12: APRIL/MAY 1984

1st April 1984 - letter to Chuck Harris

Many thanks for the LoC on EPSILON 15 and I'm glad you liked the Kettle piece, particularly as ATom didn't seem to care for it at all. Actually I would still kinda like to do a BEST OF TRUE RAT reprint edition (and follow it up with a second collection of Kettle's non-TRUE RAT material), but it's all a question of finding the time. Fandom, as I'm sure you're only too well aware, can be a very time-consuming hobby. Maybe one day.

('One day' turned out to be January 2018, a mere 34 years later, when a collection combining both Kettle's TRUE RAT and non-TRUE RAT material from this period was published as a free, downloadable ebook:

While rummaging around the other day I found the enclosed xerox of TRUE RAT 1 (done the same time I took a copy for Langford), which is probably the rarest of all Ratzines since only about 25 were ever distributed. It was published in 1974 when most of the Rats were in their early twenties and still adolescent so, not unnaturally, there's a certain obsession with sex in its pages. Hope you enjoy it.

I wonder if I could ask a favour of you? At the moment I'm doing a brief history of British fandom (yes, 1930s-80s) for the MEXICON Programme Book and while most periods are either well-documented or relatively easy to reconstruct, I'm having difficulties with the 60s. They seem to have been a fairly dreadful time for fanzines and, in fact, the Rats seem to be more the true successors to you guys than anyone in that decade was. Anyway, concerning the start of the decade I've written:

"At certain times in fandom there arise groups of people whose talent and energy and - most importantly - written output in the form of articles and fanzines, is such that they form almost a central axis around which the fandom of their day seems to rotate. They become, in fact, a fannish focal point. By the beginning of the 1960, Inchmery Fandom in general, and APPORHETA in particular, had achieved just such a position in British fandom. Which may explain why the events that followed were to prove so disastrous.

Though fanzines and conventions are the most obvious manifestations of fandom, what lies at its heart, and what matters most, is the web of friendships that grow up. In many ways the Inchmery Fandom of the early 60s was at the centre of just such a web of the most talented and prolific fans of the day, and when it disintegrated in the way it did it disrupted that whole web. The personal problems that caused the destruction of the group and led to its members leaving fandom left some bitterness in their wake. To those of their circle left behind, many of them British fandom's prime movers, it must have seemed that much of the fun had gone out of fandom and shortly after they too were gone. Possibly because of its geographical isolation Irish fandom, though not unaffected by the Inchmery blow-up, remained intact."

Now I know why Inchmery Fandom broke up, and don't intend to be any less circumspect than I am above, but am I correct in assuming this was directly responsible for others such as yourself dropping out? Also, am I correct in dating it as late-1960? I've inferred this from the Peter Roberts BIBLIOGRAPHY OF BRITISH FANZINES (1936-1970) which lists no fanzine by any of the Inchmery people after Mid-1960. My other problem, which you won't be able to help with, is the late 60s. The 'New wave' led by Weston and Platt in the early 60s is well documented but from 1965 to 1970 - almost nothing. I'll have to fudge it, I suppose.

Vince Clarke, Sue & Chuck Harris, 1984

(From my editorial in CHUCH (1986): "CHUCH was named after its grandfather, the very wonderful Mr Chuck 'Chuch' Harris. I first had the pleasure of meeting Chuch at a Kent Trufandom meeting at Vince Clarke's place on Sunday, 8th April 1984....")

24th April 1984 - letter to Vince Clarke

Enclosed is a carbon of my British fanhistory article as far as I've written to date. I meant to give this to you at the Eastercon, but forgot, and to ask if you'd read it and let me know if I've made any gross errors or omissions. Lots of individuals and certain groups aren't mentioned, I know, but the scope of the piece is limited to what is, I suppose, the main thread connecting then to now. There's also something else I'd like to check out....

As I understand it you re-established contact with fandom when Malcolm Edwards, after receiving an enquiry from you about books he had for sale, enquired if you were the same Vine Clarke active in the 50s, though Terry Hill had already contacted you and was trying to re-kindle your interest. Is this correct? Similarly, I understood that most of the other 50s fans who started re-appearing around the same time did no as a result of receiving PONG, but am I right?

