Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Spring - Summer 2007





(Reprinted from QUANDRY # 15, Nov. 1951, by permission.
Illustrations by Lee Hoffman.)

-How I Saved Myself From Falling Flat on my Face. by Quickly Grasping a Pullchain Hanging Nearby.  A Confession by Bob Tucker.

All conventions are dull, listless affairs. I discovered that a longtime ago, after faithfully turning up year after year, city after city, card after card at each succeeding clambake. The same haggard old faces -- Bloch, Korshak, Eshbach, Evans -- repeating the same. timeworn old words -- gladtobehere, gladtobehere, gladtobehere -- the same huckstering old professionals -- Bloch, Korshak, Eshbach, Evans --repeating the same old hackneyed come-ons; buy this, buy this, buy this. It was so dreadfully monotonous, so crass, so crude, so commercial. Weary of heart, I approached one more city and one more weekend, prepared to once again meet the same old beanie-wearing fans -- Bloch, Korshak, Eshbach, Evans -- squirting the same old waterguns -- squishsquish, squish­squish, squishsquish. It was all so boring, so repetitious.

With all this in mind and an ample supply of aspirin in myoId suitcase, I checked into the same old St. Charles Hotel on a Friday afternoon and the room clerk repeated the same old question: "Are you with the science fiction group?" I couldn't bring myself to lie, and admitted I was. "Welcome sir," he continued then in the same old vein,"That automatically entitles you to a higher rate. Your Mr. Moore has arranged it. We can give you an eight-dollar-room for ten dollars."

"Don't want it," I answered, swinging at once into the old routine. "Give me a six-dollar-room for eight dollars."

"Oh, I'm sorry sir, but I cannot. Your Mr. Moore did not reserve a block of six-dollar-rooms." This too, was familiar of course.

Indeed?" I said wearily."And what did our Mr. Block reserve?"

"Ah, sir," replied the clerk silkily, "in addition to the eight­dollar-moore's for ten dollars, your Mr. Block reserved a room of seven-dollar-moore's for only nine-fifty."

"I'll take it," I snapped, tiring of the conversation.

"Do you want a bath?" He was as urbane as always.

"That depends," I hedged, "will it be you, the manager or the house detective? I suppose the maids have a union?"

A motley crew of fans had gathered about the reservations desk as this byplay was going on, eager to learn the name of the new arrival. Other fans were arriving on the run, attracted by frantic wig-wagging and a few smoke signals curling up toward the lobby ceiling. Tiring of this spotlight of unwanted publicity, I turned and spat in the eye of a fan standing behind me. Immediately he whipped out his water-pistol, but of course I ducked and it was the room clerk who took the charge. I snatched the key from his paralyzed fingers and scuttled away.

Tired, weary, disheveled from a long day's drive, I slammed the door of my room, flang the suitcase into a far corner (where it promptly burst open and spilled my cargo of dirty books), stripped off my clothes and jumped into the tub. Three waterbugs, a centipede and a dozing bellboy jumped out. Coaxing water from the faucet drip by drip, I waited until there was a full inch covering the bottom and then lay back to soak in luxury. This was to be my only moment of peace and contentment in sweltering, hurly-burly New Orleans.

There came a sound at the door, the peculiar kind of half-hearted knock that could only be caused by a timid fan getting up nerve to kick the door in. I groaned and realized the same old routine had begun. Stepping out of the tub I reached for my trousers, paused,and dropped them again, knowing it would be the same old bunch -- Bloch, Korshak, Eshbach and Evans -- wanting to start a poker game. I wrapped a towel around my middle, began searching my luggage for a deck of cards, and yelled a bored invitation to enter.

Three strangers trooped in wearing abashed grins, a girl and two men. The girl looked as if she were desperately searching for better company than the characters trailing her. I silently sympathized, and stared at the trio, the meanwhile dripping soap and water on the rug. The two gentlemen stared at the towel and giggled, while the girl looked at the puddle on the rug.

"Hello," one character said.

"Hello," another character said.

"Hello," the girl echoed.

Sadly, I shook my head. The same old wornout greetings.

"We're faaaaaaans," the tallest character announced proudly.

"The hell you say!" I shot back, astounded.

"Yep." He was wearing a white T-shirt on which had been printed, I AM SHELBY VICK. Turning to face me, he asked: "Know, who I am?"

I gazed at the T-shirt. "Bela Lugosi?"

He waggled his head, vaguely disappointed.

"Richard Shaver," I guessed again. "Claude Degler, Ray Palmer?"

"I am Shelby Vick!" he exclaimed then in clear, ringing tones.

"The hell you say!" I shot back, astounded.

I-am-Shelby-Vick then flicked a finger at his two conspirators. "You know Lee Hoffman, of course?"

Of course. I threw a bored glance at the remaining character and yawned, "Hello, Lee."

"No, no!" contradicted I-am-Shelby-Vick. "Not him...HER!"

Mustering what dignity I retained, I picked up my towel from the floor and stalked into the bathroom, flanging shut the door.

* * *

Knowing full well the monotonous proceedings that would be underwa~ still I wandered down to the convention hall later to let myself be seen and admired by the younger element present. Fighting my way through a flying cloud of paper airplanes, I stumbled over the same old crap game --Bloch, Korshak, Eshbach and Evans -- were conducting on the platform behind the speaker's microphone. Declining the inevitable but insincere invitation to join them, I picked a precarious path thru a solid mass of whir-ling beanies and tugged at the chairman's sleeve.

Our Mr. Moore looked down at me. “Whatinthehelldoyouwant?"

"You'd better do something about them," I suggested mildly.


"A couple of characters up in my room. They fainted."

"Whatinthehellyoutalkingabout?" he wanted to know curiously.

