EIGHTIES LETTERS AND FAN DIARY
10: NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 1983Tuesday 1st November
Went to the King of Diamonds with Joseph Nicholas, Judith Hanna, and Stu Shiffman - who's currently over from the US. Judith had been on a CND demo in Whitehall and was looking fairly flushed. Got into a long argument with her over her assertion that complex sentence constructions were necessary to express complex ideas. I disagreed.
Afterwards, we retired to the Indo-Pak restaurant in Pimlico where the food was excellent, though I suffered for it later. We ended the evening at Joe & Judith's flat, where we were joined by Carey Handfield.
Things went on past the point where Stu needed to leave if he was to have a chance of catching the last train back to Reading, where he was staying with the Langfords, so he crashed at my flat instead.
Wednesday 2nd November
A FRANK'S APA night tonight as I ran off both my own FISH HELMET #2 and Abi Frost's apazine.
Thursday 3rd November
Malcolm called around to duplicate DRUNKARD'S TALK #11 before the Tun, and read the first mailing of FRANK'S APA as we travelled into town by tube. Observing him, I had no idea what he thought of it since he maintained an almost oriental inscrutability, as always.
As is usual on the night before NOVACON, the One Tun was mostly full of mediafans, with only a few fannish stalwarts present. Stu was there, having said he wanted to partake of this particular piece of our fannish folk culture. He didn't seem overly impressed, but then there's rarely anything overly impressive about the Tun these days.
I collected my ticket from Linda Pickersgill for tomorrow's train journey.
Friday 4rd November
Woken at 8.30am by Kev Smith ringing and telling me worriedly about an official letter of complaint from D West over my TAFF platform (as printed on the provisional ballot Kev had sent out for comment but which I'd not yet received) being 35 words or so too long. This seemed like nit-picking to me, so I told him to edit it as he saw fit and went back to bed.
Later in town, as I made my way to the train station, I bumped into Jim Barker, who was on his way to see Maxim Jakubowski for reasons he chose not to divulge. Travelled up to Birmingham with Greg, Linda, John Jarrold, Paul Kincaid, Lilian Edwards and Christina Lake.
In Brum, I checked into Birmingham International Hotel with Paul Kincaid, the only other member of our party staying in the overflow after which we made our way over to the Royal Angus.
Saturday 5th November
I managed not to get up to late for breakfast for the first and only time all weekend, and ate with Kettle and John Brosnan.
Got to the Royal Angus just in time for the MEXICON committee meeting in Greg & Linda's room. Present were Harry Bell, Kev & Sue Williams, John Jarrold, and Sue Hepple. Afterwards, various of this group manned the MEXICON table throughout the day with Greg and me taking the final shift at 5.00pm.
I wasn't terribly happy to discover the traditional disco had been scrapped this year in favour of a barn dance (!), but it seemed to be enjoyed by a lot of people so who am I to complain, particularly as not dancing led to me having an interesting discussion with BOF (Boring Old Fart) fandom in the persons of Vince Clarke, Mal Ashworth, Dave Wood, and Ron Bennett. And soon after that was the MEXICON party, which I got to late on account of playing pinball with Kettle and Brosnan, but still just in time to snatch up the last tequila sunrise. From the way Harry Bell beamed at me, he had clearly chugged down an awful lot of them.
As usual, I was one of the first to start dancing at the party, but not the first. That honour went to Margaret Welbank, who danced like a demon all night. I was impressed. When it looked like the party was dying I went up to the SEACON '84 party and liberated some booze from the Eurocon people to keep it going.
Sunday 6th November
Got up far too late for breakfast, so had an Egg McMuffin at McDonalds, not my last of the weekend as it would turn out.
Arriving at the Angus, I caught the tail end of a silly US/UK author revolutionary/reactionary panel before heading up to Greg & Linda's room to help collate the second FRANK'S APA mailing. This done, we held the actual first ever meeting of the apa, wherein votes were taken over matters such as the frequency of mailings.
