KING KON a oneshot monograph, written by THOM PENMAN, published by Paul Skelton and Brian Robinson, April 1973.

Scanned, OCRed, and lightly edited by Greg Pickersgill, September 2022.


Dedicated to Godzilla, who must have been a great bloke, A monstrous and hairy conreport by Thom Penman.


WELL, GENTLE PEOPLE, the Con; another one of those rituals of spring. Before I begin fishing about in my grab bag of Good Lines and Stuff however, I'd like to lay a slice of rationale on the line. As you recall , conventions are incredible events, filled with almost incredible people, etc etc. (read up on your Pickersgill/Kettle for the unabridged full draft version of the plattitude). An obvious feature of some cons are the Fall About Laffs. An obvious feature of some conreps is the lack of these Fall About Laffs. I mean, how many of the quips, grunts, carefully timed collapses, masturbatory gestures, and other Fan Activities are ever recorded for unheeding and uncaring posterity? Very few. This then is, theoretically, not so much an account of the con, as some of its better pyrotechnics, whose afterimages still burn brightly in memory. Unless the writer tells us something real about the people concerned, which is unlikely, or does not even lay it out in an interesting or arresting manner, I see absolutely no point in the usual blow-by-blow -"On Thursday" (@@@SIC@@@) "I had breakfast with Vernon Brown and Hartley Patterson and then I talked to Phil Rogers and Arthur Cruttenden and then played monopoly with Vic Hallett and then threw beer over Archie Mercer and then-and then-"

Which brings me onto something else. The only comprehensive, not to mention comprehensible, conreport I've seen so far of Chester was in John Piggott's wormzine, and, I don't know if he was having one of his nasty turns at the time (I'm not going to waste a good line, if any, on Piggott of all people) but every time my name is taken in vain there's an inaccuracy. Therefore any resemblance, real or imaginary, between this sort of conrep and Piggott's syllabus of errors is purely coincidental.

Ignition sequence commence.. 'The Con: as usual, Kettle had a word for it. "Silly silly", he said, "silly silly.." And indeed, 'twas so. A very silly world, Mr. Kettle, silly silly.

I thought I had trouble getting to the place last time - it was a picnic compared to this year's phantastic voyage. Heavy rain over a period of seven hours or so sitting on a heavily laden motorbike, riding at speed through it is a funny thing. First it soaks through the flying jacket you had always thought was considered impervious to it. Then it soaks through your jacket. Then it soaks through the leather wallet in your inside pocket (did you know that those new five pound notes run when immersed in water?). I guess I was one of the few phen at the con with badly repro'd banknotes.

(Did you also know that just outside the city of Durham is a town called Dragonville? Another little gem for you.)

Arriving at Chester via, almost traditionally, Stockport, Liverpool, and all points west; and finally finding the Blossoms, I parked Sleipnir outside, unhitched a bulging polythene-shrouded holdall of, I'd guess, under two tonnes displacement, told Sleip to stay, got a drowned red silence for answer, and waded ashore.

The hotel staff seemed rather surprised to see a bulky, misshapen, helmeted figure, clad all in livery black, and by the looks of things singlehandedly carrying the SFphan's burden, come squelshing in, look around, squelsh to the stairs, squelsh upstairs, occasionally shiver, squelsh along corridors, find no Gannetphandom nor old phan who wouldn't say his prayers, squelsh downstairs, occasionally shiver, squelsh, squelsh, searching all the rooms and lounges (shivershiver).

It was in the cocktail lounge that I found Gannetpholk, alive, alive-oh, sitting at a circular table in a strangely deja vu way. There was, for the ignorant, Ian Crass Goblin Williams, Ian Mad Mole Mauler and Dave Dormouse Douglass. With these heroes was an unknown dubious character. He was thin, long, in a kind of post-Procrustean way, and spoke in a rather snooty Cambridge type dialect. Instead of a beard he had what is locally termed ''bum fluff" stuck on the end of his chin. His most significant contribution to the Con as far as I could see was making disparaging remarks about Roger Zelazny in a rather loud voice to no-one in particular on occasions when I was in earshot.

"Hi fans", I customarily acknowledged Gannetdom's palm waving welcome. "Piggott, I presume..?" I paused long enough to stab a soggy black-gauntleted finger at the manifestation. Indeed so. Room 72, I was told, and thankfully staggered off to drip dry, leaving trails of water like some monster black slug.

Looking back on it now, just to hammer the point home, that ride simply doesn't seem based on reality. A harbinger in many respects of the Con to come; it was all very-strange.. People come out of the rain....

