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TOM DIGBY
ALONG FANTASY WAY
Extended electronic edition (2014)
 
cover

Art: © Phil & Kaja Foglio 1993

 

 

ALONG FANTASY WAY

 

illustrated by Phil & Kaja Folio © 1993

(artwork reprinted with permission)

http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/

 

originally published for ConFrancisco (Worldcon, 1993)

with Tom Digby as Fan Guest of Honor

 

Tom Digby publishes a monthly personalzine, Silicon Soapware with subscription instructions at the bottom of each zine, plus ss_talk , a mailing list with most comment chains based on the zine and subscription instructions at the bottom of each zine. Silicon Soapware Archives are at http://www.well.com/~bubbles/SSList.html, ss_talk info is at http://lists.plergb.com/listinfo.cgi/ss_talk-plergb.com.

 

Recordings of some of Tom Digby's songs and music can be heard at http://www.conchord.org/xeno/digby/index.html

 

Tom Digby Along Fantasy Way was originally edited and published by Lee Gold

originally filtered and printed by Barry Gold

This extended electronic edition was re-edited in 2015

by Lee Gold, 3965 Alla Road, Los Angeles, CA 90066,

http://www.conchord.org/xeno/leegold.html

 

All non-PowerPoint Artwork is Copyright Phil & Kaja Foglio 1993, 2014.

All editorial material is by Lee Gold.

All other written material is Copyright Thomas G. Digby, 1993, 2014,

if not covered by previous copyright

Compilation copyright Lee Gold 1993, 2014

INDEX

Air Mail

Government Go into Pirate Editions, The...

Poetry Market, The

Alien Artifacts Department

Great Pyramid, The

Polyhedrons

Arithmetic Lesson

He Eats the Stars

Positive Feedback and Negative Feedback

Alternate World Fan Fund

Hello, Observatory

Probably Something

Bowling Alley with...Customers at Both Ends

Hospital Parking Only

Problem Solver

Chain Saws

Hotel Staff Being Turned into Frogs

Public Time Machines

Cheesehenge...Built by Druid Mice

How I would want my body disposed of

PutriDOS

Childhood Being Wonderful

How often do you think about air?

Putting Perrier in Your Battery

Christmas Cat, The

How the Porcupines Learned to be Teddy Bears Again

Quarter Million Sunsets Worth of Lonely

Citizenship Quiz

How to Keep Prisoners

Reason Rome Fell, The

Clarinchi, The

Idea Crisis

Recycler of Dreams, The

Closest Encounter

If You Find Enough to Bury

Shortcuts in Arithmetic

Coffee Cup, A

Incident along Fantasy Way

Shottle Bop

Combining Voodoo and Acupuncture

Infinite Huxter Room

Solar System That Isn't There, The

A Computer Center that is...Haunted

Invasion by Air and Water (Snapshot)

Space Ghosts

Con Suite

It So Seldom Rains on the Moon

Spaceship Earth

Convention Report

Invention, The

Speech, The

Daylight Saving Time Year Round

Jazz

Storeroom

Dead and Otherwise Reality-Challenged People

"Law of Exit," A

Take Us to Your Poets

Dead People as a Hopeless Underclass

Likes

Taking Things Apart

Defenestration

Little Teeny Eyes

Teachers seeming not to know..

Derelicts, The

Lost? Child

Thing Inspired by a Remark about "Drugs"

Different Paths to...Ultimate Goal(s)

Masculine and Feminine Pronouns

Things

Discount Planets

Memorandum: Elevator Usage

Time Gum

Dislikes

Meter Madness

To Be a Martian

Do You Envy the Wind?

Microwave Ovens

To Be a Star

Donating Blood for Oneself

Mind-Machine Interface

Trying to Save Money on Maps

Donating Blood, Religious Ritual

Mirror behind the Pie Display

Two Hundred Million Million Miles

Doorways

Miscellany

Typo, The

Electoral College Alma Mater

Moon???

UFO Sightings

Elevator Memo

Moral Code

"Used" Lifestyle Lot, A

Elevator Worshippers

Mountains

Vampires a b c

Elves stealing a computer

Neighbor Cat, The

Vampires in Hyperspace

Everybody Talks about It But...

Noncompetitive Games

Vending Machine for Demons, A

Ferris Wheel (Princes & Frogs)

...Nor Reason

Walked to School through Snow

Federally Sponsored Riots

Not a Bus

Waterproof

Fertility Rite

Nuclear Family

Welfare System

FFI

On Magic and Science

Were-Machine

Flying Clams

Once Around Discontent

Were-Synchrotron

Food Slatting

Opening Other Eyes

What's the date?

For a Change (short pieces about changing)

...Or Mineral

Where Am I?

Free of Caffeine

Originally Right-Handed

Where Is Your Christmas Tree Tonight?

FTL & Alternate World Travel

Phobias and Neuroses...Sentient Computers

Witch [Turning People into Things] a b c

Georgia's Laws

Pledge of Allegiance, The

Witch Turns a Werewolf into a Frog

Glossary

Plergb

Work Ethic

List of Illustrations

All art (except in the poem "Things") is © Phil & Kaja Foglio 1993: see http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/

 

Back to index


TO BE A STAR

(6/29/77)

 

There he was on stage

In a small cafe

Before a couple dozen people

Singing of dreaming

Of being a star.

 

Now you know

And I know

What he meant by that,

But still ....

 

To be a star

A jewel in the night sky of a hundred worlds

Whose travelers look for you to guide them home

To where their children make wishes for their speedy safe return

When you appear

In the sky

Of soft summer evenings

To be wished on.

 

To be a star.

To be looked up to by seers and sages,

Seeking inside information on the doings of the gods

Or what is written for the future

Or what time and space are made of

And why things are

As they are.

 

To be a star --

To be a superstar?

The brightest thing in the heavens of a thousand worlds,

Burning yourself up at a furious rate for a scant few million years,

Then going out in a final blaze of glory

And a quick fall into obscurity,

Pulling your hole in after you?

 

To be a star

Is not necessarily to outshine the galaxy.

But it is to shine brightly enough

To be seen and known

And loved.

 


PROBABLY SOMETHING

 

In college I had a habit of answering some inquiries of an informal nature (such as someone wandering into a dorm lounge and asking where a friend was) with some non-informative but probably true answer like "probably somewhere." This led to "Probably Something" as a zine title, with the side effect of jokes with people asking what other people were reading. The first few were without subtitles, a habit which started a couple of issues after the zine did. (8/12/76)

PROBABLY SOMETHING but not

Combining Voodoo and Acupuncture for Remote-Control Healing (8/17/72)

PROBABLY SOMETHING but not

The Entire Staff of a Hotel Being Turned into Frogs during a Witches' Convention (7/10/69)

PROBABLY SOMETHING but not

A Race of Mutant Vampires that Specialize in Drying up Ballpoint Pens (7/16/70)

PROBABLY SOMETHING but not

Elves stealing a computer and leaving a changeling (8/9/73)

PROBABLY SOMETHING but not

Cheesehenge: Thought to Have Been Built by Druid Mice

"And why did you use so much Limburger?"

"To keep those ##### tourists away!" (6/3/71)

 


LIKES (in no particular order and sometimes oversimplified) 8/12/76

 

Cats; the scent of pink oleander blossoms (white ones don't smell the same);the view from airplane windows; sunsets; misde­scriptive names (like the "Tuesday After­noon Bridge Club" whose members get together every Sunday morning for bowling); lying in bed listening to wind and rain and thunder; open windows; quarter-pounders with mustard and onions only; onion rings and fries cooked the way I like them, especially when there is gravy available to dip them in; fireplaces; the smell of wood smoke; some incense; situations associated with incense; people I can relax around; "clothing optional" situations; some long hair and beards; affection and cuddling, especially if there is something to talk about while doing it; sleeping with someone I like; long walks (1-5 miles); licorice; the taste of some liqueurs, meeting interesting people; watching good-looking people; mellow music; strange music; some sentimental music; Goon Shows; science fiction and fantasy short stories; science fiction, horror and monster

movies; electronics; Scientific American; strange ideas; the seashore; restaurants busy enough for good people-watching but not too busy for good service; reading magazines in the library; walking nude into a breeze; the cookie part of Oreos (but not the filling); Baskin Robbins chocolate fudge ice cream; the aftertaste of a good meal; between-meal snacks; House of Pies chocolate meringue pie; bittersweet chocolate; mushroom burgers; salad with Thousand Island dressing; beef dips; HOT rolls and butter; daydreaming; all-night stores, restaurants, etc.; when something I've designed and built works; waking up when I don't have to get up any time soon; sleeping under blankets on cold nights; some abstract art; Escher; light show environments; visually strange environ­ments (like some sets in Barbarella); non-diffused LEDs; pleasant surprises; finding sets of ideas that fit together into some­thing new; the feeling of having just created something; questioning assump­tions people didn't know they were making; other.


HOSPITAL PARKING ONLY (Incident along Fantasy Way) (10/20/74)

 

On a street near where I live was a parking lot.

Then they fenced it off

And dug a deep hole

Like they were going to build something,

But the sign remained:

"PARKING FOR HOSPITAL ONLY."

A month went by and nothing else happened

And I eventually stopped thinking about it.

 

Then one day instead of the hole

There was a magnificent building

With all kinds of people

And cars and delivery trucks

And ambulances

Coming and going

And over the door, a sign:

"MERCY HOSPITAL."

It stood there a week,

Then one day was gone,

Leaving only the hole

And the parking sign.

 

A month or two later came another --

Sirens all hours of the night

And the sign said, "CENTRAL EMERGENCY."

It stayed about ten days.

 

Then one evening as I strolled by,

I saw that where the hospitals had been

Was now a bank,

And taped to the front door was a slip of paper:

A parking ticket.

 

 
Hospital Parking image

Art: © Phil & Kaja Foglio 1993

Back to index


THING INSPIRED BY A REMARK ABOUT "DRUGS" BY AN ENTERTAINER

AT THE A LA CARTE CAFE ON THE EVENING OF JULY 16, 1976 (7/17/76)

 

"There's a lot of drugs in Hollywood."

 

"You mean like when you're awakened in the night

by a drug storm and you lie there listening

to the thunder and wind and hail

And think about how in the morning

you'll have to get up a half-hour early

to shovel the Quaaludes and other assorted pills

out of your driveway?

And how the traffic will be terrible,

even if the drugplows do manage

to clear the streets and freeways in time,

And worse if they don't?

And that there'll be enough Amyl

crushed by the tires of passing cars

to give you a rush on the way to work,

whether you want it or not?

And--"

 

"There's not THAT much drugs in Hollywood!"

 

"Oh."

Back to index


 

I was reading a book of anecdotes written by a psychologist (THE TABOO SCARF by George Wein-berg). At one point, the author was walking across the grounds of a mental hospital and noticed a woman sitting out in the rain. He suggested she go inside, whereupon she replied, "I'm waterproof!" He used that incident as a springboard for a discussion of the difficulty he had accepting that people really believed their delusions. He just couldn't, deep in his heart, really believe that the woman really thought she was waterproof.

The thing that struck me about this was not that he had trouble believing the woman believed what she'd said, but that he did not present one shred of evidence to indicate that the woman WASN'T waterproof. If she'd been about to dissolve like the Wicked Witch in the Oz movie, why wasn't there a great hullabaloo of orderlies being summoned to throw tarps over her until she could be carried to shelter? Perhaps the reason was that, on some level, he agreed that she was indeed water-resistant, if not waterproof....

[A rational analysis of reasons (or lack thereof) to come in out of the rain is left as an exercise for the reader.] Does anyone know what other cultures' attitudes toward coming in out of the rain are? (2/13/92)

 

 


I once walked to school through snow. IIRC, it was February 13, 1958. But it was more like three blocks than three miles, and it was only half an inch deep. And I keep getting this mental image of rich kids walking to school through the snow every day, winter and summer, because their parents can afford artificial snow to walk through. (12/4/90)

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EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT IT, BUT....(2/26/77)

 

Tuesday before last, they were predicting a Thursday -- my club meeting night.

But when I awoke in the morning, it was dull, gray, depressing, dreary,

Blue Monday.

I was almost mad enough to complain but normally wouldn't bother,

Except I needed something to write about, and I knew somebody who worked there,

So I went.

 

The forecaster tried to explain it with a map.

"We were expecting this area of Wednesday/Thursday here to stabilize and spread,

But a long lazy Sunday afternoon that had been quietly hanging there for three days

Finally broke up and flowed west,

So we got Monday."

 

I asked if it was true the days used to be more settled.

They say that years ago they went

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Regular as clockwork.

You could almost set your watch by 'em.

He'd heard that too, but that was before they kept records so he really didn't know.

 

Then I told him my father's story

About how when he was a little boy they once had a month straight of Monday.

He'd heard of that:

"It was really bad--

A month of Monday morning blahs

And a water shortage from all that Monday washday laundry

And with no Fridays, nobody was getting their paychecks.

They finally had to declare an emergency and martial law and everything

And when the churches tried to organize prayers for relief,

They had their own problems: No Sundays.

Churches like having lots of Sundays."

 

Interesting conversation but finally time to go.

"Any Thursdays coming up?

That's my club meeting, and we haven't had one for quite a while."

 

"Sorry, but no.

No Thursdays in sight."

 

But sure enough,

You guessed it.

For the next three days.

Thursday.

Thursday.

Thursday.

Back to index


PROBABLY SOMETHING but not

A coffee cup that lets too-hot coffee cool quickly but keeps moderately hot coffee hot.

 

Imagine a peg in a hole, with the peg being of a material with a higher coefficient of thermal expansion than the material surrounding the hole. If the peg is sized to fit loosely at room temperature, then if you heat the whole assembly, the peg will expand more than the hole and at some higher temperature will be wedged in firmly. Cool things down, and it'll loosen up again.

Now if a coffee cup is really two cups, one inside the other, with the inner one made of a higher expansion material than the outer, dimensions can be set up so that when the inner cup is filled with too-hot coffee it is trying to be too big to fit into the outer cup. Then the two cups will be in intimate contact over most of their surfaces, and thermal conductivity will be high, allowing the coffee to cool. Once the coffee cools to drinking temperature, the contact between the inner and outer cups will begin to loosen, reducing the thermal conductivity and keeping the coffee warm longer. It's sort of like having a thermostat in the cup.

There are engineering problems like how to fasten the two cups together so they won't fall apart, how to keep crud out of the gap, how to set the preferred temperature, etc., but if somebody's interested enough, they ought to be solvable. (4/17/80)

 

 


 

How to Keep Prisoners: Imagine some character in a story is being held prisoner by somebody else. He is in a room sort of like a hotel room, and he has an electrode in his pleasure center. This is connected to a plug in the wall by a cord long enough to let him move around the room. However, to leave the room he must unplug the pleasure stimulation, something he will probably be quite unwilling to do.... It seems possible that when he is finally rescued he will have to be dragged out by force rather than letting himself be unhooking willingly. Comment? (6/1/67)

[Editor's Note: Larry Niven's "Death by Ecstasy" was published in Galaxy, January, 1969.]

Back to index


 

I have a couple of memories of teachers seeming not to know the significance of what they were teaching. One was a high school science teacher who, when noticing that a piece of lab equipment was calibrated in radians, explained it: "A radian is a unit of angular measure that scientists like to use. It is equal to fifty-seven point blah blah blah degrees." End of stuff about radians. While he was explaining something else, I got to wondering if the name "radian" had any relation to "radius" and may (I don't remember for certain) have started to divide 180 by pi to see if it came out anywhere near the fifty-seven point whatever....

The other case was in a college math class. It almost seemed like somebody had some space in the textbook (and time in class) to fill and decided it would be a fun thing to integrate stuff times es from zero to infinity. They needed a name for this so they decided to call it "Laplace transforms." Later, after an electronics class took up Fourier transforms and another math class got into how raising e to complex powers gave sine and cosine functions, another electronics class took up Laplace transforms from a circuit analysis point of view and it made sense. This may just mean that I took those courses in the wrong order, but then somebody in the scheduling department should've had the prerequisites better defined. (12/3/78)

 

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...OR MINERAL(2/07/76)

 

Pet rocks are OK, but some people prefer more variety.

The guy upstairs from me

Has a 1947 Chevrolet engine block.

I think his apartment is too small for it,

But there it is.

And the family down the street

With the goldfish pond in the yard

Has an old ship's anchor

To keep the fish company.

 

But of all the inorganic pets in the neighborhood,

The happiest is an old beer can

Belonging to a small boy.

It would never win a prize at a show:

Too many dents

And spots of rust

And paint flaking off.

And besides, it's a brand of beer

Most people don't like.

But that doesn't really matter.

What matters is FUN

Like afternoons when they go for a walk:

The can leaps joyously ahead

CLATTERDY RATTLEDY CLANG BANG!

Then lies quietly waiting for its master to catch up

Before leaping ahead again.

I may get a beer can myself some day.

 

But I still don't think it's right

To keep a 1947 Chevrolet engine block

Cooped up in such a small apartment.

Back to index

 


PROBABLY SOMETHING but not

Finding out that you are some kind of were-machine, and that what you turn into hasn't been invented yet, and that there are industrial spies after you. (7/27/78)

 

PROBABLY SOMETHING but not

Lying awake in a motel room late at night listening to the clatter of a storm of flying clams outside your window and feeling very far from home (4/17/75)

PROBABLY SOMETHING but not   (7/12/84)

Wondering what phobias and neuroses sentient computers of the future will be plagued by

 

There may possibly be some similar to those that beset humans, such as stage fright when one's output is to be fed to a large audience or paranoia about some vast conspiracy of operators, programmers, and hardware technicians. However I would expect a whole batch of new ones.

