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PHOENIX FALL 1979
Feature---------. The Push From Within: The Extrapolative Abi lity of Theodore Sturgeon .................... 2
Fiction A Curse Of His Own Devising by Lowell Cunningham ..... .. .. . .. . .. 8 Paper-Clip Armor by Ronald Lee and Rebecca Berry ...... 18 Carny by ~ddie Francisco ... . ........... 23
Poetry _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _---,
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On the Cover:
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W e will consider unso licited art icles, manuscripts, art and photos at the beg inn ing of each Quart er. Copyright 1979 by the Un iversity of Tennesse e. A ll rights retained by th e individual contributors . Send contributions to Phoenix Fine Arts Magazine, 5 Communications Building , 1340 Circ le Park Dr ive, Knoxvi ll e, TN 379 16 .
David D. Duncan Dane Swindell Julia Burr Alan Gullette James Brooks Kevin Birch Betty Allen Lynne Nennstiel
Editor Design Editor Art Editor Poetry Editor Fiction Editor Photo Editor Production Pro~ucti?n
THE PUSH FROM WITHIN: The Extrapolative Ability Of
Illustrations by Charlie Williams Fevv authors vvorking vvithin the science fiction field are provocative enough to have their vvritings translated into eighteen languages. Yet Theodore Sturgeon is a man vvho is not content to repeat a theme or motif unless a nevv perspective can be obtained through doing so. His perception of himself and his surroundings transcends the entire spectrum of the human condition. This is inherent in each endeavor he chooses to pursue. Sturgeon began vvriting during the three years he spent at sea as a teenager in the Merchant Marine. After a total of forty or more stories published in various genres, he began his immeasurable im pact in science fiction and fantasy vvith an appearance in John W. Campbell's Astounding in 1939. This culminated in his reception of the International Fantasy Avvard for the hallovved
Gestalt treatise ..M.c.re Ibim Human and both the Hugo and Nebula Avvards for his remarkable story, "Slovv Sculpture." He has vvritten for film and television including tvvo of the most remarkable Star Trek episodes, "Amok Time" and "Shore Leave." Presently, he is in the midst of constructing his ultimate achievement, the much avvaited novel Godbody. He vvas intervievved in the middle of a 13,500 mile, fiveto-six month tour in vvhich he crossed the U.S. four times. Much of the time vvas spent travelling in his tiny Volksvvagen vvith his incomparable vvife, the Lady Jayne. During his travels, he rescued the first UT science fiction and fantasy vvriting symposium (Tennecon 79) by devoting four hectic days and nights to reading student manuscrip:ts and chairing discussions. Articulate in a number of
diversified areas -- including sexuality and sensuality in the future, the energy dilemma, and Optimum Marriage (consisting of seven people three vvomen and four men), he is an endless source of inspiration and introspection in an age; characterized by l impersonality. An extremely tactile and approachable individual, Theodore Sturgeon is avvare of and attuned to the forces, trends and effects that rule our lives. Anyone of his renovvned novels or short story collections vvill provide further illumination on subjects that are vital to the understanding of the puzzle that is humanity. Phoenix vvill be identified by its logo, ~ and Sturgeon by his ovvn personal trademark, ~, in the follovving intervievv. The Editor
~ : Could you explain the significance of y our trademark vvhich is t h e letter Q vvith an arrovv pointing to the right? ~ ~: It means ask the next question. Ask the next question and the one that follows that, and th e one that follows that . It's the symbol of everything humanity has ever created and is the reason it has been created. This guy is sitting in a cave, and he says, "Why can't man fly?" Well, that's the question. The answer may not help him but the question now has been asked. The next question is what? How? And so all through the ages, people have been tryin g to fin d out the answer to that question and now we've found the answer and we do f ly. This is true of every accomplish ment w hether it's technology or literature, poetry, political systems or anythin g else . That is it. Ask the next question. And the one after that. ~: Hovv did you begin your vvriti ng career? Most anthologists date your first appearance as "Ether Breather" vvhich appeared in the Sept. 1939 Astounding. ~ : That was my first work in the science fiction or fantasy field. But I had published before. The first writing I did was short short stories for a newspaper syndicate for w hich I was paid five dollars apiece on pu blication. And I used to live on that. It wasn't easy but I learned a lot. I learned how to live on five and sometimes ten dollars a week. When your room cost you seven, anything you could save you could eat. Eating came later. It was rough, it really was. But I paid my dues, by golly I did. Writing a half a cent a word for publications which failed before you got your check and stuff like that. Lots of it. ~: Was there any impetus that guid e d you tovvard vvriting or vvas it something you did as an outlet? ~ :The story of my first sale is the fact that I dreamed up a foolproof paper to cheat an insurance company out of several hundred thousand dollars. I was only a kid at the time . I had run away from home and I was in the Merchant Marine but I researched it very carefully. It involved insurance and the postal service at the time. Also the railroads. I wrote to them of course as somebody requesting inforroation and so on . But I had it all set up. Once I had all the facts in, I found I didn't have the immoral courage to pull the caper. So I wrote it as a story. As a teenager, I didn't have any skills for writing as such, so it came out in 1500 words. ~: Since those early journalistic stories, your vvriting has developed into a prose form that utilizes each vvord. ~: There's a good reason for that. There's no point in using words that you're not going to use. You don't use words that are not going to be employed in the narrative or context. It should consist of short, sharply focused sentences, each of which is a whole scene in itself. By that, you put the reader right in there where the story is.
