EIGHTIES LETTERS AND FAN DIARY
6: EARLY MAY 1983Sunday 1st May
Sat around most of the day, and wrote half the editorial for EPSILON #14. Later, Alun and I had a Chinese takeaway and went for a drink, returning to finish off the cold spare ribs, which were delicious. Once again the pub was the Green Man, and we knocked back pints of its curiously pungent real ales while discussing comic books. Some people really know how to live - but not us, alas.
Monday 2nd May
Alun departed within an hour of getting up. He doesn't believe in hanging around.
Harry Bell rang in the evening and told me that MEXICON is on. Apparently Kev Williams is all in favour and since he and Kev will be the prime movers up there this was vital. The name MEXICON was agreed on, though with some incomprehension on the part of the Gannets, and Harry has suggested Greg, Linda, Abi, Jarrold and I travel up there at the end of the month for a committee meeting and a party. One surprising bit of news from Harry was that Mr Pepper no longer owns the Grosvenor Hotel, which has raised a few doubts about SILICON. It looks as though we're still OK, but we shall have to see.
3rd May 1983 - letter to Ted White
This year's Eastercon, ALBACON II, is exactly a month in the past as I write but, as usually happens, it's only really now that I've fully absorbed it both mentally and emotionally. Avedon was a big hit with almost everyone, being everything we could have expected from the personality revealed in her writings--- and if you've seen her since her return she's doubtless given you her impressions of various luminaries of British fandom. I don't recall ever having read a trip report by an American TAFF-winner so when Avedon writes her report (as she assures me she will) it'll be the first time I'll have seen my fandom as viewed through the eyes of someone from yours. It should be interesting.
A week or so before the convention I was more than mildly surprised to receive a letter, with a London postmark, from Joe D.Siclari who was in town and wanted to meet up with local fans. As it happens it was impossible to get any sort of meeting together until the Wednesday evening before ALBACON when a special One Tun was held so that local fandom could meet Avedon and Avedon could see local fandom in its natural habitat. Joe also attended ALBACON and he brought along copies of A WEALTH OF FABLE, which I've wanted for years, and his facsimile reprint edition of issues fourteen through seventeen of QUANDRY. I was oddly disappointed in the latter, even though it contained a column by Willis. I'm probably as familar as anyone in this country who wasn't actually around at the time with the events and personalities of the period (and I've made no secret of my admiration for the works of Willis as reprinted in WARHOON 28), but even allowing for any lack of knowledge on my part and making due allowance for some of the attitudes expressed being those of a world thirty years gone, it was still somehow less than I'd expected it to be. QUANDRY was undeniably a good fanzine but on the basis of this volume it wouldn't get into my personal top half-dozen.
Greg seems to be getting a little more involved in things lately than he has done for some time. When we were up in Sheffield a few weeks ago at a party thrown by local fan David E.Bridges (possibly the most underrated fanwriter in Britain) he not only promised Harry Bell an article for a future OUT OF THE BLUE but arranged a tape-interview with me as well. I'd originally wanted this as a part of my research into the Ratfanhistory I intend to write eventually (it's still on the back-burner) but Greg suggested expanding it beyond this and then either running the transcript in a couple of installments or using it as the basis for a short series of articles. This sounds OK to me so I'll doubtless set it up in the near future. He's also agreed to do a fanzine review column (his first in five years or so) for a future MATRIX after having been outraged at the column by Martyn Taylor in the current issue. Should this come to pass, and you're interested, I'll send you a xerox.
Talking of tapes, I recently discovered that a tape still existed of Leroy Kettle's FGoH interview at the 1978 Eastercon and arranged for a copy to be made for myself. I was at the original session and though I'd read the transcript that appeared in a contemporary fanzine (WALLBANGER 1) this was the first time I'd heard the tape. Kettle is a little stiff at first but he soon warms up and I found myself laughing so hard at some points that there were tears rolling down my cheeks. It never ceases to amaze me that Kettle is, if anything, funnier in person than he is in print. Wonderful stuff!
(The recording and transcript can be found here.)
Wednesday 4th May
Greg phoned to brief me on the latest news from Newcastle, unaware that Harry had already given me all this information on Monday. He also reminded me not to forget tomorrow's pre-One Tun committee meeting cum meal. As usual I haven't actually given any thought to the convention at all since we discussed it which means that I never actually present any proposals. My rationalisation for all this is that I operate best when picking up trains of thought from things other people have said, playing with them, and bouncing them off the others. This sounds fine and good and even - dare I say it - 'artistic', but I think words like 'sloth' and 'lethargy' describe it equally well.
