29: JANUARY 1986

Wednesday 1st January

Woke to sun streaming through the window, so much so that it was significantly warmer in that attic bedroom than downstairs. It was early, so Avedon and I played Scrabble for a while before heading down to join the others who'd stayed after last night's party. At one point Dave Bridges started talking about spectra and frequency, pretty sercon stuff for that time of the morning, to which Greg responded:

"Frequency is more than once a week."

Greg Pickersgill at MEXICON, 1984.

I left shortly after Abi Frost arrived (Avedon followed later), catching the tube at Northfields since South Ealing station was one of those suffering New Year's Day closure. When I got home I typed up the TAFF ballot and ran it off.

Thursday 2nd January

The One Tun was less crowded than usual tonight, almost certainly as a result of people still dealing with family commitments, the first Thursday meeting falling as close to the holiday as it ever can. Avedon spent first half of the evening talking to Sherry Francis.

Greg there, but not Linda, as were Dave Bridges and Alun Harries, who had yet to return home after the Pickersgill New Year's Eve party. Dave showed us photos of Linda Blanchard, who's lost a *lot* of weight since I last saw her. Dave, Greg, Chris Atkinson, Alun and I got into a conversation about male genitals for some reason at one point, during which Chris commented that men find it easier to talk about their genitalia than women do.

"Oh, I don't know," said Dave. "Get a group of women together and they open up."
"Of course they do," said Greg. "That's how they're designed!"
Collapse of all present.

Dave Hodson was surprisingly upset to learn that Avedon and I wouldn't be at Eastercon since we were visiting the US this year and couldn't afford both. He mentioned some weird fund that had been proposed ostensibly to thank John & Eve Harvey for their years of sterling service to the BSFA and suggested this might also pay for or help finance our Eastercon. I tried to wiggle out of this, pleased by his concern but also embarrassed by the idea.

Malcolm Edwards brought up the subject of the fanzines Patrick Nielsen Hayden had paid him for and insisted he had passed these along to me months ago. I was flabbergasted by this, having no memory of it whatsoever, and am sure he's wrong. Whoever's right, the fanzines themselves are missing. Damn!

(I think this must be the occasion on which I gave Malcolm my spare mint condition copy of X-MEN #137, which was already shooting up in value even then, by way of recompense. If so, this was to auction off or sell to Forbidden Planet in order to reimburse Patrick. Months later, Malcolm turned up the fanzines. I *hadn't* had them after all.)

I handed out TAFF ballots to all and sundry, collecting the first few votes in the process.

Saturday 4th January

Tidied the place during the day for tomorrow's Langford visit, and went over to Roz Kaveney's flat for a party in the evening. It was wet and cold once again, and Avedon and I were moved to exchange comments on just how bloody inaccessible her place is.

We were the first to arrive, followed soon afterwards by Mike Dickinson (Jackie was visiting relatives in Scotland), and the four of us spent quite some time chatting. There was apparently a pre-party party somewhere to cheer up Abi Frost (a full-time occupation, it seems), which was delaying many people. Lin Morris, Malcolm Davies & Kate Solomon arrived next, followed eventually by those who'd been with Abi.

Abi Frost, Lin Morris outside One Tun, Summer 1984.

When it was in full swing, the party included many more fans, but also a large number of transsexuals, most of whom were quite attractive and could have passed for genetic females. Abi tried to get Avedon and I a lift from one of these ladies later in the evening - Adele Anderson of 'Fascinating Aida', no less - which was somewhat embarrassing as I'd just asked for details of the night bus. However, it turned out Avedon wanted to leave in time for the last tube, so this wasn't a problem.

Sunday 5th January

Woke after 11am for the second day running, immediately rang the Langfords to check they were on their way (no reply, so I assumed they were), then got up.

Dave and Hazel turned up around 1pm and were shown around. Hazel was much taken with the new lounge layout. We lunched at the corner Pizza Restaurant, and later in the afternoon I got takeaway tandoori chicken for us all. It was an enjoyable day spent chatting and socializing with our favourite people. Hazel was shown Avedon's genuine Armenian backgammon board with its tiny, painstakingly inlaid tiles, and was pleased by the presents of mugs with her and Dave's names in Armenian we'd been sent for them by Avedon's parents. She was also amused, to the point of almost falling off her chair, when Avedon and I started explaining to her what a fannish sex-symbol Dave is and how that explained why Lee Smoire had been so attracted to him.

