A New Twist On Balderdash

By Danny Sichel: Recently, I devised a game for fans that can be played at cons and club meetings. It requires only paper, pencils, and at least four people, of whom one has a broad knowledge of SF and/or is willing to do research beforehand. At the February 2018 meeting of MONSFFA (the Montreal Science Fiction / Fantasy Association), we playtested it.

As I described it at the beginning of the game:

You may have noticed that the meeting program says we’ll be playing Balderdash. This is not the case. To start with, I’ll explain the rules of Balderdash, which we will not be playing.

If we were playing Balderdash – which we are not – I would have a deck of vocabulary cards, which would all have strange weird peculiar uncommon words. I would read you one of the words, but not the definition; you would all invent definitions, write them down, hand them in to me. I would read them all out loud – including the real one. Each of you would then pick which one you think is real. If you choose the right answer, you get a point – and if you choose someone else’s answer, they get a point. So you’re incentivized to be not just creative and insightful, but also plausible.

Or, at least, that would be the case if we were playing Balderdash. Which we’re not. Because rather than obscure words… we are using the titles of science fiction and fantasy stories. I’ll give you the title, and you have to write down a synopsis of what you think that story is about.

Remember, stories can be about the weirdest damn things… and the meanings of the titles are not always obvious. But then again, sometimes they are.

One of the fun parts of this game is the prep work: going through decades worth of anthologies and magazines and picking out stories based on their titles, and knowing the stories well enough that you can boil them down into a single sentence…. and then keep boiling. Go beyond simple, into simplistic. Describe something so blandly that pathos becomes bathos. Spoil the ending. Focus on a single minor aspect, to a ridiculous extent. Make something deep and serious sound trivial and silly.

How many stories can you identify among the crowds of impostors?

Results from our first game are on the MONSFFA site — “A Game that wasn’t Balderdash!”

Trigger Snowflake – Prominent Local Poet

By Ingvar: Trigger Snowflake woke up, and as he normally did, he walked downstairs, to the kitchen in the Sheriff’s Office. He loaded his trusty BrewMatic 3000, and pressed the start button. Most mornings, this was an uneventful routine, but this morning, the BrewMatic 3000 made a few distressing coughing noises, then simply ejected tepid water and all the coffee grounds in a distressing spray.

Trigger sighed, went over to the refrigerator, grabbed some milk and went to prepare his customary morning bowl of Nut Neptune Nuggets. Unfortunately, it seemed as if he had not been paying attention the previous day, as he only had enough Neptune Nuggets for half a bowl.

After a less than completely satisfying breakfast, Trigger was busy doing weapons maintenance on his trusty revolvers, when the door was flung open.

“Sheriff, sheriff, I am being blacklisted, oppressed and simply denied my rights as a free man!”

Trigger looked up from his half-dismantled guns, seeing Rick Ven Fleebro, a Venusian who’d arrived a few years ago.

“If you take a seat, and describe the happenings to me, while I finish up maintenance?”

“I will do this, Sheriff Snowflake. I have been most unfairly maligned, lied about, and now blacklisted from the Poetry Slam!”

Trigger’s forehead lifted a small amount, the Poetry Slam would be taking place at the Coffee Emporium, under the kind and welcoming oversight of his fiancee, Miss Coraline Hoyter. Surely nothing underhanded could be happening?

“As you know, I am a prominent local poet, and six months ago, I published a defining work of Venusian Sulphur Poetry. It all went well, to start with, but after a short while, my publicist and publisher sent me a letter, asking me to please stop showing people what I ate for dinner the previous night, which is considered polite on Venus and especially among Sulphur artists. Of course, I did not pay her rude interjection any heed, as I am polite, well-spoken and generally considered to be a model Venusian. Then, probably forced to do so by the namely-pappy weakling brigade, she worded it a bit stronger. She sent a letter that said that I would have to only show my dinner on my own time, not during publicity speeches for my book, during interviews about how I am a prominent local poet and the like. Which, as you can tell, not only offensive but also a direct attempt at curtailing my free speech.”

Trigger nodded, it was a fiddly piece of disassembly in progress, the firing mechanism had to be daintily disconnected from the plebotium power core.

