‘To Serve Man,” the mother of surprise endings!

(Sorry about the relatively lousy picture here. I actually had to pull it off of eBay.)

Anyway, here we have the first two issues of Galaxy Science Fiction from October and November 1950.

The second issue, on the right, is the first appearance of the world-famous shocker-ending short story “To Serve Man” by author Damon Knight.

It’s a 55-year-old story , but I’ll warn you anyway I’m going to talk about the shocker ending of this story. Read on, or at least go dig up the story and read it first …

In fact, just to help you along, here are the last few paragraphs (in green text) of the story, pretty much detailing all you need to know about the events of “To Serve Man.”

“(The aliens are) not altruists.”
I tried to reason with him. I pointed out they’d made Earth a paradise compared to what it was before. He only shook his head.
Then I said, “Well, what about those lie-detector tests?”
“A farce,” he replied, without heat. “I said so at the time, you fool. They told the truth, though, as far as it went.”
“And the book?” I demanded, annoyed. “What about that — How to Serve Man? That wasn’t put there for you to read. They mean it. How do you explain that?”
“I’ve read the first paragraph of that book,” he said. “Why do you suppose I haven’t slept for a week?”
I said, “Well?” and he smiled a curious, twisted smile.
“It’s a cookbook,” he said.

The End.

Pretty amazing, huh. It’s like a John Carpenter movie. It ends right at the jaw-dropper.

The oft-parodied story is one of the best of the era, because when you read it, and you don’t know the ending, it really hits you. It comes right out of left field and knocks you over — it’s that good.
The short story was later adapted for use on the “Twilight Zone” and even made it into a “The Simpsons Tree House of Terror” episode.


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