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Saturday, May 8, 2010

"Warm" by Robert Sheckley

  1. Galaxy, June 1953
  2. Second Galaxy Reader of Science Fiction, ed. Horace L. Gold, Crown 1954
  3. Untouched by Human Hands, Ballantine 1954
  4. Galaxy Science Fiction Omnibus, ed. Horace L. Gold, Grayson 1955
  5. Untouched by Human Hands, Four Square 1967
  6. Alpha 8, ed. Robert Silverberg, Berkley 1977
  7. The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural, ed. Bill Pronzini, Martin H. Greenberg & Barry N. Malzberg, Arbor House 1981
  8. The Arbor House Treasury of Science Fiction Masterpieces, ed. Robert Silverberg & Martin H. Greenberg, Arbor House 1983
  9. Is That What People Do?, Holt, Rinehart & Winston 1984
  10. Great Tales of Horror and the Supernatural, ed. Bill Pronzini, Martin H. Greenberg & Barry N. Malzberg, A&W/Galahad 1985
  11. Great Tales of Science Fiction, ed. Robert Silverberg & Martin H. Greenberg, A&W/Galahad 1985
  12. Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories: 15 (1953), ed. Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg, DAW 1986
  13. The Collected Short Stories of Robert Sheckley Book One, Pulphouse 1991
  14. Evolutionary Rag #1 1993
  15. A Century of Science Fiction 1950-1959, ed. Robert Silverberg & Martin H. Greenberg, MJF Books 1996
  16. Vintage Book of Amnesia, ed. Jonathan Lethem, Random House/Vintage 2000
  17. Project Gutenberg: text online.
  18. Librivox: audio online.
Summary: Anders, who is in love but dreading it, hears a voice in his head, pleading for help. It guides him--through his date with Judy, through a typically shallow party, through an encounter with the hungry homeless--to the ultimate, scientific understanding of life and existence. Once he arrives, it isn't what he expected.

  1. After you have read the story, ask yourself how the story's first sentence comes to have two simultaneous meanings.
  2. Anders is in love. How does he feel about this? Point to specific passages. How do you explain Anders' dress and where he is at the story's start? How is his approach clinical or scientific from the start?
  3. How might the word "stamp" taint the love conveyed in this sentence: "the seal of acceptance would, figuratively speaking, be stamped across his forehead"? How does his yawn play up the humor of his love?
  4. After you have read the story once, how does the voice's "Help me!" have sadder undertone? The voice doesn't know who or where it is. Knowing how events turn out, explain how this make sense. Is there hope for the voice?
  5. Psychology: To which psychologist does this allude: "Don't tell me you're my guilty subconscious, attacking me for a childhood trauma I never bothered to resolve"?
  6. Psychology: What is schizophrenia? Read up on this. Might this be what Anders has?
  7. Psychology: Is it "lamentable" that Anders has confidence in his own sanity? Once he concludes this, what does he logically--at least according to his logic--conclude? Note his reaction upon learning that the voice is coming from inside his head.
  8. Note the different usages of "warm" in the story and compare them to dictionary definitions. What all does the term encompass? How does this aid our interpretation of the story? What sorts of actions help him get "warm?"
  9. What key adjectives describe where the protagonist is headed: "It was suddenly a mixture of muddled colors, instead of the carefully blended pastel shades he had selected. The lines of wall, floor and ceiling were strangely off proportion, zigzag, unrelated"?
  10. On his date with Judy, Anders' perception slowly changes. What personality trait does he display before the change that accentuates this perception?
  11. When he makes the change in the third passage, what words and what type of language does Sheckley employ to help you sense his distancing? How does he describe people?
  12. What is the big question asks us to think about regarding the intersection of science and humanity?
  13. What does Anders mean when he tells a party-goer in a loud tie that Judy's sick and hasn't got long to live? Is he lying, manipulating the party-goer's reactions, or speaking metaphorically?
  14. What happens to Anders (and what is his reaction) that causes Anders' final transformation?
  15. When Anders returns to himself, how does he find himself? What progress has he made?
  16. If you can think of other possible questions , please let me/us know.
Key Passages:
  • Anders lay on his bed, fully dressed except for his shoes and black bow tie, contemplating, with a certain uneasiness, the evening before him.
  • It really would be much more comfortable not to be in love. What had done it? A look, a touch, a thought? It didn't take much, he knew, and stretched his arms for a thorough yawn.
  • "Help me!" a voice said.
  • "Who are you?" he asked.

    "I don't know," the voice answered.

    Anders realized that the voice was speaking within his own mind. Very suspicious.

  • It was suddenly a mixture of muddled colors, instead of the carefully blended pastel shades he had selected. The lines of wall, floor and ceiling were strangely off proportion, zigzag, unrelated.
  • A lemming in love, he told himself.

    "You're getting warm again," the voice said.

  • "Teaching psychology to young apes—"

    "Oh, come now!"

    "Warmer," the voice said.

  • The analytical young instructor was better off in the classroom. Couldn't science wait until 9:10 in the morning?
  • Her feelings were nakedly apparent to him, as meaningless as his room had been in that flash of undistorted thought.
  • the reactive machine opposite him on the couch said, expanding its shapely chest slightly
  • the flesh-clad skeleton behind the total gestalt Judy
  • "When you look at a girl, you're supposed to see—a pattern, not the underlying formlessness."

    "That's true," the voice agreed, but with a shade of doubt.

  • "Give me a dime for some coffee, mister?" something asked, a thing indistinguishable from any other thing.

    "Old Bishop Berkeley would give a nonexistent dime to your nonexistent presence," Anders said gaily.


    "I'm really hungry," the intricately arranged atoms muttered.

    All atoms. Conjoined. There were no true separations between atom and atom. Flesh was stone, stone was light. Anders looked at the masses of atoms that were pretending to solidity, meaning and reason.

    "Can't you help me?" [...]

    "I don't believe in you," Anders said.

    The pile of atoms was gone.

    "Yes!" the voice cried. "Yes!"


    What was an atom? An empty space surrounded by an empty space.

  • The voice of Anders reached back to someone who could save him, perhaps.

    "Save me," the voice said to Anders, lying fully dressed on his bed, except for his shoes and black bow tie.

  • Science: A number of important concepts are contained here--atom and space being primarily space (chemistry, physics or physical science--the major key here lies within the realm of philosophical implications. This may be most useful at the beginning of any science course where students are learning about what science is and does.
  • Psychology: See uses in science.
  • Philosophy: Science, certainty, existence.
  • English: This may be one of Robert Sheckley's most dense stories for literary mining. This should work well for any number of units.
  • If you can think of other possible uses, please let me/us know.

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