Robert Sheckley's AutobiographyI was born on July 16, 1928, in a hospital in Brookyn New York. My parents lived in a small apartment that had a balcony. One of my earliest memories is of one of my uncles dangling me over the little balcony. I was in terror. The street was so far below!
I have just one more memory of those days. That is of a dream. I was looking down and across the city, and it seemed to be on fire. There were holes in the ground. From them crawled men in odd-shaped hats. Firemen perhaps?
My mother, Rachel, was a farm girl from Lake Placid, New York. In college, she took courses that licensed her to teach in America and Canada. She often told, in later years, about teaching in a one-room classroom in Saskatchewan. She used to ride to school on a horse.
She met David, the man who was to become my father, when she was in her mid-twenties. He was about ten years older, recovering from a nervous breakdown, brought on, so it was said, by his great devotion to getting ahead in business. He had already served in the American military, in World War I. He had been promoted from sergeant to second lieutenant on the field of battle, and had won a medal for bravery in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. His parents were Polish Jews, who had emigrated from Warsaw to America, probably in the 1880s or '90s. David's father, Zvi, was an unworldly rabbi who never practiced in front of a congregation. He was a complete failure at business. He spent his last years in the Brooklyn Public Library, reading Shakespeare. David set his sights on the business world. He found employment at the insurance firm of Schiff-Terhune on John Street in lower Manhattan. He began as an offce boy, rose steadily, and ended up secretary-treasurer of the firm.
When I was about four years old, my parents moved from New York to New Jersey, first to West Orange, then to Maplewood. We spent our summers on the farm of my mother's brother, Moses Feinberg, in upstate Keene, New York. I became interested in writing at an early age, not long after I discovered that the stuff I read was written by human beings much like me. This was somewhere between the ages of five and seven. I was an early reader, and a pretty early writer, too. I read all sorts of material. It was all mixed up, great books, required books, kids' books, adult books, science fiction and fantasy pulp magazines -- my mill was ready for any grist.