EIGHTIES LETTERS AND FAN DIARY

25: SEPTEMBER 1985

4th September 1985 - letter to Ted White

Well, here it is: CRANK#1. When putting it together I realised that there are quite a few details of format we didn't get around to hammering out so I've just followed my own instincts for the most part. I figure issue #2, your first, is going to look a. little different (if only because you don't use a golf-ball typer) but I'm sure we'll arrive at a satisfactory synthesis.

As well as the conclusion to your trip report I've taken the liberty of incorporating bits from recent letters you've sent. I hope you won't mind but I felt that a single large piece from you - half the issue in fact - was out of balance. It seemed to me more important that we attain some sort of parity in the number of pieces we each had in the issue than that we achieve parity of wordage. In fact, I more or less tailored my bits to this ideal and worked from the outset to the issue being eight pages long.

The art this issue isn't the "editorial cartoon" we both agreed it should be but rather an illo, mainly because I couldn't think of a suitably satirical picture and was running out of time. Since West is a genius at the sort of thing we have in mind I'm trying to rope him in for some cartoons.

Anyway, good luck with STARDATE,--and I'll see you in February - ghod permitting.

Thursday 5th September - from fanzine (original manuscript). Photos by Vince Clarke

'CONGRATULATIONS HUGOWINNER' read the computer-generated banner hanging over the bar, and it said it in Olde English, but of Langford himself there was no sign. We were at September's One Tun gathering and having pushed through the large crowd of Hitch-hiker fans cavorting outside the pub, Avedon and I were dismayed to discover we were almost the first fannish fans to arrive. The Tun was as solidly packed as usual and it was easy to think back nostalgically to the April One Tun, when the Nielsen Haydens were over on their TAFF trip, and fondly recall how much room there was on that occasion. ("Is it always this overcrowded?" Patrick had asked, and then looked puzzled as the Brits around him collapsed in helpless laughter.)


unknown, Dave Swindon, Jimmy Robertson, Cyril Simsa, Margaret Wellbank, Arthur Thomson,
Avedon Carol, Chris Evans, Dave Langford, Mike Ford, Dave Lally.

When more of the fannish contingent began to arrive Avedon went off to talk to the Pickersgills while I started handing out copies of the first CRANK. While doing this I was surprised to notice Greg Pickersgill grinning hugely at one and all. Since Greg is not much given to grinning hugely in these days of Margaret Thatcher and Guinness at more than 1 a pint, it would have been hard not to notice.

"What's up with Greg? I asked Avedon as an undercurrent in the swirl of the crowd brought her close.

"He's got shingles" she replied, before it carried her away again.

Malcolm Edwards informed me that he and Chris had Langford's Hugo in the boot of their car and we both wondered what had happened to him. What with the banner and with the award itself ready and waiting it would be a shame if Dave didn't show. With a casual motion that showed all the signs of being an acquired reflex Malcolm deftly lifted his pint clear of the flailing elbows of Rob Holdstock, who was over-excitedly articulating some point or other behind us, and told me about his time in Australia. As the evening wore on and more and more fannish fans turned up I ran out of CRANKs. There were more at home, of course, but I was annoyed at having underestimated the number I needed to bring along. Avedon drifted by again so I quizzed her further...

"Why should shingles have cheered Greg up so much?"

"Well, they're pretty painful, you see..." she began, and then another crowd surge carried her out through the door.

Determined to get to the bottom of this mystery I left my safe spot by at the bar and plunged into the crowd myself. Which is how, having fought my way across the room and emerged into the chill night air, I was just in time to witness the arrival of Dave Langford.

"Where've you been?" I demanded.

"Computer exhibition at Olympia, boss." he explained, pointing to the ID card pinned to his lapel. This identified him as being the representative of something called 'Ansible Communications'.

"There's a man inside with something for you." I told him, as I steered him into the pub.


Malcolm presents the Hugo. Chris Atkinson, Rob Hansen, Caroline Mullan, Chris Evans look on.

Standing on a stool, waving the Hugo around like some royal sceptre, Malcolm called for silence and, miraculously, the babel of voices fell to a murmer.

"The fanwriter Hugo has finally been sent to its rightful home..." he told them, "...Britain."

The assembled multitude cheered this simple truth and applauded when Langford was handed the award itself.


Kaj Harju, Ylva Spångberg, Greg Pickersgill, Rob Hansen.

Hugo celebration. Cyril Simsa centre rear.

Dave then mounted the stool and tried to give a short speech of thanks but Malcolm had already exceeded the short attention-spans of most of those present, so his efforts were drowned out by the noise of interrupted conversations being resumed.

"So what is all this about Greg's shingles?" I asked Avedon, when I finally cornered her.

"Oh, he's just delighted to know that there's actually a physical reason why he never seems able to do anything and that it's not a flaw in his brain."

So delighted, in fact, that he's actually managed to overcome his lethargy and is busy writing fanzine pieces again.

