The Butterfly Kid
Chester Anderson

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The Butterfly Kid


Science Fiction

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I didn’t realize until recently that The Butterfly Kid got a Hugo nomination in 1968.

“Psychedelic SF” is an odd category: I can think of only a couple other examples. The sequel The Unicorn Girl, written by Michael Kurland (see the first quote, below), didn’t really qualify.

The blurb on the first edition’s cover—not reproduced on my present copy—read, “The hippies had a new kick—from outer space!” We always said if you were really there, you probably couldn’t remember it.

The Butterfly Kid

Copyright © 1967 by Chester Anderson


I always feel vaguely cheated by first-person novels wherein the name of the narrator is not the name of the author. This is irrational, but there it is. I never claimed to be particularly rational.

Therefore, I made myself a character in this book, using my own real name (with, of course, my permission). Having gone thus far, I modeled the character of my friend, roommate and manager on my real-life friend, roommate and (quondam) manager Michael Kurland (with whom I collaborated on Ten Years to Doomsday—advt.), using, with his permission, his real name.




They were vulgar butterflies, too big and too flashy, but good taste doesn’t matter much in miracles, and anyhow, he’d learn.

I still couldn’t see how he was doing it. He’d clench his fist, then open it, and off’d go another butterfly.




I hate to see grown men petulantly slapping innocent plaid butterflies.


Amusing one-liners

 2 A contact high was only the subjective response to someone else’s real high, and we had no proof that there actually was such a thing. No matter. We were able to make do with precious little explanation in those days.

I was inconspicuously dressed, as is my wont; this time in early-eighteenth-century French costume: swallowtail red satin coat with gold brocade, white on white linen shirt with lace front and cuffs, knee-length gold satin breeches, anachronistic black patent leather high boots with silver buckles and high heels—a fairly popular outfit that summer, but, I was learning, much too hot for the day and the job before me.

“April Fool,” I told the radio. “April . . . no, I mean Mayday.”



My mind very carefully boggled.

13 “Your people have a folk saying: ‘If you can’t run your tongue across them, merge with them.’ I ask you to give this quaint wisdom your serious consideration.”



Sativa and the boys, with impeccable logic, hunted for me in every high-class teapad in the Village and still don’t know whether they found me or not [...]


Logic (examples)


However, I was still being tortured. All around me I could see tiny noises intertwining like spaghetti in the air. My body was covered with acute perceptions of color in flux—solemn reds, introspective blues, pulsating greens and browns—all intimate and not to be ignored. My ears were full of the flavor of hot buttered corn with salt and lemon juice. (And oh, yes, I was still hungry, which felt a bit like being underwater.) I could taste smoothness and abrasiveness and sharpness alternating in intricate patterns of what was not quite motion, and the temperature of the air—night-cool, growing cooler—smelled . . . I don’t have a word for how it smelled. Like calculus, perhaps?

This was not at all unpleasant. In fact, I’d spent lots of money in my day for exotic pharmaceuticals I’d hoped would produce some such effects.




15 Human beings are just naturally violent animals, even the nonviolent ones. Hell, even the limp protesters who lie down in front of ammunition trucks and have to be hauled off the street like sacks of flour, all they’re doing is imposing their will on others, compelling other people to behave contrary to their own desires, which is the crystalline essence of violence.




Have you ever tried to talk a bunch of hippies into helping you save the world? Forget it. Next time I save the world, by Starky, I’m gonna do it solo. Easier that way, less work.


Stu, Pat, and Kevin were huddled off in a nearby corner singing four-part harmony.

Four-part harmony? That brought me up. Oh: they had Little Micky with them. It’s fairly hard to see Little Micky when there’s anybody else in the room, unless you’re looking for him. He’s quite small. (He was also singing flat, which made him even harder to see.)



20 [...] I’d ordinarily spare you all these personal details, but I think you ought to know what we had to work with. Why should I be discouraged all by myself when I can bring you along for company?

I was trying to think up something to say before the fireworks, something terse and memorable that would look good in a history book, but I couldn’t seem to find the words. The best I could come up with was, “54-40 or fight!” and, “Don’t give up the glub!” neither of which fit somehow, so I gave it up.


Battle Cries


“Begging to report, sir. Armored details Toggle-Xylophone and Marshmallow-Buggywhip” (I could hear the military Michael gagging somewhere to my left, but I ignored him. Why should I use someone else’s second-hand phonetic alphabet?) “engaged units of the enemy at 2100 hours [...]

Mortal fear, mortal combat, victory, justice, and repentance: suddenly and all at once that day I had encountered concepts that I’d always thought were mythical, and they just weren’t what they’d been cracked up to be.

text checked (see note) Feb 2005; May 2007

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