EIGHTIES LETTERS AND FAN DIARY
0: MID-19814th June 1981 - From TWO OTHERWISE BLANK PAGES
"But it's only two pages!", protested Linda Pickersgill as I attempted to explain that I was having enough difficulty pulling together the two fanzines I am currently working on (EPSILON 7 & STARFAN 2, both out RSN) and that anything else was not really on since I find writing difficult enough as it is.
-"I'll even get them photocopied for you to make things easier", she coaxed.
"No you won't", said Greg, vetoing his wife's offer. "He's got a duplicator going rusty through disuse. It'll do it good to get the works mobile and keep it in running order."
True enough, I had to admit. My Gestetner is a beautiful machine and in the year or so I've possessed it it's only been used twice, neither time on a fanzine of my own, and each time a long and tedious programme of retraining with the instruction manual has been necessary. The really embarrassing thing about the last occasion on which it was used though, was that after a lot of. effort by myself and ex-Foundation director Malcolm Edwards it took the experienced finger of the master to give a certain switch lust the corrsct touch to get the ink flowing, a feat which amused Greg mightily either proving him to be possessed of more fannishness than both of us or to be as infallible as he claims.
"Have the pages ready by Sunday!", Linda ordered, fixing me in a stern schoolmarmish gaze from behind those enormous glasses of hers.
I gave in, as I usually do, but this was Thursday evening so there was not much time and I whimpered softly as I considered the twin problems of what to write about and who I could con into buying my next pint.
As far as drinks go this was a fairly typical One Tun where, because of the way you tend to move around, the people you buy drinks for and those who buy drinks for you are often not the same people, and sometimes you are up on drinks sometimes down, though over the course of months it probably evens out. It was an atypical One Tun in that Greg was there, his first time in nearly eighteen months.v "And it's just the same!!", he cried.
Indeed it was with the same large groupings of Star Trek, Dr. Who, and Blake's Seven fans filling the pub with an incredible amount of noise and taking up a lot of space. It's a pity that they haven't the wit to start up their own meeting but choose instead to infest that started by SF fans because by their very prescence, by the self-contained cliques they form, they have denuded the One Tun meetings. Their relation to the larger body Of SF fandom is, unfortunately, largely parasitic, an assessment visiting American fan Bruce Pelz seemed to agree with.
"But what can we do about it?", he asked.
"By catering to specialist groups at American conventions you've ended up with the Worldcon in the state it's in," said Greg, implying that things could go the same way over here, "and only by making sure that you're catering primarily to the SF fans, the people the whole thing is supposed to be for after all, can the Worldcon be saved, if it isn't already too late."
I nodded in silent agreement, though there are those who would think me an old reactionary, people like, perhaps, Chris 'Madman' Evans who has had Deep Things to say on fannish elitism in the past but who at that moment was engaged in conversation with the hyper-thyroid Rob Holdstock, whose head kept bobbing and weaving as he looked this way and that, fearing all the while that people were talking about him without his knowledge. Others were there too, familiar faces like those of Dave Langford, who handed me an ANSIBLE containing fan-poll results which bore no relation to my conception of reality; Malcolm Edwards, who handed me a slip of paper talking mysteriously of intoxicating substances and menacing cats; Alan Dorey and Rochelle Reynolds who handed me some stapled sheets announcing that they had gotten married in February without telling anyone; and Kevin Smith who handed me nothing at all and who was not really a familiar face having shed his beard tiring, no doubt, of the many comparisons being made between himself and Manfred Mann. There were others there, of course, all human life and all that, and each of them experienced a different meeting, came away with a different set of impressions.
Overall, then, a fairly typical One Tun, no great happenings, too hot, too noisy, too many people. For me it's easy to get to and I do see people I might not otherwise see from one con to the next so I'll continue to go but far more enjoyable are the weekly meetings of the Friends In Space, which take place in Ealing. This, I'm sure, is what One Tun meetings used to be like, what they should be like.
(There was a temptation to finish that last line with "...and represent fankind's hope for the future", which shows how we have to be constantly on our guard.)
1: LATE-19825th June 1982 - Letter to Avedon Carol
At the moment we're sweltering under the effects of a heat-wave over here that makes sleep very difficult and even the thunderstorms every other night do very little to make things more bearable. You can tell it's summer when everyone pours out onto the pavement outside the One Tun to drink their beer and jaw, at the monthly meeting.
