Why Do Birds: Damon Knight's amazing, underappreciated science fiction novel about putting all of humanity in a box


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/12/28/its-a-cookbook.html



The Neil Gaimen version from MirrorMask is better.


Around the 1910s, some grammarians started complaining about the phrase “out loud”, after many generations of previously unchallenged grammatical usage.

It’s only grown more popular and more commonly used, since then. It’s too common to be considered more ungrammatical than “aloud” at this point.

You can find experts who say “aloud” and “out loud” are cleanly interchangeable, or that one or the other is louder than the other.

Anyways, “aloud” is just a smoosh of an earlier two word construction, so someone might find happiness considering LOL as a Middle English Laughe On Loude.


His “‘A’ Is For Anything” is eerily prescient. It posits “what happens when material plenty is achieved? Utopia?” His answer of course, is no, not by a long shot. And current events are making the dystopia he posits deeply frightening indeed. Should almost be compulsory reading.



So begins science fiction grand master Damon Knight’s great, underappreciated 1992 novel Why Do Birds, which I re-read in a single sitting yesterday after discovering a mint first-edition hardcover at the dangerously fantastic Iliad Books near my home in Burbank.

The chairs must really be comfortable at the Iliad Book store…


There isnt much sitting space there, but it’s my favorite used bookstore in LA. (It’s in NoHo near the arts district for those who are interested.). They have a great sci-fi collection with tons of vintage paperbacks


“…it’s a tribute to Tor Books’s commitment to the field that they’ve kept it in print all these years despite its obscurity.”

Still in print? Where? Copies on Amazon go for a minimum of $45.


A criminally underrated movie… Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean… what’s not to love.


And not an ebook to be had anywhere :cry:


Tor.com doesn’t even list Damon Knight as one of their authors. It was a book I’d been meaning to read since it came out - perhaps your post will inspire them to republish it.


Um, thanks for the $50 paperback recommendation?


Sorry, folks. It was showing as in print and available at cover price when I posted. My guess is Amazon had stock that was quickly sold out and then the pricing algorithms from the used sellers kicked in and drove the price up.


Strangely, that review reminded me of a much earlier hilarious sf book: Robert Sheckley’s “Dimension of Miracles”.


Sounds great. Wish I could read it. Maybe Cory could put a good word in for it at his next meeting with TOR.


Not quite fully automated leisure communism, that one.



Check your local library. I have the Peninsula Library System’s only physical copy coming to my local branch from Menlo Park tomorrow (score!). You can also get it on loan from the internet archive.

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