Egoboo For Algernon
by Terry Carr

progris riport -- martch 5 1962

Dr. Strauss sais I shud rite down what I think and evrey thing that happins from now on account of it may be importent. i dont know why but he sais he has to file a riport to the head of his comitty. Hes from the NFFF. I sed thanks alot of times but he just shruged and said just another NFFF benifit. Miss Kinnian sais maybe they can make me smart they do alot with new fans. I sure hope so. My name is Charlie Gordon and I'm 37 years and 2 months old. Ive been in fandom five years.

progris riport 2 -- martch 6

They gave me a quiz today but I couldn't figure it out. It wasnt aboute Hugo Gernsback or Henery Kuttners pen names like most quizes though. What happind is Dr. Strauss showed me some white cards with ink spilled on them or something. He sed Charlie what do you see on this card. I was very scared and I told him it was an inkblot but I hadnt dun it. He looked sad and said that wasnt the rite idea he said he wantid me to say what it reminded me of. So I looked at it some more and sed it reminded me of the reproduktion I get on my mimeo. But he sed that wasnt the rite answer eether so I guess I faled the quiz. But that was reely what it reminded me of.

progris riport3 -- martch 7

Dr. Strauss sais its okay about the ink they know I didn't do it. He sais theyl try to help me. Miss Kinnian told that whenever we had a quiz at our xxx klub I aways tryed hardest and they liked that. Dr. Strauss sed you noe if we make you smart it might only be tempirery. I said I noe. But Ive never been sart like the other gys in the klub and just onse Id like to be able to answer those quizes. I dont care if its onley tempirery.

Then they gave me sum more tests. One was sort of a game with this mouse. His nameis Algernon. Algernon was in a box with alot of twists and turns like all kinds of walls and they gave me a pensil and a paper with lines and lots of boxes. They sed it was arace could I get through the maze befor Algernon could. We raced ten times and it made me mad cause Algernon beat me all ten times. I got mad because I thought they mite laugh at me but they didnt. But I was mad a little bit anyway so I outsmarted them I picked up the peece of paper and looked at it for a long time and then sed Nice paper and dropped it on the table. Then I leffed. I red about saying that once and its a smart thing to do. Maybe I'm getting smarter all ready.

progris riport 4 -- martch 8

I asked Dr. Strauss if Ill beat Algernon in the race afer the operation and he said maybe. I sed could I answer the quizes then and lern all the big words like they use in DISCORD and all. He sed I could probly rite a column for DISCORD if the operashun works. But I dont noe. Some people say Im a fugghead now. Miss Kinnian sais that isnt rite that isnt what it means. She sais it doesnt matter if your eye cue is 68 that doesnt make you a fugghead. But when I start riting a column for DISCORD I bet nobody will call me a fugghead anyway. I wonder what Ill call it. Their giving me the operashun tomorrow.

Progress Report 5 -- Mar 15

The operashun didnt hurt. He did it while I was slepping. They took the bandijis from my eyes and head today so I can make a PROGRESS REPORT. Dr. Strauss looked at some of my other ones and he told me how to spell Progress and REPORT rite. I got to try to remember now.

Dr. Strauss sais I should tell what I feel and what I think. I didnt noe what to think but I tryed. All the time when the bandijis were on I tryed to think. Nothing happened. I dont noe what to think about. I sed when I get the bandijis off I could read a discussion fanzine and it would tell me what to think but Dr. Strauss and Miss Kinnian both sed they dont help you to think at all reely. But when I got the bandijis off I did read Ted Paulses fanzine anyway. It didnt help me think so they were rite. Besides there were too many big words. I couldnt read it good. I guess to read those fanzines you just got to noe big words. I said that to Miss Kinnian and she smiled. She sed I could think without reading those kind of fanzines but I dont noe.

Porgress Report 6 -- Mar 19

Nothing is happining. I had lots of tests and races with Algernon but he still beats me. Dr. Strauss sed I could go back to the club agen if I want. I'm glad because I miss all my frends there and all the fun we have. Miss Kinnian is glad too, she sais not to worry Dr. Strauss is a smart man and has been in the NFFF longer than Ralph Holland and he noes what hes doing. She sais it might take a while befor I get smart but I should keep trying. She sed maybe I should get on a NFFF round robin letter and it would make me think. But I stll dont noe.