I had intended to write a piece for Stu Shiffman called 'One Tun Low' detailing the decline of this institution but I have to confess to enjoying the June gathering a lot, probably due to the lower than usual numbers of Trekkies, Whofans, and Blake's Seven fans present. I had a brief argument with Joseph Nicholas about the sending of the Falklands Task Force, which I and the majority of the British public support but which most fans I've talked to oppose, and noticed that he was smoking again, as he had been at the BSFA meeting two weeks earlier. His protestations in PONG about having given up the foul weed seem premature.
Being a hair under six feet tall (where a hair is an inch and a half), I'm used to looking down on most people I talk to so finding myself having to look up when talking to a group consisting of Kev Smith, Rob Holdstock, and Geoff Ryman was a very strange experience and I went into a routine about having fallen in with a bunch of freaks and about how such unnatural height was a sin against God and man. It was only afterwards I remembered that Geoff is gay and it occurred to me he might have thought I was using this line to specifically take the piss out of him. Oh well.
11th June 1982 - Letter to Ted White
In commenting on one of the many covers for EPSILON 7 you refer to the character depicted as 'Pickersgill', whereas it was actually me - as it would have to be for it's allusion to both Dick Whittington's arrival in London and my own. Interestingly, other people seeing that picture wondered why I'd drawn Ian Maule. Are we all really so alike? The style I used for this particular drawing is not one I feel very comfortable with and the drawing itself was produced towards the end of a period when I'd been fighting my natural style in an attempt to imitate Harry Bell. I was pleased with the way issue 11's cover came out too, though it looks to me almost like the product of a third person rather than an amalgam of Harry's style and my own. This is the fourth time I've collaborated with Harry. The first time was back in '73 when, as an experiment, Harry inked a pencil drawing I'd done three years earlier (a drawing which has never appeared in a fanzine but was printed in the Harry Bell section of the 'Fanartists Scrapbook' published by the SEACON committee), the second was for the fourth issue of Simone Walsh's SEAMONSTERS, and the third (a collaboration between Jim Barker, Harry, and myself) was for the never published fifth issue of SEAMONSTERS and is a really nice effort that I may well run as an internal illo in a future EPSILON.
In furtherance of this tradition of co-operation and experimentation Harry will be pencilling the cover for the next EPSILON in accordance with my rough directions (in keeping with my policy of the logo forming a logical part of the picture - be it on a streetsign or billboard - the cover drawing will be of a film set with someone in the foreground holding a clapperboard which proclaims 'Film: EPSILON - Take 12') and I will be laying "the architectually precise Hansen lines" over them. ,Whether this will be as successful as our collaboration on issue 11 I don't know, but if nothing else it will be interesting.
Yeah, I also think a collaboration between Dan and myself is a good idea. In keeping With the collaborations between Harry and myself it might be an idea to send a pencilled cover for 13 to Dan together with an idea for the cover of issue 14 so that Dan could send we the finished cover for issue 13 and the pencils for issue 14 at the same time. It's certainly worth thinking about, as are one or two other possibilities since there are other forms of collaboration than that of penciller/inker - tho' it's the one I'm most interested in at the moment.
7th July 1982 - Letter to Vince Clarke, then newly-returned to fandom.
Something else that was surprising was your perception of a lack of friendships and fellow-feeling among present day fans, particularly as it was recent fannish socialising (visiting, the One Tun, a party, Malcolm and Chris calling over to duplicate TAPPEN and drink and jaw) that has delayed this LoC. Indeed, since moving to London two years ago (my first ten months I here spent as a house-guest of Greg and Linda Pickeregill) all my socialising has been with my fellow fans, and it's been fairly frequent (three gatherings lined up in the coming week, for instance). There are definite factions in London fandom but most of us active since the height of the seventies have known our contemporaries for many years now, and see each other so often, that we feel comfortable in each other's company and have no need of extravagant displays of fraternalism at conventions - which might explain why you gained the impression you did.
15th July 1982 - Letter to Dan Steffan
Having just finished throwing myself around to ABC's 'TEARS ARE NOT ENOUGH' - have to keep those hips loose enough for the convention disco what with SILICON being little more than a month away - I am sweating somewhat and hoping that none drips off my nose and onto this letter. I had intended to travel up to the West End tonight and take in the new Clint Eastwood film, FIREFOX, but what with the BSFA meeting tomorrow (boring old fart George Hay going on and on about something or other that no-one gives a fuck about, but a good place to meet with drinking buddies and get pleasantly plastered) and the monthly North London pool session last night (during which I thought fellow-Welshman Chris Evans was going to attack me with his cue after I beat him in a game that pitted his natural skill against my unnatural luck - one shot, for instance, had me totally snookered but I managed a five-cushion shot that potted my remaining ball, and all from a miss-cue) I decided to take a rest and catch up on my letter writing.
