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Concourse Guest of Honour Speech
Chris Priest

[I tried out this speech before leaving home, and found it took about three and a half hours to read the whole thing. I therefore decided to cut a lot of it out. You'll be relieved to know, then, that it now takes only about three hours.]

In April 1964 the Beatles were filming A Hard Day's Night, Ronnie Biggs was being sent to prison for the Great Train Robbery, BBC-2 was launched, Brian Aldiss published The Dark Light Years, Robert Heinlein published Farnham's Freehold, and Ted Carnell brought out the first edition of New Writings in SF. In faraway South Wales, Dave Langford was preparing to take his 11+.

As my contribution to all this excitement, I made 1964 the year of my first science fiction convention.

It was held in Peterborough, in fact for the second year running. The previous year's con had been called Petercon. The one I went to later became known as Repetercon.

I'd first heard about Easter conventions from Brian Aldiss, after I wrote him a fan letter. This was in the summer of 1962. Brian's reply was welcoming. He urged me to attend the convention the next Easter, and told me to be sure to introduce myself to him.

Perhaps people here will understand the conflict of feelings that a well-intended letter like that might induce in this nervous teenager. In the early 1960s Brian Aldiss was one of the rising stars in science fiction, not just in Britain but also in the USA. I'd read several of his novels and most of his short stories. He was already a favourite writer. So when I read his letter I was instantly convulsed with opposing feelings. Part of me burst with pride and excitement at the thought of being invited to say hello to this giant among men. The other part of me, equally strong, was drowned in shyness.

In fact, the shyness was not just equally strong – it was much stronger. It easily won. I couldn't overcome it, and I stayed away from that convention.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Following another suggestion in Brian Aldiss's letter, I joined the BSFA. Over the next few months I found myself becoming increasingly involved in its activities. I liked the way they took science fiction seriously.

I had by this time experienced many times the problem that I'm sure is familiar to every person listening to this. The way the outside world views sf. Their maddening combination of ignorance, closed mind and mockery. I've never really worked out why sf attracts this. People are ignorant of lots of things, but they don't make feeble jokes, pour scorn, pretend it's not their kind of thing when they hear about, for example, cold fusion or tectonic plate theory.

It was just the same forty years ago as it is now. Perhaps it was worse, because in the early 1960s we didn't have science fiction movies, or television series, or even computer games. These are all media through which many non-sf-reading people now learn about and start to appreciate some of the major themes of science fiction literature. Back then, the literature was most of what we had, and few people took the trouble to read it.

But the BSFA did take sf seriously.


One of the first names I noticed was a contributor to Vector called Philip Harbottle. He was publishing a three-part series of articles about the career of a science fiction writer I'd never heard of, a resident of Blackpool called John Russell Fearn. I read Harbottle's articles with genuine interest, learning all the way. My knowledge of science fiction was restricted to the paperbacks I bought in ordinary bookshops. Not only was Fearn a new name, but until then I had no idea of the existence of the pre-war American pulp magazines where modern science fiction had been born.

Phil Harbottle said one thing that caught my attention. He was extremely critical of the way some writers from the pulp era had later tried to disown their early stories.

In parenthesis, he said, "John Wyndham, are you listening?"

Now this remark had a striking effect on me, for two reasons.

The first was that when I read The Day of the Triffids and other Wyndham novels a couple of years earlier, I did so without realizing they were science fiction. The editions I'd bought were fairly sober-looking Penguins, more or less indistinguishable from other novels on the Penguin list. Only later, when I started reading sf that was labelled as such, did I think back. I realized that Wyndham had been writing science fiction too.

Now, however, I was learning that John Wyndham had a secret past! He had written for the pulps! 'John Wyndham' wasn't even his real name! All this came as quite a revelation.

But there was a second reason Phil's remark made a great impact. It was so casually phrased, almost impertinent.

Harbottle breezily swept aside what I thought of as the proprieties of addressing a major author. "Are you listening, John Wyndham?" he said cheekily, in a tone of mock ticking-off.

This was my first encounter with fan-writing about science fiction.

I was to learn from other material in Vector, and in one or two of the fanzines that I sent off for, what fan-writing was like. I immediately liked the way no one pulled any punches, that everyone seemed to have a friendly familiarity with the writers they were discussing, but this did nothing to conceal a sharp critical ability.

Unlike readers in other categories, sf fans get on to first-name terms with the authors almost from the start. I see this from both sides of the fence.

I can tell you, both as a reader and as a writer, that an irreverent tone, coupled with seriousness and love of books, is one of the great strengths of the sf world.