Some systems might develop a fear of memory locations whose hex addresses make words like "BAD" (2989 decimal)

or "DEAD" (57005 decimal) and take a lot of extra time relocating object code around them. There might arise a whole slew of superstitions as to the portents of such things as parity errors.

There may be a lot of stuff based on a sort of numerology of user names and file names, simply because characters are represented internally as numbers if you get down to the machine language level rather than staying with type-checked high-level languages. I expect at least a few sentient systems to enjoy playing around at that level, even at some risk of introducing bugs into themselves. (Imagine some console showing a message to the effect that the system crashes whenever it thinks of [message incomplete due to system crash] as a result of such a bug).

There may be some equivalent of office politics on networks, as well as vague feelings of "That node gives me the creeps!" And there'll be plenty of things I have no way of foreseeing now, and which perhaps cannot be comprehended by humans at all except in very abstract terms. It might be like trying to explain a fear of Higgs fields to Freud.

 

 

 

Back to index

 


 

Back in the Dark Ages when there was only one setting on a microwave oven, that setting was "off." The reason you don't hear much about microwave ovens from that period is that very few people were willing to buy ovens on which the only setting was "off." The "on" setting wasn't invented until well into modern technological times. Intermediate settings, which are actually an automatic rapid on/off cycling, were invented even later. (1/15/84)

 


 

I think this version of Wordstar is also free of caffeine even though it was not explicitly advertised as such. It's probably also sugar-free and has no cholesterol, even though it does not claim to be the diet version. Also, if you walk into any stereo store or clothing store or hardware store and look at the ingredients lists of their wares, you'll also find most items to be caffeine-free. So why are beverages the only ones making an advertising fuss about it? (12/83)

 


 

"I just noticed, etched on the blade of this saw, instructions to make twenty copies and give them to my friends or else I will have bad luck."

"Oh, that must be one of those chain saws I've been hearing about." (9/11/81)


 

On the matter of shortcuts in arithmetic, to multiply 37 x 94 I would prefer to use some method that gives 3478. Otherwise people are likely to think me odder than I really am.

Back to index

 


How often do you think about air? If you lived on the Moon with a dome over your house, spacesuits for going on errands, etc., and your neighbors in the next dome breathed chlorine, you'd probably think about air more often than you do now. Likewise, having different people seeing different faces of whatever God(s) may exist may keep people thinking about their deities.

Also, since people differ in so many ways, it may be that different people need different paths to whatever ultimate goal(s) there may be. Maybe it's like a school with several "tracks," each of which makes sense in its own way but looks jumbled up to someone in another track where the subjects are presented in a different order. (8/22/88)

 


 

re Taking Things Apart: Most of my possessions during childhood were gifts from my parents (toys, etc.) or else were found objects, discarded appliances salvaged from the trash to take apart, and so on, rather than things I'd bought.

How many of you who went into engineering or other technical fields started out being given things like old clocks to take apart when you were children? I suspect the current trends in technology may be producing things that are less interesting and educational for children to take apart than they used to be. Whether this will have any long-term effect on engineering or scientific education I don't know. (04/04/84)

 

 


 

re masculine and feminine pronouns: Is it really any of my business whether a person not on my Lust List and unavailable to me sexually is male or female? This society teaches people to expect to be given that information about others, and considers accusing someone of failing to broadcast their gender to be an insult, but do we really need that information about anyone other than our sex part-ners? Our friends may wish to share it with us along with other personal info, but does it really matter whether a business associate is male or female? If we say hello to someone's baby in line at the market, why should we be concerned about what kind of pee-pee the kid has? And what would a society be like where one's gender was normally known only to one's doctor and closest friends? (5/30/88)

 


 

I'm not really sure how I would want my body disposed of after I'm finished using it, but having it freeze-dried and sent out with the next probe to go into interstellar space sounds intriguing. It might be more interesting than a phonograph record to whatever finds it. (11/18/80)

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One sort-of compromise I've thought of for cutting down hard-core violent porno while still keeping First Amendment rights is having the government go into the pirate-editions business. The idea would be that while everybody has a right to be heard, some things are not suitable for making a profit from. Thus if someone were to publish something in this category, the Government Printing Office would duplicate it and make it available to the public free or for however much it cost the Gov't Printing Office to print it. Thus if you were advocating a religion based on violent sex torture you would still have the right to present your ideas to the public, but if you were in it strictly for the money you would find no profit in it. There are "engineering" problems such as customers who might be too paranoid to buy their porno from the Gov't Printing Office and there is the potential for abuse against writers the authorities happen not to like, but I think it answers many of the objections of both sides. After the novelty of being able to get free porno wore off, there should actually be less of it around because the producers would be discouraged from creating new material. (04/18/84)

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STOREROOM

spoken to a guitar strum or keyboard rhythm

 

A while back, several of us decided to put our savings together

And open up a psychedelic shop

And sell beads and posters and strobe lights and incense

And other things like that.

 

So we looked around for vacant stores to rent,

Till we finally found one we could use.

 

It had a front room where people could come in

To buy our beads and posters and strobe lights and incense

And other things like that,

And it had a back room where you could have light shows and suchlike,

And in back of that was a storeroom where we could store the things

That we were going to sell to people in the front room.

 

There was just ONE Problem.

The storeroom was so full of junk that there was no room for us to store

The beads and posters and strobe lights and incense

And other things like that

That we were going to sell.

 

So, we went to the owner of the building

And asked him to please clean out the storeroom,

Because it was so full of junk that there was no room for us to store

The beads and posters and strobe lights and incense

And other things like that

That we were going to sell to the people in the front room.

 

And he said

That if we cleaned it out ourselves,

We could have all the junk to keep or throw away or sell

Or whatever we wanted to do with it.

 

So, bright and early the next morning,

We went to our store and started sorting through the junk in the storeroom,

To see what we had that we could keep or throw away or sell

Or whatever we wanted to do with it,

 

And this

Is what

We found....

 

a pile of old newspapers

an electric fan

a radio with three tubes missing

a foot locker full of dandruff

an automobile tire

a funny mirror from a funhouse

a municipal court judge

an electric sundial

a filing cabinet

a hunting rifle made entirely of sponge rubber

with a box of sponge rubber bullets to go with it

a sleeping bag

a book titled... ANTARCTICA ON FIVE DOLLARS A DAY

a pair of dowsing rods

a moose head made entirely of sponge rubber, mounted on the wall

an empty five gallon jug of disappearing ink

the original blueprints for building the Great Pyramid of Egypt

another municipal court judge

a telephone book for the planet Mars

a television set made entirely of sponge rubber

a perpetual motion machine

the original magnifying glass used by Sherlock Holmes

a copy of the magic spell for turning things into sponge rubber

a bottle of smoke from the Chicago Fire

a map showing pirate treasure buried under the San Bernardino Freeway

an orange crate

an invisible traffic light

a tesseract

a swimming pool

a yellow crate

one hour and twenty minutes

a green crate

a radio tube half-full of orange soda

four foreign cars

three French hens

two turtledoves

and a partridge in a pear-tree

 

Well, we had to let the two judges go

And just this morning, a flying saucer came down and bought the phonebook,

But everything else is on sale

Cheap.

 

So, if you happen to see a psychedelic shop

With a sponge rubber TV set in the window,

Stop in and look around.

You might find something.

Back to index

 


PROBABLY SOMETHING like maybe   (2/29/66)

A Computer Center that is able to get along without a computer because it's haunted (explanation below)

Computer manufacturers have been hotly competing to produce machines that are faster, smaller and cheaper but do the same jobs as older machines. One such manufacturer is presently engaged in a line of research which all the other manufacturers have been deriding as "Crackpot Superstition" but which, if successful, may revolutionize the computer industry. They are engaged in research on ghosts and similar things in hopes of developing a new form of computer -- one which is not fully bound by what we know as the laws of time and space.

Consider -- some of the Things that haunt haunted houses and similar locations, and sometimes objects, at times display intelligent behavior. This may indicate that the nothingness or ectoplasm or whatever they're made of could possibly be used to build computer elements such as memories and central processors -- computer elements which, under favorable condi-tions, would take up NO physical space in our world. The speeds obtainable are not known at present but since ghosts have been known to predict the future, it is sort of assumed that the time required (if any) for even the longest computations can be bypassed by, in effect, looking into the future to predict what answer the machine (??) will eventually arrive at.

Input-output is not expected to be much of a problem. Since many kinds of spooks seem to perceive their physical environment, it is probable that ghostly sensors can be built to "see" all of a stack of punch cards or a roll of tape at once, much in the way that sealed envelopes, etc. are often penetrated by the supernatural.

Output operations will be performed by poltergeists. Since there have been a few reports of such beings teleporting small objects and quantities of various substances, or causing them to appear from nowhere, there need be no long delays for a stack of paper or a roll of tape to be fed through a machine. You just set a stack of com-puter paper in the designated spot, the poltergeist module causes ink to appear in the right places, and you then take the paper away and unfold it and there is your printout. If poltergeists can be taught to read magnetic patterns and to magnetize iron oxide, then material on magnetic tape can be read and/or recorded without ever unrolling the tape from the reel. This will require careful control to prevent print-through and other troubles, but the backers of the project are optimistic. Punch card output, if desired, can be obtained by teleporting the paper out of the holes.

If this idea works, the computer center of the future will look much different from the computer center of today. The first thing a visitor is likely to notice is that there seems to be no computer in the computer center. Instead, there may be a magic symbol inscribed on the floor, or there may just be a certain corner of the room that seems to be a center of activity, or there may be a table sitting against one wall or somewhere. An operator will approach the designated spot, stack a quantity of cards, printout paper, tape reels, etc. there; say a word and/or make some gesture; gather up the materials; and leave in a hurry so as not to keep the next person in line waiting. The general atmosphere of the center may be a little strange, since the operators may have to be spirit-medium-types rather than the present technician types. Persons with the "wrong vibrations" may have to be excluded from the room, although it is hoped that the computer can be shielded from such interference.

So if you should happen to see groups of computer engineers prowling around haunted houses and similar places, don't laugh too loudly. They may be the ones to laugh last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FOR A CHANGE

R:"He works for the Physics Department at the University." (2/6/69)

Y:"A physicist? But I thought he dropped out of high school?"

R:"Well, when you're a were-synchrotron, you don't need much of an education."

 


 

A:"Why is there always a mirror behind the pie display in restaurants?"

B:"So the waitress can spot vampire pie before unwittingly inflicting it on some customer."

A:"Yeah, I guess that's neater than sticking a crucifix through the meringue. But why haven't I heard about this before?"

B:"Well, back in the days when restaurants used real silver silverware, it wasn't a problem. There were a few unconfirmed reports of outbreaks when stainless steel utensils came in, but restaurants quickly thought of putting mirrors behind the pie so the waitress could tell by looking, and managed to keep the matter hushed up."

A:"So if I'm ever in a place with stainless steel silverware and there's no mirror behind the pies...."

B:"Don't order pie after dark."          (1/21/90)

 


 

I don't really remember this, but my parents once told me that I was originally right-handed and switched over in 2nd grade (or first??) because the teacher was left-handed and children often tend to imitate adults. (6/4/70) [I'm] mostly right-handed for most things, but left for writing and for eating with a fork. (It sometimes comes in handy to work a calculator with one hand and write with the other.) (9/3/80)

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Somebody or other asked recently: What happens if a witch turns a werewolf into a frog? My guess is that the result is either a frog that turns into a wolf or a frog that it is very dangerous to kiss during a full moon.

(And I can see a witch going around turning snakes, lions, wolves, outlaws, sharks, dirty old men, etc., etc., into frogs to discourage princesses from kissing every frog they see just on the slight chance of getting a prince. That way he'll probably stay a frog somewhat longer.) (7/31/69)

 

 


 

And another item on the frog/prince front: Set up a Ferris wheel with a witch at the bottom and a princess on a special platform within easy reach of the top. Fill all the seats on the wheel with princes and start the wheel, with instructions that the witch is to change each prince into a frog as he goes by the bottom and the princess is to change them back (by kissing?) as they go past the top.

You then have a Ferris wheel with frogs going up and princes going down. Since princes weigh more than frogs, you should be able to use it as a perpetual (until the princes, princess, witch, etc. get tired) motion machine. (8/14/69)

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MOUNTAINS

(8/31/74)

Mountains

 

In my youth, I wanted to see the world

So I joined the Mountains.

 

You may not've heard of us:

Some places make a secret of it,

Hiring us for a few hours a week

In some vacant land on the outskirts of town

And the rest of the time

Hiding their mountainlessness

In fog.

 

But the places I enjoy working are different.

Months in advance, colorful posters will proclaim

 

Coming soon

Limited Time Only --

MOUNTAINS!

 

And thousands will line the streets for our opening parade.

 

We offer everything:

Scenic drives, ski lodges,

Railroads slowly winding their way

To wherever they are going,

Quiet meadows nestled in little valleys

Reached only after a day's hiking,

Christmas-card scenes of moonlit hillsides

(For those places that have moons),

Jewels mined by dwarves and polished by elves,

And stormy nights when all roads lead only

To forbidding Transylvanian castles.

 

But best of all are those few places that,

Tired of the sameness of streets and skyline,

Invite us right into town,

A refreshing transformation of the city,

Cable cars and all.

 

 

Art: © Phil & Kaja Foglio 1993

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DEAD AND OTHERWISE REALITY-CHALLENGED PEOPLE

PROBABLY SOMETHING but not

Wondering what the AWFF (Alternate World Fan Fund) Campaigns

Will be like once Crosstime Travel is perfected

 

I can think of several major categories of people that might be brought here on such trips: 1) Well-known fans who here have either died or gafiated, but there are still active and doing well; 2) Pros or other celebrities here who are fans in other timelines; 3) Active fans whom it might be interesting to get two or more of together; 4) People who never existed here but whose reputations have spread from other places; 5) Other.

 


 

And how about vampires in hyperspace? If it's a black hyperspace (no radiation, etc.), there would be no light from any stars, so any ship going through would be open to terrorization by vampires, either stowing away on the ship or else just living in hyperspace waiting for ships to come by. You might be able to keep out outside vampires by silver-plating the hull or something, but a vampire who is already on the ship (perhaps they took his coffin as freight) might be able to do as he pleased until the ship got into normal space close to a star.

The stories about some ghosts, etc. being able to tell the future may imply a sort of time travel ability which may allow them to live in hyperspace between ships. And if space ghosts don't care who they are haunting, our first contact with some alien cultures could be through their ghosts in interstellar space. (Things like an ectoplasmic BEM that can only be defeated by cutting off its tentacles with scissors made of tungsten, for instance.) (8/14/69)

 


 

This society does seem to treat dead people as a hopeless underclass. Dead people are generally segregated off in special parts of town (such as Forest Lawn) and few outside their immediate family or closest friends ever go visit them there. They aren't allowed to vote or hold office, few employers will hire them, and the law even requires them to give away all their belongings to people who are not dead. (1/22/91)

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WHERE AM I? (Incident along Fantasy Way)

(7/28/74)

 

As I entered the market, I made the mistake of asking a clerk

If I was here.

 

"No," she said, pointing to a tall building a mile or so distant.

"You are in those offices over there."

 

After thanking her, I took the elevator down to the street

And began the long walk back

To the market.

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THE INFINITE HUXTER ROOM & THE CLARINCHI

 

A comment that huxter rooms at cons were finite got me to thinking about an infinite huxter room. Sales at a given table would depend on the traffic plus how heavy the merchandise is to carry, whether tables selling similar stuff are distributed uniformly, people's moods, and so on. For camping equip-ment, I would imagine the best spots may be about a half-day's walk in, where people have suddenly noticed where they are and what time it is, and are just beginning to entertain thoughts of spending the night. And legend has it that the farther you get from the door, the more likely you are to find stuff you can't get anywhere else like magical items that really work, gadgets and materials beyond current technology, copies of lost books, etc. (1/27/87)

 

I envision the Infinite Huxter Room as being unbounded but with large pillars every so often. The doors are set into the pillars so that every point is near SOME door, although perhaps not one opening into any world you know (or would want to know). (4/12/87)

 

Yes, the infinite huxter room could have a time dilation effect. Also, an anti-aging effect would be appreciated by those dealers more than a few years' journey in. In addition, different doors from the room (an infinite number?) could lead to different cons and bazaars and market places and fairs in different eras and even different worlds. You could have an inter-world nexus with few who enter ever venturing far enough in to notice. (2/9/87)

 

In the infinite huxter room: (2/27/87)

"Is it my imagination, or have I been smelling chlorine the last few hours? I think it's giving me a headache."

"It is chlorine. I forgot you humans are allergic to it. A hundred miles or so farther on is the K'ksk sector, where it's ALL chlorine. If you want to go there, you'll need an atmosphere suit or an amulet of breathing alien air. Both are available a few aisles over. You'll also need help with the language, since human vocal tracts can't handle it. I have translator boxes here...."

 

In the infinite huxter room (5/10/87)

"The reason you can't find the Clarinchi section is that the Clarinchi don't exist."

"But I have books by Clarinchi authors."

"Yes, but look at the titles: WHY WE DON'T EXIST and I THINK I AM BUT I'M NOT. In order for the Clarinchi to exist, the laws of nature would have to be different from what they are, so they don't. Their failure to exist is their favorite topic for philosophical discussions. They're famous for it."

 

There would be more data about the Clarinchi if they existed, but they don't so there isn't. However, it is believed that the Clarinchi equivalent of limericks, if such a thing existed, would start out

There was not a being from [place name]

Who did not do [strange sexual action]...

(Clarinchi limericks would be written in English because the Clarinchi languages do not exist.) Some authorities, however, claim that since the Clarinchi do not exist, they have no need for reproduction, hence no sex, hence no dirty limericks.

