Monday 9th SeptemberJAMES WHITE:
Round about 4am on Monday morning I began to feel definitely tired. I could tell because of the way I kept missing words - whole sentences sometimes - out of the conversation. By increasing the frequency with which my eyelids thudded shut, and by the greater feats of physical strength necessary to get them open again.
Except for Arthur Thomson it was the same group who had talked through the previous night and morning, though I think Mal said I were the only ones who had not been to sleep since Friday night, It was Wally Weber and Ellis Mills who, with 45 minutes and 2 hours sleep under their belts respectively and thus bright-eyed and alert, were making with the sparkling conversation, Mal and I being content merely to nod now and then. Fortunately we managed to stiffen up again before our faces hit the table. I tried everything to stay awake, even going as far as mixing a double Tonic and Disprin. A couple of times Mal and I dragged ourselves up to our room to sneer at the beds, but we stopped doing it about 4.30 because the beds were beginning to sneer back. Schultheis was snugly dead in bed again.
Round about 5 o'clock, so the bleary-eyed witnesses tell us, Messrs Ashworth & White were really having it tough. Apparently Mal would collapse forward and I would nudge him awake, then I would succumb and he would do the same for me...rather like those little Swiss figures that bow in and out of fancy barometers, Mal just couldn't go to bed because he had to catch a bus at 8am and he knew that if he once went to bed nothing or nobody would shift him out of it. I merely wanted to see another dawn breaking, which proves what a poetic soul I've got.
At a quarter to six, they say, I was walking up and down the lounge, obviously with the idea that it was easier to pretend to be awake while moving. At ten to six I was observed to pull aside the window drapes to reveal a sky which was still dark - but a decided grey. I went upstairs.
I'm told that a few minutes later Mal rolled out of his chair into a heap on the floor. Somebody pinned a notice to him reading "FAKEFAN" and left word at the desk to wake him up for his bus.
I awoke four hours later with a note from Mal pinned to my chest denouncing me for having taken the room key to bed with me so that he had had to go to all sorts of trouble to break in. He added some stuff about how nice it was meeting me and the other members of Irish Fandom, and maybe at Kettering next year....
On Sunday night I came home to sleep, but I was back at the hotel in time to talk with Walt, Madeleine, and the insomniac Weber whilst they had breakfast. Dave Newman came past our table sporting only one half of the luxuriant moustache with which he'd started the convention. We looked at him blearily but sympathetically. "Tough luck, bhoy," I said. "These bloody souvenir-hunting Americans will whip anything that isn't nailed down."
Along with 21 other early risers we managed to make the Business Session at 11.00. The first item was the election of two new directors to the WSFS, -- the organisation which runs the World Conventions. Belle Dietz and Arthur Kingsley (N.Y.) had already been nominated, and Bob Madle then nominated Dave Newman. Belle, of course, was a stone-cold certainty, but I was surprised when Dave was elected to the other vacancy rather than Kingsley. As Joy Clarke pointed out, Dave, living in England, could never be much more than a figurehead, and she was agin the proposal. So was I, but he was still elected by one vote.
In a way, the Big Thing of the Business Session was a bit of an anti-climax. We'd gone there determined to make it South Gate in '58 or die in the attempt, but it turned out that everyone else had the same idea. South Gate was the only site proposed, and voting for it was just a formality. It was fun though to see every hand in the hall thrust up for it, and all the heads turning round to see if anyone had the temerity to dare make it anything but unanimous. And, -- even though I shall never go, -- to scamper down the passage afterwards to try to be first to register Convention membership for next year. (We weren't first, -- but at least we tried to be.)
Arthur Thomson drew a cartoon of congratulations for the South Gate team, which over 60 of those at the convention signed: "To Rick Sneary and the South Gate Crew with all best wishes from London 1957.".
After lunch, 4e, SaM, and Bob Madle put on a little quiz show of their own. It was a three-cornered contest with each of them out for blood, and deliberately making the questions as hard as they could think up. Truly, it staggered me at the way they did find the answers, but it would be unworthy to suggest that it was cooked up beforehand. Anyway, cooked or not, I don't think I shall ever forget Forry rattling off the titles and dates of all the Frankenstein films in sequence, or SaM, carefully and methodically, giving title and place of publication of every Weinbaum story ever written ..... and, after about six minutes, getting down to those that were published in fanzines.