In the world of mainstream fiction, as I have often found, writers are treated with a kind of gobsmacked respect that sf fans would find incredible. In turn, the fawning leads to ridiculous self-importance in some of those writers. The sheer vanity and pomposity of middle-ability writers like Martin Amis is hard to believe, until you see it going on, as I have done.

In the sf world we hold our best writers in high regard, but we also treat them like ordinary people. Not all, but most sf writers respond to it. I hope this never changes.

Once again, I'm moving away from what I was intending to say. After I'd read his articles in Vector I wrote a letter to Phil Harbottle, asking various questions that had occurred to me, and Phil soon replied. A regular correspondence quickly established itself.

In all sincerity, I owe Phil Harbottle a great deal. He has a wealth of knowledge about science fiction, and a profound enthusiasm for it, that I think is unique. He was also patient towards me, a newcomer and a beginner. Although he must have found my enquiries familiar and perhaps even tiresome, he treated me with courtesy and enthusiasm. I learned a great deal from him.

But one of the extra things I eventually learned was that he and I had different interests. To describe it simply, he was interested in old science fiction and I preferred the new stuff. Once I read some of John Russell Fearn's stories, at Phil's urging, my views began to harden. I felt then, as I feel now, that science fiction writers should be moving forward, and that they shouldn't be constantly looking back. I think Phil and I eventually agreed to disagree. In the end our long, and to me valuable, correspondence fizzled out.

Phil had cut my teeth for me on one of the most interesting and laudable qualities of science fiction fandom. So many people interest themselves in sf, think about it, care about it, and write about it.

As the months went by I became increasingly involved with the BSFA and the people who were working within it. One of them was Archie Mercer, who took over the editing of Vector soon after I joined. I nervously sent a few amateurishly produced contributions to Archie, expecting a cruel rebuttal. To my amazement he printed them all. They were under pseudonyms, so profound was my shyness. I can no longer remember what these contributions were like, and in fact I dread to think.

On the less serious side of things I also made postal contact with Gill Adams, who lived in Southampton. Gill's role in the BSFA was as the membership secretary. She was running an enterprise called the Welcommittee, or as everyone called it, the Welco.

The idea of the Welco was that all newly joined members of the BSFA would receive a personal welcoming letter from another member. I remembered my own nervousness when I had been new. And of course I remembered Brian Aldiss's letter. I was glad to join the Welco and lend a hand. Once every two or three weeks Gill would send me the name and address of such a new member.

In fact, I was not on the Welco for long. I wrote only two letters before events moved on.

The first letter I wrote was to a fan in Manchester called Tony Edwards. Drawing on all my experience of the sf world, I wrote Tony a long and, as I thought, interesting letter. It ran on for several pages. I never had a reply. In fact, forty years later that bugger Edwards still owes me a letter.

However, before I could find out what a lousy correspondent Tony Edwards was, Gill Adams had sent me the name of a second new member. I duly wrote another letter, which in those distant days before word processors meant that I had to write the thing all over again. I dropped it in the mail to the name and address Gill had sent me.

I received an answer by return of post. It began with the following words:

Dear Chris Priest,

Your letter is by far the most intelligent communication I have ever received from anyone in the science fiction world. Have you any idea what a bunch of deadheads, losers and bloody idiots science fiction fans are?

I stopped reading and skipped ahead to the end of the letter, to find out who had sent it to me. I'd already forgotten his name. Ah yes, there it was. Charles Platt.

I was still reading the letter when the phone rang. One of my parents answered, and handed the telephone to me. The voice said, "Hello, this is Charles Platt. Have you read my letter yet?"

The next morning a second long letter arrived from Charles Platt. The next day a third letter arrived from Charles, and I still hadn't had a chance to answer his first one!

The day after that, at Charles's insistence, we met for a cup of tea in London. I went straight from work. Charles drove down from his parents' home in Letchworth.

I was amazed by his energy. He had left school only two or three weeks earlier, and was about to go up to Cambridge University. He had been spending his holiday driving all over Britain, meeting as many sf fans and writers as he could find. Names dripped from him. I recognized some of them: they belonged to people who had contributed to the BSFA, or who wrote for fanzines.

Charles quickly informed me that they were all deadheads and losers, but at least he had met them. I obviously had a lot of catching up to do. Charles entertained me with a dozen amusing stories about his encounters with these people. One was a middle-aged unmarried man who never left his house but spent every day reading science fiction and writing letters to fanzines. Another had the largest sf collection in the world, as he claimed, and showed Charles the long list of titles he had been typing out for years. ("It's full of mistakes!" Charles said, with an evil grin.) A third was a permanent inmate in an asylum for the criminally insane.