Maybe he ought to get shingles more often.

Saturday 14th September - edited together from fanzine report & diary entry.

After just missing the tube, bus, *and* ferry - an almost unbelievable feat - Avedon and I met up with Arthur Thomson and Vince Clarke at Woolwich. (Terry Hill couldn't be there as he was returning from a family holiday in Devon that very day.) Freed for a week by his disapproving non-fan wife taking a vacation, ATom has been more in evidence at fannish gatherings of late than is usual. Our trip to Broadstairs on the south coast today was to visit a large second-hand bookshop housed in an old church (where Avedon bought a copy of 'Secret of the Marauder Satellite' by someone called Ted White - clearly a pseudonym). Arthur showed us the hotel he gets dragged off to every Easter and explained mournfully that this is why he can never attend an Eastercon. However, he will be at NOVACON in a few weeks time, the first convention he's attended in 20 years.

"I felt I owed it to my public to put in an appearance," he explained, "and also my wife said I could go."
Broadstairs was picturesque, but the weather was lousy. Thursday was the hottest day of the year so far and would've been perfect. After looking around and taking in part of Margate, we drove back to London. Avedon had tried to wangle us an invite to this evening's FORBIDDEN PLANET anniversary party, but no go.

Sunday 15th September - from fanzine (original manuscript). Photos by Vince Clarke

The exit we emerged from after doing the white rat routine in the labyrinthine tunnels beneath Waterloo tube and train stations brought us out on the street directly across the road from The Wellington Tavern, much to Avedon's amazement - she's taken my word that I know where I'm going too often in the past and now regards such claims with healthy scepticism. Since I work less than half-a-mile from Waterloo and use the station often this wasn't that remarkable a feat but that didn't stop me from wearing my smug I-told-you-so expression as we crossed the road and entered the pub. Due to track repairs on the District line, and the bus ride this made necessary between Plaistow and Bromley-by-Bow, we were late and almost the last to arrive, much to my annoyance.


Linda Pickersgill, Pam Wells, ATom, Greg Pickersgill, Helen Starkey, and Mike Dickinson before
we arrived.

It was the third Sunday of the month, and the first meeting of what Mike Dickinson's flyer had called 'The New Southern Friends In Space', a new and more dynamic version of the earlier Friends In Space - or so it's hoped, anyway. Present at this inaugural gathering were Dickinson himself, the Pickersgills, Pam Wells, Helen Starkey, Vince Clarke, ATom and, briefly, Anne Hamill (formerly Warren). A good turn-out, and certainly a larger one than FIS had attracted in quite a while, but when it started in 1981 things were very different. Back then it was a weekly meeting - every Sunday evening at The Queen Victoria in Ealing - and attracted many of the most active and interesting fans in London. Unfortunately it didn't last. Personal disagreements caused a split in late-1981 and an advertisement in the BSFA's MATRIX attracted only people from the SF group at the local polytechnic, which changed the character of FIS meetings considerably. Eventually they fell from a weekly to a monthly schedule and had, by the time the decision was taken to alter the venue and re-launch the group, become just an excuse for Pam, the Pickersgills, Avedon and me to get together for a drink over in West London once a month. Such is life. In 1982 I wrote a fictional account of the groups origins for Larry Carmody and Stu Shiffman's RAFFLES in an article titled 'The Almost-True Story of Friends In Space'. Its actual origins were far more prosaic than I made out. Perhaps. As I recall, 'Friends In Space' was the name of a fictional UFO-group, in a one-off TV play of the same name, led by a man with the improbable name of Rex G.X. Thornton. Though I never saw the play myself Greg and Linda did and were much taken with it. This was either during, or shortly after,the period between June 1980 and March 1981 that I was staying with them, a period during which the Queen Victoria became our regular watering-hole. When the notion of holding a regular fannish meeting there took hold the idea of naming it after that fictional UFO-group seemed irresistible. In time Harry Bell designed a special FIS logo and the badge Linda had made up with this on became a much-coverted item, particularly among certain American fans. I still wear mine at most fannish gatherings and if required to so would probably give FIS as my group-affiliation. Times change however, and we've come a long way since the early years of the decade - about eight miles, in fact.


ATom, Linda Pickersgill, Pam Wells, Anne Hamill, Greg Pickersgill, Rob Hansen, Avedon Carol,
Helen Starkey, Mike Dickinson.

Pam was talking fanzines. At one point she told me that Steve Higgins was the best fanzine editor in Britain. When I expressed surprise at this bit of news and asked where she'd come by it she told me that it was a fairly widely-accepted view and that Paul Kincaid in particular loved writing for STOMACH PUMP so that he could be edited by Higgins. Suppressing the images of auctorial masochism that sprang to mind, I remembered reading a similar opinion by John Jarrold in PREVERT and wondered what this perception was based on. STOMACH PUMP is a good fanzine to be sure, and probably a front-runner for this year's Nova Award, but I can't honestly say I've noticed greater editorial skill at work in its pages than in those of other zines at its level, and I assume that Higgins prints only pieces that he's specifically commissioned and then edits them where necessary as the rest of us do (with varying degrees of success). Then again good editing should be almost invisible (I've heard) so maybe I'm just not perceptive enough to pick up on it.

