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Ansible 89½, Xmas 1994

Certainly not from Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU, England. ISSN 0265-9816. Logo: Dan (for TAFF!) Steffan. Braw cartoon: Ian Gunn. Inspiration and much of the Ode: Abigail Frost, to whom all lawsuits should go.

Ode to The Scottish Convention

by William McGonagall

Oh beautiful Scottish Convention on the banks of the silv'ry Clyde!
Your great magnificence makes fandom go all weak inside:
Thousands joined for half a groat right after the successful bid,
Instead of helpfully waiting 'til now and paying eighty quid.
The Laird of Illingworth and his band of tartan hearties
Had bravely sacrificed their livers to an arduous international jet-setting round of parties,
And nobbled the site selection by a canny bidding process
Of serving out single malt in homeopathic doses,
Since your average US con-fan reels inebriatedly
At a swig of the Demon Alcohol barely exceeding 5cc –
While the hardened voting residue of doubters and laggers
Were taken quietly outside and intimidated with a haggis.
But some terrified fans fled south of the nearest available border
At the sight of Martin Hoare dressed up as Harry Lauder:
'Tis true the sense of wonder most proverbially wilts,
With fear of finding what's worn under such unconvincing kilts,
Whose wearers oft had one bloodstained sock (although they didn't mean to),
After ineptly thrusting there the traditional dirk or skean-dhu.
Our TAFF administrator still declares, to anyone who meets her,
''Twas about as authentically Scottish as a chicken tikka pizza.'

Oh 'twas more years earlier than is convenient to relate,
On a cold night when neither had a hot or even lukewarm date,
That Vince Docherty and The Illingworth of that Ilk did meet and grimly decide,
To bid to hold a World Science Fiction Convention on the banks of the silv'ry Clyde.
The sorrowing fans of Albion heard and went back to sleep,
All but for Ian Sorensen, who said it made him weep,
Also a few ragged and shell-shocked survivors of Conspiracy,
Who (to quote Lord Whitelaw) 'rushed about stirring up apathy'.
Yet the virus ravaged con-fandom like a contagious infection
And the Secret Masters declared 'twas to be called Intersection,
But insubordinate fans soon formed a bastard scum intention
Never to refer to the thing except as The Scottish Convention.
Now, Docherty made a pact with The Illingworth of that Ilk,
That one should be Chair and the other be in charge of Filk,
But Docherty reneged, though he'd seemed an honest yeoman,
And pissed off to the endless sandy desert wastes of Oman:
There we leave him, and to our main tale will now dash back,
Having mercifully reached the end of this interpolated flashback.

So 'twas in the year Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-five the Worldcon was to go
To the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre outside bonny Glasgow,
With all-night sf celebrations to follow each joyful day
In a clutch of splendid hotels with unnegotiated prices not all that many miles away.
And in an atmosphere of what the French call bonheur,
The committee proudly announced their Guests of Honour;
The Americans were pleased to hear the name of Chip Delany, and of Vince Clarke too,
But when it came to Gerry Anderson they all quoted Algis Budrys and said Who?
For in the benighted colonies the creator of Thunderbirds
That TV series whose characters' movements were zippier than Douglas Hurd's –
Was unknown, since the US networks found his shows, though of the neatest,
Too British, obscure, downbeat, glum and generally elitist.

Misinterpreting the theatre's superstitions of doom and death,
Our committee somehow gleaned the idea that it was lucky to mention Macbeth,
Though Kathy Westhead thought it one of fandom's less tasteful gags,
To call her, Fiona Anderson and Jacky Grüter-Andrew 'you secret, black and midnight hags',
While each and every chairman bore the aspect of a Thane
Who espies gigantic forests advancing on Dunsinane.
Dubious outsiders also looked askance at Shakespeare's script,
Muttering, 'Was this convention from its womb untimely ripp'd?'
And as synthetic Scottishness raged in all directions, many quoted a well-known proverb, i.e.:
'Whom the gods would destroy they first drive to the SECC.'
The finance subcommittee was fruitlessly searching its pockets,
After finally reading the contract clause about rental of power sockets;
And thus spake the expert in these matters, Dermot Dobson:
'They should have bloody known 'twould be the choice of Hobson.'

