3: MARCH 1983

1st March 1983 - Letter to Ted White

With exactly one month to go to Easter fans along the length and breadth of Britain are doubtless hard at work pubbing their ish and getting it together in time for ALBACON. Here at Hansen Acres both the big wheels and the minor cogs of UK fandom are slowly stirring, what with an EPSILON I may actually get around to writing when I've finished running off CHOCOLATES OF LUST for Phil Palmer and (the instant this letter is completed) drawn a cover for Dave 'do-me-a-cover-and-I'll-put-out-a-TWLL DDU-for-Easter' Langford....and doubtless run off yet another DRUNKARDS TALK for Malcolm.

Being the owner of one of the few reasonably reliable duplicators in these here parts (and regarding almost as anathema the possibility of stopping anyone's fanac by saying 'no') does have its disadvantages. Mention of Langford reminds me that he mentioned having received the UK copies of the latest WIZ when last I saw him about two weeks back but that he would hang onto them for a couple of days until the separate copy Bergeron had sent me turned up since it has, I gather, Things To Say about me. Naturally enough it never did arrive so I'll have to write to Dick begging another copy and will doubtless be the last person on his mailing list to actually read the issue. Poot.

Since he moved to Manchester I've seen very little of Kev Smith so I can't drop any hints about the items he's supposed to send you but he may well be at ALBACON. Then again he might not. Since his hormones are no longer "pushing up hair", he's found himself a woman and is reported to be, to use one of Greg's expressions, 'busily burrowing'. Rumour has it that an imminent marriage is on the cards along with 'respectability' (ie. gafiation), though presumably not before he's discharged his duties as TAFF administrator.

Speaking of TAFF I'm looking forward to meeting Avedon in three short weeks (that's going to feel a bit weird) and have definitely decided to stand myself. I had intended not making a final decision before Easter but curious items in a couple of recent fanzines suggesting that D. West intends standing have tipped my hand. I don't know whether this is serious or not but it necessitates me 'coming out of the closet' now to forestall anyone pledging their support to D. who would othewise back me. Ah the machinations, the machinations! I've only actually told Langford to date, (tho ' that's virtually the same as telling everyone) and he offered to nominate me so that's one important area tied up, at least.

This Eastercon promises to be more personally interesting than most since by the time it's over I'll know whether or not I'll be one of those putting on the next one. Whether we can beat the Brunner bid remains to be seen but if nothing else all the arm-twisting and baby-kissing that's gonna go on in room parties and late-night bars in the hours before the bidding session should prove fascinating. I hope it does.

Thursday 3rd March

The first Thursday of the month and so the night of the One Tun. I'm given a copy of Richard Bergeron's WIZ #4 by Dave Langford, thus proving I'd totally misinterpreted what he told me about it at the BSFA meeting (and I wasn't even pissed!), and of the Nielsen Hayden's IZZARD #5 by Malcolm Edwards. John Jarrold revealed that his comment in PREVERT about D. standing for TAFF was merely a wind-up, which makes it seem that Malcolm's was as well. I may have been moved to early action unnecessarily.

Kevin Smith was also there, surprisingly enough, and promised that while matrimony is indeed pending, gafiation is not.

Saturday 5th March

Ah yes! Wales, in magnificent form, beat Ireland convincingly. What a shame I couldn't watch the whole match and had to be content instead with edited highlights. Poot.

Ran off three pages of Palmer's zine.

Sunday 6th March

Palmer came over again and we laboured on CHOCOLATES OF LUST #2 some more, an issue that is looking to be enormous. Phil learned, somewhat expensively, that large areas of black are not a good idea when using a Gestetner, a discovery exacerbated by me tearing one of the stencils.

Sunday 7th March

Yet again I attempted to make some sort of start on EPSILON #14 but no sooner had I done so than Malcolm rang and asked if he could come over and duplicate DRUNKARD'S TALK #6. Still, at least he brought the latest IZZARD with him.