Lisa Tuttle's GoH speech was ace, but the awards ceremony wasn't - at least not for me. Since we thought Dave Bridges had already left, I was elected to collect his Nova Awards, and was as nervous and stumbling as I always am on these occasions. Later, of course, Bridges turned up, and I shook him warmly by the throat. Simon Polley won COFF (the Concrete Overcoat Fan Fund). When the result was announced at the awards ceremony it got the loudest cheer of the evening. In a way COFF has become fandom's most public form of censure, and by now Polley must be only too aware of his error of judgement in running the cover he did on MATRIX 48. What with the storm of protest it received, both in letters to MATRIX and comment in other zines.
Cleared of books, the hucksters' room looked to be ideal for a party, but it never quite jelled because of being unable to attain the critical mass required, and everyone being too mellowed out. At one point Dave Bridges and Cathryn E - both in their best hippy garb, with her in a long white dress - handed out flowers to one and all.
(Kettle's scurrilous report on this convention was 'The Nerds of November'. Incidentally, when Leroy first gave me that con report for EPSILON it was untitled, so I gave it one I stole from a Wonder Warthog story. Not a lot of people know that.)
Wednesday 9th November - my 29th birthday
Pool night at the Salisbury, and John Brosnan brought along a copy of his new novel, THE MIDAS DEEP. Leroy took great delight in pointing out the now-notorious passage where John has his protagonist go around the corner of a cylinder.
10th November 1983 - letter to Avedon Carol
Joe, Judith, and I got together with Stu Shiffman for the first time on the Tuesday evening in the King of Diamonds - venue for the monthly BSFA meetings - and since we had been among the quarter-of-a-million-plus marchers at the CND rally on the 22nd, in which Stu had expressed some interest, much of the evening's conversation took on a decidedly political flavour (also at the rally, incidentally, were Malcolm, Chris, Greg, Linda, Phil Palmer, Lisa Tuttle, and Mary Gentle - whose incredible advance for the American publication rights to her first adult novel, GOLDEN WITCHBREED, is the envy of every writer I know hereabouts). It was kinda fun explaining to Stu just why Europeans are scared shitless by Ronald Reagan's gung-ho approach to foreign policy.
And how was NOVACON? Well, since you asked, it was pretty damn good; best NOVACON in years and possibly the best con of the year. Which is rather surprising since it's difficult to pinpoint how it differed from last year (same hotel, similar committee and programming), yet that was one of the worst cons I've ever been too. Weird.
11th November 1983 - letter to Avedon Carol
As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted by the necessity of spending a day slaving over a hot drawing-board for my employer, NOVACON was pretty ace and had its share of surprises, not least of which was seeing Cathryn E for the first time. Given that a lot of us had known her as Kevin, albeit fairly peripherally in my case, there was much curiosity and speculation before-hand and not a little ..ah..'ribald comment', but having listened to David Bridges arguing with Lisa Tuttle over what she'd written about E in THE WOMEN'S PERIODICAL (and read a rather amazing piece by him in FRANK, APA where he defends her with an argument involving four-dimensional graphs, dominant memes, and sixteen shades of sexuality - I kid you not) I'm rather more sympathetic towards her than I was. I mean, I still find all this back-of-the-hand-pressed-tightly-to-fevered-brow stuff in her writing pretty hard to take, not to mention her extreme over-sensitivity at the con (though, to be fair, as someone who had butterflies in his stomach over the prospect of having to collect Bridges' fanzine and fanwriter Nova awards I can imagine how much harder such a 'coming out' must be), but since my main concern was for Bridges, and he seems reasonably together about the whole thing, I really can't do anything other than give her the benefit of the doubt and wait to see how things work out.
