Our Fair City
Weird Tales, January 1949
collected in —
|The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein
The whirl of public affairs
"We have a right, indeed we have a duty to our fair city, to announce broadcast the facts ..."Sinclair Lewis
"Our Fair City" is urban fantasy, a sub-genre particularly difficult to do right. The story has the flavor of Heinlein's 1939-1942 stories, before he volunteered for war-related work for World War II. It's his only story for Weird Tales, and would have fit better among the generally lighter and much more matter-of-fact fantasies in Campbell's Unknown (later Unknown Worlds).
Patterson's biography of Heinlein relates how "Our Fair City" sprang from an off-hand remark by L. Ron Hubbard — like Heinlein, an Unknown contributor — during the "science-fiction think tank" war-work period at Heinlein's Philadelphia apartment in 1944. Campbell's unique fantasy magazine had folded the previous year because of wartime paper shortages — or Heinlein, or Hubbard, or perhaps even both, might have sold a little whirlwind story to Unknown Worlds.
In a way, this story is a kid sister to Heinlein's 1940 novella for Unknown (as the magazine was first titled), "Magic, Inc." ("The Devil Makes the Law"). Both stories are built upon a plainly solid foundation of an unnamed but typical American city, including good, regular citizens with their everyday streets and businesses. Kitten the city whirlwind is not of the same order as the working magicians in the novella, but both sets of good guys have to deal with some notable corruption.
That may make "Our Fair City" sound heavier than it is, but it's really a light-hearted romp with some thoughtfully neat touches: a little favorite for many years, and quite deservingly so. You will remember Kitten.
© 2010 Robert Wilfred Franson
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