Saturday 1st April


Somehow we were up in time for breakfast the next day, thence to the Blossoms by 9.30, in time for the OMPAcon meeting in the Cheslin's room, along with Brian Robinson, Fred Hemmings, Dave Rowe, Terry Jeeves, Darroll and Ro Pardoe, and of course the Cheslins. We discussed details of the bid until 11.00am, then wandered down to the Con hall to find that Pete Weston had already begun his illustrated talk on S.F. It was about this time that we thought the photographic jinx had got us for the third Con. in succession - somehow the electronic flash unit had switched itself onto discharge sometime during the morning, with the result that it was nearly flat. Having once got into this state, it never really recovered during the weekend, though surprisingly few photos were spoiled as a result.

Peter Weston

In his talk, Pete made the point that Gernsback might have done S.F. a lot of harm by separating it off as he did - could be. Philip Strick's talk on violence in S.F. was interesting but inconclusive, with some superbly ridiculous readings from the "New Worlds Quarterly" series.


Breakfast with Ian Maule in the dining room was a ludicrous affair. I didn't feel much like eating a conventional breakfast, and they didn't seem any too keen on the idea of anyone having ten grapefruit and nothing else. During the meal we concluded we were not the only fans in the Blossoms itself, as we had originally thought. The exceptions were few though... Ethel Lindsay, Joanne Burger, the Pardoes, Eric Bentcliffe, Brian Robinson and Crut being the more obvious examples.

Saturday wasn't really a very good day. I spent much of the time divided between drinking at the bars (the expense of which often only made me feel more miserable) and examining a load of costly uninteresting books of depressingly negligible quality. The art show, however, was something better, and contained some really superb paintings, particularly those by Eddie Jones. I couldn't afford to buy any, of course, but I did enjoy looking at them.

In the afternoon Chris Priest appeared with his wife. Bemused by the aura emitted by this famous science-fiction well-known professional writer, Ian Williams hung around them, dog-like... I believe he'd have licked Chris's boots had he been permitted to. Chris (who incidentally kept making eyes at us all through the con) had the good sense and tact not to complain about this adulation by his most loyal fan, but it made the rest of us snigger a bit I can tell you.


The next morning I said YES to the Contessa. Immediately afterwards I wondered what the question was that she'd asked me, and it was some hours later that I found I'd entered her chess tournament.

With hand, tooth and rolled-up copy of MACROCOSM I fought against tremendous odds (the Contessa) when it was announced that my first match (against the ferocious Ken Mardle, a Tottenham man with a penchant for drosophila and plasticine models of Mars) was to run concurrently with the Guest-of-Honour speech.

Imagining that Larry Niven would enlighten and uplift me, I glued myself to a chair in the Con room and nothing could shift me. Nothing, that is, except the Guest-of-Honour speech.

It wasn't... that is, it seemed to lack... what can I say?..., it;.. er... there was something missing... not so much missing as… I didn't... I couldn't... it failed to ... Jesus!

Somebody rushed out clutching his nose and screaming, 'Oh the blood, the blood' and made straight for the bar with a look of relief on his face. I watched the 'Amazing Theoretical Mathematics Show' for a few more minutes, and followed this eminent figure out.


An instructive talk entitled 'How to Construct your own Ringworld' by Larry Niven.

  1. Take a cloud of cosmic dust and allow luminous body to condense in centre for 5x10 to the ninth years.
  2. Mould remaining dust into a narrow strip of rock a few miles thick. Wrap around sun and join ends.
  3. Incubate for a further 4x10 to the ninth years and introduce primitive life.
  4. Construct shade zone and decorate with marginal walls.
  5. Serve Ringworld at perihelion, garnished with solar perturbations.

Larry Niven...

...and the physics lecture


I suppose that in what purports to be a con report one should make some mention of the official programme. Regrettably, I have a tendency to go to conventions and not see any of the programme items, but this doesn't mean that the programme isn't important to me. I like to be near the programme and let it induce currents in me, a coil of nerves in the vicinity of the con hall's electromagnetic field. Some other fans feel the same way (I won't name any names) and it is pleasant to sit with them in the bar, speculating on what is actually happening in the hall and listening to fragmentary reports from runners - "George Hay has got up to ask a question", "The projector has broken down", "There's been an outbreak of sporran rash among the Scottish fans", "George Hay is still asking his question"....