This was the first con in years where I was booked into the overflow hotel, due to my great tardiness in actually registering although it's the second largest convention of the year and one I never miss, which meant long walks through the darkness of Birmingham city centre in the early hours. This isn't exactly a terribly pleasing prospect at the best of times but what with John Brosnan being beaten up in London a few months back, and Alun Harries suffering a similar fate in Newport a few weeks ago and ending up in hospital, I was even more aware of the dangers of the night than usual. Fortunately I left the con hotel most nights long after the time any half-sane person was safely tucked-up in bed and so encountered very few people at all. Probably just as well given the limp I've recently acquired due to strained or inflamed ligaments in my left foot, now slowly getting better. I really must order my thoughts and see if I can't do a conrep for the next EPSILON... (I wonder what Stu thought of the con? I'll probably see him tomorrow when I call around Vince Clarke's but since we're his hosts and Stu is very polite he'll probably wait 'til he gets back before letting on what he really thought. I expect a full report....)
RUDE BITCH sounds..ah..interesting. I have to admit I have some difficulty in believing that what you've had to say about me in there can be so terribly embarrassing, largely because when Americans have apologised in advance about such things in the past what has actually been written usually turns out to be fairly mild in comparison to the sorts of things that often get said in zines over here. Still, there's always that little voice at the back of my mind that says: "yeah, but maybe this time....". I can't imagine what you could have said. Oh well, I'll doubtless find out.
Yes, of course you can stay with me when you eventually fly over - did you really think I'd any no ? I'd have been disappointed if you'd decided to stay anywhere else, 'creature comforts' or not. (Actually one 'creature comfort' I've recently acquired is a duvet on account of how it was getting fucking cold, but no sooner had I bought it than the weather picked up and I found it almost impossible to sleep under the damn thing since I was now far too hot! You people of mediterranean extraction may like the heat but it doesn't sit well with us nordic types at all.)
Between your two letters I had a talk with Malcolm who expressed some doubts about you and Lucy, being able to get a cheap flight as easily as you imagined you could, so I wasn't too surprised when you said you'd have to put your plans back a bit. A great pity, although Britain is certainly a lot pleasanter place to be when it's warmer than it is at present. However, if you do get lucky on standby....
Saturday 12th November
My first visit to Vince Clarke's place occurred today. Having discovered I could get there from my flat quite easily by means of two buses and the Woolwich ferry, I decided to take up his standing invitation, particularly as this was also my last chance to see Stu Shiffman before he returned to the US. It was a good day with ATom, Terry Hill, Elda Wheeler, and Dave Langford also present.
Sunday 13th November
Visited separately by both Abi Frost and Chris Atkinson today, who had me run off their contributions to THE WOMEN'S PERIODICAL. Chris was here fairly late in the evening and we had a long chat about all manner of things, not least of which were her feelings about the changes pregnancy had caused in her body and her feelings about Cath E. While I'm quite happy to accept Cath as a woman, particularly as she is close to Dave Bridges, Chris is not, claiming that the image she's trying to conform to is a male image of women and that as such there's no way she can relate to her as another woman.
16th November 1983 - letter to Walt Willis
I had meant to write this letter some weeks ago but fandom, as you more than most would know, can become amazingly time consuming if you allow it to. What with keeping up with correspondences, contributing to the first few mailings of the new FRANK'S APA, and trying to put together the next EPSILON things have been pretty hectic. Then there's MEXICON, Progress Report 2 for which has to be ready by the end of the month. (MEXICON, by the way, will hopefully be the first in a long line and is seen by those involved with it as a sort of 'Second Foundation' against the very real possibility of the Eastercon becoming so large and broad-based that it loses its appeal to those who prefer written SF and enjoy producing fanzines that reflect that preference.) Still, if I didn't enjoy it I wouldn't do it.
What has also consumed a lot of time recently is that most important and rewarding of fandom's joys - other people. With Stu Shiffman over for the NOVACON earlier this month there was much highly enjoyable socialising to be indulged in, both beforehand and at the con itself - which was the best NOVACON in years. It was also the first one Vince Clarke has ever been to and he seemed to find it a lot more to his taste than last year's Eastercon. The presence of people such as Ron Bennett, Mal Ashworth, Eric Bentcliffe, and Dave Wood can't have harmed in that regard.
