To Serve Man

"To Serve Man" is a science fiction short story by American writer Damon Knight. It first appeared in the November 1950 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction and has been reprinted a number of times, including in Frontiers in Space (1955), Far Out (1961), and The Best of Damon Knight (1976).[1]

"To Serve Man"
Galaxy 195011
AuthorDamon Knight
CountryUnited States
Genre(s)Science fiction
Published inGalaxy Science Fiction
Publication typePeriodical
PublisherGalaxy Publishing Corporation
Media typePrint (Magazine, Hardcover, and Paperback)
Publication dateNovember 1950


The story is set in the United States in a time that appears to be contemporaneous with the story's 1950 publication date. It is told in first-person narrative by a United Nations translator. The story opens at a special session of the UN where three alien emissaries are testifying that the purpose of their mission to Earth is to bring humans "the peace and plenty which we ourselves enjoy, and which we have in the past brought to other races throughout the galaxy". The aliens soon supply Earth with cheap unlimited power, boundless supplies of food, and a device which disables all modern armies by suppressing all explosions, and they begin work on drugs for prolonging life. As a further token of friendship, they allow humans to visit their home planet via ten-year "exchange groups".

The narrator has trusted the emissaries from the time of their arrival, but his friend and fellow translator Grigori has not. Grigori dismisses any notion of disinterested altruism and is certain that the aliens have an ulterior motive underlying their actions. He is determined to discover what they stand to gain by helping humans and takes a job at the alien embassy to learn their language. This affords him access to an alien dictionary, and he later steals an alien book, hoping to translate it.

The narrator has also left the UN to work at the embassy, and the two determine that the book's title is How to Serve Man. Two weeks later, the narrator returns from a trip to find Grigori distraught, having discovered to his horror that the title is a double entendre. Grigori informs the narrator that he has translated the first paragraph of the book and has determined that it is not a treatise on serving humanity, but a cookbook.


In 2001, the story was awarded a Retro Hugo Award as the "Best Short Story of 1951".[2]


Knight's story was adapted for use as a 1962 episode of the television series The Twilight Zone.[3]

References in other works

  • In John Ringo's book A Hymn Before Battle,[4] "To Serve Man" is mentioned as a classic example of aliens seeming to be benevolent, while in fact using humans for their own purposes.
  • George Scithers wrote a cookbook[5] and Cattle Decapitation titled an album after the story.
  • James Michener's Space features characters reading the story.
  • In World of Warcraft the item "An Exotic Cookbook" is subtitled "How to serve man".[6] The recipe is as follows: "1. Get one or eight man. 2. Hit man hard. 3. Hit man more. 4. Put man in fire. 5. Eat man."
  • In The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear during a panic after Dr. Albert Meinheimer's speech, the character Terence Baggett holds a copy of the book "To serve man", proclaiming "It's a cookbook!". The joke is that Terence Baggett is played by Lloyd Bochner, who was the lead in the Twilight Zone adaptation of the story.
  • The Simpsons season 2 episode 16 parodies the story as "Hungry Are The Damned".
  • In Married... with Children episode "Sofa so good", Al Bundy, off screen, yells to his wife Peggy "Peg, To serve man? It's a cookbook!".
  • In Futurama episode "My Three Suns", Bender the robot wears an apron bearing the name of the story.
  • In the first Madagascar movie, when discussing Alex the Lion, one of the lemurs holds up a book titled "To serve Lemur" and proclaims "It's a cookbook!".
  • In Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead, there is a book named "To Serve Man" which contains crafting recipes of food requiring human flesh. The book's description is "It's... it's a cookbook!".[7]
  • In My Little Pony, The comic first issue there is a library book titled "To serve Ponies"
  • In the Supernatural season 7 episode There Will Be Blood, the button to open a hidden door in a vampire's lair is hidden behind a copy of To Serve Man.


  1. ^ Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections
  2. ^ 2001 Retro Hugo Awards Archived 2010-01-18 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Belasco, Warren James (2006). Meals to come: a history of the future of food. University of California Press yo bro. p. 130. ISBN 0-520-24151-7. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  4. ^ Ringo, John (2000). A Hymn Before Battle. Riverdale: Baen Books. ISBN 0-671-31941-8.
  5. ^ To Serve Man: A Cookbook for People at Google Books
  6. ^
  7. ^

External links

Cattle Decapitation

Cattle Decapitation is an American extreme metal band from San Diego, California, formed in 1996. Their brutal musical style fuses grindcore and death metal. The band's current line-up includes vocalist Travis Ryan, guitarist Josh Elmore, and drummer Dave McGraw. Cattle Decapitation have released seven albums, the most recent being The Anthropocene Extinction in 2015.