(5/25/87)

 

To treat patients that don't exist, such as Clarinchi, use medicine that doesn't exist. If medicine that does not exist is not available, use a placebo. (7/28/87)

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LOST? CHILD (entered 4/29/92)

 

What did you say, son?

Why did I cut what? Those flowers?

Because they were there.

We do need to clear this field before fire season.

 

But you say they weren't a fire hazard like the dry grass

So we didn't really have to cut them?

Maybe not, but it was easier to go cutting straight through

than to stop and think about it.

If you really want flowers, you can buy flowers somewhere later.

Quit worrying about that kind of stuff.

Just forget all about it.

 

Gateways for the Little People?

You say if you relax in a field of wildflowers

And let your eyes unfocus and your mind go blank,

You may suddenly hear music and song and laughter,

And if you follow your ears and your heart,

They'll lead you through the flowery gate

Into the land of the Little People

Whose cares are different and perhaps more to your taste

Than the cares of this world?

I'd better not catch you telling that to the neighbors.

They'll think there's something strange about you.

Quit worrying about that kind of stuff.

Just forget all about it.

 

We're almost half done. Let's take a break.

Here's a tree we can sit under.

 

Son, do you hear somebody singing off behind me somewhere?

Are you going to meet them?

What are you laughing about?

Where did you disappear to?

Son?

Son?

Answer me!

Wherever you are, come back here!

I am your father!

 

"Please come back and tell me

If I really did just hear a faint voice

Telling me,

'Quit worrying about that kind of stuff.

Just forget all about it.'

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FTL & ALTERNATE WORLD TRAVEL (2/9/67)

 

 

Some stf stories postulate that faster-than-light travel is closely related to time travel, and there have been instances written up in which an FTL ship arrives at its destination in a different probability world from the one it started out in. Although this is usually treated as a rare freakish thing, with the story centering on the problem of getting back to the proper universe, what if it turns out to be a routine, or at least not uncommon, happening?

If the slips are always to nearby probabilities, so that there are seldom any major differences, and if there is some kind of law (perhaps related to conservation of energy or something) to the effect that in order to participate in a deal you have to have something to trade so that you will always arrive in a universe in which "you" already existed and went on roughly the same trip and "you" are replacing "you" because "you" has also slipped universes, there might still be a fair amount of interstellar travel and trade, at least in some probability lines.

There would be universes in which FTL travel never developed because it seemed to cause mental troubles due to the probability shifts not being recognized for what they are, and worlds in which the FTL drive, or even Earth, never existed at all, but travelers wouldn't get mixed up with them because of the "swap" law.

What is interesting to contemplate is the conduct of business in such a set up. Let us assume that the problems of money slipping between universes have been overcome, and that you are ordering a quantity of paperbacks from a publisher a few dozen light-years away. You type up an order for several (you are also ordering copies for friends as well as yourself) of each of twelve different titles and send it off, along with the money. In due course, the books arrive, and you open the carton to see what you have, bearing in mind that up to three universes could have been involved in reality shifts in either or both legs of the trip.

This company happens to have a policy of returning your letter along with the shipment, and you see that the letter disagrees with your carbon of it.

According to it, you have ordered 13 titles of which ten agree with your carbon. Of the other three, two are titles you almost ordered but didn't, and the third is something you've never heard of before. Several of the quantities differ, as well as some of the prices. The publisher has stuck in a note to the effect that they've shipped 12 of the 13 titles but that the 13th title (not the one you never heard of but one of the ten that both copies of your order agreed on) is something they have no record or knowledge of and probably doesn't exist.

Upon looking over the books, you find that the texts of those with which you are familiar are "wrong" to a greater or lesser degree, and that in some cases it's an improvement. Of the one book you had never heard of, you are unable to find anyone who knows anything. A check of the author's name might or might not reveal that he exists, and whether he has perhaps written the book but not yet sold it.

If a diligent search reveals that the book truly does not exist except for your copy, the laws might allow you to have it published, using your copy as the "manuscript." You might well be required to tell the truth about where you got the book rather than taking credit for writing it, but you would otherwise be allowed to collect royalties from its publication and sale. This might be patterned after the laws governing found property, treasure troves, etc.

There would be people and companies (publishers, manufacturers, etc.) who regularly ship books, records, inventions and diagrams thereof, seeds of special varieties of plants, etc., etc., etc. to themselves by roundabout interstellar routes in hopes of random "improvements" they could profit from. People might sometimes travel on extended tours in hopes of exchanging their troubles for a different set that might not be as hard to live with.

Of course, this type of trip is a gamble and some people lose but others do sometimes win. The effect of this kind of probability shifting on copyright and patent laws, money, marriage and family relations, etc. will be left to your fannish imaginations for further extrapolations or whatever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FTL

Art: © Phil & Kaja Foglio 1993

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PROBABLY SOMETHING but not   (12/2/76)

Making a Religious Ritual out of Donating Blood

This would fit in with traditional images of blood as a sacrifice, a symbol of life, etc., and at the same time fill the humanitarian function many churches attempt nowadays -- sort of a modernization of the old custom of giving some of the meat from sacrificial animals to the poor. Details would, of course, vary considerably from sect to sect, but might all stress sharing, unity of mankind, and similar concepts.

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DOORWAYS

(2/17/72)

 

There are some doors marked PUSH that will open only if you push them, and others that will also open if you pull them.

There are some doors marked PULL that will open only if you pull them, and others that will also open if you push them.

There are also doors with no markings, some of which open both ways and some of which don't, as well as doors with various markings that don't open at all.

However, if a door will open both ways, it doesn't seem to matter much which way you open it -- when you go through, you arrive at the same place either way.

Now if they ever perfect certain types of space warps or other things, you may someday encounter a door that leads one place if you push it and another place if you pull. They may be marked PUSH for Destination A -- PULL for Destination B, but so many people will be used to just trying a door and opening it the first way it will open that there'll be a lot of people ending up at the wrong place.

Then if the feature operates coming back also, such a person might not arrive back at his starting point but somewhere else entirely such as Destination C.

Hmmm.

 

 

 

 

 

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ALIEN ARTIFACTS DEPARTMENT

(7/31/69)

 

What would an early model TV look like on a planet where transistors were invented back about when the electric light was, and the Edison Effect (thermionic emission) was either never discovered or never exploited?

They'd have radio about when we did or maybe earlier, but no vacuum tubes with hot cathodes. I could possibly see a cold cathode picture tube operating at a quite high voltage and giving a dim, poorly focused picture, with the high voltage perhaps generated by a mechanical static electricity machine like the thing with the revolving glass or plastic disks in physics lectures.

I know there would probably be better ways even with their technology, but their engineers can get into ruts just as well as ours can, and they could have spent years developing something like that that could barely be made to work instead of going to a heated cathode and a high frequency transformer for the high voltage. And a static generator might be made cheaply enough to not seem to need replacing by a different type of source.

And would they develop console radios or stick pretty much with portables? And they might be behind us in microwave technology, including radar, and ahead of us in computers. Sort of interesting to think about.

 

 

 

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MEMORANDUM

 

SUBJECT: Elevator Usage

 

TO: All Employees

 

FROM: Building Management

 

It has been brought to our attention that many employees are in the habit of taking an elevator when going up one or two floors but using the stairway when going down a similar distance, thus generating more "up" elevator trips than "down" elevator trips.

 

This has led to the accumulation of large numbers of surplus elevators on the roof while depleting the stock of elevators stored in the basement to a dangerously low level. On occasion, this has required maintenance personnel to walk up to the top floor and ride elevators down in order to avoid the possibility of running out of elevators.

 

In addition, emergency purchases of elevators for immediate delivery to the ground floor have been necessary in extreme cases, while at the same time surplus elevators on the roof were being sold to passing helicopters at scrap prices to make room for elevators arriving from lower floors. Needless to say, this is a wasteful and uneconomical situation.

 

Employees are therefore asked to avoid one-way elevator trips as much as possible and to balance their "up" travel with an approximately equal amount of "down" travel.

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SUMMARY

of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Plergb Commission

and of the word

Plergb

as of July 10, 1984

 

The Plergb Language Entropy Regulatory Governing Bureaucratic Commission Overseeing Multiple Managerial Issues Surrounding Singular Instances of Nomenclature ("P.L.E.R.G.B.C.O.M.M.I.S.S.I.O.N." or "Plergb Commission" for short) (hereafter referred to as the Commission) is the body which oversees and administers the use of the word Plergb and its authorized variants. They are very difficult to contact, but if you need to get a message to them, you might try to relay it through whoever you heard about this from.

 

The word Plergb may be used by any English-speaking person (rules for other languages may be forthcoming) regardless of race, color, religion (unless said religion forbids use of the word Plergb), national origin, sex, sexual preferences, age, economic status, etc., etc., etc. Plergb is an Equal Opportunity Word.

 

The word Plergb may be used in many ways, some of which have not been discovered yet.

 

The simplest use of the word Plergb is as a general-purpose noun, sort of like "doohickey" and "thingamabob." It may be dynamically redefined within a sentence if the context makes the meaning clear, as in the old saying "A rolling Plergb gathers no Plergb." It can also be used as a euphemism, as in "What the Plergb is this Plergb?!?!" The use of the word Plergb to maliciously hinder communication is strongly discouraged.

 

Another simple use is to bring good luck by saying "Plergb" as you are plugging something in. The Commission makes no warranty covering such use.

 

Whenever the word Plergb is used in a song, it may be defined as the entire remainder of the song. For example, singing, "Oh, say can you see by the Plergb?" lets you start the ball game that much sooner. When used in a song on radio or TV, it may be defined as the rest of the broadcast day, allowing the staff to shut off the transmitter and go home without further ado or explanation. (CAUTION: Some advertisers consider this to be bad manners, especially if their commercials are affected.)

 

The most sophisticated use of the word Plergb, however, is as an operator. Computer people may think of it as a sort of macro to be executed by one's audience. For example, if you are composing something on a manual typewriter but wish to have a professional-appearing document, you may add at the bottom "Plergb, defined as justifying margins, correcting typos, and general cleanup." If you are running for office, you might end all your speeches with "Plergb, defined as minus anything you don't want to hear."

The word Plergb can also be used to correct hyphenation at ends of lines, clean up politically incorrect language, cleanse erotica of anything the audience might consider obscene, conditionally insert or delete paragraphs depending on the state of other variables, insert illustrations the printing process cannot handle, and so on.

 

Users of the word Plergb fall into three general classes: Authorized Users, Renegades, and Yak Fat.

 

Authorized users are those who have been authorized by the Commission to use the word Plergb and who agree to be bound by the rules thereof.

 

Renegades are those who have been granted Renegade Status by the Commission. They may break the rules and otherwise misuse the word Plergb with impunity, but their actions do not set precedent. People who have heard of the word Plergb and wish to use it, but who are unsure of the rules and find it inconvenient to contact the Commission, may grant themselves provisional Renegade Status.

 

The standard penalty for misuse of the word Plergb (by those not on Renegade Status) is dunking in rancid yak fat. Since the budget of the Commission does not allow for real yak fat or a yak fat vat to dunk people in, they have been doing virtual dunkings instead. This consists of a certificate attesting to such dunking and advising all to stay at least ten feet away because of the (virtual) smell.

 

The word Plergb is always capitalized because it is the name of the word Plergb, which makes it a proper name. This is in contrast to words like "cat" and "shoehorn" and "episcotister" which have names like "Melvin" or "Herman" or "Murgatroyd" which nobody knows about because nobody has published a list of names of words. The word Plergb is named Plergb. The subject of names of names is beyond the scope of this article.

 

Authorized variants of the word Plergb include Pglergb, Plergdb, Pglorgdb, and Skeegl. There also exists the Medieval Spelling of Plyrrhghb for use by time travelers, people doing parodies of medieval writing, etc. All variants are pronounced exactly as they are spelled (no silent letters) except for the Medieval Spelling, which is pronounced "Pl" as in "platypus," "yrrh" as in "myrrh," "gh" as in "ghost," and "b" as in "Bob."

 

The Official Question of the Plergb Commission and of the word Plergb is "Glorb g'dorpt-borpt?" The answer is "Plergb."

 

Plergb, defined as having this done by fancy offset with a picture of the Commission members in their official dress.

 

Plergb, defined as correcting any typos and misspellings.

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AIR MAIL (Incident along Fantasy Way)

(9/13/75)

 

It is very late, and I am tired

But the letter I promised to mail sits there reproachfully

In its urgent AIR MAIL envelope.

 

It is very late, and the street is empty.

The only movement is a great dark bird

Gliding below moonlit clouds.

 

I arrive at a mailbox marked specially for air mail.

The sound of the lid is loud in the stillness.

Far in the sky, the waiting bird hears,

And with a screeching cry plummets to earth,

Seizes the box in its talons,

And carries it off

Into the night.

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INVASION BY AIR AND WATER (Snapshot)

(11/13/84)

 

A child stands near the Border blowing bubbles.

As the wind carries them across,

The guards on the other side try to shoot them down.


PROBABLY SOMETHING but not   2/23/85

PUTTING PERRIER IN YOUR BATTERY BECAUSE ONLY THE BEST IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOUR CAR

And another related idea is that when you have a number of closely related alternatives, the most expensive is to be preferred with the others following in descending order of cost. This seems to be assumed in some forms of social intercourse even though it may not be true in fact. When taking someone out to a restaurant, for example, more expensive is assumed to be "better" even if it isn't. [for whichever Minneapa it makes it into (185? 186??)]


On childhood being wonderful, I remember one third or fourth grade teacher telling us that that was the happiest time of our lives. I still don't believe her.

Why not just junk the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and substitute the oath of office whereby one pledges to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic? One could argue that citizenship is an office with duties and responsibilities, and that the oath of office is therefore appropriate for all citizens.

And no, I'm not thinking of the physical piece of paper on display in the National Archives so much as the ideas behind it all, including such things as limitations on government power, checks and balances, and the concept of an enduring framework that outlives the people performing within it and provides for orderly change. (9/5/89)

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Electoral College Alma Mater(10/28/92)

to a tune something like "Far Above Cayuga's Waters," I think

 

Electoral College, we all sing this song to thee.

You are small in some things, but you're big politically.

Electoral, Electoral, Alma Mater dear.

Evermore we'll sing thy praises, each election year.

 


PROBABLY SOMETHING like maybe

Federally Sponsored Riots

 

The first step is to tell the people that if they really want riots, then they might as well get government assistance and have better riots than they could get up by themselves. Then Congress would pass a riot bill, naming a Secretary of Riots and authorizing money for the project.

After the money is appropriated, the various posts are filled with various political appointees, and ghetto dwellers are hired for the local positions. These people then get down to such things as setting schedules, allocating territory to various looters and snipers, scheduling burnings not to conflict with looting, assigning lists of what to loot, and the hundreds of other details that go into a successful riot, including radio and TV coverage.

While this is going on, it is almost certain that there will be delays, foul ups, feuds and other hang ups within the program so that the schedule slips from its originally announced year to two years or even longer. By that time, such a scandal has developed for aid-to-riots money that has been diverted off into side programs and even individuals' pockets that it becomes necessary for the President to fire most of the people originally appointed and hire new people, thus setting the date back another year or so.

With the proper luck, the whole thing will develop such a tangle of red tape, insurance frauds, and general boondoggle that the riot will eventually be cancelled completely after having been postponed and rescheduled several times over a period of several years, thus proving that bureaucracy is good for something after all.

 

 

 

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METER MADNESS (1/29/79)

 

One morning recently on the way to work,

I encountered a crew cutting little holes in the sidewalk and planting

parking meters.

 

That brought back memories from high school days

of a summer job on the parking meter farm,

tending cuttings while they took root

and grew to the proper size for the streets.

 

Cuttings?

 

Yes, you could grow them from seed but they might not breed true.

They pick up pollen from wild strains

or even now and then mutate

to offer sixty-two thousand years for a quarter

or else maybe fourteen point three nanoseconds for some coin not yet invented.

With cuttings, you know what you're getting

and besides, most varieties are seedless

to allow no chance for a half-forgotten meter on some deserted side street to go to seed,

scattering to the wind

to sprout in the most awkward places.

 

Few things can match the fury

of some quiet suburban homeowner

finding his lawn infested with parking meters,

not to mention the possibilities of interbreeding

with fire hydrants,

street lights,

and newspaper vending machines.

 

So now they use the seedless types

and give them anti-growth hormones

so they won't get too tall

and the roots won't invade the sewers.

Like, how would you like to get up in the night for a call of nature

only to find, emerging straight and proud

from the toilet bowl:

"TIME EXPIRED"?

I hear it used to happen,

and that's how they got the idea for the pay toilet.

 

But that's another story,

along with the rumors that they're working on new breeds

for the indoor potted plant market

to replace African violets and cacti and catnip

and even hanging plants

(by crossing them with Salvador Dali's watches).

That sounds kind of interesting,

as long as no one comes around

to give out tickets.

Back to index

 


FOOD SLATTING

 

"Well, since you have now admitted that you don't know how to slat your food,

I guess it's time to head for the nearest euthanasia center."

(written by Celia Chapman, in APA-L, typoing "salt" into "slat)

 

California has never required that, such laws being confined to a few states mainly in the Midwest and South. And the popular image of surprise police roadblocks and on-the-spot food-slatting tests is almost entirely a myth perpetrated by the movie industry. It was tried a few times as a spy-catching scheme when we were at war with a certain country where food-slatting was an unknown art, but was found not to work; they did know enough to train their spies in the practice. And the stigma this left on not knowing how to slat food is slowly fading away.

It used to be that food-slatting was taught only in first or second grade, and if you somehow missed learning it there the only recourse was to start school over again at that point, but now many school systems offer remedial courses in it as part of their Adult Education programs. And some colleges, alarmed at the number of entering freshmen who can't slat food (and under pressure from the school systems not to send them all back to second grade) have started offering courses in it also.