I've had a standing invitation to visit Vince over in Welling for some time now and last Saturday I took him up on it. Conveniently it also happened to be the last opportunity I had to see Stu and say my goodbyes before he flew back to the US. Also present were Terry Hill, Elda Wheeler, Dave Langford, and ATom, an ideal combination of people for stimulating conversation as it turned out and the eight hours or so we chatted away fled by remarkably quickly. Vince showed us his photographs from the 50s and told unlikely tales of fans of the day who went to Australia and ended up marrying Ceylonese princesses, while I drummed up support for my TAFF-bid and revealed that if I do lose to D West I'll probably console myself by attending the Scottish convention next July which has Harlan Ellison as GoH. ATom was his usual ebullient and inimitable self. As a fast talking Welshman Dave Langford is sometimes difficult to follow, even for another fast-talking Welshman such as myself, but no-one appeared to experience any difficulty on this occasion.
Friday 18th November
BoSFA night, and though unprogrammed it was sort of interesting. Spent most of the evening talking to Greg, and Linda gave me a belated birthday card featuring that old gag about legless frogs ganging up on a gourmet. I recommended AMERICAN FLAGG! to Greg again, but he remains sceptical. However, having turned him on to WARRIOR and Alan Moore's CAPTAIN BRITAIN I'm confident he will eventually see the light.
RUDE BITCH arrived from Avedon today, and I couldn't see what she was making a fuss about. Americans are strange, sometimes.
Sunday 20th November
Friends In Space and our first meeting in the newly refurbished back lounge of the Queen Vic. Can't say I'm overly impressed with the redecoration, but the new tables are a definite improvement over the old.
Apart from the regulars, also present tonight were Jimmy Robertson, Anne Warren, Phil Palmer, and Pete Lyon, and a pretty good night was had by all.
Friday 25th November
Went around to Duckett Road to socialise with Malcolm & Chris, Leroy & Kath, Chris Priest & Lisa Tuttle, and the Charnox. Pleasant enough, but nothing to report in the diary.
27th November 1983 - letter to Avedon Carol
I'm sometimes non-plussed by the American reaction to some of the things I write, the most recent example being Richard Bergeron's amusement at me running the cover I used on EPSILON 14 over a fanzine containing criticism of the cover of MATRIX 48. Me, I can't see the connection between the two at all and neither can the British fans who locced that issue, but as well as the WIZ reaction I also received a LoC from American fan Bob Lichtman taking the line that in view of the cover on that issue my criticism was some sort of elaborate, dead-pan parody. Strange. We would appear to have evidence of a definite cultural difference in perceptions here.
(From my review: "While on the subject of the women's APA, I should note that another comment on it has seen print lately, namely the cover of MATRIX 48. This depicts a half-naked woman lying on the floor and masturbating with a rolled up APA-mailing while lapping up the semen raining down on her from the muscular barbarian standing over her." By contrast, the cover of EPSILON 14 features Dan Steffan's little cartoon guy peeing off a pier. I couldn't see any equivalence between the two in 1983. I still can't today.)
Things seem to be shaping up nicely for the coming holiday period and I'm looking forward to having a really good time. For Christmas itself I'll be going back to Wales of course and staying with my folks; which as well as seeing them and my brother and sister also gives me the opportunity of catching up with a number of people down there.- both fan and non-fan - that I don't get to see an often as I might like. Prior to this will be the usual round of parties and gatherings as everyone gets into festive mood, though I'll be astonished and delighted if there are as many as there were last year at this time. So far as I'm concerned, however, the high point of all this merriment should be New Year's Eve which I'll be spending at Kev and Sue Williams' place this year. Using the excuse of a MEXICON committee meeting during the day for the party that night (as if an excuse were needed) this may well prove to be the best New Year's Eve I've celebrated in ages.
Shit, shit, shit! In between typing that last paragraph and starting this, I popped out for a piss, returned, sat on my glasses, and snapped one of the stems off. Oh well, now I've got no excuse for putting off my long overdue visit to the opticians any longer. Still a damn shame, though, since I'll be walking round with my glasses held together with masking tape and me looking a right wally until the new pair is made.
If I don't want to be severely castigated by Greg when he returns from CYMRUCON this weekend I've now got to get on with putting this progress report together. Looking forward to seeing you again come spring.
