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An Interview With Bhen

By the Anonymous Interviewer
(henceforth to be knows as AI)

with special thanks to David A. Hardy

Bhen by David A. HardyAI: Bhen, I hear it is your fortieth birthday this year?

B: Well, not really. It’s just forty years since you humans became aware of my existence because David Hardy started portraying some of my exploits, which from 1975 appeared on the cover of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction or F&SF. But as it happens I am 397 of your years old this month.

AI: But I read somewhere (it might have been Ansible, or Critical Wave) that Dave and his cartoonist friend Anthony Naylor created you out of green Plasticine one drunken evening in 1973?

B: Hah! That’s a story they cooked up another drunken evening. I mean, who’s going to believe that I really exist? Do you?

AI: Not really. And I’m not even drunk. So how would you describe yourself?

B: As a sort of interplanetary hobo, I suppose; I just drift through the galaxy — I don’t need air, of course. But then I found your Solar System, and all those bits of junk you keep sending up. Earth is really funny, and those probes and things kept me amused for ages. Isn’t it time you sent up some more? Oh, by the way — I’m sorry I switched off your Mars Observer. It was an accident, honest. I promise I didn’t have anything to do with Beagle 2 vanishing….

AI: You’d better not — Colin Pillinger wasn’t best pleased! At least the Phoenix landed safely in 2008. David A. Hardy has a painting on the CD-ROM that went on that, along with writings on Mars by H.G.Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Edgar Rice Burroughs and such, and art by Frank R Paul, Frazetta, Freas, and Bonestell. He’s the only living British artist to have work included.

B: Yes, I saw that — nice. But there aren’t any Martians to see it, you know. Never were. The ExoMars mission that’s due to land in 2018 will still be searching for life though…

AI: The CD was “for the benefit of future explorers and colonists.”

B: Oh no! Not more tourists!

AI: You seem to be quite a tourist yourself. Would you like to tell us about some of your better-known stopovers?

B: Oddly enough, the first one to be seen by humans was when I found the Viking 1 lander on Mars. David showed me walking round it with a silly smile on my face while it scrabbled in the sand trying to find signs of life. Well; those so-called cameras went round so slowly that they couldn’t even catch me as a green blur!

AI: Carl Sagan seemed to like that one. He bought the original artwork.

B: Yes, and when I sat in the bowl of Pioneer 11 flying past Saturn, the scientists at JPL asked David if they could have a print (not the original, cheapskates!), as it could explain some of the strange results they kept getting back. Little did they know: I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was drumming my fingers on the side of the transmitter. They never did show the first picture they got back, which showed Saturn looking like a Picasso cubist version. Driving that Lunar Rover at Hadley Base was fun, too. But the guys at the Smithsonian Institute weren’t too pleased — they think all the artifacts left behind on the Moon belong to them. I say “finders keepers.”

AI: Some people thought that in the picture which shows you watching Alien on a TV set plugged into Intelsat, your wink means “Watch out. I’m not as green as I’m cabbage-looking.”

B: Oh, that mother! I hear she’s signed a contract with Colgate. But her dribble’s worse than her bite these days — she misses Ripley, you know. They had a thing going off the set.

AI: Is your name really Bhen?

B: No, of course not, don’t be silly. It’s much more sensible: Kktraxxscn’llp’tang. Dave and Ant called me Bhen because I’m a “benevolent BEM” — though I don’t think I have bug eyes!

AI: Why the “h”?

B: I should have thought you’d know that. It isn’t done so much these days, but apparently a lot of sf fannish words, like Bheer and Ghod (or Ghu) are spelt that way. And when they produce a joint effort, they sign themselves “DHAN,” which sort of fits. DH/AN —get it?

AI: Of course, your appearance on Earth predates ET by some ten years, but many people still think of you as the archetypal “little green man.”

B: Oh, that wimp! He’s given aliens a bad name…. Well, I realize you can only see me on a TV screen (I don’t care for your atmosphere — too many pollutants, like oxygen), but if you compare my size with some of that NASA hardware, like Pioneer or Mariner 10, you’ll see that I’m about two and a half meters, or eight feet, tall. Do you call that “little,” big guy?

AI: Sorry, sorry! Finally, since I’m conducting this interview mainly for sf fans, how did you like being used as a mascot on badges, T-shirts, and such for Novacon and the Brum Group’s* Fifteencon and Twentycon, and the cover of the 500th issue of their newsletter, the Brum Group News?

B: Fine by me; except that when I held up that banner saying “JOIN THE PARTY” it really meant the Green party! (Not yours — ours. Where I come from, there are blues, purples….)

AI: Thank you, and we look forward to seeing where you pop up next.

*Birmingham (UK) Science Fiction Group.


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