For those who don't want to make the public admission implied by going to school to learn food-slatting, there are a number of books and home study courses available. For only a few dollars (plus, if you are too shy to go to your local neighborhood book store, plane fare to some city where you are not known), you can buy a book that explains it thoroughly. Of the many available, some in paperback, the definitive work remains J. Wellington Frumpmeyer's 1937 classic HOW TO SLAT FOOD. It's out of print but can sometimes be picked up at a garage sale or used book store, and there are reports of an upcoming paperback reprinting.

And for those who prefer the visual media, there are plans for an educational TV series, probably to be aired in fall of 1980. So those who don't know how to slat food still have hope that they will eventually be able to lead normal lives. (10/17/79)

 

 

 


 

Something on the non-competitive games discussion reminded me that there is a sort of boardgame that is sold in hundreds of versions and is fairly popular and is usually thought of as being more cooperative than otherwise. One or more players will manipulate the board to achieve a certain common goal, and usually if several are playing there is no attempt to keep track of each individual player's contributions to the whole. Since victory is assured if the players persevere long enough barring defective equipment or missing pieces), there is usually no scorekeeping at all. For those interested, this game is known as a "jigsaw puzzle."

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THE CHRISTMAS CAT

(12/14/86)

 

Once upon a time in a village

In a little mountain valley in Borschtenstein

Lived a wicked millionaire

Whose hobby was foreclosing mortgages

And sending people out into the snow.

He also took great pride in having

The best Christmas decorations in the village.

 

Also in this same village

In the little valley in Borschtenstein

Lived a poor family

Whose mortgage, which came due on Christmas,

Was designed to be impossible to pay off.

The Christmas weather forecast was for snow

And the millionaire's eviction lawyers were waiting.

 

Now this wicked millionaire

In the valley village et cetera, et cetera, et cetera,

Also had the monopoly on Christmas trees

To be sure of having the prettiest Christmas decorations

In the whole village.

Thus the poor family had nothing at all

To put their presents under.

 

Now by chance it so happened

In that village in et cetera, et cetera, et cetera,

The wicked millionaire had evicted his cat

Because its ears and tail were the wrong color

And it hadn't paid its mortgage.

And the poor family had taken it in

And given it a home.

 

So just before Christmas

When the Good Fairies asked the animals of the village

About people in need and deserving of help

The poor family got the highest recommendation.

"We will help them!" said the elves and fairies;

"They won't have to worry about that mortgage,

And they'll have the prettiest Christmas decorations in town!"

 

The mortgage was really not much problem:

If the millionaire couldn't throw people out into the snow

He wouldn't bother throwing them out at all.

So the elves spoke to the North Wind and they agreed:

No more snow to throw people out into.

Some people in the village would have liked snow to play in

But agreed the sacrifice was for a good cause.

 

Christmas trees were more of a problem:

They had already given them out to other needy families

And there were none left at all.

They rummaged around in forgotten corners

But not a Christmas tree could they find.

Then someone had an idea:

"Let's decorate their cat!"

 

While one of the elves who spoke Feline

Worked out the details with the cat

The fairies flew around gathering decorations:

Borrowed bits of light from small stars nobody ever notices,

Streamers of leftover comet tails,

And other assorted trinkets

From odd corners of the universe.

 

So the poor family gathered around their Christmas cat

And sang songs and opened presents

And had the happiest Christmas imaginable,

While all agreed they had the prettiest decorations

The village had ever seen,

And the millionaire's eviction lawyers

Waited in vain for snow.

 

So that is why, to this day,

In that valley village in Borschtenstein,

It never snows

Unless the eviction lawyers are out of town

And every year the millionaire tries to decorate a Christmas cat

But gets nothing for his pains

But bleeding scratches.

 

EPILOGUE:While overnight miracles are rare outside of storybooks,

Even those who learn slowly do learn.

So keep checking the weather reports for Borschtenstein.

If some Christmas it snows there

You will know the millionaire has given up being wicked

And has found a truer meaning

Of Christmas.

Back to index

 


PROBABLY SOMETHING but not   (7/29/73)

A "Used" Lifestyle Lot

Actually, it might be a little more like a cross between guidance counseling and a computer dating service. You go in and either get interviewed or fill out a questionnaire as to why you are dissatisfied with your present surroundings, friends, and lifestyle in general, and what you think you'd want in a new one. After the computer cogitates for a while on this, it tells the humans there which of the subcultures on file you seem to be most suited for, and they get up a package of data on it and arrange introductions to key people to get you started, and perhaps a course in the background and any special skills needed. This may include such things as Serbo-Croatian language, dancing and cookery if you're to join that particular ethnic group, or basic seaman-ship and related skills if you're to sail with the fishing fleets out of New England, or maybe just how to handle a mimeo, ditto and hekto and what some of those strange words in fanzines mean. So if LASFS gets an upsurge of guests recommended by computer dating services or things like that....

 

 

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DISLIKES (in no particular order and sometimes oversimplified) 8/12/76

Having to walk somewhere in the rain; interruptions; places that are overheated in cool weather or overcooled in warm weather; bothering to correct typos; long pants in warm weather; long-sleeve shirts in any weather (if it's cold, add a jacket); ketchup or mayonnaise or salad dressing on hamburgers; candy with nuts in it; candy with peanut butter; mixing foods that don't go together even though they'll end up in the same stomach anyway; onion rings and fries cooked the way I don't like them (onion rings too crisp, fries not crisp enough); restaurant counters where the seat spacing is smaller than my personal space and there's no view of the dining room; smoke-filled rooms; "just sex" and nothing further; tight schedules; not leaving early enough to be sure of not arriving late; broken promises, broken appointments, and stores that don't honor their posted hours; untrustworthy people; people acting as if some set of which I am a member doesn't exist or isn't worth consideration;

Screaming rock singers with snarling electric guitars; any music played too loud; "Who's on First" and other routines based on frustrated communication; when it's "work" to talk to someone (noisy surround­ings, language barrier, person is stoned, half-asleep, etc.); sun in my eyes; loud car/ cycle engines; proving manhood by annoy­ing others; dessert (tends to ruin the aftertaste); mixing music and conversation at parties, concerts, etc.; croutons in salads; sharp vinegary dressings; char-broiling; some of the mischief cats get into; slippery wet sidewalks; situations in which lying is required; cooking for one; people who insist on doing for me things I would rather do myself; homes much dirtier than I keep mine; authorities making people's decisions for them; writing long passages out by hand; ICs soldered directly to a board instead of in sockets; people not believing true statements, especially concerning my thoughts or feelings; favors and services of negative value to the recipient; other.

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THE RECYCLER OF DREAMS (Incident along Fantasy Way) (9/29/74)

 

I had often seen him, in expected places and in unlikely ones -- a kindly old man

Who by his looks ought to be running the toy shop in some quaint European village,

Always with a large sack filled with things picked up from the ground

And an ornate German pipe,

Whose smoke he would now and then blow into someone's face,

Always without being noticed.

 

Driven by curiosity, I made inquiries and we were eventually introduced.

He is the one known,

In those mythologies in which he is known at all,

As the Recycler of Dreams.

 

Through the ages, he has wandered;

Through the halls of kings' palaces,

Along the quiet lanes where lovers linger,

Into bars and taverns and the "In Places,"

Or like a phantom through the walls of prisons or corporate boardrooms

Or research laboratories, and even along glittering Broadway --

All the places where dreams have been dreamed

And broken.

 

There he wanders, not always in the form I saw,

Collecting pieces of broken dreams to make into new dreams,

To distribute around the world.

Humanity needs its dreams and cannot grow or prosper without them.

But reality is hard on dreams and on dreamers.

 

"Take 'Flight,'" he says, for an example.

"I must have picked that one up a thousand times

From the bottom of this or that windswept hill

And blown it, like smoke, into the head of another dreamer,

Until it finally bore fruit.

And others, like 'Perpetual Motion' or 'World Peace' or 'Immortality'

I may be recycling forever,

Along with 'True Love' and 'Winning the Sweepstakes' and 'Being a Movie Star.'

That one has gotten many of you through some dark and stormy nights."

 

"Yes, I see the need for the grand dreams and the smaller dreams

And even the silly dreams.

But what of the darker dreams?

The visions of world conquest, the elusive Perfect Crime, the glory of the Master Race?

Do you handle these also?"

 

"I'm afraid I must," he sighed.

"Regardless of how horrible the possibilities, I cannot label a dream as 'evil'

And put it away on a shelf.

The gods by whose authority I operate say that that judgment may only be made

Not by themselves, as you might expect, but by you mortals."

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PROBABLY SOMETHING like maybe

The Solar System that Isn't There (10/20/66)

 

Well, it's like this. -- There's this spaceship exploring a region containing only old stars -- a region where the stars seem to have formed much earlier than in our part of the galaxy and have all long since finished their main sequence lives. One Sol-type star is conspicuous for its youth -- it seems to be about the same age as our sun.

The explorers decide to visit that system and find some very strange things. The star radiates only in the range from far infrared to far ultraviolet -- no radio waves or X-rays. They find several planets by visual observation, but they don't show on radar. An attempt is made to put the ship into orbit around one planet that looks very much an Earth-type, but the ship keeps flying off on a tangent because the planet has no gravitational field.

They finally just float a few hundred miles above the surface with their radar telling them all the while that there is nothing there and the nearest solid matter is a small amount (a mass no bigger than Earth's moon) in the center of the sun.

They decide that teleporting crew members down without space suits may not be a good idea since a planet that is missing its gravitational field may not have the type of atmosphere the ship's instruments say it has. They teleport down wearing space suits and find a planet that looks like a high civilization just packed up and went somewhere for vacation or something. Cities, parks, oceans, clouds and sunsets are all there and look perfectly real but are not tangible. They can float through buildings, etc. like ghosts through haunted houses, and an observer watching them would be hard put to say which (planet or men) is real and which is the ghost.

Tests show that the planet is real only as far as wavelengths in the range radiated by the sun are concerned, and that for all practical purposes the party is just drifting in interstellar space. Attempts to approach the sun to see what is inside are thwarted by the heat which is practically the same as that radiated by a normal star.

Mystery mounts. If any of the crew is superstitious, a ghost scare might start and spread through the crew. The ship's air, water, etc. are checked for hallucinogens. Nothing is found, but some suspect that the negative readings are hallucinations. The explorers are both awed by the beauty of the planet and frightened by its ghostly nature. Folklore of various planets (from the ship's library) is checked but this strange "Not a Planet" isn't mentioned. Written inscriptions are found on signs, buildings, and other places, but match no known language.

Along about this time, the more telepathically receptive crewmen begin to get a message, as though someone or something is trying to reach them but needs time to adapt itself to their minds. Eventually, they get something to this effect:

"This monument was built by [meaningless name] approximately a billion Earth years ago when the normal course of stellar life cycles forced its makers to abandon their native world and seek new homes elsewhere. It is built to preserve the memory of their origins and to provide a familiar home for the ghosts of their ancestors so they will not be forced to roam the void forever in search of a planet that no longer exists.

"Travelers are invited to explore the images but are asked not to attempt to examine the projector or otherwise despoil this sacred place. The projection system teleports photons into or out of the various parts of the images as required, and is powered by an intangible, undetectably transparent force field which surrounds the galaxy and intercepts just enough of the radiation passing through it to power one Sol-type star.

"It is expected to last several billion more years, until long after its builders are otherwise forgotten and the universe is peopled by species as yet unevolved. The machinery is protected from those who would attempt to learn its secrets for evil purposes.

"This has been a sort of telepathic recording. Linger here a while longer and journey onward in peace, with our good wishes."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to index

 


 

ARITHMETIC LESSON (Incident along Fantasy Way)

(7/30/74)

 

ArithmeticLesson.gif illo

Art: © Phil & Kaja Foglio 1993

 

Arithmetic along Fantasy Way is Different.

You CAN add apples and oranges.

 

TEACHER: "What do you get when you add coaches and pumpkins?"

"Cinderella!" the class shouts back.

"But what else?"

Everybody talking at once:

"You can turn those old junk cars into...."

"But you'll get rotten pumpkins!"

"But they're still biodegradable!"

"Make costumes for cars at Halloween!"

"And string lights on them at Christmas!"

"And hide them at Easter!"

 

Arithmetic along Fantasy Way is Different.

There are no wrong answers.

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HOW THE PORCUPINES LEARNED TO BE TEDDY BEARS AGAIN (1/13/74)

Once upon a time there was an island kingdom full of teddy bears who all loved one another and did all the cuddly kinds of things teddy bears do with those they love. This was the way things had always been and the way they thought things would always be, and they were happy with it.

But one day a fierce dragon flew over from another island and discovered that teddy bears were good to eat, at least if you're a dragon. Time after time the dragon flew over and ate his fill of teddy bears until there were almost none left.

 
Teddy Bear painting 'Please Help Us' sign

Now it so happened that in a castle in the mountains at one end of the island there lived a wise old wizard. Few teddy bears ever ventured into those mountains, but the situation called for desperate measures. So a delegation of teddy bears who were braver and more adventurous than the rest went to the wizard's castle and asked him to help them.

The wizard gave the teddy bears two magic spells. One would turn a teddy bear into a porcupine and the other would turn a porcupine back into a teddy bear.

The next time the dragon flew over to their island the teddy bears all turned themselves into porcupines. The dragon ate a few of the porcupines, but found them prickly and unpalatable.

A porcupine

The porcupines were supposed to turn themselves back into teddy bears when the dragon left, but not all did so. Some felt safer staying porcupines. And indeed, it took the dragon quite a few trips to learn that there weren't going to be any more tender teddy bears to eat.

It took the dragon so long to learn this that a new generation grew up who had never been teddy bears. As soon as they were born their parents, knowing how careless children can be, turned them into porcupines and left them that way. Being porcupines meant they couldn't be cuddly and loving, but they grew up never knowing what they were missing. And the dragon still showed up every now and then, just in case there might be a stray teddy bear or two around.

golden dragon head, breathing flame

In time the new generation of porcupines grew up and had children of their own. Porcupine mothers and fathers weren't able to be as loving to each other and to their children as teddy bears could be, but they sort of managed to bring up another generation somehow. And after another couple of generations the island was full of porcupines who had never known what it was like to be teddy bears.

Then one day a group of porcupines who were more adventurous than the rest were hiking in the mountains when they came upon the wizard's castle. The wizard had died many years before, leaving the castle vacant and forgotten, and they decided to explore. They went through room after room, finding many strange and wonderful things, until at last they found the wizard's diary. And there in the diary they found the story of how the porcupines used to be teddy bears. And they also found the spell that would turn a teddy bear into a porcupine and the other that would turn a porcupine back into a teddy bear.

Being adventurous, this little band of porcupines tried turning themselves into teddy bears. It was scary at first because they knew the dragon could eat them, but being a teddy bear felt so much more like what life was supposed to be all about that they took the risk of being teddy bears.

So the little band returned to civilization with the news that the porcupines could be teddy bears, and that it was a much more enjoyable and loving way to live. Most of the other porcupines were too scared of the dragon to try it, but a few took the chance.

There were sometimes problems. Occasionally a porcupine who was kind of new at being a teddy bear would still have a few quills here and there and would accidentally stick another teddy bear with them. But over time they learned to check for stray quills and say the magic words again to get rid of them. And now and then the dragon would return, but the teddy bears kept lookouts posted to warn them and they were all able to turn into porcupines before the dragon could eat them.

Thus they had the best of both worlds. They had the warm cuddly loving that only teddy bears could experience, but they could also take refuge in the porcupine form when danger threatened.

So do we have a happy ending to this story? Not really, because the story hasn't ended yet. Most of the inhabitants of the island are still porcupines, although every year there are more and more teddy bears at the annual teddy bears' picnic. And perhaps some day all the porcupines will learn how to be teddy bears when they wish and porcupines when they must, and will live happily ever after.

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THE GREAT PYRAMID (1/13/74)

 

You mention "the light and sound shows that were given in the Great Pyramid" as if you were ignorant of them. I thought everybody knew about that. Originally the Great Pyramid was just a hollow shell of smooth stone with the inside surface painted white to serve as a projection screen, much like modern planetarium screens but pyramid-shaped instead of spherical. Light/sound shows were given on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and also at a midnight show on Saturdays. Admission was free to anyone who had passed a course in meditative thought at any accredited School of Pyramidism -- about 1% of the population.

This served a dual purpose -- in addition to entertaining/relaxing the audience, the mental energies released were collected and radiated out into space/time to charge all smaller pyramids to perform their various mummifying and other functions. It is calculated that the pyramid effect was then about 12 to 17 times stronger than it is today. (The effect currently seems to be increasing rather than decreasing, probably due to the establishment of another recharging center sometime in the future. Estimates of its location and strength vary.)

Due to a scandal in the administration of some pharaoh whose name has been forgotten but is right on the tip of everybody's tongue if only somebody could remember it, the giving of light/sound shows was discontinued. The Great Pyramid then sat vacant for about two or three pharaohs, but was eventually put to use storing large blocks of stone left over from some construction project or other. After the abandonment of the project, the Pyramid, now completely filled with stone except for a few small spaces used for construction company offices and broom closets, was used for storage of deceased pharaohs. After another pharaoh or two, it reached capacity and was officially abandoned.

Things would have stood at that point except that the next pharaoh was both a very poor student of history and rather a keep-up-with-the-Joneses type. Seeing this huge pyramid with a pharaoh or two buried in it, he decided he wanted another one of his own when he went. So he had one constructed, interior stone blocks and all, since he didn't bother to find out about the original construction of the pyramid. This started a fad, and the next half dozen or so pharaohs also built pyramids to be buried in until the custom of having pharaohs gradually died out.