On re-reading the above it occurs to me that if you want a glimpse of the pub where various luminaries of London fandom gather to play pool you should catch THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, which I hear is now an release in America and is a film well worth seeing in its own right. In the early part of the film one of the characters attempts a homosexual pick-up in a pub, a pub that is (as you've no doubt guessed) where we play pool. The Salisbury is a short walk from where Malcolm and Chris live, though it's not usually inhabited by characters like those in the film, mind you.
By the way, would you be interested in inking a cover for a future EPSILON after the fashion of the recent collaboration between Harry and myself? Also, if you're interested in trying the experiment the other way around I'd be quite interested in inking something for you. Let we know what you think.
25th August 1982 - Letter to Dan Steffan
The problem with fandom is that the more involved you get in it the more of your time it consumes. I've spent most of the last week putting the finishing touches to EPSILON 12, both writing and typing of stencils, and since things have been pretty hectic in work as well I was pretty well knackered by the time the weekend arrived. Not that this stopped me from attending the BSFA meeting on Friday where I met Greg Benford, who was being interviewed by Joe Nicholas and who seemed like a nice guy, and where I was supposed to collect the electrostencils for EPSILON from John Harvey. However, Eve had forgotten to tell him I wanted them for Friday, he hadn't done them, and a certain amount of nail-biting was done on my part until the stencils arrived yesterday and ensured I could get the issue out by SILICON, which I travel up to tomorrow. Yay!
The cover for this issue is another Hansen/Bell collaboration, this time with Harry pencilling and me inking. I gave him some instructions - EPSILON covers should be 8" x 10" and in a frame 1cm in from each edge (though sections of the frame can be left out as on the cover of issue 10), there should be no captions or word balloons and the title should form a logical part of the picture, be it on a billboard or street sign or whatever - and left him to it. This was the first time I'd ever inked anyone else's pencils and it was...interesting.
I'm glad that you want to collaborate on cover-art for EPSILON, by the way, and will forward pencils for the next issue when I do them. I'd also be delighted to to ink a chapter of THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR since, as I mentioned in an earlier letter, I'd once toyed with the idea of a comic strip adaptation myself and this lets we get in on the act.
I wouldn't take too such notice of the ANSIBLE announcement of Greg's departure from fandom if I were you as, while Langford has undoubtedly reported what was said, Greg made the comment at a party where such alcohol was being consumed and each fun had by all. Since he'll be at SILICON (both of us will be staying tomorrow night at Harry Bell's so I can see this being the first con I've ever arrived at with a hangover), is talking about publishing something when he gets a new typewriter, and has commissioned an article from Chris Evans I think it's safe to say that fandom hasn't seen the last of him.
5th September 1982 - Letter to Avedon Carol
Was at SILICON over the last weekend in August (which remains the UK's most enjoyable convention - I had a great time). I spent most of the proceeding two weeks getting EPSILON 12 ready for the convention, and most of the time since collating and mailing the remaining copies. This weekend just gone Malcolm and Chris, Rob Holdstock, Chris Evans, Leroy Kettle, and myself travelled up to Blackpool to assess the hotel we have in mind for our 1984 Eastercon bid - and were wined, dined, and accommodated at the hotel's expense and so had a good time. As you might imagine I'm feeling fairly knackered but in the next few weeks I've got about four articles to write that I've promised various people and just yesterday a letter arrived from Ted White asking about the Ratfandom history I mentioned I was thinking of writing some months back and when could he have the first installment for GAMBIT? Arrrrgh! It's a tough life in fandom.
5th September 1982 - Letter to Sheila Holdstock
Well, it's been quite a few weeks since you departed these shores for parts Dutch in your gradual move eastwards (Eire, England, Holland), and I hope you are having a good time. I'm sure it's a big wrench to move to another country where the main language is not English; it's not something I could have easily done since I appear to have an almost negligible ability to learn other tongues (as school proved, languages always being the subjects where I picked on the lowest marks).
