Saturday, June 14, 2014

Literary History with a twist story

Good evening, readers.  I hope all is well with you on this fine, cool evening in Northern California.  

I'm a big fan of literary history.  I learned a lot of it in the little Science Fiction bookstore that was in De La Guerra Plaza once, long ago in Santa Barbara.

One of the interesting aspects of literary history is the prototype phenomenon - when something was created first in all history.  

Here is a story for you to enjoy I wrote about the history of a prototype event in fiction writing.  It is done in the style of a great entertainer some of you are astute or educated enough to remember: Mr. Paul Harvey. 

And now, without further adieu, I give you..



Arthur William Hermansen
ã 2014 All Rights Reserved

The year was 1911.  The West was less wild and more settled.  A man named Edgar lived then, making his living selling pencil sharpeners.  Edgar traveled from town to town, taking orders, making deliveries and collecting on invoices.

In one town, Edgar had a customer, a respected mercantiler named Mr. Jenkins. 

One fall afternoon, Edgar was making a delivery of pencil sharpeners to Mr. Jenkins’s general goods and sundry store.  Mrs. Jenkins was at the back of the store dusting and straightening the merchandise. 

After saying hello and how do you do, as the custom of the day was, Mr. Jenkins asked Edgar, “Edgar, you’ve been selling pencil sharpeners for some years now, haven’t you?” Mr. Jenkins asked. 

“Yes, sir, Mr. Jenkins, it’s a decent wholesale” Edgar replied, carefully checking the order, as he was meticulous with his paperwork.

“How’s that working out for you?” Mr. Jenkins asked.

“It’s a respectable living, sir.  The wife and kids are well cared for and I don’t have too many days away from them” Edgar happily replied.

Mr. Jenkins paused and looked into the back of the store where his wife Martha was standing.  She looked at him.   “Yep, I reckon so.  I s’pose they’ll be growed up before you know it, like mine are gettin' to be,” Mr. Jenkins said.

Edgar paused thoughtfully.  “Well sir, Mr. Jenkins, it’s just a livin, selling pencil sharpeners, but you won’t get rich” Edgar replied, adding, “I suppose if I desired to get rich like half the dang fools these days, I’d have to find something different to do.  But frankly sir, my spare time is not planning the next aero plane, I like my habit of reading pulp fiction.”

Edgar carefully finished up and handed Mr. Jenkins the invoice.  He took it and checked it, murmuring, “Oh yes, I see, that new fiction.  Certainly doomed the dime novel” he replied.  He finished checking the invoice and looked back at his wife who was glaring at him insistently.

Mr. Jenkins cleared his throat nervously and said, “Well, you know, Edgar, I think it’s good idea there to read those things.  You see, uh, dime novels are losing their popularity and sales are getting slack.  And this new fangled ‘pulp fiction’ may be just a passing fad, and you can’t sell any more papers than what they send us,” he laughed nervously.

Mrs. Jenkins walked out and said, “We just think this new pulp fiction is kind of, well, odd.”

“I’m certain this fiction will catch on soon enough.  I like the stories, and the printing and editing is better and better all the time,” Edgar replied. 

“Well, sounds like you really know what you’re reading, doesn’t it?,” Mr. Jenkins said, chuckling.

“I suppose I do, now that I come to think of it,” Edgar replied with an amused smile.

“You know, Edgar, mebbe you ought to write for the pulps, you sure seem to have a knowledge of what you’re reading and there’s no question in my mind your penmanship and lettering is top notch, yes sir, top notch indeed,” Mr. Jenkins said with a polished salesman’s smile. 

Edgar paused, and with a wry mock said, “Now that sound like a novel idea.”  Mr. Jenkins and his wife guffawed and they all had a good laugh. 

“Ah yes, good one, good one I say, hehe-heh,” Mr. Jenkins replied.  Then a thought came to Edgar and he said, “You know, Mr. Jenkins, that might not be a bad idea after all, you know?  I watched plenty of people do well penning the dime novels.”  “That’s true,” Mr. Jenkins replied, adding, “you never know, you might be able to get in on the next big thing.”  They chuckled agreeably at that too as Mr. Jenkins paid out the drawer to satisfy Edgar’s bill. 

“I’ll consider it, sir,” Edgar replied, “But I don’t honestly know what I would do even if I tried, Mr. Jenkins.”

Mr. Jenkins took a pencil from behind his ear and signed the sales order, and as he looked at his pencil, a thought struck him, so he said, “you know Edgar, there’s an old hardware business saying.  ‘The customer doesn’t want a drill, they want a hole.”

“I don’t follow you, sir,” Edgar replied quizzically. 

“Well, Edgar, think on this.  The next time you think about writing down something with a pencil, cogitate on the paper for a moment instead before you do.  Might just provide some inspiration, and there’d you go,” Mr. Jenkins said.

“Uh-huh.  Just might.  Makes sense in a strange way,” Edgar replied, pursing the invoice satisfaction. 

“Don’t get me wrong, Edgar, pencil sharpener sales – erm – eh, not that that isn’t an honorable profession, by Jove’s lightening it sure is, I don’t intend any offense, of course,” Mr. Jenkins said.

“Not at all, Mr. Jenkins.  I understand completely.  Your idea is in fact worth considering, I declare. I will think about it sir, I will, by gosh,” Edgar replied, and took the copy of the next sales order from Mr. Jenkins and placed in neatly in order in his sales book. 

“Good.  Goood!” Mr. Jenkins smiled, clapping young Edgar on the shoulder.  “And let me know what you come up with next time you are through, won’t you, young feller?”

“I surely will, and thank you for your order.  Mr. Jenkins, I will see you right next time I am through town.” 

They bid each other farewell, and as Edgar left town Mrs. Jenkins came out from the back, where she had listened to the rest of the conversation.  She gave her good husband a squeeze of appreciation before taking the pencil sharpeners over to the stationary supplies shelf in the mercantilery section.  She felt strongly about the publishing business, being a poetess herself.  

Edgar urged his horse and rig out of town and thought about Mr. Jenkins’s suggestion for a while as he left town.  Soon, the sun was beginning to settle into the sky.  Edgar pulled off the trail and set up camp for the night.

After supper, Edgar settling down by the fire for a pipe full.  He eventually realized Mr. Jenkins was right.  The business end of the pencil surely was a natural extension of the business he was already in.  And considering he was already accomplished in paperwork when it came to his professional affairs, he might probably be respectably decent in his literary affairs too.

So he got up after half his pipe, went over to the wagon and got himself down a board, some stationary, a couple of pencils and a sharpener.  He sat back down, lit the pipe again and let his mind wander where it would, scribbling down what came to it.

Later, before bedtime, Edgar was pleased with what he had written.  It turned into a pleasurable habit for many years to come.  He was, as time passed, to pencil and pen many works of fiction.  History would show that indeed Edgar had talent for fiction.  Great talent, in fact.  Eventually, his genius would display magnificently.

Edgar created and published many works of fiction, and went on to prosperity, fame and comfort.  He was to create perhaps the most prototypic character in all literary history, and certainly the most memorable literary character of his century.  He was to be the first writer to tell adventure stories about the planet Mars, well before any other writer in history. To this day, Edgar has more imitators than any other writer in history.  Writers as legendary as Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock and Robert A. Heinlein wouldn’t hesitate to say they were in his debt. 

That character?  His was named Tarzan, a prototype of this character type .  And the pencil sharpener salesman’s name?  It was Edgar Rice Burroughs.

And now you know, the jest in the story.

Hope you enjoyed my tale.  Goodnight, my Internet..

The Lone Comic TM

Defender of Creativity and Entertainment SM

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