“And, then, this morning, out of absolutely nowhere, I received a card from Miss Hoyter, at the Coffee Emporium, saying that due to my Venusian background, I have been stricken from the Poetry Slam line-up. You must do something, Sheriff Snowflake. Arrest all of these people!”

Trigger finished cleaning the parts of hs weapons and looked up at Ven Fleerbo.

“First, I need to reassemble my proton shooters. After that I will make inquiries and arrests as appropriate.”

#

Susan Doed was heads-down in her paperwork, when a firm knock sounded from her door. She re-assembled the papers into a neat stack and went to unlock the front door.

“Ah, Sheriff Snowflake, what a pleasant surprise. What can I do for you?”

“Perhaps pleasant is overstating things, Miss Doed. I am here on a matter of law.”

“Oh. Well. Let me not keep you standing in the door. Come in, can I get you a cup of coffee?”

“Some coffee would not sit amiss. I will be taking notes, since this is after all a work visit.”

“Sure. Do you take sugar or milk?”

“One sugar, brown if you have. No milk. Now, Miss Doed, I understand you are the publicist for a Mr Ven Fleerbo?”

“Am, was, that is a little bit unclear. We have not formally dissolved the contract, but Mr Ven Fleerbo has made it blatantly obvious that he no longer demands my services.”

“Hmm?”

“Well, only two weeks ago, he stormed out of this very office, screaming ‘You will be sorry for this, you slimy porcupine-loving equality-fighting shnipty!’ Yes, he even used the S word!”

“Anything more you can tell me about your association with Mr Ven Fleerbo?”

“It’s probably better if I just go through this from the start. About a year ago, Rick Ven Fleerbo came to my office, with the manuscript for a Venusian Sulphur Poetry collection in hand and asked if that was something I would be interested in publishing. I said, as I normally do to walk-ins, ‘Leave it on that shelf, with a note giving your contact details, and I will get back to you as soon as I can.’ About two, maybe three, days later, I had time to look at it and it was good. I mean, it was good Sulphur. A somewhat specialised kind of poetry, as you know.

“I decided it was worth getting it typeset and printed. We agreed that I would also help Mr Ven Fleerbo with promotional work and arrange a few readings. And that’s when the problems started. You see, it’s a tradition among Sulphur artists to, as a sign of thanks and respect, regurgitate their last meal during a recitation, or upon receiving strong compliments. And it is then expected that the person, or persons, being thrown up on, should at least taste the effluvia.

“I didn’t initially know this, so I was, as they say, somewhat surprised having a grown man throw up all over the front of my dress. I informed Mr Ven Fleerbo that engaging in this habit would probably limit his ability to sell his volume of poems. At first, he seemed to take this in an even stride, but when I reminded hum, a few weeks later, after he’d thrown up all over the stage as the applause broke out during a recitation, he started getting angry, and screamed something about being oppressed.”

“And?”

“Well, this has been going back and forth, for a while. I have now stopped trying to book him for readings, because quite a few venues simply decline having Ven Fleerbo on stage, citing local health inspectors, clean-up costs and rapidly declining attendance numbers on any event where Ven Fleerbo is listed on the billboard.”

“Thank you, Miss Doed, I may return for some more questions, later.”

#

Trigger arrived at the Coffee Emporium as the lunch crowd petered out. He boldly went in, waving at his fiancee, striding up towards the counter.

“Good afternoon, dear Coraline, I am unfortunately here on business. Can we talk in the back room?”

“Certainly, Trigger. Let me just hand the counter over to Barbara, she can certainly use the experience.”

They went through to the back room. Miss Coraline Hoyter sat down behind the manager’s desk, sighing with slight relief as her weight transferred from her dainty feet onto the chair.

“So, beloved Trigger, business you say?”

“Unfortunately so. I was approached this morning by a Rick Ven Fleerbo, a prominent local poet. I take it the name is familiar?”

“Ah, yes, Mr Ven Fleerbo. I am assuming this is in conjunction with next week’s Poetry Slam?”

“How perceptive of you. Yes. Could you please recount your view of what’s happened, while I take some notes?”