Dave and Hazel left around 8.30pm. As they were making ready to go, the phone rang. It was yet another call from the US (there having been one yesterday from Neil Rest wanting to know if I'd be the UK agent for the Bermuda Triangle Worldcon bid - I wouldn't - and telling me they wanted ATom as FGoH). This time it was Stu Shiffman. He spoke to all four of us, and later Avedon expressed the feeling he'd phoned us because he was feeling low since the conversation was all chit chat rather than the sort of urgent communication transatlantic calls to us usually are. I told him to keep 'The Welshman Writes' as the title for my column in RAFFLES, and he told us he's hearing a 'buzzing' in his ears again and has to go in for an angiogram. Let's hope everything is OK with him.

Monday 6th January

Avedon woke with her nightdress and the bed around her soaking wet. She'd been feeling unwell most of the weekend and had felt feverish the night before, but now that fever had broken in spectacular fashion. I threw the fire on in the lounge and helped her get it together.

Phoned Ted White that evening before going to bed and enquired after CRANK. As suspected, this was delayed due to pressure of STARDATE editing so he intended to do a Dec/Jan double-issue. We also chatted about his arrangements for MEXICON.

Wednesday 8th January

Got a call from Patrick this evening, who gave us Jeanne Gomoll's phone number and acknowledged receipt of the TAFF ballot. He was pleased to hear I'd still heard nothing this end from Gytha North since we didn't need the complications or recriminations that might follow from any absent nominations turning up now. Later, Avedon phoned Jeanne, who said she'd just finished addressing the envelope containing her contribution to CHUCH.

Though this was North London Pool Night we didn't go since Avedon was still feeling rough and the weather was foul.

Friday 10th January

I met up with Avedon and Linda P in 'My Old Dutch Pancake House' after work at 6.30pm. We were having a meal together prior to heading over to Pam Wells's place for a meeting of the 1987 Worldcon Fan Room Sub-Committee Linda, Pam, and I were part of. Avedon sat in the corner reading a book of quotations about men while we held the meeting and sketched out the sorts of things we wanted on the fan room programme.

This was the first time I'd ever visited Pam's place on Beeches Rd.

Saturday 11th January

Roz came over today and read comics in the afternoon - she got through my entire run of 'Captain Britain' tales in half an hour, which is impressive speed-reading - only leaving us to get home in time for the airing of the TV adaptation of John Varley's 'Overdrawn at the Memory Bank'. This was OK, but a *very* loose adaptation. CAPTAIN KRONOS aired tonight too, a much better piece of work.

Sunday 12th January

ATom picked us up at the Woolwich ferry for today's KTF meeting and drove us back to 16 WWW, where the Hills and their offspring were waiting. John Jarrold and the Harveys arrived shortly after us, and soon a very pleasant afternoon was underway.

I handed out TAFF ballots and expressed my fears of a large Australian vote in favour of Judith Hanna swamping UK and US votes, something I felt would be unfair. Justin Ackroyd had written to me requesting a copy of the ballot but I'd decided not to since I felt it more proper to let Judith do so. John Harvey told me he didn't think Judith was as popular in Oz as I imagined and that I was probably worrying about nothing.

John Jarrold, Margaret Hill, ATom at 16 WWW.

From fanzine:

"FWUK!" said ATom, triumphantly, and I knew that he had it. We were at January's Kent TruFandom meeting, held as always at Vince Clarke's place in the wilds of Welling and ATom had, as usual, been pontificating about something. On this occasion it was fwa (the Fanzine Writers of America) , and he felt there should be a 'British response'.

"But Arfer," I protested, "it isn't necessary. Fwa is only a gag anyway, and there's nothing to stop someone British putting it in their colophon."

Then he came up with Fanzine Writers of the United Kingdom. I still don't think it's necessary...but who could resist an acronym like *that*?

