THE FANZINE REPORTSHere are the some of the original reports utilized to produce the composite report of LONCON:
|Walt Willis' report from OOPSLA #23:|
The London Worldcon was comfortable, relaxed, casual, conversational, friendly, informal, unpretentious and epochmaking. I'm not going to write any detailed report about it, partly because I haven't got the necessary notes and partly because it seems to me to have been one of those occasions where what happened wasn't important so much as how people felt, Then you come to think of it, that's true to some extent of most conventions. You can read page after page of conreport full of details about the programme or of meals, meetings and movements, and at the end of it you find that all the writer had conveyed of what was the important thing about the convention - what it felt like to be there - was half buried in an almost accidental phrase or an unconsciously revealing incident. In your mind your subconscious takes the conreport and shreds it down, throws away all the bones of hard fact except for a few flavoursome events, and boils the rest down until you're left with the pure, rich essence of the convention. This is what you remember; what distinguishes that convention from any other. It should be possible to perform this operation at the plant and supply the finished produce direct to the consumer. I'll try.
Imagine a quiet old part of London just outside the heart of the city. Bayswater. Stately old stone-faced terrace houses with balconies, rusty iron railings and desultory trees. Nobody can afford to live here any more and the main streets are all small shops, offices and restaurants. But in the quieter streets, like Leinster Gardens, the old houses linger on almost unchanged as hotels, Like the Kings Court.
We approached it from the tube station by a curiously circuitous route and the first thing we noticed about it were two tattered doormats wedged against the stone pillars on each side of the door, like hair growing out of nostrils. Directly inside the door was the reception desk with two pretty girls behind it talking to someone with an American accent whom I didn't recoepize, an island of order in a sea of chaos. The lounge opposite them was strerm with unassembled electronic equipment, paintpots, junk, shavings, paper and rubbish. Overalled workmen were everywhere; there was a smell of turpentine and a sound of hammering. The carpets were up, of course, but it looked as if they might come down again by Christmas. No such glowing hopes could be held out for the stairs, where work had hardly yet started. Probably the decorators had had a look at the bedroom floors and decided there was no point in encouraging anyone to go up there. The corridors had a definite air of being reconciled to demolition, being neither straight nor level, so that you found yourself brushing the walls or now and again running downhill...very disturbing in the early hours of the morning. This was because the hotel had been made by knocking three or four houses together and of course they didn't quite fit. Every now and then a flight of steep stone steps led down to a dirty lavatory or bathroom, There was not much the management could have done with the antiquated plumbing at short notice but they might, in deference to the susceptibilities of our refined American friends, have segregated them into male and female.
Downstairs again I found Bobbie Wild and Dave Newman, Convention Secretary and Program Committee stalwart respectively, both talking at once to a dark, plump, disgruntled man of about 35. They introduced him as the manager who had, they enthusiastically affirmed, been "very cooperative." I formed the impression that they were tying to butter him up and tried to do my bit. "Ah, M. Maurigny!" I exclaimed joyfully with my best mixture of French accent and Irish charm. So this was the wonderful M. Maurigny, proud representative of the best of French cuisine and continental gaiety and blood brother of the Convention Committee. Bobbie and Dave looked slightly taken aback and hastily explained that M. Maurigny had just sold out, leaving the sinking ship to this new manager, Mr Wilson, who had had a Raw Deal but was being Very Cooperative. Very Cooperative, they repeated fervently. Apparently the villainous Mavrigny had handed over the place in dilapidation and chaos, leaving the cooperative Mr. Wilson to cope with redecoration and a convention simultaneously. But convention or no convention, the redecoration must go on. I also learned that several of the Americans who had come over on the chartered plane had checked out of the hotel in high dudgeon already, some without paying their bills, and one of them had felt so deeply about it he had gone to the trouble to telephone a complaint about the hotel to the British Hotel Association. I scanned the list of their names anxiously and was somewhat relieved to find I didn't recognize any of them except Gray Barker, the flying saucer man. Feeling that my iahtervention hadn't been too helpful I slunk away to get something to eat. It was only 15 paces from there to the dining room but in that distance three people told me the food was unspeakable so we invited the last of them (Harry Harrison) to eat outside and had a worried curry at an Indian restaurant two blocks away. No matter how you look at it, it wasn't a good start for a Worldcon.