Friday night? Oh yes, downstairs in the subterranean bar. People began appearing out of the woodwork: Kettle; Harry Harrison, poor guy; Presford 'n' Colley; Holdstock, with a mutant fungus infecting his face (no map of Africa tho), possibly the subtropical temperatures may have brought it on; Pickersgill 'n' Roberts; Uncle Thom Cobleigh....

Subjectively, I was feeling washed out, dilute; my spirits were completely dampened. I was switched off, depressive rather than manic. Pissed off. One thing I remember of Friday night was Presford 'n' Kettle sitting on a wall bench, leaning against each other, both slightly pissed. Presford asked Leroy Richard Arthur: "What d'you wash your hair with, Persil?" which I thought quite funny at the time, being slightly pissed, 'It's not so funny when you do use Persil.." Kettle mournfully admitted to me, before disappearing.

What else? Kettle again, throwing insults. Really I should have put mesel in a good mood, and thrown me beer over him; it would at least have been something to later mention in a carefully offhand manner (if it's good enough for Chas. Platt....hmmm..but then again, on second thoughts...)... (-traditional). Needless to say, I didn't of course.

Like the rep, the Con was slow to get off the ground, but once it did get going it featured some memorable aerobatics. Any attempt at chronology, even using me battered copy of WORM 2, is foredoomed for a start, but I'll try and keep the general train of events as they happened. Saturday mourning came early-half way through Friday night it seemed. BOOM! BOOMl resounded from the bathroom door, dragging me from dreams of Joan Collins and mowing down Pope Paul's Saint Police with a recoilless Gatling. "'Boom-boom'??" I thought. "At this hour surely Goblin isn't still trying to tell a joke??" Getting up from my airbed laid out alongside the bath and opening the door, there, indeedy, was the Teddy Bear. I wasn't going to unlock the door at first (you don't know where he's been, let's face it) but he had threatened to urinate upon me via the large keyhole. I am led to believe, on good(??) authority, that such is little Ian's stature he is one of the few fully grown men in Christendom capable of this feat with out sustaining permanent injury. (I don't know if Greg's word is worth all that much tho..) As for the WORM anecdote, I awoke one night, having forgotten to bolt the door as is my wont, to this strange tinkling sound, mixed with drunken giggling. Looking up, there was the Crass Goblin, relieving himself into the toilet bowl (God, but it was a sordid Con) which was near my head due to the space restrictions of the smallest room.

"Hell, Williams, do you have to piss on my head?" was what I actually said, and turned over the other way, trying to drown out the hideous giggling tinkling with an arm laid across my head, simultaneously a defensive gesture.

Quite a bit of the Con, as usual, was spent just sitting around, especially Saturday, in the bars and lounges, talking, supping, arguing in a half-hearted sort of way, and wondering where everything was supposed to be happening, cos it wasn't here. There would be pholk like Goblin say, Presford and his sheepdog, Mauler, Dave, Pete Roberts, Dave Rowe, Joanne "Beef" Burger, and whoever, sitting mumbling in some corner of the lounge; Pickersgill and Brosnan would, with hellish rancour imminent (golly gee Andrew, now guess where that came from..) cruise in, stand vaguely over the group, Kettle or Rickard or Piggy would appear, and then they'd whip off somewhere again. Or troilism-phandom: Lisa, Holdstock and Ames, would come in one doorway, rapidly cross the room, out the other exitrance, and head up the stairs at speed. Things seemed to be afoot, but....

Sometime about four or five on the Saturday Ethel-the-Frog phandom steeled itself up and set off into darkest Chester. I'm not too sure how it happened: the suggestion had come that we go out and get ourselves waterpistols, this being a suitably infantile caper to pull at Cons and later write about at great length. I think the inspiration came from certain parts of a conrep I wrote though the idea itself sounds suspiciously vintage Presford. From that moment on, the Con took a turn for the phannish, and the slow build up was mostly over. Squirt Phandom, or PissToll Pandom, experienced initial difficulty in finding a place prepared to sell even plastic guns to such an unlikely foursome, and my asking of the local talent for directions to the nearest toyshop was always, taken as a source of merriment by Colley & Douglass, the stupid neos. However, Presford, Colley and Dave-from-Wallsend finally obtained for themselves little green frogs as befits them, which they described as "Fannish". For my part, I selected a truly incredible zotgun: blued plastic, long, sleek and skeletal, tubular sights, ring vanes masking the barrel just before the muzzle. . . . .man, it was beautiful, just beautiful! It fitted my left-hand inside pocket remarkably well, just right for the quick reach. Mike Hammer and Flash Gordon ain't got nothing on me....