I'd appreciate it if you could help by clarifying these points since I want to get the facts as correct as possible.

Hope you enjoy the article (as far as it's gone) and that you had a good time in Brighton.

13th May 1984 - letter to Avedon Carol

Apologies for my tardiness in replying to your last letter. This was due, as you probably guessed, to my MEXICON workload. I've now put the Programme Book to bed (after a final session that was a straight 13 hours with breaks for eating and the usual bodily functions only) and have a bit more time to myself. Not as much as I'll have after the con itself, but still....

Actually, having to spend all my free time focussing on the task at hand meant that everything else went by the board and it was something of a shock to realise the state I'd allowed my flat to get into when I eventually came up for air. It was because I didn't dare have the distraction of someone else around the place when I was rushing to meet my deadline that I didn't offer Lee Smoire accommodation after the Eastercon as I normally would have. I did offer her crash-space after the One Tun of course but I had to carefully explain to her that my place was a mess, and why, and that I didn't usually let other people see it looking that way. Not that it always looks perfect, mind you (or that it ever does, come to that), since one of the more unfortunate consequences of living alone is a tendency to let things slip since it hardly seems worth keeping standards up when you know you're the only one who sees the place most of the time.

Kev Smith phoned through last Sunday (the 6th) with the TAFF results, which came as something of a surprise. That was some comfortable margin in the US vote and with the tie in the British vote cancelling it out it can be fairly said that it was the Americans alone who decided the result this year. What with how busy I've been I haven't really had a lot of time to digest it yet or to lay any detailed plans. While I don't think I'll have too such trouble finding people to stay with on the East Coast I'm not entirely sure who I should ask on the West. I mean, I'll probably need a day or two before the con to get my bearings after the flight and ideally I'd like to new some of the country before travelling over to the East Coast. Then again, maybe it makes more sense to get a return ticket to either New York or Washington and to get a separate east-to-west return when I'm over there. Problems, problems. Oh well we can have a long talk about all this when you come over. Actually, now I come to think about it (which proves this is a 'live' letter rather than first-drafted as is usually my wont) the latter is in many ways both more attractive and more sensible. What do you think? Hmmm?

It's certainly going to be strange travelling to another country, particularly as my only experience of this sort of thing was a week's package holiday at a Spanish resort five years ago. That was also my only experience of flying (unless you count a flight in a glider a few months later), but I'm really looking forward to it. Incidentally, have you arranged a room for me at the Worldcon or do I have to sort those things out?

The Eastercon was an organisational shambles and just as bad as I'd feared it would be. The con's biggest crime so far as I was concerned was that it was so difficult even to generate your own good time. I mean we've had fan rooms since the 1977 Eastercon and are used to treating them as a place where we can stage our own convention-within-a-convention but this mob even managed to screw that up. Bah.

(My oddest moment at the con was sitting in the bar during the awards ceremony and, when they were over, being handed an award I neither knew existed nor that I was up for:)

Still, apart from Lee I also got to meet Alyson Abramowitz and to spend quite a few hours jawing with Joe Siclari and Edie Stern, really nice people I first met before last year's Eastercon. As a result of this Joe will now be running a long article I'm writing on the history of British fandom. Maybe I'll expand it and put it out in a special edition for the 1987 Worldcon, assuming we win it of course. We'll see. Anyway, as I was saying this isn't actually finished yet but since Joe intends to have his zine out for the LACon I'd better get it finished before you get here.

Like you I don't actually much fancy hanging around Heathrow for two hours waiting for Lucy...but then we don't have to. Linda Pickersgill, and maybe Greg as well, were going to be there to meet her anyway since I gather she's staying with them at first and travelling up to the con with them on Thursday. I mentioned what you wrote about Lucy flying in later to Greg (Linda being back in New Orleans at the time) and, as he said, there's no problem at all in them meeting her later (it means longer in bed for them, in fact). Linda has apparently written to Lucy so it should all be sorted out by now. To be honest I'm happy that things have worked out this way since I'll now be the only one meeting you when you fly is and that suits me just fine.

There are now only nine days to go so this will probably be the last letter to cross the Atlantic before we see each other in the flesh again. See you at Heathrow at 9am on the 23rd....

