EIGHTIES LETTERS AND FAN DIARY
2: JANUARY/FEBRUARY 1983Sunday 2nd January
After leaving the Pickersgills' at around 1 o'clock I had expected to be able to get on with EPSILON #13, but around 5 o'clock Malcolm rang and asked to come over that evening and run off a fanzine. Lots of mad dashing around on my part to get the place looking at least a little bit tidy (why *am* I so untidy?) before they arrived.
After running off DRUNKARD'S TALK, Malcolm, Chris and I worked our way through a bottle of Alsace Gurwurztraminer and Osterreich while discussing such earth-shattering problems as the low number of Jews in British fandom.
7th January 1983 - Letter to Ted White
Sorry for being so tardy in replying to your last two letters but December is usually the busiest month of the year in terms of both fannish socialising and family commitments. Leaving aside the week I spent back in Wales with my family over Christmas, I could also be found on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 16th, 19th. 30th & 31st of December (not to mention the 1st, 2nd, and 6th of January) with people such as the Pickersgills, Doreys, Atkinson, Edwards, Kettle, West, Holdstock, Palmer, Robertson, Nicholas, Hanna, Langford, Priest, Tuttle, Sladek, Evans etc, etc. I was also battling away at a mental block that was preventing me from stringing even half-a-dozen words together on paper in any sort of coherent form, something which has caused me to miss each of three consecutive self-imposed. deadlines for the EPSILON that you should be receiving sometime in the next few days.
I have a feeling that my block was caused in part by my showing in the NOVA Awards last November. I had half expected EPSILON to win the award for Best Fanzine due to TAPPENs low visibility last year, but the Best Artist award was a surprise since Pete Lyon has swept all before him on this front in the last couple of years and enjoys solid support in the north and so was, I thought, a certainty. The real surprise however, was the Best Writer award. I hadn't even thought I was in the running for that one so to discover that I was runner-up - and a close one - to Chris Atkinson (theoretically only the names of the actual winners are a revealed but names of runners-up are always leaked) came as something of a shock. The realisation that I'd come so close to carrying off all three awards made me freeze up. I mean, the NOVAs are only voted for by people active in fanzines so although it is gratifying to know your work is appreciated by your peers it makes it difficult for you to convince yourself that your next effort is going to be anything other than an anti-climax. Difficult days. What was really weird was the awards ceremony itself and sitting there as the final category, Best Fanzine, was announced. I hadn't thought I gave a fuck about such things but actually sitting there and knowing I was in with a chance I found my mouth getting dry, stomach churning, heart racing, etc. It's funny what you learn about yourself at conventions.
Sunday 9th January
EPSILON #13 finally finished today - and about time, too. As usual I feel vaguely depressed and unsure as to how good it is. Now comes that period of waiting, like an expectant father outside the maternity ward, for the first LoCs to appear. Grim.
25th January 1983 - Letter to Dan Steffan
Here, at long last, are the pencils for the cover of the next EPSILON. As with the pencils I gave Harry for issue 11 I've deliberately left some details sketchy since I feel we and up with a truer collaboration that way (Harry's pencils on issue 12 were so complete that my inks on top didn't make it look too different from when Harry does his Own inking). The background lines are to indicate that a New York-style skyline will go there but I leave the final shape and form of that skyline (possibly in silhouette) to you. Similarly I've left the title/pier fairly featureless, as if made of concrete, but leave you to either tart it up with graffiti, make it look as if made of brick blocks, etc., and shade it, as you see fit. The reason I chose this particular image for our collaboration was that in trying to imagine that a picture, with me laying down the bones and you supplying the flesh, would look like I came to the conclusion that it would probably look vaguely Eisnerish.
When you come to do the pencils for a cover yourself remember to contain the picture in a frame, as this one is (and as most recent ones have been), to have no word balloons or captions, and to work the title of the zine in as a logical part of the picture. Like, for instance, as the name on the drum-kit of a sixties Beatle-type group, or (in reverse, of course) on the window of a shop or saloon in which some scene or other is occurring (like maybe a duplicating session such as would have occurred at Towner Hall). Also, if you can, work in the issue number. I look forward to working over your pencils and to seeing what you do over mine. Since I want to do another issue before Easter I'd appreciate it, if possible, if you could have the cover back to at by the end of February or, if not, by mid-March. Cheers.
BOONFARK 7 was without doubt your best issue to date. Rich Brown's clashes with authority, and particularly the quick-thinking that saved him from getting into trouble with his base commander and provided such an amusing anecdote, set met to wondering if I'd ever had any such clashes. The only one that came to mind was when I was in the first or second form at school (around age 12) and the authority figure was, of course, my teacher.
For some reason or other (the mind of a teacher is a strange and wondrous thing) certain members of the form had been assigned to gathering newspaper clippings on particular subjects, on a weekly basis, for display on the notice boards at the back of the classroom. Weird, eh? I was one of those chosen and was assigned to gather newsreports, and preferably humorous ones, about animals. As you might imagine this wasn't exactly a thrill-a-minute assignment and after a few weeks I was pretty bored with the whole thing. I mentioned this to my mother one Sunday and she pointed to a piece she was reading in the paper about strange goings on in a nudist camp (I should perhaps explain at this point that many of the Sunday newspapers produced in Britain rely heavily on prurience, a headline such as 'SEX-CHANGE VICAR IN LESBIAN LOVE-NEST WITH QUEEN'S, COUSIN' containing all the elements that would make an ideal story for one of these rags).