“There’s nothing much to tell. Having had reports from poetry slams throughout the entirety of the mining colony, from Fort Hamhock, Duralumin Gulch, and even Beryllium City, I learned that Mr Ven Fleerbo has a tendency to engage in… certain behaviour that is not really appreciated by the audience. I wrote him a letter, saying that his attendance as a poet at the Slam was conditional on a promise to not vomit all over my Emporium. My expectation was that he would respond with a promise not to, or at least a non-committal ‘I will do my best’. His actual response was profanity-laden and contained a promise to sup on the most foul dishes on the previous evening, so he could truly show the Fort Corallium public in how high of an esteem he holds them.”

“Hm?”

“Yes, it is the tradition among Venusian Sulphur artists. You consume things, in order to absorb and filter the more exceptional of their foods, then you simply void your digestive system and let people partake of slightly less vile foods.”

“So, your response at this point was?”

“Well, I wrote back and simply said that as I’d previously told him, his attendance was conditional on the opposite that he had promised. So with some regret, I cancelled him from the line-up and that, as far as I am concerned, is that. Now, dear Trigger, why are you asking about this, is there some sort of problem, here?”

“Yes, I wish I could tell you more, but the integrity of law enforcement, etc, etc.”

“Oh, my beloved darling, it must be such a troublesome balancing act for you.”

“It is not the most pleasant situation, Miss Hoyter. Not the most pleasant.”

#

The following day, Trigger woke up and went to the kitchen again. As he was about to open the cabinet, he suddenly remembered that yesterday had seen neither the repair of his DripMatic 3000, nor a purchase of more Neptute Nut Nuggets. With a blue word, he slammed the cabinet door shut, all ready to go down to the Coffee Emporium to break his fast there, when the front door slammed open.

“Sheriff Snowflake! It is I, prominent local poet Rick Ven Fleerbo. You must immediately arrest the vile women at the Coffee Emporium! They have now moved into complete slandering of me!”

“Mr Ven Fleerbo, I would appreciate it if you depart my office, for at least one hour. I have not yet had a chance to break fast and I am not in the best of moods.”

“Ah, that is at least easy to repair!”

With those words, Ven Fleerbo inserted a quick finger into his mouth, tickling the top of his throat. And in a magnificent display of respect deposited all of yesterday’s evening meal, all over Sheriff Snowflake, the floor, the kitchen cabinets, and counters.

“Mr Ven Fleerbo! Have you no concept of how to behave in a non-Venusian setting? Depart immediately, or I will have you arrested for obstruction of justice!”

Half an hour later, after a change of clothes and the second shower of the morning, Trigger arrived at the Coffee Emporium. He entered, fund his accustomed chair empty, sat down and leaned his head heavily into his hands, elbows firmly planted on the surface of the table.

“Beloved Trigger! Such a face, this early in the day! The usual?”

“Yes, Coraline, the usual.”

He proceeded to eat his pastry, finished his coffee and was seriously considering having a second cup when the door was flung open and Ven Fleerbo entered.

“Collusion! You are conspiring with these vile women. I should have known it!”

“Mr Ven Fleerbo!”, Trigger shouted, “You are factually incorrect. Having considered all the evidence, I can find no conspiracy to put you down for your Venusian background, only for the complete and utter inability to be kept in furnished rooms. It is very possible to be a Venusian Sulphur poet without engaging in such graphic shows of gratitude as you are prone to. In fact, Morpo Ven Eensam, prominent planetary poet, has succeeded in doing the very same for near on ten years. You, Mr Ven Fleerbo, are just an uncouth bore. Now, leave my fiancee’s Coffee Emporium, before I have you arrested for bringing false accusations.”

With that, Rick Ven Fleerbo turned around and left the coffee Emporium.

“Oh, dearest Trigger, such a manly outburst,” gushed Miss Hoyter, “let me tell you what I have been working towards.”

Trigger let his gaze move from the now-empty doorway to the breathtakingly beautiful face of his fiancee.

“Plans, Coraline?”

“Yes, plans. As you know, it will be impossible for me to continue to run the Coffee Emporium, once I am a wife and married woman, as I will have to focus completely on the household. But, fear not! I have trained a replacement, to take over the Coffee Emporium.”

“Marvellous! Have I met her?”

“Yes, you saw her yesterday, she is Miss Barbara Dimatis and has shown a suitable strength of will and honesty. And to that effect, I have spoken to the Preacher and he can join us in matrimony this evening, if that suits?”

