Sunday 29th March(Programme)
After breakfast we went back to the lounge, just in time to catch the dying embers of a conversation between two of the residents. The amazing thing was that they sounded just like Moorcock and. Taylor the day before, doing their old retired officers routine. The last thing we heard from them was; "Well, they go home again tomorrow, I believe". I talked to Roy Kay about the Round Robin idea he had inaugurated in the BSFA. Soon after this we were joined by Charles Platt, who seemed to get a lot of peoples backs up during the con. Apparently at one point he had stated, at some question and answer programme I think; - "Does Fandom Need SF" I think it was called - that fans were unable to speak authoritatively on any subject except SF. This was his reason for wanting fanzines that dealt solely with SF. There was in fact a large group at the con who felt this way, it was unfortunate that this attitude made them seem rather difficult to talk to, if you didn't want to be restricted entirely to talking about SF. This is a rather restricted viewpoint. So Charles Platt, who might-be considered the high-priest of the new fandom (they have real enthusiasm, which is to be admired, at least) came and talked to us. He told us why he'd decided to quit Cambridge after only two terms, and. why he'd decided to go into printing. I can’t say whether he's been misquoted at other times as this was the only time I've spoken to him. He didn't live up to his reputation anyway.
This year was marked for its high proportion of younger BSFA members, many of whom had a Calvinistic zeal to " reform " the SF scene and make sure fans talked about SF and nothing but.
Older members and professional writers were a trifle bewildered by these young reformers who granted them no mercy. In many ways this influx is a good thing — particularly for the BSFA — and the amateur magazines which the newer members are putting out with titles like ALIEN, BEYOND and ZENITH are serving as a testing ground for tomorrow's critics and writers. The BSFA can be proud of itself for the speed and ease with which it assimilates the new member. Since its formation, it has done a great deal to broaden the horizons of the SF fan world and produce conventions which are both enjoyable in a social way and stimulating in other ways.
Transition from Saturday Night to Sunday Morning passed unnoticed; until the time arrived to get up, followed by the horrible ordeal of breakfast, followed by the Annual General Meeting. Buoyed up by two Alka Seltzers I descended and was one of the few people at the AGM on time. I don't know whether holding the AGM on Sunday morning was a deliberate move directed at cutting down the number of attendees and hence the length of the meeting, but that's certainly how it worked out. Phil Rogers as chairman contributed to the process by cutting short any reports the committee members had to give; and God knows they didn't have much. Librarian Joe Navin said most, and he wasn't even on the Committee. It's all very well to make the meeting informal, but as E.C. 'Ted' Tubb pointed out, there were a lot of non members present, and the BSFA should have had an image to present to them. There was no attempt made in this direction. I personally would have very much liked to hear a full report from each Committee member of what had happened during their term of office, why, and what they hoped would happen in the future.
Ron Bennett had lost his voice, but Ken Slater certainly hadn't, and provided most of the intelligent suggestions. It's a pity he hasn't time to be a Committee member. There was general approval of the idea that more money should be spent on advertising the BSFA, but this was more an agreement in principle than an assurance that everyone would do his best to make it happen. The immediate reaction was that in future advertising would be impossible, since 'New Worlds' and 'Science Fantasy', when they change publishers, will no longer carry advertisements. This spontaneous lack of thought in the face of a difficulty, combined with natural lethargy and pessimism, is to a large extent symptomatic of what is wrong with the BSFA. Ken Slater was immediately able to provide two imaginative alternatives for advertising; and Willing's Press Guide surely should provide some others. There was no justification for defeatism.
Ted Tubb' s buffoonery in joining the BSFA and 'recruiting' new members has a serious aspect that most people missed. Although his act was in fun, it is, all the same, the attitude that should be prevalent in the BSFA recruiting; people won't join by themselves, they need inducement. The BSFA must have an image to sell, it can't expect people to join just because it is there "Free drinks tonight for all new members!" cried Mr Tubb. He should be taken a bit more seriously!
At the sixth anniversary A.G.M. of the British Science Fiction Association the new Committee for the forthcoming year was elected as Chairman: Ken Cheslin, Vice-Chairman: Roy Kay, Secretary: Rod Milner, Treasurer: Charles Winstone and Publications Officer: Roger Peyton. Thus for the first time since the formation of the Association a Committee is formed entirely from fans who have entered fandom since that very formation. The age for Committee members to hold office was dropped from 21 to 18. Ken Slater proposed a raise in subscription rates and Terry Jeeves asked whether an instalment system for paying dues might be practicable and might at the same time bring in a little extra money if deferred payments were on a slighter higher rate. The advertising situation was reviewed, as Nova, who have in the past donated adverts free, is no longer continuing and Roberts & Vinter are not including interior adverts. Ella Parker mentioned that at one time the BSFA was running a London Underground advert, the cost of which was a penny a day. Ken Slater said that he had had more information on books from one issue of Zenith than from a year’s supply of Vector, a point for the consideration of the new committee. Jim Groves, an ex-publications officer, volunteered to run the new information service and finally, the award was made of the annual BSFA trophy, namely the Doctor Arthur Rose Weir Memorial Award. No one was in the least surprised when the Award winner was announced as the richly deserving Vector editor, Archie Mercer, who thanked the audience and spoke of his own and fandom’s association with the late “Doc” in a short speech which was probably the weekend’s best.