~: What is your analysis of science fiction? I believe it is the wrong name for the field. It should have been called a number of other things - speculative fiction, for example. In many peoples' minds, science fiction is girls in brass brassieres about to be raped by a slimy monster and being rescued by some guy fully dressed in a space suit with a zap gun. It is all in the future, all in space, it is all Star Wars and Buck Rogers. Science fiction actually, outside of poetry, is the only literary field which has no boundaries, no limits, no parameters whatsoever . You can go anywhere, not only into the future but the past. You can go to that wonderful place called " other" , which is simply another universe, another planet, another species. It's things that happen inside your head. There's more in inner space, I think, than in outer space. ~:
"In many peoples' minds, science fiction is girls in brass brassieres about to be raped by a slimy monster and being rescued by some guy fully dressed in a space suit \Nith a zap gun. It is all in the future, all in space, it is all Star Wars and Buck Rogers."
~: Hovv can you explain the eternalness of your vvriting? It never seems dated or concerned vvith trivial matters. ~: I have a secret formula, you see. A secret, magic formula that many writers are always looking for. But I have a pretty good hold on this one. I write a story as if it were a letter to someone and essentially that's what you do. Writing is a communication. You don't sit up in a cave and write the Great American Novel and know it is utterly superb and then throw it page by page into the fire. You just don't do that. You send it out. You have to send it out. But you must write to the peoples' expertise. In general, what are people expert at? Fear, love, loss, laughter and loneliness - above all, loneliness. You write a story about loneliness and you grab them all because everybody's an expert on that one. Sometimes it is called alienation but it's something more than that. It's loneliness, not being separate from the whole world. It's a seeking, a searching for somebody who'll underst_and you. And there are really only two parts of writing: what you say and how you say it. There are people who have tremendously important things to say but they say it so poorly that nobody would ever want to read it. They don't know how to put in the kind of vehicle that people will stop and get into. There are others who are so deft and graceful but they're not really saying anything at all. When you combine something to say with the skill to say it properly, then you've got a good writer. The idea of something to say goes back to the individual matter of finding something to believe in.
"Writing is a communication. You don't sit up in a cave and vvrite the Great American Novel and knovv it is utterly superb and then throvv it page by page into the fire. You just don't do that. You send it out. You have to send it out." ~: Could you explain your distinction betvveen talent and skill? ~: Anybody can do anything he wants to if he wants to do it badly enough. Now I know that's a vast oversimplification but in principle it's true. I think that you or I or anyone could be, for example, a wire-walker for Barnum and Bailey and all it would take would be an absolute determination and practice and practice and practice. You have to study your field and you have to find out how other people do it and you have to keep working and learning and practicing and practicing and ultimately you would be able to do it. There are, however, people who are able to do it in the first three tries. They're born with such coordination and talent, a construct of the semi-circular canals in the inner ear, that they're able to do a thing like that with great ease. Now skill is what you develop by that kind of practice and work and study. Skills can be developed and refined and brought to a very, very high pitch indeed. Talents you are born with. There is simply no question about it. People with a high talent unfortunately don't have to continually practice. They don't have to so they don't do it. It is a great loss because of a lot of highly talented people never work at their talents at all. In the end, their product is lesser than somebody who has worked his buns off to get somewhere and refine the talent that he has. ~: Does this apply to vvriting also? ~: Writing is certainly the same thing. There are people who have a born facility with words. They absorb words, they see them correctly, never have any difficulty spelling or with grammar. They have a startling poetic view and a way of creating images and doing the brilliant unexpected. This is coupled with an observance of human beings and how they react, the things that they are afraid of, the things that they care about. But there are many people who don't have a particularly high talent in this kind of observation, this kind of facility with words. Yet they become superb writers almost because they don't have the talent and have to work a little harder at it. ~: What is your approach to fiction? ~: Fiction, of course, is very important to me. It's what I do, it's what I do with my life. Basically, fiction is people. You can't write fiction about ideas. You can write about people and ideas but not ideas alone. This so-called fiction is not fiction at all but trash. Some major writers have a huge impact, like Ayn Rand, who to my mind is a lousy fiction writer because her writing
has no compassion and virtually no humor. She has a philosophical and economical message that she is passing off as fiction but it really isn't fiction at all.
~ : Could you outline the process of metered prose? ~ : It isn't my only way of writing but it's something that I do. I teach writing courses, most recently at Antioch College in Los Angeles, and first of all, I teach my students what prosody is. Then I have them create for me perfect sonnets or some other verse form. But the sonnet is very handy. Fourteen lines, it's not too long but the rules are brutally rigid and can not be broken or it's not a sonnet any more. The question is how to change the texture of your work right in the middle of a page so drastically that it might be printed on sandpaper then suddenly printed on silk. Yet it's not done with typography or different colors of ink or anything like that. The way to do that is to write your ordinary prose your ordinary way and then write a paragraph or so of metric prose. The change is abrupt and drastic; the result is astonishing. If it's visible, if the reader can find out what it is you've done, then you've failed. It only succeed if you can get away with it and it is indetectable. Here's the point to be made-there are no synonyms. There are no two words that mean exactly the same thing. I don't care about the dictionaries of synonyms and antonyms. If there were two words that meant exactly the same thing, there wouldn't be two words. Which means that every word you use has a certain amount of semantic or psychological freight that it carries that makes it different from other words.
