Arthur J. Forrester sat before his typewriter, scratching his head. Forrester was a science fiction fan --- one of the best known, too. In fact, the best known. Anyone could write letters; but it took brains to turn out thoughtful interesting articles for fan magazines. And the fan magazines were the real backbone of science fiction literature. Forrester often thought about that phrase "the real backbone of science fiction literature." He felt a thrill in the realization that he -- Arthur J. Forrester -- was more than a vertabra in this field; that he was just about the anterior superior crest of the iliac.
People knew about him, he considered pleasantly. He had written his letters to the readers departments of all the great science fiction magazines for many years. He had corresponded with the men who mattered. His thoughtful, interesting articles had filled the pages of almost all the fan magazines ... except those little sheets whose niggardly editors had refused to pay for them. His name was synonymous with that of science fiction. He, Arthur J. Forrester, WAS science fiction.
But pardon me, uninitiated reader. I forget you are not acquainted with the terminology of science fiction. According to the editors, all of whom are versed generally in scientific knowledge, it is; "an instructive, fascinating type of literature, which supplies the reader with first-class, swift moving, healthy entertainment and at the same time gives him a scientific education, even tho sugar coated." It deals with reporters and scientist's young daughters, a variation of the traveling salesman in the Aryan legend and the farmer's daughter; wild-eyed billy goats with a tendency to conquer the entire universe; pretty rays that tie skyscrapers into Gordian knots, among other tricks; Adonises who hop into airtight tin cans that drop on dinky planets where they conquer the inhabitants and marry the king's egg-laying daughter; contraptions that take young experimenters at right angles to themselves thru the fourth dimension, into the past, or the future to kill poor Grandpop or to shake hands with Junior (as yet unborn) etc., etc.
A science fiction fan, defined by the observer, is a near-sighted youngster who reads and lives this stuff, who haunts back number magazine shops spends fabulous sums to add to his collection of classified pulp, & sacrifices school-work, much sleep, and local friends in the endless search for escape or publicity.
Arthur J. Forrester was one of these latter. Now he sat perplexed before his typewriter. It was unendurable; he had just discovered that he could no longer turn out thoughtful, interesting articles for fan magazines! In the past he had never been at a loss for subject matter. If Karloff or Lugosi could not inspire him to write about the 'fantascienti-films' -- on which, as he often told his breathless public, he was THE expert -- why, there was always Esperanto. Ah, Esperanto -- the universalanguage, the tongue of tomorro, the door to democracy, the key to koined words, the passageway to peace -- the alliterative absolute -- the infinite infinite, the ultimate ultimate! -- For Arthur J. Forrester was also an authority on Esperanto. The Authority, as a matter of fact. And perchance the fans tired of thoughtful, interesting articles on Esperanto -- ah, how fickle the public taste -- Artjay could always write up one of those "Celebs I've Met" columns.
But now, since he'd written up all the fans and authors he's ever seen including those unwillingly cornered on streetcars, he sagged in his chair, glum and dejected, the paper in his typewriter as blank as his mind. Then he sat up with a jerk. If he couldn't think of something to write a thoughtful, interesting article about, he could answer his mail. Gleefully he turned to the fantastically decorated cabinet where he kept his correspondence. Ducking a Tootsie Toy rocket that hung from the ceiling, he opened the drawer where he kept his letters -- and gasped! It was empty! Artjay clutched the bookcase to keep from falling. Gone -- his precious letters! Suppose -- suppose they had been stolen? or read by someone else? Artjay went green. Suppose -- some columnist like Wilhelm got hold of a Certain Particular Letter and published it's contents! Artjay went red.
Wait! What was that? A white paper lay at the very back of the drawer. It was a letter -- whatever had become of the others, one remained. Forrester recognized it. He had received it from Smythe -- an English fan who criticised Artjay's style of writing. Dull creatures, these British, without inventive or imaginative powers.
Then he understood why the letters were gone. He sank to the floor laughing. He'd answered them and put them in another drawer. But this one he'd saved in order to out his fullest powers into a shattering reply to Smythe. "Bonshancon!" he cried in Esperanto. Now he could write. Opening the missive and placing it beside the typewriter, Forrester began production of another epistolary and syntactical masterpiece.
Dr Mr Smyth
--rcvd yrs 14 'z' (i.e., last. Clever?) Dankojn! Acidicriticomentz not'd'th 100 pc int &'s 00 tuffeelings on pt Esthetic J (i.e.,Artjay; me, Clever?) M everedi 2 lern oths' thotz conc me and same's U-hiss--ie., U-sss!; use. Clever? Foresperanto, fav-elsewise. Conc latter, mi toleras! Relly--moviecabulary--blve use abbrs & simbles'll "X" 2-daze Eng. Foresperanto'll B l-ly form verbalanguage M sir-10. Arthay's riting 2-day; every-1's riting 2-moro.
--Appr yr riting me, & trust've 5-month'd (i.e. May'd, clever?) no U fulyware 'plus-vantajez' off'd by use transatlanguaj..
(sined) ARTJAY FORRIE
Exec dir FSL
Certain that Smythe would now fully concur, Forrester folded the typed sheet into a triangle, and placed it in a three cornered envelope. Inverting the envelope, as best he could, Forrester wrote the address backwards on the wrong side. This was a unique touch. What if the post office should unimaginatively object?? Artjay put aside the envelope with a sigh. NO MORE MAIL UNTIL MONDAY MORNING. What was left now to occupy his fertile mind? Alliteration was passe, and he had koined words until his Esperanto dictionary ached in every joint. They were becoming tiresome to invent. "Inventiresome" he said aloud, then commented with a trace of bitterness, "not as good as usual." Neither were there any more celebrities to be written up.
Artjay jumped. He beamed. Oh, weren't there??
"Look" he told himself, in a voice he could barely control for triumph, "what do the fans want? Celebrity write-ups!! Who do they want them written up by??" The answer was obvious. "Now" --- Artjay could hardly restrain his joy --- "who IS the greatest celebrity?" He coughed modestly.
"O.K., if they want it, I'll give it to them!!!" It felt good to be generous. Sitting down again --- for a moment lost in thought, them with inspiration dripping from every pore, he proudly typed out the beginning of his momentous and culminating work.
I, SCIENCE FICTION
AJF, s-f'd 4-most fan, ' s. B. 14 Nov 1916. Wrot 1st lttr to rdr's col whn 14 & achv'd imm pop'ty 'th eds & rdrs similar (i.e., alike; clever??)
(Data entered by Judy Bemis)