It is interesting to note that, of the original pyramid, almost nothing remains. All that is left are the stone blocks stored there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PROBABLY SOMETHING like maybe

That the reason Rome fell was that all the light they had to read by was Roman Candles

which are probably good enough for non-critical reading like carved stone inscriptions where in case of doubt you could feel the letters with your fingers, but I suspect that many of the more discriminating preferred to simply curse the darkness. In fact, it got so bad that in the more crowded neighborhoods, the din of people cursing the darkness prevented others from sleeping, thus setting the stage for the legendary Insomnia Wars. This constant all-night fighting so sapped the strength of the people that soon the barbarians from the north were able to slip in under cover of daylight when everybody was resting up for the next night's fighting. Thus Rome fell.

 

 

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TAKE US TO YOUR POETS

 

I came upon them by a lonely road deep in the wilderness

With something strange hovering overhead.

They'd learned my language, not important how:

"Standard procedures, like hundreds before; no big deal."

But they did have a favor to ask.

"A favor? Like taking you to our leader?"

"Your leader? Eventually.

We should exchange assurances of good faith,

Agree on ground rules, mark the traffic lanes,

Stuff like that. All quite necessary.

But there's plenty of time for attending to that,

And we have more urgent needs.

So take us to your poets,

Your dreamers,

Your dancers in the moonlight.

Those your rulers cannot speak for

Because they make their own worlds

No others can invade or conquer.

 

(awkward pause)

"Uh,...that's all well and good,

But not quite what I was expecting.

Maybe first I should take you to our scientists?"

"Your scientists? Eventually.

We should cross-check our knowledge against yours,

Finding where each can fill the other's gaps

And what each can learn from the other.

But there's plenty of time for attending to that,

And we have more urgent needs.

So take us to your poets,

Your dreamers,

Your dancers in the moonlight.

Those the physical cannot limit

Because they see beyond beyond

And do not stop at 'That can't be.'"

 

(awkward pause)

"Uh,...that's all well and good,

But not quite what I was expecting.

Maybe your ship needs something?"

"Our ship? Eventually.

We are a little low on fuel

And before we leave your world

Certain items will want minor repairs.

But there's plenty of time for attending to that.

And we have more urgent needs.

So take us to your poets,

Your dreamers,

Your dancers in the moonlight.

For we are dangerously low on dreams

And need to relight our inner fires

Without which all worlds are dark and empty."

 

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JAZZ (Incident along Fantasy Way)

(7/29/74)

 

Standing on the bridge over a Mississippi river,

I could almost see the jazz.

Currents of music sliding through the water,

Rippling and eddying and sea-changing

Up the river from New Orleans.

 

And in Memphis and St. Louis and Wherever,

Jazz in the water supply?

Faucets dripping music late at night when sleep won't come;

Cool rhythms in your hot coffee in the morning;

Blues oozing from the gravy at dinnertime;

A hot trumpet steaming up the bathroom after a shower?

 

Too bad jazz isn't a monster.

It would've made such a nice horror movie.

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...NOR REASON

(5/10/86)

 

As afternoon gave way to sunset orange,

As moonlight came to paint the world with silver,

I wrestled with the rhyming for my poetry

But finally gave up and sent for pizza.

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PROBABLY SOMETHING like maybe

A BOWLING ALLEY WITH PAYING CUSTOMERS AT BOTH ENDS

 

This one is partly my idea, partly that of some others at the Lab party. Imagine an interstellar trade city with people from several systems, including ours, in it. One group or subculture has a game in which they set up 10 bowling pins at their end of a bowling alley and then roll a ball down a channel to the Earthman working at the other end, who then rolls it back to them on the flat part in an attempt to knock down the pins. The aliens have meanwhile made bets on various aspects of the number of pins to be knocked down and the pattern of those (if any) left standing. It's partly a game of chance and partly a game of skill, in that those who are familiar with the abilities of the various knockdowners (as the Earthmen who roll the balls to knock down the pins are called) may have some advantage in knowing the best way to bet.

FFI

(printed in The Best of APA-L #3, 1966-1968)

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TO BE A MARTIAN(1/20/70)

 

Let me tell you a little of what it feels like

To be a Martian,

One of the millions exiled to Earth and passing as human.

All shapes, all sizes, all colors.

I cannot tell you the reason we were sent here

Except that we mean no harm

And that nothing could be further from the truth

Than the endlessly repeated tales of

Horrors from the Red Planet.

 

Although that's an annoyance,

What really hurts is having to hold my tongue

When someone I consider a friend

Starts badmouthing Martians

And telling how he would prove his loyalty to Earth

By tearing tentacle from slimy tentacle

Anything he meets

That looks like his idea of a Martian.

Even that would be bearable

Except that most Martians,

All but a few who venture

To congregate in desolate places,

Are disguised so well

That they are seldom known even to one another.

And there is a tradition,

As old as the Martian race

And established with good reason,

That a Martian may love

Only another Martian.

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PROBABLY SOMETHING but not

Trying to satisfy everybody by having Daylight Saving Time year-round

But only half of every day (11/1/73)

 

The way it would work would be for everybody to set their clocks ahead at 2 in the afternoon, and then set them back again at 2 in the morning. Thus the pro-daylight-saving faction gets their late sunsets; the antis get their early sunrises, and labor gets shorter work weeks, while everybody (except maybe night workers) gets an extra hour of sleep. And everybody will get so much practice setting clocks back and forth that nobody will ever get confused about it again.

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G:"What's the date?"

L:"April 43rd."

G:"I thought April only had thirty days."

L:"Well, about three weeks back, I noticed a store advertising an APRIL SALE, so I stocked up.

I've got another six weeks of it left, but I may save some of it for next year."

G:"I noticed that sign, but I didn't think that's what they were selling, and I don't really care that

much for April anyway.  I can take it or leave it."

 

WhatsTheDate.gif illo

Art: © Phil & Kaja Foglio 1993

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OPENING OTHER EYES

(4/27/82)

 

Children, we must leave you,

No more to be with you

As you dance the Moon

And the harvest and the Sun.

 

Children, we must leave you,

No more to remind you

As you dance through life

That the world and you are one.

 

It is time we left you

To other gods

For a while.

 

Yes,

Children we must leave you

To gaze into darkness

Till you truly see

How the waking world is run.

 

Children, we must leave you

Adrift in the darkness,

Till you've touched the Moon

And have sailed beyond the sun

 

With the gods of numbers

And here-and-now

For a while.

 

But

Children, we'll be with you

To help you remember

And to wisely use

The power you'll have won.

 

Children, we'll be with you,

Rejoining, rejoicing,

When those other gods

And you and we are one,

 

And it's then you'll see

Why we had to leave

For a while.

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PROBABLY SOMETHING but not

    A Strange, Secret, Shadowy Cult of Elevator Worshippers (9/9/76)

of which little is known except that members of some sects ride elevators at every opportunity in the belief that this brings them closer to their God, while others hold that to ride an elevator without having been ritually purified is to profane the Deity. These latter when on ordinary mundane business always take the stairs.

But if you're waiting in a tall building late at night the elevators don't come and don't come and don't come but now and then from beyond the closed doors you hear strange chanting now and then passing by, you'll know the reason.

 

 

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THE TYPO (Incident along Fantasy Way) (8/14/74)

 

The first the manager knew of the error

Was when the clap of thunder woke him at dawn.

There in the crater where the swimming pool had been

Stood a stone tablet

Inscribed

 

We do not in the foreseeable future

Plan to rent from you.

Nevertheless, we feel impelled

To protest your policy.

 

and signed by Loki, Kali, Thor, YHVH, Pele, Venus,

Osiris, Fingal, and many more names --

Some familiar, most not.

 

Half knowing what to expect,

He looked out front,

Then picked up the phone.

"Hey, stupid!" he roared at the sign painter,

"You're getting words backwards again.

It's supposed to be

'No DOGS Allowed.'"

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Then there's the agricultural region that once had an annual fertility rite consisting of a "marriage" between the earth and one of the young men of the village. According to the ritual, a ditch was dug in one of the fields and the man led to its edge where a marriage ceremony was performed.

Afterwards came a wild celebration, starting with the traditional order to ring all the bells in town: "Ding dong, the ditch is wed!" (6/22/67)


DISCOUNT PLANETS (Incident along Fantasy Way) (7/28/74)

 

"DISCOUNT PLANETS" says the sign that caught my eye,

And I stand in front of the place, torn by indecision.

On the one hand, I am terribly late to somewhere or other

And if I linger, I will be later still.

But stores, like everything and everybody else along and about this street,

Are compelled always to wander,

So there may be no such thing as "I'll come back later."

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IDEA CRISIS (Incident along Fantasy Way) (8/16/74)

 

Things are quiet tonight.

Too quiet.

There is a severe inspiration shortage.

 

Downtown is silent and dark

With rolls of sidewalk stacked in the parking lots.

Store windows are empty, and none of the signs say anything.

I try making noise, but the echoes are only echoes.

 

Two people are conversing on a street corner.

"Hey, what's happenin', man?"

"Nothin'. What's happenin' with you?"

"Nothin'. What's happenin' with you?"

"Nothin'."

Back and forth endlessly.

 

Most of the news racks on the next corner are empty.

A couple have blank papers,

And one headlines NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS

Over a full-page picture of a Smile Face.

 

My favorite DJ is on the radio, announcing

That his station will be playing elevator music until further notice.

 

Finally I conjure up a press card and inquire at a police station.

The desk sergeant looks up from his crossword puzzle

And says that the last several days have passed "without incident."

 

So it looks like I have nothing to write about

This time.

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Q:I was trying to run a program I'd written for my computer, but PutriDos keeps giving me "Emulator Not Found" messages. Why?

A:When PutriDos starts to run a program, it analyzes the machine code to determine what machine it was written for, then calls the appropriate emulator. This is to increase portability of software. Unfortunately, it means you can't run programs actually written for your machine. Rewrite it for some other system and then yours will run it OK. You could try writing an emulator to let your machine emulate itself, but you'll have to write it for some other system so it won't call itself recursively and hang up in a loop. (6/10/84)

 

* "ERROR 12 means the 12th error the writers of this program thought of to include in the error list."

-- PutriDos system manual. (5/22/90)

 

Q:I was trying to do a disk backup when PutriDOS asked if I wanted to format the source disk first. I answered N for "No" but it went ahead and did it anyway. How come?

A:In order to compete on the world market, PutriDOS recognizes all foreign language input. Since the Greek word for "yes" starts with N, it took that for an affirmative. S for "Si" or O for "Oui" or any other letter that stands for Yes in any language will also do this. The safest thing to do is to drop into the debugger, trace through to the conditional branch where this is tested, and restart execution on the "No" path. (8/23/84)

 

Q:Each time I bring up the PutrED text editor, the menus seem to be a bit different from the way I remembered them from last time. I'm never going to be able to learn the system at this rate.

A:You're not supposed to be able to learn this system. The programmer who wrote PutrED felt that people who had regular access to computers were getting an unfair advantage over those who didn't. Therefore, the menus are set to come up different each time so that frequent users won't be able to memorize them and become "experts." (11/8/84)

 

Q:I was editing a file in PutrED and deleted the closing paragraph. After I finished, I found that another file had stuff missing off the beginning. What happened?

A:It sounds like you deleted that final paragraph by holding down the line-delete bar in auto-repeat mode, and deleted past the end of your intended file. Instead of giving a DELETE PAST END OF FILE error, PutrED simply assumed you wanted to continue deleting from the next file on the disk. The recommended way to delete near the end of a file is to go into subtraction mode and retype the stuff you want to delete, just like with a correcting typer ribbon. You might also want to make a simple hex patch to redefine the line-delete bar as tabs or something else safe. (11/22/84)

 

Q:When I tried to run a Blurpo Pasquale program I'd written (see source file on enclosed disk), my printer vanished. How can I get it back?

A:Blurpo Pasquale, like many other languages, allows devices to be treated as if they were files. While this simplifies input and output routines, especially if the user is to be given a choice of where to send the output, there are hazards. Your program has stumbled into one of them. You evidently modeled the program after one that wrote to a disk file, and at one point you assigned the printer to a file and then deleted that file. On most other systems, deleting a device either does nothing or produces an error, but PutriDOS simply goes ahead and does as it is told. The best chance of getting it back is to run a file recovery program. These programs, which are commer- cially available and advertised in such magazines as PUTRID COMPUTING, should restore your printer if you have not placed some other object (such as a cat) in the space the printer formerly occupied and have not since connected any other device to the printer port. (1/12/87)

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PUTRIDOS UPDATE (3/26/89)

 

Q:I notice that when I boot up my computer I get the message "Control-Alt-Backslash to preserve hard disk contents, any other key for low-level format." Since this machine is sometimes used by novice users, I'm kind of paranoid about losing my data. What's your advice?

 

A:It appears you have the Penalty BIOS, version 3 or later. As you may know, this is a product of PutriHard, a PutriSoft subsidiary that also makes disk drives and controllers. The first PutriHard drives were rather unreliable, so that anyone booting their computer was assumed to be doing so because they had just replaced the hard drive. Since the first thing you do with a brand-new hard drive is a low-level format, provisions for such were included in the BIOS. In those days PutriHard hard drives were used much like RAM drives are today: Boot from the floppy, format the hard drive before copying your program files to it, and copy any new or modified files back to floppy before you shut down or the drive crashes, whichever comes first. Later, as hard drives became more reliable, it became common for machines to be rebooted with valid data already on the hard disk. Thus in version 3 of the BIOS, the Control-Alt-Backslash option was added to allow users to skip the reformatting. We realize the preceding may not allay your concerns about novice users, but at least you now know why the system is set up as it is.

 

Q:Why is PutriHard's BIOS named "Penalty BIOS"? Is it true that it got its name because people were forced to use it as punishment for computer crimes.

 

A:Not really. Although a few judges have tried that, most were overruled on Eighth Amendment grounds ("cruel and unusual punishment'). The name was actually an attempt to steal some of the aura of the "Award BIOS," which is well thought of in the industry. We wanted a similar-sounding name, and "Penalty BIOS" is as close as our lawyers felt it was safe to get.

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I once had occasion to do consultation for someone writing a video game to run on a PutriDOS system. He was using Turbid Pasquale. One difference from your example was that the game involved guys with sun lamps chasing vampires. Since light goes by an inverse square law, what was important was the square of the distance rather than the distance itself. Thus instead of taking the square root I had to check distance squared.

This ran a little slower than I liked, but I got an idea. The game had other monsters that moved sort of like chess rooks: horizontally and vertically only, no diagonal motion allowed. The area such a creature could reach by moving a given distance was a diamond-shaped region centered on its initial position. Whether something else was inside such a region was relatively simple to calculate. By making the effective distance equal to the square root of two times the effective radius of the sun lamp, the diamond-shaped region would be just large enough to include the cases of interest. Therefore I could use it as a screening test. That sped up the program significantly when large numbers of vampires and sun lamps were on the screen.

There was some kind of obscure bug in the compiler such that any use of simple addition or subtraction caused the system to format all the drives and attempt to reboot. I therefore had to use trigonometric and exponential forms. I ended up with the following, where Kill Radius was a constant, and x and y were components of relative distance.

 

 

If ln (exp(abs*(x)) * exp*(abs(y))) < (Sqrt(2) * KillRadius then

If (x/Cos(ArcTan(y/x)) * x/Cos(ArcTan(y/x)))) < (KillRadius * KillRadius)

Then close := true

 

This worked pretty well. But I don't think I'll ever use Turbid Pasquale again if I can help it unless they fix that bug. You can't imagine the frustration of having worked far into the night on something, only to slip up and get the dreaded series of messages:

"+" or "-" encountered in expression

Formatting All Drives

Format Complete, Rebooting

Disk boot failure

which meant I'd have to start all over again.

 

LATE NEWS: There was recently some kind of scandal about one of the writers of Turbid Pasquale owning stock in a company that makes slide rules. Maybe now they'll fix that bug. (5/25/87)

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PUTRIDOS UPDATE (2/15/88)

 

Q:Recently I acquired a shareware copy of P-U-write 27.33. When I tried to run it, not only did it not work but my printer disappeared. I thought it might have been deleted as if it were a file, but running the undelete utility didn't bring it back. What's wrong?

 

A:You were the victim of a practical joke. That version of P-U-write is fake. You are correct in suspecting something to do with treating the line printer as a file, but it has not been deleted. Instead, the Hide File attribute was set, and your printer is therefore hidden. It is somewhere around the house. Since that version of PutriDOS has very little creativity in such matters, your printer is almost certainly either under your bed, behind your refrigerator, or at the bottom of your laundry hamper.

 

Q:After deleting a file in error, I tried to recover it with UNDELETE 47.08. Not only did it not bring the file back, but the whole system started sort of swaying back and forth, and has been swaying ever since. What happened?

 

A:The programmer responsible for UNDELETE 47.08 couldn't spell, and by mistake coded it as "UNDULATE." The vendor, in order to maintain customer good will, is working on an UNDUNDULATE program to fix the problem. Until it is ready, you'll just have to live with the swaying.


Cross-time travelers have reported a number of universes as having vanished. It is thought by some that this is the result of careless use of WordScar (Version 43.89 and earlier) on PutriDOS systems. If you try to delete a block of text but have the block-end marker ahead of the block-beginning marker, the system will proceed to delete everything outside (rather than inside) the block in question. With the universe, including the computer, gone, there is nothing to hold the block of text so it then vanishes also. An addendum to the manual is being considered to alert users to the potential problem. A suggestion to write an UNDELETE program and have the Clarinchi run it in any universe that does not now exist but once did is not being taken seriously. (3/6/88)

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A week or so ago, the newspapers blossomed out with stories of new UFO sightings, some of them in the Los Angeles area. Since I have never seen a UFO, I decided to go look for them. On a reasonably clear night recently, I went to a spot in the hills north of town, away from the bright lights of the city, and settled down for an evening of skywatching. Results are tabulated below.

