8: JUNE/JULY 1983

Wednesday 1st June

Ran off another hundred copies of the MEXICON flyer and tried to write copy for PR1, though to no avail.

Thursday 2nd June

At the One Tun Greg, Linda, John Jarrold, and Chris Evans gave me their paragraphs, informing one and all what they would be doing for MEXICON, for inclusion in PR 1 but not Abi Frost, who forgot. Paul Kincaid was talked into 'assisting' Chris Evans with SF programming, something Greg was less than happy about when he found out. Given Greg's low tolerance for banter and general cowardice on everyone else's part, Linda was appointed to hand out the flyers. She was the best choice for the job, but the evening wasn't overly productive in terms of new members.

Dave Langford had the latest ANSIBLE with him to hand out. Apart from the Fan Poll results - which had a few surprises but were mostly what I'd expected - the main interesting news it contained was that on May 27th Chris Atkinson had given birth to a son, Thomas.

Saturday 4th June

Today was the day of the Westminster Comic Mart. It was blisteringly hot and sitting supping a pint outside the Westminster Arms while waiting for Greg & Linda was a very pleasant way to while away the time, though I was peeved to discover this was also the day of the Trooping of the Colour and I'd missed it. Must catch one of those one of these years.

Westminster Central Hall. Yes, they really did let us hold comic marts
there back then.

Not too long after the Pickersgills arrived we were joined by Alun Harries, up from Newport for the day, and we all then trooped next door to Westminster Hall where I spent £6 on a complete run of THE DEMON by Jack Kirby. Afterwards, at Linda's suggestion, we first visited a Wendy's hamburger joint (she loves her burgers) and then back to Lawrence Road to watch their video of MAD MAX II, which was even better than I remembered it being from the cinema.

Monday 6th June

Got in from the cinema to find a letter from Avedon. In it she mentioned among other things having recently seen RETURN OF THE JEDI, and this very evening I went to see the film myself! Is this a case for Arthur Koestler?

Wednesday 8th June

This was theoretically pool night, but Malcolm put it off 'til tomorrow because tomorrow is election night. Quite what the causal connection between these two might be I don't know. Still, it did give me time to finish typing up my rough draft of MEXICON PR #1 and to phone Greg to arrange a meet tomorrow lunchtime.

Thursday 9th June

Met Greg in the Blackfriars at 12.30pm and discussed my draft. He seemed happy enough with it but dropped the news that we're experiencing difficulties with the hotel. Apparently they want to split us equally between themselves and the overflow hotel - a totally useless idea so far as we're concerned - and want £660 for function rooms, which would throw our finances right out the window. They don't appear to be taking us seriously.

After work I went home to vote then sped over to North London and promptly won eight consecutive games of pool until Malcolm showed up and wiped me out. He the proceeded to hog the table, beating all-comers until my turn came around again whereupon I disposed of him. This was the largest attendance I've ever seen at a pool night and, if memory serves, attendees were Leroy Kettle, Kath Mitchell, Chris Evans, Faith Brooker, John Bosnan & Jules, Graham Charnock, Chris Priest, Phil Palmer, Jeff Suter, Pam Wells, John & Eve Harvey, Malcolm Edwards, Alan Ferguson, John Sladek, and me.

I only watched an hour or so of election coverage when I got home, but long enough to see the fate of the Gang of Four. So that's another four years of Thatcher, then.

Friday 10th June

Copies of Darroll Pardoe's PIG ON THE WALL and comics zine FANTASY ADVERTISER arrived today, and after the fanzine drought of the past fortnight I fell on them with great pleasure. I don't think I can take another such spell.

Wednesday 15th June

Following our lunchtime meeting at the Elephant & Castle yesterday, Abi Frost came over tonight and I ran off her zine A IS FOR ORSIZ. I also finished putting PR #1 on stencil and ran that off too, finishing around 11.00pm.

