Amy Schelemanow | Batavia NY

Dear Kurt,

Last week, I had a dream that I met you in a jazz club, and you told me to drop dead. Your appearance in my subconscious was as unexpected and striking as your appearance in my waking life, and I find myself most pleasantly puzzled every time you grace my thoughts.

You’ve made a number of interesting appearances in my life; I managed to graduate high school without ever touching Slaughterhouse Five, and a year later, my sister had a line from its pages tattooed on her arm, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. This tattoo intrigued me for a number of reasons. For one, my sister is a woman of very high merits, and one who is very important to me, and in addition, the sentiment conveyed by the line she selected did to my heart what a cider mill does to apples. You became a top name on my list of Must Reads, but the list and your works saw little attention for the next few years. It wasn’t until undergrad, my senior year, that I was faced with an opportunity to force myself to do the reading I had been meaning to do for years. I enrolled in a course with a special focus on your works and their relation to Cold War politics, and you certainly did not disappoint.

Admittedly, I am not one for science fiction, but it seems you aren’t either. I was daunted by the emphasis on science and technology many of your works include, but your attention to character, and to core questions of the human experience won me over almost instantly. As an aspiring writer myself, I am continuously in awe of your ability to present such complicated characters, many of whom are representative of the great deal of confusion and uncertainty almost all people face. Your works are able to address very lofty topics through the description of incredibly relatable characters and accessible language, and I envy that ability.

Aside from being a spectacular writer, you have been an incredible humanitarian, giving voice to ideas otherwise unspoken or largely ignored. You’ve given laughter to those terrified of war and domination, shown solidarity for those who find it all so senseless. Your decidedly dark humor has played an essential role in making people less afraid, making the wretched seem survivable, making people feel that they can affect change. In short, you’ve looked death in the face and told it a joke, and you’ve gotten the world to laugh with you.

Thank you, Kurt. Thank you for finding your way into my life, despite the path being fractured, and very out-of-the-way.

Amy Schelemanow, Age 21, Batavia NY

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