Coming back to the relative saturnine sobriety of the Conhalla through crowded afternoon streets and firing back at those little kids who always try to wipe you out with plastic Winchesters was the first good scene of the Con, inane tho it sounds.

The little green phrog pistols were naturally christened "Ethel-The-Frogs", Ethel-The-Frog being of course the ubiquitous Piggy's beady little crapzine, all about Diplomacy and other inphantile practises, which probably explains it.

What else on Saturday? Ah yes, Lisa Conesa - a strange person whom I came across on the stairs (oh God but it was beautiful..) early Saturday afternoon. She pressed a stein of lager into my hand and disappeared in the direction of the teevee lounge (funny woman). She had informed me, in that strange, slow, creamy voice which has driven men mad and phans rational, that I was in her chess championship, wasn't I? It appeared she would rupert no argument, but by a determined show of apathy and the signing over of fanac contributions for the next seven years (no great loss, let's face it)(don't agree too fast Alan, you might do yourself an injury, with any luck) in blood to her latest co-editor, a strange looking guy believed to be Fortey's father, called Mr. Opheles, I managed to evade this fate worse than OMPA.

Talking to an American girl whose secret identity I never did twig, I learnt how she 'd overheard at some Californiay Con ROGER ZELAZNY (incredible..) and SAMUEL DELANY (amazing..) having a quiet talk over some drinks. Gosh, wow, I thought, all in off the cuff Elizabethan blank verse about Colin Wilson or Charles Baudelaire, I bet. "What were They talking about?" I asked, in a hushed, awe-filled voice. ''Oh, I can't remember now - I wasn't really listening..." (Aaaaagggghhhhhhh ..... ) I wouldn't be surprised if Goblin or one of those jokers hadn't put her up to it, just to see me crawl. Realising I wasn't too sure which direction the West was in, I soon got up off my knees however, and put away the candles.

About six, later that same evening, me, Lisa and Goblin were huddled around a corner table in the cocktail lounge, talking and drinking and casting runes. About unSilly things, like Guillaume Appollinaire, ISEULT, crap like that, tho ISEULT was quite silly in places. Getting onto more real matters, and talking about the internal machinations of the MAD loose coalition of phans, which were largely terra incognito to the Gannetphandom of the NorthEast, Lisa complained about transport and especially that she was not going to go for a ride in Presford's van again. ''Once you're in Pete's van, he does what he wants with you", she complained. I know cos I wrote down her exact words, chortling, straight away on the back of some putout or other by Orion Press, just as with some of the more importantly specific direct quotes in this more or less truthful conrep. And no, I refute absolutely that Presford's going to buy me a pint of Brown if I printed this. (Two, son, remember you said two...)

Some guy came in and said there was something strange afoot in the t.v. lounge chess championship, which is what I'd always suspected, so a move was in order. Goblin pissed off somewhere but Lisa and I invaded the television lounge. Festooned with cigars, glasses of beer, cameras, MACROCOSMS, EGREGIOUS GUIDES, and other junk mail, I slumped into a man-eating armchair. As I surfaced, threshing fitfully in the grip of its huge cushiony toothless gums, my eyes on a level with peoples knees and the undersides of tables, wondering if Gahan Wilson ever had this trouble, Lisa came and sat on its arm and talked for a time until this nameless strange person came rushing up. "I want to play.'" he demanded of her, a strange light gleaming in his eyes. "You'll all get your chances", Lisa characteristically promised him and turned back to watch a chortling Thom (guffawguffaw) scribbling away on scraps of paper.

Phans are strange....

Early Saturday evening may have possibly have found me in the Level7 bar again, with pholk Dave, Piggy, Mole, Pete Roberts, the Priests later I think.. The usual sundry idiots and the occasional human who had lost his way. There came up a Ken Eadie and sat down beside us, almost putting Dave and I off the meat pies we'd brought in. Explaining to the assembled multitude, who had nowt better to do, some irrational views of this cornerstone of the BSFA's explosive exhumation, I triggered him off into trying to resume a Planet-of-the-Apes-is-perfectly-possible argument again. Agreeing instantaneously with everything he said luckily shut him up. After listening to my appraisal of his mental capabilities which followed, however, Eadie began to bounce up and down making screeching noises, grabbed me by the throat, and hit me with bananas and bunches of grapes.. At this moment in time I had not broken into the single cherished bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale I had brought from Sunny South Shields, did not deign to lower myself to use the foul Guinness bottles foul Peter Roberts was massing on the table and also, Eadie isn't smaller than me, like Mauler is. (All this will become clear on a second reading, Puzzled Frown.) Yeah, it was a boring time of entertainment or interest.