An Investigation into Bheer

By Ahrvid Enghom: What fuels science fiction and its fandom? Easy: bheer! (Yes, I spell it that way.)

Sweden has a complicated relationship to bheer. Strong bheer was actually banned until the rationing book (“motboken”) system on alcohol was scrapped in 1955, but you could buy weaker pilsner lager. When stronger bheer became legal people ordered “a strong bheer” in the pubs and even “a big strong one” (“en stor stark”).

Few Swedish pubs offer “a pint”. You order “en stor stark”. The problem is that there’s no definition of how “big” (“stor”) such a bheer is! The local paper Mitt i Södermalm has rushed to rescue, and put their top investigative reporters on the problem: how big is “a big strong one”?

In its latest issue, February 6, they have measured the liquid contents of “en stor stark” on 100 Stockholm pubs.

Should you come to a convention in Stockholm (the next one is Fantastika/Swecon June 16-18, https://fantastika2018.wordpress.com/in-english/ ) you may benefit from the following statistics:

  • The biggest big strong one was 57 cl (72 SEK) or a pint – yes, you can get those, and it was of course served on the English-style pub The Tudor Arms on Grev Street.

  • The smallest big strong one was 25 cl (40 SEK), and the place to avoid is Habibi on Skåne Street,

  • The most expensive one costed 89 SEK (around 10 Euros) for 40 cl and if you’ve just signed a golden book contract you can waste your money at Proviant on Sture Street.

  • The cheapest one costed just 25 SEK (40 cl) at Lion Bar on Långholms Street. Overjoyed fans are seen checking their maps – and the closest Metro station is Hornstull.

  • The AVERAGE big strong bheer (from the 100 tested) was 41.64 cl, and the average price was 61.64 SEK (slightly less than 6 Euros).

  • The paper also calculated the alcohol/SEK (alcohol per Swedish crown). 1 cl of alcohol costs 29.36 SEK (ca 3 Euros) on average.

  • The best alcohol/SEK is to be found at D-Pub Klosterkeller on Horns Street, which by offering 50 cl for just 30 SEK (ca 3 Euros) gives you 1 cl of alcohol for 12 SEK (ca 1.2 Euro). All of fandom cheers!

Everything from this important feat of investigative journalism when it at its best can be found here: https://alltomstockholm.se/restaurangbar/krog/krogar-mycket-glaset/. It’s in Swedish, but if you have a few strong ones, that will not be a problem.

The Dep’t of Terminology Strikes Back

By John Hertz: (from a letter to Roger Wells)  I have heard a lot about the acronym STEM for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  Your mention of STEAM adding Art prompted a little research in which I found the campaign “STEM to STEAM” which would add Art & Design, sponsored by the Rhode Island School of Design, 2 College St., Providence, RI 02905.  The school’s name ought, I suppose, to recall my childhood sorrow, tinged with relief, when after reading Jack Williamson’s 1947 masterpiece “With Folded Hands” I learned that known science had no support for rhodomagnetics; the author, who knew much, may have known the coincidence of his name with the founder of Rhode Island – and you are another Roger.

Before I went to law school I was already an amateur terminologist; since, I have also been a professional terminologist.  Art has had a strange life.  Art & Design may be better than our habit of saying at science fiction conventions we have a Writer Guest of Honor and an Artist Guest of Honor; writing is, or had better be, art.  The division “science, technology, engineering” is strange: I’ve tried to learn from engineers why they don’t consider themselves scientists; but what about technology?  What about George Sarton’s superb observation – and he should know – “The advancement of knowledge has been made possible by increasing accuracy of measurement” (e.g. Six Wings p. 78, 1957)?  I’d not suggest separating art, or art and design, from science, technology, engineering, mathematics; nor opposing the promotion of all or any: but what can be meant by a name that purports to comprise the five of them – if they are five? A campaign to remind many that the real joys of life are crippled by continuing to live in schoolday disgusts?

You’ll have noticed that Scott Kelly’s valuable Endurance, though it has poetry, and names Barber, Beethoven, Mozart, Strauss, and Tchaikovsky – putting Mozart first! – does not explicitly explore art.  This is not the only reason, though you may consider it indicative, why I’m nominating instead for Best Related Work his aimed-at-children version My Journey to the Stars illustrated by both photographs (Endurance has some – another ill-acknowledged art) and André Ceolin’s drawings.

