Last week my wife, Betty Anne Hull, and I each got a little unsigned note. Since the author didn’t include any address, we have to try to answer them this way.

Betty Anne’s letter criticized her parking. She acknowledges she was at fault and will try to avoid such problems in the future.

The one for me concerned my handwriting. I don’t have it at hand, but as I remember it said that if my handwriting was as bad as it is I shouldn’t give autographs. You are probably right about that, because my penmanship is really atrocious. I don’t like it any more than you do, but when someone hands me something and asks me to sign it I feel it would be churlish to refuse. But to avoid dissatisfaction such as you suffered, I will try to remember to warn them that, due to damage to the nervous system of my right arm, it’s the way it is.

And, just think, when you’re a little older, you’ll be able to sign your name and address to letters just like a grownup.


  1. Bob Stephenson says:

    Well said, Mr Pohl! I always love to get unsigned letters from ‘concerned citizens’ – their choice to remain anonymous clearly demonstrates the level of their commitment to their cause…

    I was also tempted to say that these people just represent the background noise of the universe, however that would be doing a disservice to the cosmic microwave backgound radiation, which does contain some useful information.

    Best wishes and hope that you and yours enjoy the holiday season.

  2. Jim Flanagan says:


    I cannot speak to Betty Anne’s driving. But, as a thrilled recipient to 2 of those autographs I can only say that the person who complained was a shallow Ass. Sorry for the language. But, that’s the only thing that fits.

    I will always cherish my autographed copies and can only say that your signature shows a lifetime of character.


  3. Jay Borcherding says:

    Wow. In this wonderful technological age, it requires little thought or effort–and no expense–to dash off a churlish comment on a blog, or to send a nagging e-mail. To imagine someone going to the trouble of (anonymously!) snail-mailing a 90-something gentleman to complain that his penmanship has eroded boggles my mind.

    Happy Winter Solstice, Fred, and Happy New Year as well. I won’t wish you a Merry Xmas, since we secular liberals are, of course, in the midst of our annual state of war against Christmas.

  4. JJ Brannon says:

    Yes, Fred, thank you for signing at MilPhil, during the Heinlein Blood Drive, my copy of Locus with your picture attending one of the first Cons.


  5. Bruce Arthurs says:

    Complaining about a -signature-? WTF? Signatures are individual; they don’t have to be -legible-.

    True story #1: Back when my wife and I were selling books at cons, our inventory included a small-press, pre-signed edition of de Lint’s GHOSTWOOD. A customer who’d bought a copy brought it back a little later and asked to exchange it, because someone had scribbled in the front of the copy she’d bought. when we explained the “scribble” was de Lint’s signature, she went away again, happy.

    True Story #2: When we refinanced our mortgage a few months ago, the bank sent over a notary with a big stack of papers to have signed. My wife Hilde’s had rheumatoid arthritis for over forty years, which plays heck with her handwriting ability already, PLUS medication side effects give her arm tremors that vary from shaky to severe. The notary refused to notarize her signatures, because they weren’t consistent from document to document. That was a new experience for us. (I later came across the State Attorney General’s guidelines for notaries online, and found that particular notary had been overzealous; “any kind of mark” should have been acceptable.) We ended up with a second, more experienced notary with Hilde “signing” the documents via thumbprint.

    (And I’m currently sans-regular-signature myself, with a broken right arm in a sling and instructions to not do jack with it for at least several more weeks. My left-handed writing is semi-legible, but wow is it slow. But I’m getting moderately decent as a left-handed keyboardist.)

  6. Nestor says:

    How peculiarly rude