Since the July 4th celebration at the Priest/Tuttle flat there hasn't been much in the way of partying and suchlike in London but one or two interesting things have happened lately. As you're doubtless aware a gang of us are putting together a bid for the 1984 Eastercon so last weekend Malcolm and Chris, Rob, Chris Evans, and myself drove to Blackpool to assess the hotel we have in mind for the convention (Leroy travelled from work by train and joined us later). It was a fairly uncomfortable journey since Rob, Chris Evans, and I were jammed into the back of Chris and Malcolm's Maxi and, try as he might, Rob couldn't help but fidget.
The nice thing about 'hotel-assessing' is that you get a free room and free meals, and the evening meal in particular was excellent, probably the best I've eaten this year. Everyone seemed to agree and when the manager asked if we'd liked the meal Rob told him that the girl cutting the joint had gone in, heedless of the hotplate and the chance of getting fat on her hands, and cut off great steaming slabs of meat for us. By the expression on his face I think the manager had expected a somewhat less graphic reply to his query. Still, the hotel seems near-perfect for our purposes and I hope we win the bid next Easter.
Leaving the hotel was easy enough but getting in had been a bit difficult. When we first drove into the car park there were a number of policemen about, one of whom stopped the car and checked that we had legitimate business at the hotel. When we asked what was going on he told us that security precautions were being taken because Sandy Woodward was guesting at a hotel function that evening.
"Sandy who?" we chorused.
As it happened the night we'd chosen to arrive at the hotel was also the night that the Blackpool Illuminations were turned on and Sandy Woodward was guest of honour at the official dinner being held at the hotel that evening . He was also going to officially open a hotel restaurant called 'The Admiral's Room'. Apt, I suppose.
5th October 1982 - Letter to Ted White
Thanks, firstly, for your LoC on EPSILON 12, which got to me six days after I originally posted your copy, which must be some sort of record. On the outside of the aerogramme I see scrawled something along the lines of "ROB HANSEN FOR TAFF"? Well, it could just be. Given that there are more people I'd like to meet on the east coast than on the west (though there are still some, of course) the Baltimore Worldcon would be the ideal one to attend but since 1984 is the next time TAFF sends a UK fan over that makes it the L.A. con, and I imagine that the cost of trans-continental travel will keep some of those easterners I'd like to meet away. However, I suppose that most fans visiting the US would try to spend two to three weeks there ind that. might, with the help of a few rides, give the time to work their way across. (I wonder if a TAFF ticket can be arranged for, say, arrival in Los Angeles and departure from New York? Hmmm). Anyway, it's all still very provisional at the moment, and certainly nothing we'd want announced, but Harry Bell and I are contemplating standing next time and running a 'friendly rivalry' along the lines of the Langford/Barker contest of a few years ago. If I do decide to run, would you be one of my US nominators?
19th October 1982 - Letter to Stu Shiffman
Thank you for the half-cover, which I like and want to use but not as you originally intended. Since the covers for quite a few of the next issues of EPSILON have been arranged (the next issue is the final Bell/ Hansen collaboration and then we begin on the Steffan/Hansen collaborations...) I'm not going to be needing any other covers for quite a while but there are a few things I want to try, among them doing something with the back cover. So what I intend doing, unless you have any objections, is running your half-cover on the back of the next EPSILON with the sort of contents listing opposite that appeared on the back of the last one. I think it'll look kinda good.
20th October 1982 - Letter to Alan and Rochelle Dorey
So you two are the new editors of MATRIX, eh?...0h maybe just its custodians until you find a new editor? No matter...on to my letter, a LoC, no less...
I think there's a misconception in Graham James reply to Michael Ashley with regard to Malcolm Edwards and myself wanting to go 'mid-atlantic' because while we're both involved with, and interested in, American fandom we produce our fanzines primarily for British readers (75% of the print-run of my own fanzine is distributed in the UK, for instance). Nor is this interest in US fandom anything new, as a glance through old issues of EPSILON will show, though there's rather more to be interested in in US fandom at present than there has been for some years and hence all the more reason to re-establish transatlantic links that had been allowed to weaken. Those of your readers interested in fandom beyond the confines of the BSFA could do a lot worse than to write off for some of the fanzines coming out of the US at the moment (addresses in the MATRIX fanzine review column).
21st October 1982 - Letter to Ted White
My thanks for agreeing to one of my nominators if I decide to stand for TAFF (plenty of time yet before a decision needs to be made) and I also think your own idea of standing is a good one - though what British fandom will be like in 1985 is anyone's guess.