The missing of breakfast wasn't too bad, I don't eat much anyway, and good old Yogi (our nickname for Aub) had his tin of emergency rations at the ready. But Chuck was nowhere to be seen. The Shorrock brew had struck again!
At 2.30 in the afternoon when the Alien Film Festival was to go on show, he was still moaning in his room. Panic! for Chuck was to introduce the programme. A quick look round and I espied Eric Bentcliffe, who saved the day and introduced the show, and 'Professor Herman Dumkopf' who gave an introduction to each of the six films. The prof did resemble Aub Marks to some extent even behind a false beard. Shaking like a leaf I reached out to push the projector switch to launch the first film, expecting it would be met with a deadly hush. It wasn't and all our qualms that the show would flop were subdued.
Modesty aside, we were shocked and delighted at the reaction. The bulk of the audience enjoyed them thoroughly and after the show we were asked to film a similar programme for the World Convention in London in 1965. Criticisms that did get through to us were on the sound synchronisation and 'ad-lib' dialogue which crept into a couple of the films. These are points we hope to remedy for the World Con.
Following the Aliens came a very entertaining slide show by Brian Varley and crew of the London SF Club. They showed many shots from last year’s Con which should answer the ‘what happens to all the photos taken at Cons' type questions.
The main reason that the amateur films on Sunday afternoon were so well thought of was that the majority of the audience had never seen any serious amateur films before (and I'm not talking about 'home movies' of drooling babies). To someone who had, the programme was rather amateurish; this is hardly surprising since the films were the first venture of the Alien group in the medium, and first ventures are inevitably amateurish. The lampoon of Frankenstein was easily the best; the acting was good, and only a little more discriminating film splicing could have made an improvement. The rest of the programme was very bad in comparison. Toy tanks, fireworks, burning paper and whooshing flash powder just do not look like the real thing; Son of Godzilla was neither funny nor entertaining; I found it a little embarrassing, as was "I was a teenage birdman". The take-off of H.G.Wells' "First men in the moon" was more amusing; the best part was the animation of the moon creatures. The other film on the subject of a moon rocket launching was unfortunately marred by memory of how well this humour can be put over, by Michael Bentine, or as in the "Running Jumping and Standing Still" film, itself almost in the amateur class, shown the previous afternoon.
In general, the films did not deserve the praise that was showered upon them by some people (Ella Parker in particular). With the exception of Frankenstein, judged by standards of serious amateur film making the films were not very good, nor was there any real attempt to make them serious sf; they were either humorous monster or serious monster films. But to an older fan, unused to seeing invention or initiative in fandom, which is, after all, the same now as it was 20 years ago, the very idea that someone would have shown so much initiative must in itself have been astounding. So the Alien group walked off with one third of the Convention profits and sold vast quantities of their magazines to unsuspecting buyers thinking it would be as funny as the films. In a way, the two were similar.
Why is it that people who are so much concerned with imagination and the future so enjoy re-living the past? We have a continual sentimentalism about the 'good old days of stf' (and crud), a continual reminiscing over the work of Walt Willis or John Berry or other Grand Old Fen, and the stories that they wrote which now seem so much better in retrospect. There is a current project to compile a history of fandom; and on Sunday yet another example of looking backwards was the slide show that helped people remember last year's Convention which, of course, a lot of people seemed to think was much better than this year's, just as next year's will not seem so good, when it arrives, as this year's was. Such a glorification of the past and a tendency to look backwards instead of forwards I find depressing; to see the audience happily reliving last year's activities instead of living this year's was sad. I was not among them.
Lan Wright took the chair at the professional authors’ “Tribute to Nova” which naturally combined itself with a tribute to Ted Carnell. Wright told the audience of the beginnings of New Worlds as a fanzine which later became a prozine under Pendulum Publications which handled the first three issues. Of the pre-Nova authors, only William F. Temple is still writing today. With issue number 3 came the first of the Carnell encouraged writers, namely Francis Rayer. The following issue found Ernest James and Bertram Chandler in print for the first time, being followed in turn shortly afterwards by John Christopher and artist Gerard Quinn. Ted Tubb made his first appearance in New Worlds 10 with a 4,000 worder called No Short Cut. Wright himself had first sold with a story in number 13 and issue number 16 had seen the first New Worlds serial, M’Intosh’s S Worlds. Ken Bulmer had first appeared in issue number 23.
Ted Tubb spoke of the manner in which Ted Carnell had gained a reputation for giving encouragement to new writers, by which he had gained the loyalty of those writers. Ken Bulmer supported this, saying that Carnell has done more for British fandom than anyone else. Carnell’s maxim has always been “Give the boy a chance and he’ll improve.” Also grateful to Carnell’s encouragement was E. R. James, who though unable to be present himself, sent a message for the Appreciation. Mike Moorcock, who has taken over Carnell’s New Worlds editorial chair after Carnell’s recommendation spoke of the strong bond between Carnell and his writers, and also of how Carnell had once written to cheer him about a story he had written; Carnell had said how much he had liked and enjoyed the story which had encouraged Mike immensely. Only later had he discovered that in fact Carnell had not liked the story!
