EIGHTIES LETTERS AND FAN DIARY

17: NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 1984

(These are the months when what has come to be known as 'The TAFF Wars' came to a head, and being in the middle of it was pretty much all-consuming. I'll be using the letters I wrote during the affair very sparingly since I don't want this getting bogged down in that mess, but I will include all my diary entries, which I think give some idea of the intense pressure I was under then.)

Sunday 4th November

Continued with the marathon task of putting EPSILON #17 ("Special TAFF Issue") together having traipsed over to the East Ham sorting office to pick up the package of stencilled pages Peter Roberts had sent me.

Linda Pickersgill phoned in the afternoon to tell me about a document she'd been sent, produced by Jackie Causgrove, to get a large write-in vote for Martha Beck. This document had been 'leaked' to Linda and she was outraged by it, seeing it as an attempt to swamp the votes of British fandom and foist someone on us most over here have never heard of. She's going to send me a copy and says she will be organizing a response to it at next weekend's NOVACON.

Tuesday 6th November

The letter containing a copy of Causgrove's plea for write-in votes for Martha Beck arrived today, and I can't believe it! It's worse than I imagined! TAFF is about promoting international friendship, about honouring those who have helped promote that friendship through the interest they've shown in the fandom across the water and the links they've forged. Martha Beck, on the other hand, has never shown the slightest interest in British fandom and, indeed, is totally unknown over here. How wonderful a person she might be is totally irrelevant without that international aspect to her fanac. And this document of Causgrove's - my god! It has nothing at all to do with internationalism and everything to do with US regional chauvinism. For the sake of showing the rest of American fandom what Midwestern "muscle" is capable of she's prepared to pursue a campaign that goes totally against everything TAFF is supposed to stand for and which, far from promoting international friendship, is likely to cause a lot of bad feeling between our two fandoms. If Martha Beck wins and British fandom's voice is totally ignored, she may well get a very frosty reception over here. And that could be the beginning of the end for TAFF. I wonder if Causgrove realises what she's doing? I wonder if she cares?

Thursday 8th November

Typed up and ran off the final stencil for EPSILON #17 tonight. It concludes:

"Tomorrow is the 9th of November, the first night of NOVACON, and my 30th birthday. (I was 20 when I attended my first convention and now the last act I perform as I leave my 20s is the production of this fanzine. There's cosmic significance in there somewhere.) Tomorrow also happens to be Dai Price's birthday and I've deposited a sum of money with the estimable Mr Price so that we can celebrate by imbibing lots of falling-down juice at a party to be held in his room. If you're reading this you're invited. Bringing drink of your own is probably also a good idea so that we don't run out too fast. See you there."

12th November 1984 - postcard to Richard Bergeron

Just a quick note to let you know you won this year's Concrete Overcoat Fan Fund award against stiff opposition and that a surprisingly loud and heartfelt cheer went up when the result was announced at NOVACON 14. Myself, I never actually got around to voting but I was pleased to accept the award on your behalf. After your name is engraved on the COFF trophy a photo of it, together with a certificate, will be sent to you by the NOVACON committee. Congratulations!


Me accepting Richard Bergeron's COFF Award

Dave Wood and his Nova Award, me with COFF

14th November 1984 - letter to Avedon Carol

Above is a xerox of the postcard I sent Tricky Dick yesterday and which I enjoyed writing - tho' not nearly as much as I enjoyed actually collecting the award for him. I remember my 'acceptance speech' almost word-for-word:

"It's my great honour and pleasure to accept this award on behalf of a truly wonderful human being. Richard Bergeron - wherever you are - you deserve this award!"

The heavy irony was not lost on the audience. A great moment - it made my convention!

Got a call from West yesterday. He'd just received a copy of Jackie's 'Martha Beck for TAFF' flyer and was chomping at the bit. "Grr, stomp, stomp, stomp", is an accurate retelling of something he said at one point so his article on this whole BergCausgLocke thing - due early next year in Simon Ounsley's STILL LIFE and probably also to be offered to HOLIER THAN THOU - should be very interesting.

The week following your phone call went as I said it would. Wednesday was the pool night in Harringey; Thursday the night I finished producing EPSILON (which you should have by now) and packed for the con; Friday through Monday were taken up with NOVACON; and last night was when I began putting this letter together, as promised.