Oldest Niece’s Live Commentary on Raiders of the Lost Ark

Aunt Carol’s Oldest Niece is my daughter. When they get together to watch a movie, Aunt Carol captures her Oldest Niece’s wisecracks in a Facebook post. I am privileged to present their latest opus. (A little like Mystery Theater 2018…)

Aunt Carol identifies her own comments as “Me.” Oldest Niece’s comments are either in quotes, or preceded by ON.


Me: My Oldest Niece (who turns 16 next week) will be watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail followed by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for her party. So I figured we should watch Raiders of the Lost Ark first.


“The donkey looks offended.”


“Ah! Spiders!


Me: (After Indy tells Alfred Molina to stay there)
ON: “Oh sure, I’ll get right on that.”


ON: Oh, it’s one of those museum switches!
Me: Huh?
ON: With the sand!
Me: Yeah, this is where the trope came from.


“How is the boulder so perfect?”


“He looks so offended!”


Sings along with the music
“I like how I know the music.”


“Oh, a snek!”


“Giant spiders? Fine. One snake? NOPE!”


“That is a GREAT sweater vest.”


ON: That’s so weird.
Me: What, the plane?
ON: Yeah, that there’s no security.


“Why is he so sweaty?”


“The place is going to burn down with the medallion inside?”


ON: Does it burn the hands of those that aren’t worthy?
Me: No it’s just sitting in fire.
ON: I like my version better.


“She stole a pan. And then climbed into a basket.”


“The monkey is not your friend.”


“Tasty poison!”


“Oh yeah, the monkey’s gonna die.”


“Yay, the monkey died. I did not like him.”


ON: Is Marian really dead?
Me: Do you want me to tell you?
ON: No.


Me: I’m just standing here…
ON: Next to a hole with the map room where we’re not supposed to go…
Me: Like ya do.


(After seeing the snakes)
“I am not a fan of that. That is about a hundred snakes too many for me.”


Me: Why is there gasoline down there?
ON: Let it live.


“He made a hanger! A portable hanger! That’s funny. I love him, he’s dumb.”


“So much gasoline…”


“Who is this bald guy? He is so pink he’s either sweaty or sunburnt.”


“He’s got little goggles!”


“Smiles at German dude, throws him out of window.”


“Not the pots!”


“Motorcycle sidecar! Weapon of true destruction!”


“Attack of the palm trees.”


“He’s going to have aggressive road burn on his ankles.”


“It’s a Mercedes!”


“Oh, He is not having a good day. His butt must be hurting so bad!”


“That’s not how physics works!”


(Regarding the locals)

“If I was these guys, I would hate them so much.”


Me: Indy does not deserve a friend like Sallah.
ON: He does NOT. Honestly, neither does Marian.


ON: Did the Ark just…?
Me: It doesn’t like Nazis.
ON: It’s sentient?
Me: shrugs


“He’s gonna bazooka them!”


“Ew. I love burning off my flesh.”


“I would not want to hug someone that sweaty.”


“I love the researcher named ‘Top Men.’”


“She’s gonna out-drink ya, Buddy.”


“Ah yes, ‘top men’ studying it. In a warehouse.”

Trigger Snowflake and the No-Platformers

By Ingvar: Trigger Snowflake opened his clear, blue eyes. It smelled like a fine morning, heralding a great day. If nothing else, he would be taking lunch with his betrothed, Miss Coraline Hoyter.

He quickly got dressed and walked to the sheriff office kitchen, grabbed a bowl and poured a healthy serving of Neptune Nut Nuggets and added just a splash of milk, in order to get his breakfast cereal to the perfect balance between crispy nuttiness and slight moistness from the slowly penetrating milk. As he left the bowl to soak, he set his DripMatic 3000 to making his post-cereal coffee.

Quarter of an hour later, having fortified himself with a truly excellent breakfast, it was time to strap his gun belt around his trim waist, then pin the sheriff badge to his vest, then take a quick stroll through Fort Corallium, to ensure that the local businessmen were all happy and the local miners well-behaved. He put his hat on, opened the front door of the sheriff office and headed out, nodding cheerfully to his fellow citizens as he strolled down Main Street.