27th November 1983 - letter to Larry Carmody
What with having bashed out two letters and half of MEXICON PR2 already today I thought I was done with typing and could retire to my bed, but I now see that this letter of apology is necessary if I want to sleep easy tonight. After finishing the aforementioned typing I was flicking idly through my diary (which you and Stu are directly responsible for- me starting incidentally, since I figured that with this column I was doing for you I needed to keep better track of things) when I came across something that sent me to my letter file and the carbon of my letter to you of April 19th accepting yours and Stu's kind offer to nominate me for TAFF. Ah. Now I understand the comment Stu made at NOVACON that seemed quite cryptic at the time. When Joyce Scrivner collared me at SILICON and asked we about nominators it was five months later and I'd forgotten all about your letter. Thinking I was still short an American nominator I thought hurriedly and told her I'd get in touch with Glicksohn - almost the first name that popped in to my head.
That I forgot is really no excuse but I offer it in explanation and apologise. I was really pleased when you and Stu originally offered and it would have been more appropriate for you to have nominated me than Glicksohn. Oh well, it's done now.
Thursday 1st December
At the Tun tonight, I learned that Rog Peyton has done a zine for FRANK'S APA, Alun Harries and Harry Bell will be in town next weekend, and that we're all invited to Phil Palmer's for a housewarming party that same weekend. As well as all this, Rob Holdstock is trying to get some sort of writer's cooperative together to get into film or TV and wants me to pitch ideas to them!
Saturday 10th December
Day of the comic mart and I met up with Greg, Linda, Harry Bell, Steve Higgins, Alun Harries and John Jarrold in the Westminster Arms. When the rest of us decamped next door to Westminster Central Hall, Jarrold stayed behind drinking. John is not a comics fan. As it happened, none of us spent a huge amount, so then it was on to Camden Town.
Three years in London and this was the first time I'd ever been to Camden, which appeared to be full of markets. At one stall greedheads Hansen and Bell stuffed themselves with vegetable samosas and chocolate fudge cheesecake. Further up the road was the fascinating Compendium Books, which carried a range of books not seen in most other bookstores, where we met Abi Frost and friend. After perusing an exhibition of Ealing Film Studios production art it was on to a Mexican restaurant where, to my horror, I didn't like the food despite everyone else thinking it was wonderful.
Saying goodbye to Camden, we journeyed on to Harringey and Phil Palmer's house-warming party where we were joined by Malcolm & Chris, Jimmy Robertson, Anne Warren, Jeff Suter, Margaret Welbank, Pam Wells, Colin Greenland, Kate Davies and Roz Kaveney. Got into an argument with Roz about Dickens - who I maintained was a terrible writer - before being interrupted by the TV showing US nuclear soap THE DAY AFTER.
By about 4.30am, Phil Palmer was flagging so we took our leave and went back to the Pickergills, where we stayed the night. I crashed out in a sleeping bag, but not before filling the front room where Jarrold was sleeping with fragrant odours.
Spent most of the next day there, too, lying around listening to music and talking.
Tuesday 13th December
Just what Singapore-Malay cuisine tasted like I had no real idea, but Leroy assured me it combined the best elements of Chinese and Indian cooking, so it was with high hopes I called around at his and Kath Mitchell's Sydney Road home for the pre-meal plonk.
Also at the meal were the Charnocks, Malcolm & Chris, Kath's sister, Priest & Tuttle, Peter Nicholls' sister, Rob Holdstock & Sarah Biggs, Faith Brooker, and John Brosnan ....and the food was excellent! The beef satay in particular was superb. Definitely a restaurant to bear in mind. (Recording its name might have helped, of course.)
Friday 16th December
Having typed the final stencil for EPSILON #15 and run the whole thing off last night, I was able to distribute copies at tonight's BoSFA (though bumping into Brosnan in FORBIDDEN PLANET prior to the meeting meant he got the first copy). This was the BSFA Xmas bash, held at the King of Diamonds as usual and featuring a generous spread of far more food than we could eat. We gave it our best shot though, Greg and Linda getting heavily into the prawns while I hit the turkey.