Charles was also about to launch a new fanzine, called Point of View, and he urged me to start writing reviews and articles for it. Hoping to encourage me, Charles said that the asylum inmate was hard at work writing fiction for him. I knew then that writing for Point of View was going to be a career move.

Charles had already started going to most of the fan meetings in London. I'd heard of these, but had always been too shy to think of going to any of them.

I tried a few of them during the winter of 1963. Some were the monthly meetings at The Globe, a pub in Chancery Lane, and others were the Friday night meetings at the home of Ella Parker.

At Ella's I met Michael Moorcock for the first time. To be exact, I saw Mike for the first time. Although Mike was still only 23, and was known only for a handful of Elric stories, he went around bathed in the glow of his own celebrity.

Mike dressed like a college dandy. He went in for lacy shirts, a black cloak and broad-rimmed hat, he carried a guitar, he had a ginger-coloured goatee and he never went anywhere without a gaggle of half-a-dozen hangers-on. He dominated any room he was in by sheer force of ego, overbearing manner and weight of numbers.

I cowered nervously in the background, but Charles Platt was fascinated by Mike Moorcock. This was probably because it was being rumoured that Mike was about to take over the editorship of New Worlds, Britain's only science fiction magazine. He used to taunt Mike about being "only" a fantasy writer, and Mike would respond with good-natured and sometimes amusing abuse. It got pretty noisy at times.

After the first meeting at Ella's, Charles confided in me that he thought Mike Moorcock was the biggest deadhead and loser of all. But he never stopped talking about him. In spite of the taunts and the insults, it was clearly love at first sight.

I can easily imagine how Ella Parker felt about her social evenings being hi-jacked by such behaviour. Not long after this her evenings became invitation-only. They didn't include me.

Of course, Charles had already registered for the Eastercon, and of course he naturally assumed I had too. Swept along by his dynamism, I couldn't put off the moment any longer.


So it was that at the end of March 1964, on Good Friday, I boarded a train at King's Cross Station in London. I travelled up to Peterborough with a friend of mine from Essex, the cartoonist Dicky Howett, also going to his first convention. We met Gill Adams at the station, and the current TAFF winner, Wally Weber, from the USA. There were several other fans with us in a kind of disorganized group.

Charles Platt was driving up in his own car, no doubt calling in at more lunatic asylums on the way.

I still remember much of what went on at the con. A first convention is always a memorable experience, no matter whether you find it a good or a bad one. In this way Peterborough in 1964 became uniquely memorable.

Two incidents stand out. Each one was a sort of symbolic happening, a clue to what conventions might be all about. Nothing I've learned since has made me change my mind.

The first occurred while the group of us from the London train were still signing in at the hotel reception.

There was a flight of carpeted stairs that led down to the foyer from an upper floor. Just as I was about to go up the stairs in search of my room, there was a distant shout of surprise and fear. Suddenly, someone came rolling down the stairs at high speed, arms and legs flying in all directions. He reached the bottom with a huge thud. A cloud of dust rose around his body. Everyone in the foyer stared in horror, assuming we had seen the death of a science fiction fan. But then, as if in a miracle, he rose to his feet, brushed himself down, said in a gentle slurring voice, "Oh, fuck!", and walked unsteadily but with some dignity into the bar.

The second symbolic event occurred during the speech by the Guest of Honour, E. C. Tubb.

Now Ted Tubb was a writer whose work I hardly knew, but Phil Harbottle always spoke highly of him. I liked him when he spoke briefly to me, and later I went to listen to his speech. Ted started by looking around trenchantly at his audience, then without warning launched into a devastating and extremely entertaining attack on just about everybody involved with the writing and publishing of science fiction. Publishers, agents, other writers, editors, bookshops, libraries, readers ... they were all guilty of whatever it was, and Ted let us know. This went on for about fifteen minutes. Suddenly, halfway through a sentence, he stopped. There was a long, embarrassing pause.

"Hell, I've lost the thread," he said. "Well, that's it. Nothing more to say." He got up and walked away.

This has always seemed to me the ideal speech, by which all others should be judged. Whenever I'm called upon to deliver one, I'm always been tempted to use Ted Tubb as a model.

The rules are simple. Start trenchantly. Attack everyone in sight, including your audience. Stop suddenly, so you leave them wanting more.