16th May 1984 - letter to Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Your letter arrived yesterday and a postcard turned up from Stu this morning inviting me to stay with him if I make it to New York. I have every intention of making it to New York at some point during my visit - it's almost inconceivable to make a trip to the US and not visit the city - so I'll be taking him up on his offer. I don't yet know whether I'll be there at the start of my trip or at its end but I will be there. Avedon flies in next Wednesday so I'll doubtless make most of my plans while she's here and arrange things accordingly.

I've been meaning to write to you and Teresa for ages, in reply to your last letter and to firm up plans for this strip you want me to do, but all my fanning time (in fact all of my free time - period) has been devoured by my MEXICON workload. Just over a week to go now and though I'm looking forward to it greatly there will be a certain relief when it's all over. Not that I'll be finally free to get on with things like the next EPSILON even then, mind you, since I've still got to finish this mammoth article I'm writing for Joe Siclari and get it to him in time for him to have a fanzine out for Worldcon. The article in question is, believe it or not, a history of British fandom (yes, from the beginning to the present) and should weigh in at somewhere between 25 and 30 pages when finished. This was originally intended for the MEXICON Programme Book - my reason for starting it in the first place - but it grew too big. Next it was going to appear in the Fanthology Harry Bell is doing for MEXICON and it was when I saw him at this year's Eastercon that Joe asked if he could reprint it in the US, which I agreed to. Then Harry announced that he couldn't fit it in the Fanthology after all so now, ironically, an article initially aimed at giving British fans some appreciation of their own history will be read primarily by Americans. So it goes.

Speaking of articles I'm planning on doing a prologue to my TAFF report since I like the idea of having the first part in print before I've even been on the trip. I've got a few ideas for this floating around which should make an amusing, if fairly short, piece. Ordinarily I'd offer this first to Stu and Larry but they're already holding one for their next issue and I can't see them getting another RAFFLES out after that in time for Worldcon, so I was wondering if you'd be interested. If you are, and it fits in with your projected publishing schedule, I can have it written and to you by the and of June.

Anyway, nice hearing from you again and I'll see you in the summer.

17th May 1984 - letter to Stu Shiffman

I'm sorry to hear that there's currently some friction between you and. Larry and I hope you resolve your problems soon. I was saddened more than I can say by Greg's gradual estrangement from the rest of Ratfandom-as-was (not to mention being made uncomfortable in social situations where all were present) and I hope matters between you and Larry don't reach the same stage.

Now that I've actually got the MEXICON Programme Book off my back (oh blessed relief!) I've got to finish writing the history of British fandom article I'm doing for Joe Siclari (the details of which I've just put into a letter to Patrick Nielsen Hayden and don't feel like going thro' it again, so ask him if you're interested) and the illustrations for the final part of Langford's TAFF report (required tomorrow night) before I can slip into a state of blissful catatonia. This may be the first time I've ever been on a concom but it's taken so much out of me, and totally disrupted my normal fanac, that it's gonna be a long time before I get involved in another.

Still, MEXICON's a pretty worthy cause I think, particularly after the horrors of the recent SEACON 84, our first (and hopefully last) 'Eureastercon'. (Actually, not so. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but we held our first 'Eureastercon' in 1951.) This was a total organisational shambles and just as bad as I'd feared it would be. Unfortunately the fact that it had been advertised as a Eurocon and as being on the same scale as a Worldcon meant that it attracted a lot of Americans and I found myself going around apologising to them and explaining that British cons aren't usually this lousy.

"You should have waited a month before coming over", I told them, "because one thing I can guarantee about MEXICON is that it will be a damn sight better run than this".

Somehow I don't think I'll have cause to regret those words.

Stu Shiffman, Avedon Carol in US, 1984

Wednesday 23rd May - diary resumes

Avedon flew in today. I was supposed to be there to meet her at 9.00am but procrastinated and was ten minutes late. Fortunately this didn't matter as her plane hadn't yet landed. Standing watching the indicator boards and panting after my dash along the corridors of Terminal 3, I was very surprised to meet the Langfords. I'd heard they were travelling up to Newcastle early to stay with Arnold Akien, but apparently not.