When the fanroom staff scratched their heads over how to furnish a hangar vast and drear,
Having approximately the volume of a Dyson sphere,
The committee response displayed characteristic flair:
A five-hour debate on the niftiest way to spell 'Phanne Phayre'.
'Twas like one of the gorier scenes from The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover,
When Lilian Edwards learned that fan programming was in the hands of Steve and Jenny Glover,
Whose scheme to fill those huge echoing halls with balloon sculptures proved debatable,
It having transpired that the contract forbade anything inflatable.

Oh SF conventions are all about not Time but function Space:
Boudoirs for Trekkie narcissists to drape themselves in lace;
Committee rooms up towers where mere fans cannae reach 'em
(Unless on stronger drugs than sold by Messrs Beecham);
Vast suites with shag-pile carpet and huge velvet-covered sofas,
And flunkeys serving pink champagne to semi-conscious gophers;
Platforms for London lefties and Yank right-wing libertarians,
Crash space for Bridget Wilkinson to hide six coachloads of Bulgarians;
Places for nuclear reactors, fretwork dragons, Regency teafests, hucksters' stalls of hand-made Elvish pottery –
The only way to pay the rent was to win the National Lottery!
'Twas said the programme folk were set to boldly go and risk all,
Until the finance types mentioned the Procurator-Fiscal.

But despite wicked rumours of problems with the location,
Our bold Intersection leaders faced the future with staunch resignation:
None knows the dread committee scandal that gave unwilling birth,
To the decision to resign of prime mover Tim Illingworth,
And John Stewart of the original steering team was expunged from history during the entr'acte
Between progress reports, having arranged the highly favourable SECC contract.
But great was the joy when escaped co-chair Vince Docherty, that intermittently stalwart fan,
Rejoined to do hands-on leadership from the safety of Oman.
And even pessimists decided the event might be worth at least a look,
When into the other co-chair seat stepped rescue expert Martin Easterbrook,
Though Mr Easterbrook turned a strange shade of greenish-yeller
As he accepted the resignations of Literary Programme organizers Paul Kincaid and Maureen Speller;
But even while prostrated with grieving this sore loss,
He still refused to consider appointing Charlie Stross.

The Speller/Kincaid duo, like other Brits both male and female
Had wearied of the refrain 'We can't talk to you unless you use e-mail.'
Yet the committee's cyberspace mastery seemed distinctly at sixes and sevens,
When one fan wanting e-mailed information was electronically told to post a letter to Bernie Evans;
While the net edition of their Nessie newsletter remains something of a rara avis,
After a full year's failure to upload it on CIX as promised by Steve Davies. [1]
And still echoes of the Scottish Play saw chairmen babbling and unmanned:
'Is this a modem which I see before me, the RS-232 connector toward my hand?'
But registrations picked up a bit this last summer,
As fans pressed payment on trustworthy ghillie Mark Plummer,
For most considered him a rather better bet,
Than trying to shove used tenners down the Internet.

Other vile rumours were properly laid to rest,
Via James Steel's novel if short-lived idea of printed communication in The Digest,
Which proved the 'John Richards leaves committee' gossip to be all wrong,
For wee John hadn't resigned at all but merely insisted he would before the con.
Meanwhile it was time for the Board to mourn
The stepping down from former rôles of KIM Campbell, Eddie Cochrane, Helen McCarthy, Bernie Peek, Malcolm Reid and Kees van Toorn;
Next, when co-chair Martin heard the blast of a small Exocet, he
Knew it could only be the sonic boom of the departing Hugh Mascetti.
All in all 'twas, according to subordinates downtrodden,
The greatest reshuffle of personnel since the Massacre of Culloden.
'New brooms sweep cleaner,' said the Board without apology,
Recruiting fresh victims as ruthlessly as Scientology;
Elsewhere, the popularity of the same year's Eastercon reached its apogee,
When the staff were issued with cards that read GET OUT OF WORLDCON FREE.

