The Vonnegut Zone - Kilgore Trout, the Ultimate Sci-fi writer, who should be president of the world Kilgore Trout is perhaps the most famous fictional character created by Kurt Vonnegut. Despite the remarkable similarities between Vonnegut and Trout, the latter is loosely based upon the literary figure Theodore Sturgeon, after Vonnegut himself was typecast as a sci-fi writer following his utopia-run-a-muck, ala: We, Brave New World, and 1984, Player Piano, which was inspired by the environment surrounding him when he was a PR man for GE.

God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Breakfast of Champions, and Timequake are three novels which have a large amount of ink spent on the persona known as "Kilgore Trout."

The Sci-fi writer is most often linked to Eliot Rosewater, the eccentric philanthropist of several Vonnegut works. Eliot's favorite author is Trout, and in God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Eliot crashes a convention of science-fiction writers in a motel in Milford, Pennsylvania and only wished that Kilgore trout was there. Trout was 66 years old during that time and working at a "trading stamp redemption center in Hyannis," despite his writing 87 paperback books, such as: 2BR02B, Pan-Galactic Three Day Pass, Oh say, Can You Smell?, and The First District Court of Thank You. Eliot's father brings the writer to Eliot to appease the mentally unbalanced son. The Senator pays the beardless Trout $50,000, for Trout can claim that Eliot's actions in Rosewater County were those of a sane man who was experimenting with loving people who were made useless by the Utopia described by Player Piano. The Senator actually finds Kilgore eloquent and often suggests that he should be a political advisor or at least a public relations man.

In Slaughterhouse-five, Eliot introduces Billy Pilgrim to Trout's books while the two are roommates in a mental ward. In 1964, Pilgrim meets Trout by chance, though they both live in Ilium, New York. Trout doesn't consider himself a writer, since his only fan letter came from Rosewater, who writes like a fourteen year old. Rosewater doesn't think much of Trout's prose but thinks the ideas are superb, in his letter to Trout, Eliot states that Kilgore should be "president of the world." Billy invites Trout to his 18th anniversary party, after the two become "friends." Billy's daughter Barbara rightfully blames Trout's influence over her father, for his obsession with Tralfamadorians (an alien race which find the belief in free will to be rather stupid) mirrors several Trout stories, such as: Gutless Wonder, Maniacs in the Fourth Dimension, The Gospel from Outer Space,The Big Board(a story about humans in an extraplanetary zoo), and another tale about Lance Corwin, a time-traveler, who goes back to Bible times. Of course, Trout also insists that Billy saw through a "time window" when Billy recalls the fire bombing during the party which the bearded Trout is the only person not wearing glasses.

In Breakfast of Champions, Rosewater donates to the Midland City Arts Festival of 1972 only on the condition that Trout is an invited guest. Trout brings with him two of his books along with an issue of Black Garterbelt containing the short story, "The Dancing Fool." These novels are Now It Can Be Told, which is "in the form of a long letter from the Creator of the Universe to the only creature in the Universe who has free will" and Plague on Wheels, which tells of how cars are a race on another planet. This Vonnegut book begins with Trout being compared to Dwayne Hoover, a Pontiac Dealer, who is losing his grasp of reality, courtesy of "bad chemicals" and the influence of Trout's science fiction novel Now It Can be Told. Trout's book implies to Hoover that free will is lacking to everyone but Dwayne, for all is machinery/robots made to stimulate Hoover. According to Breakfast of Champions, Trout dies in 1981. He was born in 1907 (in Burmuda), and his monument has a quote from his unfinished 209th novel which states: "We are healthy only to the Extent that our ideas are humane." Kilgore loses his top most joint of a finger from the chaos surrounding Hoover's rampage towards gay son machines, dodging machines, fucking machines, and other machines. Trout meets his creator, Vonnegut, and Trout asks him to be made young once again. Kurt tells him about the Nobel prize. Kilgore has the legs of Kurt's father as an old man.

Although Trout is the protagonist in Timequake, his name is usually said in passing because he, himself, has no direct relation to the text. Vonnegut usually muses about his own life and interjects these thoughts while discussing the limitless works of Trout. Outside of the three novels in which he is a lead or supporting character, Trout is nothing more than a signature blurb. A perfect example of this irrelevant mentioning of Trout is in Jailbird, while in Galápagos, the narrator is Kilgore's son, Leon.

The "Kilgore Trout" of Jailbird is a actually one pseudonym for an inmate named Dr. Bob Fender. Fender is in prison for committing treason while serving in the Korean War. Another alias for Fender is "Frank X. Barlow." For obvious reasons, this Trout is not the Trout found in the other Vonnegut novels.

According to Ian Johns (in an article titled "A reality stranger than his fiction" found on page 14 in the Features, Film Section of the June 27, 2002 edition of The Times) the late Philip K. Dick may have been the model for this character, for he too was

a science-fiction writer whose profound wisdom is to be found only in cheap paperbacks and between the pictures in shabby sex magazines. Yet despite Dick's huge volume of fiction (he had stories in seven pulp magazines simultaneously in February 1953 and published 12 novels in 1962 and 1963 alone), he earned so little that at one stage he was reduced to living on dog food.
Of course, Marc Leeds did his homework, and he asked Kurt if Sturgeon was the basis prior to his publishing Short Fiction of Kurt Vonnegut. Then again, Trout will forever be an alterego to Vonnegut especially with the opening words from Jailbird's Prologue being:
Yes- Kilgore Trout is back again. He could not make it on the outside. There is no disgrace. A lot of good people can't make it on the outside.
Thus insinuating that Vonnegut can't help himself from writing new novels even though he wanted to retire with the success of Slaughterhouse-Five. Vonnegut openly stated that Breakfast of Champions was a present to himself... basically that he didn't care to write the thing only he had ideas that he put to paper thus created the thing. The success of everything after SH-5 meant little, according to the subsequent autobiographical works of Palm Sunday and Fates Worse than Death. Having achieved wealth, Vonnegut continued his career writing "the truth" as envisioned in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. An argument can be made that this need to tell "the truth" is why Vonnegut is present in the majority of his later novels which have prologues discussing his family and personal life, thus making the meaning behind these novels themselves no mystery.



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