Thursday 16th June

After visiting the HMV record store in Oxford Street for the first ever time, I travelled over to Lawrence Road where Greg, Linda, Abi and I collated PR #1 and stuffed it into envelopes ready for mailing. Necessary, but tedious.

Friday 17th June

The speaker at tonight's BSFA meeting was Gollancz's John Bush, who was entertaining enough though hardly scintillating. Biggest surprise of the evening was Rob Holdstock showing up with his ex-wife Sheila. Sheila travels back to Holland late on Sunday and suggested we should all get together that evening in Ealing.

Rob and Sheila in 1979

Sunday 19th June

Had my first trip of the summer to Kensington Gardens and luxuriated in the heat, the smell, and the sheer beauty of the place. It was almost like a personal ceremony of renewal, a communion with the land that made me more convinced than ever that I'm a pagan at heart - as I suspect are most people if they're honest with themselves. What a shame such natural feelings have been overlaid with guilt and perverted by Christianity.

After eating a couple of burgers at McDonalds and wondering, once again, why I bother eating such near-tasteless and unsatisfying fare, I travelled over to Ealing for Friends In Space. This was a somewhat unusual meeting due to the presence of Sheila Holdstock (still can't get used to calling her Sheila Kavenaugh). It was really nice seeing her again, so much so I almost found myself getting all misty-eyed and nostalgic.

20th June 1983 - letter to Avedon

As I write I'm sitting on the floor in my accustomed position, back against the sofa, and the sun is blazing in through the window. I may bitch about the awful weather we get over here during winter (though you probably get worse in your part of the US) but when summer finally arrives it all seems worth it.

As you may or may not be aware there are more video recorders per head of population in Britain than anywhere else in the world and, probably as a direct consequence, we are also the world capital when it comes to video piracy. Since US film companies have a habit, for some reason, of opening major films over here some months after they first show in the States there's a gap the pirates are able to exploit and so much money was lost on pirate videos of E.T. (which didn't open 'til Christmas over here) that RETURN OF THE JEDI showed up only a week after opening in America. I went to see it a couple of days after your letter arrived and I more or less agree with your assessment of it. The special effects were as mind-boggling as usual and as usual the film gave me the kind of rush I get from riding a roller-coaster, but it suffered from a surfeit of cute critters and a corny ending. Having said which I'll no doubt see it again, though not before I see SUPERMAN III which opens on July 19th. The last film I saw was THE HUNGER which has had mixed reviews but which I thoroughly enjoyed. The story is fairly straightforward but it's all staged with such style.

Your brief history of seventies US fandom was thought-provoking and is the type of thing you really should work into an article to show another view of that period to the one that has been going around lately, with particular reference to things begun back then that continue today such as 'A Woman's Apa'. I was aware this existed but gather that it differs from its UK counterpart in some respects. Linda Pickersgill has been a member of a lot of apas down the years and she claims that the UK women's apa is fairly unique in that they've established a tradition of writing fully-rounded articles for their apazines on a fairly regular basis rather than relying on the page or two of chatter followed by mailing comments that is the common coin of most apas. On the basis of what little I've seen they appear to be pretty good as well since the article of Linda's reprinted in OUT OF THE BLUE 5, 'How Women Get Pregnant', is one of the best I've read in a fanzine this year. My own experience of apas is fairly slight and it's not a form of fanac I've had much regard for in the past but having seen how successful the Women's Apa is (32 members and growing, which is pretty damn impressive given the number of women active in British fandom) I may have to make a reassessment.

I didn't actually think that what Ted said in STICKY QUARTERS was all that nasty since it was aimed at my writing rather than at me. I've always been nonplussed by those who see adverse criticism of their fanzines as a personal attack on them and the fact that Ted had adverse things to say in STICKY QUARTERS makes any positive comments he may make on another occasion all the more valuable since they are clearly honest coin. Having said that I'm beginning to think I may have offended Ted in some way as I haven't heard from him since February and he hasn't replied to either of the letters I've written in the interim. I can't imagine what it might have been though, just as I can't imagine why he imagined you'd make it with Phil Palmer while you sere over here rather than the suave and cultured fan you did make it with, whose name escapes me for the moment. Maybe he infers too much from what he perceives as our 'paper personalities', which is a mistake since, being British, we always conceal as much as we reveal and our love of irony makes it dangerous to arrive at too literal-minded an interpretation of anything we write. Makes us sound like a devious bunch of bastards, doesn't it?

The MEXICON bandwagon continues to gather momentum and a few weekends ago the London end of the committee (Greg, Linda, John Jarrold, Abi Frost, and I) travelled up to Newcastle to view the hotel, have a committee meeting, and generally have a good time with the Gannets. Anyway, one upshot of the committee meeting - beyond expanding the name of the con to TYNECON II: THE MEXICON in order to appease the Newcastle contingent - was a decision to put out Progress Report 1 in double quick time and I once again found myself bashing away at something other than the next issue of EPSILON. It seems kind of ridiculous but it's only now, two months after Easter, that I'm finally going to be able to make a start on the fanzine I've been wanting to get together since March. Oh well.

I don't know whether you met Anne Warren at ALBACON but someone who did was Jimmy Robertson and, unbeknownst to we down in this neck of the woods, he's been meeting her regularly over since. It now transpires that Jimmy is moving down to London and they're going to look for a flat. Sometimes it seems like all the best people in British fandom eventually end up living in this town.

Wednesday 22nd June

Aha! The second issue of Frank Miller's RONIN and the first of Howard Chaykin's AMERICAN FLAGG! were on sale in FORBIDDEN PLANET when I made my weekly visit. Next to those Bill Mantlo's MARVEL TEAM-UP ANNUAL (also purchased) looked pretty feeble.

RAFFLES 7.5 was waiting for me when I got home, along with the T-shirt Larry had promised me. On rereading my column in this issue I see that it is at least competent, but I can also see where it could have been improved if I'd only had more time. Never again. In future I need to ensure there's sufficient time to do the job properly. Deadline for next issue is August 1st.

I wonder if I'll have the time?

Sunday 26th June

All told a pretty satisfying day since I managed to get six stencils-worth of lettercolumn for EPSILON #14 under my belt and also most of the intro to the fanzine review column I'm thinking of running. Next task is to come up with a title for that column....

On flicking through the three-part UK fanzine bibliography Peter Roberts put out, I was once again struck by how useful and downright interesting it is. Must ask Peter if he ever managed to get together the 1971-75 section and if he can let me have a copy.

Tuesday 28th June

Mum phoned to tell me that she, Dad, my sister, and their cat will be coming to see me next Monday and staying until Thursday. Damn, that means I'll have to tidy the place up.

Friday 1st July

With Harry Bell down for the weekend, Greg & Linda had Abi and me over for a MEXICON committee meeting. It was agreed that we'd generally dropped the ball down this end and not done all that we should have and my PR #1 was heavily criticised. I was a little put out by this since Greg had seen it beforehand and approved it but I had to agree with the verdict and will look at ways to make the next one substantially better.

What made the biggest impression of the evening and came as something of a shock was hearing for the first time how Brunner had attempted to sabotage the 1984CON bid by approaching the management of the group that owned both hotels and telling them they stood to make much more money, as a group, if they made sure that EUROCON won. Consequently, the manager of their hotel was sent along to assist their bid fully armed with details of our hotel.

Far worse, though, were the consequences of Brunner's campaign in Europe to portray us as anti-European, which led to some translators in certain countries refusing to work on books by Rob Holdstock and Chris Evans.

(It was usually the case that you had a choice of bids for an Eastercon, and given the significance of the year 1984 in British SF we felt that while a Eurocon was a fine idea any other year the Eastercon ought to be a British affair that year with particular emphasis on Orwell - hence the name 1984CON. I remember my astonishment at the bidding session when a European fan stood up and asked why we hated Europeans and how hurt he was by our bid. At the time I assumed he was a lone individual who had somehow got hold of the wrong end of the stick. How wrong I was!

Brunner's spoiling tactics in re our bid were extreme and unusual in themselves, but affecting the livelihoods of fellow professionals, even if only as an unintended consequence of his campaign, was appalling. I had never liked him, and stuff like this only deepened that dislike. I was all for calling him out over it, but Rob and Chris decided it was more politic not to. They were the injured parties so I respected their wishes and stayed silent.)

Monday 4th July

Having spent all weekend tidying up I had hoped to finish when I got in from work today, but Julie and our folks were waiting outside in their car when I got there. No sooner did I let them in than Mum dashed about tidying up. *sigh*

Thursday 7th July

My family departed this morning.

It's the One Tun night, but so hideously hot and humid that everyone is already out on the pavement by the time I arrive. From what Holdstock and Evans were saying, learned that Priest and Tuttle had had a gathering at their place on Saturday and that Malcolm, Chris, Leroy, Kath, Linda, Greg, and Harry had been there - most of those I consider my main circle of friends, in fact. I don't mind not being invited, but since Greg and Linda knew about it when I was around at their place on Friday why didn't they mention it?

Linda wasn't present tonight due to her mother and sisters being over from America.

Friday 15th July

The monthly BSFA meeting and John Sladek was the featured speaker. John returns to the US soon and, so far as I'm aware, this was one of his last 'public engagements'. He read a short story of his and was very amusing, as always.

Among those present was Phil Palmer, so I complimented him on his starring role in BLACK ADDER, much to the amusement of Nick Lowe and Margaret Welbank. At the end of the evening I walked back to the tube station with John Sladek, discussing politics.

Sunday 17th July

The Friends In Space meeting and Linda is once again absent, presumably due to being otherwise engaged with her mother and sisters. Steve Higgins turned up though, as did Dave Hicks and the other one whose name I always forget. (Pete something, maybe?) The beer is far too warm and I have to pack it with ice - a terrible thing to do to beer.

30th July 1983 - letter to Avedon

If there are any stains on this letter when it reaches you it means I wasn't successful in catching all the droplets of sweat that have been gathering on the end of my nose. As you may have deduced it's as hot and humid over here at the moment as it was over there when you were writing the first of your two recent letters (the second of which came as something of a surprise) and I find myself increasingly looking askance at those who talk about "..this wonderful weather we're having...". So far as I'm concerned this weather ceased to be glorious when the temperature got above 75 (it topped 95 at one point - hellish!) and in fact it's so hot and uncomfortable at the moment that I am, as I write, doing something highly untypical of me - namely drinking a can of cold beer. This is odd in that I never drink by myself at home, being purely a social drinker (which is not to deny that I don't on occasion get carried away with my 'socialising') and also that I should be drinking it cold, a most un-British thing to do. Actually the most annoying thing about this weather is the insects it brings out. Up until last Sunday I hadn't been bitten once but at the moment my legs and forearms look like pages from those books where you connect the dots to make a picture, and itch like hell. Faugghh!!

As someone who detests housework - or, perhaps more accurately, is too lazy to do it as often as he should - I sympathise with your problems in that regard. Living by myself has the disadvantage that if I don't do it it don't get done and as it is I tend to put it off until someone calls around (I'm looking forward to Malcolm calling around sometime in the next few days to run off a DRUNKARD'S TALK so that I have to tidy up). I remember, when I was staying with them, that Linda Pickersgill had an attitude to these things much like my own whereas Greg was a neatness fanatic, constantly berating us about the mess we were making. Both of them have rooms which they use as a personal study and while Greg's had a place for everything and everything in its place Linda's was an chaotically disorganised as I usually allow this flat to get.