"Here's the point to be made - there are no synonyms. There are no t\NO \Nords that mean exactly the same thing ... \Nhich means that every \Nord you use has a certain amount of semantic or psychological freight that it carries that makes it different from other \Nords." ~: You have been busy \Nith a mainstream novel for quite some time titled Godbody. HO\N is the \Nork progressing? ~: Godbody has been growing for eight years and far as I know it may grow for another eight years. I will not sell it because having a book contract means not only an advance, which may be nice, but also a deadline. And there is going to be no deadline on Godbody. I'll sell other things but that one's going to be quite some time. It will be the most important thing I've ever done. It has to do with love and religion and those are the two greatest guiding forces of humanity. They have been separated from one another. Organized religion tends to tell you not to love or at least if you do any loving, you do it within the parameters that they '-ay out for you. ~: There seems to be a great reluctance from students to contribute creative material to the Phoenix. HO\N \Nould you explain this? There is no explanation other than not enough people know about it. I'm very much interested in what you're doing with the Phoenix in reference to evoking more literary quality in the magazine. Where are the writers going to come from if they don't come from the kind of people that you're dealing with right now? True, good writers come from everywhere but there is such an outlet, such a fantastic opportunity for people to get on the record, to have their names known, to have their styles and kinds of writing known. Also, Phoenix gives them the kind of freedom that they're not always going to get in the outside markets. The vast majority of fiction is written to markets and to this damnable business we have nowadays of categorizing everything. With an outlet like Phoenix, there is a beautiful freedom. You publish a good deal of poetry and the expression of the poetry is very free. If you could get more prose to publish with that same kind of freedom, then the writers will realize that they are not bound by what's current in fiction and what's popular. Little magazines, college publications, literary quarterlys such as Phoenix turn out as proving grounds for totally new talents. I wish Phoenix the best of luck and I think that Phoenix is an opportunity for people to have a voice, to have their names in print, to create some kind of a track record, something they can show years later. The writers in Phoenix can write anything and I'd like to see more of them do it. ~
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Vanessa strolled slowly through the meadow behind her house. She visited the meadow often, to be alone, to brush her hands along the tops of the puff plants, and to think of things she couldn't share with her brothers and sisters. Her path had no set course, a turn here for a look at a new flower, or up to a rise for a view of Banske, the village where most of her family would now be. Occasionally she would pause for several moments to stare thoughtfully at Mountain, the huge mass of earth and stone which lends its name to all mountains. Despite stops and meanderings, she inevitably reached her usual spot, a small copse of Elm trees where shade and rustling leaves were relaxants as well as highlights to her meditation. It was here Vanessa dreamed, cried and shared her thoughts with the trees, which she trusted to keep her secrets. She had rested beneath Twig, her favorite tree, only a few moments when she heard a voice. Her eyes opened quickly as contemplation gave way to surprise, for no one had ever disturbed her before, particularly no one with a voice so
much like wind whistling through the cracks of a house. She looked about, surprise mixing with curiosity as she remembered what the voice had said: "You're beautiful." The statement was true; Vanessa's fine features, fair skin and soft, black hair would be considered lovely in any era. Yet, because of her youth and solitary nature, she had only been told of her comeliness by her father and mother, and their friends. Still, the newness of the situation only served to enhance her et:ljoyment of the compliment. If she could only see who had said it. The voice, strange though it was, had been unmistakably masculine and its tone very nearly sounded awestruck. A quick scan' of the area failed to reveal the speaker, so Vanessa ventured a quick query. "Hello. Where are you?" "Here." Replied the voice, hushed, gentle, and only a few feet from Vanessa's ear. She had been expecting someone to come from before her, not from the side, where crunching leaves and breaking twigs would surely betray a person's presence. She turned to her
right with a start, looked at the owner of the voice, and gasped. The voice's owner was a young man, pleasantly featured though not handsome, dressed well though with outdated styles, and he was only mildly transparent. A ghost Vanessa realized quickly. A polite ghost, she thought as she noted his humble bow and quick drop to one knee, but still a ghost. She knew it was no use to scream, even though the occasion of meeting a ghost seemed to demand it. Instead, she decided the best course would be to treat the spirit as she would a living person, for the ghost had surely been a living person at one time. "Hello." She acknowledged him courteously. "Who are you?" "My name is Michael." The ghost replied. Taking the opportunity, he turned the beginning conversation back towards Vanessa."You're one of the most beautiful girls I've ever seen. Please tell me your name." He twisted upon a rather insubstantial cap he held in his pale hands. "Vanessa." Vanessa spoke from reflex. Somehow, she was not afraid