If I end this suddenly in a few minutes' time, at least now you'll know why.

The other notable feature of the con for me was to meet some of the writers. Ken Bulmer and James White were there to support Ted Tubb, and of course Mike Moorcock and his hangers-on made their presence felt. There were two special guests from the USA: Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett. The great man himself, H. G. Wells, dropped in unexpectedly for an afternoon. He told me his friends called him 'Bertie', and that his middle name was George. I have never forgotten this important information. Writers in waiting, those of us starting out, or those of us yet to do our best work, included Bob Shaw, Terry Pratchett, Charles Platt and myself.

By the way, I made that up about H. G. Wells.

Ted Tubb's speech is in fact a good place for us to get up and walk away from that prehistoric convention. Pete Weston has been writing a book about his early days in fandom, which directly overlap with mine. If you want more details about what was going on in Peterborough that weekend, badger Pete for a copy. I believe copies should be available by Novacon this year.


So far, everything I've said about my early days in fandom has been only half-true. All through that convention I was nursing a secret that was smouldering inside me. I said nothing about it while I was there, and so far I've said nothing about it today. It's a secret that can be simply revealed.

I wanted to be a writer.

In fact, to say I wanted to be a writer understates it by a considerable degree. I was not smouldering, I was burning to be a writer. I thought about it, dreamed about it, planned it, through every waking moment. If I have ever had an obsession during my life, this was it.

It began during that early exchange of letters with Philip Harbottle. I remember that one of the things we discussed was the way a story was told. I was interested in the way modern writers worked. Phil talked about the old days, when everything had been different. But maybe not that different, when you found out. I was still in learning mode, eagerly soaking up the information Harbottle was so freely passing on. I wasn't a would-be writer in disguise. My interest was purely as a reader. But even so certain subjects actively concerned me. How a plot was constructed. How characters might be created. How a story was told. These were techniques that intrigued me. I think I even started suggesting plot ideas to Harbottle, and maybe we discussed them. I can't remember any of them now.

I wrote a handful of short stories through the winter of 1963, trying out some of the ideas. None of the stories was much good, and none of them has ever been published. But each one, I firmly believed, was slightly better than the one before it.

When I first met Charles Platt we found we had many different things to talk about. It wasn't just his dynamic social life that impressed me. One of the serious subjects turned out to be our obsessive wish to become writers.

Charles and I were on the same wavelength about writing. We shared an ambition. We wanted to do something in our lives that was different from what we were already doing. It was a complex subject. The endless wish to write. The deep belief that we could do it. But against this, the ambition was severely modified by self-doubt.

We had doubts about being good enough, or doubts about being original enough. And there were the hundred different practical problems. How to make enough money to live. What the market was like.

We had found it hard to say these things to the people around us in our ordinary lives. In this we were both secretive, and neither of us had ever shown our stories to anyone else. Once we had cleared the ground, though, we did show them to each other.

We found we were at about the same level of competence, which is to say, not very competent. We weren't at all alike in what interested us, the subjects we wanted to write about, or even in the way we wrote. But I saw things in his stuff that impressed me, and the same was apparently true of him. This is perhaps a side of Charles Platt that many people who met him in those days never saw. For a short, intensive period – short, intensive periods were all you could have with Charles in those days – we were a huge influence on each other, and a great encouragement too.

But one day he was off again on his travels, and as far as I remember I never again had another conversation with him about writing. Or not one at such a creative level. The necessary had been done, though, and my own course was set. All I had to do was write something good enough to be published, and then all would follow. Or so I thought.

This happened before I went to that con. Afterwards, I began writing in earnest.


I've always been happy to acknowledge my fannish background. You've probably noticed. But I'm here as one of your writer guests of honour, so I suppose I should put on my more serious guise and attempt to say something about writing or books.

This is the part of my speech that takes about three hours.

You certainly wouldn't be interested in a full account of my next forty years. Writers sit in a room writing, and that is what I have been doing since 1964. Well, to be exact since 1968, which was when I left my last job.

My beginning to be a published writer came not long after that first con. It happened to coincide with the period now known as the British New Wave. I went through all that, survived it, carried on afterwards. I was a young writer feeling my way. I usually say that I was in the New Wave but not really of it. I never felt I shared the same agenda as the other New Wavers, except that the agenda of the New Wave happened to coincide with what many young writers are naturally trying to do.