It was good to see Vince and ATom at a Central London gathering other than the One Tun and to discuss with them, as with the others, the general state of fannish affairs. All in all then a pleasant evening, though there was little juicy gossip and little behaviour that could provide the raw material for suitably embellished anecdotes.

Friday 20th September - from fanzine (original manuscript).

Until Avedon, in her mad determination to sample all the many delights London's sprawling and kaleidoscopic fannish social scene has to offer, dragged me along to the September BSFA meeting I hadn't been to one in months. It lost a lot of its popularity when it was switched from its Holborn location to the less easily accessible Coopers Arms in Chelsea's Flood Street, a move necessitated by the landlord of The King of Diamonds throwing us out for being too opposed to nuclear weapons, and attendance figures had fallen accordingly.

At the meeting, fresh from their antipodean adventures, were John and Eve Harvey, Joseph Nicholas, and Judith Hanna. They regaled us with their tales of exotic places half a world away and entertained us with amusing anecdotes from the Worldcon, a surprising number of which featured Marty Cantor. Biggest surprise of the evening, however, was seeing Joseph with his lovingly-tended tresses at half-mast and the back of his neck exposed to the elements for the first time in fannish memory. When I'd finished laughing I asked him what had happened.

"It was Singapore" he explained. "The fascist junta there, controlled by running-dog lackeys of Capitalism doubtless in the pockets of such as Thatcher and Reagan, have been ruthlessly suppressing basic human freedoms, including a man's inalienable right to wear his hair over his collar."

"So they wouldn't let you into the country with longer than regulation-length hair?"

"Right. It was a question of standing firm on a point of principle and refusing to get it cut, or getting it cut and being allowed in...and Judith wanted to see Singapore."

Saturday 21st September - Quarterversary.

Met Linda by Manor House tube station prior to the CONSPIRACY '87 committee meeting. We walk down to Malcolm & Chris's Duckett Road manse together. Kettle is in France, but present are Malcolm, Paul Oldroyd & Chris Donaldson, and Kim Newman. During the course of the meeting, I discover I'm responsible for Fan Room publications.


Dave Hodson, Linda Pickersgill at SILICON

After the meeting, around 6pm, Linda and I meet up with our other halves at The Royal George, where we were briefly joined by Dave Hodson. Drinks and conversation ensue, following which we head to Gaby's for Mediterranean cuisine and Avedon is delighted by this (to her) familiar food. Dining at another table was the actor John Bluthal. When the meal was over we wandered around the West End - it was a beautiful night - soaking in the atmosphere and enjoying the crowds.

We ended the evening with a final drink in The Griffin, then headed to our respective homes. A very enjoyable day, and a pleasant way to spend our quarterversary.

23rd September 1985 - letter to Ted White

So how was Australia? Our own travellers have all returned now and have been telling us all about it - as I'm sure you will in CRANK.

Determined to make her mark on British fandom now that she is a resident alien ("bring me the ceremonial mouse"), Avedon has turned into something of a fannish dynamo of late. Not content with starting up a new monthly meeting for those fans unfortunate enough to live in East London (on the final Thursday of the month at The Boleyn, a pub first discovered by the drink-seeking horde after our wedding), she's put her name down on the waitlist for The Women's Periodical, is firing off letters and articles at a great rate, and is planning three - count 'em, three - decidedly different fanzines for publication over the next few months. The first of these, to be co-edited by myself, will be a genzine featuring (we hope) some of fandom's best writers, while the second - already existing in final draft form and possibly out by the time you read this - is the next issue of BLATANT. But it's the third zine that is perhaps the most surprising of all. This will be another co-production and the identity of her partner in this enterprise will both shock and astound you (and no, it's not Joy Hibbert). What a shame, then, that I'm sworn on pain of death not to tell you who it is.


The Boleyn pub in July 2017.

Thursday 26th September

The night of the 'Sluts' meeting (Avedon's name, not mine) and beforehand we were joined at 9A by the Harveys and the Pickersgills. Greg was there to pick up some more of my fanzine discard pile. While he was doing so, John & Eve chuckled over a letter recently received from Marty Cantor.

"Take the Australian fanzines," I told Greg.

"Are you kidding? After the last MEXICON, we ended up with *more* Australian zines on the free fanzine table than we started with!"

At The Boleyn, we were dismayed to discover a pop group in residence and took to the bar furthest from them. Others who turned up were Mike & Jackie, Pam Wells, and Roz Kaveney. It was hot and humid - as it had been most of the month - so it was a relief to step outside occasionally.

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