of Michael. His attitude, sad smile and begging eyes would inspire pity much sooner than they would ever inspire fear. She could think of nothing else to say, so she pointed towards her village and said, "I'm from Banske. It's just over the hill, that way." Michael nodded knowingly, an odd gesture for one who looked so young. "Yes, I am also from Banske. Or, I was." He quickly amended. "I'm not from anywhere now, I'm dead." Vanessa smiled at the morbid humor of the last statement. "I can see that." she said, almost laughing. She found herself thinking of Michael as just another person, someone she could share her little grove with, without having to worry for her secrets. Why should a ghost gossip? Michael seemed pleased with her response, the sadness leaving his smile as he sought to keep Vanessa's interest. "I lived in that town a hundred years ago; no one there is old enough to remember me, but I remember Banske. It's quite a place during market when everyone for miles around pours into the square." He sighed, apparently recalling the market times of his life. "Yes, it's a fine town. I still visit there." Vanessa smiled at Michael's little joke. She knew that the word visit was a reference to the term Visitor, a word her people used when speaking of any form of ghost, spirit or demon. She felt at ease, so she wondered aloud, "Why are you here?" "The same reason you are." Michael answered. "This was my spot, once, as it now seems to be yours. I haven't been here in several years; I'd almost forgotten about it. Somehow I seemed drawn here today ... drawn to meet you." He added softly. Not knowing the exact purpose of the comment, and unused to attention, Vanessa felt vaguely uneasy. She could sense that the ghost meant her no harm, but she didn't like not knowing what he wanted. She decided to leave. Michael looked on mutely as she stood, brushed her dress and looked at him questioningly. "You're
leaving?" he asked with a whisper. "Yes, my family will be home soon and I should be there to meet them. I won't tell them I met you, if you don't want me to." "Please don't," Michael pleaded. "If you do, they may not let you see me again. You will see me won't you?" Vanessa considered quickly. "Yes, I'll come back here soon." She told him, somehow knowing this was the only place she would ever see him. Michael smiled at this, watching as the girl walked away. She turned around once, and they waved farewell. He was glad he hadn't mentioned that this grove was where he had died. ********** When her family had returned, eaten and rested, Vanessa asked her father about ghosts. Where did they come from and why did their spirits outlive their bodies? "Ghosts are the souls of people who died unhappily," he told her. "If anyone dies with something very important to him unsettled, his spirit will not rest until the matter is somehow righted." He went on to tell of several ghosts he knew of and completely forgot to ask the reason for Vanessa's sudden interest in ghosts. ********* Vanessa returned to her spot often after that, more often than before. She began to enjoy Michael's company since she could share anything with him and he would listen, no matter how silly or serious she got. Despite their relationship, Vanessa never sought to ask what troubled Michael's soul, and Michael never volunteered the information. Even so, he had become less timid about coming near her, often holding her hand as they lay looking at the sky and sharing stories. This continued for several weeks, until one day while路 the Elm leaves were beginning to fall. Knowing she would soon have to stop her visits, at least until spring, Vanessa decided to ask Michael about his becoming a ghost. This way, she thought, she would have the winter to think about his problem.
They were sitting at the base of Twig when she asked him, her hand on his shoulder and her voice as sympathetic as possible. When she looked into his eyes she knew he had been avoiding the subject, just as she had. "Love." He answered simply. "Love." "Did you lose your sweetheart?" Vanessa asked. Michael's voice cracked. "I never had one. I never had a girl care for me, and that's all I ever really wanted. Just to hear a girl tell me she loved me and know she meant it. But it never happened." He drew Vanessa's hand from his shoulder to his cheek. "I took life as long as I could, but my heart became filled with sadness and loneliness. Finally, I killed myself." Vanessa saw Michael's eyes begin to blink and felt cool water, like dew, run down her fingers. "What I didn't understand was that when you die your trouble no longer fills your heart, it fills your soul!" "What will happen when ... someone tells you they love you?" Vanessa asked softly. "Then I'll be free. Free for whatever comes beyond this world." He answered her next question as it was forming. "If it never happens? Then I'll stay like I am now, until the world ends or there is no longer any magic left to my soul. Either way, I'll reach Limbo unless ... " He stared at her expectantly. After a moment of silence, Michael pulled Vanessa's hand from his face and sighed. "But that is my worry. Now, you must go home; it's getting cold." He stood and looked down at her sadly. "Goodbye." He whispered wistfully as his form began to vanish. "Wait!" Vanessa shouted. "Will I see you again?" But there was no answer. When she realized she would never see Michael again, she began to cry. How could one admit a love only to lose it? She wondered as her as her crying grew louder. Why did he have to go away? Now he would never know that she did, indeed, love him. ~
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"Don't Stop the Carnival"
It had to happen on Halloween. It couldn't have been New Year's Day, or Valentine's Day, or even Groundhog Day. It had to be Halloween, at midnight, when the message from space came in. ***
Lieutenant Kent had been cursed from birth. He knew who was to blame-his sister, Janet, but his parents went along with it too. Janet had suggested the name, and so, four days old and totally defenseless, he had been named Clark. He wouldn't wear glasses, hated flying, and refused to consider a career in journalism. By the end of college, Clark knew what he wanted: to be left alone. So, graduating with a degree in astronomy and an ROTC commiSSion, he volunteered for "isolation duty." Two weeks later he was in Wallow Springs, Arizona, watching a radio telescope go round and round. He found what he wanted in the stars. The music of the spheres made no rude references to kryptonite or a girl named Lois. Working alone night after night, he listened to and recorded the stars' random sounds. For a time, he was happy. Then, on the last night of October, things changed. The telescope was focused on Cygnus, the constellation that was either a swan or a cross. Clark listened in to the outer space static, when suddenly ... jt stopped. "What the hell?" Clark said to himself. "Where'd it go?" He twisted two dials on his console and double checked a computer printout. All points were green. He was about to check the power relays, when the signal returned. But this time it was cleaner. Crisper. Almost refined. The series of pops and squeals lasted forty-eight seconds, paused briefly, and then the exact sequence started again. Clark listened carefully, not sure of what he was hearing. But by the third chorus, he knew it went beyond random chance. It was the work of intelligent life. Slowly, methodically, he double checked every system, eliminating every earthly source of probable transmission. The signal still