"Why not clip this out and pin it up, she said. "That would make things more interesting.
Indeed it would. At that age I had a tendency to go along with most dares and so it was that the next morning, to an accompaniment of sniggers and giggles frog my classmates, I pinned up the piece my mother had pointed out, a piece illustrated with some very revealing photos. when my teacher came in and can that was under the animal heading on the board he led me over to it by the ear, pointed to the offending clipping, and said, "What's this got to do with animals, boy?"
"Well it's the human animal, sir!", I replied, my classmates collapsing in helpless laughter all around. As it turned out this was probably the best thing to say since the teacher smiled, told we to take the clipping down, and forgot about it. This incident did much for my standing in the class at the time and also taught we the value of irreverence, a lesson that has occasionally stood me in good stead in other situations.
Saturday 5th February
Flying visit to Westminster Comic Mart today. Would've stayed longer but for clash with England v Wales rugby match on TV that afternoon. As usual the massed chorus of several thousand Welshmen singing 'Mae'n hen flad fy Nhadau' in perfect unison at Cardiff Arms Park brought a real lump to my throat. Turned the volume up full for that, which no doubt annoyed the neighbours. Final score 13-13 and while I'm glad we avoided the shame of losing to the English on our home ground - making 21 years since they last beat us at the Arms - I have to admit that this time England were the better team and we were lucky to get a draw. Hope we do better against Scotland in a fortnight.
Monday 14th February - Valentine's Day
Once again I expected to arrive home from work and have great difficulty pushing the front door open due to the 'snow-drift' of cards from female admirers piled up against it. Once again I was disappointed.
Tuesday 15th February - Shrove Tuesday
Arrived at the Kettle-Mitchell pad around 7.45pm, only John Brosnan present. Later arrivals were Rob Holdstock, Malcolm Edwards, Chris Atkinson, Jeff Suter & Pam Wells. Initially, great ineptitude at pancake-making was shown by all except Rob, who consumed vast quantities. Runner up was Malcolm. How does he stay so slim?
Later, Rob told us of a woman who practiced coitus interruptus for a number of years and claimed virginity afterwards.
"She maintained," said Rob, "that unless someone has ejaculated inside you you were still a virgin."
"Then I'm definitely still a virgin," said Brosnan.
Wednesday 16th February
Duplicated DRUNKARD'S TALK #5 for Malcolm and noted with interest the line: "This fanzine supports famous Dave for TAFF - an idea whose time has come". If West *is* standing for TAFF then I've really got to get my arse in gear. I assumed I could continue in my leisurely way for a while and that any announcement prior to Easter would be premature. Plainly, I was wrong.
John Jarrold's PREVERT #4 arrived in the mail this morning and also mentioned West's TAFF plans. Hmmm.
Thursday 17th February
Rang Pickersgills and had long chat with Linda, telling her of West's probable TAFF plans. Phoned Harry Bell, who for some reason didn't want me to mention his own candidature to Dave Langford at tomorrow's BSFA meeting. Wonder if he's getting cold feet?
Friday 18th February
Saw Vonnegut interviewed on TV today - a fascinating guy. Pity there's no chance of getting him to speak to an SF audience while he's over here.
At BSFA meeting, Jeff Suter has set up a 'Does the Team Think?' contest with panellists Joseph Nicholas, Dave Langford, and Ian Someone-or-other. Obvious if cruel answer to question in title is "no". Questions chosen by Suter don't produce quite the witty repartee that was clearly hoped for. Maybe he should stick to straightforward quizzes?
Discussed TRON with Malcolm Edwards and Phil Palmer. Phil, a computer programmer, said that TRON had got the psychology of the programming experience exactly right. All I know is that it was a thoroughly enjoyable film, a view Malcolm shared, and I'm at a loss to understand the generally poor reviews it received.
Didn't get Malcolm alone long enough to question him about D's plans and tip him as to my own, but I did collar Langford who was pleased with the idea and offered to nominate me. I. of course, accepted. Must have a word with Malcolm soon. Maybe I'll phone him.
Saturday 19th February
I had promised to attend the Priest/Watson signing session at 'Forbidden Planet' today but unfortunately it clashed with the Wales v Scotland rugby match. In spite of commentators' gloomy predictions prior to the match, Wales won 19-15 in fine style. A very enjoyable afternoon's TV.
There was a piece on Priest in today's 'Guardian' which, in spite of what Malcolm said yesterday about Chris putting his foot in it with comments about Watson, was pretty fair I thought.
Sunday 20th February
Friends in Space but only Greg, Linda, and myself were in attendance. I wonder if the fact we watched an episode of 'The Avengers' on TV beforehand - and didn't turn up 'til gone 8.30pm - had anything to do with it?