Dr.Strauss told me he operated on Algernon thats why he all ways beats me. I took a long time with Algernon but he got three times smarter. If I was three times smarter I bet I could rite that column for DISCORD. I bet I could. On a typewriter even. I bet I could learn to type if I was three times smarter.

So far Algernon looks like he mite be smart perminent.

Mar. 25

Its fun to be back at the club again. They dont noe Im going to be smarter because I cant tell them. Dr. Strauss said its top secret in the NFFF because if I dont get smarter everybody will say its just another NFFF project that didnt get done.

We have a lot of fun at the club. Joe Carp said when I came in Hey heres Charlie where have you been. I didnt want to answer but it was okay because he didnt wait for me to. He said We didnt know what to do without you Charlie. Weve been tellng everbody for years that your the only reel slan in the world and your in our fanclub and then you didnt come around for a long time. Then everybody laughed but I dont know why because he was talking about a story by Van Vogt and Ive never been able to read Van Vogts stories eether. But Frank Reily says thats okay he cant understand Van Vogt and he has a cosmic mind. I dont know what a cosmic mind is but Ill bet its something smart. Maybe Algernon has a cosmic mind. If he doesnt I guess Ill have one too sometime bcause I had an operashun like him. Ill bet Frank Reilly will be surprised when he finds out I have a cosmic mind.

April 2

Last nite at the club I told everybody that I was going to publish a fanzine some day. They laughed and slapped me on the back like they always do when they like me. They said it was a good idea and theyd show me how. Then Joe Carp got a fanzine fro the clubs collection and said Can you publish something as good as this. It was called THE HAPPY SAP and it looked like those inkblots Dr. Strauss showed me only better. It had a story called The Battle Of The Gods but it didnt have an ending. Joe Carp said why didnt I finish it. Then everybody laughed again including me. Joe sure is funny.

But anyhow I borrowed the fanzine and brought it home. I didnt want to tell them I couldnt type. But Im going to buy a typewriter soon as I can. Im going to learn to type.

April 9

Everybody at the club is so nice these days. It must be because they know Im getting smarter. I sort of told them. Anyhow I said I was learning to type. They were all glad and said to bring my typewriter to the club-room and thed help me practice. Frank Reilly said hed loan me all of his TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS. (Thats how you spell them.)

I did take my typewriter to the clubroom and I practiced there. Frank Reilly and the others watched and we had a good time. I asked him where the TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS were but he said hed forgotten them. He said I could make some myself if I was smart enough.

Then Joe Carp gave me a lesson. He types with all his fingers which I cant do but he makes mistakes anyway. I could tell. But everybody said not too worry and pretty soon Id be able to type like him. They said its better to make mistakes with all your fingers than just one. I dont know though.

Miss Kinnian says Im really getting smarter all right. I dont feel any smarter though. I told her the guys at the club are helping me to type but she frowned. She doesnt like the club because shes in the N3F. At least thats what the guys say. Im all mixed up about it. It doesnt make any sense. In fact I keep wondering about all sorts of things these days. Joe Carp says if Im really getting smarter I should be confused all the time because thats how things are.

April 11

I beat Algernon! I beat him eight times in a row today. Dr. Strauss said he wasnt surprised and this would sure show everybody that the NFFF could get things done no matter what they said. But Miss Kinnian looked at him kind of funny and said that she somehow didn't think theyd be impressed if we told them that the NFFF helped me to beat a mouse in a maze game.

Algernon sure is smart, though, and Im proud that I beat him. They let me hold him for a while, hes not so bad. Hes soft like a ball of cotton, and warm.

April 20

I brought my typewriter home from the clubroom last night. I was there practicing typing with all my fingers. Several of the fans came in and gathered around me like they always do.

"What are you writing?" said Joe Carp.

I said I was just writing The quick brown fox jumps over the laxy dog.

"That's pretty good, but I think I've read it before," said Joe.