Wednesday 9th March

Pool night. Attendees included Chris Priest, John Sladek, Brosnan, Kettle, Edwards, Palmer, Suter, and Atkinson. First time I'd seen Brosnan since his altercation in the street. He looked rough - one eye closed up, both red-and-black, and his face still pretty puffy. Unusually, both Edwards and Brosnan were there when I arrived, but both had consumed much drink beforehand so that Malcolm played like a cretin. Ho ho.

Friday 11th March

Pre-ALBACON strategy meeting for our bid at Chris Evans' flat. Present were Edwards, Evans, Holdstock, Graham Charnock, Linda Pickersgill and self. It was decided to put out a quick PR Zero with each of us providing fifty word biogs stressing fannish credentials and me providing a cover after the fashion of saucy seaside postcards, and all by next week - help!!

Though intended to emulate these postcards, Malcolm pointed out that the cover should be "non-sexist". I can see the point of this on both ethical grounds and on the grounds of not wanting to alienate a section of our potential vote, but hell! Trying to come up with a non-sexist saucy postcard is like trying to come up with a vegetarian pork pie.

Sunday 13th March

The CHOCOLATES OF LUST marathon continues, but today we finally broke the back of the work. I think. During the course of the duplication and chatting with Palmer, I finally acknowledged that the chances of me getting an EPSILON out by Easter are slight. Being determined to get *something* out by the convention however I decided to leap on the 'ensmalled fanzine' bandwagon and Phil suggested the perfect name in ETA, which is the short Greek E to EPSILON's long E - or vice versa. Title also suggests a picture of an eater and there's this perfect picture of Malcolm in my album.

The photo, from Eastercon '77

16th March 1983 - Letter to Dan Steffan

Many thanks for the cover. You say that you hope it meets my expectations and that you "...think it came out quite well". It not only met my expectations but surpassed them, and far from merely having "...come out quite well" I think it's ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY MARVELLOUS!!!

Truly, Daniel, you've surpassed yourself. As it happens, so much of my time up to the Eastercon is going to be taken up in duplicating other people's stuff (the main offender being Phil Palmer's CHOCOLATES OF LUST #2 with its ridiculously large print run) and getting material together for our bid for the '84 Eastercon (which obviously can't be postponed) that I'm just not going to have time to do a full EPSILON. This being so, but still being determined to do something for the con, I've decided to leave it for a month or two and put out an 'ensmalled fanzine' to be called ETA (see if you can figure out why). Though I'll try to make it a bit different to others of its ilk.

Actually this is looking to be a pretty good con and I have a feeling in my bones that I'll enjoy it. Lotsa people won't be going unfortunately, mainly due to being unable to afford the excessive travel costs. In the case of John Brosnan it might also be not merely poverty but a certain wariness about having to walk the streets of Britain's most violent city after having recently been beaten up in this one.

Thursday 17th March

Phoned Malcolm to ask for photostats of 1984CON minutes and of con hotel photo for tomorrow's BSFA meeting. Malcolm says this will be impossible as he will be in Toronto tomorrow along with Rob Holdstock. He promises, however, to give the stuff to Chris Priest who will be at the meeting and is visiting Malcolm this evening.

ANSIBLE #32 turned up today and I see that Langford has announced my TAFF candidacy. There's no turning back now.

Friday 18th March

The third Friday of the month and hence the BSFA meeting. John Brunner is guest speaker and I wonder beforehand whether I should heckle him. In the end cowardice wins out and I decide not to but my snorts of derision at certain points do not go unnoticed.

Also at the meeting are Linda Pickersgill, the Harveys, Langford, Suter, Priest, Hibbert, etc. Priest doesn't have the 1984CON material Malcolm was supposed to pass to him.

"He didn't give me anything, mate," said Chris.

This fucks me up somewhat but I figure I can phone Chris Atkinson and get her to mail it to me first class, so there's no sweat.

