The Ecphorizer

Bill Harvey

Issue #18 (February 1983)

You read much science fiction? If you're typical (if there is such a thing) of this best of all possible groups, you read science fiction. Probably reams of the stuff. I don't mean to infer that you're not worthy of the club if you don't read Analog or Asimov's, only that it seems that most members do. I remember when I went to take my test many (50? 100?) years ago, the proctor asked those who read science fiction to raise their hand. Nearly everybody raised at least one hand.I love the stuff. I subscribe to two magazines, and have lots and lots of soft- and hard-cover books. Many is the night when I've flopped into my recliner, and zoomed off on a vicarious mission to collect ice asteroids and herd them to Mars so that illustrious planet could be terraformed. I've even written one many-times-rejected science fiction story, which has made the rounds from Omni all of the way down to Al and Joe's Science Fiction Magazine.

I really won't go into the plot of the thing right now, other than to say that it's a truly innovative treatment of time travel. It's not my fault that those narrow-minded, bigoted, semiliterate primates called editors get to the part that says "time travel" and assume that there is nothing new possible on the subject, and reject it. I told the plot to Dave Sabet (an aspiring writer) and HE liked it. What do editors know, anyway? Yeah. Poop on them. (This tirade does not, of course, include those kind, insightful, intelligent, sensitive people who publish my stuff. Of course not! Perish the thought!)

I have only two problems with science fiction. One is when Ann is reading over my shoulder. She reads about 11 times faster than I do. On the other hand, I can multiply and divide numbers in my head, and she can't. A typical scenario includes me sitting in my recliner, with her hovering over my shoulder and breathing on my neck. (Not an unpleasant experience.) She'll whisper seductively in my ear, "Turn the page, honey." I'll look her straight in the eye and say, "What's 16 times 12?"

The second problem with science fiction is the fact that ALL science fiction writers seem to be driven by an unholy urge to create unpronounceable names for their characters. "Khrqthz grasped the shield control with his anterior talon and watched the approach of the Xgrvndt warship." Stuff like that. Why do they do that?

I'm currently reading a book that includes the names (character and species ) "Kzin," "Bandersnatchi," "Chmee," "Tanj," and the everpopular "Halrloprillalar."

Halrloprillalar! How the Tanj do you pronounce Halrloprillar? I'll be sittin' there, reading away, trying not to move my lips, and I'll come to an unpronounceable word. What usually happens is that I read it, "As the Bandersnatch (easy) approached, Hal-mitmunmxnnph fingered her stunner."

Stop for a minute and think about poor Halmmph. Has she ever had to stand a roll call? Picture it. "Haines?" "Here!" "Hammond?" "Yo!" Deathly silence. "H-a-l-r-" "Here, dammit!"

Or, dial 411. "You can help make the phone company become bigger than General Motors by looking up your own phone numbers, but if you'll hold on for another ten minutes and sixteen rings, the operator will find it for you! Thank you."

"69307, what city please?"


"Can I help you?"

"I need a listing for Halrloprillalar.""Can you spell that, please?"

"Hell, no, I can't spell it. If I could spell it, I'd look it up for myself!"

Click. Buzz.

You know what? I've just figured out what's wrong with my story on time travel! Its the hero! His name is Chuck. How could I have been so dumb? Let's see, I'll change his name to Grizzledipstick, and his sidekick will be Zxcq, and the name of the mad doctor will be Dr. Tootsiezxqw. I'll bet they'll buy it then! I'll let you know what happens. 

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