Books | September 10, 2017 9:35 am

Newly-Discovered Kurt Vonnegut Story, ‘The Drone King,’ Published

The Atlantic shares tale penned by literary giant written before his first novel was published.

Author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in New York City in 1979. (AP Photo/Marty Reichenthal)
Author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in New York City in 1979. (AP Photo/Marty Reichenthal)

It’s a small pleasure from a literary giant.

The Atlantic has published a recently unearthed short story by the late author Kurt Vonnegut called The Drone King — believed to date back to the early 50s, before he had written his first novel.

Though The Drone King isn’t as pointed a political satire as his later work, the story comes across as a bluntly pro-feminist allegory — surrounding the gender division of bees. And it contains Vonnegut’s gift for wordplay, which he would hone to even greater heights in later years. Consider this excerpt:

“Don’t they make their own honey?,” I said bleakly. It was just something to say—something to cover up my feelings. I felt awful. Quick was so happy about the drone business, was staking so much on it—and it seemed to be up to me to tell him what a fatheaded enterprise it was.

“Only the female workers make honey,” said Quick.

“Oh,” I said. “Huh. I guess that’s why the female workers knock off the males, eh? The males are nothing but a drain on the community.”

The color left Quick’s fine face. “What’s so wonderful about making honey?” he said. “Can you make honey?”

“Nope,” I said.

He was excited, upset. “Is that any reason to condemn you to death?” he said.

The work was among five previously unpublished stories discovered by Vonnegut’s friend Dan Wakefield and scholar Jerome Klinkowitz among the author’s private papers kept at Indiana University.

The pair were researching an edition of Vonnegut’s short fiction, and the fruits of their labor will be published by Seven Stories Press later this month in the book, Complete Stories.