remained: forty-eight pause, fortyeight pause. There was no other answer. On only his second night working at the observatory, he had received the first signals from space. Hands trembling, he frantically dialed the Commanding Officer. The receiver was picked up on the third ring, but no one answered for a few seconds. "Uh ... do you know what time it is?" a voice groaned. "Sir, sir, I've picked up a signaL .. " "It's almost one in the morning," the groan continued. "This better be important." "Colonel Meredith, I was listening, and, the signal came over and repeated and ... and I'm getting a message from outer space. Another planet is sending us signals ... " The words ran together and failed him. "Hold it!" The Colonel's voice was suddenly sharp. "You're getting a signal from space? Who is this?" "Lieutenant Clark Kent, sir." There was no answer. Then:"From Krypton, I suppose?" "Sir?" "You goddamn kids," the voice roared from the receiver, "I'll Superman you if you don't knock off these goddamn pranks!" The connection was broken violently. Four calls later, the Colonel listened, and the name of Clark Kent entered the history books. ***
It was a week of miracles: Monday three other radio telescopes confirmed Kent's signals. The whines and beeps were not coming from Cygnus, however; they were from a spaceship that was coming from the direction of Cygnus. The ship was well within the orbit of Mars and still decelerating. Tuesday security held, even though many tongues wagged when Senator William Proxmire rammed through Congress a one billion dollar emergency appropriation for NASA, use unspecified. Wednf!sday those in the know on Wall Street bought Wham-O stock. Thursday the combined might of the CIA, FBI, KGB, MI-6, and the AFL-CIO (who had developed codes for use during labor talks) translated
the alien message. Friday the Atlanta Braves won the World Series. Saturday Captain Cla~k Kent escaped from his "debriefing" session, and made his way from Leavenworth, Kansas to New York City to be interviewed by CBS News. Unfortunately, since it was 9:23 in the morning, only kids and college students were watching - and they knew it was a new cartoon show. Sunday the President held a press conference. ***
The President stood in the hallway, nervously fingering his sincere blue tie. An aide stood close by, holding an enormous amount of papers, graphs, pictures, transparencies, and wall charts. Tucked somewhere behind that mass of paper was a green and white button saying simply "Re-elect." The Boss retreived his speech notes as the noise from the adjoining room suddenly peaked and died away. "Ladies and gentlemen - " the announcer began his traditional introduction. "1 wonder," the President said softly, "if they'll remember that this happened under a Democratic Presidency?" Doors opened in front of them; the President moved swiftly to the podium. "I am here tonight," the President said in a dist1nct accent, "to dispel rumors and to place the facts before the American people. The American people are a great people, and they will be able to meet this new challenge with bravery and faith. "When the universe was created, scientists tell us, the possibility for life elsewhere in the universe was also created. American astronomers have located many stars like our own sun, many stars that have planets, many places where life like our own could exist. But this other life has always been a probability." The President paused and resisted the urge to scratch his nose. The audience-reporters all - was quiet for once, waiting for him to speak. "I stand before you tonight to say that the probability' of life existing
elsewhere in the universe is now a certainty." No one breathed. I'd like the see the analysis on this, he thought. "An American soldier - Captain C. Kent - received signals from a spaceship. These signals have been verified as originating in an object that is currently between Earth and Mars. This object is almost certainly from beyond our solar system. "We have translated their message; they learned English, it seems by intercepting our old television broadcasts. It says: People of Earth - welcome to the Great Chain of Being. Join us! "We expect landing on Wednesday." All hell broke loose in the press room.
*** All hell broke loose on Earth . CYGNUS FRAUD PSYCHS OUT AMERICA! screamed the National Enquirer as Las Vegas oddsmakers solemnly surveyed landing spots and issued official odds. They made a killing before it was announced that the coordinates of the White House were being transmitted to the aliens. Orson Welles had no comment, as did Leonard Nimoy, but the religious, the fanatic, and the religious fanatic certainly did . Wednesday would be either the End of the World or the Second Coming, but the Pope promised to visit the aliens as soon as possible. The presidential election came and went almost unnoticed save for the deluge of millions of Frisbees carrying the slogan "Democratic AII Stars." The networks promptly abandoned politics and went for 24 hour a day coverage of the impending landing; camera sites on the East Lawn of the White House were under continuous guard after a PBS public affairs crew was attacked and overwhelmed by ABC Sports. No charges were brought - it was, after all, difficult to fit the 145 man ABC crew into a twenty by twenty foot area. The ten person PBS crew was vanquished to the area allocated for foreign radio correspondents ...
Not everyone was sanguine about the landing, however. For a day and a half, K-Tel did a booming business in Space Plague Protection Suits. The slogan "Who knows where they've been?" was deemed to be incitement to riot by the Supreme Court. The Flat Earth Society disbanded and reformed as the Terra for T errans Party; they experienced astronomical growth. Tempers cooled considerably when a disco version of the original signal was released. Billboard replaced its traditional bullet with a star; "The Cosmic Chain" debuted as number one on all the charts. On a special edition of American Bandstand, Major Clark Kent gave it a 95 for having a good beat and being easy to dance to. His appearance was interrupted when the first visual contact was made: a series of steadily sharper pictures
showed a silver saucer turning lazily end over end. The stars had flipped Earth a galactic tiddlywink.
