To begin with, I was born. Why is something I occasionally wonder about. At any rate, since the autumn equinox of 1923, I have been here on this (screwball) planet. Most of my life has been spent in Hawaii, the majority of the remainder in the state of California. (My parents never worked for advertising agencies, and I do hanker to see how the other half of this country looks.)
My interest in stf dates back to the Blue Books in which was 'When Worlds Collide'. Someone carelessly left them lying around the house. The next year found me in California, but some time ensued before I discovered the stf pulps. I managed to keep abreast of things stfic for a year or two, but when I swam back to Hawaii in 1935 the financial difficulties peculiar to one's youth set in again (I had been subsidised previously by a tolerant if baffled grandmother) and my interest perforce waned.
Three years later those obstacles had been surmounted, and I began collecting stf on the largest scale the local newstand world permit. I rediscovered 'Astounding' in time to send a frantic letter to Campbell, and thereby fill out my file of 'Grey Lensman', but the local newstand would not (or could not) get ASF regularly, so I had to suffer until I went to Honolulu during the summer of 1940. Then Honolulu suffered. Spring of 1941 saw me return to the island Eden that was my home, and lose contact.
The summer of 1942 found me on the mainland for the duration, and I made my first contact with fandom: Anthony Boucher, who introduced me to the GGFS [Golden Gate Fantasy Society], organised (sic) fandom, fmz, stfventions and other things without which my life now would not be worth living.
Eventually, like all true fans, I moved to Los Angeles and was subjected to regular and heavy doses of bacillus fmzii. I recognised the symptoms early, and thought it might be possible to gain the glory of fan publishing with but a fraction of the expense and toll. The dread day was forestalled temporarily by collaboration with Mel Brown on the first FAN SLANTSs. Now, however, I bow before the will of the gods, and hasten to take up the typewriter and stylus. Something - at this time I know not what - will be slipped into an envelope, and mailed to you. It is my desire that it meet with your approval. If not the postman and I are prepared to fend off your brickbats.
At least, I hope the postman is.
- ECCENTRICS ORBIT (June 1944, ed. Fern)
T. Bruce Yerke (1946):
C. J. Fern Jr., known to his intimates as Mike, and also renowned as "The Little Man with the Big Briefcase," made his first appearance among Los Angeles fan circles just over four years ago, coming down to the LASFS following an attendance of the first STAPLECON in San Francisco. [Since that STAPLECON was held on 16 May 1943, just under three years is closer to the mark - Rob] After one year of active participation on the local merry-go-round, Mike decided that the Pentagon Building in Washington D.C. would be a nice quiet place to spend a vacation. Accordingly, he left for the Capitol, where he monitored enemy broadcasts for the FBI.
Fern, a small, heavy-bottom fellow, scarcely five feet tall hails from Hawaii [he was there when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor - Rob], where his father manages radio station KTOH not to mention having a finger in other island enterprises. While in his native habitat C. J. was a sort of newspaper man. He served, during his first stay in Los Angeles, as an efficiency expert in a furniture factory, conveniently owned by an uncle. In addition to this he has been active in the LASFS, usually performing tasks no one else would consider, such as dummying, stencilling, contacting publishers and authors, writing official correspondence, emptying waste-paper baskets, delivering messages, passing on hot tips, reading our scientifiction mags for us, and scurrying about on strange missions of his own.
The initial appearance of this small, highly active organism (believed by many to be powered by a diluted solution of adrenalin, pumped by a Wright-Cyclone turbine generator) was at the first open house of the LASFS, where at he came by invitation of Ackerman.
Fern does not live for stf alone. For some time the LASFS was littered with great yellow sheets of mimeographed matter being Fern's "Shortwave Information," a magazine for radio hams. Aside from a very comprehensive knowledge of radio, Fern and Mel Brown explored the intricate workings of Southern California's urban transportation system. Between them they discovered how to go from Pasadena to El Monte by way of Glendale, Van Nuys, Brentwood, and Watts. This is tantamount to a New Yorker going from Manhattan to the Bronx by the way of Williamsburg Bridge, the Brooklyn Speedway, Cross Island, Whitestone Bridge and Eastern Blvd., Grand Blvd., and 161st. When not locatable in town on a Sunday, it was a sure bet that these two were out on one of their utterly mad transportation adventures.
As to the personal idiosyncracies of le Fern, a vast, new field of psychological research can be opened up. On one occasion, Fern was observed to sit down in mid-air while reading a copy of 'Astounding', and to retain this position to the end of the story. On another equally alarming occasion, Fern was atop a small stool, the better to reach his large and complicated radio set which formerly adorned the top of one of the bookcases of the LASFS. After making certain necessary adjustments, he took a glance at the 'Astounding' in his hand, and became so interested that he remained standing atop the stool for some twenty minutes until someone called attention to his dangerous position. Often while reading, Fern's glasses get in the way, and thus they spend a great part of the time in a doffed position high on his forehead. This same phenomenon occurs when Fern is stencilling. In fact, the only time that his glasses are not shifting from high to low is those occasions when Fern is walking, or in transit from place to place. Naturally, on these occasions, he has no use for his eyes other than general steering purposes, and his glasses do not bother him.
Like Sam Russell, Mr. Fern's pockets seem to be of the specie Hoover Vacuumus, in that all manner of objects and articles find their way into them and remain there until specifically called for. Thus it was that at one time Mr. Yerke deposited some camera accessories in these bank vaults, forgetting later in the day to requisition them back. They remained safe for over a week, after which the owner, free from worry, collected them back.
Among the items which may be found at any time in Fern's pockets are railway, bus and street-car maps, shortwave station tables, codes, pencils, everybody's mail, official government mailings, and occasionally.... Mike Fern.
Traits like these, far from being outre, are perhaps commendable, and when one gradually has to become used to the sight of le Fern sitting in mid-air engrossed in a Bellflower-Santa Ana Timetable, it may be said that such little habits assist Fern avoid the rough spots of life. They serve to keep this inquisitive little creature from delving into such unsolvable mysteries as, for instance, women. Someday the Little Man with the Big Briefcase is going to meet a woman, there will be a whirlwind courtship on the H car, and then they'll settle down and spend the rest of their lives trying to figure each other out.
Meanwhile, Mr. Fern, who resided temporarily at Tendril Towers, finally had opportunity to get passage back to Hawaii, where he will eventually be found with his pockets full of crudimentia, an 'Astounding' in one hand, and of course, his briefcase.
- FAN #6 (February 1946, ed. Walt Daugherty)