"I didn't make it up," I said. "I read it in a book." Everybody laughed and Joe frowned. I think they were laughing at him, that's why he frowned.

"Do you read books now?" he said. I said, yes, and went on practicing typing. But Joe was kind of mad, I guess, and he wouldn't let me alone. "Aren't fanzines good enough for you anymore?" he said, "we loaned you THE HAPPY SAP just a little while ago, why don't you read that?"

I told him I couldn't read it, because the reporduction was so bad. I always thought it was because I couldn't read real good, but I don't think even Joe Carp could read it.

"It's too bad, I was looking forward to reading the end of The Battle Of The Gods," Joe said,"I figure you're the best person I know to finish it. But why don't you go ahead and write something else, anyway, I've got an issue of my fanzine coming up pretty soon and I have a page to fill. They said if you take fifthy million monkeys and leave them at typewriters long enough they'll write The Enchanted Duplicator eventually. Maybe you could write something for me."

"I'm not fifty million monkeys," I said. "You'll have to fill that empty page yourself."

I hadn't meant anything by that, but Joe got mad and said all sorts of things. He shouted a lot of words at me that I didn't know and when I asked him how to spell some of them, because I'm keeping a notebook on spelling now, he threw up his hands and walked out of the room. So I brought my typewriter home. I don't think I'll go back to the club for awhile anyway.

April 28

I saw Miss Kinnian again today. She told me I'm making great steps, but I still make mistakes. Like with my punctuation sometimes. She said I committed 37X, and I was horrified, because last night I was reading a book on sociology and I thought 37X might be something like sodomy or pederasty. But she said it wasn't, and explained that it was running two sentences together with only a comma between them. Somebody had called that 37X. I won't make xxxx mistakes like that again.

Then I went by the clubroom again. There was nobody there, so when I borrowd a bunch of fanzines from the library I left a note. I borrowed issues of QUANDRY and SKY HOOK and PSYCHOTIC and HYPHEN and DISCORD and a lot of others. I borrowed a copy of "Slan," too. I'm going to read them tonight. I can read fast now.

May 15

I'll try to review all the things that have been #xhappening in the past several weeks. I first read all of the fanzines that I had borrowed from the club, then borrowed more from Miss Kinnian. She has a large collection. I was especially interested in some of the discussions of changing trends in science fiction, and I read back files of various of the magazines. In particular, I wanted to analyze the sense of wonder; I did experience something like it when reading a few of the stories, but on the whole the concept was a puzzling one. One fanwriter, for instance, claimed to achieve a sense of wonder while reading the works of Leigh Brackett. I'm afraid I felt no such thing, though Hal Clement is quite fascinating in places. Perhaps the sense of wonder is not strictly an intellectual-level reaction/? I can certainly remember that in the earlier periods of this experiment I achieved a strong sense of wodner simply reading the comic section of OUT OF THIS WORLD ADVENTURES, and a little later, from the letter column of PLANET STORIES. The evidence seems fairly certain that whatever the experiment has done for me it has not sharpened my sense of wonder.

I have continued to read the older fanzines, of course. I was quite surprised when I mentioned to Dr. Strauss a clever satire on Jack Darrow in THE FORTEEN LEAFLET and not only had he never read THE FOURTEEN LEAFLET, he did not even know who Darrow was! Perhaps Dr. Strauss is not so well-read as I had thought.

But, again, how can this be? Engaged in serious research in fandom as Dr. Strauss is, surely he must have familiarized himself with the history of the fannish movement. There are levels of it which seem beyond him.

May 18

I am very disturbed. I saw Miss Kinnian last night for the first time in over a week. I returned some fanzines and books to her and made a few comments on them; she simply stared blankly at me. I was shocked. Surely she must have speculated beyond the superficial level about the implications of Tolstoy's theories of history on such fannish milestones as Bob Tucker and Claude Degler; the works of all three are in her own collection. And when I tried to refer her to "The Immortal Storm' in reference to a point I completely lost her by a mild side-observation on the psychological aspects of the book. Had she read it only as fannish history? If so, she has missed a fascinating psychological study!