Saturday 17th December
What a day; one overshadowed by the IRA bombing atrocity at Harrods.
Following a trip to the launderette and some shopping, I visited the optician at 2.30pm for an eye-test - and will pick up my new specs Thursday. This made me later than usual into town and it wasn't until an announcement over my tube train's p.a. about closed stations that I heard about the bombing. Undeterred I went about my business, such as it was, then headed home from Tottenham Court Road station. By the time I reached Mile End the station p.a. was telling people that Tottenham Court Road station was now shut, no doubt because of another scare, so I must've caught one of the last trains out.
In the evening I travelled over to Wembley and a party to celebrate Lilian Edwards' birthday. A cretinous, non-fan friend of hers thought it was funny to throw slices of fruit around, unfortunately. Fans there included me, Greg, Linda, Pam Wells, Jimmy Robertson, and Christina Lake.
Travelling back on the District Line train, I met an American who went on an on about the Harrods bombing and how he wanted to move back to Scotland where it was safer. A woman who, it transpired, worked for BBC News helped me calm him down.
Sunday 18th December
After a bath and a hair wash it was back across London to Ealing for the monthly Friends In Space meeting. Apart from Greg, Linda, Pam Wells and myself, there was only a contingent from Hatfield Polytechnic present, and though there was little actual conversation between the two groups we condescended to let them buy us drink.
Thursday 22nd December
The first day of my much-deserved and eagerly-awaited Xmas holiday. Travelled down to Cardiff on the 3.00pm train out of Paddington.
Saturday 24th December
Christmas Eve, and I'd arranged to meet Alun Harries in Newport at 1.30pm. I got there early in order to mooch around and see if I could find any magazines I was looking for. It absolutely pissed down most of the day, and by the time I bumped into Alun on Stow Hill I was drenched.
Although we'd originally agreed to meet in the Greyhound - the original venue for Newport SF Group meetings - we decided to drink instead in the Engineers Arms, a superior pub, and went on from there to the Princess Tearooms where I, purely for the sake of nostalgia, partook of one of their wonderful omelettes.
(After a session in the Greyhound, our group would usually troop around the corner to the Princess Tearooms and finish the evening with one of their massive omelettes. On one memorable occasion, a fight broke out between two guys, with them knocking over table after table as their punch-up brought them ever closer to us. We responded by seriously tucking into our omelettes, of course, determined to finish as much of them as possible before they reached us. You have to get your priorities right, after all.)
I'd left civilisation for Newcastle-upon-Tyne yesterday. First stop had been Harry Bell's crumbling abode where (having tried everything short of a tactical thermonuclear device to get the stone-deaf cretins inside to answer the door) I'd encountered Greg and Linda Pickersgill. Who were these people and why did they keep following me about? It was now New Year's Eve. Being traditionalists Kev and Sue Williams, who live across town from Harry and who were hosting the evening's festivities, decided that a tall, dark, stranger was needed to knock on the door at midnight. For this they needed a tall, dark, stranger. Being the tallest, darkest, and strangest I was chosen. So it was that I found myself out in the elements, my back lashed by gale-force winds and driving rain as I crouched down by the letter-box, one hand cupping an ear to this opening while the other poised over the 'doorbell. My watch was wrong, you see, and only by positioning myself thus did I have any chance of hearing the cheer that went up at the stroke of twelve in order to press the bell at the right moment. It felt like I was out there for hours. "Why am I doing this?!", I thought, feeling foolish and hoping that a patrolling policeman wasn't going to pull up and ask me what I thought I was doing. Apart from this, however, I had a really good time....which is where this tale abruptly terminates since the details of most of what happened thereafter have fled from a brain enfeebled by too much alcohol and a lack of sleep in the period that followed (and anyway, you can fill in much of what occurred from your own experience of such events). My thanks again to Kev and Sue, however, for putting on such an enjoyable party and to Harry Bell for putting up (and putting up with) the Pickersgills and myself.