George Hay drones on as his listeners slowly lose the will to live

At the Chessmancon, however, I decided to pay attention to the official programme. I set out after it on a number of occasions, tracked it down in its lair, and sat there and stared at it. The experience left me with the following jumbled impressions and memories: I enjoy Harry Harrison's talks - they're like a series of sound effects which convey a message. Larry Niven was Guest of Honour and his more serious approach to talks, on the other hand, isn't entirely suited to the mood of British conventions where there is a tradition of irreverence to pro authors.

Bob Shaw, Ken Bulmer, John Brunner, Fred Pohl (mb)

At American cons the author gets up and projects himself as seen through his books, emphasises the difference between himself and his readers, and this is fine because there's a sense of importance about a big US con and it is to be expected that the speakers will be important, successful men. On this side of the Atlantic the conventions are more homely. We all know each other, and we remember the pros turning up at the White Horse on their bicycles, not so long ago, and we respond to the Big Name who gets up and lets us see that he's a small name at heart, which is another way of saying that all of us really are Big Names if the truth were told.

Don Wollheim, Ethel Lindsay, Peter Weston, Daphne Sewell

James Blish, who wore a Eurocon badge all con


I located Ken Mardle and drew him aside, bent his head upwards and whispered evilly into his ear. Murmur, mutter, connive, creep. After five minutes the plan had been evolved; after an authentic-looking opening to the chess match, I would go ahead and deliberately lose. That way we'd both get to see the film programme and he'd make it into the second round with no trouble.

It didn't turn out, that way. By a fluke and a lost Queen I won. Immediately I was precipitated into a ferocious match with pipe-smoking, arrogant Phil Cooper. He won of course,, but I showed him what a Holdstock is made of. I ran my King twice round the board before he pinned it down. Then I resigned so he wouldn't have the pleasure of putting the boot in.


I was drawn into Lisa's chess tournament, and that was a shambles if ever there was one. (The presence of only three boards was the main cause, probably.) Eventually I was matched against Hans Loose, who would have been a nice guy if only he were not such a damned good chess player, and after doing surprisingly well I fell victim to a trap laid by Hans at the same time as Brian Burgess switched on the television to watch 'Doctor Who'. Maybe the two events were not unconnected... Anyway, since Hans turned out to be the eventual winner, my defeat was perhaps not too ignominious.


One last word about the Chess Tournament - it was a bit chaotic because I had many more contestants than I thought, people wanted to sign-on on the spot, and only three chess-boards were available, so the only thing to do was to have everyone in the room play everyone else, then winners eliminated each other etc. People kept disappearing and I had great fun chasing then down each time a game came to an end, looking in bars first of all (there were four) and reviving myself with a drink from time to time; it was a very gay Lisa that trolled back! Finally, or semi-finally, I couldn't chase down Fred Hemmings who was to play the winner and had to disqualify him for being invisible as the results had to be read out at the Banquet. When I did find Fred (too late) he was very nice about it, but I would like to offer my 'official' apologies, because Fred might well have won if only he'd been at any of the drinking places I visited - frequently... The winner was Hans Loose from Heidelberg and the prize was a bottle of whiskey and a certificate.

Rob Holdstock, Lisa Conesa, Andrew Stephenson


Sometime later we were given an introduction to the Groucho Marx of the sf world. Harry Harrison. With his incredible vivacity, Stonehenge T-shirt and obvious hatred of taking anything seriously, he thrust and parried with wit and witticism for nearly an hour, taking the mickey out of everyone and everything, from John Campbell to Harry Harrison, from the local police to the audience. It was great fun. His new novel, Stonehenge, he described a failed romantic saga with a killing on every page and raping in every chapter; "Stonehenge is three things: science fiction, historical fiction and new fiction especially devised for this book---Swords And Butchery'.


After dinner I returned to Ted and Dave's room in the Con hotel, where I promised to assist Fred with his fancy dress. While there I watched Dave Rowe preparing his costume, or rather being prepared for it, since, allowing his artistic tendencies to run away with him, he was going as the Illustrated Man.


Actually as Mr. Dark - same difference.

