(illo: Shiffman: Chuck at typer)
GET OUT THE TYPEWRITER, WIND in the paper, fit the ski-goggles and stare at the great white waste for the obligatory 20 minutes. Make the traditional start: type "I."
"What are you doing, Dad?"
"Dear daughter, I am writing a fanzine article. It's either a report on the 1986 Novacon -- which doesn't happen for another two months -- or a bit of dire warning on the perils of the English language for would-be ConSpirators."
"Sounds fun; er, do you think you could drive me up to the Girl's League of Health & Beauty before you start? It's my work-out night. Please Dad."
... where was I? Right, a Novacon report.
"I dunno why we bother," said Arthur. "Conventions are so predictable nowadays, and anyway, there's only two things worth seeing in Coventry. After you've seen the concrete Godiva statue and the Kama Sutra Pop-Up book in the Bishop's bookshop you might just as well catch the next train down to civilisation again."
I don't think the bookshop really belongs to the bishop, but if it does I hope he never finds out about the pop-up book. Years ago Sue gave my dreary two-dimensional edition to St Augustine's Bring & Buy Sale. This would have been the ideal replacement: Fully Illustrated, Meticulously Detailed, Adults Only. Inside there are hundreds of earnest Indian gentlemen doing absolutely incredible things in a manner startlingly different from my familiar missionary position. And due to the cleverly contrived cutouts, if one opens and shuts rapidly, the little chaps bob up and down in a remarkably realistic fashion. It's hardly erotic but it's still fascinating to flick the pages and see all those grave-faced unsmiling acrobats working their way through the lingam limber-up exercises and then twisting, twirling, defying all the laws of gravity (as well as decency and propriety) as they spin to fulfillment.
Which is more than can usually be said for yrs trly.
"I once asked Sue about that double reverse chasse," I said. "She warned me that if I so much as bent a finger in her direction she'd call out the constabulary."
"Ummm," said Arf, opening and closing the book faster and faster so that the frenzied figurines bounced madly to ecstacy and we half expected a little white speech balloon to pop up saying "Scream, you bitch." "I blame civilisation. We should never have allowed winceyette pyjamas to replace the dhoti. Mark me words, if these people had had trampolines, there'd be synchronised screwing in freefall in the next Olympics .... and now let's get the hell out of here; the manageress cometh too."
"Only browsong, dear," he said as we moved around the paydesk and onto the street again, looking for the De Vere Hotel.
"Dear one, do you know it's The Anniversary next week?"
"Anniversary ... anniversary? Edgar Rice Burroughs 1st Sept, H. G. Wells 9th, Brunner 24th, Damon 19th, Cas Skelton on the 7th ... should I send them all a card or something? God only knows the Burroughs and Wells addresses nowadays."
"OUR anniversary, you wally."
"Oh yeah, great ... you haven't seen my correcting fluid anywhere?"
"Our 25th Anniversary, DEAR."
I already had a note in my desk diary: "Buy prezzie, order lovely bunch of flowers, take family out for top-notch, get pissed" (all of which I did in due course), but what the dear girl is trying to find out is what I'd like for a prezzie.
"It ought to be something you can keep. Would you like another ring?"
"Nope ... spoil my macho image: you think I'm Liberace, maybe?"
"An identity bracelet?"
"Jesus Christ! You DO think I'm Liberace ... and before you ask, the firm has already given me a fancy gold watch, cufflinks and a solid gold tie-clip engraved with the likeness of Henry the First."
"How about a gold chain, then? Lots of men at the Golf Club wear them now."
"No, no point ... nobody would see it under my sock anyway."
"All right, smartarse, what do you want?"
"Well, I said, looking longingly at the typewriter, "what I'd really like is an ivory tower. One of those old-fashioned ones with a little room at the top just big enough for a chair and typewriter, and a bucket-on-a-string for hauling up essential supplies of gin tonic-water ice & lemon."
"Oh. Am I interrupting? Are you doing something?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact I'm practicing the tenor lead in Rigoletto which I will perform at La Scala in Milan at 8:30 tomorrow night, sharp. I am also trying to write something for SFFY, maybe something on the 'two nations divided by a common tongue' theme that DAG was talking about."