Sam Moskowitz, Bob Madle and myself, who for years at Cons have been playing the private game of Stomp the Experts (trying to stomp each other out of existence with brain-burning questions) volunteered to come out in the open and try to short-circuit each other's cerebrums. Publicly posed were such killer questions as "What was the middle name of Epaminondas T. Snooks?" (and, "Alright, but how do you spell Thucydides?"); (Name every story Stanley Grauman Weinbaum ever had published in the sci-fi field"; "Name the first 10 stf imags in the chronological order of their issuance"; "Name all the FRANKENSTEIN films!"; and similar kindergartenishly simply queries. Each of us stubbed our toes (or tentacles) once.
It finished as a draw, 9-9-9 points each, and I'd love to be around if they ever hold a return match.
Campbell's talk on psionics followed this, but I couldn't stay for it. My Convention was over and I had to go home. I collected my bag, said my few goodbyes and left the hotel for the last time. I was dog-tired, I still had my cold, and I'd spent far more then I'd intended, but it was worth it. It was my first world con and I'd enjoyed all of it. I'd met people who had been nothing but names to me before, and I'd made new friends. As I said to Forry before I left, "It was a bloody pleasure, mate."
And it was.
Sam and I had intended to look over Ken Slater's enormous book display which was located on the landing between the first and second floors of the hotel. This appeared to be a likely time to do it - as Ken was just about ready to pack up and call it a convention. While Sam pawed through the musty old tomes, I struck up a conversation with a couple of gentlemen who, in turn, mentioned that they enjoyed very much the questions and answers, as they were S-F readers from the year one. Their names are John Briston and Mr. Wren (his first name eludes me). Their knowledge of S-F amazed me and I asked them if they would care to join us in dinner and continue the conversation. Wren had previous plans, but Briston, a local Londonite, accepted and we had a good old gabfest on current S-F as contrasted with Gernsbacian stuff. Forry Ackerman and his charming companion, Mary Dziechowski, joined us at the restaurant and added much to the conversation.
Sometime after I returned to the States I was quite pleased to receive a letter from John Briston, who expressed surprise that Sam and I, who were very well-known to him, should spend so such time with someone who had never attended a convention before and who, in fact, had never even had a letter in a lettercolumn. John didn't realise that both Sam and I are continuously looking for John's type: the general reader who has an intensive interest in S-F, yet never entered fandom. In fact, we agree that entering fandom is a rare freak of chance, and there are thousands of genuinely interested readers of S-F, all of whom are potential fans. Many of these potential fans send for fan magazines upon seeing them reviewed in prozines. And it is necessary that something in the fanzine they send for pertain to the field they know and love - science fiction. Otherwise they go back to their reading and collecting lost to fandom forever.
Through the business session that morning, the question panel and the psionics talk - handled interestingly by John W. Campbell with occasional witty interjections by the redoubtable Eric Frank Russell - there was a feeling of breaking up. People had left and were leaving constantly. It was a sorry time. Some people were different, of course. Arthur Thomson had found that the convention had made him unfit for work and had rejoined the proceedings early on Monday morning.
WILLIS (in 'SF Parade'):
As the end grew nearer the convention seemed to get better and better, for during the evening Ted Tubb took over the auction. He had been scheduled to auctioneer previously but had been unable to attend because of domestic difficulties and many people had been very disappointed, especially those British fans who, like me, had lauded Ted as one of the major attractions of an English Convention. However, he made a last minute appearance and at once struck his highest form. Word went round the lounges like a bush telegram and the Convention Hall filled rapidly. The inspired Tubb... so inspired that he frequently went on selling items after they had been bought and had to be assisted by Ken Slater to deal with the actual crude commercial side of the auction...was hastily recorded on tape, some of the official business being erased to make room.
At about 7pm the Bulmers, the Willis's and myself left the hotel to visit Brockham House, Arthur and Olive having invited us there for supper. We had a very good time, but as I found myself nodding constantly when I forgot to keep pinching myself, I pleaded fatigue and left, planning to be back at the hotel in bed about 11.30.
