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Creator / Cyril M. Kornbluth

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Cyril M. Kornbluth (July 2, 1923 – March 21, 1958) was an American science fiction author who managed to produce a large body of influential work before being abruptly felled by a fatal heart attack at the age of 34. He often collaborated with Judith Merril and his life-long friend Frederik Pohl, who continued to promote and finish Kornbuth's work in the decades after his death. Pohl often commented on his friend's eccentricities, including his never brushing his teeth and his self-education by reading an entire encyclopedia from A to Z.

His story "The Marching Morons" was clearly a major unacknowledged inspiration for the films Idiocracy and RoboCop (1987), particularly the latter film's "I'll buy that for a dollar!" Running Gag.

"The Little Black Bag" was adapted as an episode of Night Gallery.

Works by C. M. Kornbluth with their own article include:

Other works by C. M. Kornbluth provide examples of:

  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: The protagonist of "The Marching Morons" is a Jerkass con-artist who comes up with a very nasty (but effective) way of dealing with Earth's overpopulation crisis, which is exactly what the mostly well-meaning powers-that-be were hoping. He is unsurprisingly disposed of by his own method when no longer needed.
  • China Takes Over the World: The first chapter of Not This August has the United States lose to an invading army of Soviet and Chinese forces, who proceed to split up and occupy the country. The rest of the book deals with the resistance movement against them.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The entire society in "The Luckiest Man in Denv" is composed of people engaging in this.
  • The Coconut Effect: Pretty much every bit of technology in "The Marching Morons" is coated in this, to keep the idiot masses from causing even more trouble than they already are.
  • The Con: "The Rocket of 1955" is a short-short about a couple of ambitious scammers pulling a "mission to Mars" con on the entire country. It doesn't end well for them.
  • Conveniently Coherent Thoughts: The murderous emotion-eating mutant of "The Mindworm" can read minds, but can't translate thoughts in other languages, which ends up getting him killed.
  • Crapsack World: Often featured in his stories, with "The Marching Morons" probably being the most famous example.
  • Crying Wolf: In "Silly Season", invading Martians use this trope to catch humanity off guard and take over the Earth.
  • Emotion Eater: The protagonist of "The Mindworm" is an emotion-eating mutant who deliberately triggers strong emotions in his victims so he can feed better.
  • Divided States of America: "The Luckiest Man in Denv" is set in the eponymous armored city-state, which spends all of its time and energy pointlessly lobbing missiles at Ellay.
  • Genius Breeding Act: "The Marching Morons" depicts a future world where a relative handful of normally-intelligent humans breed with each other as they try to keep society from collapsing thanks to the idiocy of the rest of the population.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: In "The Advent on Channel Twelve", Mickey M- er... Poopy Panda becomes an actual living God when millions of American children are convinced to literally worship him.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In "The Advent on Channel Twelve", the embittered and sidelined creator of Poopy Panda makes one last episode of the nauseatingly popular Poopy Panda Pals television program overtly urging its large youthful audience to worship Poopy.
    And the days of Poopy Panda were long in the land.
  • "Help! Help! Trapped in Title Factory!": "Ms. Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie" is exactly what the title indicates.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: In "The Marching Morons", the masses in question are all tricked into "emigrating" to "Venus".
  • Human Popsicle: The protagonist of "The Marching Morons" gets transported to the future in essentially this fashion, though he's not literally frozen.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: The protagonist of "The Little Black Bag" stumbles into possession of the future-tech Bag, which allows for miraculous healing. He insists on using it to (mosly) selflessly benefit people, but his greedy assistant has other plans.
  • Invaded States of America:
    • Not This August is set in an America where the Soviets and Chinese have successfully invaded the US.
    • In "Two Dooms", a Manhattan Project scientist visits a possible future in which Japan and Germany have conquered and divided the US.
  • Karmic Death: The woman who kills to gain possession of "The Little Black Bag" is killed herself when she tries to dramatically show how safe one of its surgical implements is; the morality of the bag's current owner is monitored, and thus it gets deactivated as soon as she takes possession of it.
  • Medieval Morons: Played straight in "Mute Inglorious Tam" where a medieval peasant has a lot of brilliant ideas and speculations, but he doesn't have the vocabulary to describe what he means, and such talk could get him a stern talking-to from the priest, maybe even accused of witchcraft.
  • Overpopulation Crisis: What the Earth is facing in "The Marching Morons." A nasty but effective solution is developed.
  • Pen Name: Kornbluth used lots of them. Evidently even his "M" was added in this fashion as a tribute to his wife Mary, and he didn't officially have a middle name.
  • Population Control: In "Shark Ship", a large chunk of humanity has turned to living eternally on fleets of ships in the ocean, and keeps its population under control with a strict two-children-per-couple policy. Meanwhile, back on land, a more... Final Solution is stumbled into...
  • Released to Elsewhere: How the Marching Morons are finally dealt with. And eventually the guy who came up with the scheme.
  • Silly Season: In the story of the same title, a series of odd events in the American countryside get covered by the newspapers in this tone, but something far more sinister is at work..
  • Solar CPR: In "Wolfsbane" Earth's moon is turned into an artificial sun to keep the Earth livable since it was stolen from the solar system by aliens. The moon needs to be relighted periodically.
  • Stealth Sequel: Pohl pointed out that "The Marching Morons" is actually a sequel to "The Little Black Bag".
  • Stupid Future People: "The Marching Morons" depicts a collapsing future society filled with arch-typical examples of this.
  • Take That!: "The Advent on Channel Twelve" is a vicious commentary on the then newly-burgeoning Disney media empire.
  • Time Police: In "Time Bum", a con man tries to set up a sting by posing as a Time Policeman from the 25th century, and "accidentally" revealing himself as such to the mark. Unfortunately for him, the Time Police are real, and his would-be sting earns him the death penalty.
  • Virgin Power: In "Gomez" a young Puerto Rican maths/physics genius described as a 'second Ramanujan' is discovered in New York. He winds up in a super-secret research project that has been going nowhere, and comes up with a physical theory that implies the ability to create a super-weapon so deadly that he's horrified. The narrator, a sympathetic reporter, all but abducts the thoroughly stressed-out Gomez for a forced vacation; out of his sight, Gomez sneaks across a state line and marries his girlfriend. When he returns, his mathematical ability is (he claims) gone: he admits, with an glance at his (literally) blushing bride, that he now can't think about math at all. It turns out he's lying, but he escapes to live a more normal and less stressful life.
  • Water Wake Up: Played with in "Gunner Cade". The entire barracks is a shower, and one soldier who is Not a Morning Person barely gets his bedding shoved in his locker before the water vents open up.

Alternative Title(s): CM Kornbluth