Me, Chuck Harris, Eric Bentcliffe (behind Chuck), Terry Jeeves, Mal Ashworth, Hazel Ashworth,
John Brosnan, Leroy Kettle

Saw Chuck Harris at NOVACON - he turned up for a few hours on the Sunday - and showed him my TAFF photos so he finally got to see what you actually look like.

NOVACON was an adequate, rather than ace, convention but it still served to reaffirm certain things I cherish in my life and it aided me in coming to realise something about myself. While I've been my usual ebullient self in public I've been brooding in the solitude of my own home more than is wise.

My main reason for getting my largest ever EPSILON out in less than two weeks - a lunatic thing to attempt on the surface - was for it's cathartic effect. Things were just starting to get too much and I needed something I could totally focus all my attention on in those last two weeks, something that would help me make it until the convention. I actually think it's the best issue to date but that was just a happy bonus. Fanac as therapy. Whatever next? (You'll note, however, that while I couldn't really put a 'Special TAFF Issue' together without covering The Tricky Dick Affair the piece I wrote was mainly lifted from my last letter to CausgLocke. While the fact of the effort I put into that missive being worthy of a wider audience was a consideration, I also felt that anything much beyond copy-typing on this topic would hinder any good effects to be derived from doing the issue in the first place.)

If I'm going to get this in the post tomorrow morning (tomorrow night being the BSFA Christmas party) I'll have to finish it here. Take care, take heart and remember that however much shit you get in the mail most people are behind you (I've yet to meet anyone over here who's taken the Bergeron side). Hope you enjoyed EPSILON and that this letter makes more sense than my last did.


Lesley Ward, Christina Lake at NOVACON

Kate Davies, Bridget Wilkinson at NOVACON

Friday 16th November - BSFA Christmas party

Rather than going directly to Chancery Lane, I travelled in via Embankment station so that I could post a couple of letters at the Trafalgar Square post office, and so ensure they got away tonight. Emerging from Embankment, I was astonished to see a WWII-era Sherman tank parked outside a pub on Villiers Street. Some hard-looking guys in fatigues were leaning against the pub wall drinking (it was freezing) and answering the questions a police officer was putting to them about their vehicle.

At the party were such out-of-towners as the Mearas, Arnold Akien, and Harry Bell. A lot of the food had already been eaten by the time I arrived, so I got stuck in fast. A good night.

Saturday 17th November

Avedon rang again, this time with the disquieting news that our spy in the Midwest has discovered that Rusty Hevelin is holding over 100 votes for Martha Beck, and there's still another big Midwestern con to go before the voting deadline. Galvanized by this, I was determined to ensure the voice of British fandom wasn't swamped by these people. Before the day's end I had secured an agreement from BSFA supremo Alan Dorey that the ballots would be included with the next BSFA mailing, and had run off 1100 extra copies of it to this end, but will this effort be enough?

18th November 1984 - letter to Martin Skidmore

A cover featuring Underground characters, eh? Why not? Yes, I am familiar with all but one of the US characters you mention and while this isn't exactly the cover I'd have thought you'd have asked me to do it is a challenge (tho' not quite as much of a one as attempting a pastiche of Jaime Hernandez' style had you been cover-featuring LOVE & ROCKETS), so I look forward to it. The most difficult bit will be getting the inking styles right because while someone like S.Clay Wilson is fairly simple in his linework Gilbert Shelton is deceptively awkward in his.

As to the cover design itself I kinda like the idea of the various characters bursting out of the page after the manner of the cover of GIANT SIZE X-MEN 1 and maybe knocking a couple of superheroes aside as they do so. Above this could be a balloon with them saying something like: "It's our turn now!, or maybe not. I'll also do a logo based on that of one of the more famous underground comics to go with it. Let me know if you like the idea and I'll work up a rough for your approval.

Monday 3rd December

Greg Pickersgill rang tonight - twice. Stirred into action by the outrage he feels at the Causgrove/Locke/Hevelin attempt to disenfranchise British voters, he had lots of questions about the way TAFF works, which he needed to have clarified. This done, he went away to decide what to do next.