Fred Hemmings

Dave Rowe


I dined with Joanne Burger and afterward went to the fancy dress party. Alas, it wasn't as good as last years. Something of a pity that I couldn't find something to top Pontius Pilot. I was tempted to step up there, in mufti and announce myself as the greatest fantasy writer of all time — a weather forecaster, or else get a weightlifter outfit and a Howie Rosenblum mask to go as C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength but I didn't. Hazel Reynolds went as Florence from The Magic Roundabout and had the devils own time trying to find baby shoes large enough for her. Fred Hemmings went as a red white and blue...


Not to mention green brown and yellow.


...grandfather clock - The Technicolour Time Machine. He won a prize for his originality and the audience gave him a big hand. His slow progress up the aisle in his outfit — how fast, after all, can you go with a cardboard box around your ankles — inspired the following:

Old Fred Hemmings' clock was too large for the shelf
So it stood all weekend on the floor.
It was taller by half than the trufan himself
Though it weighed not a kilogram more.

It was made on the morn of the night 'twas to be worn
And was always his joy and his pride.
But he stopped, short, never to move again
When he got, in, side.

Fred Hemmings, Linda Lewis, Linda Shorrock, Dave Rowe (pm)


Building the costume around Fred (it was that massive), I conveyed him into the hall and pointed him down the aisle. It was hilarious because he couldn't manage more than a shuffle and he literally stopped the show while waiting for him to reach the dais. How he managed to see where he was going was a puzzle. It was even funnier when they tried to get him up the steps onto stage but this proved impossible. They finally gave him a special award for what was obviously a lot of work (they should have had him judged by an architect). The costume was eventually abandoned somewhere in the hotel.


Actually it was grabbed by Ratfandom for some nefarious purpose known only to them. I gather it wound up on the roof.

Mike Fox, Marsha Elkins, Tom Hogan, Pauline Dungate, Hazel Reynolds (pm)


Enter gaudily regaled participants. The brave amongst us proudly face the blinding crossfire of wicked flashguns. Roped in comes a closely-knit fan group, distantly followed by a tottering Technicolour Time Piece.


Time was obviously not on their side.

Tony Walsh (gp)

Jim Lavery

Linda Lewis


It reminded me of Heicon [the 1970 Worldcon, held in Heidelburg], where Poul Anderson's daughter, Astrid, went as the Frog Princess. Took days for the green colour to wear off her. We carried Fred's costume down to the Committee room on time, not that it made any difference of course, the show was late starting. Waiting there meant that I missed most of the early part but there was compensation for I had a close-up view of the other contestants waiting in the room. Many and ingenious they were too. Dave Rowe got a few extra decorations as the make up of Gollum was definitely not colour fast. Of the two Planet cover girls I preferred the more covered version but I seemed alone in this. After all, to take the legalistic view, no costume is no costume, even if she did provide some comic relief by requiring emergency repairs to her metal bra.

Ted Tubb hoists Marsha Elkins

Eddie Jones to the rescue (pm)


The Fancy Dress parade [had] a small entry but a higher than usual overall standard, we thought. Photography was difficult because of some nut with a dazzling cine-light. High spot of the proceedings was Ted "Tarzan" Tubb hoisting the Spirit of Planet Stories over one shoulder and pretending to make off with her. She landed unhurt, but with some damage to her metal fittings, ably repaired by Eddie Jones with a pair of pliers.

Jim Lavery, Linda Lewis, unknown child, Mike Fox, Pauline Dungate, Hazel Reynolds (mb)


After the fancy dress we had the Delta Groups film festival which was a great success. Several amateur films (of vastly differing quality), were shown, all of a fantasy nature. One was about everyone dying except two people who then come close to killing each other in cars. The hero comes out of hospital to find dead people strewn all over the street and cars up on the pavements. It must have taken a great deal of time and trouble to get extras lying down and playing dead, not just on one street but on many.


We were asked to vote for the most entertaining of the Delta films but I didn't because I disliked them all, for one reason or another.

'And on the Eighth Day' had a very pessimistic attitude and was a mass of cliches. In fact it looked as if someone had tried to construct a script out of nothing but — succeeded, which produced massive heckling. Foghorn Fred's voice being noticeable. Anyhow, is Calor Gas poisonous?

'The Horla':, based on a Dennis Wheatley devil worship situation was expertly made, almost professional in quality, even if it did telegraph the sisters involvement but it had a depressing outcome — I expect my heroes to win!