Thursday 5th May
The first Thursday of the month, and hence the night of the One Tun. (I'm sure I've begun previous month's entries this way - must be more adventurous next time.
Greg, Linda. Abi and I met at the restaurant opposite Farringdon tube station straight from work and we all, rather unimaginatively ordered the spaghetti bolognaise. The purpose of the meeting, far from merely being a prelude to drinking, was to discuss the current state of play re MEXICON. Having had the green light from the Newcastle end we all agreed that it was a good idea to go with Harry's suggestion and travel up there at the end of the month, have a full committee meeting, and - purely coincidentally - to party, and to have an Indian meal at the excellent Al Firdous.
At the Tun itself I spotted comics fan Dave Harwood by himself at the bar and engaged him in conversation. It turned out this was his first One Tun so I felt good about helping him to enjoy it (at least I hope he enjoyed it.)
I'd forgotten how volatile Greg can be since it's been a while since he last exploded, but unfortunately he blew up over something Lilian Edwards said, calling her "...a nasty little jerk..." among other things. Since I was talking to Christina Lake at the time, I have no idea what she may have said to provoke this.
I had a very interesting conversation with Arthur 'ATom' Thomson and was surprised to discover his criticisms of Terry Hill's MICROWAVE #5 were exactly the same as my own. He also revealed that he and Vince Clarke would be driving to BECCON for a day and offered me a lift if I was interested - which I am. Among other things, it'll be an opportunity to sell MEXICON memberships, of which six were sold tonight at the Tun. ATom also suggested driving me over to Vince's place one weekend, and given Vince's fanzine collection this is a very tempting idea. Something ATom wasn't happy about was my referring to him as a '50s fan.
"I was around in the fifties, yeah, but I'm a fan here and now. It's the eighties, and that's the fandom I'm part of."
Friday 6th May
When I staggered in from the Tun last night there was a letter waiting for me from Paul Oldroyd and the NOVACON 13 committee reminding me of my "...rash promise at ALBACON..." to contribute something to their 'Summer Special'. Naturally there is a deadline and naturally it's a short one since stuff is required by June 1st. To be fair this isn't in and of itself that tight for the two pages of A4 requested, but what with the fast approaching deadline for my next RAFFLES column and Greg's request I could be in trouble.
Greg's request came earlier this evening - Greg being Greg it was more in the nature of a command than a request - and he requires me to compose a MEXICON flyer which incorporates a tear-off membership application form, run off fifty copies or so, and get them to him by Thursday. There's also that cover I promised Edwards and Lake, and I'm beginning to feel guilty about not having replied to Avedon's last letter yet. I can probably recycle the NOVACON piece in a future RAFFLES column (the requested subject being - God help us - 'My Favourite Disaster') and it's probably just as well my tube season ticket has expired and thus prevents memaking my usual Saturday morning trip uptown to spend money in the book and record shops.
If I do all this weekend that I should, I'll probably emerge on Monday morning pale, shaking, and bleary-eyed. But then I always emerge on Monday morning pale, shaking, and bleary-eyed.
Saturday 7th May
Phoned Greg this morning when I realised the BSFA meeting is not this Friday but the one after. Given how little time I have to get things together this weekend that's just as well. Talked him into phoning Langford and getting some sort of announcement in the next ANSIBLE, which must be due any day now.
Sunday 8th May
Finished my RAFFLES article, but on reading through it my heart sank. There were good things in there but it just didn't hang together. I tried editing out chunks of it in various combinations, but to no real effect. There is no way I can send this to Larry and Stu, and with only two evenings left 'til Wednesday - my absolute final deadline for posting it if I'm to make the next issue - things are looking grim. I did not retire to bed a happy man.
9th May 1983 - letter to Larry Carmody
Enclosed with this letter should be the next installment of my column. If it isn't something has gone terribly wrong.
At the time of writing it's 9,25 pm on Monday evening and I've just finished a breakneck three-hour writing session at the beginning of which I had only blank sheets of paper and at the end of which I had the first draft of the attached column. What's more it doesn't look too bad and I'm hoping there won't be too much work necessary on it before I type it up tomorrow in time for posting it to you first thing Wednesday morning, which is my absolute deadline if it's to have any chance of getting to you by your deadline the following Wednesday. I'll probably spend most of the morning in work tomorrow trying to think up a suitable title (though if I can't I suppose I could always leave it up to you).