Trigger pondered the propriety of paying Miss Hoyter an early visit. Fully distracted by the complex problem of figuring this matter of etiquette, he did not notice Mr Lilyberg hurrying the other way, and in one of those moments that happen, they walked into each other, with such force that Sheriff Snowflake was half spun around, and Mr Lilyberg was knocked off balance and fell down.

“Sorry, Mr Lilyberg. Mind completely elsewhere. Everything alright?”

“Just lost my breath, Sheriff, nothing sprained or broken.”

Trigger reached down with his right arm, to help Mr Lilyberg up from the ground.

“Good to hear. Again, terribly sorry.”

“No one hurt, Sheriff, no one hurt. Just on my way to Agape, they called and my new shoes have arrived. Nothing I would recommend for you, having such a stately height, but being a bit on the short side…”

Trigger tipped his hat and continued his morning stroll, taking care to not let his mind stray to the fascinating conundrum that had bothered him.

#

Having walked entirely to the other side of Fort Corallium, Trigger checked his pocket watch. A brisk, but not over-fast stroll, even taking the Lilyberg incident into account. It would not do to be too fast in these peace-keeping strolls.

Trigger paused and looked around, nothing out of the ordinary. It truly seemed like it would be a perfect day. Now, it had been raining and windy the last few days. Trigger knew that the atmospheric systems did not keep any specific weather setting for longer than three days, in order to ensure that the townsfolk got variety, but never got really bored with the weather.

He started back down Main Street, wondering if he should stop for a cup of coffee on the way, or give the DripMatic 3000 a chance to make a second cup of the morning. He’d not gotten much further than listing the options in his mind, when he heard a loud commotion from the alley on his left.

Undoing the strap retaining his right revolver in the holster, Sheriff Snowflake purposefully strode towards the opening of the alley, certain in his conviction that a crime was in progress and he may have to discharge his firearm. As he stepped off Main Street, he saw, disconcertingly, Miss Hoyter on the ground, in stockinged feet.

“Miss Hoyter! What happened? Can I be of assistance? Where are your shoes?”

“Dear Trigger, please help me up and walk me back to the Emporium. I was viciously knocked down from behind, then a swarthy main, looked like an Earther, stole my new shoes!”

“Stealing shoes? I am continually baffled by how low criminals are willing to stoop. Here, Miss Hoyter take my hand, and I will help you to the Emporium. Will you be able to walk, or should I carry you back?”

“Walking back would not be a problem, darling Trigger. And it would be unseemly, this close to our wedding, for you carry me when I am perfectly capable of walking.”

“But…”

“No, Trigger, I shall walk, even if it may ruin my silk stockings.”

Sheriff Snowflake held his arm out to at least ensure that Miss Hoyter would have support as and when she needed it. They headed down Main Street to the Emporium.

Once at the Emporium, Trigger pulled his notebook out, as well as a pen, and placed them on the table.

“Well, Miss Hoyter, I should probably take a formal statement, since a crime has been committed.”

“Certainly. Would you like a coffee while we talk?”

“That would be splendid.”

Once two cups were on the table, and they had taken their first sip, he picked up his pen and notebook.

“Miss Hoyter can you describe the sequence of events?”

“Certainly. I was walking from home towards the Emporium, when I heard what sounded like a puppy down Natural Alley. Not wanting to leave any long animal in distress, I headed down, keeping an eye out for the pup. I’d walked fifteen, maybe twenty, yards when someone hit me in the back of the head. I fell to the ground, dazed, and as I was trying to get my bearings, I felt what seemed to be a knife cutting the straps off my new shoes. Then the shoes were taken off my feet. Whoever it was started running away and I shouted out. Then, a few moments later, a host dashing and handsome sheriff arrived.”

“New shoes? Any precious stones, noble metals or similar on them?”

“No, they’re a new model from Mars, picked them up yesterday evening at Agape. They’re honestly jus a new thing I thought I would try. They have, in addition to my customary high heel, that you are familiar with, an extra-thick sole under the ball of the foot. In total, they give me almost a full extra inch. But I don’t think they’re special enough to warrant stealing, they were fairly plain, smooth red leather, with a copper buckle on the ankle strap.”

“Hm. Well, I have written for statement down. Let’s enjoy the rest of the coffee, before I head back to the office.”