'The Visitors' had more telegraphing — it was simply a matter of time before he lost his pills and a very unoriginal way he did it too.

'Captain Celluloid v The Film Pirates' was banned from the voting because it was out to make an honest buck. An episode from an adventure serial it was another reminder of Saturday mornings.

'Purchase of the North Pole' was constricted by its format — a Verne story needs time to unfold and time to explain it. Lack of either produced something the audience enjoyed, but not in the way intended.

Following after came the professionals, if such can be said of 'Fine Finny Fiends', a Batman saga and surely a startling example of a deliberately badly made

Visiting US fans: Linda and Al Lewis with offspring... (mb)

...and Al de Bettancourt (l-o)


Final organised event of the evening was "Barbarella": as you know this was a French comic strip of faintly pornographic character before it became a movie. I've read the book in translation and enjoyed it muchly. The film was, well, not as good as the book but still most enjoyable, decadent, full of the most interesting (and kinky) special effects. I daresay the film wouldn't have been so coy if it had been made today.


We stayed to watch the first reel of "Barbarella" (no prizes for guessing why), then wandered into the lounge and got into conversation with Arthur Cruttenden, Dave Rowe, Hazel Reynolds, Brian Hampton and two others whose names we've forgotten. We ate Dave's biscuits, marvelled at Arthur's consumption of Brian's whisky, and talked about sundry things. We later learned that this lot were involved in the notorious round-the-walls-before-breakfast marathon, obviously the result of some little-known side-effect of eating Brian Burgess's pies.

Tech 1972 style. Waldemar Kumming, Gerald Bishop


"This will probably be the last time that you'll see fanzines like these for sale at a British convention," I said, "and if we must sell our heritage then I intend to get a good price for it."

Or similar words. That was what I said at the opening of an impromptu fanzine auction on the Satuday night at Chester during which I sold a large part of what I believe to be the B.S.F.A.'s irreplaceable Fanzine Foundation.

In 1970/71 or thereabouts a Northern fan by name John Muir acquired the FF from Charlie, seemingly without the authority or consent of the BSFA who indeed had until very recently completely 'lost' the collection.

Here the story degenerates from fable into hearsay. When I protested to the BSFA Chairman at Chester that the fanzines about to be auctioned appeared to belong to the BSFA, at least in my opinion, he evidently confronted John Muir who 'explained' that these were only duplicates and/or part of his own collection which had been sold to him by Charlie Winstone.

The BSFA believed John Muir, and so instructed me to proceed with the auction. After making the position clear to the audience I did so, and though I shouldn't say as much, had a great deal of fun in selling off the more valuable items as well as trying to provide grab-bags which everyone could afford.

Initially I had to share time with the artwork and old book-merchants, but it quickly became clear that it was fanzines which were wanted, and a sort of hush descended on the hall when everyone heard the sort of prices being offered. "Eight pounds, nine pounds, gone" for Hyphen 1-13, and similar amounts for the other two parts into which I broke the set, Mike Meara managed to acquire one part, Joanna Burger gleefully snapped up the others and nearly everything else going.

Poor Peter Roberts, destitute student that he is, tried so hard to empty his pockets for prized items (and I tried to let him have some of them) that the audience gave him a round of applause when he finally succeeded in gaining an almost-complete set of Skyrack. The books and artwork were forgotten; the auction went on for two hours and raised, I think, over £60. (Hyphen went for either £17 or £27; I forget which. Jim White and Bob Shaw were duly incredulous.)

Here is the joker, however. After the Con I heard by word-of-mouth (which may be incorrect, don't forget) that John Muir had not donated his (?) fanzines to CHESSMANCON after all. Oh no. He had offered them for auction on the understanding that the ConCom kept 15% of the proceeds, the rest going to him. Now this is a statement which I have been unable to check, but if true, it makes me wish that I had given the things away!

John Steward, James White (l-o)


After the amateur films and Barbarella things began to get a bit hazy (too many light ales?). However, I somehow found myself at the Irish fandom room party along with Bob Shaw, James White, uncles, aunts, wives, leprechauns, fans, spirits (disembodied and the other kind), and various other attendees from the Emerald Isle. It was at this party that I was handed a glass of something which looked deceptively like tap water but was, I was solemnly assured, 170% proof. Saturday, or rather the early hours of Sunday morning, ended with Vic Hallett and myself staggering peacefully through the streets of Chester and being questioned by the local Fuzz as to the contents of our brief cases.