Damon Knight

Damon Francis Knight (September 19, 1922 – April 15, 2002) was an American science fiction author, editor and critic. He is the author of "To Serve Man", a 1950 short story adapted for The Twilight Zone. He was married to fellow writer Kate Wilhelm.

Double entendre

A double entendre (; French: [dubl ɑ̃.tɑ̃dʁ(ə)]) is a figure of speech or a particular way of wording that is devised to be understood in two ways, having a double meaning. Typically one of the meanings is obvious, given the context, whereas the other may require more thought. The innuendo may convey a message that would be socially awkward, sexually suggestive, or offensive to state directly (the Oxford English Dictionary describes a double entendre as being used to "convey an indelicate meaning", whilst Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines it as "a word or phrase that may be understood in two different ways, one of which is often sexual").A double entendre may exploit puns to convey the second meaning. Double entendres generally rely on multiple meanings of words, or different interpretations of the same primary meaning. They often exploit ambiguity and may be used to introduce it deliberately in a text. Sometimes a homophone (i.e., another word which sounds the same) can be used as a pun. When three or more meanings have been constructed, this is known as a "triple entendre", etc.

Far Out (book)

Far Out is a collection of 13 science fiction short stories by American writer Damon Knight. The stories were originally published between 1949 and 1960 in Galaxy Magazine, If Science Fiction and other science fiction magazines. There is an introduction by Anthony Boucher.

The book contains the story "To Serve Man", which was later adapted for television.

George H. Scithers

George H. Scithers (May 14, 1929 – April 19, 2010) was an American science fiction fan, author and editor.

A long-time member of the World Science Fiction Society, he published a fanzine starting in the 1950s, wrote short stories, and moved on to edit several prominent science fiction magazines, as well as a number of anthologies. As editor emeritus of Weird Tales, he lectured at the Library of Congress in 2008. Wildside Press published his most recent book, Cat Tales: Fantastic Feline Fiction, in 2008.

Lessons (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

"Lessons" is the first episode of the seventh season of the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Dawn finds vengeful spirits in the new Sunnydale High while Giles is rehabilitating Willow in England.

Lloyd Bochner

Lloyd Wolfe Bochner (July 29, 1924 – October 29, 2005) was a Canadian actor.

Rice Capades

The Aquabats and Horchata Records Present: Rice Capades, Music Sampler Vol. 1 is a 2000 compilation album independently produced and compiled by American rock band The Aquabats and released on their self-operated record label Horchata Records.Rice Capades was originally made to be given away as a door prize to attendees of the 1999/2000 Aquacadet Summit, The Aquabats' then-annual fan convention, which was held at The Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana, California on April 6, 2000. The compilation was later sold online and at the band's concerts before eventually falling out of print.

Richard L. Bare

Richard Leland Bare (August 12, 1913 – March 28, 2015) was an American director, producer, and screenwriter of television shows and short films.

Born in Turlock, California, he attended USC School of Cinematic Arts where he directed his most notable student film, The Oval Portrait, an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's story. He became notable post-graduation for writing and directing the Joe McDoakes series of short films for Warner Brothers between 1942 and 1956, featuring George O'Hanlon in the title role.

On television, he directed seven classic The Twilight Zone episodes: "To Serve Man", "What's in the Box?", "The Fugitive", "Third from the Sun", "The Purple Testament", "Nick of Time" and "The Prime Mover". He directed virtually every episode of the 1960s-1970s CBS television series Green Acres. He also directed feature films, including Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend and Wicked, Wicked. On May 2, 2014, he acquired the rights with producer Phillip Goldfine to produce a movie and Broadway play based on Green Acres.His memoir, Confessions of a Hollywood Director discusses his directorial work, as well as behind-the-scenes information, and his service as a captain in the Army Air Forces' First Motion Picture Unit. Bare also wrote The Film Director: A Practical Guide to Motion Picture and Television Techniques (1971; ISBN 0-02-012130-X), a text to teach the craft of directing to aspiring filmmakers. On November 19, 2007, Bare announced that he was working on a revival of Green Acres.He died on March 28, 2015, at the age of 101 at his home in Newport Beach, California.

The Fugitive (The Twilight Zone)

"The Fugitive" is episode 90 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone.

