United States.
He called it "Hail to the Chief."
The chimpanzee wore little blue blazer with brass buttons, and with
the seal of the President of the United States sewed to the breast pocket.
Everywhere he went, bands would play "Hail to the Chief." The chimpanzee
loved it. He would bounce up and down.
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Untitled - (But it Sounds Good!)
It was about a planet where the language kept turning into pure music,
because the creatures there were so enchanted by sounds. Words became musical
notes. Sentences became melodies. They were useless as conveyors of information,
because nobody knew or cared what the meanings of words were anymore.
So leaders in government and commerce, in order to function, had to invent
new and much uglier vocabularies and sentence structures all the time, which
would resist being transmuted to music.
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The Barring-gaffner of Bagnialto (or This Year's Masterpiece)
The name of the planet where Trout's book took place was Bagnialto,
and a "Barring-gaffner" there was a government official who spun a wheel of
chance once a year. Citizens submitted works of art to the government, and
these were given numbers, and then they were assigned cash values according
to the Barring-gaffner's spins of the wheel. The viewpoint of character of
the tale was not the Barring-gaffner, but a humble cobbler named Gooz. Gooz
lived alone, and he painted a picture of his cat. It was the only picture
he had ever painted. He took it to the Barring-gaffner, who numbered it and
put it in a warehouse crammed with works of art.
The painting by Gooz had an unprecedented gush of luck on the wheel. It
became worth eighteen thousand lambos, the equivalent of one billion
dollars on Earth. The Barring-gaffner awarded Gooz a check for that amount,
most of which was taken back at once by the tax collector. The pictire was given
a place of honor in the National Gallery, and people lined up for miles for
a chance to see a painting worth a billion dollars.
There was also a huge bonfire of all the paintings and statues and books
and so on which the wheel had said were worthless. And then it was discovered
that the wheel was rigged, and the Barring-gaffner commited suicide.
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Last modified: May 29, 1997
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