sneetchesSomething came to mind as I was mulling this whole Hugo Award/Puppygate/Meltdown business, and it will probably be my last comment until the votes are tallied in August.

Remember “The Sneetches?”

It was a little Dr. Seuss tale about a seaside community of big, yellow, birdlike creatures notable for their vanity and gullibility. Some of the Sneetches had stars on their bellies, and others did not. The Star-Bellied Sneetches lorded it over the Plain-Bellied Sneetches, claiming their stars made them more beautiful, intelligent, and simply better in every other way. The Plain-Bellies could only accept their second-class status, hang their pointy little yellow-feathered heads, and plod back and forth on their miserable little second-class Sneetch beaches.

Then one day, an entreprenurial chap named Sylvester McMonkey McBean came roaring into town on an overdesigned Seussian transportation contraption, and after surveying the situation for a few minutes, he mentioned, just in passing, to a Plain-Belly Sneetch that he could, for a small gratuity, add a star to its tummy that would make it indistinguishable from a Star-Bellied Sneetch.

The Plain-Belly was thrilled at the prospect, handed McBean a crisp banknote, and walked into McBean’s Star-On Machine, emerging as one of the upper crust with a lovely five-pointed star emblazoned on its midsection.. After witnessing this remarkable transformation, all the Plain-Belly’s friends and neighbors scurried over to pay McBean and get their very own stars, triumphantly marching back to their Star-Bellied cousins to announce that they now were every bit as good as them.

The original Star-Bellied Sneetches weren’t pleased at this change in their comfortable status quo, and they couldn’t tell an original from one of McBean’s upgrades. The distasteful prospect of having to mix with the riff-raff seemed unavoidable.

McBean whispered to one of the disgruntled birds that stars could come off as easily as they went on—for a fair price, of course. The original Star-Bellies rushed with their banknotes to McBean’s Star-Off Machine, emerging with pristine abdomens and no garish star to detract from their elegant, golden perfection. Most importantly, the genuine elite Sneetches could no longer be confused with the imposters trampling all over the first-rate Sneetch beaches.

The new Star-Bellies, having had a taste of the good life, were outraged, and McBean obligingly collected their banknotes and removed their stars, which almost immediately generated a wave of outmoded Plain-Bellies back to the Star-On machine. McBean adjusted his rates in accordance with the increased demand and processed Sneetches, Star-On to Star-Off and back again, like so many cans of tuna.

And on it went, until the Sneetches were out of banknotes, none of them could remember who had a star to begin with, and a few were left with multiple stars in various odd locations.

McBean, meanwhile, packed up his machines, fired up his contraption, and headed out of town in a cloud of smog with several bulging sacks of Sneetch currency and a smile on his face. He figured after a year or so he could come back and do the same thing all over again.

“No,” he chuckled,  “you can’t teach a Sneetch.”

And for every community of Sneetches, there’s a Sylvester McMonkey McBean hanging around somewhere nearby to put stars on them, or take them off, as the fashion demands. For a modest fee, of course.


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