Avedon eventually emerged into the arrivals lounge about 9.50am. She kissed Hazel and Dave across the barrier rail, but waited until coming around it before hugging and kissing me. Since the Langfords were present we didn't leave Heathrow immediately but retired instead to the Terminal cafeteria for forty five minutes or so of chat. One topic was Lee Smoire, and we compared horror stories about her luggage.

It was a gloriously sunny day, and the long tube trip across London to Upton Park hugely enjoyable. When we got there Avedon wanted Indian food "...the only food in this country worth eating..." so we investigated a takeaway I hadn't used before, and it was excellent. Must bear it in mind for the future.

In the evening we travelled over to Ealing and the Queen Victoria, where I met Lucy Huntzinger for the first time. Initial impression favourable. Also present were the Pickersgills, Pam Wells and John Harvey.

Return tube journey involved an unpleasant encounter with drunken itinerant hippy guitarists whose schoolboy-level attempts to shock were pitiful. Assholes.

Thursday 24th May

As usual everyone was eager to see Avedon, which was how we ended up having a lunchtime drink with Malcolm Edwards in Covent Garden. We had to go get him from the nearby Gollancz offices, but an enjoyable drink it was. Avedon was much impressed with the "low prices" everywhere and she splurged on earrings, a blouse, postcards, etc.

Me and Avedon in Covent Garden

Travelled back to Upton Park later that afternoon, but had no sooner got in than we got a call from Joseph Nicholas and Judith Hanna inviting us over that evening. Another long trip across London, and it wasn't until we were almost there that it occurred to me how much easier it would have been to invite them over instead.

Friday 25th May

Having caught the 10.00am train to Newcastle we made MEXICON in good time, but got very hot-under-the-collar on discovering we had a twin room rather than a double. Since Greg Pickersgill had been joking about this very thing beforehand I thought dark and deadly thoughts about him, though he turned out not to be responsible. Because of my obvious anger, and despite my objections, Kev & Sue Williams insisted we take their room, so we did.

After spending a while helping carry a few items in, I watched a dry run of the opening ceremony and was deeply impressed, even if the photo of me used in it made me look like a PLO reservist. I helped set up the fanzines in the fanzine room, then went to a local Italian restaurant with Avedon, Rob Holdstock, Leroy Kettle, and John Brosnan. This had been recommended by Chris Evans, and was excellent. We got back to the Royal Station Hotel in time for the Opening Ceremony proper, and this went down just as well as we'd hoped it would. My only worry now was how we could follow such a great start.

As always on these occasions, the rest of the evening was spent greeting new arrivals and propping up the bar. Much amusement was provided by the looks on the faces of those exiting the showing of the movie PINK FLAMINGOES.

Saturday 26th May

Having to be up early for our fanhistory panel, Avedon and I had our first and only hotel breakfast of the convention. On the panel were Rob Jackson, Darroll Pardoe, Avedon and me, and what with one thing and another I ended up as the moderator. Good audience participation from people such as Joseph, Judith, and Kate Davies, someone I addressed - more than once - as Ethel Lindsay, but who wasn't. (I never met Ethel, nor had I seen a photo of her at this point, and so made an assumption - and you know what they say about them.)

Our evening meal was at the Italian restaurant again, this time with Lucy, Lilian Edwards, and Christina Lake.

The disco at the end of the day went well with the DJ carrying on for an extra hour free of charge, though we had problems with hotel management over the bar. I hurt my leg landing from a high leap while dancing to Frankie Goes To Holywood's 'Relax', but still went on to dance to the next record - 'It's Raining Men' - with Anne Warren, who expressed her surprise at the energy of my dancing having assumed someone so 'laid back' would have a similar manner on the dance floor. Throughout the disco, writer guest Alistair Gray lay asleep on the con hall steps, blind drunk. This man is a real find!

Sunday 27th May

Don't recall much about today (which'll teach me to wait 'til mid-July before writing this up), but I do recall spending some hours in the late afternoon manning the registration desk.

Went for meal in the Italian restaurant (again!), returning just in time to get a good seat for THE TRANSMIGRATION OF TIMOTHY ARCHER, which was superb. Geoff Ryman and his troupe excelled themselves and the play got the biggest round of applause of any single programme item.