He was more than a little worried the Midwest might use its voting muscle to hold TAFF for their own in perpetuity and was determined to mobilize a "British response". TAFF is supposed to be a transatlantic partnership, after all, and when something like this happens we have every right to feel no moral obligation to go along with it. I wish Greg luck, but can he overcome the apathy of the average fan?

4th December 1984 - letter to Martin Skidmore

I've now done full pencil breakdowns for the FA cover we've discussed (I usually do this rather than a small sketch because, actually, I find it easier) and, if you like, I'll bring them along to this Saturday's Westminster Mart so that you can either give me the go ahead to turn them into a finished cover, suggest alterations, or tell me to scrap it and try again. Taking into account the reluctance on the part of M.Lock to use a possibly non-commercially viable Underground cover I deliberately made the superheroes being pushed aside by the UG characters rather more prominent than I'd originally intended, and also made the Checkered Demon and Wonder Wart-Hog the most prominent UGs. Hell, it looks almost like a superhero fight-scene now, and what could be more 'commercially viable' than that? (The sound you hear in the background is the artist, his sensibilities wounded, snorting in disgust.)

Yes, as you may have gathered, I do attend Westminster Comics Marts (and have done ever since moving up here four years ago), usually in the company of a couple of other SF fans who are into comics (tho' not, in their case, into comics fandom). I'm five-ten tall, dark-haired, slim (rather than 'thin'), bespectacled and bearded, and will try to remember to wear the badge pictured above (emblem of an SF group called 'Friends In Space' believe it or not). I've no idea what you look like but I'm sure I can get Dave Harwood, who I do know, to point you out if you don't spot me first.

Yeah, I read Dave's piece in THIS NEVER HAPPENS and it seemed pretty reasonable except, as Lilian Edwards pointed out, for his assertion that amateur fiction was in some way important to SF fandom, since this is the one thing that is fairly heavily frowned upon (and if you'd ever read any of it you'd know why. Dreck). Some of Dave's other perceptions seem a little off to me as well, but then since I couldn't honestly deny that I'm currently a BNF in my own fandom I suppose I'm bound to have a somewhat different perspective. Like, it's never seemed to me that neos were looked down on, for instance, because in this instance 'neo' just means 'new' and we were all that once upon a time. I suppose those who think that neos are treated with contempt are those who didn't gain instant acceptance and who don't understand the nature of the beast because SF fandom is as much a social entity as a literary one and the social rules that apply are much the same as those that apply in most places. People who are good company gain ready acceptance socially, and the same applies with acceptance for putting out intelligent and amusing fanzines. Do both and you get 'in' very quickly. For instance, Alan Dorey showed up at his first convention in 1977, won the Nova Award for best British fanzine in 1978, and became chairman of the British Science Fiction Association in 1979. See, it's easy! There's also very little overt anti-comics bias these days (possibly because I, and others like me, make no attempt to hide our interest in the field) so I doubt you'd have any troubles on that score.

Wednesday 5th December

Avedon rang at 7.00am this morning and got me out of bed to ask if I would marry her. Without hesitation I said yes. So when she comes over next summer she comes to stay.

Got a call from Patrick Nielsen Hayden late this evening (about 10.15pm) who filled me in on the latest midwestern machinations and suggested it might be worthwhile someone on this side of the Atlantic phoning Mike Glicksohn and making sure he knows of the disquiet over here about what is going on. Since WINDYCON is this weekend, Glicksohn in turn will hopefully make the innocent voters of the midwest aware of this. Whether this will produce results remains to be seen, but Greg said he'd phone Mike.

Thursday 6th December - One Tun night

At the Tun, Greg told me he was unable to get through to Glicksohn, alas. He and Linda went around with their petition, gathering a finally tally of 43 signatures, and I got into an argument with Malcolm Edwards over whether or not in excess of fifty per cent of those who voted for TAFF over here indicating they don't want UK monies released to Martha Beck is a mandate to act. He persuaded me that it's not since the current race has to be run the way they always are. However, I remain convinced that such a result would nevertheless put me in a strong position to take certain actions if those actions become necessary.