By the skin of our teeth we made it and arrived back in the Con hall just in time for the beginning of Ted Tubb's speech, which turned into an open discussion and became one of the highspots of the Con. Ted presented the diplomas for art and fancy dress awards, which were designed by Ken MacIntyre and used for the first time this year. During the handing over of these awards came a very unexpected announcement. Eddie Jones had presented his art contest winning painting to the Alien group as an appreciation of the film show. The very painting all of us had been saving our pennies in the hope of buying! It now holds pride of place on our club room wall.
Prizes and speeches extinguished, the hall was emptied in readiness for a repeat of the Alien Show ... yes some people actually wanted to see it again ... Con attendees are gluttons for punishment!
Ted Tubb is one of those gifted people who can deliver an unprepared speech and make it as grammatically and structurally perfect as if it were read out of a book. His 'guest of honour' speech was marred only by the fact that he forgot the last point he had to make. The questions that followed produced, for me, far more interesting answers than those asked of Edmund Hamilton and his wife.
This was the official end of the Convention; but past 11.00 the Alien films were still being shown again. This was enthusiasm gone mad; a professional film is liable to suffer if shown through twice; amateur films of this class obviously just won't take it. Devoid of the impact of originality that they possessed on first showing they also lost most of their humorous appeal.
But the spectacle that followed the films in the hall possessed both originality and appeal. Led by Michael Moorcock, E.C. Tubb and Kenneth Bulmer, a humming and swaying session took place. It was, as Mr Tubb explained, an attempt to reach back into the past, far back to the primitive rites of our ancestors; the free wine was not to get drunk on, it was to be considered a libation. In the dim glow from one ceiling light, the audience hummed and swayed in a circle about mysterious gowned figures, until at the sound of a horn they were commanded to drink. At the climax of the ceremony a 'young and virginal girl' was brought forth, slain, and then through the psychic presence of the humming and swaying audience, resurrected. At least, that's what should have happened; in practice the audience was too large and any atmosphere that gathered was repeatedly destroyed by funny comments from people who didn't take it seriously. Mike Moorcock didn't help when he staggered, lurched, slipped and fell over amidst the sound of breaking glass, and E.C. Tubb in shirt sleeves, a bottle in one hand and a glass in the other, did not exactly add. to the tone of the ceremony. With a smaller and more cooperative audience, and better rehearsed organisation, this could have been a great success.
We were told that only those with glasses would be admitted. After I had rushed downstairs frantically looking for my glass which I had mislaid, I made my way into the - by now - crowded hall. People were sitting round the side of the hall, cross-legged. At the head of the hall were Ted Tubb, Mike Moorcock, Pete Taylor and. Ken Bulmer, all dressed in flowing robes. In the body of the hall were Norman Shorrock and Eddie Jones, who were the Cupbearers. After a Tubbesque 'explanation' of the ceremony, we began the symbolic movements. These consisted of shutting the eyes, humming, and swaying from side to side. HUMmmm—and-sway, HUMmmm-and-sway, HUMmmm-and-sway, chanted the Priests, and there arose a great sound from the throats of the assembled multitude. Ted explained that as soon as we heard the note of the Ceremonial Horn, we. should drink the libations that had been poured into our glasses by the Cupbearers. The Ceremonial Horn sounded, and to cries from the Priests of DRINK! DRINK!, DRINK!, we emptied our glasses. Then after a brief pause, it was HUMmmm-and-sway, HUMmm-and-sway, over again. This went, on for what seemed like hours of swaying euphoria. Then the climax of the ceremony came. Nell Goulding was selected as the Sacrificial Virgin, and was laid-out on the floor. I think it was Pete Taylor who stood over her, with sword upraised, for about a minute. Then down flashed the sword, out went the lights, and they came on again to reveal an expired Nell, one of the most delectable sacrificial corpses I have ever seen. To resurrect her, we started humming and swaying with redoubled vigour and booze kindly supplied by Norman Shorrock. And with the revival of Nell, the ceremony drew to an end. By now I was in a state of Enlightenment, and I found I could appreciate the Unity of the Universe. I staggered around for a while, and then joined a drunken group who were screaming inanities into a tape recorder. I think it was this ceremony and the booze, that made this the most happy part of the Con. I saw that Norman Sherlock was in a similar state of religious exultation, as he was stood over his own tape recorder asking, "How do you turn this bloody thing off?" After finishing with the long-suffering taper, I made my way out of the hall, and along to the landing, where I found a party going.
After this, I staggered back to the Con hall, and joined Charlie, Pete Taylor and Mike Moorcock, who were reminiscing about the old days of the London Circle. I am very interested in the history of London fandom, and frantically tried to keep my eyes open. It was no use however. I kept sinking into blackness, and waking with a jolt as I started to fall forward, then immediately going off again. I recognised the inevitable and went to bed.