Another such was when Piggott discovered, by turning over a damp Double Diamond beermat, a Larry cartoon that showed Double Diamond bottles arranged in a stonehenge confiteration. Quite clever, I thought, wondering what you would find lurking beneath damp MALFUNCTIONs. Over by the bar there dwelt, terrorising the local villagers and with the remains of several past Knights scattered at his feet, together with a can-opener, none other than Harry Harrison, poet'n'pieman, more or less inside a teeshirt emblazoned with "STONEHENGE". The bother fat dad was going to, to push the book to the surely microscopic buying public of the Con could hardly have been worth it. Still and all, it was a sight to see, Piggy marching over to him and presenting the beermat proudly to the Pro, and fawning beneath the everlasting gratitude; "Gee, can I really keep it? Thanks fellah.." etc etc. He looked like he meant it too. Yeah, Harrison was one of the best pros at the Con, pity there aren't more from the same jar he came from; a real good character.

Whilst I was sitting there, joking feebly, talking, listening to even feebler witticisms being thrown back, or up, trying to kill my pie so I could eat it (-traditional-) but generally having a relaxed time, my piece of mind was slightly disturbed when Lisa came storming in without a word, blitzkrieged up to the table, hit me over the head with six or seven rolled up stencils and stomped off again. "Phans are strange.." I thought, sitting there with a mild, rather vacant expression, watching the pretty purple and red dots float in the air, before regaining consciousness and going out after her.

And it was Saturday night, or Sunday night, in the downstairs bar, that the PA system was heard to announce: "Would Cat Stevens please come to the reception desk?" It was only half an hour after my bemusement at this had worn off that it occurred to me I should have went along to the desk, declaring I was a master of disguise.

Chris and Christine Priest appearing, lightening a few darknesses. "Nice couple", I told Goblin later, "good people.." He then indicated to me in his halting, afflicted way that he was already aware of this fact. "I liked your conrep.." Chris said, and I embarrassedly mumbled, "Goshuhwell..", while looking down at the ground, knotting my fingers behind my back, and doing some foot-fidgetting. "If you've got it, there's no point in hiding it under a bushel.." he went on. Up to that point I hadn't been too sure what would get my vote for the best novel of 1971 in the BSFA poll. I waited a bit, but I don't remember any more coming, though.

Saturday night was phancy dress night, my fellow inmates tell me, theoretically this being something out of the ordinary. Gannetphandom together with a sorely depleted Ratfandom made its torturous way to the Conhalla. Strange things occurred here during the nightmarish evening, such as the arrival of divers loons, all lashing themselves together with white rope (but they can't touch you for it); Tricky Mickey Fox, as himself, which was surely one of the less believable phantasies Mara the Dreamer was weaving about us; not forgetting the secret visitation by one of the Golden Ones. She was clad in a cloak of golden leaves, with a high-spiked golden corona cresting her dark hair. Standing there, resplendent, fantastical, in the bright shining lights, she was the most eye-catching sight I'd seen since Irene Taylor had got drunk and taken off her bra at the previous Gannetmeet that Tuesday. Actually, sitting quite a few rows from the front, and needing new lens-systems for my prosthetic optics, it was all slightly vague, but I was getting some great faze-effects from the golden throwback from the floodlamps. Of course, some guy cracked the predictable joak and sang "When Autumn Leaves.." No doubt you can make up your own about where do squirrels hide their nuts. I think, to tell the truth, she was supposed to be a representation of "The Golden Apples of the Sun", a very pleasing touch. If she wasn't, she should have been. Another phancy dresser, Linda Lewis, appeared, large photo, on the back cover of the "Sunday Mirror" I think it was; not surprising, since she was one of the sharpest looking girls at the Con, very striking. "Science fiction is now accepted as serious writing", she was quoted, or something like that, "it's not all a bunch of weirdoes." (She was holding a dagger and the leads of two brutish Pekinese, wore a metallic slit mini dress, metallic net tights, high boots, and said she was the EmperorQueen of Chi'ens.)

The evening took a turn for the celluloid with a horrendous tho entertaining film show. The Batman-like confrontation (tho never so technically skillful comedy as the real McCoy) between the Master Duper and Captain Celluloid featured an amazing box of tricks, with lights, dials, gamma rays, yobba rays, levers, and a pointed glowing rod on top. "Holdstock's got one of those in his room", I alluded, having mastered the collected works of FOULER at an early age. "Holdcock's got one of them between his legs..'' Pickersgill snarled back, as if pointing out the obvious.

"Phans are strange.." I thought.