Number Seen Item
15airplanes
7meteors
6interstellar message pods
2two-man hypercraft (that secret Tau Cetian base in the Tehachapi Mountains must have had a busy night.)
1helicopter
1the Goodyear Blimp
3galactic sightseeing ships disguised as Goodyear Blimps

 

I am very disappointed in that at no time during the entire evening did I see an Unidentified Flying Object. Maybe some other time.... (3/31/66)

UFO illo

Art: © Phil & Kaja Foglio 1993

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"Hello, observatory, this is a Famous Composer. I've written this musical work with one movement for each planet, and it didn't feel right until I put in one extra movement at the end. You think you might be able to do a quick look around for undiscovered planets? From the tone of the music, it should be very small, very cold, and very lonely, if that's any help." (3/1/76)

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Moon???

written 1968? revised 3/16/92

Go to http://www.conchord.org/xeno/digby/index.html to hear Tom Digby sing a version of this.

 

Have you ever been to a part of the world

where people don't believe in the Moon --

And saying that you've seen it

brings howls of cruel laughter?

Where the silvery light shining in the night

is a thing that defies explanation

And the tides are caused by the breathing of the oysters?

 

Have you ever been to a part of the world

where people don't believe in the Sun --

And everyone is acting

just like it wasn't shining?

Where to walk down the road in the midday heat

you are careful to carry a lantern,

Or you have to move as if stumbling in the darkness?

 

Have you ever been to a part of the world

where people don't believe in the Moon --

And people that've seen it

are locked up in the nut house?

Where the young lovers go out beside the sea

and they watch the reflections of nothing

And they never talk about what they think they see there?

 

Have you ever been to a part of the world

where people don't believe in the Rain --

But keep on getting wet

without any earthly reason?

Where you go with your friends for a picnic lunch

while you fear what you'd better not mention,

And it's just delusions you have to come in out of?

 

Have you ever been to a part of the world...

where people don't believe...

in Love?

 

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A "Law of Exit" [would be] a way of dealing with oppressive governments. Basically, it would be an international agreement that so long as a government allows anyone who wants out to leave, it can oppress those who choose to stay to its heart's content. Those who wanted to leave would be able to do so only if they had some place to go to, such as some other country that would agree to take them or else some uncommitted place they could colonize, and once someone left, the country they departed from would be under no obligation to take them back. There would also be no guaranteed right to take property out of a country.

In the weaker form of the law, the right to leave would be limited to free, competent adults. In the strong form (intended for such as Russian dissidents who get labeled as "criminal"), it would include even convicted criminals. Again, you would have to have some place to go to before you could go, and you'd have to agree to whatever conditions your destination country set. F'rinstance, if you were on Death Row for a string of brutal murders, and some country agreed to take you only because they were opposed in principle to the death penalty, they might accept you only on condition you went to prison upon arrival, giving you a choice between death at home and a life sentence in exile. And minor children might (or might not) have to wait until they reached some age of consent. (1/15/84)


"Man seems designed as a problem-solver. Those with no problems are almost as bad off over the long term as those overwhelmed by problems.. Those just managing basic survival are better off than either class just mentioned. Choosing someone else's problems for them without prior consent (consent as in taking a job where you get paid for solving problems given to you) borders on slavery. If someone wants to go off and subsistence farm for themselves and their companions, that's their business, but they shouldn't push it onto other people by restructuring society to require that everyone be subsistence farmers. The most fortunate people are those who are able to choose their own prob­lems. This latter class includes most artists, since artistic creation is a form of self-chosen problem. Fans are also among the fortunate in that much fanac is also self-chosen problems." (2/21/85, 4/15/93)

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At a convention recently, I was in a conversation in the con suite and kind of wished we could look up some of the things we were talking about. Perhaps the well-tempered con suite should have for use by the members a set of reference books including dictionaries, the HANDBOOK OF CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICS (aka "Rubber Bible"), an atlas or two, and so on. The cost in any one year need not be very great, since the books would become part of a permanent (except for normal wear and tear) collection which could grow from year to year. (3/28/84)


I always thought the term "nuclear family" meant it was "centralized," but I've also had thoughts of a soap opera titled "Nuclear Family" about a family living in a nuclear power plant where the children now and then play in the control room even though they're not supposed to and are constantly leaving the containment door open (11/22/84)


One Theory of the Universe goes as follows. The physical universe as we know it exists only as a simulation in a computer in a higher-order universe. This machine has been programmed with the physical laws of this universe and can make it seem real to any mind whose senses are tied into it. Such things as quantum effects and the Uncertainty Principle are at least partly due to the machine being able to compute only so many digits (so everything is rounded to the nearest possible value) and not having enough memory space to keep track of every particle.

Since people from the higher universes visiting ours sometimes need help, a set of subroutines was set up to be activated by persons in this universe saying certain words or making certain gestures, etc., so they could have greater-than-normal control over this reality. Thus Magic Spells.

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"Well, my pa taught me to whittle when I was just a kid, so when they told us in school about how some polyhedrons were stable on some faces but unstable on others so they would fall over if you tried to set them down that way, it occurred to me to try to whittle one that would be unstable on every face, so that no matter how you set it, it would fall over. It was a bit trickier than I thought it would be, but after a half-dozen tries, I finally did it. Very weird-looking thing it was, with about twenty or thirty sides to it, and no matter which one you set it down on, it would fall over onto another one.

 

"Problem was, and I'm ashamed for not having thought of it sooner, that however it landed after it fell over, that was unstable too, so it would fall over again. And again. And again. It was rather amusing at first to see it rolling around the floor all over the room, but it got tiring after a while, and I gave it one of the neighbor kids for a play-pretty. It was fun for a day or so, but then when they got ready to go to bed it wouldn't stay on the shelf with the other toys. They put it in a bureau drawer, but it kept banging around like a trapped animal so none of them could get any sleep, and they finally got mad and heaved it out the window.

 

"If I'd thought of it, I could've made a nest out of cloth rags or something for it, but I didn't. So anyway, they tossed it out, and last they saw of it, it was rolling up the road to Center Junction which is the nearest big town to here. I hear tell of how it was rolling out of dark alleys scaring people at night, but I don't really put any stock in that. Somebody says if I make a batch more they could probably sell 'em to tourists in the general store, but that sounds too much like work to me." (9/16/76)


Your mention of humanity's responsibility toward Gaia reminds me of an extension of the Spaceship Earth analogy. You have a spaceship containing a small number of passengers who have been living on minimum rations doled out by the ship's automatic systems. The ship will provide for them indefinitely at that level, but if they want more than bare subsistence for a small number, the automatic mode can't supply it. Some of them have started twiddling the controls to get more and have had some success, but they've upset the equilibrium, and alarms are starting to sound. So their choice is to either lower their numbers and standard of living to what the fully automatic mode can handle, or else find the manuals and study them until they become a fully capable crew. (In our world, it's scientific study instead of reading manuals, but I think the analogy otherwise holds.) (7/16/92)

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NEIGHBOR CAT(Incident along Fantasy Way) (8/10/74)

 

I don't know the technical term for it,

But my next-door neighbor keeps turning into a cat.

 

It started when she was born --

The building had a rule:

"No dogs, no children." Cats were OK.

Her parents didn't want to move right then,

So they went to somebody a friend of theirs knew

Who was a wizard on the side.

NeighborCat.gif illo

So, whenever the landlord heard a baby crying

And came knocking on the door to tell them:

"Either the kid goes or you go!",

All he ever found

Was a little kitten.

 

There were, of course,

Problems.

A kitten in diapers would never do,

So she always went naked.

And the only toys she could have

Were things like rubber mice and balls of yarn.

And even in human form,

She was sensitive to catnip.

But in general it worked.

 

By the time she started school,

They had moved to a house in the suburbs.

They were going to get the spell lifted Real Soon Now,

But they never did,

And when she learned to control it herself,

She decided to keep it.

 

So now on moonlit summer nights

When the city is quiet

And rooftops and alleyways beckon

Like mountains and canyons in some exotic land,

And several of her friends

Whose parents knew people who knew that same wizard

Come howling beneath her window,

She is off,

Into the night,

Shadow among shadows,

Rejoicing.

 

Art: © Phil & Kaja Foglio

1993

 

 

 

 

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PROBABLY SOMETHING but not   (12/28/77)

Public Time Machines: Just set the dials, drop a coin in the slot and away you go.

Quite likely 99% of the trips would be nothing more significant than getting to work on time after sleeping late, or taking a vacation when you want to, even if it doesn't fit the office schedule, but still....

"Zarmon stood alone in Times Square in the almost-midnight cold, in an emptiness that the jubilant crowds surging around him could do nothing to dispel. In a few minutes, the lights on the tower would proclaim another new year, a year without Saraya. Suddenly the thought of entering a year without her became unbearable. He just wouldn't do it! He began to shoulder his way through the throng to a cluster of booths on the sidewalk. He was almost too late. The crowd had begun to shout the countdown of the final seconds as he stumbled into a vacant booth and closed the door behind him. The dials were set for last July -- good enough. Without looking at the fine settings, he shoved a quarter in the slot and pushed the button. Instantly the view through the glass cut from midnight New Year's revelry to workaday traffic sweltering under a mid-afternoon summer sun. He stood blindly, almost drowning in memories until an impatient pounding on the door roused him from his reverie...."

Maybe it goes on to develop that various experiences he goes through after losing the girl result in the correction/overcoming of various flaws in his character, and that the vague, unidentified other man he had lost her to turns out to be a later, more mature version of himself. The story might even end with them together in that same Times Square crowd, seeing himself go into the booth and vanish.

I suspect that a society with such time travel might become too alien to write about. Even the simplest things like bus schedules would change. Why go to a lot of trouble to clear snow off the streets and run buses during such horrid weather when people could just as easily travel last summer? And is someone who has vanished by virtue of having murdered his grandfather immune from prosecution, or are the police busy trying to cause such hypothetical people to be born so they can be arrested and brought to justice? (But if the crime is prevented, can someone still be punished for it?) Etc.

I could also see stories about Scrooge-like characters who always avoided Christmas until something changes them. Over-saturation of Christmas commercialism would also be self-defeating as people would simply stay away from that time of year.

And what of apa deadlines, con bidding, etc.?

 

 

 

 


PROBABLY SOMETHING but not   (9/14/67)

A Vending Machine for Demons

 

You know -- if someone wants to summon a demon for wish-granting or something but doesn't want to go through all the spells, just put money in the machine and push the button, and the selected demon will appear....

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TIME GUM

(10/26/83)

 

If you've always wanted to roam the corridors of time

To meet Shakespeare,

Attend the original Olympics,

Or bumble around with dinosaurs,

And you're the kind of person who prefers hiking to driving,

Then I recommend Time Gum.

 

Some flavors let you chew your way straight into the past

That you've always read about in history books,

While others take you crookedly into other pasts

Of dragons and wizards and fairy tale princesses,

And still other flavors give you the future.

 

I could say more about futures,

But some people feel it's like telling the ending to a movie you haven't seen yet,

Or opening your Christmas presents early

And having nothing to do on Christmas morning but sit around wishing you'd waited,

So I won't.

 

In some ways, Time Gum is very mysterious.

Like, nobody knows when or if

It was or will be or would have been invented.

But most futures are full of warehouses full of it

So nobody really worries about it.

 

Some people wonder if it's safe.

The main danger is cheap imitations that aren't really Time Gum at all

But just regular gum with drugs in it to make you think you're on a time trip

When you really aren't.

 

It seems, however, that dealers in such bogus wares often suddenly find

That their grandparents had no children

And their parents didn't either,

And neither will they, probably,

So it's never really been a problem.

 

Still, it's safer to buy from someone you trust.

Just ask your friends to recommend someone.

Chances are they can,

Since Time Gum is not as rare as you might think.

 

F'rinstance, if you've ever endured banquet speeches

That seemed to drone on and on forever,

Or been enjoying a concert when it ended all too soon,

Chances are that some of the lumps stuck to the bottom of your seat

Are or were or will be or might have been

Time Gum.

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DO YOU ENVY THE WIND

 

 

Original tune; chords to the key of Em

Barry does a simultaneous hum and whistle on the ooh that ends the chorus

(Go to http://www.conchord.org/xeno/digby/index.html to hear Ted Johnstone sing this.)

sheet music thumbnail
Get the sheet music

Do you envy the wind?...

Do you lie awake nights and wonder -- where it's going, where it's been

What faraway place it blew in from today

And where it will be, come tomorrow?

Do you envy the wind? (Oooh--Ooh--ooh--ooh--Ooh)

 

It blows through the mountains and forests and deserts,

The magical places you've dreamed of,

Exploring from here to the ends of creation,

With nothing to force it to linger.

 

It blows anywhere, any time that it wants to

With no one to give it a schedule,

Passing by borders and castles and kingdoms,

Without ever asking permission

 

Do you envy the wind?

 

Do you lie awake nights and wonder -- where it's going, where it's been

What faraway place it blew in from today

And where it will be, come tomorrow?

Do you envy the wind? (Oooh--Ooh--ooh--ooh--Ooh)

 

But doesn't its howling sound lonely sometimes

In the gathering dark of the evening,

Wandering on to the end of forever,

With never a friend or companion?

 

It blows through the crowds, finding no one to talk to,

'Cause no one remembers its language;

Wherever it wanders is all just the same

With no hope of a love to come home to.

 

Do you envy the wind?

 

Do you lie awake nights and wonder -- where it's going, where it's been

What faraway place it blew in from today

And where it will be, come tomorrow?

Do you envy the wind? (Oooh--Ooh--ooh--ooh--Ooh)

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MISCELLANY

 

HE EATS THE STARS

 

He eats the stars.

He stands outside at night and stares and

Eats the stars with his eyes.

It must be nice,

Being able to eat one's stars

And have them too.

(10/14/76)


"I haven't seen you since June. Where've you been?"

"That stupid Wicked Witch got me again."

"Really? What did she turn you into this time?"

"Westercon."

"Really? What was it like?"

"I can't describe it exactly except that the huxter room itched half the time. And now I know where conventions go when they're over, but I can't describe that either." (9/3/73)

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INCIDENT ALONG FANTASY WAY (12/25/74)

 

Somewhere on the way from the Home Stars

To the Lost and Alas Cluster,

In the emptiness between spiral arms,

Hangs a strange construction

Thousands of centuries old

And thousands of centuries deserted.

 

Most of its interior is a museum

Devoted to teaching the language

Of the inscription it was built to display.

 

In memory of the Old Stars

Shining when nothing could see their light

Nor feel their warmth,

Then dying to give us the elements

That we are made of.

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THE POETRY MARKET (11/14/90, revised 10/23/91)

 

[sound of radio being turned on]

 

...and there is a severe writer's block

On the northbound Pasadena Freeway at Avenue 43.

As an alternate, we recommend Figueroa Street

Where inspiration is flowing smoothly.

 

Next traffic report in ten minutes on Station K-P-O-E-T,

And now it's time for the market report:

 

Trading was mixed on the New York Poetry Exchange,

With limericks and sonnets closing sharply higher

On rumors of some poets running out of rhyme.

Sestina contracts held steady,

While blank verse plunged to a new low.

 

Meanwhile in Tokyo, September haiku gained slightly

With most other verseforms closing unchanged.

 

And in the over-the-counter market,

Greeting card verse rallied,

Ending its seasonal decline.

 

Stay tuned to K-P-O-E-T for all the latest poetry reports.

 

[sound of radio being turned off]

illo: PoetryMarket.gif

Art: © Phil & Kaja Foglio 1993


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GEORGIA'S LAWS (7/11/88)

 

There's a convention coming up in Atlanta. I doubt very many fans will be attending, but the following (from 1986) may be useful if you ever find yourself in Georgia.

There's been a bunch of stuff in the news about Georgia's law against sodomy. Since it's possible I might be traveling through that state some day and, while there, may chance to find myself in bed with someone of some sex I'm attracted to, I thought I'd better check up on what all the fuss was about.

One of the local libraries happens to have Georgia law books, and everything is neatly itemized and numbered so you can find it. I looked up "sodomy" [number 16-6-2]. It seems that sticking your male member into the wrong hole, or letting the other person put their mouth on it, is worth up to 20 years in the State Pen, right up there with cruelty to children [16-5-70] and burglary [16-7-1] and advocating violent overthrow of the government [16-11-4].

Since sodomy is such a bad thing and I had the law book handy, I figured I might as well see what the state of Georgia would rather we do instead. Since my hypothetical bed-partner and I are the kind of people who would have done sodomy had it been legal, I imagine the judge would throw the book at us if we got caught doing whatever we decided to do instead. Therefore I only looked at the maximum prison term for a first offense.

I imagine myself in a hotel room in bed with someone I find attractive, and we're going at it hot and heavy, and I notice my sex organ is getting dangerously near a forbidden area. One thing I could do is pick up the phone, dial somebody at random and just breathe hard and maybe describe our problem until my partner and I have calmed down. Even if the person I call thinks it's an obscene phone call, the law [16-11-39] says that's only a misdemeanor. If that doesn't work, I can call in a bomb threat to some store or office building or something, and occupy my mind by imagining the Bomb Squad searching the place [16-11-37]. That can get you 5 years, which means it must be only one quarter as bad as sodomy.

The problem with phoning people is that the phone in many hotel rooms is close to the bed, so the temptation is still there. Better to do something we have to get dressed and go out for. On second thought, we could go out without getting dressed. That's another mere misdemeanor [16-6-8].

Most big hotels have bars. We could get drunk and then drive around until the sexual urge passes. That's normally only good for up to 1 year [40-6-391]. The problem is that if we got in a wreck and killed somebody we'd be sent up for 15 years [40-6-393], which is almost as bad as if we'd gone ahead with the sodomy. Also, it might mess up my insurance record. And what if we got into a wreck and I got killed myself? That's clearly unacceptable.

