On May 17, 1938, a radio show debuted on NBC hosted by New York Times literary critic Clifton Fadiman. Information Please, which featured a panel of three regulars plus a guest, would run, with various sponsors until April 22, 1951. The premise of the show was simple. Listeners could send in questions. If their questions were selected to be used, the listener would receive a prize (the amount varied from $2 at the beginning of the series to $10 and a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica Jr) and if their question stumped the entire panel, they would receive a larger prize ($5 up to a $50 savings bond and a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica).
I can hear you wondering what this has to do with science fiction and fantasy, the focus of Amazing Stories.
While listening to some old episodes of Information Please, it struck me that, with the proper panelists, this could be a fun panel idea for a science fiction convention. The problem, however, was coming up with the questions. Well, not coming up with the questions, per se, because I could do that myself, but getting people involved so the prize element was part of the game (as well as the chance to hear your question used).
I spoke to Steve Davidson at Worldcon 76 in San Jose and pitched the concept to him. Steve not only agreed to sponsor the game, but also offered to try to help collect questions, the purpose of this article.
To submit questions, please e-mail email@example.com. If I use your question at a con, and I hope to stockpile questions and run this at multiple conventions, I’ll send you a book (possibly a hardcopy, possibly an advance readers copy, possibly a paperback, possibly an autographed one, you never know). If your question manages to stump the panel at the convention where I use it, I’ll drop a note to Steve and you’ll find yourself with a subscription to Amazing Stories.
Now, here’s the other thing. Information Please doesn’t exactly use trivia questions, although there is a trivia element. You can listen to some of the shows at the links below, but here are some examples of the sort of questions I’d be looking for:
1) Name four science fiction books with the word “Green” in the title.
2) Sing a line from two different filk songs based on the works of Lois McMaster Bujold
3) Provide the name of the Protagonist from the following works: Nicky Drayden’s The Prey of Gods, Jack McDevitt’s The Long Sunset, and Beth Cato’s Call of Fire.
4) Give the names of five editors who were active in the 1950s.
5) Name four superheroes who were members of the Fantastic Four, but not part of the original line-up.
I’ll also be looking for a variety of panelists who can participate at various conventions I’m at when I can get the item on the schedule. I’m looking for fans with a breadth of knowledge as well as depth of knowledge. They also need to be interesting to listen to and able to converse with their other panelists, because one panelists doesn’t necessarily have to answer all parts of the question, so they’ll need to be able to work together.
I hope to hear from you. Send you questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your question is used at a con, I’ll contact you with a list of books you can choose from and send you a prize. And if your question stumps the panel, Steve will be in touch about your subscription to Amazing Stories.
Episodes of Information Please: https://www.otr.net/?p=infp
Wikipedia article about Information Please: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_Please
For a very con-like take of the show, here is a rare televised episode: