EIGHTIES LETTERS AND FAN DIARY
9: AUGUST-OCTOBER 1983Wednesday 3rd August
One of those peculiar occasions on which FORBIDDEN PLANET is overflowing with stuff I want, a cornucopia of goodies of which I partook to the sum of almost £8.
A phone call from old Newport SF Group buddy Dai Price who starts work up here in London on the 30th, but has nowhere to stay. I agree to ask around at the One Tun tomorrow to see if anyone has a line on a place
Thursday 4th August
Malcolm Edwards came over before the Tun to run off DRUNKARD'S TALK #9 & 10. At the pub itself a number of people were conspicuously absent. I was annoyed when Greg told me they were discussing our MEXICON bid before I arrived and saying that we should have hit the recent BECCON - which I didn't attend - with a special flyer.
"We're not saying it's entirely your fuck up," he said, "but it did occur to us to ask who was responsible for publications."
I listened to this with mounting disbelief since they seemed to be implying I was supposed to unilaterally issue flyers, a new one on me. Abi and Greg then suggested we needed a flyer for SILICON, a mere 21 days hence and the one con where everyone there will already have heard of MEXICON, and Greg was most put out when I told him I was hard at work on EPSILON.
"Look, you have to ask yourself whether you want to continue on the MEXICON bidding committee."
At that point I would happily have told him to stuff it, but decided instead to go for a walk to cool off.
Saturday 6th August
A trip up to the Westminster Comic Mart, where I met Greg & Linda, was a good way to start the day even though all I bought was a copy of WARRIOR #13. Having spent so much on Wednesday I was quite pleased by this.
Afterwards we had a meal in the Central London Pizza Hut, my first pizza in months, then walked over to FORBIDDEN PLANET to gawp at Mike Moorcock, who was doing a signing session. It's funny to think that it was because Moorcock was supposed to be GoH at SEACON '75 that I attended my first convention and now, eight years later, is the first time I've gotten to see him in the flesh. It's sad in a way that this would have meant far more to the me of that time than it does to the me of today, and after gazing at Moorcock for a minute or so I wandered off to the comics section to check out the new titles.
Sunday 7th August
Dai phoned again, and I told him he could sleep on my couch for a week or two while he searches for a flat.
Wednesday 10th August
Pool night in Harringey, and I decided to pump Charnock, Brosnan and Kettle for material for EPSILON. Now I have to wait and see if this bears fruit.
Friday 26th August
Travelled up to Newcastle by coach for SILICON along with Steve and Leah Higgins, who I bumped into while queuing to board. I gave Steve a copy of EPSILON and was gratified to hear occasional giggles coming from his seat as he read. When we arrived in Newcastle they went on to the Grosvenor Hotel while I stayed in town to shop for underpants, having forgotten to pack any clean pairs.
I got to the hotel before Greg and Linda and was absurdly gratified to be propping up the bar with Jarrold and others when they arrived.
The evening was as mellow and laid back as usual at SILICON, the only hiccup occurring when my team was almost knocked out of the main competition because of a lack of physical dexterity. Tired, I crashed out relatively early at 1.30am.
Saturday 27th August
After the 'Ian Williams Debate' - in which Ian was quickly shouted down and silenced as usual - the discussion continued and an apa was formed. Christened 'Frank's Apa' by Tony Berry, it was Mike Hamilton and Harry Bell who pressed for its formation and Greg who somehow ended up as OE. Be interesting to see where this goes.
Prior to the con we had all been asked to fill out questionnaires about fandom and the results from these had then been tabulated to form the basis of a quiz. I was on one of the teams, and one of the questions asked was who those who filled out the questionnaires thought was the best looking British male fan. We suggested Malcolm Edwards then Joseph Nicholas (who came in second and third - or was it third and second?) but couldn't guess who was first. Turned out it was *me*! Wow.
Up 'til now D West's candidacy had been largely a gag, but Joyce Scrivner appears to have talked him into standing for real.
I trust you had an enjoyable time at CONSTELLATION? I have to admit I kinda envy Malcolm and Chris being over there with you all, and despite having been at a convention only a week earlier myself I really wish I'd been there. Not that there's much comparison between the two, of course, since the Worldcon is the biggest in the world while SILICON with its 60-70 attendance must be one of the smallest.
SILICON was as relaxed and comfortable as a pair of old boots and remains the most enjoyable convention of the year. No doubt you're aware that it began in 1976 as an answer to a need, a con put on by fanzine fans primarily for fanzine fans. In practice it's a sort of extended weekend party with a programme, something evidently essential since the similar but unprogrammed FAANCON which started around the same time has now given up the ghost. The programme relies heavily on quizzes and silly games which often show a remarkable degree of ingenuity and innovation. As usually happens Greg's team, which always features me and two others chosen at the time for specific areas of knowledge, won the main quiz. In fact this is such a regular occurrence that the bottles of wine the Gannets have ready to give as prizes are always ones they know Greg and I like and if it wasn't for us being beaten last year, for the first time ever, I'd be getting a bit worried about people thinking the competition was fixed. I wish I was as lucky in the pool tournament but I'm inevitably knocked out in the early stages - though I did have the satisfaction of beating Kev Smith (who won this year as he usually does) in a friendly match shortly after being eliminated.
There's more to the programme than quizzes and games, of course, and it is in some ways very idiosyncratic. I mean, how many other conventions do you know where the Saturday evening trip to the local Indian restaurant is a programme item and about 85 per cent of the con-attendees go along? There was also something this year which the programme leaflet described as 'Tie Fashion Parade - contestants describe what their tie means to them' which sounds mind numbingly tedious but was in fact highly entertaining due to the outrageous hamming of John Jarrold as the MC doing his impression of a typical game-show host. Since Jarrold is part of the MEXICON committee this little performance has already led to him being ear-marked for a couple of things, particularly since our policy on quizzes and suchlike is to choose as contestants people we know will be amusing and entertaining in the role rather than those who are undeniably knowledgeable and worthy but also deadly dull. It'll be interesting to see how it all works out.
Something else that emerged at the convention was that, according to Kev Smith, TAFF-nominations have to be in by the end of this month. I've been pretty lax in all this and am still short of an American nominator so I'll be writing to Glicksohn as soon as I finish this letter to ask him to nominate me since I'm reasonably confident that he will. This also means, of course, that I'll need your nomination by then so that I can forward they on to Smith. It's also looking now as if West might actually stand for real. Jarrold is convinced that he's talked D. into running by reminding him that he'll have to write a TAFF trip report, which sounds a pretty unlikely way of convincing anyone to me but with West, who knows? Also standing, apparently, is Simon Ounsley, which suits me just fine as those two will doubtless split the Leeds vote.
I must soon take Vince Clarke up on his invitation to visit Wendover Way as well since he has some very interesting stuff over there I'll be able to examine reverentially. According to ATom the man with the best collection of old zines in Britain, though, is the peculiar Brian Burgess, who also happens to own the only copy known to exist of the original issue one of NEW WORLDS. Strange.
6th September 1983 - letter to Avedon Carol
Well, how was CONSTELLATION? I bet that after all the heartache and frustration of running the fan-room - regardless of how successful it was you've sworn never to get involved in another convention, right? I know the feeling. While rushing to complete EPSILON l4 (which I trust Malcolm gave you a copy of) in the twenty days or so left 'til SILICON, the rest of the MEXICON committee decided that we needed another flyer and we needed it for SILICON. The task of producing this fell on the guy responsible for publications, naturally enough, and guess who that guy is? Hectic, hectic. And before this month is finished I have to do a long-promised cover, the next instalment of my RAFFLES column, and a zine for the first mailing of a new British APA called 'Frank's APA', which I think is a pretty neat name. Oh yeah, I may have to fit MEXICON PR2 in there somewhere as well. How do I get myself into these things? A combination of goshwow enthusiasm and a pathological inability to say no, I suppose. There's a possibility I may soon find myself being slowly but inexorably drawn into the running of a new convention being talked about whose premise is already working its irresistible fascination on my mind.
This Friday, for the first time ever, I'll be at the launch party for a new book. As SF editor for Gollancz I'm sure this sort of thing is old hat to Malcolm by now and while I won't be hob-nobbing with the Aldisses, Moorcocks, and Ballards of this world as he often does, I'm still looking forward to the launch of Harry Adam Knight's first book. Who? You might well ask. He's actually Leroy Kettle and John Brosnan. The book is called SLIMER and is a hack novel (pace Harry's initials and see photostat, if I remember to enclose it) and since the 'launch party' is being held at Brosnan's favourite Soho drinking club (Soho being London's 'red-light' district) I'm inclined to think it's a bit of a gag. Still, it should be a good evening and I'm sure I can squeeze a fanzine piece out of it.
8th September 1983 - letter to Avedon Carol
Hmm, two days passed and another Wednesday evening pool session in North London has been enjoyed. Malcolm and Chris may still be out of the country as I write but traditions must go on.
I haven't actually yet seen the copy of RAFFLES you mentioned having just received but since I assume it's the one they intended having out by CONSTELLATION Malcolm has doubtless been given a pile to hand out over here. I hope also that with CONSTELLATION over and done with we might perhaps see a fanzine from your good self RSN, hmmn?
This launch party is only one evening away now and I'm starting to regard it with eager anticipation. I had a bit more to drink than I'd intended last night, as Kettle pointed out to me with that renowned subtlety of his: "You're pissed, you are", but I doubt if that'll worry me tomorrow, particularly since it's gotten so cold over here so fast. Anything that warms me up is worth partaking of and it'll soon get cold enough for me to have to drag out my hot water bottle and start cuddling up to it. Which is all good and well but when I think of the last cuddling I did in that bed it's just not the same thing at all.
Friday 9th September - from fanzine report
Dear Rob Hansen,
How could I refuse such an invitation?
I'd never been to a launch party before. Nor, for that matter, had I ever walked the streets of London's famous 'red-light' district after dark. Even in the daytime Soho is...ah...colourful, and having been approached by hookers a number of times while browsing in the area I was half expecting to be accosted again. As it happens my privacy remained unmolested on this occasion but what with the hookers and the surprising array of religious loonies who make a beeline for me when they're recruiting I clearly look like someone whose body and soul are in dire need of the proper ministrations. Fortunately no-one has yet suggested that my mind needs seeing to.
The H2O Club was indeed located above a restaurant in Greek Street and seemed to consist of little more than a room with a bar at one end, and was not much larger than the current venue for the London BSFA meetings. The usual people were present - ie. Rob Holdstock, Chris Evans, Chris Priest, Lisa Tuttle, Faith Brooker, John Jarrold, Peter Nicholls etc. - and, of course, Harry Adam Knight himself, a man who will be better known to most of you as Leroy Kettle and John Brosnan. Suitably underawed by such an array of scientifictional talent I drifted over to the food table. There were rather more trays of sandwiches available than the invitation had suggested but not being particularly hungry I managed to nibble my way through no more than a token dozen or no during the evening. Rob Holdstock famous SF author, gourmand, and aging lothario (semi-retired) - showed no such restraint however, and attacked the food with great gusto. As I watched him doing a creditable impression of a swarm of locusts stripping a cornfield I smiled, fond memories of other occasions concerning Rob and food coming to mind.
There were a number of attractive women at the party and one in particular seemed to catch Rob's eye. With well practiced ease he sidled over and was soon deep in animated conversation with her (until you've watched Holdstock you haven't seen just how 'animated' conversation can get), his cable glands swelling visibly.
I raised an eyebrow.
Rob saw this proceeded to tell me what a fascinating person she was and how he only interested in her mind and why was I looking at him like that anyway?
I raised my eyebrow still further.
"Look, can't I even talk to an attractive, intelligent, liberated, and sexually devastating young woman without everyone leaping to conclusions?"
If I wore a toupee my eyebrow would have pushed it off the back of my head. Ah, Holdstock! So much larger than life (and no, that's not another cheap cock joke - they come later) that if Reader's Digest ever asked me who my most unforgettable character was there'd be no other contender.
Among others giving the aforementioned young woman more than passing attention was a young guy who, from a snatch of conversation overheard in passing, was obviously associated with the excellent WARRIOR magazine. Curiosity piqued I asked Brosnan who he was.
"I'm John Brosnan", he said.
Isn't it always the way? What do you say? Just because you've read a book by someone or like their artwork doesn't mean that you have anything to say to them or tell you what to expect of any conversation.
9th October 1983 - letter to Ted White
Many thanks for the TAFF nomination. You were worried as to what is actually required of a nominator but beyond what you've already done and remembering to vote when the time comes there is nothing else officially required of you (though unofficially 'HANSEN FOR TAFF' mentions all over the place are a Good Thing as well, of course).
At the moment I'm taking a break from jotting down notes on the first mailing of FRANK'S APA (said notes to form the basis of mailing comments in my next contribution), which was pretty bloody good. This particular APA came about as a result of the SILICON debate - a regular fixture of the convention which is a debate in only the loosest sense since referee Ian Williams is always soon ignored and the con-attendees get down to arguing the fannish issues of the moment which most concern them. During the animated, if leas than totally sober, discussion that carried on in the bar afterwards a number of able but lethargic individuals came to the conclusion that the discipline of an APA deadline might be just what was needed to get them actually putting words on paper again and why didn't someone organise an APA where they could do just that? In the administrative front end pages of the first mailing Greg Pickersgill recalls that those pushing hardest for this were Mike Hamilton and...
"....Harry Bell, who although older, wiser, and substantially idler, actually said (out loud and in front of people who were listening to him) that an APA sounded like a good idea to him and why didn't somebody do something about it, so that he, HRB, could join up right away. Hamilton and Bell must have been exerting a powerful lot of conviction and enthusiasm because soon Greg Pickersgill heard himself saying "Well, Christ, if you're going to have a bloody APA somebody better organise it..I'll do it." Little thinking that anyone would actually take the idea seriously."
People, however, did take the idea seriously and Greg found himself in the role of FRANK for the '83/'84 period. With seventeen people already joined up and fifteen contributions in the first mailing we're not doing to bad either, though as Greg poirts out "...what we should be doing is trying to get in new people, as opposed to the sort of boring old farts most of us actually are, having been around fandom for something like sixteen thousand years between the lot of us."
He's right of course, but I'm really happy about a number of things in this first mailing including the first solo zine Harry Bell has done in far too long; a 26-page contribution from David Bridges which is just as good as the issues of his A COOL HEAD that I heaped praise on in the last EPSILON; and, most of all, the first fanwriting Greg has done in two-and-a-half years. He bitches in his zine about the enormous writers block such a long period of inactivity had left him with, one which broke when he....
....started just typing names and addresses and all that dolesome drudgery. And it all came back. Fluency! Staccato sentences! Hanging clauses! Lost participles! All the old ungrammatical tricks of my fanwriting style. I was actually able to put words in a line once more. The only problem left now is to find some way of making them mean something...."
Actually what with being FRANK, and a prime-mover behind MEXICON, not to mention his interest in a new type of convention whose basic concept both he and are intrigued by and of which more may be heard in the months to come, Greg is probably more involved in fandom now than he was when he announced his gafiation a year or more ago. Not that I'm going to point this out to him. My own reasons for joining the APA were two-fold. Firstly, I didn't want to miss out on good fanwriting (particularly that of Greg, who may not be the best fanwriter in the world but has long been a personal favourite) and, secondly, so that I'd have a backlog of stuff, the better parts of which could be expanded and embellished to serve as the basis for such things as my RAFFLES column (too many instalments having been produced just ahead of deadline). Should be interesting to see how it develops.
Ah well, NOVACON looms - the second largest British con of the year - and before this month is out I intend to put out another EPSILON, another APAzine, and to have completed the cover-illo for the third Astral Leauge tape-album for Graham Charnock (not to mention keeping up with correspondence). Will I manage it? Can it be done? Tune in next letter for the latest report....
9th October 1983 - letter to Avedon Carol
There have been some interesting developments in the intriguing and often overly melodramatic soap-opera that is British fandom of late with the recent arrival on the fanzine scene of one Cathryn E, who in swift succession pushed out a number of small fanzines and joined our women's apa, THE WOMEN'S PERIODICAL. So far so good. Then comes the news that Cathryn E is, or rather was, Kevin E, a Birmingham fan very active a few years back. Well OK, we've all got used to Roz Kaveney so one more transsexual is not too hard to adjust to, but there are rather more of us about who remember Kevin E than remembered Roz's former self, so seeing her at NOVACON for the first time is gonna be a bit weird. The appearance of a second transsexual in British fandom led, naturally, to much ribald speculation as to who would be next to take the plunge. (Rob Holdstock was soon eliminated from consideration as no-one could see how anyone could survive the removal of so large a part of their body weight).
E's APAzine SAPPHO'S DAWN, is...ah...peculiar, and she spends much of it bleeding over the reader and complaining about what brutes men are. Anyway, there's a move, spearheaded by Lisa Tuttle, to change the rules to make transsexuals ineligible for membership in TWP (sound familiar?), though there appear to be more in favour of her remaining at the moment.
The latest, and strangest, development in this saga is the sudden announcement from David Bridges, who had earlier been a close friend of Kevin E and decided to renew his acquaintance with Cathryn, that he is "...head over heels in love..." with her. Had this come from anyone but Bridges I'd have said "Oh well (whoever) is a big boy now and knows what he's doing", but in Bridges case I have my doubts. It's not so much that Cath is transsexual but rather that I remember what she was like as Kevin. I hope my fears turn out to be unfounded. We shall, I suppose, see how it all turns out in time.
10th October 1983 - letter to Avedon Carol
Since returning from the US Malcolm and Chris have been conspicuous by their absence at fannish events but I did happen to bump into Malcolm at FORBIDDEN PLANET the other Saturday and he told me about your problems. I'm sorry you now find yourself living with your parents again and are clearly not happy about the situation. I get on very well with my own parents but after five-and-a-half years of independence I'm sure I'd be crawling up the walls within a couple of weeks if I had to go back to them. I think it's the lack of privacy I'd find it hardest to deal with because although a respect for other people's privacy is embedded in the British character (and why people travelling by rail will pass journeys of many hours duration without once speaking to those across the carriage from them) the ordinary family curiosity and concern would probably seem like prying after all this time away.
What would I say to a visit from you in the next few months if it can be managed? Well, so long as it was feasible without screwlng up your personal finances I'd say yes, do it. It would be really great to see you again and since it's now the middle of my '83/'84 holiday year rather than the end of my '82/'83 holiday year as it was when last you were here I'd still have enough entitlement left to maybe show you a bit more of this place than you saw last time (certainly more interesting pubs at least, since these seemed to fascinate you last time). So yes, if you can do it without too great a sacrifice then do it.
I think I'd better sign If now and go and soak my left foot. Thing is, you see, the minor but irritating twinges I've been feeling in said foot have developed with a vengeance over the last week and I'm currently limping. The doc says it's inflammation of some muscles or tendons deep inside the foot, and hence untreatable, and that it will probably eventually go away of its own accord, though it could hang around quite some time. Great. I just hope it's gone by NOVACON so that I can enjoy my partying to the full - which in my case means being able to dance. I love dancing and often think it a shame I no longer inhabit discos as often as I did in the early 70s. Ah well, age I suppose.
Wednesday 12th October
Received phone calls from both Alun Harries and Harry Bell this evening. Alun reported that he had just got out of hospital having been beaten up in a Newport street a week or so earlier, while Harry wanted to discuss the news about Dave Bridges and Cath E.
Saturday 15th October - from fanzine report, mostly
When Woody Allen lookalike Alun Harries walked into the Westminster Arms, Greg and Linda Pickersgill and I almost choked on our drinks. Having heard of the extensive facial remodelling Alan had undergone at the feet of a local thug back in Newport we expected to see some changes, perhaps radical, in his appearance but nothing could have prepared an for the terrible reality. We were appalled to see that despite all the thug had done he looked as gruesome as ever!
After a few more drinks had calmed us down, we ran through the heavy rain to the comic mart being held next door in Westminster Central Hall. Here we bumped into Lilian Edwards who informed us she had been mugged when leaving the One Tun two weeks ago. What with the assault on Alun, it hasn't been a good month for our people.
Walking around the various dealers' tables we gasped in amazement at the outrageous prices being asked for old issues of X-MEN. Alun seemed attracted to one table in particular and I found him flicking, eyes agog, through the pages of something called TRULY AMAZING LOVE STORIES and muttering:
"God, this stuff is appallingly adolescent!"
Indeed it was. Attracted by the number of improbably large breasts and penises on display I gazed at its pages over Alan's shoulder and could only agree with him, while being somewhat bemused by the 'splik splik, splek splek' sound effect used to denote various sexual squelchings. It was so appallingly adolescent in fact that Alun felt duty-bound to buy a copy of this disgusting comic book for closer examination under the privacy of his own bedsheets. 'Splik splik, splek splek' (Inconsiderate little fucker bought the last copy as well.)
Elsewhere in the hall a distraught Greg Pickersgill was wrestling with his conscience. Could he really justify squandering £40-worth of perfectly good credit on one of the Russ Cochran's boxed reprint editions of EC's FRONTLINE COMBAT, or should he save it for next week's groceries?
"What the hell; we need to diet anyway." he said and, credit card in hand, went over to the dealers tables. Seconds later, credit card in hand, he returned.
So it was that the now rather passe method of paying by cash had to be used to secure those precious volumes of FRONTLINE COMBAT (and, as a consequence of something therein, Greg was able to explain to me at the October meeting of Friends In Space the following evening just why it was he'd have no hesitation in bayoneting me to death Come The Revolution). Me, I spent the horrendous sum of 40 pence at the mart and fretted about it for ages afterwards. Then again; I suppose you have to pay for your pleasures.
Friday 21st October
Night of the BoSFA meeting and the most crowded to date due to the presence of Bob Shaw as speaker. People not usually seen such as ATom, Vince Clarke, and Terry Hill showed up for it.
Saturday 22nd October
The day of the great CND march, and I was one of the more than a quarter of a million people who marched through London to the protest rally in Hyde Park, something which would've seemed inconceivable not so very long ago. I had arranged to meet Greg and Linda at 10.45am on the steps outside Temple tube station, but in the event they didn't turn up until about 11.25am due to difficulty with the trains. While waiting for them I watched the seemingly endless hordes of demonstrators pouring out of the tube station, though Andie Burland was the only one I recognised.
It was a glorious day and there was almost a carnival atmosphere about the proceedings as we marched, having finally set off after some forty minutes or so of standing on the zebra crossing in front of Cleopatra's needle. Having failed to locate the contingent from Wales we marched with Scottish CND, though given the number of groups present we were spoiled for choice. I was particularly taken with 'Clouseau Fans Against The Beumb'.
We only encountered any counter-sentiment twice on the march. The first occurred as we entered Trafalgar Square and had to pass the Whitehall Theatre, owned by Soho porn king Paul Raymond. As we did so 'Rule Britannia' came blaring out of speakers on the roof, as did the sound of air-raid sirens. The second came from a passing motorist as we drew level with the Hard Rock Cafe.
"Go back to Russia!" he shouted.
In Hyde Park we met up with Phil Palmer, Lisa Tuttle, Malcolm Edwards, Chris Atkinson, Mary Gentle, Joseph Nicholas, Judith Hanna, and Chris whatshisname (possibly Chris Hughes).
We left about 3.30pm and people were still pouring into the park. Amazing!
(It was around this time that Linda Pickersgill and/or Chris Atkinson asked me to draw up a badge they had designed that combined the female symbol, the CND emblem, and the propeller beanie used to signify SF fans in cartoons. I thought this was ingenious, so I took their scribble, drew it up - see recreation below - and they had badges made up incorporating it for 'Feminist Fans Against The Bomb'.)
23rd October 1983 - letter to Kevin Smith
You can take this letter as solemn written proof that I, Robert Clive Hansen - Trufan, being of sound mind and body (well, apart from these inflamed ligaments in my left foot which are gonna make being in the NOVACON overflow hotel, which is fuckin' miles from the Royal Angus, a real drag, and this chesty cough I can't seem to shake off) do hereby promise that I will, if chosen, make the trip to Los Angeles as the duly appointed 1984 British TAFF delegate (barring acts of God, of course). I also enclose a cheque (with 'payee' left open on account of how I don't remember whether to make it payable to TAFF or to yourself, but am confident in your ability to forge the correct answer in the relevant section) for £5 as an 'act of faith'.
ps. Congratulations on your marriage.