*** The alien craft ceased its forward roll as it assumed Earth orbit; after circling the globe twice, it started on a long glide through the atmosphere. It was probed, photographed, and tracked by everyone from the Soviet Army to the Welsh International Mercanary Society. It made no threatening moves. At 7:38 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, it passed directly over the White House. The Marine Band struck up the theme from Star Trek, a selection made shortly after 250,000 Trekkies stormed the White House. Halfway through the second chorus the band stopped. The saucer hadn't.
When the Saucer did land an hour later, bookies all over the world were joyful. Not many people had heard of, much less betted on, Elco, Pennsylvania, population 214.
*** Blanche Stoneking positioned herself in front of the television. "I've never seen a flying saucer land before." "No one has, Momma," Chris, her 23 year old son, replied. "Wouldja move out of the way?" "Amy Hotchins said that she had seen one." "Amy Hotchins buys five bottles of cooking sherry a week, Momma. Wouldja move -I wanta see the screen!" Blanche sniffed in disgust. "I can see when I'm not wanted!" She stomped into the kitchen; shortly thereafter Chris heard the can opener whirring as he was treated to an
exciting view of the President hitting his head on the doorsill of the helicopter as he turned to wave goodbye to the Washington crowds. Dan Rather came on: "We've just been handed a report that the government tracking service says that the saucer stopped about a hundred and ninety miles northwest of Washington, somewhere over southwestern Pennsylvania." "Momma, didja hear that?" Chris yelled. When there was no answer, he ran into the kitchen. It was empty. The outside door stood open. "Momma?" Chris stepped out, expecting to see his mother feeding the cats. She wasn't. She was twenty feet off the ground, bathed in a green light, floating gently towards the flying saucer, a can of little Friskies clasped to her chest.
The Presidential helicopter landed ten minutes after Blanche did. The President, Brigadier General Kent, Issac Asimov, Carl Sagan and a military guard disembarked; they met Chris on the front porch. "Mister President, I'm Chris Stoneking," he said respectfully. Chris felt himself immune to further shocks. "Chris," the President replied, offering his hand. "How is your mother?" Chris declined the hand. "She's fine sir. But she won't see you now. You'll have to wait." He paused. "We're Republican." Asimov and Sagan traded grins; Kent looked quietly bemused. "What?" the President exclaimed. The soldier behind him tensed slightly. "Why not?" "She won't say, sir." Chris licked his lips. Now came the hard part. "When she came back ... down, sir, she told me to wait out here for you, that she had saved a planet and become an important part in the Cosmic Chain of Being." " 'The Cosmic Chain of Being,' " Asimov repeated. "That's an Elizabethian concept - " " - dealing with the spiritual linkage of all life ... " Sagan finished. "Chris-" a voice came from inside the house. All started, waiting for the first words of the first person to make face to face contact with aliens. "Honey, how do you spell 'Brezhnev' ?" "B-R-E-Z-N-E-V," the President supplied. "Is that you, Mister President?" . Blanche asked, still out of sight. "Yes, Ma'am. I'd like to see you." "Gh, good," Blanche replied. "I can save that stamp. I'll be out in a few minutes." "Thank you." Kent looked at Chris wistfully. "A week ago I was a lieutenant." Chris nodded in understanding. A roar sounded around the bend of the driveway. The Marine sighted his rifle, the President dove under the porch swing, and Asimov, Sagan, Kent and Chris turned to see a portly older man drive up in a bulldozer. "Hi, Mayor!" Chris waved.
The man cut the engine at the edge of the yard and strode up to the porch, undeterred by the Marine's steady aim . "Welcome, Mister President, welcome!" he cried, helping the President to his feet. "I'm mayor of Saucer City, Alexander Hodge." He shook hands fervently. "I'd like to talk to you about some Federal aid - " "1 thought this was Elco," Sagan said seriously as Asimov buried his face in his hands. "Saucer City, Saucer City now, young man!" the Mayor was still shaking the President's hand. "Now I've already been in touch with the Disney people, and I thought I'd just take up the topsoil where the saucer landed to sell - " "But it didn't land!" Chris cried. "Shush, boy, shush! We won't tell the yokels that! Now I was thinking of having some sort of exposition, y'know, invite all sorts of foreign
countries to come in and develop the land - " "Mister President." A soft voice came from the front door. It was Blanche. She held a bundle of envelopes in her hand. "This one is for you. They sent it." She handed him a letter. It was a plain envelope, business sized and sealed. He opened it and read: " 'Dear friend. This is your opportunity to come into the galactic community, to become a link in the Cosmic Chain of Being.' " Everyone looked confused. The President sat down on the porch steps. " 'There are many opportunities to be gained, much information to be exchanged . All you have to do to join is to write your name and address at the bottom and make ten copies of this letter to send .. .' " He trailed off. "A CHAIN LETTER!" "WHAT KIND OF JOKE IS THIS?" he shouted, enraged. "The President
of the United States of America will NEVER-" A crimson ray came down from the sky. The President turned to dust and blew away. "He should have read the last part," Blanche said softly. Behind her, Sagan bummed a pen from Asimov.
