Kurt Vonnegut in the shadows

Kurt Vonnegut in the shadows

The famous writer, and not so famous Anthropologist, Kurt Vonnegut once stood in the shadows of his older brother. Bernard was a scientist, and while working at GE figured out a way to cause artificial rain from clouds that he had made. That is a lot to younger Kurt to live up to. Yet Kurt has credited watching the effect of his brother's experiments (while also working at GE in a PR role) for influencing the science fiction in his writing.

When he was asked, Why did you choose to write science fiction at this period in your life? he said, "There was no helping it. General Electric was science fiction..."

Even though the brothers had different kinds of work, they both laid the groundwork for thinking about what it means to be human.

Bernard's research into creating artificial rain was the foundation for later research into humans effect on climate change. Kurt explored the moral and intellectual aspects of what it means to be human in his novels.

It was not just his brother that influenced his stories. It was also many of the real life stories that he encountered at GE while working there. Although his stint at GE came after the rejection of his master's thesis and in the shadow of his talented older brother, Kurt was able to retain seeds for his future writings. These little steps helped him to find his voice and find an audience.

After working for GE for roughly 6 years, Kurt had started receiving pay for his writings and was able to quit his job. Although there was some success, Kurt continued to struggle as a writer for many years before finding stability.

Being in the shadows can sometimes lead you to the light. Had Kurt not had a brilliant older brother working at GE, he may never have went there after leaving school. Being in a stressful corporate environment during wartime allowed him to see just how far companies wanted to use science for their own means. These anecdotes planted to seeds to his future, to his light.

Don't be afraid to be in the shadows for awhile. It might give you the opportunity to find your inner light.

Article via Wired
Photo via Ikewrites.com