Linda, Phil Palmer, and I sample the cocktails, which are all very nice but even at Happy Hour prices seem very expensive. Also, when you're accustomed to guzzling beer, such drinks vanish at remarkable speed.

Give John Harvey the two electrostencils-worth of stuff I want him to do for me and tell him that next week's Langford party will be time enough for me to have it done.

Saturday 19th March

Bought Glasgow-to-London coach tickets for Linda, Malcolm, and myself. With the tickets now in my possession the Eastercon seems somehow nearer and more real, as if it had only been an abstract idea before, a distant prophecy to be pondered rather than an event soon to be attended.

I think I'll take this diary with me so I can jot down some notes on the previous day in the quiet of the morning and so have a skeletal but chronologically correct structure in place around which I can weave a fully fleshed-out con report.The only fly in the ointment at this point is my suspicion that these quiet mornings might not materialize quite as I imagine.

Phoned Chris Atkinson and got no reply, but there's still plenty of time.

Sunday 20th March

Phil Palmer was around yet again and we tackled yet another chunk of CHOCOLATES OF LUST #2. Phil only brought eight stencils with him this time so little work was involved.

This being the third Sunday of the month it was the night of Friends In Space. Phil drove me across, and en route we picked up Steve Higgins and his fiancee Leah in Kensington. The journey from there to Ealing took far longer than it should have due to my navigation, I will admit, but the sounds coming from the back of the car of people in almost-terminal paroxysms of laughter were, I felt, most uncalled for.

Biggest surprise of the evening was seeing Greg drink only a single beer. At first I thought he might be ill but Linda says he's cutting back. The world is changing so much it becomes harder to recognize every day and even what had once seemed eternal verities are proving far from immutable.

Phoned Chris A again. Still no answer.

Monday 21st March

Still no reply from Chris A so I phone Chris Evans for help. I need some ideas for this 1984CON 01 Progress Report, and I need them fast. Chris is pretty helpful and I promise to phone him back tomorrow to give him time to give the matter some thought.

Phone Harry Bell and ascertain we are in the main ALBACON hotel. (We were sharing a room.)

Wednesday 23rd March

Having told them about my pool-playing activities, my work colleagues Chris L and Steve J decided to test my prowess by challenging me to a game at the Prince Albert. This pub had what is without doubt the best pool table I've ever played on. In fact it was so good it was disconcerting at first since the balls seemed to travel a lot faster than any of us were used to.

Much drink was drunk, and the games were about even when we moved on. We left fairly early due to having chosen an evening scheduled for an official pool tournament but adjourned to the Ludgate Cellars on the other side of Blackfriars bridge. A wonderful pub this, one that Chris had showed me yesterday, which has good beer and good atmosphere. I shall return here soon.

Got in around 10.30pm and fell into bed. Drunk again.

(The Ludgate Cellars was located under railway arches and so had high, vaulted brick ceilings. It also had a flagstone floor and the 'tables' you stood at with your drink were tall, wooden barrels. Lighting was subdued and it was the sort of place you could easily imagine the Three Musketeers having a swordfight in. Sadly, it disappeared when those railway arches were demolished to make way for Thameslink. One of London's great lost pubs.)

Thursday 24th March

Got up at 6.30am, an ungodly time I had thought was a figment of an unpleasant imagination but isn't, unfortunately. By 8.10am I was pulling out of Euston on a Crewe-bound train and bemoaning the fact to my companions. At Crewe we were picked up by Neville J, Palmer-Shile UK's managing director, and driven to Broughton Heath in Chester to carry out a racking survey at the Sainsbury site there. This proved a relatively swift and painless affair, which was just as well given the way I was feeling after last night's excesses, and by 1.20pm we were ensconsed in a local pub, quaffing ale and digging into the excellent pub food. My chicken pie and salad was particularly good, and made all the more tasty by the fact I didn't have to pay for it. Ah the joys of site visits!

