Part II. Chapter 1.

31 Jan

Working journalists, literary critics, and fanatical fans of futuric fiction crowded the upstairs offices of Sucre Publications for the party celebrating the printing of Volume Two of the Velvet World Series. The idea for the publicity affair rose in the mind of Paena, who then convinced her father that such an introduction of the work would produce favorable interest and attention.

Paena and the crew of copyists had the previous afternoon decorated the editorial hall with mauve and purple streamers and ribbons. She had herself supervised the arrangement of refections, potables, and gigantic bowls of milk punch, wine, and hurtleberry and teaberry drink on a long souariwood table. Platters of shortbreads, krullers, macherones, sinkers, and pastry fingers lined the space between the olegar and the congou tea. Sliced snacks consisted of greenlings, blennies, gulpers, puffers, bloaters, and whelks. Baskets of oxheart cherries surrounded these stomach delighters.

Brage Sucre stood at the head of the table, surrounded by a circle of envious fellow-publishers of popular fiction. His daughter saw to the filling of paperboard cups and dishes. She flittered about with accelerated movements, looking for deficiencies to fill and correct with speed.

Tado Foleg sat by himself at one corner of his office desk. He appeared to be oblivious of the proceedings. His mind was far away, contemplating sales to come with the second book of the new series. Who would have foreseen psychic plagiary work to be so rewarding and remunerative? His success had soared beyond all his expectations. This series of futurals promised to outdo anything of its kind ever published in Gath.

“Where is the author, Mr. Augo Fibril?” asked one of the critics present at the party.

Others repeated the same question.

Realizing that some sort of answer had become necessary, Brage decided to make an excuse for the absence of the literary star.

“He is ill and dares not travel outdoors or among large groups of people. The writer sends his sincere regrets through me. His presence here today was an impossibility. That is all the information I can share with you.”

The gist of this explanation was circulated about the assembled crowd, which was growing each minute, every second. More and more men and women filled the office hall. The men wore formal coats, the females had on dark expensive gowns and flowery dresses.

No one noticed a lank, bony youth with curly black hair and emerald eyes. He wore a short informal jacket of common brown and mismatching blue trousers. His initial fears disappeared as he watched the exaggerated talk and movements of the guests. He circulated about as if he had been formally invited. His ears caught mysterious exchanges he was unable to understand.

“The reading public wants some predictability in what we present to it. That, I believe, is the great advantage of genre books over general literary fiction. Why take the risk of straying away or getting lost on unfamiliar territory? That is why the genres are beating everything else. People wish to purchase some known quantity, not wander off into areas without boundaries.”

“Nonsense! Those who become fans within a genre are the least educated or experienced of readers. They are people who need the support of structure and familiarity provided by genre.”

“None of that applys to futural literature, because of its open-ended nature. Ideas can soar, piercing through walls and limits of all sorts. Of all the variety of genres, the freedom provided by works about the future is the greatest and widest of all. Infinite exploration is possible there.”

“So far, the futural realm lacks its own, original aesthetic. I ask myself, will it be able to develop its own system of literary theory? Or will it remain a borrower from other genres?”

“I can foresee the Velvet World Series making a major contribution to the birth of a systematic framework for this variety of popular literature.”

“That remains to be seen. Who can say? Time alone will tell.”

“The future of all publishing may become different because of the unprecedented success of these breathtaking novellae.”

“I see no limit to where the Velvet setting and characters can go.”

“Yes, we are witnessing a revolutionary breakthrough in the world of publishing.”

“There is big dose of escapism in this kind of literature.”

“What’s wrong with escapism? It can be highly beneficial to troubled persons.”

“Why aren’t these novellae more philosophical? There is no metaphysics or ontology presented in futurals.”

What is going on here? wondered Endo Valino. What is the purpose of this odd gathering of well-dressed people? What are they celebrating with such joy? It was a mystery to the party-crasher as he picked up and drank a cup of youpon.

He learned the purpose of the assembly when Brage Sucre began to address the crowded chamber in a loud, powerful voice.

“Ladies and gents,

“Welcome to our celebration party for the second number in the Velvet World Series. I know that all of you feel the same excitement that I and my people do. There has never before been anything like this publishing phenomenon. The first book was not just a best-seller, but a record-setter, both in general and for its specific category.

“Because of the unprecedented sales we have enjoyed, our second volume, “The Velvet Schism”, will be coming out in hard cover first, and it will have illustrations in color. But the price will continue to be in the moderate range, like our soft-cover first book. Readers will find it a treasure they will wish to keep and reread.

“I not only hope, but I know, that you will all love our new futural. We are confident of your enthusiastic favor and friendly support. This new novella is a masterpiece.

“So, I thank you ahead of time for your positive reactions. My company is now making publishing history, as all of you realize. That will be evident once you read this marvelous work. It will capture minds and inspire all who venture into its pages. Thank you.”

The publisher stepped over to where his daughter stood. She offered him a cup of milk punch, but he shook his head, refusing the beverage. “I have to keep my head and wits clear,” he whispered to her.

Endo Valino, standing at the entrance, sensed his location and position as peculiar. Every person present, except for himself, knew at least one other individual who was there. He alone was a total stranger to all others. No one knew his name or what he was doing in the offices of Sucre Publications. The situation was a peculiar one for an interloper like himself.

What should he do or say, and to whom?

Endo made a decision to go up to the man who had just spoken to the gathering and ask him about Augo Febril, the writer of the Velvet books. But as he made his way forward through the small throng, journalists and literary critics took note of him. Who is this oddly dressed person? each of them asked mentally. I do not know him. No one speaks to him. No one appears to recognize who he is. Could it be possible that he is the unknown Augo Febril? Is it he? Or is anything like that conceivable in these unusual circumstances?

By the time that Endo reached the area of the table where the father and daughter stood smiling at each other, a dozen observers were certain that he must be the unknown creator of the Velvet books. Who else would come to the party looking like that? The strange appearance perfectly suited his role as author. He seemed an accurate example of what the public would think the author looked like. Endo fit the part perfectly.

Both Brage and Paena stopped talking and turned their eyes to the stranger. But before a word could be said, one of the reporters standing close by put out his arm and took the right hand of Endo into his own, gripping it tightly.

“Mr. Febril! It is so good of you to make your first public appearance here at this inaugural party. May I be the first to congratulate you for the publishing marvel of yours. This series will make literary history, no one can have any doubt about that. It is my heartfelt pleasure to shake your hand, sir.”

All at once, the surrounding crowd centered itself upon greeting the one they mistakenly took to be Augo, the author. Two, three, then four handshakes followed in succession. A cascade of congratulations fell on him. He was overwhelmed.

“Mr. Febril is here.”

“The author is with us.”

“Let me meet the genius.”

The throng crushed forwards against Endo and the two Sucres.

Tado Foleg, the psychographic originator of the books, stood aghast across the table, in a group that could only observe what was happening on the other side. His mind spun in a whirlwind of impressions. What could he do? Matters progressed too fast for him to intervene.

It was up to the willowy youth in the middle to dispel the insane confusion.

When will the fool confess that everyone is mistaken about him?

The fantasizing became ever greater among the guests present.

Brage Foleg himself shook the hand he took to be that of the author. “I want to talk with you later in my office,” the publisher whispered in his ear. “We owe you a lot of money and intend to pay it all to you.”

Paena, picking up a cup from the table, filled it with milk punch and offered it to the presumed writer. But the dense pack of admirers made it impossible for him to take it from her.

Closer and closer came the human pressure of those staring at the bewildered young man who had crashed the party.

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