That was Thursday, but by Friday evening things were looking up. There were nice new carpets everywhere downstairs and even some bits on the walls. At least they were covered with an odd, hairy wallpaper, all little patches of short, red fur. I remember asking Moskowitz if it was science fiction plush. I'm sorry to be talking so much about the hotel, but believe me it was important, It set the whole mood of the convention. The lounges were the key, There were five of them altogether, all quite small, and furnished with comfortable armchairs and coffee tables. Waiters with trays and girls with trollies patrolled them until dawn plying the fans with food and drink. The drinks actually had ice in them. Yes, ICE! (Only those of us who have been to Europe will be properly impressed by this.) It seemed to me it would take an awful lot of dirty bathrooms to outweigh all this. The most important result was that we had lounge parties instead of bedroom parties, a quite different thing , smaller, more intimate, more fluid, little congenial groups constantly forming and reforming. The only interruption we had was when the staff wanted to run a vacuum cleaner over the nice new carpets about five o'clock in the morning. I remember one night when we were asked to move twice and Bob Silverberg suggested we have a party in his room. Barbara was tired and said no, let's go to bed. Bob said, all right, we'll have a party of two. The waiter over-heard part of this conversation and said, if you're going to have a party in your bedroom please don't make too much noise. Bob said; "we'll be as quiet as possible in our barbaric American way."
|Walt Willis' report from SCIENCE FICTION PARADE #6:|
The First Evening (Written at 1:00 A.M.,Sat,, Sept,7,1957) BY WALT WILLIS
London, England; Friday, September 6, 1957: The 15th World Science Fiction Convention opened at the Kings Court Hotel this evening at 9:07, P.M., seven minutes late, Chairman Ted Carnell explained that they could have opened on time, but feared to flout providence by defying what appeared to be a law of nature as regards science fiction conventions. He also said that when making the bid for London at the New York Convention last year he had promised only one thing: that whatever it would be like, it would be different from N.Y. Even from the little the audience had already seen, they would realise that this promise was going to be fulfilled.
There was a murmur of agreement at this, because few World Conventions can have been held in such a hotel. In the first place, London is not a Convention city. All conventions in England are held at seaside resorts, and none of the first rate hotels were prepared to allow the necessary facilities - e.g., seperation of fans from mundane guests so that conventioneers could enjoy themselves without being annoyed by complaints. So it was a choice between going out of the city altogether (and the feeling was that Americans expected the convention to be in London itself, so that they could take their hangovers to the Tower of London, etc,) and falling back on a lesser hotel. The deciding consideriation was that the less pretentious hotels were more likely to be tolerant of the idiosyncrasies. The Kings Court Hotel seemed to be a prime example of this ...an informal and unpretentious hotel with a friendly and understanding staff. But when the time of the convention came nearer there were added complications.
The hotel was sold, The new owners and manager immediately decicided to rebuild it. The unusual result is that the convention is being held in a hotel which is being slowly rebuilt, rather than one which is being rapidly destroyed,... Ellis Mills commented that since the hotel was being extended it should be renamed the Builtmore; I suggested that since a new wall was being created across one of the public rooms it should be called the Walledoff. Unfortunately, some of the visitors didn't take the inconvenience of the alterations to staff and premises with the same good humour and checked out. The vast majority seem to be having a fine time. Sitting here at one end of the hotel I am almost deafened by shouting and singing from the lounge at the other end.
But to get back to the official programme, what there was of it (this session was purely introductory), Ted Carnell introduced John Wyndham Harris, who introduced John W. Campbell, the Guest of Honour, who received a prolonged and enthusiastic welcome. He made a short speech about the work of an sf editor ("What ever was good yesterday, we don't want tomorrow ...We have to live in the future, now... The editor has to be a prophet; if he's no prophet, there's no profit.") With this desperate attempt to wrest George Charters' laurels as the Convention's most depraved punster, JWC introduced Dave Kyle with some sympathetic remarks about the troubles of Convention Commitees. Dave introduced the TAFF delegate Bob Madle, who was warmly welcomed despite widespread disagreement which had been expressed earlier in British fandom with the method of voting - the objections were solely towards the possible future abuses of the system itself, not to the present representative.
This conclued the programme for the evening. There had however been interviews with representatives of the press and BBC just before. I wasn't there myself, but I heard that Rory Faulkner went over big. There had been invitations issued to the press for this press conference, but as it worked out, many of them came along during the day to try and steal a march on each other. I guided the representative of Reuters' News Agency round myself, and he talked to some dozen of the fans who happened to be present..,who fortunately included Forry Ackerman. Forry made an excellent job of conveying to the reporter the function and mood of the Convention and modern sf. Excellent interviews were also given by Steven Schultheis and a 16 year old German fan called Rainer Eisfeld.
The Second Day (Written at 11:00 A.M., Sunday, Sept,8,1957) bY WALT WILLIS
Saturday, September 7, 1957: The convention programme proper began this afternoon with the banquet. There was some confused delay over the seating arrangements, which may have been a blessing in disguise since it gave many people time to recover their appetites from a late breakfast; though indeed this was unnecessary since the banquet food was quite good, the duck being definitely not the foul left over from New York.
