Story A Day #5: Famous Fantastic Mysteries

“But Ms. G-G-Gnaedinger,” it was terrible that he stuttered his g’s when he was nervous, “this is an orig-g-ginal story.”

Mary grasped the bridge of her nose; these wanna-be pulp fiction authors sometimes got on her nerves. As if there wasn’t enough going on in 1939 and here she was, editing a science fiction magazine. She had big plans for getting into the newspaper industry but this was the first job she landed. She was inundated with calls, manuscripts, and visits almost daily from the most outlandish cast of characters she ever thought to meet. And today was shaping up to be more of the same.

“Ms. G-G-Gnaedinger, are you all right?” The man wringing his hands on the other side of her desk was supposedly called Lionel George in real life; there was something about people with two first names that gave her the creeps anyway. To top it off, his pen name was The Great LG–how magnanimous, she had thought when she opened his manuscript. It was drivel. Some nonsense about aliens visiting earth and blending with the populace. You read one of those, she surmised after six years at it, you’ve read them all.

She let go of the bridge of her nose to look wearily up at the odd man. “Yes, Mr. George; I am fine, other than this splitting headache. Now tell me again why you have come to the editing department to find me? I believe our masthead clearly indicates that we reach out to authors we plan to publish.”

Lionel looked around the busy editing room to make sure no one was listening. “But Ms. G-G-Gnaedinger–”

“Call me Mary, won’t you?” She hoped he didn’t stutter his m’s also.

“Thank you, Mary.” Lionel was relieved at being able to use her first name. “I came here personally to ask you to publish my story. Now I know what it says in your masthead about solicitation by authors reg-g-garding their stories but I needed to explain; you see, publishing my stories will increase your readership by more than a million readers. My people will subscribe as soon as they find out I’ve been published here.”

Now this was a different tactic. She had been threatened, bribed, and gifted by some of the best who felt their work was worthy of publication in Famous Fantastic Mysteries, but never had she had an author try to sell her on readership. Her curiosity was piqued. “Do you live in some area that we have yet to tap, Mr. George? Our readership is quite large as it is; I can’t imagine that our circulation department would miss such a population of that size.”

He looked around again and leaned in just in case someone was listening. “They would miss it most certainly, Mary. You see, my people are not from here.” He looked up mysteriously, as if he could see the sky through the ceiling and five more stories of building. “Can I tell you a secret?”

She rolled her eyes, having realized that she had fallen right into the ruse. “Sure, Mr. George; what’s your secret?”

Dramatically he again looked around the room and after seeing no one looking their way, pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the edge of his neck to reveal skin that was not a natural shade of Miss Clairol Buff but glinted in a more iridescent blue way. He tucked his collar high to cover the now naked (?) blue exposed skin on his neck and raised the front of his cap; along with it he raised the front edge of the blond wig he was wearing to reveal a startling shock of yellow-white curls. “The story I wrote is true and my people love reading about themselves. I can guarantee that, if you publish my story, you’ll have one million new subscribers next month. Of course, that number will remain steady and could possibly increase as long as you publish a little something of mine in each issue.” He reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a note, which he unfolded and placed in front of her. “Here’s my estimate of your bonus when I make sure each of them puts your name on the referral line.”

Mary put on her reading glasses to make sure she had counted the correct number of zeros and then reached out to shake Lionel’s hand. “Welcome to Famous Fantastic Mysteries, LG.”

Today’s Story A Day prompt directed us to write a story based on something from the front page of Wikipedia. The first story that popped up was about elephants, which I do adore, but it didn’t capture me. Next I went to the Featured Content portal, where I found a link to a science fiction magazine called Famous Fantastic Mysteries, whose editor in 1939 was one Mary Gnaedinger. Now this was more up my alley, or so I thought. Hopefully what I did with this little piece of inspiration proves me right.

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