My first entry in wyrm gauntlet
|"All great stories are about sex one way or the other."
To be honest, I don't remember who first said that, but it came to mind when I read Kurt Vonnegut's story, 2BR02B. I was comparing the story to another Vonnegut story, Welcome to the Monkey House. That was a story very similar in premise to this one, but it had more sex in it. Guess which story I thought was immensely superior? (Hint: It was the one with the sex.)
In both stories, Vonnegut uses a premise that in the future, the world is so overpopulated that the government will have to begin encouraging suicide. But in 2BR02B it's the only solution while in Welcome to the Monkey House, the government's attempt to control the population is described as ¨two-pronged¨. The other prong is that people are required to take a drug which kills their sexual desires and thus prevents birth. Now, encouraging suicide and preventing birth by discouraging sexuality. Which of those two things is easier to make jokes about? (Hint· It's the one that involves sex.) And that's the main difference between these two stories. Welcome to the Monkey House is disturbing and dystopian, but it's also hilarious. 2BR02B is pretty much just disturbing and dystopian. Not that it doesn't have some delightful moments. (I don't think it would be a Vonnegut story if it didn't.) For one thing, there's the part where you find out exatly what the title refers to. I also enjoyed the part where Vonnegut gave us a list of euphemisms that have developed for the parlors where people go to commit suicide.
But it isn't just a lack of jokes which makes this story okay rather than great. In Welcome to the Monkey House we learn that the sexual inhibitors were originally developed not to control population, but to increase public morals. Thus the story is not just about population control, but about the way sexuality is repressed in our society. 2BR02B is just about the population control.
Welcome to the Monkey House was published some years after 2BR02B. I don't know what made Vonnegut write the former, but I can't help thinking that he intended it as an improvement on the latter.
All in all, 2B R02B is a readable story, but there's a reason that Welcome to the Monkey House was so popular that it became the title story for an anthology of Vonnegut stories while this story is so obscure that it is now one of only two Vonnegut stories which have been (legally) published on the internet. (i.e. nobody renewed the copyright on it).