The Vonnegut/Flaming Lips Connection

Maybe it’s all the down time I’ve had recently, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about writing a short story or two. I haven’t written one for a while now, so I went online to find some tips to help jump start the process. After a little bit of searching, I came across this gem from one of my favorite writers, the one and only Kurt Vonnegut. I remember reading his story “EPICAC” back in 8th grade, about a computer that learns to fall in love. The way Vonnegut packs so much punch into such a small package is truly incredible. Here’s the first paragraph. It basically defies the reader not to continue on:

Hell, it’s about time someone told about my friend EPICAC. After all, he cost the taxpayers $776,434,927.54. They have a right to know about him, picking up a check like that. EPICAC got a big send off in the papers when Dr. Ormand von Kleigstadt designed him for the Government people. Since then, there hasn’t been a peep about him–not a peep. It isn’t any military secret about what happened to EPICAC, although the Brass has been acting as though it were. The story is embarrassing, that’s all. After all that money, EPICAC didn’t work out the way he was supposed to. (Read the full text here)

There’s no question Vonnegut inspired countless other writers with his unique blend of satire, black humor, and science fiction, but it seems musicians were also taking note. As I was writing this little blurb, my iTunes shuffle randomly decided to play the Flaming Lips’ song “One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21.” Maybe iTunes has a new feature where it matches songs to what you’re writing about (which would be kind of awesome but also very creepy), but I couldn’t help but feel that Wayne Coyne’s lyrics and music would be a perfect companion piece for Vonnegut’s short story. The lyrics and music are below:

Unit 3021 is warming
Makes a humming sound – when its circuits
Duplicate emotions – and a sense of coldness detaches
As it tries to comfort your sadness –
One more robot learns to be something more than
A machine – when it tries the way it does – make it seem
Like it can love –
Cause it’s hard to say what’s real – when you know the
Way you feel – is it wrong to think it’s love
When it tries the way it does…
Feeling a synthetic kind of love
Dreaming a sympathetic wish –
As the lights blink faster and brighter –
One more robot learns to be something more than
A machine – when it tries the way it does – make it seem
Like it can love –
Cause it’s hard to say what’s real – when you know the
Way you feel – is it wrong to think it’s love
When it tries the way it does…

After listening to it a few times I am fairly convinced that the song’s lyrics are derived directly from “EPICAC,” but I could be always be wrong. Maybe robots falling in love is a common sci-fi trope? Wht do you think? Either way, both the story and the song are awesome and are worthy of a read/listen.

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2 responses to “The Vonnegut/Flaming Lips Connection

  1. I wonder where you got the idea to write a short story??? Glad I could be of service 🙂

  2. It’s safe to assume that the Flaming Lips have read Vonnegut, but I don’t think they think of robots as cuddly, lovable things, based on “Yoshimi.”

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