They finished the coffee, engaged in the normal smalltalk of a coupe engaged to be married, plans for wallpaper patterns and the like.

#

Trigger had just finished filing Miss Hoyter’s statement when the front door was flung open. He looked up at an enraged Mr Lilyberg rushing through the door.

“Sheriff! Sheriff! I am the victim of a heinous crime!”

“If you take a seat, Mr Lilyberg, I will take your statement.”

“I was returning from Agape with my new shoes boxed up. When all of a sudden, two armed men stopped me and threatened to run me through with their knives, unless I gave them the shoe box. These were special-order from Mars, Sheriff, quite expensive, and now I need to wait for two weeks, before a new pair can be here. This is an outrage, Sheriff! There must be something you can do!”

“Well, Mr Lilyberg, in confidence I can reveal that you are not the first person today who have lost a pair of shoes. Could you please describe the shoes for me?”

“Now, Sheriff, I am not a vain man, but you may have noticed that I am on the short side. Normally, this does not bother me, but as we are coming up on an election for the town council again, I thought it prudent to, ahem, increase my stature slightly. So I ordered a pair of dress shoes from this new company on Mars. They make a most satisfying design, giving me almost an inch of extra height. Enough to look solid and imposing, not so much that it looks unnatural. My thinking here is that it would make it easier in the store.”

“Curious. From Agape, you said? All the way down south on Main Street?”

“Yes, Sheriff, that’s the store.”

“Well, I have written up your testimony and I will do my best to apprehend the vile criminals. Alas, Mr Lilyberg, I shall have to work. You have a safe day, now.”

“Thank you Sheriff!”

With that, Mr Lilyberg stood up and left the Sheriff’s Office, leaving Trigger to compare the testimonies of the two victims.

#

Zacharias Bengtsen was fearing for his life. Two armed, masked men had burst into his store, forced him into the store room, then tied him up. Now they were busy ransacking their way through his merchandise, taking some of the stock, but mostly just throwing things on the floor.

If only he had listened to the urging of his brother and installed an alarm system with a hand-held activator. If he had, it would be triggered by now, and hopefully Sheriff Snowflake would be on his way.

Meanwhile, walking south on Main Street, Trigger nodded at his fellow citizens, on his way to Agape Shoes. He was a block away when he noticed something out of place. The front door was not only closed, but had a “CLOSED” sign displayed. This was not at all normal, it being not even mid-day yet, and definitely not Sunday. He loosened both his revolvers, ensuring that he would have a fast draw, if needed.

Trigger considered his options. He could simply kick open the front doors, but that was likely to incur property damage and necessitate leaving a guard on the door overnight, something that the Office budget certainly could stretch to, but definitely an unnecessary expenditure. He thought for a few moments, then remembered that there was a back entrance, straight into the store room. It was normally locked, but the override key would take care of that.

Trigger walked around the building, found the back door and readied himself to open it, when he could hear a faint noise from inside. He took a deep breath, leaned forward and listened. It certainly sounded like multiple people completely wrecking the place. He leaned back and let the held breath out with a sigh, unlocked the door and drew his right revolver. With his left hand, he ripped the door open and scanned the room. There, two masked men. Trigger shot the one on the right, but before he could shoot the second one, the masked man threw himself out of the store room. With a jarring crash of broken glass, the man must have destroyed one of the shop windows.

Trigger saw Mr Bengtsen tied up on the floor. With the hooligan well on his way, it would be better to free the poor man, rather than set chase.

“Mt Bengtsen, if you just relax, I will cut the ropes that hold you.”

He swiftly cut the ropes, and once Mr Bengtsen’s arms were free, the shop-keeper pulled the gag off his mouth.

“Thank you, Sheriff Snowflake. There were two of them, and they were stealing some of my shoes! I have never, in my fourteen years of shop-keeping, seen anything like it. They simply discarded most of the stock, looking at it, some of the more valuable items are here, discarded on the floor!”

“Very good, Mr Bengtsen. If you could make an inventory and forward a note with what has been stolen?”

“Oh, quicker than that. I was watching them, and they were just taking the new elevated shoes from Mars. There’s only the one pair left in stock. Quite annoying, I only had eighteen pairs, and of those only three were not pre-orders. Look, there’s only the one pair left!”