After the toast to the Queen (another Worldcon first) drunk in Burgandy (imported), Arthur Clarke introduced John W. Campbell with a brilliant little speech in the serious part of which he referred to Campbell as a scientist rather than a technologist, this being, he suggested, the difference between Gernsback and him. Campbell, in his response, took him up on this, and said he thought of himself rather as a philosopher, physical science and sociology being mere facets of this field. He went on to more abstruse realms of thought where, after four hours sleep and fortified only by one cup of coffee, I am unable to follow him. However, his speech was, of course, interesting and well received.
Bob Madle followed as TAFF delegate with a few well chosen words, in the course of which he pointed out that this was really the first Worldcon. Later, Sam Moskowitz was to revive memories of the first titular World Convention in 1939, pointing out the remarkable fact that there were no less than 8 of those original attendees present, 18 years later and 3000 miles away. One differenc,, he pointed out to the general amusement, was that they had tried to throw out Dave Kyle, and here he was in a seat of honour.
Between these two speeches there were short informal addresses by John Brunner, Forry Ackerman, Lars Helander of Sweden, and Rainer Elsfeld of, Germany. All were excellent, but Rainer Elsfeld registered a remarkable personal success, the sensation of the convention so far. This 16 year old boy, speaking in a strange language in a country he was visiting for the first time, spoke so fluently, interestingly and sincerely that in fact he received a louder ovation than any of his predecessors, even Campbell himself. Some of the speakers had undoubtedly had more to say, but at about 4:30 Peter Daniels pointed out it was just about time for tea, so of course the session was closed.
There was some delay in starting the evening session because the recipient of one of the achievement awards, John W. Campbell, had gone off to dinner with Eric Frank Russell, who had appeared later in the afternoon for his first convention for something like 15 years. An auction period was substituted.
About 20 minutes later, Ted Carnell got up to make a grave announcement. The remainder of the programme, had been delayed by a serious calamity; the Convention gavel had been stolen! Fortunately the affair had immediately been put in the capable hands of a famous detective agency, not the FBI, but an organisation of similar scope - The Goon Defective Agency, At this moment James White arose in the body of the hall, drawing a gun. At the other side Arthur Thomson plunged into the hall, shouting "Vile agent of Antigoon!" and a running gun battle ensued, after which White collapsed on the floor (after having dusted it with his handkerchief), and was carried out attended by Sister Ethel Lindsay, as Stephen Schultheis made a triumphant entry with the missing gavel, The whole thing took a mere two minutes but it certainly started off the Programme with a bang... or 13 of them to be exact ...and is.to my knowledge the first time such a purely fannish affair has figured in a Worldcon.
After a short but interesting talk on the new London planetarium by a representative of Madame Tussaud's, the convention adjourned for the Masquerade Ball. This and the subsequent dancing and festivities were slightly hampered by a flock of technicians from BBC television, who had come to make a few minutes film of the fancy dress parade and stayed for six hours interviewing people and fiddling around with lights and tons oi equipment. (One of the people interviewed was Rory Faulkner,) They finally left at 5;15 in the morning to the cheers of the Conventioneers and shouts of "Weaklings;" because they were going to bed,..a thought which still doesn't seem to have occurred to many people.
To me one of the most fantastic events of the convention occurred at about 3;00 A.M. Chuck Harris came dashing up with the news that there was someone wearing the name badge of Ray Nelson; naturally I thought it was a hoax, but it was incredibly The Ray Nelson, fannish cartooning genius and originator of the beanie. I recognised him from the 1952 Chicon!
The Third Day (Written Monday A.M. Sept.9,1957) BY RORY FAULKNER
Sunday, September 8, 1957: Strictly speaking, this report should have started at the "Conventionally" early hour of 12 A.M. Sunday, where the last reporter laid down his quill with a sigh of relief. Was sitting with ,the Irish circle at this hour, whose reputation for the brillient reposte and sparkling repartee was somewhat dulled by their excesses of the evening. At any rate, at 3:00 A.M. Walt got the great idea that it was time I started on my chore. So I promptly rose and went to bed, that being the only come-back I could think of.
At 10 o'clock breakfast drew out a few hardy souls, being as how it was a free meal, but the larger part of fandom emulated the invisible nine-tenths of an ice-berg, being completely submerged in a sort of foggy, unraveled condition that rendered them unfit for human consumption for several hours. At the table it was generally agreed that if you found yourself unable to look a fried egg in the face, there was still hope for you, but if the egg covered its eye and refused to look at you, it was time to call the dead wagon.
