..... When this was first published, The Willis Papers was already in the first stages of publication, and we decided the article was too new to be reprinted. But now .....


by Walter A. Willis

(from Void #18 June, 1959)

As all of you hotblooded young fans will know, there is a firm called Interflora which allows you to send flowers by telegram. You pay for a dozen red roses at the nearest branch (no, not the tree, silly) enclosing a message to the effect that you are pining away from soulful passion, and you have barely worked out if you've enough money left for a packet of fish and chips when a dozen red roses are delivered to your true love many miles away, barely crushed by their passage along those tiny wires. Now this is one of those obvious ideas like the gramophone, the wheel, and the ballpoint pen which I could have easily thought up first if I had happened to put my mind to it, and I thought I'd better stake my claim here and now to a further development of it before Gernsbach beats me to it.

Let's peep in at your true love's boudoir, as she is clasping your bunch of roses to her lilywhite breasts. After dowsing them in cold water (I say, that note of yours was pretty hot stuff, wasn't it?) the dear girl casts around for some way of conveying her appreciation. Now, much to the ineffectual regret of the unenterprising directors of Interflora, it is not the custom for girls to send flowers to their young men: Such is the primitive state of the business that they let this eager client take her custom to Western Union, where she sends you an amorous telegram. Now I am sure you will agree this is frustrating to any self-respecting girl, and even more so to you. After all you sent actual organic matter; what return is it to get a bit of paper reading "Love and kisses", not even in her own handwriting and delivered by a pimply youth with adenoids? Obviously, what we want is some way she can send you actual love and kisses, just as you sent her actual vegetation.

All that is needed is for the firm to introduce a new service -- Interfauna. Your true love pays in a certain sum at her end and within minutes a young lady from your local branch comes around and expresses her sentiments clearly and unmistakeably, just as present Western Union messengers sing birthday greetings. I could leave to your feverish little imaginations the various ways in which this service could be expanded with the colaboration of your friendly neighborhood brothel; Richard Geis would probably jump at the chance to write the catalogue. There are of course other Thinkers in fandom working along these lines; Curtis Janke having already alluded in FAPA to the practice of TV repair shops who lend you a set while your own is unserviceable and having audibly speculated as to when this businesslike example would be followed by maternity hospitals. But of course this is a science fiction fanzine and such matters are really not suitable for discussion here. Let's turn to a more serious and constructive possibility.

What I'm leading to is a special department of Interfauna for fandom. We've already seen ordinary correspondence largely superceded by the greater intimacy of tape. Now the time has come to carry this a stage further, for even the spoken voice on tape is often inadequate. How often have you felt that the powers of mere language are inadequate to convey your feelings? Fanzines, like daffodils -- and offhand I think this is the first time this exceedingly apt comparison has been made -- can 'oft convey thoughts that do lie too deep for tears', or any other such ineffectual display. Let's take an example.

You observe, for instance, putting together an ostentatiously tactful reference in a Ron Bennett con report and a suggestive Hyphen baquote, that your wife was unfaithful to you at the Solacon with a fan from Vancouver. You live in Florida and weigh fifty pounds less. You may of course be satisfied with cutting the villain off your mailing list but, not knowing how your zine rated in the Fanac poll, I'd suggest that superficially this could indicate too low a rating for your wife. In most cases I think that a fan, looking hard at his conscience and his last issue, should feel that something even more drastic was needed.

Enter Interfanna! A telephone call and a representative is hulking on the dastards doorstop with a horsewhip, while another nips around the back to seduce his wife, or even pour treacle in his duplicator.* Or, to take another example, suppose you get a letter from Belle, Frank and George inviting you to join them on the board of the revived WSFS. Even before Dave Kyle can slip a writ on you, Interfanna agents trained by James White and Bob Silverberg knock simultaneously on the doors of everyone concerned and deliver psneers so witheringly devastating that New York fan politicians are not heard of again for years.

But of course not all the activities of Interfanna need be of such a baleful character. Suppose you get a very good fanzine in the mails, and you feel like conveying your appreciation really enthusiastically. All you need to do is pay the appropriate Interfanna fee, and stage-trained representatives will do the rest: call on the lucky faned, ask for copies of his zine and read it then and there before his very eyes, exclaiming with admiration, crying with emotion and rolling on the floor with laughter at every appropriate point. Why, this could take the place of cold written egoboo overnight!

Some of you old conservative fans will be objecting that messages delivered by Interfanna like this would lose their subtle fannish flavour, that special fannish way of communicating ideas which has been built up through the years in a fine old tradition. Fear not, old fan. Fortunately it so happens that Irish Fandom working here in its secluded island fastness many years ago developed a completely efficient system for conveying the nuances of fannish writing in spoken conversation. It is a bit like Victor Borge's system of "audible punctuation", with the important difference that the actual spoken remarks need not be interrupted by rude-sounding noises, but are instead tastefully illustrated by graceful gestures, making fannish conversation not only a delight to the mind and ear but an example of the poetry of motion worthy to rank with the finest ballet.

Perhaps a few examples will illustrate what I mean. Speaking with your head leaning sideways on your shoulder clearly indicates that your remarks should be regarded as being in italics. Invaluable for quiet emphasis, or if you want to say a phrase in a foreign language and like most of us are not quite sure how to pronounce it. Further emphasis can be provided by underlining, i.e. holding the forearm horizontally below your chin. A combination of the two is so striking in appearance (especially if you happen to be wearing a cloak) as to completely obviate the need for shouting (capitals) except for remarks you hope will be overheard and put on the Hyphen bacover. A combination of underlining while simultaneously holding the other forearm just under the nose indicates that you are delivering an interlineation, and it is of course a convention that a remark may be so interpolated at any point in a conversation without relevance to what has just been said. You can see, I think, how much added interest this gives to fannish conversation, taking it even further beyond the superficiality of mundane chatter. If a bright remark occurs to you, you need no longer wait until you can guide the conversation round until a suitable opening develops. Briskly making the interlineation sign you deliver it immediately into a sudden and attentive silence. The conversation then proceeds as before, except of course that at intervals thereafter other people may inject their own interlineations, perhaps inspired by yours; the meeting of minds is now on two or more levels, a brilliant and complex lattice of wit.

Brackets of course are cupped hands at the side of the mouth. For particularly juicy gossip about what happened behind the scenes at conventions, 'DNQ' is indicated by an upright finger in front of the mouth. An exclamation point is a raised fist, a question mark has the arm in the same position but with the hand hanging limp. Quotation marks are denoted by putting your fists to your ears and raising the forefingers; for quasi-quotes stick the thumbs out too.

But I think you see by now what I mean, and I'm sure you're quite bowled over with admiration for this wonderful innovation. Shucks. As I said, Irish Fandom thought it up years ago, but only as a possible convention turn -- we meant to get someone to deliver a short and lively fannish oration with all the appropriate signs. We just never got around to it and if in the meantime anybody wants to popularise it we're willing to sell the rights for a purely nominal number of hundred dollar bills. We can't wait to see a few hundred fans in some big hotel lounge carrying on animated conversations in Interfanese. It would be a wonderful sight, maybe even better than the hotel manager's face.

*Molasses in his mimeograph. -- WAW

Data entry by Judy Bemis