Science Fiction author Reginald Bretnor using the pen name Grendel Briarton wrote a multi-year series “Through Time and Space with Ferdinand X!”, in which each installment was a short-short that ended in a horrific pun. X and the nature of the stories—detailed and tedious, yet ending in vaguely familiar catchphrases—may have been inspired by Walter Bagehot, a major literary and political figure from the late 1800s now fallen into obscurity.
X is now used to describe stories of this kind. Isaac Asimov was particularly notorious for these.
An example Death of a Foy
What is X?
X is a philosophical idea concerning the existence of oneself. It is quite wacky to say the least an thus has been referenced in many works(read satirized). In Iain Banks’ Against A Dark Background, a hovercraft full of Xist mercenaries makes an appearance. Their philosophy however keeps them from being a cohesive unit.
“I used to be called Elson Roa”.
“Elson Roa”, she repeated.
“But then I became God”,he nodded. “Or rather realized that I always had been God. God in the monotheistic sense that I am all that really exists”.
“But if you’re God,” Sharrow said to Elson Roa, “why do you need the others?”
‘What others?” Roa said.
Sharrow looked exasperated. “Oh, come on.”
Elson Roa shrugged. “My apparences? They are the sign that my will is not yet strong enough to support my existence without extraneous help. I am working on this.” Roa coughed. “It is, indeed, in a very real sense, an encouraging sign that we lost six of our number at the Log-Jam, as this indicates my will is becoming stronger.”
“What about the others? Do they – the apparences – all call themselves God, too?” she asked.
“Apparently,” Roa said, without the hint of a smile.
“Hmm.” She bit her lip.
Roa looked suddenly confused. “Um, apart from one, who’s an atheist,” he said suddenly.
“I beg your pardon?”
“We all call ourselves God except for one apparence, who is an atheist.”
“Ah-ha,’ she said, nodding slowly. ‘And what does this person call themself?”
What is X?
This story tells about the journey of a mechanical genius from his self-imposed exile from the rest of humanity to a more normal life, conquering the disease myasthenia gravis as well as his own contempt for humans in general.
Being born a weakling, he channeled his intellect, and his family’s money, into the development of the device patented as “Synchronous Reduplicating Pantograph”. Wearing a glove and harness, he could control a much more powerful mechanical hand simply by moving his hand and fingers. In the story, these devices became popularly known as “Xs”. In reference to this story, the real-life remote manipulators that were later developed also came to be called Xs. Specifically; an “X” is a device which is controlled by moving a model of the device; usually a pair of robotic hands that are controlled by sensors in a pair of gloves.
No relations to that other X, though .What is X?
Have you read “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”? In it,the lunar colony is maintained by a High-optional, logical, multi-evaluating supervisor, which is affectionally called Mike by the hero. This is in reference to another character who is admittedly the more brilliant but lazy brother of a famous character from another franchise. He became the head of British intelligence in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and was called ‘M’ as a nod to Ian Fleming’s works. Who am I talking about?
Id the book and its super-famous sci-fi author.
Also put a bit on the book’s recent claim to fame.
Cracked by Kartik and Panda.