The journey back was a good time to doze off and recharge batteries and I decided that spending half my working day travelling on trains was not unpleasant.

Back in London, I bumped into Dave Cockfield in COMIC SHOWCASE and we went for a drink - in the Ludgate Cellars! I hadn't planned on drinking there again quite so soon, but why knock it?

Didn't do the 1984CON PR art again tonight (who's a naughty boy, then?) but really must do it tomorrow since I figure that's crunch time.

Friday 25th March

Panic stations on 1984CON Progress Report Zero cover. Phoned Charnock and asked him for latest possible deadline, which turns out to be Tuesday. Both the drawing Evans promised and the Edwards/Atkinson minutes turned up in the post on Wednesday, but I was too drunk to do anything about it then and too tired yesterday after my trip to Chester. So tonight I did the paste-up cover ready for mailing to Graham tomorrow.

Saturday 26th March

What a day!

After an early bath and a quick breakfast I rushed up town and visited the Westminster Comic Mart where I spent large sums of money on old issues of comics featuring third-rate DC teams such as THE DOOM PATROL and CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN. No new stuff, tho'.

No sooner did I get back than Phil Palmer turned up with the final five stencils for CHOCOLATES #2. After these had been run off and plates of chicken and chips consumed it was evening and we found ourselves heading down the M4 to Reading and the Langford party.

(What follows is my fanzine account)

I was beat. I had just finished acting out the lead role in the final episode of 'The Duplication of Chocolates of Lust 2', a soap opera in five Weekly installments containing all the pathos, bathos, banality, and high emotion of such melodramatic productions, but one singularly lacking in glossy-lipped ex-beauty queens and scheming Texas oil barons. Perhaps we would find them at the party towards which Phil Palmer's swish roadster was carrying as with all the breathtaking speed and elan of an asthmatic snail. Then again, perhaps we wouldn't. When the Langfords throw a party the tales of drunken mayhem, of sudden drug busts and wild and bestial orgies of sexual depravity that circulate afterward...are notable by their absence.

After being greeted at the door of Chez Langford by The Deaf One Himself we were ushered into the front lounge and introduced to the person in whose honour the party was being thrown, TAFF-winner Avedon Carol who had flown in only the evening before.

Avedon Carol

(When she boarded her plane in the US, Avedon had bumped into Rob Holdstock and Malcolm Edwards who were on their way back from Toronto. Thus she became the first TAFF winner ever to be accompanied across the Atlantic by a delegation from the host fandom. As for what Rob & Malcolm were doing in Toronto, well they had written this coffee table book that someone over there was interested in basing a theme park on. Here's how I reported it at the time:

Malcolm has recently returned from parts Canadian, a foretaste of the international jet-set and globe-trotting lifestyle to which he will shortly become accustomed, where he sold a consortium of local entrepeneurs the 'theme park' rights to Robert P. Holdstock. The park, to be called HOLDSTOCKWORLD, is still in the planning stage at the moment but among the attractions already agreed are: a series of stores selling Rob's books, all cunningly constructed to resemble genuine British remainder shops; stalls selling large sticks of candy in a variety of amusing shapes, none of which will be remotely phallic, of course; a novelty helter-skelter that has to be seen to be believed. More news on this project as it develops.

MR.HOLDSTOCK, a writer of serious science fiction, is reported to be unamused by the previous item.

"I am not amused," he is reported to have said.)

Having only ever seen a badly-reproduced photo of her in an old fanzine I had no strong mental picture of Avedon and it was nice being able to finally put a face to someone I'd briefly corresponded with a few, months earlier. After the introduction however there was between us that peculiar hesitancy and reserve, that awkwardness that comes from meeting someone you feel you know reasonably well due to the fanzine material you've read by them but someone who is, in many important respects, a stranger. In such cases fanzines have the effect of reversing the usual sequence of events, where you first meet a person and then get to know them, resulting almost in a new social situation, one without precedent in which standard social rituals seem inappropriate and uncertainty results. A weird state of affairs really, but I was confident that a little judicious application of throat lubricant would oil the wheels of social intercourse and enable me to cope.

