Tenser Said The Tensor

 Eight, sir; seven, sir;
 Six, sir; five, sir;
 Four, sir; three, sir;
 Two, sir; one!
 Tenser, said the Tensor.
 Tenser, said the Tensor.
 Tension, apprehension,
 And dissension have begun.
-- Alfred Bester, The Demolished Man (ISBN 0679767819 ) 1951.

The main character learns this ditty when he needs a rhyme that can't be gotten out of one's head. This is to hide his murderous intent from mind-reading police. Don't worry, the book is actually a lot better than this plot summary might indicate.

In fact it's a famous classic that won the HugoAward. Also classic is his The Stars My Destination.

Let's borrow a polished plot summary under fair use: "a psychological thriller in which a tycoon decides to kill a rival and get away with it in an era in which telepathic cops catch every serious criminal; both in its sparkling portrayal of multi-person mind-to-mind dialogue, and in its narrative trickery, the story of Ben Reich and his nemesis Lincoln Powell is one of sf's most effective contributions to the noir thriller." (http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/authors/Alfred_Bester.htm)

That site says his novel The Computer Connection was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula, yet somehow I managed to overlook it all these years. Hmm.

Back to TenserSaidTheTensor...that reminds me of another mentally-mesmerizing ditty (an army marching song, in this case), although used for offensive purposes (it was sort of a mental virus in the original GermanLanguage, but given only in EnglishLanguage translation in the story for the sake of reader safety :-)

  Left, right, left, right,
  Left his wife and seventeen children
  in starving condition
  with nothing but gingerbread
  Left, right, left, right..
But I can't recall the author or title of the short story.

Another catchy ditty by Alfred Bester, this from "Fondly Fahrenheit" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1954):
 Oh, it's no feat to beat the heat
 All reet! All reet!
 So jeet you seat
 Be fleet be fleet
 Cool and discreet
And from Bester's "The Push of a Finger" (Astounding, May 1942):


EditText of this page (last edited October 17, 2005) or FindPage with title or text search