Late in the evening was the party in the fanzine room, which was my personal favourite item of the entire con. Even being introduced to Alistair Gray and having him say "Oh, you're the one who farts!" didn't spoil it.

(Not the first words you'd ideally want an author you admire to say to you, however. How this came about was that Harry Bell had reprinted Kettle's 'Sphincters at Dawn' in the convention fanthology TEN FOR THE MEXICON and Gray had read this cover to cover.

The punch was somewhat unusual, what with the plastic spacemen and empty paracetemol bottles floating in it. It was potent, though. I spent much of the time serving behind the drinks table with Lucy while also dancing in place. At one point in my gyrations I stripped to the waist. This caused Robert Stubbs to do the same, so I quickly covered up again.

Monday 28th May

Final day of the con. I got up late, watched snatches of the auctions, and ended up buying several issues of Peter Roberts' EGG I didn't have. Malcolm Edwards donated these to the auction and said he'd have given them to me had he known I wanted them. Poot. Greg was on fine form as the auctioneer:

"Even Phil Palmer's bidding and you know what a tightarse he is...not that I have personal experience of this..."

In the afternoon, Martin Tudor, Lucy, Avedon and I hunted up a really good Chinese restaurant. By the time we returned, the rest of the committee had cleared most of the convention equipment away. I helped with what remained and, after a farewell drink with them, Avedon and I caught the 7.15pm train back to London.

Tuesday 29th May

Lounged about at home all day, recovering from the convention.

From fanzine report:

While we were at MEXICON the case against Knockabout Comics and Airlift Books (who, as you doubtless recall, were facing prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act for publishing 'drugs related literature') reached its conclusion at the Old Bailey. The defendants were acquitted on all charges. Great news you say, and you're right but the story isn't over yet. Most reasonable people would assume that, having been found innocent the defendants would now have their stock (worth more than £6000 and impounded by the police over two years age) returned to them. Not so. They have to go to the courts again and satisfy a magistrate that the police should never have confiscated this material and that it should be returned to them. Since a single magistrate hardly constitutes the 'twelve good men and true' who formed the jury at the Old Bailey trial, and since magistrates routinely take the police side in disputes this is by no means a formality. So much for the British sense of 'fair play', eh?.

Wednesday 30th May

Originally Avedon and I were supposed to meet up with Lucy and Leah Zeldes (who was in town and had got in touch by letter a day or so earlier) for me to do my native guide bit, but Lucy wasn't there. I'd been woken at the ungodly (for a holiday) hour of 11.00am by Greg phoning to tell me Lucy was ill, staying in bed, and wouldn't be meeting us at FORBIDDEN PLANET after all. Leah was late, but it was a gloriously warm and sunny day so we didn't mind.

Avedon and Leah Zeldes

After strolling down to Covent Garden (where we bought baked potatoes, stuffed with cheese, from a vendor) we made our way down to Victoria Embankment, where Leah and Avedon insisted on taking 'afternoon tea' on a boat moored near Cleopatra's needle. I protested this was hardly a genuine British ritual anymore and was kept going only for tourists. They pointed out, reasonably enough, that they were tourists, and marched aboard.

Later, after drinks upstairs in the Westminster Arms (the downstairs bar where I usually drank on comic mart days being in the throes of refurbishment) we said goodbye to Leah, who was travelling up north to visit relatives, and went home. While we were in the pub, Avedon ran out of cigarettes and announced she was quitting smoking. No chance!

Thursday 31st May

Lucy having recovered, we arranged another tourist trip and followed much the same route down through Covent Garden, then on to Waterloo Bridge for the great view. Since Avedon didn't want to walk exactly the same path as yesterday we headed for St. Paul's via Fleet Street. I pointed out the Royal Courts of Justice to Lucy, wrongly identifying them as the Old Bailey. I rectified this when we came across the real Old Bailey just off Ludgate Hill.

Avedon and Lucy Huntzinger on the stairs of St. Paul's Cathedral

Lucy was much impressed by the walk down Fleet Street and commented on how envious Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden would be. She was also impressed by St. Paul's Cathedral, and took great delight in standing directly under the centre of the dome.