Background: Science fiction short story (pulp, 3 pages?) circa mid-1950s/early-1960s. This is NOT a television episode. It is a paper and ink tale with a TV art designer protagonist.

When I was a boy, there was an short story about someone (think Syd Mead or ‘Matt’ Jefferies of Star Trek, but this story was way before than ‘Trek) who was so good at imagining the future that the TV actors on an series he was supplying with concepts, props, and sets behaved as if they’d been marooned in the 1800s.

I don’t how the beginning started but in the last few paragraphs, two ‘government employees’ were aliens. (One of them didn’t know what ‘FBI’ meant ‘federal agents’.) The artist’s work was too real as the time a prophetic science fiction story was too accurate about how to build an atomic bomb. The ‘government employees’ were interested his graphic design. In the final sentence, the protagonist found out the flying saucer on the yard.

No idea about the first drawing, but the second illustration is burned into my memory: The art director’s office was filled with appropriate paraphernalia, desk clutter, etc. It was supposed to be a 2/3 configuration of a cutaway spaceship. As I recall, there was a mistake visible in that model: a spaceman (the word ‘astronaut’ hadn’t been invented) in his pressure suit, ‘floating’ on an umbilical, INSIDE the hull.

  • Is the answer below the right one?
    – Adamant
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 1:51
  • Also, with respect to your edited answer: “Addendum: I should point out that the illustration I mentioned was probably reprinted, circa 1958(?), in the rotogravure supplement of “This Week Magazine”, a now defunct Washington, DC, newspaper.” It’s still deleted, so most users can’t see it. (It’s still not an answer, by the way. This information should be edited into your question).
    – Adamant
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 1:53

1 Answer 1


Security Check by Arthur C. Clarke.

This is how it ends:

It was then that the second man spoke at last, in very bad English and with a most peculiar accent.

‘What is the FBI?’ he asked.

But Hans didn’t hear him. He had just seen the spaceship.

The original story doesn't come with any drawings, but I'm sure you can find an illustrated version.

(Edit: After some serious Googling, I still can't seem to find the illustrated version, sorry.)

  • 2
    Might also be worth mentioning this quote, which matches the OP's description quite nicely: "Even the actors seemed to have been inspired by their new surroundings: off the set, they sometimes behaved like twentieth-century time travellers stranded in the Victorian Age, indignant because they no longer had access to the gadgets that had always been part of their lives."
    – Ajedi32
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 13:29

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