Linda expressed an interest in computers so I invited them over next Sunday so she could play with my ZX81 and offered her a month's loan. Realised afterwards that Phil Palmer will be over then as well to duplicate CHOCOLATES OF LUST #2. Should be an interesting afternoon.
Monday 21st February
In work today someone phoned for Martin W and we got talking. He recognised my accent was not that of a native born Londoner and hazarded a guess I was from the North-East. Damned cheek! Harry Bell may be a good friend and all that but to confuse my educated tones with those crude and gutteral sounds that issue forth from the Geordie throat is really too much. He then guessed I was from Somerset which while closer to the mark geographically is still pretty insulting though, to be fair when I told him I was Welsh he did launch into a paean of praise for Wales' performance against the Scots last Saturday and thus revealed himself to be a man of taste and discernment - even though he doesn't give much for our chances against the Irish.
Attended the J.Sainsbury Executive Club meeting after work this evening where Famous Concorde Pilot gave a talk on Famous Concorde Aircraft. My main reason for attending was that I'd forgotten to lay in food for that evening's meal and there is always free booze and food after these things, but Famous Concorde Pilot was amusing and witty and meeting was thus very entertaining. Next speaker is, apparently, Peter Walker the Minister for Agriculture. Not a big fan of politicians - tho' did go along to see David Owen last year when SDP were still a big media thing - so will probably only attend if I forget to lay in food again and am in need of a free meal.
Tuesday 22nd February
Letter from Alun Harries who tells me that in the ZX81 programs I sent him I'm 'reinventing the wheel'. Well yes, of course I am; after only three evenings it would be miraculous if I was doing anything else. I sent them to him merely for comment and helpful hints. His suggestion for shortening the programs by using FOR-NEXT loops looks worth following up.
Saw FORBIDDEN PLANET on TV tonight, the first time I'd ever seen the movie, amazingly. Great stuff!
Wednesday 23rd February
Had a good laugh in work today when I heard of Dave I's misfortunes in a Covent Garden restaurant last night. He leant across the table to whisper sweet nothings to his date - how perfect if they were along the lines of "you make me burn with desire" - when he smelt something funny, looked down, and saw the candle on the table had set fire to his jacket. He leapt to his feet, beating wildly at the flames, discovering too late that bits of the burning jacket had melted and were sticking to his hands like napalm. Not unnaturally, he dashed off to the toilets at high speed to plunge them into cold water. I wonder what his date made of such suave and sophisticated behaviour? Still, if he then came back and carried on as if nothing had happened, in spite of the apparently huge hole in his jacket, that would have shown some class.
Overheard Ted G telling Jim K about the latest letter he'd written to his MP in his quest to get LSD legalised. There's something kind of sad about middle-aged Ted keeping up his campaign. Although I knew the rough outline of the story, I quizzed Jim about Ted who, Jim says, had his mental problems treated with LSD in Canada before acid was made illegal and is convinced it's the only treatment that really works. Jim reckoned that much of Ted's problem dates from the death of his mother.
"He just moped around his flat," said Jim. "And," he added, to demonstrate just how bad Ted's mental decay was, "he couldn't even be bothered to cook food but used to exist on baked beans eaten straight from the can. Can you imagine that?"
I really didn't know how to reply.
(Dave I had the worst luck of anyone I ever knew. It really did seem like the universe was out to get him. Playing cricket for our department's team he came into work one Monday with a row of stitches in his forehead where the ball had came off his bat and the seam of the ball had neatly sliced open his forehead as it flew by. On another occasion he went on a skiing holiday. Yeah, I know, everyone gets injured on those but Dave managed to snap his ski-stick during a tumble and the jagged end speared right through his leg. A few years after this, he was killed in a plane crash.)
24th February 1983 - Letter to Larry Carmody
My commiserations on not winning TAFF this time out. It's hard to believe that yet another year has fled by and that in a few short weeks it will be Easter again and I will be meeting Avedon Carol for the first time. What's also hard to believe is that I've lived in Britain all of my 28 years but this will be the first time I've ever visited Scotland. Then again, it wasn't until I was twenty that I first saw the famous sights of London despite being born and brought up in Cardiff, a mere 150 miles from London. Hmmm. Not that I'll get to see anything of Glasgow, of course, since the usual convention procedure involves spending days at a time in faraway cities and never leaving the hotel. Speaking of TAFF and faraway cities there's a chance you may see me in L.A. in '84 since I'll be standing for TAFF myself this time around.
Thursday 24th February
Wrote letter to Larry Carmody and started one to Ted White. I suppose I really should reply to that strange letter from the Mervyn Peake Society, but then again why should I? Fuck the Mervyn Peake Society!
Saturday 26th February
Wrote letter to the Mervyn Peake Society.
Sunday 27th February
Greg, Linda, and Phil Palmer all over today. Showed Linda the truly wonderful 'square-spiral' program I'd written, aware all the while that behind me was seated a professional programmer who doubtless regarded my ZX81 as a toy and my program as little more than a doodle. Intimidating it was. Loaned Linda the machine for a month since I'll be busy with fannish matters and won't have time to play with it.
Only did three sides of Phil's CHOCOLATES OF LUST #2 but promised to run off others during the week. 300 copies!! Jesus Christ!!