"Sorry, dear; I'll talk to you later."
"I've been reading the US pulps for nearly half a century and I'm still as confused as when I started. We don't really speak the same language. We all know about the innocent Brit in LA trying to buy a couple of rubbers and his astonishment at not getting pencil erasers. If he'd asked for a packet of Kwells -- hoping to get the travel-sickness remedy sold in Britain under that name -- he would have got a US preparation for killing body lice.
"Here's the gin, the ice, the tomic-water and the lemon, dear. I'm working on the ivory tower."
Little things like that are no more than confusing, but words like "hump" or "bang" or "french" or "knock-up" are something else again. The verb "to hump" means "to carry" -- nothing else. A "knocker-up" is a sort of human alarm clock who, for a small fee, taps your bedroom window every morning to ensure you get up in time for the first shift at the cotton mill.
"I'm sorry, but your boss is on the phone. Have you got a valid passport? You've got to go to Cologne for orientation within the next month or so. He's making up a party."
"Tell him I haven't. Tell him it's nearly midnight. Ask him why the hell this can't wait until I'm in the office tomorrow morning. And, uh, tell him nicely, hmm?"
Inside the De Vere foyer was a huge notice.
WELCOME TO THE NOVACON.
Illicit drink, sandwiches, curious resin inhalants, hookahs,
syringes, razor blades, photographs of Ted White are FORBIDDEN.
Lewd women, bare feet, bare anything else at all, sleeping bags,
commies, scientologists, and hurtful remarks about the Committee
or the hotel staff are NOT PERMITTED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
Mandatory body searches for all would-be attendees.
Signed Hauptmannfuhrer Tony Berry
Chairman & Convenor
"Wow," said Arthur. "Whee," said Chuch.
"I never imagined Tony meant it," I said. "I thought it was just talk about raising standards and cleaning up the image. I never dreamed the iron fist would become reality."
Arthur nodded at the crash barriers dividing the foyer into separate aisles, each with an inspection point at the far end. "It looks just like a Safeway's checkout," he said. "I shudder to think of all those questing hands probing our fair bodies."
We edge our way down the aisle staffed by Avedon and finally reach the check-in table.
"Uh uh," said Avedon. "Not here, Father. I lay one tiny finger on that zipper and every fanzine in Puerto Rico will scream 'Incest!' at us."
She beckoned to the girl in the next aisle. "Kate, Kate honey, could you give a thorough, intimate and meticulous body search to Arthur and my Daddy?"
"I already have," she said wearily. "Three times. I don't know what's worse, me searching them, or them searching me while I'm searching them. Last time I thought he was getting -- I mean becoming -- aroused, but it was only his illegal sl-eping bag stashed in a very odd place. The time before he tried to convince me he had to wear this special truss shaped like a bottle of Gordon's Gin. I tell you, yesterday I was a respectable young girl, and today I'm a sex toy for 6th Fandom." She snorted. "Fun, huh?"
Avedon thought for a moment. "Right," she said. "Move over two aisles and try the Debbi Kerr experience and then ..."
"Dad, can you come here a moment? The toilet bowl's blocked up again."
"Fanny" is an especially dangerous word. Somewhere in mid-Atlantic the word suffers a sea-change and the geographical location moves 180 degrees. In your US argot it refers to a lady's bottom and is just (if barely) mentionable in polite society. In England it becomes her pudenda, her secret garden of delight and no gentleman ...
"Dad, it's overflowing."
I have to go now. In our next issue, November 1991, I'll do a piece on English usage and maybe a Novacon report. Separately.
(illo: Shiffman: Mail)
"I was a lonely fellow until I got my U.S.
fan-bride -- Y'know, not all Americans have their
own cruise-missiles!" Mr. R. Hansen of East Ham
"My life was fucking horrific until I met my
Southron honey-bun. Goshwow!!" G. Pickersgill of Ealing
"This all makes me depressed ..." J. Hibbert of Nowhere
Sioux City, Iowa USA
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