Be on the Lookout for a Chocolate-Covered Manhole Cover

After almost 40 years there’s something new to say about a chocolate-covered manhole cover. It’s missing.

Tom Digby, the wildly inventive fanhumorist, originated the line Larry Niven used as the title of his popular story, “What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?” Tuckerized members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society are featured in a romp that starts with a fictionalized account of the 1968 party where Bruce Pelz and Dian (now Crayne) celebrated the finality of their divorce. (Yes, there really was a cake with a little bride and groom on top facing in opposite directions.) During the story “Tom Findlay,” the character based on Digby, was revealed to be an alien — and to this day LASFSians haven’t entirely ruled out that explanation.

LASFS holds a gift exchange during the Christmas season. It’s always leavened with gag gifts. I got the Flatbed Mimeo one year. I still have on my bookshelf one of the infinite copies of Zotz! that cycled through the exchange.

Another traditional gag gift I held for a year was the genuine chocolate-covered manhole cover. The real-life version was made by chocolate-coating a pancake-sized steel lid from a natural gas main, rather than a full-sized manhole cover. The winner is supposed to stash it in his or her freezer til they can put it into the next year’s exchange.

Except, it never appeared in the 2007 gift exchange. “This is like the swallows deciding not to visit Capistrano this year,” wrote Milt Stevens in his appeal to readers of the LASFS newzine De Profundis. “It’s very disturbing. Several fans are going to have anxiety attacks if it doesn’t return. So check the clutter around your residence pod just in case you have the Chocolate Covered Manhole Cover. If you do, please give it back.”