By and by to eager members the Progress Reports winged their leisurely way,
Mailed, as a service to Brits, from somewhere in the USA.
To illustrate the heights to which Dutch proofreading can go,
I sing the first PR's happy invention of St Mango,
While in the privacy of his beard, mild-mannered artist Dave Mooring allowed himself a tiny frown
On finding one of his illustrations printed upside down.
However, the peculiarly inscrutable SF95 logo design is surely without flaw,
For who needs artistic skill when you have a copy of CorelDraw?
Using a world record number of fonts on a single A5 flyer, in tasteful interplay,
Deservedly brought a major design award to Chris O'Shea,
But there followed a most tremendous and terrifying battle
About who if anyone dared show the result to typographical expert John D. Berry of Seattle.
Then skilled Rhodri James stepped in to edit PR4 and soon was proud to present
A Worldcon Progress Report that entirely omitted the date of the event.

Those viewing the tangled chain of command with a low heart,
Were pleased to learn the committee hopes by next autumn to complete its organizational flowchart,
And translating from the management-speak brought joy and eliminated gloom
With the information that 'Fixed Exhibits' was what you called the dealers' room.
In software Intersection has a full house, kings and aces,
Being in possession of no fewer than three fine bonny registration databases,
Thus ensuring that any possible computer disaster is averted
Between the British member database, the incompatible US one, and Larry van der Putte's splendid Dutch system to which at the very last minute the others will be converted.

But perhaps the happiest development in Scottish Worldcon news
Was a fresh flow of information and frank exchange of views,
As Greg Pickersgill wailed in tones shriller than a prima donna's,
'Is Intersection our fault or is it a natural disaster that has fallen on us?'
While full of kindly advice the voice of Seacon '79 chairman Peter Weston boomed:
'They've got the wrong location, wrong site: they are DOOMED!'
And all these helpful comments, with some substantially ruder,
Were jotted down for Critical Wave by diligent Martin Tudor. [2]
But though some sf newsletters' favourable coverage amounted to damn-all,
The balance was restored by impartial reports in Small Mammal. [3]

Now 'tis the end of the year Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-four, and The Scottish Convention has survived ev'ry crisis
Except the trifling issue of publishing its hotel prices.
Many gallant fans had perished of old age or of worms,
Awaiting the arrival of their hotel booking forms,
And 'twas feared that when at last the renegotiated bargain room-rates were verified,
Most of the survivors would opt to sleep on the banks of the silv'ry Clyde.
But those who talk of exorbitant charges will be unable to scoff,
If ace negotiators Sorensen and Meenan clinch their canny deal of 'no breakfast and £5 off!'....
Meanwhile David V. Barrett loudly sings the committee's praise,
For his membership confirmation has just arrived after only two years, one month and nine days.

To all convention staff who enjoy the beauty of this Ode, and also to those who read it,
The Poet McGonagall wishes seasonal fun and the best of Scottish luck (not hinting that they'll need it).
May Yuletide cheer also make the Laird of Easterbrook serene,
And end his recurrent nightmare about featuring in SHOCK HORROR editorials by Steve Green.
In conclusion, here is Intersection's merry Christmas summing-up of the story so far:
'For God's sake send all your money to us at Admail 336, Glasgow, G2 1BR.'


Feetnote

[1] 'A gross calumny!' cried Steve Davies, adding that Nessie had been on CIX for many a month
(Allowing a gratuitous use, for rhyme, of the first PR's handy new ordinals 3th, 2th and 1th).
Only net master John Dallman could trace the problematic gremlin, bug or elf,
And reveal that Steve had made the files visible to no-one but himself.

[2] Steve Green's and Martin Tudor's Critical Wave is famed for clear-eyed sf commentary, soberly put,
Such as ALIEN SCOTTISH CONVENTION FOUND ON MOON TURNS INTO ELVIS AND EATS OWN FOOT.

[3] Small Mammal, that infrequent fannish newsletter renowned from London to Boston,
Is published by Martin Easterbrook and Margaret Austin.

Not Ansible 89½ Copyright © Dave Langford, 1994. The editor is not responsible. Even less responsible are Abigail Frost and Martin 'Don't quote me, but....' Hoare. ADVERT: send your £80 full Intersection membership to the indicated address before Easter, as rates rise thereafter and what it will cost at the door doesn't bear thinking about. STOP PRESS: Fred Clarke instructs fans not to miss 'This Is Your Life' on BBC1, 11 Jan, 7pm.... 22 Dec 94.