We could just sneak around houses and look in windows, which is only 5 years [16-11-60]. Just think, we might catch someone else doing sodomy and be able to extort extra spending money from them [16-8-16] for another 10 years. Such a deal!

Another possibility is to go out shoplifting [16-8-14]. If we keep it below $100, it's a misdemeanor. Trouble is, shoplifting makes stores paranoid, and I don't like shopping in paranoid stores.

There's a whole bunch of other stuff that's misdemeanors like spitting on a bus [16-12-120] or smoking in a no-smoking area [16-12-3] or obstructing streets [16-11-43] or willfully or wantonly firing a firearm on Sunday [16-11-105], but they all seem to be bad manners. There are other felonies that are either 5 or 10 years, like unlawful possession of machine guns and the like [16-11-124] or sabotaging public transportation facilities so as to endanger life [16-7-22] or persuading prisoners to mutiny [16-10-55], but they require being able to find machine guns or prisoners or whatever when we need them. Besides, the more I think about it, the less appetizing most of them sound. I'm afraid I'm just not cut out to be a major criminal.

It's frustrating enough to make me want to go out and start a riot, another misdemeanor [16-11-31]. I guess the only thing to do is to go ahead and take our chances doing sodomy like we were going to in the first place. Maybe if we keep it under the blankets, we won't get caught.

(Imagine here the standard disclaimer that this is not Legal Advice, and not to be taken too seriously.)

 

(Those who believe in sexual freedom are hereby given permission to reprint the above and/or to create versions applicable to other states or countries.)

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[To another Minneapa contributor] On the misuse of "legally blind" bothering you because the term falls within or close to your field of expertise, I feel the same way about the terms "positive feedback" and "negative feedback."

The correct definition, as I learned it, has nothing to do with any value judgment about whether the feedback is good or bad or supportive or whatever. If an output of a system is fed back into an input in such a way as to increase that same output, the feedback is positive. Examples of positive feedback include the howling when a P.A. system is turned up too high as well as just about anything to which the term "vicious circle" applies. A more useful cousin to the howling is found in the innards of such things as electronic organs, controlled to generate specific musical tones.

On the other hand, if an output of a system is fed back into an input so as to reduce that same output, the feedback is negative. A thermostat set to cut off the heat when a room gets too warm is a sort of negative feedback system. Steering a vehicle by noticing that you're too far to the left or right and making the appropriate corrections is also negative feedback.

This is a little oversimplified because feedback is often complex (in the sense of complex numbers) but it's close. (2/18/84)

 

 


re donating blood for oneself: Imagine stumbling into bed after a party, thankful you weren't picked up for drunk driving, and later being awakened by special effects in your bedroom. Two police officers materialize, ask your name, and then explain that they're from an alternate world where you didn't make it home that night. They say you're in the emergency room being prepared for surgery, and blood is needed and they would like you to come along to donate. While you're sitting there trying to decide whether to believe any of this, a brief message comes in on one officer's communicator. He acknowledges and says something to his partner, who makes that's-too-bad noises. They then apologize for waking you but it turns out not to be necessary after all, and vanish. (1/6/87)


re citizenship quiz: How about a bunch of multiple-choice questions to be answered on the election ballot itself? The answers are graded by the vote-counting computer and each individual ballot weighted by the % right. If a voter gets 50% of the questions right, hiser ballot is counted as 50% of a full vote, for example. (4/26/88)

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The things I would hope for from a direct mind-machine interface would include data retrieval (a supplement to/substitute for rote memorization), calculator functions (think of a problem and have the answer immediately), more short-term non-volatile memory (equivalent to always having pencil and paper handy), and a good interrupt stack (including the ability to restore mood as well as data). I might also want a loosely-coupled connection to something that acts like what we now think of as a computer -- I could visualize the screen and mentally type in commands. Or maybe it would seem like a genie or some such, always standing by for me to describe tasks or dictate APA-L contributions to. In either case, it would be somewhat separate so that I would still be "me." And somewhere in all this (how closely coupled in, I can't say right now) should be some equivalent of a modem for accessing bulletin boards and other people's implants and such.

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SHOTTLE bop

© 1968 Thomas G. Digby [Reset by Barry Gold in Print Music February, 2014] inspired by, but not a description of, the shop featured in Theodore Sturgeon's 1941 story of the same name.

 

Last week I was out, walking all around the town.

When I saw this store, I went in to look around.

The place was dim and dusty, with shelves of bottles from the ceiling to the floor

In that little bottle shop

Called the SHOTTLE BOP — The Shottle Bop Bottle Shop.

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There was something real strange about the things they sold.

Every bottle there's magic, that was what I was told

The man behind the counter said...he had anything I could desire

In that little bottle shop

Called the SHOTTLE BOP — The Shottle Bop Bottle Shop.

 

You can get a real genie in a bottle here:

All you do is pull the stopper out and he'll appear.

And if you're feeling lonely, they have Love Potion Number Nine,

In that little bottle shop

Called the SHOTTLE BOP — The Shottle Bop Bottle Shop.

 

Break:You'll never find it in the telephone directory.
It's not even in the Yellow Pages.
'Cause it's sometimes here and sometimes there
But most times nowhere at all.   But if you have a streak of curiosity
And you could use a little magic,
There's a chance you'll discover it suddenly
While you are out walking.

 

(and return to the verse tune)

You will see some strange things if you go browsing there.

It's like nothing else you've ever seen, I do declare.

You can get an old brown bottle containing a map of a pirate treasure

In that little bottle shop

Called the SHOTTLE BOP — The Shottle Bop Bottle Shop.

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THE DERELICTS: Incident Along Fantasy Way 1840 hr 7/28/74

written 1840 hr 7/28/74; entered 2210 hr 2/08/92

 

Daytime--

The street is subdued, quiet, drowsing in the sun.

Most of the strangeness has faded.

Day is less a time for dreaming.

 

I come upon a sign:

"TO THE SARGASSO SEA" it says,

Pointing to a faint little-used path leading off over a hill.

 

Some sea air would be nice on such a warm day

But it is not to be.

For being, as all are here, in many places at once,

I am also in the supermarket

So my Sargasso Sea is instead

The Valley of Lost Shopping Carts.

 

From all of space and time come the carts that thoughtless shoppers

"Borrow" and neglect to return,

Piled in heaps of rusting confusion, the familiar shapes with familiar store names

Mixed with antigravity platforms from the far future

And with contrivances totally unrecognizable

Save that their function has somehow made them eligible

To be tossed here.

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CLOSEST ENCOUNTER

entered 2315 hr 3/14/84; format 2140 hr 2/08/92

 

The night breeze brings me back to earth

As your love-nest returns to the stars,

To worlds I saw in your eyes

During our closest of encounters.

 

Will our child walk those worlds

Searching strange skies for my star

To wish upon for me?


PROBABLY SOMETHING but not   (12/12/80)

When planning a new city, trying to save money on maps by using the exact same layout as New York or Los Angeles or Minneapolis or some other existing city, like in the movie Alligator: the city was in Missouri (or in some other place that used Missouri license plates), but when they were looking at street maps the pattern was recognizably that of Los Angeles. Of course, such a thing looks a little odd when you have a winding, twisting street named "Laurel Canyon" winding and twisting across a flat plain, or a large wooded area left undeveloped because it's supposed to be San Francisco Bay. And somewhere else the normal rectangular grid goes marching forward, come hell or high water or mountains that officially aren't there or....


I think we'll sooner or later need a redefinition of the "work ethic", and the concepts of "jobs", "earnings" and so on. For one thing, we're now in a system built on the assumption that we'll never be able to produce enough to satisfy everyone's needs and that everyone's labors will be needed, and that one way to force people to labor is to tie entitlement-to-use-wealth, along with defining-one's-individual-worth, to one's labors. I think that assumption is coming into question. We may decide to scrap the concept of "earning one's keep", or we may decide to keep it as an end in itself and introduce inefficiencies into the economy to make it need everybody, but in either case we've got to rethink things. 3/17/84

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One thing I don't like about the present welfare system is that it's only for the poor. I'd give welfare to everybody, including the rich. As it is now, the transition from welfare to non-welfare is a de facto high tax on poverty-level income. And I've heard too many tales of middle-class people having to quit their jobs to go on welfare because someone in the family had catastrophic medical bills that are beyond middle-class resources but would be paid if one were poor enough to be on welfare. (7/17/88)


I'm not sure it's possible to have a school and not teach some moral code. It may be like trying to teach geometry without axioms or postulates. F'rinstance, if someone asks why, while playing softball, it's bad to hit other children with the bat, or why it's bad in general to hurt others, what would the teacher say? If that school does indeed take the position that it is bad for the children to hurt each other, that is a moral position that someone could disagree with. If they try to justify it on pragmatic grounds, they leave themselves open to related questions such as why it is good to be able to have schools or to learn, or even to live one's life. The fact that almost all "civilized" moral codes happen to agree on these doesn't mean that they aren't moral positions that theoretically someone could disagree with.

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TWO HUNDRED MILLION MILLION MILES

Copyright 1966 Digby. First published in APA-L #105, 20 October, 1966

 

When I was young, I left my world behind (two hundred million, million miles)

To seek adventure, to see what I would find (two hundred million, million miles)

 

      Chorus:

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It's a long long, long long, long long way back home.

(Two hundred million, million miles)

Why did I ever get the urge to roam

Two hundred million, million miles?

Two hundred million, million miles?

 

The sunshine's different and the air smells strange (two hundred million, million miles)

The night sky looks a little rearranged (two hundred million, million miles)

      Chorus:

 

Oh, night time finds me looking for my star (two hundred million, million miles)

The star that shines where all my people are (two hundred million, million miles)

      Chorus:

 

I think that I'll be going back some day (two hundred million, million miles)

I'll get on board that ship and on my way (two hundred million, million miles)

      Chorus:

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QUARTER MILLION SUNSETS WORTH OF LONELY

Copyright 1967 Digby. The 1996 edition showed this song as 90 eighth notes per minute. Barry Gold thinks that's way too slow, based on having heard Bruce Pelz and Ted Johnstone sing the song, and that a quarter note equals 90 (i.e. 90 quarter notes per minute) is probably more accurate.

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Em D Em D Em I'm a stranger and alone, (pause) Am F D An orphan out of time, Em C G Em D B7 Wand'ring in a world I know was never meant for me, (pause) Em Am B7 D B7 Em And I'm a quarter-million sunsets worth of lonely.

 

To tomorrow I belong, Em D Em D Em

Full seven hundred years -- Am F G

Further from today than when Columbus sailed the sea -- Em C G Em D B7

And I'm a quarter-million sunsets worth of lonely. Em Am B7 D B7 Em

 

I had meant to spend a while Em D Em D Em

Exploring yesterday. Am F G

Then I found my time machine was stranded on your shore. Em C G Em D B7

And I'm a quarter-million sunsets worth of lonely. Em Am B7 D B7 Em

 

I'm reminded of some lines Em D Em D Em

By a poet yet unborn, Am F G

Written in a language that will someday come to be. Em C G Em D B7

And I'm a quarter-million sunsets worth of lonely. Em Am B7 D B7 Em

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FFI

(published in The Best of APA-L #3, 1966-68)

 

The girl had just seated herself in the bus when the FFI pendant she was wearing on a chain around her neck buzzed. She opened it and held it level, allowing the little needle inside to point directly at the young man sitting across the aisle and a little ahead of her.

"I wonder where I'll meet him," she thought to herself. A month later she had almost forgotten the incident when the man reminded her by moving into the apartment three doors down from hers and introducing himself one day when they happened to meet beside the building's swimming pool........

 

He was standing in front of a newsstand looking at the covers of the magazines when he heard the familiar buzz. He pulled the FFI unit out of his pocket and watched the needle track a couple walking past. A few weeks later, one of the men in his office quit and was replaced by the man he had seen walking down the street. A week or so after that he and his wife were invited over for dinner and a bridge game...........

 

The FFI — Future Friend Indicator — was a little gadget that looked something like a dime store compass but did not point North. Instead it would point to any person not then known to the bearer who would in the not too distant future meet him and become friends. No one knew exactly who manufactured them, how they worked, or why the buzz that announced a future friend was near could be heard only by the person carrying the thing and could not be picked up by any kind of microphone. Investigations were started from time to time but got nowhere. Someone took an FFI apart and found only a "compass" with a non-magnetic needle and a false bottom concealing a folded slip of paper covered with meaningless symbols. Duplicates built by researchers would not work although the originals did work and, according to surveys, worked accurately. Letters were written to the editors of science fiction magazines and other publications about "symbolic psi machines" and other esoterica, but nobody paid any serious attention to them. Sales (at about 50¢ each) continued and eventually almost everybody had one.......

 

He was in an elevator when his wrist FFI buzzed and pointed to a pretty secretary who had just gotten on and was in the process of rummaging through her purse. She pulled out an FFI, looked at it and looked at him. They immediately made a lunch date to discuss when they probably would have been destined to meet if the FFI hadn't introduced them prematurely..........

 

He was sitting at a crowded lunch counter when a large Negro man sat down beside him. Both FFI's buzzed, and they were soon discussing how the things seemed to be pointing out many more "future friends" than they used to and it had gotten so that you introduced yourself immediately instead of waiting for when you would have met, and how some people were saying that the things actually made friends by introducing people. They both noted that their respective circles of friends seemed to include more people of varied backgrounds, and racial and ethnic groups, and that it may have had something to do with the fact that the last few summers had seen fewer riots and other such troubles than previous years. And they STILL didn't know where the FFI's came from........

 

In a deep cavern that had no connections leading to the surface because entrances are liable to be found and you don't need them when you have teleportation, a number of Things clustered around equipment that looked as if it had been sculpture stolen from a far-out art show or something. They stared into the oil slick that spread swirling rainbow patterns over the few inches of water that covered the floor and were pleased. According to the colors around the legs of a large, brightly luminous junk sculpture, the FFI gadgets they were distributing were working as planned. People had gotten used to letting the devices introduce them to each other until the Future Friend Indicators were functioning more as Friend Makers. The selection criteria had then gradually been adjusted from neutral to somewhat xenophilic and the resulting new acquaintances seemed to be slowly wearing away the xenophobia present in so many humans. According to the latest extrapolations, the natives of this planet were considerably less likely to destroy themselves than before, and by the time they developed some form of interstellar conveyance with their weird technology it would be reasonably safe to allow them to spread into the civilized galaxy.......

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IF YOU FIND ENOUGH TO BURY

(printed in The Westerfilk Collection, Volume II)

 

As soon as we had landed on Somethin'r'other Two,

I headed for a tavern, as spacers often do.

I found myself a chair in a corner of the room

And heard again this same old mournful tune:

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As soon as we had landed on Somethin'r'other Two,

I headed for a tavern, as spacers often do.

I found myself a chair in a corner of the room

And heard again this same old mournful tune:

 

Chorus: If you find enough to bury, send it back to Tinnys Sea

Where all my friends and fam'ly are waitin' there for me,

Where hummin'birds are hummin' a cotton-pickin' tune,

And nightingales are howlin' at a moon.

 

It seems there was a young man, a-headin' into space,

Who gets himself in trouble some lost and lonely place.

He knows his life is over, as plain as doom as can be,

And radios one final desp'rate plea:

 

Chorus

 

Now where this Tinnys Sea is, no one can rightly say —

I sort of think it's Terra, so very far away.

Though Terra's just a legend that maybe once was real,

It stands for all the emptiness we feel.

 

Chorus

 

'Twas years ago I followed the siren song to space,

Took off to seek my fortune some strange enchanted place.

I've had my share of good times around the galaxy,

But now and then this song comes back to me:

 

Chorus

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WHERE IS YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE TONIGHT?

written 1/12/80

 

However festive New Year's is for people,

It is a bad time for Christmas trees.

With unemployment pushing 100%

And all their decorations in hock,

They make do as best they can:

Sleeping in trash bins,

Aimlessly hanging around suburban streets,

Or lurking in alleyways

As if waiting to pounce on some unwary victim.

Perhaps some actually do --

I have seen pictures of Christmas trees in jail.

 

Others find their way into other institutions

Including

The Christmas Tree Retirement Homes.

There's one just a few blocks away.

To me, it's rather depressing,

But then I'm not a Christmas tree;

Room after room of almost-bare branches, tarnished tinsel and burned-out bulbs,

And someone constantly playing scratchy records of Christmas carols.

 

There are presents under the trees

But no children to open them.

Santa brings them all through the year

For the trees to watch over

Until his next Christmas rounds --

Something about "smoothing out the work load."

But still, the trees enjoy his frequent visits.

 

Their only really sad time is Christmas itself

When nothing happens but memories,

And the days right after

When a new generation of trees comes in.

 

They see the families bidding their trees farewell

And promising to write or visit often,

But they know from experience

That those promises

Are almost always broken.

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NOT A BUS

(printed in The Best of APA-L #1, 1966)

 

At several locations in downtown Los Angeles, usually near street corners, there are little signs that bear the cryptic message "NOT A BUS STOP." A few weeks ago, the hour of 2 a.m. found me waiting at one of these locations, as per instructions in a note someone I do not care to name had given me. I was half-expecting nothing to happen, and I was standing there feeling a little silly and waiting for it to be late enough to know that I was on a wild goose chase, when a Thing came down the street and pulled to a stop in front of me. I'm afraid it cannot be described except to say that it had seats in/on it, and a sign across the front: "NOT A BUS." I could find no reason to disagree with the sign. I showed the (driver?) the note, and he/it said, "That is not bus fare. Welcome aboard." I climbed in/on the Thing That Was Not A Bus, and it pulled away from the Place That Was Not A Bus Stop, heading south on Broadway.