To end off Saturday was room party one, usually referred to as Lisa Conesa's, tho whose it was, Ghod only knows. I distinctly remember, in the heavy middle of the night, asking Leroy Kettle who was sitting rather quietly ("Just masterful..") on the floor: ''Is it true Pickersgill is having the sex-change operation?" "Yes", replied Kettle. "He's becoming a man". Was that before or after Pickersgill, Brosnan and Rickard came in? I know I staged at some point a family group (Neanderthal, Australis Pithecanthopus etc etc) portrait of thus assembled Ratdom, scourge of Leroy's enemies, whilst retreating through a maze of feet, empties and disused phans, with an eye to the instamatic's viewfinder. "Hold it!" I cried-snap-and the damn phlash didn't detonate. I blame Mauler's crap phlash cubes; next time I use them all up shooting my film I'll insist he gets better ones. Or then again, not to be too harsh, it might have been his crap camera. "Die a death, die a death, Penman!" screamed Kettle triumphantly, but I got 'em with the second salvo.

Sometime about then Presford put his heads round the door and, as agreed, Squirt Phandumb met again. Yes, everybody had their guns, concealed about their persons. We searched the corridor, found a corridor bathroom, and all crowded in to fill the offensive weapons at the bath taps. Returning down the corridor, O.K. Corral fashion, who should we see but Mauler, escaping from the room's collection of stupoured phans. We exchanged glances, we four, and then slow grins.

"You've been sentenced to death by order of Ethel the Phrog", intoned Presford, illustrating how bad things were in Phandom, especially Stockport phandumb. This was the testament henceforth given to the slowly comprehending victims by Presford. "Wrong again Bishop!" I cried, and - ZOT! - his chips were up. Mauler retreated a few paces under the quadruple barrage, lashing his tail and making mewling noises, though still well within ballistic range, thus showing little instinctive tactical perception and making one wonder how he manages to win at all at Diplomacy. The corridor was a dead-end you see, and we four mop-headed urchins stood, plastic Errol Flynns all, betwixt him and escape. Realising this at last The Mad Mole stopped retreating and, shouting his famous war cry of "A-mole! A-mole!", ran the gamut of our jeers and water pistols to make a disorderly withdrawal.

Later in the proceedings Pete Presford squirted apparently indiscriminately into the room party, and to the shouts of "Who the hell was that?" Mauler answered, "It's Penman and Presford, squirting water pistols.." What a vicious agitprop trick.

Later, perfidious Pete Presford tried to even squirt me, and we had a running water pistol fight all along the street outside. Presford had no stomach for facing stalwart opposition, the fink and craven that he is, though the fact that his gun gave out after the first three seconds may have had something to do with it, Anyway, after the first thirty or forty meters I was too drunk to keep within accurate zotgun range of him.

Returning to the party a tired (for the iron tongue of midnight had told twelve) but only slightly damper phan, I sat soaking my head on the bed. With good timing the liquor ran out and I was driven to buying Guinness off Phil Cooper, who'd made it back from the bar ahead of the supply column, and who had this peculiar mnemonic for remembering his own name (not a good sign) all based on beer and the brewing industry, which he mortified us with. His stomach was obviously in the right place however since he seemed to want to convince me Broon was good stuff, (I was by this time down to my last quarter inch of the stuff, sad to say). The lad Mole made his quivering appearance and stood, trembling in terror in the doorway, grinning the vacuous grin his Manipulator likes to inflict him with. "Oh, you again," and flicked the last of my precious brown ale at him, a wasteful but suitably dramatic gesture, then turned and resumed talking. The next thing I knew the fighting fool had whipped around to the foot of the bed to attack me from behind (okay, the fightin' coward then). "Gurgle- ecchhkk!" I said, in a reasonable voice, his hirsuite claw-like hands like steel bands crushing my throat (move over Bulmer, and tell Holdstock the news..) and I was dragged back over the bed. Picking up my Broon bottle, I trippingly swung it in the general direction of where his head should have been. It gently touched upon his head, blunting it, with a low and hollow thunk, which for charitable reasons we'll assume was due to the bottle being empty, and the Mauler backed off, thus punished for his lese majesty, saying such obvious cliches as; "0uch. . .ohhh. . .Ahhh. . ." at unconvincing intervals. Unfortunately I wasn't drunk enough that I didn't realise how hard I was tapping him. Still, there's always next year.

And then there was a completely lost conversation with Dave Rowe and Heather and then I threw beer over Archie Mercer - and then - and then -

All in all, the Con was still lacking a certain something. It had only just started moving and Saturday had gone already. Luckily, it was to be the Sunday that really made CHESSMANCON, 1972.