I explained patiently. "A pair of characters have fainted up in my room. Perhaps you'd better send up a bellboy, or something."

"Tohellwiththem," he answered pleasantly. "I'vegotmyowntroubles. Thishereconventionhasgottastartroghtnow."

I said all right, meekly though tiredly, and sat down with Lee Hoffman. Our Mr. Moore approached the microphone, stumbled over the crap-shooters and loudly suggested the floor come to order. Wiping off the simultaneous discharge of a half-dozen water pistols and neatly Side-stepping a fireball from a roman candle, he opened the convention. The opening was the same old grind. He announced in a bored voice that the conclave had grossed a b}t over four thousand dollars, had paid all debts amounting to a hundred-odd dollars, and that the balance would be used to pay the train fare home for destitute fans. After everyone present had put in their claim and received their share, he closed the convention for another year. We all left the hall and trooped back to our various rooms to conduct the annual business sessions.

Wearily knocking on the first closed door I found, I entered, to sit back and listen to the same old arguments – by Bloch, Korshak, Eshbach and Evans – about where next year’s convention should be held. No one present really wanted it and the unholy quartet had the very devil of a time forcing it down the throat of a young, unidentified fan sitting off in the corner. Later on nobody could remember who the stranger was nor where he was from so there still remains a small doubt as to where the enxt convention will be held. Popular opinion – that is, Bloch, Korshak, Eshbach and Evans – held that the stranger would eventually betray himself when he began selling memberships, and that it would only be necessary to read the postmark on his letters to discover the name of the next convention city.

Rapidly tiring of this dull conversation, Lee and I left to wander along the corridor in search of another session. From behind a partly-closed door came the sound of rocketships zooming, accompanied by music in the background. Yawning, I remembered my manners in time to ask her if she wished to see the preview movie, THE DAY THE EARTH COLLIDED, and conducted her inside a dark, smoky room. Pushing aside several enthusiastic fans -- Bloch, Korshak, Eshbach, Evans –- we made room on the floor and sat down. I promptly fell asleep, but she told me later it had been an extremely interesting picture depicting the perils of the first space flight … something about a millionaire playboy and his three buddies -- Bloch, Korshak, Eshbach and Evans – building his own rocketship after the governor of Iowa turned down a fantastic request that his state build it. The governor of course was in the pay of the dictator on the approaching planet.

Finishing and launching the ship just in time to avoid a tidal wave sweeping down on them from the New York City reservoir, the four playboys land on the Iowa capitol’s big ball diamond and demand that nearby Missouri be annexed to the state. The governor refuses, being in the pay of the Missouri legislature, and a huge tidal wave sweeps him off the capitol steps just as the menacing robot from the invading planet lands in a flying saucer.

Lee admits to being atrifle hazy as to what happened after that, but in the end four strangers from Mars -- Bloch, Korshak, Eshbach, Evans –- arrive in time to save Iowa’s corn.

Tired beyond caring, dazed, bored to death by it all, I allowed myself to be dragged into still another room where the guest of honor and several noted speakers -- Bloch, Korshak, Eshbach, Evans –- were giving out the same tired old phrases on the glory of science fiction fandom, the glory of science fiction magazines and the glory of science fiction books. As they finished speaking their assistants rushed about the room, hawking the wares of these publishers and writers. With a bored yawn I watched one rebellious fan thrown from the window, some upstart who caused an awkward moment by ask8ing if this were a FAN or a HUCKSTER convention.

Rather fascinated, Lee wondered if this were a common occurrence and I assured her that it was. Stretching back into my memory banks, I told her the tale of a dreadful day in Cincinnati when some sixteen such upstarts were dipped in oil, feathered, and then tied to the coat­tails of sixteen wild bellboys who were sent running pell-mell through the lobby. These revolting sixteen, it seems, made the mistake of getting up a petition to exclude professionals from all future conventions. It was a sad, memorable day.

"What are 'professionals'?" she wanted to know.

"ssssshhhhHH," I whispered. They're sensitive.”

"But what are they?"

"Super fans," I explained. "Responsible people who have outgrown the beanie and watergun stage, outstanding adults with unimpeachable reputations who are saving fandom from itself, preventing it from becoming ingrown. By means of books and dollars these superfans provide fandom with something to think about, other than themselves."

She gave that considerable thought. "I see a flaw," she said at last. "A flaw in that line of reasoning."

I gave her my tired attention. "What?"

"Us ordinary fans can't read."

* * *

The remaining days of the convention were the usual sorry mess. Again and again I chided myself for coming, for using up valuable time that could have been spent more profitably elsewhere. Late one evening I briefly thought I had discovered something worthwhile, something to make-up to myself the time wasted. Avoiding the elevator because mobs of young fans -- led by Bloch, Korshak, Escbach and Evans -- had taken over the machine, tossed out the operator, and were joyriding up and down, I was wearily climbing the stairs to the seventh floor when a combination giggle - titter reached my ears. Pausing instantly, senses alert, I espied the location of the sound and the cause of it. Someone had a home-movie machine and was projecting family pictures in a dark­ened room. Half-alerted to this possible saving diversion, I stood on The doorknob and peeped through the transom, only to have my fondest hopes dashed. I'd seen the pictures before at the last Legion stag.

Unlocking the door to my room, I was mildly astonished to find two characters stretched out on the carpet in a dead faint. They seemed familiar, so rather than chuck them out the window I called the house detective whose joy, upon finding them there, knew no bounds. It seems the blacked-out characters were I-am Shelby-Vick and his sidekick, Paul Cox, who had been missing for three days and the house detective feared they had skipped without paying their bill. He congratulated me on the discovery, saying the manager would give him a raise for this. After he left I locked the door, stepped over the fans on the rug and went to bed. It had all been so tiring.

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