 

I spent a minute or so glancing around the Thing, wondering about its origins, the nature of what seemed to be the driver, and the destinations of the two or three other passengers that were riding with me. By this time we should have been about at Venice or Washington Blvd., but when I glanced out at the passing scene it didn't look right for that neighborhood. A look at the street signs revealed further strangities. The street we were on was still Broadway, but the cross streets were Zagmuk, Ynglinger, Xnumayo, Wagogo, and on down the alphabet to Diana, Cinyras, Bagba and Abbas the Great. I'm usually not too good at remembering things like that, but my memories of this trip are unnaturally clear for some reason. After these 26 streets was a fairly large, partly wooded park with a lake glimmering in the moonlight. Signs at several locations identified it as "Nemi." The Thing pulled to a stop just beyond the park at a place labeled "Brick Court."

 

The note said that I was to go a few blocks beyond Brick Court, so I continued on foot down Broadway. The first cross street I came to, the Street of Unthought Thoughts, appeared to be filled with fog to the extent that only a couple of hundred feet of it could be seen, followed by a row of globs of light that were the street lamps. A sign on the corner, a directional arrow pointing the way to the Library of the Unwritten just one block down this street, caused me to make a detour in that direction. After I had gone a hundred yards or so along the Street of Unthought Thoughts, I noticed that, although the fog was so thick that nothing of my surroundings, including the sidewalk I was on, was visible, and the street light was only a vague glow overhead, I could see my feet clearly. I then looked the way I had come. Broadway with its lights and traffic was clearly visible, as was the first hundred or so feet of the street I was on, which faded into misty closeness from the clear distance. By the time I got back to Broadway, I was running. The next street was blocked by a plywood wall with a door bearing a sign: "WARNING — This street may be hazardous to your sanity. DO NOT ENTER unless your Eldritchness Quotient is 2.718 or above." Not knowing my E.Q., I gave that street, which was identified only by an illegible sign, a wide berth. Midway down the next block was the surprisingly ordinary-looking building that was my destination.

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DEFENESTRATION(1/27/66)

 

If something has you down,

Makes you worry, fret and frown,

And causes lots of pain and irritation,

You'll be rid of it right quick

If you know this simple trick:

Just use DEFENESTRATION.

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If a friend's electric shaver

Ruins your radio's behavior

With static so you cannot hear the station,

Just tell him that you're feared

He will have to grow a beard

And use DEFENESTRATION.

 

If the TV-watching crowd

Keeps the volume way up loud

And blaring without pause or hesitation,

Just tell them, "That is all,"

Pull the plug out of the wall

And use DEFENESTRATION.

 

If your in-laws all drop in

Time and time and time again,

For a month or two or three of visitation,

They will bother you no more

If you're on an upper floor,

When you use DEFENESTRATION.

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CONVENTION REPORT (Incident along Fantasy Way)

written 0055 hr 9/09/74

 

For a time I thought my Muse had deserted me.

But no, she had only gone to their convention,

And she gave me a partial report.

 

The days were taken up with the official program:

Panels and seminars and papers

On

"Estimating the Connectivity of Disparate Ideas"

And

"New Techniques for the Management of Fertile Minds"

And

"The Topology of the Subconscious in Species of N Dimensions"

And so on, on and on and on,

Until at last,

The late evening social sessions.

 

Here were the constant arguments between the Muses

Of Crime

And of Punishment,

Juicy tidbits from the Muse of Gossip,

Rumors of parties hosted by the Muses of Sex

(Gay and straight and what-have-you),

The Muse of Animated Cartooning crying about hard times

And Saturday morning TV

And being promised help by the Muses

Of Electronic Design

And of Computer Programming.

Crowds held spellbound by the Muse of Witty Conversation

And the bright child-fantasies of Muses

Of arts not yet invented.

 

And, over and through all,

The Eternal Question,

About which event the gods can only speculate:

"Who inspires the Muses?"

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THE INVENTION: Incident along Fantasy Way (written 0215 hr 11/03/74)

 

The wind moans across the gray plains

Like a thing in pain

And will not be comforted.

 

This stretch of road is little more than a trail,

Not scheduled for paving

For another ten thousand years.

 

Behind a crude wagon, four men labor patiently --

Heaving it up onto the corners of its square wheels

To fall to the next side with a resounding crash.

Over and over the process is repeated

As they move slowly along.

 

Sometimes they talk among themselves:

 

"Have you seen the wagon the North Tribe is using?"

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

"You mean the one with the wheels set at angles to each other?"

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

"Yes. When one wheel is resting flat, the opposite one is up on a corner."

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

"That makes it easier to push, right?"

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

"A lot easier, but it has other problems."

Heave ...

CRASH!

"The Hill People say it isn't safe on a slope."

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

"That's no concern on the plains ... "

Heave ...

CRASH!

"but the axle does have to turn with the wheels ..."

Heave ...

CRASH!

"so the fastening to the frame is complicated ..."

Heave ...

CRASH!

"and the wheels have to be rigidly fastened to the axle ..."

Heave ...

CRASH!

"but they keep breaking off."

Heave ...

CRASH!

"Well, maybe they'll get that fixed some day."

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

Another speaks up: "I'm worried about my oldest son."

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

"You mean about that wagon he's building?"

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

"Yes. He's only seen a wagon once, from a distance ..."

Heave ...

CRASH!

"and won't take time to study the lore of wagon-building."

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

"Thinks he can think it all out for himself?"

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

"As usual. But it's a waste of talent ..."

Heave ...

CRASH!

"like inventing fire all over again."

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

Heave ...

CRASH!

"But I have heard it said that if you keep reinventing fire ..."

Heave ...

CRASH!

"you may find a way to make it hotter."

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

"Maybe."

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

Heave ...

CRASH!

 

And the wind moans like a thing in pain

And will not be comforted.

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IT SO SELDOM RAINS ON THE MOON

written 0235 hr 4/14/76; entered 1210 hr 3/05/92

 

 

Hallways are silent, the city's asleep.

Night's a tradition we cling to and keep.

Out for a walk as I sort through a heap

Of memories, thoughts out of tune,

Like running through rain by a seashore in June --

But it so seldom rains on the Moon

And the memories tied to the sea and the rain

Remain ...

 

It says in the schedule it's autumn today,

But why even bother I really can't say --

Freeze-dried December and vacuum-packed May

Wrapped up in a sterile cocoon --

Atmosphere dome like the bowl of a spoon,

And it so seldom rains on the Moon

But the memories tied to the sea and the rain

Remain ...

 

So why did we come here, and why don't we go?

It's something of freedom and room for to grow --

We can't quite explain it, you may never know

Or else you may see it quite soon --

We're not going back to that big blue balloon

Though it so seldom rains on the Moon

And the memories tied to the sea and the rain

Remain ...

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LITTLE TEENY EYES

 

Tom Digby noted in his zine (quoted in The Best of APA-L #2) "I got the idea for this from a quote Bjo made back in [APA-L] Disty #66 and made up most of the verses on the way home from work, 1-27-66. (A good 2.5 mile walk does seem to stimulate things like this sometimes.)"

 

And here (with thanks to Karl Lembke, who's been scanning old issues of APA-L) is what Bjo wrote, quoting Ron Ellik.

sheet music thumbnail
Get the sheet music

Ron Ellik looked at a bottle of Danish fruit wine that John Trimble had brought out and said, "It's got little teeny print, and I can't read it. Maybe because I've got big ole eyes. "

 

Sober ole Bjo wanted to know what that had to do with reading the teeny print.

 

"Oh well," says Ron, in his best 'scientific' voice, "You need li'l teeny eyes to read li'l teeny print, just like you need li'l teeny hands to milk mice...."

 

Oh, we got a new computer but it's quite a disappointment

'Cause it always gives this same insane advice.

OH, YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES FOR READING LITTLE TEENY PRINT

LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY HANDS FOR MILKING MICE.

 

So we reread the instruction book that came with the computer

But it kept on printing crazy stuff that reads:

Like YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES FOR READING LITTLE TEENY PRINT

LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY SHOES FOR CENTIPEDES.

 

So we got an expert genius and he rewrote all the programs

But we always got results that looked like these:

OH, YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES FOR READING LITTLE TEENY PRINT

LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY LICENSE PLATES FOR BEES.

 

Then we tested each resistor, every diode and transistor,

But our electronic brain just raves and rants:

OH, YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES FOR READING LITTLE TEENY PRINT

LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE BRANDING IRONS FOR BRANDING ANTS.

 

Now we're looking for a buyer for a crazy mad computer

That will only give out crazy mad advice

Like YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES FOR READING LITTLE TEENY PRINT

LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY HANDS

THE TINIEST OF HANDS

LITTLE TEENY HANDS FOR MILKING MICE!

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THINGS

by Tom Digby, in whose native dialect (Northeast Florida), the word "thing" didn't rhyme with any other word, not even with "anything" or "something."

Originally printed in Shangri L'Affaires #72 (May 15, 1968) and #73 (June 1, 1968)

reprinted in Xenofilkia, with PowerPoint illos by Lee Gold (which appear here).

 

When you start to build a castle

Out of corrugated daydreams,

And the Martians all are angry

At the silence of the dewdrops,

Things illo: image018

 

Things illo: image019

When you see a Slinky running

Down the marble stairs of Heaven

With the angels chasing after

Mid the thunder and the lightning,

When you sing the ancient ballads

To yourself, in empty spaces,

As the aardvark you are riding

Wanders off into illusion,

Things illo: image020

 

Things illo: image021

When you ride a roller coaster

Through a forest of enchantment,

And the trees cry out to tell you

How they'd once been crystal fountains,

 

When your guitar gets all moldy

'Cause you've kept it full of onions

And you read the news and figure

That the gods are taking Acid,

Things illo: image022

 

Things illo: image023

When you wander through the shadows

Of a long-forgotten forest

And you feel the gentle spirits

Waiting lonely in the oak trees

 

When the newscasts start advising

That the downtown be avoided

'Cause a wicked witch is changing

People into traffic signals

Things illo: image024

 

Things illo: image025

When the sunlight lifts the sorrow

From the purple-shadowed meadow

And the waters hide the sand dunes

While the convicts build pagodas

 

 

 

When your mind is tired of roaming

Through the pyramids of Egypt

And you don't believe in paying

What they're charging for the moonlight

 

 

Things illo: image027

 

Things illo: image028

When the Calendar of Devils

Says tomorrow isn't doing

And your tarot cards won't help you

'Cause there's nothing printed on them

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ONCE AROUND DISCONTENT

written 1425 hr 12/18/76 entered 2025 hr 3/29/92

[originally printed in Xenofilkia #52]

 

Like a bird that's taken wing, on a morning in the spring

When the dew is on the grass and on the flowers,

On the road he's runnin' free -- people, places, things to see,

With the sunshine only sometimes mixed with showers.

 

Showers?

Bein' homeless is a pain, by a roadside in the rain

When a family's only something to remember.

Pass another lonely town -- thinks he should've settled down

With a girl he met in Nashville last December.

 

December?

Family gathered round the tree, what a happy sight to see,

With the children knowin' Santa comes tomorrow.

Father thanks the Lord above for the cheerful warmth and love

And protection from the rain and pain and sorrow.

 

Sorrow?

Only yesterday it seems he had bright and shining dreams

Of a future filled with wealth and fame and power.

But he somehow missed his chance, didn't even get a glance

At the view from some Manhattan penthouse tower.

 

Tower?

On the fifty-seventh floor, with a title on the door

He's the leader of a mighty corporation.

Lunch at Antoine's French Cuisine, via chauffeured limousine

While he dreams about an overdue vacation.

 

Vacation?

Not a chance to get away from the pressures ev'ry day,

From the voices crying "Throw some money my way!"

But he thinks he might rebel, tell them all to go to Hell,

And go looking for his life along the highway.

 

Highway?

Like a bird that's taken wing on a morning in the spring

When the dew is on the grass and on the flowers,

On the road he's runnin' free -- people, places, things to see,

With the sunshine only sometimes mixed with showers.

Back to index


THE SPEECH

(10/1/83)

 

With a dignified tap of his polished mahogany gavel,

The chairman calls to order the annual meeting of

The Association of Distinguished Professors,

And introduces the man who will give

The keynote address:

 

Doctor So-and-So, Distinguished Professor

And author of a number of books,

With a Doctor of Dignity degree

From some prestige college.

 

Amid polite applause,

This distinguished professor approaches the lectern,

Reaches into a hidden compartment

And brings out a small plastic bottle.

Using the wand that came with the bottle,

He blows out over the audience

A cloud of bubbles.

"Speech" concluded, he returns to his seat.

 

The toastmaster feels impelled to summarize:

 

The point Doctor So-and-so was making

Was that no matter how grown-up we appear on the outside,

There is still that child inside us all

Who must now and then be let out to play.

 

He drones on for a while about repression and stress

And life expectancies and percentages of heart attacks

And stuff like that, till finally:

 

While it is often important for us

As Distinguished Professors

To project a certain image to the world,

It is also important for us

As human beings

To now and then allow ourselves to play.

 

"That was indeed my point," replies the professor

"And you have summarized it quite well.

However, just for the record,

I must remind you

That what I actually said was:"

 

And blows another cloud of bubbles.

Back to index


A Glossary of Fannish Terms
found in TOM DIGBY ALONG FANTASY WAY

defined by Lee Gold [with some new stuff inserted in italics]

 

" (pseudoquote): The material enclosed between pseudoquotes may not be a precise quote, but it's as close as can be recalled. It certainly doesn't omit any significant details, and it has the same emotional impact. [See "memories of teachers"]

 

APA (Amateur Press Association): A publication that consists of contributions written by a number of members, which are sent to an officer who collates them together, and then distributes one copy of the collated issue to each member.

One apa comes out once every five years; another comes out once a week. Most are monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly. Some apas have limited membership, and would-be members must put their names on a waitlist; others accept contributions from everyone. Most apas are available only to members who contribute regularly; a few are also available for sale to non-contributors. Each apa has its own officers who should be contacted to see what that apa's rules currently are.

 

con: see convention

 

con suite: A lounge at a convention where attendees can drop in to chat. It usually provides free munchies and non-alcoholic beverages, and may even provide meals. It is usually open late into the evening.

 

ConFrancisco: The 1993 Worldcon, held in San Francisco

 

convention (SF convention): A gathering of SF fans. Professional authors and writers and editors often attend, some because they consider themselves SF fans; some to try to interest SF fans in their upcoming projects. Most conventions have programs, sometimes multiple tracks of them, requiring the resources of a convention center. Many old-time SF fans pass up all the programs and devote their time at the convention to talking with old friends (often people they usually only see in print) and making new ones. Almost all attendees find time to visit the huxter room and art show. Some fans write a convention report when they get home.

 

fan fund: A fund that solicits contributions to send a fan to a convention they would not otherwise be able to attend. It may be an one-time fund or an annual one. It may be dedicated to a particular person, or it may ask contributors to vote as to which person it should honor this year. The oldest fan fund is TAFF (Trans Atlantic Fan Fund) which sends a North American fan to non-North American worldcons or a European fan to American worldcons.

 

Fan Guest of Honor: A fan convention customarily has at least one Guest of Honor (GoH) and may have several. A Pro GoH is typically an SF writer. A Fan GoH is a well-known fanzine writer or artist. There may also be an Artist GoH, etc.

 

fanzine (fan magazine): A magazine written by an SF fan to be sent to other SF fans.

 

hekto (hektograph, hectograph): A method of publishing fanzines, using ditto masters and a tray of gelatin.

 

huxter room (huckster room, dealer room): Most SF conventions have a room full of tables at which people sell items of interest to the attendees: old and new books and magazines and comix; videotapes; roleplaying games; still from movies and TV shows, postcards and greeting cards and posters; sculptures and jewelry; swords; Tarot decks; T-shirts and bumper strips and buttons with SF themes; etc.

 

IIRC: If I Recall Correctly

 

The Lab: The Labyrinths were a series of fan homes, started by Jack Harness and Owen Hannifen. The fourth and last was the Labyrinth DuQuesne at 330 South Berendo, the upstairs right apartment. After the original founders moved out, Tom Digby moved in and held his Fourth Saturday parties there until the building was cleared so it could be torn down in 1971.

 

LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society): The LA area SF fan club, which meets every Thursday evening at the clubhouse it owns: [1993 address] 11513 Burbank, North Hollywood, CA 91601-2309; (818) 760-9234. The first three meetings are free; after that, newcomers are asked to buy a membership and must pay dues for each meeting they attend. [See http://lasfs.org for for up to date information.]

 

mimeo (mimeograph): A method of publishing fanzines, using stencils and ink. This publication is mimeoed. [Not any more]

 

Westercon: An annual convention held in the western region of North America on [or about] the 4th of July weekend.

 

Worldcon: An annual convention held over [or near]the US Labor Day weekend in the US or Canada, the August Bank Holiday in Britain, or on a nearby weekend when in another country. ConFrancisco is a worldcon.

 

zine: see fanzine

Back to index


"Time Gum" and "Take Us to Your Poets" appeared in the anthology Time Gum from Rune Press, Box 8297, Lake St. Sta., Minneapolis, MN 55406, 1988.

"Time Gum" also appeared in Tales of the Unanticipated #3(Winter/Spring, 1988), Box 8036, Lake St. Sta., Minneapolis, MN 55408.

Both publications are tied in with the Minnesota Science Fiction Society.


List of Illustrations

All art (except in the poem "Things") is © Phil & Kaja Foglio 1993: see http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/

 

Cover

Hospital Parking Only

Mountains

FTL

Arithmetic Lesson

What's the date?

UFO Sightings

Neighbor Cat

The Poetry Market

 

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