Chris Priest, Lisa Tuttle

It was a good party, all things considered, music played loud enough to shake the walls and dance tracks you could get down and boogie to were totally absent, as always at a Langford get-together, but this was more than compensated for by the large number of interesting people at there. Also present were Joe Nicholas, Judith Hanna, Chris Priest, Lisa Tuttle, Key Smith, Faith Brooker, Dai Price, the Jacksons, the Maules, the Mearas, and others too forgettable to have been recorded in my diary.

Joseph Nicholas & Judith Hanna retire for the night

Very little alcohol passed my lips that night, as is usually the case of course, but I did happen to find myself holding cans of the stuff once or twice. On the first occasion I had just slipped quietly into the front lounge, having left a group listening to Chris Evans praising the work of Piers Anthony and Julian May (she of the doggo giant brain), when I happened to notice a beer can with a rather interesting and unusual design on its side. Naturally enough I picked the can up for closer inspection and no sooner had I done so than I was blinded by a flash of brilliant white light. When my sight returned I saw Avedon unconcernedly winding on the film in her camera. On the second occasion I was sitting in an armchair, idly toying with a half empty can of pale ale that someone had carelessly abandoned, when she struck again.

"You do I hope realise", I said, as the world slowly came back into focus, "that the pictures you've just taken are not at all typical of me and bound to give the wrong impression to the folks back in the ol' US of A?"

Me nursing a discarded can

Dave Langford decorates Joseph

Copies of NABU #13 and TWLL DDU #20 were handed out, and John Harvey had the electrostencils for me.

Sunday 27th March

Woke up aching from having slept on the hard floors at chez Langford, began to dress, and looked up to see Avedon Carol entering. Phil Palmer - also sharing the floor - woke up shortly after and we sat around drinking tea while waiting for the rest of the household to stir into life.

When our hosts began clearing the detritus left after the previous night's celebrations we guests decided we could be of most assistance by emptying the large number of cans of beer cluttering up their sideboard. We went to the task with gusto. Thus pleasantly employed, we sat around 'til mid-afternoon, then Phil drove Jeff Suter, Pam Wells, and me home to London.

Back at the flat I got down to producing the cover I'd promised Charnock, finishing at 11.30pm, whereupon I set about making a large pot of chili to see me through the days ahead.

Monday 28th March

There was a gathering at the Duckett Road home of Malcolm and Chris tonight. I turned up at 7.30pm but only Malcolm and Avedon were present.

Malcolm and Phil Palmer

Me & beer can, by Avedon - #3 in a series

Chris was back in the maternity hospital and Malcolm announced that he couldn't now go to ALBACON. At first the full significance of this didn't sink in. Then it slowly dawned on me.

(Following para from my fanzine account):

Since any bid that hopes to be successful needs to be presented by someone who is glib and able to convincingly fake total conviction and sincerity he had been the obvious person to put our case. With Chris in hospital Malcolm was out of the picture, as it were, and a new chief spokesman was needed urgently. Though we had a number of good speakers in people like Chris Evans, Leroy Kettle, and Rob Holdstock none of these looked like attending. With Evans impoverished, Kettle abroad, and Holdstock uncertain I realised, with a sinking feeling deep in the pit of my stomach, that the person on whose shoulders this task was most likely to fall was me! I was not happy about this. I knew I was glib but could I fake the sincerity and conviction well enough?

Somewhat numbed by this bombshell I chatted with Malcolm and Avedon until around 8.25pm when others began to turn up, the final tally including Rob Holdstock, Chris Evans, Phil Palmer, Judith Hanna and John Sladek.