Such a last-minute, skin-of-the-teeth approach to the column might seem to indicate a laissez-faire attitude to you but in fact it doesn't. When I received your letter telling me of your new deadline, some ten days ago, I'd already begun work on a piece and was confident I could complete it and mail it to you with ample time to spare. I finished that piece yesterday but in spite of all the time and effort I'd put into it it just didn't work. I realised it wasn't coming together properly as I was writing it and I spent a lot of time trying to get it together - all to no avail. The final typescript weighed in at five A4 sheets and I read it with dismay. There are sequences in there I really like and will doubtless re-cycle in future columns but it was clear that the piece as a whole was ill-conceived. With only two evenings left to some up with something new in time for your deadline I was not a happy man when I retired to bed last night.
In work today, while to all appearances concentrating on the drawing I was working on, I tossed a few things about in my mind and one or two ideas began to slowly come together. By the time I left work this evening I knew the form the column would take and by the time I began this letter a first draft was in existence. I found myself in a very similar position to this last time, with only two days to get that column together. I'm sure Walt Willis never worked this way.
On the subject of RAFFLES T-shirts I am, as you surmised, a medium size and since I'm trying to cultivate a laid-back image I'll take it in beige. You can't be laid-back in yellow.
I was able to give out most of the copies of RAFFLES and NOTHING LEFT TO THE IMAGINATION that Bill and Mary gave me and those few I did send out travelled with stuff I was mailing anyway so the extra cost to me was only a few cents. I think we can safely forget such a sum.
After all the hectic, nay frantic, activity this evening I really think I ought to go away now and rest my head. I look forward to your next ish.
p.s. I've heard a rumour that you and Stu are contemplating taking a cheap flight over and attending this years SILICON. This seems unlikely but if it's true write to Sue Williams (19 Jesmond Dene Rd., Newcastle-Upon-Tyne) NOW and book rooms for the three nights (you can always cancel later). Forms have already gone out and the hotel fills up very quickly.
Tuesday 10th May
Fairly chuffed with myself today having completed typescript of column - this installment called 'Poems, Pints & Pants' - in time for first collection tomorrow morning. I would've liked to have sat on it for another week and then come back to it, since distance gives objectivity, but don't even have one more day. As it was I sat up in bed until a quarter-to-one editing the typescript with a biro and the completed column was...adequate. It was certainly better than the one I just rejected.
Wednesday 11th May
Got RAFFLES column in the post and was then informed of a postal 'go slow' apparently now in progress. First I've heard of it, but if true then my Herculean efforts over the past few days may well have been in vain.
After spending an ungodly amount on the latest comics imports in FORBIDDEN PLANET I travelled up to Harringey for this month's pool session. Eventual arrivals were Phil Palmer, Alun Ferguson, John & Eve Harvey, John Brosnan, Roy Kettle, Chris Priest, Graham Charnock, Chris Evans, Jeff Suter, and Malcolm & Chris - who seemed a bit cool towards me tonight as they had at last Thursday's One Tun. I wonder if something actually is wrong or if I'm being unusually paranoid? We'll see.
Showed Phil the issue of ORNITHOPTER that arrived this morning in which he's described as "...the fawning Phil Palmer..." and we were told that NABU, TAPPEN and EPSILON were indistinguishable. Australians are strange sometimes.
Friday 13th May
Visited Gosport today and as we crossed by ferry from Portsmouth Harbour I saw HMS Invincible in port. I had to get up at the ungodly hour of 7.00am to make this trip - a visit to a firm who want in on supplying cash tubes to my employer's stores - but it was worth it for the day out of the office and the superb steak dinner. Nothing like being wined and dined to make you feel mellow.
Saturday 14th May
Two letters this morning, one from Avedon. The other was from Taral Wayne asking for some of my artwork to display at CONSTELLATION, this year's Worldcon, in the fan art show in the fan room being organised by none other than Avedon Carol! I'll send him a few covers and let Avedon auction them for TAFF.
Sunday 15th May
Spent most of the day composing the first draft of mexpub numero uno, the first MEXICON registration form. I took it along to tonight's Friends In Space expecting Greg to all but rewrite it. To my surprise, the modifications he and Linda suggested were relatively minor, so I promised to have it stencilled and run off by Thursday at the latest.
