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"The Eye of Argon" by Jim Theis was published in 1970 in OSFAN, the journal of the Ozark SF Society, issue number 10. Photocopies – invariably with the last page missing – circulated for decades among science fiction fans, and it became a regular sf convention challenge to read the story's mangled prose with a straight face.
Jim Theis himself, who was 16 when he wrote and submitted "The Eye of Argon", and just 17 when it first appeared, died in 2002 at the age of 48. He will be long remembered in sf fandom.
Further reading: Interview with Jim Theis (OSFAN #13, 21 November 1970). Darrell Schweitzer, "One Fine Day in the Stygian Haunts of Hell: Being the Whole Truth About the Fabled 'The Eye of Argon'." (Fantasy Review 10:6, July/August 1987; reprinted in his essay collection Windows of the Imagination, 1997, with the changed subtitle 'Being the Lore and Legend of the Fabled 'The Eye of Argon'"). David Langford, "Bottom of the Barrel" (SFX #43, October 1998). Lee Weinstein, "In Search of 'The Eye of Argon'" (The New York Review of Science Fiction #195, November 2004), "In Search of 'The Eye of Argon': a Postscript" (The New York Review of Science Fiction #198, February 2005) and "In Search of Jim Theis" (introduction to 2006 book edition). Wikipedia entry. David Langford with Sandra Bond, "A Short History of 'The Eye of Argon'" (Banana Wings 41, March 2010)
The Digital Text. This site's web-friendly version was converted by David Langford from the standard ASCII text of the story, widely available on line. The original transcription and Transcriber's Note are by Don Simpson. Internal artwork has been added from page scans – see "PDF Facsimile" below.
The Long-Lost Ending. In the January 2005 issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction it was revealed that a complete copy of OSFAN #10 had been unearthed in the Jack Williamson SF Library at Eastern New Mexico University. Thanks to the collection administrator Gene Bundy, the missing half-page of text – transcribed by Lee Weinstein – appeared at last in NYRSF #198, February 2005, and has been inserted into the above-linked text. David Langford has since slightly corrected the layout and (mis)punctuation of this ending – though not of the entire story – after comparison with the original.
MST3K commentary. Mystery Science Theatre 3000, a tv programme devoted to sarcastic commentary on bad films, was definitely an acquired taste. "The Eye of Argon" hardly needs this treatment to make it funny, but the link is included for the masochists among us.
Book Edition (2006). John Betancourt of Wildside Press published this trade paperback of the complete text, including the recently discovered ending and an introduction by Lee Weinstein. Here's the cover image in Sean Wallace's LiveJournal, which with a curious inevitability misspells the author's name. An earlier book edition from Hypatia Press mysteriously listed the author not as Jim Theis but as G. Ecordian (Grignr the Ecordian, the story's hero).
PDF Facsimile (2009). Sandra Bond acquired a rare intact copy of OSFAN #10 and – "thanks to a session with Alice Dryden's scanner" – very kindly provided JPEG images of "The Eye of Argon" in its original form. Besides the story itself, these scans include the fanzine's front and back cover and a full-page piece of art which might conceivably have been intended to illustrate the story. The PDF Facsimile link at the start of this paragraph gives a roughly 9Mb reduced version suitable for reading on screen. This prints reasonably well, but if higher print quality is required there's also a 31Mb unreduced PDF here. Some illegibly faded patches on page 32, where the duplicator ink-flow faltered at the stygian immensity of its task, have been repaired by an intricate process of copy-and-paste.
Here is Sandra's suitably worded covering note when copying the images to Langford for PDF conversion:
"Do what thou wilt with them, for they are palimpsests of an earlier time than this, when warrier barbarians wandered abroad on the earth with no mind to the future or to what we laughingly call civilisation." Quoth Grignr to the wench who delivered a sigh of pathos.
"But stay," Interjected Carthina bustily. "Would it not be wise to give credit to those whose talents commingled to form a melange of skill that gave birth to this epic tale and to the fanzine that went forth to display the story to the assembled and wandering multitudes of readers?"
"Aye, that it would," rejoindered Grignr. "So let it be known that OSFAN 10 was edited by Chester H. Malon Jr and Sally D. Watson, yet was it published by Douglas O. Clark. Furthermore I vouchsafe, that Charles Prokopp drew the cover which graced the fanzine, whilst the pen of Francis X. N. Weyerich limned the full page that precedes the saga, and the back cover which follows hard upon its heels. And verily did Jay T. Rikosh create the five illustrations to the epic itself, of which I must give greatest place to the stout calliph on page 32 who doth appear to be smoking a big fat joint."
But the whilst Grignr was delivering this catalog of credits, the wench had made good her getaway and left the barbarian standing alone ...
Don Simpson writes: "As the person responsible for the original ASCII transcription of The Eye of Argon (and author of the Transcriber's Note) it is my embarrassed duty to point out my errors. Known errors to date (29DEC2009) are listed below." These corrections -- not included in the Hypatia Press or Wildside Press book editions -- have been incorporated into the digital text but are noted here as a record of curious interest to scholars. Addenda by David Langford are signed [DRL].
Chapter 2, Paragraph 38 (Paragraph 5 of page 31 of the original fanzine) has the word "purnishment" which was mistakenly corrected to "punishment" in the original ASCII transcription. "This was missed by my first proofreader, Deborah Notkin, but caught by the second one, Jon Singer." [DS]
Chapter 6, Paragraph 37 (Paragraph 2 of page 43 of the original fanzine) has a sentence section left out of the original ASCII transcription. Words omitted from the original transcription are here struck out: "Aye; I was at one time a slave of prince Agaphim. His clammy touch sent a sour swill through my belly, but my efforts reaped a harvest. I gained the pig's liking whereby he allowed me the freedom of the palace. It was through this means that I eventually managed escape
of the palace.... It was a simple matter to seduce the sentryat the western gate. His trust found him with a dagger thrust his ribs," the wench stated whimsicoracally.
Chapter 7½, final paragraph and sentence of the text as it was before restoration of the lost ending (final line of page 48 of the original fanzine): "quivers" was mistranscribed as "quavers" since its "i" was invisible in the photocopy from which Don Simpson worked. [DRL]
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