Wednesday 15th January

Roz came over to read comics again and so got to consume the new batch, during which she revealed the X-Man she most identifies with is Kitty Pryde. Good grief!

Though this was the night of the Women's Group meeting Avedon decided not to go and so missed a loud and fiery argument between Abi Frost and Alison Scott, of which we were to hear more later.

Thursday 16th - Monday 20th January

Felt rough all Thursday afternoon in work and by evening I knew it was the flu. Although I went back to work on Tuesday, I still hadn't entirely shaken off the effects by then. Avedon went along to FIS without me on Sunday.

Tuesday 21st January

Greg and Linda came over this evening to see the new layout of our flat. Both seemed impressed by it and an enjoyable evening of talking, drinking, and eating ensued. I bought pizzas all round.

Greg and Avedon got into an argument at one point (of the non-nasty type) as to whether or not in light of the current TAFF race Greg should project himself more in the US. He seemed genuinely surprised by our assessment that he and Judith were the front-runners and Simon Ounsley the outsider. Linda, meanwhile, filled us in on all the juicy details of last week's Abi Frost/Alison Scott clash.

Wednesday 22nd January

Dear Rob & Avedon

Get 1986 off to a bad start by coming along to the TENDRILS launch party on. Wednesday, 22nd of January at FORBIDDEN PLANET #1 in Denmark Street,WC2.

The fun (no, seriously) will begin at 6.30pm and stop dead on 8.30 when men with big sticks will throw you out.

TENDRILS is a really triff book about long black glistening streaks of people-eating death. Its author is a bright new star in the horror firmament- SIMON IAN CHILDER. He is absolutely no relation to the late HARRY ADAM KNIGHT whose ashes were recently scattered over the customers in several remainder bookshops as per his dying wish.

TENDRILS is published on the 23rd of January, by Grafton Books, the publishers who used to be Granada but are now named after a London street. Try and make it on the 22nd unless you want to feel a long black glistening streak of people-eating death crawling up your long-johns...

Simon Ian Childer.

We arrived at Forbidden Planet at 6.30pm for the launch of the latest pseudonymous novel by Kettle and Brosnan, whose HAK has now become SIC. The rear of the shop looked starker than I was used to, the displays having been pushed back. Lots of bottles of wine on hand but little in the way of food, which was mostly of the bar snack variety, so Avedon and I separately slipped out for sustenance.

Neil Gaiman & Simon Ian Childer (aka Roy Kettle & John Brosnan)

Neil photobombs, decades before that was a thing.

Among those present were Rob Holdstock, Dave Langford, Malcolm Edwards, Neil Gaiman, Chris Priest, Brian Aldiss, Gamma, Dave Hodson, Peter Nicholls, Kim Newman, John & Eve Harvey, FP head honcho Nick Landau, etc. I chatted to Landau for a while about comics v SF fandom, but think I created a bad impression. Overall, though, I had an OK time.

When things were winding down later, many of us trooped over to the Troy Club, where we drank more drink. We spent several hours here, with Avedon and I catching the last tube home.

(Launch party photos supplied by Roy Kettle, photographer unknown. The Troy Club was the favourite late-night watering hole of Brosnan et al back then. Just a room with a bar, it was located above a shabby record shop on Hanway Street, behind Oxford Street. Before the licensing laws were changed in 2005, it was one of the few places you could sit down and have a drink in the area after 11pm that wasn't a noisy dance venue. You had to become a member to get in, but this just involved giving them a quid and them handing you a card and asking you to sign it. There's still a Troy Club there, but based on its webpage it bears little resemblance to the slightly seedy place it was in the eighties.)

Eve Harvey, Chris Priest, unknown, Brian Aldiss, Gamma

23rd January 1986 - letter to Walt Willis

Thought I'd send along a copy of the speech that Bob Shaw gave at last year's Worldcon in Melbourne. You'll no doubt be familiar with quite a few of the anecdotes already, but even so Bob's delivery and the obvious delight of his audience are highly entertaining. The actual quality of the recording is a bit rough and the background hiss a bit distracting at first, but when played at a volume you're comfortable with it's all audible enough.