*** NASA's budget skyrocketed as the exhaustion of earthly signatures was predicted within a few years; some way had to be found to get that letter to another planet before then. Stationary sales boomed - the zip code became eleven digits and was worldwide. People advertised houses for sale as having morning mail delivery and then left, leaving no forwarding address. Mailing lists became popular reading. And the Post Office paid off the national debt in six months. ~
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by Eddie Francisco Photos by Kevin Birch " I don't know why you want to do this. " " Come on," I said, "it'li be fun. Besides, we'll get to see some real freaks. Look here, it says they got the w orld's youngest fire eater and the w orld's only tatooed dog." All at once a girl in a pink bathing su it stepped out from inside the tent and mounted the wooden platform above us. She had a large snake wrapped around her waist and began kissing it on the mouth. li See, it's the snake girl," I said, dragging Linda over to the ticket seller and slapping down two bucks. "We can't miss the snake girl."
Linda, who has been with me on such occasions as the time I interviewed the professional wrestler at his girlfriend's trailer looked at me as if to say that all the freaks were definitely not inside the tent. "I hope this is better than the fortune teller you took me to see." lilt will be, it will be." We got our tickets and walked over to the line that was forming for Gooding's first Million Dollar sideshow of the day. Already a group of about six people were standing there waiting to get in and being kept out by a restraining rope and a young carnival worker doing finger tricks
with a string. He never once looked up but just kept playing with the string. Finally after about ten minutes a large man near the front of the line began to get impatient. "Look here," he said, "I been waitin in this goddamn line for twenty minutes. When the hell's this show gonna start?" The boy, who looked at the man as if to say he didn't give spit for how long the man had been waiting, answered flatly, "I guess it'll start when it starts." The man legged it over the rope and would no doubt have strangled the boy if he had gotten hold of him.
Instead the boy slipped out of the chair and disappeared inside the tent. A second or two later he emerged from an opening just behind the platform where the snake girl continued to hug the snake. They began to talk to one another in what sounded like a foreign language. For a minute I listened to them, trying to figure out what they were saying. Then it dawned on me they were speaking carny - a kind of language carnival workers (or carnies as they're called) use whenever they don't want the public to know what they're up to. In carny, vowels are lengthened and z's or s's placed before them. Consequently, a word like tension comes out as tee-a-zen shee-a-zun and beer as bee-a-zeer. Incidentally , carny talk is used by professional wrestlers who, like carnies, keep a tight fraternity. And although I've never met a single wrestler who admitted to knowing carny, I've heard several of them use it, especially when they did not want me to know their business. In any event I was able to make out most of what the boy was saying which was that he expected trouble unless the snake girl could think of some way to placate the man raising hell in line. The snake girl nodded, motioned the boy back in the tent, and stepped down from the platform. She then walked over to where the man was still fuming. "Can I help you sir?" The man turned around just as the girl was kissing the snake on the mouth. For a moment he stood speechless, watching the flickering tongues of both the girl and the snake. Then he tried haltingly to explain that all he wanted was to see the show. "Certainly sir," said the girl, unhooking the rope with her free hand. "Step right inside." We filed past the snake and into the tent, an expansive canvas with a small stage at one end and no chairs. A young girl in a purple leotard was acting as usher and instructed us to
gather around the stage. Then she introduced the star announcer for the show, Bob "Rubberlegs" Tantebaum, all the way from Los Angeles, California. Bob stepped up on stage and took a bow. He was dressed in a white tuxedo which provided a nice contrast to the jaundiced color of his face. It was the same color I'd seen in my own mirror just a morning or two earlier, and I had no trouble figuring out that old Bob's liver was working overtime from a bout with the bottle. Without a whole lot of adieu Bob introduced the first act of the show - a special premier appearance by Henry, the world's only tatooed dog. As Bob explained it, Henry was a rare breed of dog found only on the steppes of Manchuria. He had been born without hair and was soon to be
featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not. I didn't. And neither did the half dozen kids who lines up to pet the little dog and who had fox terriers of their own at home. Still, the dog did have several tatoos on his belly, one BEFORE which read DEATH DISHONOR. As Bob put it, "A mighty hefty tatoo for such a little dog." For the second act Bob directed our attention to a young girl standing next to a gas grill on the left half of the stage. She had bad teeth and acne and was, according to Bob, "the hottest act in town." The girl, whose name was Bobbie, remained expressionless during the entire introduction. Then she brought out four stokers from behind her back and lit them off the grill. Leaning back she dipped the flaming torches
into her mouth. It was by far the most impressive thing I'd seen all day. And when she was through she even volunteered to let someone from the audience light a cigarette off one of the torches. I too k a Camel out of my pocket and watched as Bobbie heated it up. " How do you do that 7" I asked her. " Spit," answered Bobbie. "Lots of spit. " Next, Bob herded us back to the rig ht side of the stage to introduce th e little girl in the leotard who had ushered us in. She could't have been more than ten or eleven and had been billed on the curtain outside as the "AMAZING RUBBER GIRL" who could bend and twist and curl herself up in the most amazing positions. At this point Bob broke into some