May 23

It happened today. Algernon bit me. I visited Dr. Strauss to see him as I do occasionally, and when I took him out of his cage, he snapped and bit my hand. Dr. Strauss tells me that Algernon is changing. He is less cooperative, and eats less. Everyone is upset about what this may mean.

May 31

I have embarked on a project of my own. It is the result of a week's steady reading of every fanzine I could find, good or bad -- and a week's reading for me is a considerable amount. I have discovered, by the way, that I can now read THE HAPPY SAP. It is an effect of the experiment I hadn't anticipated, but the increase in intelligence has made it possible for me to read through the typographical errors and bad duplication, to sort through the syntax of of the fanzine. If Miss Kinnian thought it a strange sort of victory when I first managed to beat Algernon at the maze game, imagine what her reaction would be if I should tell her that one of the most significant effects of the experiment has been my newfound ability to read THE HAPPY SAP!

In my readings of fanzines and prozines and books I have uncovered a wealth of material for speculation and research. It's surprising that no one has worked on the many fascinating and sociological implications of fandom before. I will make it my work. Leave the lighter aspects of fandom to those whose talent is for humor; I shall make my contribution in a sercon maner. (The word sercon itself opens vast vistas for analysis!)

June 10

Algernon died two days ago. Dissection shows that our fears were justified: his brain had decreased in weight and there was a general smoothing out of cerebral convolutions as well as a deepening and broadening of brain fissures. The effects of the operation were not permanent for him, and so they will not be for me, perhaps.

I am already becoming absent-minded. I guess its starting already. But I am determined to finish my study of fandom before the regression becomes too marked to overcome.

June 18

I am becoming irritable. I guess it may be the deterioration, but maybe not. I'm having trouble finding references for the points in my research. I had them in my mind, but I should have written them down. It's very irritating to have to concentrate so deeply simply to remember.

June 20

I asked Dr. Strauss and Miss Kinnian to leave me alone. Im having alot of trouble with my article. Not only cant I find where I read something, I dont even agree with what alot of my notes say, what I can read of them. Yesterday I read a Captain Future novel and found the sense of wonder as good as its ever been. It doesnt fit what I wrote, can I be that far gone?

July 2 I havent been writing to much because Ive been busy. Every thing is so hard now. I keep wanting to get done with that thing I been writing but I hardly know what Im doing. I keep thinking of Algernon instead, I keep thinking he has some thing to do with the article. But the articles about fandom, not mice. What does a mouse, have to do with fandom, even a smart mouse. But they say fans are smart, maybe thats it. I hope I'm still smart, cause I'm still a fan. I dont feel any dumber, I just have more trouble is all.

Maybe I should have writen that colum for DISCORD. Everthings so hard now maybe I wont do it.

July 16

I went back to the club today. It shure was good to see Joe Carp and all of them. They acted funny at first but they still like me I guess. I told them I was smart now. I forgot I wasn't suppose to. They said they always knew I was a slan. Thats someone whos very smart.

I guess I mite not rite that article or anything. Everythings so hard. The smarter I get the harder it is to remember. The only thing I remember good is Algernon. He was reelly nice. I wish hed been smart enuf to understand cause I would have like to tell him I thot he was nice. Everybody needs some egoboo even a mouse. Thats why I like it when Joe Carp and them make jokes like they use to. You got to have frends even when your smart I think. I sure need frends and Im smart because of that operashun. But everythings so hard.

I have a cosmic mind. What do I do now.


Copyright © Terry Carr, 1962. Original appearance in Ragnorok 6. Copyright retained by the estate of Terry Carr. Rekeyed and posted in instalments to Usenet rec.arts.sf.fandom by Gary Farber, February-March 1997.

Any sf fan can see that "Egoboo for Algernon" pastiches Daniel Keyes's famous Flowers for Algernon, transplanting Charlie Gordon into the context of fandom and fanzines. There are a few specific digs that may need annotation -- against the National Fantasy Fan Federation (NFFF or N3F) and its supposed benefits and bureaucracy, and against named fanzines (these usually deducible from context). By and large, it stands up without further commentary.