The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank

"The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank" is episode 88 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on February 23, 1962 on CBS.

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone is an American media franchise based on the anthology television series created by Rod Serling. The episodes are in various genres, including fantasy, science fiction, suspense, horror, and psychological thriller, often concluding with a macabre or unexpected twist, and usually with a moral. A popular and critical success, it introduced many Americans to common science fiction and fantasy tropes. The original series, shot entirely in black and white, ran on CBS for five seasons from 1959 to 1964.

The Twilight Zone followed in the tradition of earlier television shows such as Tales of Tomorrow (1951–53, which also dramatized the short story "What You Need") and Science Fiction Theatre (1955–57); radio programs such as The Weird Circle, Dimension X, and X Minus One; and the radio work of one of Serling's inspirations, Norman Corwin. The success of the series led to a feature film, a radio series, a comic book, a magazine, a theme park attraction, and various other spin-offs that spanned five decades, including two revival television series. The first revival ran on CBS and in syndication in the 1980s, while the second ran on UPN from 2002 to 2003. TV Guide ranked the original TV series #5 in their 2013 list of the 60 greatest shows of all time and #4 in their list of the 60 greatest dramas.In December 2017, CBS All Access officially ordered the third Twilight Zone revival to series, which will be helmed by Jordan Peele. It is slated for a 2019 premiere.

The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series)

The Twilight Zone (marketed as Twilight Zone for its final two seasons) is an American anthology television series created and presented by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. Each episode presents a standalone story in which characters find themselves dealing with often disturbing or unusual events, an experience described as entering "the Twilight Zone," often ending with a surprise ending and a moral. Although predominantly science-fiction, the show's paranormal and Kafkaesque events leaned the show towards fantasy and horror. The phrase “twilight zone,” inspired by the series, is used to describe surreal experiences.

The series featured both established stars and younger actors who would become much better known later. Serling served as executive producer and head writer; he wrote or co-wrote 92 of the show's 156 episodes. He was also the show's host and narrator, delivering monologues at the beginning and end of each episode. Serling's opening and closing narrations usually summarize the episode's events encapsulating how and why the main character(s) had entered the Twilight Zone.

In 1997, the episodes "To Serve Man" (directed by Richard L. Bare) and "It's a Good Life" (directed by James Sheldon) were respectively ranked at 11 and 31 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. Serling himself stated that his favorite episodes of the series were "The Invaders" (directed by Douglas Heyes) and "Time Enough at Last" (directed by John Brahm).In 2016, the series was ranked No. 7 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest shows of all time. In 2002, The Twilight Zone was ranked No. 26 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it as the third best-written TV series ever and TV Guide ranked it as the fourth greatest drama and the fifth greatest show of all time.

The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series, season 3)

The third season of The Twilight Zone aired Fridays at 10:00–10:30 pm (EST) on CBS from September 15, 1961 to June 1, 1962. There are 37 episodes.

Continuing with Marius Constant's theme music, a different set of graphics was used for the opening, consisting of a rotating cone with concentric circles suggesting a spiral, receding into a star field. Rod Serling's narration from the second season was used, with the verse "That's the signpost up ahead" taken out:

"You're traveling through another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Your next stop—The Twilight Zone." Some subtle changes in the opening's acoustics were made beginning with "Little Girl Lost".

To Serve Man (The Twilight Zone)

"To Serve Man" is episode 89 of the anthology series The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series). It originally aired on March 2, 1962 on CBS. The episode was written by Rod Serling and Richard L. Bare and directed by Bare.The story is based on the 1950 short story "To Serve Man", written by Damon Knight. The title is a paraprosdokian using the verb serve, which has dual meanings of "to assist" or "to provide as a meal." The episode is one of the few instances in the series wherein an actor breaks the fourth wall and addresses the viewing audience at the episode's end. The episode, along with the line "It's a cookbook!" have become elements in pop culture.

To Serve Man (album)

To Serve Man is the second full-length album by American death metal band Cattle Decapitation. The title is a reference to the Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man".

To Serve Man (disambiguation)

"To Serve Man" is a 1950 science fiction short story written by Damon Knight.

To Serve Man may also refer to:

To Serve Man (album), 2002 album by American death metal band Cattle Decapitation

"To Serve Man" (The Twilight Zone), 1962 television episode based on Knight's story


¡Decapitacion! is a 7" EP from Cattle Decapitation. All three tracks on the EP are in Spanish, and can be originally found on the album Homovore.

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