longwinded hype about how the little rubber girl had been an orphan and how she had just showed up one day on his doorstep, asking not for charity but for a chance to make an honest living doing what she did best. Bob nodded, and the little girl went into a handstand, rolled over, and drew her legs up in a position that could only be described as obscene. She then kicked out of it and landed on her feet. The crowd loved it and applauded her for at least a full minute. Bob went on to explain that the rubber girl could even wrench her hip out of place if she wanted to. On cue, the girl, who was obviously double jointed, flexed her hip, making it appear that she was throwing it out of socket. For a minute I watched her, wondering why anybody would want
to do such a thing, why anybody would intentionally want to be a freak . . Then I remembered how a priest friend once told me that everybody was a freak of one sort or another, if not physically, then emotionally or spiritually. He continued by saying that most people just didn't want to be made aware that they were freaks: "You tell a man he's a sinner and that's fine. He goes home and doesn't think anymore about it. But you point out his specific sins - tell him he's doing a sorry job of raising his children or that he shouldn 't be sleeping with his best friend's wife - and the same man will come after you with an icepick." I drifted back just in time to hear Bob tell us that for a quarter more than the admission price we could see a special unannounced attraction - a mystery woman named Chloe who could not help being born the way she'd been born and who could only be seen by those mature enough not to laugh at her. Apparently, everybody figured he was mature enough since everybody rushed over to slap down the quarter. Bob then pulled open a curtain exposing the mystery woman to the full view of the audience. She was about eight feet tall and, as Bob explained, had obviously been born with some sort of pituitary problem . She was also quite dead and had been for some time. For several minutes everyone stood looking at the mummy, listening to Bob's account of where it had been excavated and in what museums it had appeared. What Bob didn't account for was the smooth way he had just taken our money. Still, it didn't seem to matter much since everybody got taken or was a fool or a freak at some time or another. Maybe that's why when old Bob concluded the show by asking if anybody had any questions "of an intelligent nature," nobody had a thing to say. ~
dark.\Nater The river has taken me in its current let me tell you, We were dragging the river for its soul dreaming in the night dreaming in the night Until the river took me below the water. And dying dreams and years ripple past in the darkness. And I thought I heard you say the words very slowly across the water beneath the water in the darkness of the stream " ... do you beUeve in the darkness in the darkness of the water with me." R. Wayne Bledsoe
Sandy Jenkins Glenvvood
A little leaf sprouted by your house th is Decem ber And you missed the Labor Day fireworks I watched from your porch. And I think the neighborhood kids' make-out in the shed out back, And I think you never lived in your house. I wanted to bury your car under leaves-trick and treat youFreeze in your house and drink your tea .. . Wasn't that stupid? So now the man next door knows my vital statisticsThe lady across the street knows I'm a whore-And the family with a dozen kids and cars doesn't care--And the police almost spotlighted me Just because I'd sit and think and pray and get cold And sing off-key where one could hear At the side of your house.
White Lies you fly mockingly above me pompously billowing. transformations undaunted by capturing limitations. your towering columns supporting only a roof-like roof thinner than you. you try to close me in with your false solid lie, masquerading as the limit-ali there is. when heavily giving birth drains you away. to layered lie one upon all and, stationary, silently glide across-afraid of being seen as you are. you can't capture me. above and beyond leads past you, far enough to be curious swirls circling a circle.
Among the Philistines This was speech at depth, upshot from the chapter entitled "The Vision in the Dark" -"He jumped up and barked at the locked window above the blockaded door. The fool on the hill also arrived before noon, And spoke to the Philistines, inanities spilling off his tongue. "A day or two later, I was suddenly recalled To my office, situated in Rome. My expense account was being revised: Forensic escapades in Gallatia were out."
I ride the crest surging to unknown heights. only to fall bent-kneed onto a mood .
-i ;r 0
quiet seas lull me yet I tire of weathering
Moving Inside Ourselves The teenager dancing delicately through the open windowAt six a.m. the commuter couple Efficiently sitting down to breakfast of toast and coffeeThe farmer lumbering against the cold, An edge of pain on his lips, Milking the 4:30 cows. We jerk and the sound of ourselves Thinking startles us to wake; We are moving inland like the water leaning on the shoulders Of the moon, which tugs forever at the legs of houses. We gaze past the snow: a dog Lies sleeping collapsed against a fencepost, The businessmen comb their heads, Are startled when a page turns up missing from their lives. The train pulls on, mounting the time, Like a horse, pushed along ice, too sleepy to care. Quentin Povvers
I Ask the Fortune Teller
Up on the roof where the witnesses mingle He indicates the spelling glass. Banging the table in odd dissonance He indicates Another pot of cold mushrooms between the narrow boards. See! The glass fogs. He indicates In my breast pocket not a sign.
Dusk Takes All harvested dusk takes all past the worn wooden latch to the fresh-cut stall unbridled, hoofless steed cradling on the flat muscular arch with wrinkled silk gate the spurless rider grasping the luxuriant mane. bone-white fingers grappling with the midnight, intangibly coarse hair longing for reins.
Pho tograph There is a man standing beside his bicycle weari ng a pin-striped suit. He is posing for a photograph. There is a spinning sphere with a thousand faces reflecti ng points of light. A train moves forward, moves away at top speed; we can see the parallel lines meet at the horizon. Though Euclid was blind, perhaps we can postulate that he was a happy man; Pythagoras had only to cross his eyes to see the point ideal. George Memel
In Hope of Ararat I have wept With no memory of tears, Only the proof of wakened, swollen eyes. Even in the belly of so great a vessel, In the thick, wild, woody smell of darkness, I have come to fear the power of pelting rains. The winging seabirds Are not concerned with storms upon the ocean Until the storm is upon them. Their beating hearts falter, there is a falling seaward. Their sorry knowledge pours upon them In the cataclysm, There between water, and water. They should have listened to old Noah, His face full of clouds. David Van Ingram