Chapter five: PROVILLE

So the little band of travellers went on along the little purple brick road to the Amber City. After they had travelled for some time, they came to a curious little village where all the houses had false fronts, with magnificent pillars and spires, but behind them were only dirty little shacks. Wondering at this, the four adventurers trotted gaily along the road through the village.

The people of the village were the oddest fans any of them had ever seen. There were only a few of them on the street, but all of them were thin and boney, and they rushed around terribly fast.

"Say there!" the Scarecrow called to one of them, "what village is this, and how far is it to the capital?"

"This is the village of Futurepro," said the fan proudly. "The capital, Proville, is just a little way past here."

"But the capital is the Amber City," said the Tin Woodsfan.

"Amber City?" said the fan. "Never heard of it. Proville is the only capital I know of."

"Why are you so thin?" asked the Lion.

"Because we have so little to eat," replied the fan. "We are the stf writers of tomorrow, and until we become pros we must suffer for our art, so we have little to eat. We needn't worry, though, because we are getting the ultimate value out of fandom."

"I thought no one had to eat food in Iz," said the Scarecrow. "Don't you live on egoboo that you get from other fans?"

"Oh, great Campbell, no!" exclaimed the fan. "Why, we have very little to do with fans, except those who live in Serconville, which is just this side of Proville. The fans in Serconville, sometimes give us egoboo, but not very much, so we have to live on food."

"Why, that's just like being a non-fan," whispered the Lion to Dorothy.

"The pros are nice, though," the emaciated fan continued. "They give us lots of rejection slips, which we process in our free hours and make into typing paper, so that we can write more stories."

"It sounds like a silly circle to me," said Dorothy.

"It's all because you've let your beanies get in bad shape," said the Scarecrow. "Why don't you come to the Amber City with us and have the BNF fix your beanie?"

"Oh, heavens, no!" cried the Futurepro. "I have to finish the story I'm writing now. Maybe some other time." And with that he ran into a nearby house. In a moment the little group heard the sound of typing.

"Sounds like a typewriter instead of a typer," commented the Scarecrow. "This village abounds in fakefanism, I tell you. It's all because of the condition of their beanies."

Anxious to leave such an unfannish place, the little band went through the village hurredly and in a few minutes arrived at the next village.

"This must be Serconville," said Dorothy. "Perhaps they can tell us how far it is to the Amber City, if they are so serious and constructive."

They went into the village and the Lion stopped a fan. "How far is it to the Amber City," he asked.

"Why do you want to go there?" asked the fan. Dorothy saw that he had no propellor at all on his beanie, but instead a tassel similar to those found on graduation caps. "We have everything here in Serconville that the Amber City has, and more," said the fan.

"Has the BNF ever been here?" asked Dorothy.

"BNF?" The Serconfan looked incredulous. "Of course not! Silly fannish figure, that's all he is. We devote our minds to higher things than BNFs."

"Well, then, we'll keep going," said Dorothy firmly, and the party continued along the purple road through Serconville. "I suppose Proville will be next," said Dorothy.

In a bit, they found she was wrong, for without even leaving Serconville they came to a sign announcing that they were in Hucksterville, which soon proved to be only a slum section of Serconville. All the inhabitants were wearing beanies with fan wampum signs on them. Knowing the nature of hucksters, the fans hurried through that section until they came to Proville.

There was a high wall about the city of Proville, and a heavy iron gate guarding the entrance. The Scarecrow ran up to this and pounded on it with his fist, but got no response. Then the lion reared up on his hind legs and gave a great roar. "My heavens!" said Dorothy, holding her ears, "that ought to get some response!"

The Lion blushed and said, "Well, I really seem more dangerous than I am. Even my claws are dull from pounding on my typer, and some of them are broken from removing staples from fanzines."

Just then the gate creaked open and a pro peeked out. Seeing the beanie atop the Lion's head, he said, "Oh, it's only some fans," and started to close the gate again.

"Wait!" cried the Tin Woodsfan. "We wish to enter your city so that we can follow the road of Purple Brick!"

"But I'm not supposed to let any fans in here," said the pro.

"We'll just be going right out the other side again," said Dorothy. "And anyway, you're blocking the Path of Trufandom that leads to the Amber City and the Enchanted Duplicator!"

"Yes!" shouted the Tin Woodsfan. "You're not supposed to do that!"

Grudgingly, the pro swung open the gate. "Well, maybe we are blocking the Path of Trufandom, but the only people around here are those in Futurepro, Serconville and Hucksterville, and none of them ever worried much about it."

"Well, why did you even put up an old wall like this around your city?" asked Dorothy.

"Those blasted hucksters and serconfans are always trying to get in here," said the pro. "Especially the hucksters -- they even tried to get Hucksterville made a part of Proville once! We like these people, for many of us were once futurepros, but we can't stand them sometimes."

The companions wondered at this and stared very thoughtfully at the many pros who sat in their houses typing or reading. Then they came to one house where a man was using three telephones, typing at a great rate, and consulting with four other pros at the same time.

"That is his majesty, King John. We let him be king because he has been a pro longer than any of the rest of us, and is the best pro for miles around. He's getting the next issue of Izstounding Stories ready right now."

After watching the busy king working himself into a nervous breakdown, the four travellers left the city in a hurry. "I certainly wouldn't want to be king of the pros," said the Scarecrow, and the others sadly agreed with him.

(Data entered by Judy Bemis)