Kilgore Trout

Kilgore Trout is a fictional character created by author Kurt Vonnegut. He was originally created as a fictionalized version of author Theodore Sturgeon (Vonnegut's colleague in the genre of science fiction), although Trout's consistent presence in Vonnegut's works has also led critics to view him as the author's own "alter ego." Trout is also the titular "author" of the novel Venus on the Half-Shell, pseudonymously written by Philip José Farmer.

Origins of the character/persona

In 1957, Theodore Sturgeon moved to Truro, Massachusetts, where he befriended Vonnegut, then working as a salesman in a Saab dealership. At the time, both were clearly writing in the genre of science fiction (Vonnegut had already published Player Piano, retitled Utopia 14 in paperback). But by the time of Kilgore Trout's first appearance (in 1965's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater), both had moved to different cities, and Vonnegut had begun to be perceived as a mainstream author. The name was a transparent reference to the older writer (substituting "Kilgore" for "Theodore" and "Trout" for "Sturgeon"), but since the characterization was less than flattering (both Sturgeon and Trout were financially unsuccessful and seemingly slipping into obscurity), Vonnegut did not publicly state the connection, nor did Sturgeon encourage the comparison. It was not until after Sturgeon's death in 1985 that Vonnegut explicitly acknowledged the matter, stating in a 1987 interview that "Yeah, it said so in his obituary in the [[New York Times|[New York] Times]]..I was delighted that it said in the middle of it that he was the inspiration for the Kurt Vonnegut character of Kilgore Trout."

Appearances in Vonnegut books

Trout appears in several of Vonnegut's books, in which he performs a variety of roles: he acts as a catalyst for the main characters in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and Slaughterhouse-Five, while in others, such as Breakfast of Champions, Jailbird, and Timequake, Trout is an active character who is vital to the story. Trout is also described differently in several books; in Breakfast of Champions, he has, by the end, become something of a father figure, while in other novels, he seems to be something like Vonnegut in the early part of his career. In Hocus Pocus, Trout is not mentioned by name, but reading a Trout-like science fiction story by an unnamed author in a pornographic magazine is an important experience for the narrator. In the early novels, Kilgore Trout lives in Ilium, New York, a fictional town based on Troy, New York (Vonnegut lived and worked in nearby Schenectady for some time). In later novels, Trout inhabits a basement apartment in Cohoes, an ailing mill community. While living in Cohoes, Trout works as an installer of "aluminum combination storm windows and screens." The ghost of Trout's son Leon Trotsky Trout is the narrator of the novel Galapagos. Trout, who has supposedly written over 117 novels and over 2000 short stories, is usually described as an unappreciated science fiction writer whose works are used only as filler material in pornographic magazines. However, he does have at least two fans; Eliot Rosewater and Billy Pilgrim — both Vonnegut characters — have a near-complete collection of Trout's work or have read most of his work. Trout was portrayed by Albert Finney in the 1999 film version of Breakfast Of Champions, directed by Alan Rudolph. Vonnegut revised Trout's biography on several occasions. In Breakfast of Champions, he is born in 1907 and dies in 1981. In Timequake, he lives from 1917 to 2001. Both death dates are set in the future as of the time the novels were written. More recently, Vonnegut "reports" that Kilgore Trout commits suicide by drinking Drāno in an article for In These Times. Trout "dies" at midnight on October 15, 2004 in Cohoes following his consultation with a psychic, who informs him that George W. Bush would once again win the U. S. Presidential election by a vote of 5-to-4 in the Supreme Court. The epitaph on his tombstone reads, "Life is no way to treat an animal."

In Jailbird (1979), Kilgore Trout is revealed to be the only lifer in the Federal Minimum Security Adult Correctional Facility near Finletter Air Force Base, Georgia. Jailbird, narrated by the fictional character Walter F. Starbuck, shows Kilgore Trout to be the only American convicted during the Korean War of treason. Kilgore Trout is the pseudonym for Dr. Robert Fender. His doctorate is in veterinary science. Within prison, Fender writes many science fiction novels under another pseudonym, Frank X. Barlow, as well. In addition to writing science fiction novels, Fender is the chief clerk in the supply room of the prison.

In Breakfast of Champions Kilgore Trout has part of his right ring finger bitten off by the book's other main character, Dwayne Hoover, when Kilgore attends an arts festival in the Midwest. Trout also has an encounter with his creator, Mr. Vonnegut, in the final chapter.

In Timequake Kilgore's creed is "You were sick, but now you are well again. And there's work to be done." The novel also features Trout's last poem:

  • : When the tupelo
  • : Goes poop-a-lo
  • : I'll come back to youp-a-lo

Trout in other authors' works

At least one actual published work is attributed to a Kilgore Trout: the novel Venus on the Half-Shell, written by Philip José Farmer but published under the name "Kilgore Trout." For some time it was assumed that Vonnegut must have written it; when the truth of its authorship came out, Vonnegut was reported as being "not amused"; in an issue of the semi-prozine Science Fiction Review, published by Richard E. Geis, Geis claimed to have received an angry, obscenity-laden telephone call from Vonnegut about what Farmer had said about the book in Geis' zine. In Salman Rushdie's novel The Ground Beneath Her Feet Kilgore Trout is mentioned once: "Books by famous American fiction by Kilgore Trout". He is also thanked on the first page of the lyrics book which came with Ringo Starr's album Ringo. The Beaver Papers, a collection of scripts of the show Leave it to Beaver as they would be written by famous authors, includes a script purportedly written by a "Kilgore Bass". In an elaborate in-joke, the book goes on to state that despite the pseudonym, the cast members were certain that the Vonnegut-esque script was penned by Farmer (see above).

In Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, Trout is mentioned as being a writer in the Stagman magazine. Fictional accounts also link Trout to William Ashbless.

"Works" by Kilgore Trout


Short stories

  • Albert Hardy (short story mentioned in Timequake)
  • An American Family Marooned on the Planet Pluto (short story mentioned in Timequake)
  • Asleep at the Switch (short story mentioned in Jailbird)
  • Bunker Bingo Party (short story mentioned in Timequake)
  • The Dancing Fool (short story mentioned in Breakfast of Champions)
  • Dog's Breakfast (short story mentioned in Timequake)
  • Dr. Schadenfreude (short story mentioned in Timequake)
  • Empire State (short story mentioned in Timequake)
  • Gilgongo! (short story mentioned in Breakfast of Champions)
  • Golden Wedding (short story mentioned in Timequake)
  • Hail to the Chief (short story mentioned in Breakfast of Champions)
  • No Laughing Matter (short story mentioned in Timequake)
  • The Planet Gobblers (short story mentioned in Palm Sunday)
  • The Protocols of the Elders of Tralfamadore (short story mentioned in Hocus Pocus -- no author attributed, but bears many elements characteristic of Trout's work. Tralfamadore is mentioned by Eliot Rosewater in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. Tralfamodore is also a main element of the plot of Slaughterhouse-Five)
  • The Sisters B-36 (short story mentioned in Timequake)
  • This Means You (short story mentioned in Breakfast of Champions)


  • My Ten Years On Automatic Pilot (nonfiction book mentioned in Timequake)


  • The Wrinkled Old Family Retainer (play mentioned in Timequake)


Also vanguard fusion band reference link

See also

External links

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