Little real news at the moment. While still not in permanent employment Avedon is at least getting word-processing temp work a lot more often now and has cheered up no end as a result - and it looks like CHUCH is well on schedule for publication by MEXICON which, as every fan knows, is being held in Birmingham over the weekend of 6th-8th Feb. Now if only Ted would pull his finger out on CRANK.

Speaking of MEXICON, the con seems to be shaping up pretty well and I'm looking forward to it more than I have to any con in some time. As well as a fine fannish contingent that should include Chuck, Vince, Ted White, Jerry Kaufman & Suzle, and (possibly) ATom, the pros should include K.W.Jeter, M.John Harrison, Clive Barker, Keith Roberts, Chris Priest and - quite a coup here - the winner of the 1985 Hugo & Nebula Awards for Best Novel, Bill Gibson. Since Gibson is also a fan - and would've been one of Greg's TAFF nominators had his nomination not missed the deadline - I'm sure I'll like meeting him. Oh yeah, almost forgot: also present will be Alan Moore, the guy who wrote that SWAMP THING I sent you some time back, and I'll be interviewing him on stage at some point. This job falls on me more-or-less inevitably since I'm more familiar with his work than most SF fans, but having met and chatted with Moore before and found him both interesting and articulate I don't imagine I'll have much difficulty making this a successful item.

CORFLU is the week after MEXICON and Avedon and I will be flying over for it. Since it's being held in the Washington DC area we'll be able to combine it with a visit to her folks, and since Virgin fly into New York we'll not only get to see Patrick & Teresa at the con but will be staying with them in the Big Apple also. I'm looking forward to seeing those two again.

Anyway, best regards to you and Madeleine and I hope we'll have the pleasure of seeing you both on these shores again one of these days.

Friday 24th January

An express-mail package arrived today from Ted White containing the stencils for CRANK #4 - at last! Couldn't run them off tonight due to the extreme cold in the kitchen, but resolved to do so tomorrow.

Saturday 25th January

The night of Chris Atkinson's party. Chris seemed disappointed that only thirty or so people turned up, but that seemed a pretty decent number to me. It was the usual crowd for one of these parties, and I got to hand out the first copies of CRANK #4. We had a good time there, the only downside being that we had to leave the party at 11pm just as things were really getting going. Avedon was very put out by this and is more determined than ever to get a car so we don't have to rely on public transport. Now all we need is the money.

Tuesday 28th January - from fanzine

The space shuttle Challenger exploded 72 seconds after take-off today, and all seven of its crew were killed. The first I knew of the tragedy was when Avedon came rushing into the kitchen (where I was preparing baked potatoes) and said there had been a newsflash about an explosion aboard the Shuttle. It was around 3.45pm, and on his own side of the Atlantic Ted White must have been learning of the disaster at just about the same time that we did. Like Ted, Avedon and I had been following the news from Uranus over the previous few days, and we'd been non-plussed by the way that everyone - reporter and astronomer, British and American - was suddenly pronouncing the planet's name as you-ran-oss rather than you-rain-us, as it had always previously been known. There was much amused speculation here at 9A Greenleaf as to the possible reasons for this sudden coyness, but the fate of the Challenger brought a sudden end to the laughter.

We watched film of the tragedy on the nine o'clock news in stunned silence, a silence broken only by the end of the report and our puzzlement over why only one crew-member, teacher Christa McAuliffe, had been named and just what that parachute seen dropping into the sea in the aftermath of the explosion had signified. (We later learned it had been attached to the nose-cone of one of the booster rockets.) From the pictures broadcast Avedon was convinced that the other woman on the Shuttle had been Sally Ride, and despite my protests that they would hardly have failed to report the death of the first American woman in space she insisted on phoning the BBC to find out who the other astronauts had been. She had little luck.

I suppose we all knew the odds were in favour of something like this happening one day, but even so that final image of the immense Y-shape caused by the rocket boosters as they arced away from the fireball that consumed the Challenger and its precious human cargo will probably remain with us for the rest of our lives.