Hah! Frank and Belle Dietz had invited me to their party and I thought it only polite to tell them I was sorry I couldn't go, But to apologise I had to join the party, and after I'd done that I found I most definitely did not want to leave again, There were some films of American conventions shown, then Ted Carnell's movies taken while he was over there last year. He also showed an unfinished travel-type film he was working on featuring the sights of London, which displayed a photographing and film editing ability which shook me.
ARTHUR THOMSON (in 'SF Parade'):
The parties started up again that evening in the various rooms. Frank & Belle Dietz threw one, which for a time crowded out one of the downstair lounges. It finally broke up late - or early, the next morning, depending on how long one had stayed the course, and degenerated into small individual room get-togethers of two or three persons and a couple of bottles. Towards dawn a sort of awed hush descended on the Kings Court Hotel as we realised the 15th World Science Fiction Convention was over.
After all my good resolutions it was 4.30 when I went to my room. Steve Schutheis, who had also been at the party, was just going to sleep. I kept him half awake until 5.30 telling me what had happened during my absence at the Thomson's. I must have been very tired because I can't read my notes now, but apparently a lot of people said nice things about the Committee, there was a little presentation to Frank & Belle Dietz, and Harry Harrison appeared with some sort of petition involving the payment of Dave & Ruth Kyle's fare home as a wedding present. Ted Tubb conducted his one and only auction of the Convention, I'm really sorry I missed that.
On second thought I'm not sure that the Convention did end on Monday night. The time Wally Weber and I lost ourselves in Oxford Circus station and searched in vain for Hither Green (a surface station) in the Underground system, even going so far as to try to buy a ticket there, was of a piece with the happenings at the Con. When we returned from the Bulmers' that Tuesday there were still groups of fans in the hotel lounge, talking and laughing far into the night, and on Wednesday morning, an hour before I was due to fly home, I met some fans for the very first time. A week later, as I was starting to write this, Rory Faulkner, Boyd Raeburn and Steve Schultheis were in Belfast. There were parties in Oblique House, the Berrysidence and the White House. At ours Rory shocked and delighted us by sneering with her eyes crossed, the only pity being that Silverberg was not present to make a contest out of it. Even now the spirit, the feeling, hangs on. One keeps expecting someone - a late returning American fan perhaps - to drop in on us suddenly; then the Fifteenth World Science Fiction convention, the very best convention ever, will flare up again .....
WILLIS (in HYPHEN):
To really sum up the mood of the convention, which was unique in so many complex ways, you want something to evoke not only its casual, relaxed, friendly atmosphere but its climactic, historic quality. And it should contain references to the fantastic environment, like the unreconstructed hotel and staff and that corridor-like convention hall so obviously made by knocking several small rooms together. (I don't know what the one at the end had been, but my seat had a hole in the middle. But the most important impression was how wonderfully the European and American fans blended together. Towards the end I asked Vince Clarke what had struck him most strongly and his answer was "how wonderful it is to talk to people I've never seen, and have them understand because they have the same background." That was just the way I remember feeling at the Chicon. After a few minutes it was hard to believe these people were nominally foreigners. We felt we'd known them all our lives...or at least, we wanted to. Some day, we must all meet again. The best thing is that we can say that not from the usual post-con frustration of having failed to talk to the people you wanted to meet, but because those people are now friends whom you want to meet again. Partly thanks to the Programme Committee and partly thanks to that much-maligned hotel (bless you, Bobbie Wild) the affair was a stupendous social success.
WILLIS (in 'Oopsla'):
Which reminds me of another thing I noticed about the Americans, how careful they were with money. I don't mean they were mean, just that they seemed to be careful to avoid throwing it around ostentatiously the way some Americans have been criticised for. They positioned themselves on our standard of living, as it were, with the result that going about with them was just like going about with British fans...sort of comfortable. They fitted in.
There were of course a lot of individual impressions - Silverberg's dry sense of humour, so exactly like Bob Shaw's, and a perfect foil for James White; Boyd Raeburn's impeccable manners; Wally Weber's unobtrusive wit; Sam Moskowitz's geniality; Steve Schultheis' flair for fantastic fannish humour; and so on - but that was the main one. They fitted in. It was as if for all those years there had been gaps in British fandom we'd never noticed, just the size and shape of each of them, and at the Worldcon, suddenly....CLICK! There they were, in place. We're going to miss them.