Harriet the Fan
by Lesley Reece
I credit Harriet the Spy with getting me started as a writer. I got the book when I was seven, during a case of the chicken pox. Harriet was totally cool. She was my age, but she got to sneak all around New York City, spying on everybody and writing everything down. I bought a green composition notebook just like the one she had.
I didn't live in New York City, though. I lived in a suburban tract house neighborhood where everyone knew who I was. Sneaking around was impossible: "Hi Lesley, your mother just called and she wanted to know where you are!" Writing everything down also turned out to be impossible: "What are you writing? Are you writing about me? Can I see it?"
None of that ever happened to Harriet.
I kept at it, though, barricading myself in my room and writing down anything I could think of. Some of it was fiction, mostly about children my age who lived in large urban areas. They got to sneak around and spy on people and write it all down. Nobody ever asked them stupid questions about what they were doing.
But that was the only theme I could come up with. Eventually it got boring, so I started making lists instead. "What I would do with one million dollars. 1) Buy the planet Mars and ten cats. 2) Buy some candy. 3) Go to Mars on a space ship and bring the cats. 4) Live happily ever after. PS -- Do not forget Note Book and Malibu Barbie."
To date, that qualifies as my best science fiction short story.
My adolescence brought long, agonized exegeses about how miserable life in general was, how useless, how tedious, how utterly grody to the max. I quoted Kafka a lot. And there were sheaves of terrible poetry. You can all stop smirking right now, because I know at least half of you did the same. I refuse to apologize. It got me through.
I quit high school when I was 17. "Released from Compulsory Education" was how the paperwork put it, and that about matched how I felt at the time. But for the next thirteen years, I held a series of jobs that didn't take much advantage of my intellect. Most of them, in fact, discouraged me from using it at all. After a day spent taping boxes shut, or crawling around in a warehouse full of spiderwebs, or filing smelly NCR forms no one was ever going to look at again, or being polite to coworkers I really thought ought to be letter-openered to death, the notebook was my escape. Inspired by vague dreams of publication, I started writing even more of my life down, just to keep in shape in case somebody would eventually want to print something I'd written.
Over the last couple of years, that's finally happened, thanks to fandom. I have to admit I wasn't too sure about getting involved with fanzines when I first encountered them. Nobody knew who I was, and I didn't think anyone would be interested in what I had to say. But Victor and Hooper kept working on me, pestering me, wearing down all my arguments. Finally, after more than three months of that, I couldn't take it anymore. I caved in. Now I'm glad I did. I've met all kinds of cool people, and lots of them have read my writing and liked it. That's made all the years of notebook writing worthwhile.
But I have kept up the notebook, mostly because there are some things I just want to remember. Like this: "5/27/97: Saw large spider on clock in office. Freaked out. Grabbed handy copy of Bessinger and Yeager's Approaches to Teaching Beowulf; mashed horrible thing to death. Regretted this immediately; pictured enormous knife-wielding Mom-spider swimming out of cave behind clock, coming to avenge son's death. Wished for loyal thanes to call upon for help. Wiped remains off book with Kleenex, gave them decent burial in trash can while apologizing aloud to Mom. This was 20 mins. ago. Cannot stop checking clock for signs of impending retaliation. Norton Anthology of World Literature ready just in case."
Not terribly important, no. And there was no spying involved. But I think Harriet would have approved.
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