Avedon with John Sladek (whose surname, I've just noticed, is an anagram of 'Daleks')

Holdstock was as entertaining as always (wottafella!), and Malcolm showed us a fan letter he had received from someone which told him in no uncertain terms what a cretin he was for comparing the wonderful BLAKE'S 7 with the atrocious STAR TREK.

Chris Evans, Rob Holdstock and friend

Tuesday 29th March

Finally started putting ETA on stencil and was almost through the second one when the phone rang. It was Malcolm, who'd just come from seeing Chris in the hospital, was at Tottenham Court tube station, and would it be alright if he came over and ran off DRUNKARD'S TALK #7? I supposed it would, and less than an hour later the mighty Greenleaf Road presses were once again churning out vast quantities of coloured quarto, the kitchen table weighed down with the detritus of five fanzines. ETA, when finished, will be the sixth and it will then be time to clear the lot.

My chili wasn't bad. It will be better, I think, if I spice it up a bit when I have some tomorrow. Also, RAFFLES #7 arrived today.

Wednesday 30th March

Much dashing around today. I went to Victoria Coach Station via FORBIDDEN PLANET (no new imports, alas) and had the Glasgow-to-London ticket changed from three persons to two. Did some more work on ETA, but nowhere near as much as I'd hoped. Tomorrow is going to be extremely busy.

The Langford/Edwards unilaterally declared One Tun was tonight and there were far more people present than I'd expected.

(What follows is my fanzine account):

Around me circulated such fannish luminaries as Vince Clarke, Arthur Thomson, Joe D.Siclari, Edie Stern, Dai Price, Rob Holdstock, Linda Pickersgill, John Jarrold, Abi Frost, Roz Kaveney and Many Others (an obscure 50s fan).

Joe Siclari remembers: Edie was working in London for a while. I came over for a couple of weeks vacation. We planned to make our last stop at Albacon.

I had heard of the Fantasy Center and went up to check it out. After an initial disappointment because the shelves were nearly empty, I spotted a lonely fanzine and asked if they had any more. Their response was surprise that anyone was interested. They pulled out some and when they saw I WAS interested they went up some stairs and came down with a big box, eventually 6 boxes came home with me as extra luggage. They said no one had ever asked for fanzines since SaM had been there many years before. It's where I got most of my older British fanzines. This was not the usual first-Thursday-of-the-month bugaloo but rather a special one-off One Tun declared unilaterally by Langford and Edwards to show our TAFF-winner one of the more famous of our quaint olde fannish customs. This made me feel a bit like one of those residents of faraway and supposedly exotic places who don traditional native dress for the tourists, and dance the reputedly traditional native dance, but who on their own time doubtless dress in T-shirt and jeans, watch DALLAS on the idiot-box, and eat Big Macs from the local hamburger joint. If Avedon was impressed by this little fannish Morris dance, so unlike the high-order waltzing needed even to get to the toilets at a normal One Tun meeting, it didn't show and she appeared to be regarding the whole proceedings with admirable insouciance. When I later questioned her about the 'sights' she had gone out of her way to see these turned out not to be the Houses of Parliament, or Buckingham Palace, or St.Paul's, or Trafalger Square, or even the waxworks. No, though a non-drinker (as a depressing number of US fans seem to be) what she found most fascinating about our little country were our pubs! Which proves, I suppose, that the Tun is mightier than Tussaud's.

Directly after leaving the One Tun Avedon, in the company of the Langfords, travelled up to Glasgow on British-Rail's Nightrider.

Thursday 31st March

During the day I finished and ran off ETA.

Met Greg and Linda at King's Cross station at 9pm and the three of us had a drink together before Linda and I boarded the Nightrider train to Glasgow.

We discovered Chris Hughes and Jan Huxley were a few seats away from us so I gave them a copy of ETA. Back in my own seat I surreptitiously watched Chris' reaction as he read. He laughed a fair bit, which was reassuring.