Sunday, July 10, 2016

Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Fegoot (book)

By Grendel Briarton

FeghootAh, Ferdinand Feghoot.  Traveler through space and time*and always ready to show up in any situation and crack the world’s worst puns.**  He even gave his name to the literary form: the feghoot.

It began in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Grendel Briarton’s** first effort immediately set the stage when, when Feghoot was captured by a shaggy alien with a hand on its head and holding a hypodermic needle.  But Feghoot wasn’t fazed:  he recognized the creature for what it was:  a furry with a syringe on top.

And it continued for years and over 120 variations, all capable of eliciting appreciative groans from any audience.  There were only two rules:  You couldn’t use made up names, and you had to keep it as short as possible.

The first time I encountered one was in an issue of Venture Science Fiction, *** who’s Feghoot told of a Paris landlord who jumped in the river and refused to come out because he didn’t have enough rents to come in out of the Seine.

The concept took off.  George Scithers, editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, helped keep it going with other authors. Asimov himself wrote several, including the brilliant “Death of a Foy.”****

Currently, Steve Pastis uses feghoots in his comic strip, Pearls Before Swine.”

But, if Briarton hadn’t actually invented the genre, he certainly popularized it. The originals are still brilliant puns, if some of the references are a bit dated.

And remember:  a gritty pearl is Michael, L.Ld.

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* Preceded Doctor Who by several year.

**A anagrammatic pseudonym for author Reginald Bretnor.

***A short-lived sister publication of F&SF.  It published a full-length novel in every issue, but only lasted a short time in each of its two separate runs.  For many years afterwards, though, the masthead of F&SF had a line “including Venture Science Fiction.”

****Scithers turned it down for Asimov’s, probably because it broke rule number 1.  But if you’re Isaac Asimov, you can break rules.

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