It's been an odd last few weeks and shortly after I received your first missive my parents and young sister came to stay for a few days. Since my mother is as fanatical about tidiness as Greg is (which leads me to suspect that my own idleness in these matters is a reaction against childhood constraints) I spent the weekend before they were due getting the place ship-shape. I needn't have bothered. Within five minutes of arriving my mother was dashing about 'tidying up'. In fact she 'tidied-up' so well that there are still things I can't find. They stayed here for three or four days and 'did' the sights. Much drinking was done in the evenings, more because pubs are where you go to socialise over here (as you began to appreciate) than because of any great thirst on our parts.

Me and my sister touristing. She was 15 at the time. (Actually, the photo is
undated and - given the length of my hair - it's possible this was taken on
an earlier occasion.)

Something else that happened recently - the Tuesday before last - was the death of my maternal grandmother, my only remaining grandparent. I saw her last during my visit to Wales in May and made a special fuss of her when I took my leave since I knew, in some way, that I would never see her again. She'd been in hospital for a spell in April and went back in shortly before my parents visited me. From here they travelled down to the south coast for a week's holiday and they visited her on the Monday evening they got back. She died the next morning. Everyone who lives down there, all my aunts and uncles, had been to see her in the previous few days and it was as if she waited just long enough to see my sister and parents one more time before letting go.

I travelled down for the funeral last Monday and it was as depressing as these things always are but everyone lightened up at the get together afterwards and it was good to catch up on what had been happening to them, since I tend to see some of those people only at weddings and funerals. Something I found highly amusing concerned my brother. I happened to notice he had a large red welt on his forehead and asked him how it had happened. He hadn't realised there was anything there and was quite puzzled by it at first.

"I don't know where it came from. no...wait! That's right...I got kneed in the head last night."

The whole idea of this sort of thing being so routine a part of a policeman's life that he'd almost forgotten it is mind-boggling. Apparently there had been some sort of altercation at a local hospital where a patient was causing trouble and though he was a slender guy it took four policemen to wrestle him to the floor, during which Rich got kneed in the head.

31st July 1983 - letter to Avedon

Shit, shit, shit!, I was lying in bed last night, trying desperately to get to sleep in this terrible heat, when I remembered that it was the night of Chris Evans and Faith Brooker's party and I'd forgotten all about it! Damn. That's the second time this year I've done that and their party was the first that's been thrown in months. I've got a memory like a sieve and not having seen anyone in a fortnight or so....oh well.

I think you mis-read my last letter with regard to Ted, incidentally, since it wasn't anything he'd said about me that had led me to think he might be annoyed with me for some reason but rather that I hadn't, and haven't, heard from him since February and he hadn't answered the letters I'd written in the interim. Actually, come to think about it, no one I've talked to locally has heard anything from Ted, Dan, Bergeron, or the Nielsen Haydens in months so perhaps that little group - who always sort of go together in the mind - have run out of fannish energy at the moment.

I finished the latest instalment of my column for RAFFLES just recently and while I'd intended writing about my experiences in the Spanish bullring I somehow ended up doing a piece on the sport of rugby football instead. That's three times in a row now that what I originally started writing was not what I ultimately sent off, a sign of a disorganised mind I suppose.

I sure hope you get a job soon, even if it is that secretarial job you don't seem to keen on, since what you say about "...starting to get stupid, bored and paralysed..." is a very real danger. I've talked to quite a few unemployed fans over here and while I'd always imagined that having all that time on their hands would give then the opportunity to write a novel or do something else creative they experienced the same seizing up that you report. God, I find myself slipping into that state over the course of a weekend sometimes and dread to think what would happen if I lost my job. As it is my job, though requiring me to use my mind, doesn't stretch we as much as it should and I'm often very thankful that fandom is there to keep my brain alive. I may sometimes bitch about column deadlines and the like but they certainly keep me on my toes.

When next I got some free time (an intriguing concept I vaguely recall having heard of a long, long time ago) I'd be delighted to draw up that cartoon for you.

Hooray!! I was typing that last bit the house was shaken by peals of thunder. With any luck it will rain and this godawful weather will break. If it does I think I'll dash out into the rain and let it soak me. Ah, what sheer sensual bliss that'll be!