17th May 1983 - letter to Avedon Carol
It was Saturday morning and I was luxuriating in the sheer decadent pleasure of being able to lie in bed and come to gradually rather than at the harsh bidding of my alarm clock. There were two letters waiting for me when I got up. One of them was from you.
I'd started a letter to you the night before, the first real chance I'd had to do so since your earlier letter. I would have written sooner if it hadn't been for the pressure of a couple of fanzine deadlines. I didn't get involved in fandom so that I'd end up having to work to deadlines but it seems to have happened anyway. One of the deadlines was for RAFFLES. I would've preferred another week or so to tighten my piece up a bit, but I didn't have even another day. So anyway, in the next RAFFLES you'll read the amusing story of how I ended up outside the main police station back in Wales one cold night in 1975, naked from the waist down. (This is true).
Something else that's happened recently is that I seem, in some curious fashion and without conscious effort on my part to have become involved in another convention bid, one that has taken as its ideological basis the piece that Kev Williams wrote for OUT OF THE BLUE 5, a piece already being referred to in some quarters as 'The Williams Manifesto'. This has involved some secrecy and a certain amount of clandestine behind the scenes manouvering in the past few weeks but we're ready to go public now and earlier this evening I typed up and ran off a membership application form (and I'll enclose a copy with this if I remember). I spent most of Sunday composing the original version and had it vetted by Greg and Linda at that evening's Friends In Space meeting. At that meeting Linda gave me a spare FIS badge to replace the one I gave you, a badge that seemed the perfect keepsake to give you in a funny sort of way. (Was Ted as envious of it as you thought he'd be, by the way?).
You have, I hope, recovered from whatever it was that was making you ill when you wrote? Not having had a day off work sick in the last four years or so - and having only had time off for annual bouts of flu for about the same period before that - I suppose I'm pretty lucky when it comes to health but (occasional) alcoholic over-indulgence has put me in the same state at times in the past, so I sympathise.
Speaking of health matters, I saw Chris at the North London pool session last Wednesday, the day the baby was supposedly due, and she seemed as chirpy as usual. As of the time of writing I don't know whether or not she's given birth yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if I enquired after her health when next I see Malcolm and he replied, "Oh, she had the baby last week...." As for Chris thinking you were being evasive when you told her about us while you thought you were "...being about as subtle as a brick through a window...", well...yeah. I suppose we do, as you say, think that "...Americans walk around telling everyone all manner of personal detail the moment we lay eyes on them...", but there must be some truth in the observation since it's also made by people who've lived in both countries. In a recent interview Jenny Agutter commented:
"In America people come up to you and tell you who they are, how much they earn, and who their psychologist is. In London people expect you to find out things about them over a period of time. People here have a hidden life."
Which also explains why Americans have sometimes found Britons 'stand-offish'. Gosh, aren't cultural differences fascinating?
Actually it's seeing your culture and your fellow fans as viewed through the eyes of someone from another culture that makes TAFF trip reports so interesting and I eagerly await yours. Though you didn't think you'd be able to push it to more than two episodes I kinds hope you do manage it. After all at least one episode really ought to appear in an American fanzine. Yeah, I know there are bits you can't report but what with observations and portraits of various fans I'm sure you can develop it further. After all if you dig into the Willis trip reports in WARHOON 28 you'll see how much is entertainingly made of quite small incidents. Go to it Avedon, I have great faith in your ability! I've written up ALBACON in full detail in my diary and I think I'll be able to write a seemingly complete yet edited report for the next EPSILON. I mean it seems as if most everyone knows what happened anyway but I see no reason for telling them any more than they already think they know or even that.
I travel down to Wales this weekend to spend a few days with my folks, my brother and his wife, and my sister, none of whom I've seen since I was down over Christmas. I had intended travelling down a few weeks ago but decided to postpone the visit purely for reasons of personal vanity. Thing is, you see, I shaved my beard off a while back (a procedure which takes for longer than you'd ever imagine) and was so unimpressed by what lay beneath that I decided there and then to let it grow back immediately. Which meant it would've looked as scruffy as hell when I'd originally intended to go back to the old country. Yeah, I'm afraid I've decided I really do look better with a beard and it was off for so short a time period there wasn't time to take the picture I said I'd send you when I eventually took the plunge.
My ALBACON photos came back the other day and due to the special offer I took advantage of they gave me a spare set of prints, which I'll mail to you soon. And yes, I'd be delighted to do a few BLATANT logos for you.