During the evening of Saturday what apparently was the only well-attended PUBLIC room party got under way. It was a MACROCOSM-ZIMRI joint celebrative party, but somehow MACROCOSM didn't contribute anything.

Something I shall never understand—how did I get away with THAT? The room was crammed. A mixture of South African Sherry, gin and beer reduced me to a mindless-profaner (okay, okay ELEVATED me to a mindless profaner) and I have vague recollections of allowing my mouth to talk to Brian Aldiss while my mind tried to sleep the drunkenness off. Every so often a black phallus waved under my nose—I recognised a microphone and roared abuse and obscenity into it, which I thought was great fun at the time.

In the murk, shadow, obscurity of the room, away from the radiance emanating from the booze corner (where most of us were crammed) were vague shapes - Brosnan, the black bearded Australian myth. If a typical Aussie is six foot three, gigantic, cool, scar-faced, then John is a real individualist. His new book 'A Thousand Ways To Improve Your Performance With A Didgeridoo' is to be published later this year. His sole contribution to the raucocity of the party was the constantly-repeated word: Embarrassing. Directed at me, he only said it when I was talking, which is why I mentioned it.

Hiding under the bed, plotting serious questions, was Mervyn Barrett. I recollect clearly how, every time there was a conversational lull, he would pop up like Jack-in-Box and direct a machine-gun burst of questions at celebrities.

Sadie Shaw, Brian Robinson, Rob Holdstock, Bob Shaw, Don Malcolm, at room party


The reference to a room party brings up an interesting point, concerning the very noticeable lack of them at Chester. Peter Roberts, writing a con report in VECTOR (who also, by the way, got in first with the title I was going to give this report), says the reason was that the hotel bar was open most of the night, but I disagree. The big attraction at a room party is the company, not the liquor, therefore the bar being open wouldn't make much difference. I think that 1972 was simply the year of the jackpot for British conventions. The room parties are a vital part of a convention, yet we tend to leave all the work and expense of them to a small dedicated band who have thrown open their rooms for many, many years with little sign of a relief column emerging from the ranks of newer fans. There was bound to come a time when the perennial hosts would say, "I'm tired - let somebody else hold the party this year, and we'll go to it." And there was bound to come a time when all these good fans would experience the same reaction in synch. That time was Easter 1972. I am more guilty than most fans in this respect because I love the room parties and have done since the Festival Con in '51, yet it never occurred to me to act as host. The thought has occurred now, of course, and next year New Irish Fandom will hold a party which we hope will be among the noisiest and most crowded on record. But, as the late night room parties are obviously so important to the success of a con, should our thinking on them not be taken a step further? Should some room parties not be made official or semi-official events with some backing from the committee? The fans lucky enough to be invited regularly to the existing "exclusive" type of party may see little point in the proposal, but it could mean that many conventioneers who aren't members of in-groups could get a lot of extra enjoyment and be brought further into fandom instead of having to drift off to bed like Cinderellas at midnight. At US conventions the big fan groups actually advertise their parties in the programme leaflet and - whatever the drawbacks of such a party may be - there is no doubt they promote our old ideal of a science fiction fellowship. It's just a thought.


I found a room party, whereat I stayed and drank bheer for several hours, consuming enough to get me high but not drunk - a pleasant state of affairs - and I really enjoyed myself. Why, I even thought John Brunner was talking sense. Maybe he was. It's he who should have gone to the fancy dress with a wagonload of busts of the Chinese leader - John, carter of Maos. Finally, after a last drink downstairs, around fourish, serenaded by a bunch of half looped fen singing a particularly obscene rugby song, I stumbled out the door.

John Piggott, Dave Douglass, Sam Long, Ian Williams, John Brosnan


Rooms have been abandoned; only the intrepid remained. While the liquor flowed they had serenaded the night and a long-suffering barman, tastefully accompanied by the strumming of a guitar. Now, as dawn's cold fingers touch the sky with grey, our heroes, newly come from their battle against fatigue, stroll langorously along the rampart walls of this ancient and modern city. Behind them, the sane sleep soundly.