Paul Kincaid (back to us), Steve & Leah Higgins, Greg Pickersgill, outside One Tun

Saturday 8th December - Westminster Comic Mart

Met up in the Westminster Arms as usual, this time with the Pickersgills and Phil Palmer. I also got to meet Martin Skidmore, who approved my layout for the FANTASY ADVERTISER cover I'm doing for him.

Sunday 9th December

Went to a preview showing of the film adaptation of DUNE at ten this am, courtesy of a ticket given to me by Malcolm. (Coincidentally, Avedon attended the US premiere.) Also at the showing were such luminaries as John Brosnan, Gamma, Chris Priest & Lisa Tuttle, Rob Holdstock & Sarah Biggs, Garry Kilworth & wife, and Brian Aldiss. General opinion among us was that while the sandworms were superb the film overall was a failure due to them trying to squeeze too much into only two hours. Ironically, it failed by trying to be too faithful to the book.

Monday 10th December

An hour long phone call from Avedon! She was in favour of tossing the Beck candidacy out based on the dodgy practises being indulged in by her campaign managers. I couldn't go along with this as it stood but said I'd consult with Greg and get back to her.

Didn't sleep well this night. Being a TAFF administrator seems to be taking over my life and affecting my health. It's like serving a long sentence with no chance of parole.

Tuesday 11th December

Met Greg this lunchtime, who gave me copies of Gilbert Shelton comix as reference for the FANTASY ADVERTISER cover I'm working on, and discussed the TAFF situation with him. I told him of my plan for Beck to get a TAFF trip but not the TAFF administration, and he agreed totally with this. The petition is apparently being signed in great numbers so it looks like I'll have my mandate to refuse to co-administer the fund with anyone from the midwestern cabal. I foresee stormy times ahead.

Phoned West this evening. He agreed I should refuse to co-administer with anyone from the cabal but thought the TAFF trip and administration could not be split and that any attempt to do so could result in legal action. After this I spent the whole evening agonizing about just what course I should take, going through the whole spectrum of stress symptoms.

Wednesday 12th December

Went to Paddington after work to get tickets for my Xmas trip to see my family back in Wales, then went home to put together the letter telling Avedon that in light of their attempts to disenfranchise us British fandom was not prepared to accept Beck, Causgrove, Locke, Hevelin, or anyone nominated by them as US administrators.


D West, Vince Clarke at NOVACON 14

Over the course of the evening I phoned Greg, Vince Clarke, D West, Dave Langford, Kevin Smith, and Kev Williams and read the letter out to them. Reaction ranged from thinking I wasn't going far enough to those unhappy this had become necessary, but all agreed I should take this action. Now the die really is cast.

Thursday 13th December

Tonight was the FORBIDDEN PLANET Xmas do at the White Lion for SF people. As John Brosnan's guest and for a mere £4 I was able to stuff myself on chili, gateaux, etc., which I did. So did Dave Langford, who congratulated me on my engagement to Avedon and spent much of the evening discussing the TAFF controversy with me. I got Roy Kettle to sign the Pickersgill Petition, and extracted a promise to do the same from Brosnan.

Gluttony has it's consequences, and I spent much of that night and the next day feeling rough.

Friday 14th December

I tried to ring Avedon today to read the letter to her, but her mother Queenie told me she now had a job she worked at from 3.00pm to 11.00pm.

Got an unexpected phone call from Rich Coad who congratulated me on the engagement but said it's unlikely he'll be able to make it over here under his own steam for the wedding due to buying a car that's proven an expensive mistake.

Put the finishing touches to the FANTASY ADVERTISER cover.

Saturday 15th December

Finally got hold of Avedon and read the letter to her over the phone. She was delighted by it and asked me to send copies to a few people in the US.

Sunday 16th December - Friends In Space

Only Greg, Linda, Pam Wells and I show up tonight.

17th December 1984 - letter to Chuck Harris

Got your letter today. If you were pleased to receive the Pickersgill Petition you should be over the moon when you read the enclosed official letter to Avedon. I've no doubt that the shit is going to hit the fan over this - and I'm the fan it's going to hit - but I appear to have a high degree of support for my action and it feels real good to actually be doing something positive about J.Causgrove's machinations. Quite what the ultimate consequence of my letter will be I've no idea (I distributed it to the editors of all the major newszines, natch) but it seems possible that TAFF might split.