“Hm, this paints a troubling picture, two pairs of shoes like this have already been stolen today, and now they’ve attacked the source of the shoes. Would you mind if I take this pair back to the office, to examine them in more detail?”

“If that is what’s needed to catch the last remaining thief? Certainly!”

“That is it, then. On my way, I will stop by the undertaker and send Dr Cottage down here for the body. Do you need any help cleaning this up?”

“Don’t worry, Sheriff, once the corpse is gone, it’ll be right as rain.”

#

The bell over the door jangled as Trigger entered the undertaker’s shop.

“Dr Cottage? Customer for you, down at Agape, in the store room. A robber and a thief, caught in the act. You will find that he’s had a clean shot, right to the heart.”

“Very good, Sheriff Snowflake, very good. Are we expecting any other sudden customers in the near future?”

“Well, there were two of them, so it’s not entirely impossible. I would prefer to catch him and have him sent back to Earth, but if they insist on getting killed, I am happy to oblige.”

This sordid business completed, Trigger left the undertaker’s and headed back up Main Street towards his office, when suddenly a masked man wielding a cut-off shotgun jumped out from an alley.

“The shoes! In your hand! Give them to me!”

Trigger lifted his right hand, holding the shoes out in front of him at about shoulder height.

“These? Are you sure?”

“The shoes, or I shoot!”

Trigger quickly considered his options, then threw the pair of shoes towards the evil-doer. As the man tracked the ballistic trajectory of the footwear, Trigger quickly drew his left revolver, shot from the hip and drilled a neat hole in the man’s forehead. He turned around, saw Dr Cottage just leaving his shop.

“Ah, Doctor, seems we have a second customer more quickly than expected.”

“Indeed, Sheriff, I suspected as much when I heard the distinctive bark of your sidearm.”

All criminals duly dispatched, Trigger returned to his office. Once seated, he looked at the shoes, then noticed that there was a slight rattling from the left shoe, as he moved them around. He drew his knife, pried the sole off and saw that hidden inside the thick bottom of the shoe, a memcrystal was hidden. Clearly, the whole shoe-stealing was because of secrets smuggled off Mars in the shipment.

Later in the evening, Trigger went in search of the lair of the evil-doers. As they were not the most intelligent of criminals, as evidenced by then plying their wrong-doing trade in Fort Corallium, it was not very hard.

The following morning, Sheriff Snowflake met up with Miss Hoyter.

“Dear Coraline, I found the lair of the robbers, but I am compelled to inform you that they did, in the most heinous way possible, de-platform you.”

Speaking of Seeger

By John Hertz:  Having happened to enlighten Our Gracious Host about Pete Seeger’s “Wimoweh” (1957) and the Tokens’ hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)” (1961), “wimoweh” a mis-hearing of Zulu “uyimbube” (“you’re a lion”), I thought further about how Paul Weimer heard it.

Weimer was this year’s Down Under Fan Fund delegate, and having been there and back again is now the North America Administrator for DUFF.

I was ecstatic to learn in August he’d promptly published his trip report.

After some commotion I got a copy from him, not by “downloading” but a realio trulio paper copy which I without citizenship in Electronicland could read.  It was 300 pages, printed on one side only, to a great extent photographs (very beautiful, some of them) without labels, through which I searched agonizingly. So much for Michelangelo.

However the fact remains that I still haven’t published my own report from 2010, though I did send a note here.

Thus by way of applause we might sing:

Going down under, the Fan Fund Down Under,
Paul Weimer went tonight.

A Weimer went, a Weimer went,
A Weimer went, a Weimer went.

’Cross the ocean, the peaceful ocean,
Paul Weimer went tonight.
’Cross the ocean, the quiet ocean,
Paul Weimer went tonight.

A Weimer went, a Weimer went,
A Weimer went, a Weimer went.

“Three hundred pages!” the no-’Net man rages;
Paul Weimer’s back tonight.

A Weimer went, a Weimer went,
A Weimer went, a Weimer went.

Who’s from down under, who’s next from down under?
Paul Weimer went last time.
Who’ll go to Worldcon, the San Jose Worldcon?
Paul Weimer went last time.

                                            

Alas, though none of us three knew it, Mitch Margo (1947-2017), who was 14 when as one of the Tokens he recorded “The Lion”, had died on November 24th, age 70.  R.I.P.