The so-called morning quiet period was really almost quiet in these fannish halls, as a rare celestial phenomonen had appeared in the sky over London, and there was a general exodus to the front sidewalk. It was the sun! The Americans stood about shivering, trying to find a little warmth in the feeble rays, while the hardy British beat their chests and inhaled deeply of the fresh London air.
Sam Moskowitz was holding one group completely enthralled by his descriptions of the life and habits and degree of desirability of the prostitutes who throng Bayswater Road. His scholarly research had uncovered the fact that there was a state of extreme dissatisfaction existing among these ladies who were very irate over some new government measure designed to curtail their activities.
Someone spotted a lone American G.I. watching from an upper balcony of the flea bag across the street, and after a few smoke signals of mutual recognition were exchanged, he came over to see what was up. Being a reader of science fiction, although not a fan, he was quite interested, and as an added attraction, the great John W. Campbell descended from a taxi at just that time, impressing our young compatriot no end. He later turned up at a few of the festivities, and I made him promise to spread the word about South Gate in '58 when he went back to his post in Germany.
A few more haggard faces graced the dining room at lunch, expecting to nurse their hangovers in peace and quiet, but some uncouth clot in the next room started a tape recording of a "skiffle" group, at about 100 decibels, and the wails of anguish and clapping of hands to the head sent Bobbie Wild out on an errand of mercy. I guess she did something drastic - took the fire ax to the recorder or shot the operator, presumably - but peace broke out once more.
In the afternoon this lowly fan was given another dose of the red-carpet treatment which I have been receiving every day. With other initiates I was dubbed Lady of the Order of St. Fantony, in an elaborate ceremony staged by the Cheltenham Circle, in full medieval costumes, with real swords, armor, etc. Those who received this signal honor were Walt Willis, Bob Silverberg, Terry Jeeves, Bobbie Wild, Eric Bentcliffe, Ken Slater, Bob Madle, Franklin Dietz and Ellis Mills. We were given the test of the true fan, under threat of the executioner's axe - a real one - if we failed. It was to drink a glass of water from the well of St Fantony. It looked like water, smelled like water, and Roberta Wild threatened to sue the s.b.'s if they were making her drink water, but it turned out to be 140 proof white Polish liquor. I couldn't let American grandmotherhood down, so I shut my eyes, and swallowed all three ounces, but the rest of the programme passed in a sort of a mist. So I am enclosing the program instead, with a few remarks about the marvelous film of M.a.D. ((Apparantly entitled FANZAPOPPIN', produced by Mersey and Deeside Productions and the Cheltenham S,F. Circle. Other 2 films were publicity for CSFC and Worldcon. All 3 billed as "By the fan about the fans, for the fans."--ljm)) I revived in time to see the ending, one unsurpassed in any fannish film. It showed, with color and sound, Norman Shorrock's wife Ina luxuriating in a tub full of bubble bath, and the final touch came when the plug was pulled and the water started to drain out with that loud gruesome gurgling so characteristic of English plumbing, I have heard the other numbers were equally good, but you couldn't prove it by me.
Adventures in Hypnotism which followed was rather anti-climatic in effect, Harry Powers, a semi-pro hypnotist, put a group of six under his spell, including the perfect subject for such monkey-shines, Jean Bogart, the perrenial convention girl and America's answer to Norman Wansborough, (This may be explained later, in case it is necessary.) However, finding myself passing into a sympathetic coma, I hastily beat it from there, and so missed most of it. What I saw was not unduly exciting, anyway, I have had a bigger kick out of watching Dr. Lee Grable hypnotize his opponent in the Olympic wrestling ring, and then knock hell out of him!
To sup at a restauxent in Queen's St, with the Irish Group, where we dined on fish and chips and merry quips. I hear that Chuck Harris is doing an "Inside" story of the Con, on the order of CONFIDENTIAL, which I hope reaches America. Need I say more?
That wonderful fantasy film from this side, THE WONDERBIRD, was the feature of the evening. It is perfectly enchanting, being a sort of cross between Walt Disney and Charles Adams, vith incredible vistas, endless stairs, and magically impossible characters. I have never seen a color cartoon to equal it. Since the auction which followed had to wait until 12 to get started, I did not attend this second session, but joined an invitational room party given by Ellis Mills - the usual type; liquor, small room, smoke, mild snogging, etc. A guitar appeared at some time, and we had a British rendition of all the American blues songs, folk songs, and jazz, mingled with songs from Australia, and all areas of the British Isles - a wonderful education in international music! At 2;00 A.M. a few protests moved the gang to another room, and when I left at three they were still going strong.
And so to bed, with another wonderful mile-stone in fannish life just a memory. What am I saying? The souvenirs alone will cost a pretty penny to mail home, and the memos, will be carried in my alleged brain for as long as I live!