Yeah, to all intents and purposes Greg has quit fandom. He's announced that he can't see himself ever doing a fanzine again and has said that if he doesn't have a really good time at the forthcoming NOVACON he's also unlikely to attend another convention. This is the culmination of a number of things that have been brewing up since last Christmas and not altogether a surprise, but still something I'd rather not have had happen for all that. Linda, though, remains active and is if anything becoming more active, so with that and with the fact that their social circle is composed mainly of fans he may be lured back at some future date, though I wouldn't bank on it. However, I continue to address fanzines to both of them and to hope.
23rd November 1982 - Letter to Ted White
Glad you liked the bundle of fanzines I sent and look forward to seeing copies of your early zines when your collection is sorted.
TAPPEN 5 was published a few weeks back (tho' Malcolm has been rather tardy in sending it out due to a lack of cash) and I personally think the West piece is the best thing he's written to date and is the most engrossing thing I've read in a fanzine in a long, long time (and is even better on the second reading). It's certainly streets ahead of his last piece about 'middle-class' fandom which was eagerly awaited and met with disappointment, most fans' reactions to it being along the lines of "so what?". Of his earlier pieces I think the WRINKLED SHREW critical article was the best since it did attempt to establish 'a critical basis for fanzine reviewing and a number of its digressions were as interesting as complete articles that have appeared in other fanzines (and given their length could probably have been complete articles in other fanzines). In retrospect the piece in TRUE RAT, while interesting, reads almost like a dry run for the WRINKLED SHREW article with even its attack on Graham Boak (The Boak Affair being a particularly acrimonious dispute of the mid-70s and one I may well research if I ever get around to writing the Ratfanhistory and decide to take it that far which, strictly speaking, is after the end of Ratfandom) seemed to prefigure the later article's attack on Walt Willis. At the time I wasn't familiar enough with either to judge the validity of West's arguments but I've now read enough Willis - through owning a copy of WARHOON 28 - to make my own assessment, which is at odds with West's. I'll defend his right to write what he did but I can't agree with him.
28th November 1982 - Letter to Richard Bergeron
What is this? With WARHOON 30 turning up yesterday and the two issues of WIZ I've received three fanzines from you within a week - and given that WARHOON 28 arrived a few weeks ago I've had over 700 fanzine pages from you inside of a month. I do not expect this record to be equalled. This is also the second fanzine from the US this week that was sent by sea but obviously travelled by air.
Unless you were involved in fandom at the time, reading individual fanzines from five, ten, twenty, thirty years ago is a frustrating and unsatisfactory experience because their original context was the fandom of their day and unless you're familiar with that fandom there is too much in that old material that is going to pass you by. Far better, from my point of view, to read old material in publications such as WARHOON 28 since their additional background material and suchlike, makes it far more intelligible to me as a fan in the here and now. I know that D. is down on the idea of such 'complete works' reprints but they do allow individual pieces to be seen in the context of the larger body of work by the writer and can be quite illuminating. For instance I found Walt's ManCon 1976 piece - which I first read at the time of its original publication and in the fanzine it first appeared, please note - far more enjoyable in this volume. So no, I don't agree with D. that if you're interested in such things "...the best place to read old fanwriting is in old fanzines...". Having said all this, D.'s piece was certainly the most entertaining this issue (though I have more respect for Ted White than he does).
(That's it for letters in 1982, but in the front of the first volume of my diary is a listing for December that I probably meant to expand but never did):
December 1982, in brief:
2nd: First Thursday, so One Tun, and an incredible number of out-of-towners showed up including D.West, Pete Lyon, Alan & Rochelle Dorey.
3rd: Stayed over at Pickersgills with West, Doreys, Chris Evans, Steve Higgins, etc.
8th: North London pool session with Chris Priest, John Sladek, Malcolm Edwards, Jeff Suter, Roy Kettle, Chris Evans.
11/12th: Around at Evans' flat with Chris Priest, Lisa Tuttle, Greg & Linda.
16th: 'Not the Xmas Tun', with Priest, Tuttle, Evans, Edwards and Chris Atkinson
19th: Friends In Space, with Greg & Linda, Steve Higgins.
22-29th: Xmas in Wales with my family.
30th: Get together at Kettle's with Roy and Kath Mitchell, Malcolm & Chris, Rob Holdstock & Sarah, Sheila (Rob's ex-wife) and her fella Jo, and Chris Evans.
31st-2nd Jan: New Year's at Greg & Linda's.