Greg Pickersgill, Mal Ashworth, Eric Bentcliffe Hazel Ashworth, and Dave Langford

17th December 1984 - letter to Eric Bentcliffe

Sorry I've been such an unconscionably long time in replying to your missive but, as the letter overleaf will demonstrate, things have been moving at a rapid clip and it's all I've been able to do to keep on top of them. In a way, discussing anything with Causgrove or Locke is rather pointless at the moment (and many would argue that it never serves any useful purpose) since there may not be a TAFF soon. Actually, it's more likely that there will be two. In the event of a split TAFF UK could very easily grow a new US end since we'll carry a lot of the East Coast and West Coast fans with us and while most of British fandom wouldn't be interested in forming any similar alliance with the midwest we must never forget that our fandom contains people such as Keith Walker and Joy Hibbert who almost certainly would. Have received wide support so far for the stand I've taken overleaf, and can only hope it continues.

19th December 1984 - letter to Avedon Carol

Like the festive aerogramme? Sorry this will be such a short letter but tonight (Wednesday) is the last chance I'll get to write to you prior to Christmas since tomorrow night is the Christmas Tun (there are 13 Tuns a year, don'tcha know). I leave for Wales after work on Friday (probably pissed since I expect to spend all afternoon boozing it up at the office party), and Abi will be over later tonight to run off a fanzine ready for tomorrow.

It's all quiet on the TAFF front at the moment, or relatively so, anyway. Ballots continue to trickle in as do signed petition sheets, but there have been no surprises or revelations for a bit. I'm sure this is just the calm before the storm, however, and that my official letter to you is going to go off like an H-bomb in some quarters.

Hmmmn. Something like an hour-and-a half has passed since the last sentence, a fair slice of which was spent talking on the phone with Skel. I read him my official letter to you (he'd rung about something else) and we spent ages then going through the pros and cons. I knew he'd have a different view of things than anyone else I've canvassed and it was a very instructive exchange. I think I now know how to counter some arguments I might have had a little trouble with earlier.

Thursday 20th December - the Christmas One Tun

Got more support for my letter to Avedon and collected a further ten votes, while Greg and Linda secured more signatures for their petition. I had assumed Malcolm's opposition was predicated on his Worldcon bid but he gave cautious support to my letter, saying his objection was on the particular point of denying Beck any UK money, which we had been considering.

Friday 21st December

Travelled down to Wales on the train after work for my family Christmas, returning the morning of Thursday 27th.

Monday 24th December

I met up with Alun Harries and Dai Price in a Newport pub and we talked and drank until closing time, whereupon we repaired to the Princess Tearooms and had a totally unexpected encounter with Bryn Fortey. It was almost like old times...only it wasn't, of course. Dai had something listed on the menu as a 'Mexicon Omelette'.

Sunday 30th December

Travelled up to Newcastle on a 'Rapide' coach, having acquired a coating of pigeon shit on my collar at Victoria Coach Station. The 'in-flight' video was OCTOPUSSY and the journey was an effortless five hours. Arriving in Newcastle, I took the Metro out to Ilford Road and Kev & Sue Williams' house where John Jarrold awaited. We went on a pub crawl with the Gannets that evening and I'm sorry to say both John and I got very drunk.


John Jarrold, Kevin Williams

Rob Hansen

Monday 31st December

Chatted to Kev about his recent visit to Proctor & Gamble's head office in Cincinnati, and he told me various horror stories about the place including seeing a bumper sticker that read: GOD, GUNS, & GUTS MADE AMERICA GREAT - LET'S KEEP IT THAT WAY. He also said he'd like to get in touch with any interesting local fans, but since Dave Locke and Jackie Causgrove appeared to rule the roost there I told him there weren't any.

After midnight we phoned the Langford New Year's Eve party down in Reading to exchange New Year's greetings, after which the phone rang. Surprisingly the call was for me. It was Avedon, ringing from New York. She wished me a Happy New Year, then asked what it was like in the future since she was still stuck in 1984. We compared notes and realised the Nielsen Haydens might have won TAFF, so I was able to tell her that so far 1985 was looking pretty good.

< PREVIOUS | FIRST | NEXT >