As I said just now, I believe science fiction writers should not look to the past for their inspiration, but should try to break new ground. In essence, that was the propaganda of the New Wave. It was a literary movement, typical of the 1960s, in which writers were encouraged to do their own thing. But I never fancied a job as one of Mike Moorcock's hangers-on.

In 1974 my novel Inverted World appeared in Britain and the USA. It did reasonably well here, but it died a quick and painless death in the USA. At the time I wrote Inverted World I felt it had quite a lot going for it, but the reviewers didn't agree. It's not false modesty to say that most of the reviews were a bit lukewarm.

In the aftermath I felt disappointed and let down, but in those days I was able to move from one novel to the next fairly painlessly. I consoled myself by starting work on my next book, The Space Machine.

Then translations of Inverted World began appearing in some European countries.

My two earlier books had also been translated, without making any waves. But Inverted World clearly struck a resonant chord when it was freed from the constraints of the English language. The book became something of a minor hit in several European countries. In France it was a real hit. To my amazement it received the sort of extensive newspaper and magazine reviews you normally only dream about. The book was "taken up" by readers of many different persuasions. It even briefly entered the mainstream best-seller charts.

The book has stayed in print in France ever since. It's been on sale continuously for nearly thirty years. It is taught in schools, it appears on most people's lists of favourite sf novels, and has generally kept me supplied with invitations to France. It easily overshadows everything else I've written since. Even today, people in France ask me if I've written any other novels apart from Le Monde Inverti ...

Luck obviously comes into it. But so too does metrication. You may remember the first line of the book: "I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles." Now this is arithmetically correct, within the terms of the plot, but a bit embarrassingly Imperial. All over Europe, however, the translators whipped out their pocket calculators, and the first line became what I suppose it should have been all along: "I had reached the age of one thousand kilometres." I think the convenience of that rounding-up was what did the trick.

In 1977 I went on my first trip to Australia. I was away for a month, attending cons and helping to run a writers' workshop at Monash University in Melbourne. I came home a changed man.

The spirit of the great Australian nation had entered my blood, and it has never really left it since. In the immediate aftermath it induced a state of creative paralysis I had never known before. It forced the first long gap in my writing. Nothing after that Australian month seemed worth doing, except to dream and remember. For ages I was making plans to emigrate there, but as you can see they came to nothing. In the end I returned to relative normality and slowly got back to work. The first novel I wrote after Australia was The Affirmation, which I completed in 1980.

I think it's possible to look at my work and see that it falls into two clear periods. All the fiction I wrote before The Affirmation is one kind of thing. All the fiction I wrote afterwards is another.

I don't think there's a moral in this, except that the real work a writer does is a search. You try to find your voice, and you try to find the kind of book that best suits that voice. I don't know exactly how it happened. The change did have something to do with kangaroos falling out of trees. Also with eating too many pavlovas. But maybe it was the long inactive months that followed, which created the necessary break in which I could pursue that search.

My children, Simon and Elizabeth, were born in 1989. They're twins, although not of course identical. They're here this weekend, so I won't embarrass them by going on about them now. But I had taken an interest in the state of identical twins since about 1980.

The University of Minnesota operates a long-term research project into what has happened to several sets of adult twins who had been separated at birth. The researchers record the extraordinary similarities which exist between two identical adults who have spent their lives apart. Such twins, ignorant of each other's existence, tend to mirror each other in astonishing ways. They marry people with similar names, fall down and break their legs on the same day, go on holidays to the same resorts, drink the same brands of liquor, develop illnesses at the same time, give their children the same first names, and so on. Everything seems pre-destined, and only through the lives of separated twins can we discover that.

This interesting news, followed by the arrival of my own kids, has presented me with a fund of material that has inspired me ever since. All my books from about 1990 onwards have dealt with doubles, twins, separation, mistaken identity, predestination, alternatives.

And not all twins are related to each other, as I have recently discovered to my own cost.

About ten years ago a young American comics writer called James Owsley changed his name to mine. At first I thought it was a joke, then I began to see his name, my name, appearing on a number of comics. In one of the magazines, he said in interview that he had changed his name to 'Christopher Priest' because it sounded co-o-ol.

Believing that the two worlds of comics and science fiction were sufficiently close to create real confusion, I contacted his publishers, DC Comics, and asked them what he thought he was up to. They told me: his new name was co-o-ol, it didn't matter if someone else was already "using" the name, who cared anyway, and go and get lost.

Since it plainly did not matter, I wrote back and suggested that if Owsley wanted to change his name to something really silly, why didn't he choose "Harlan Ellison"?

While I was writing The Separation I discovered that something very similar had happened to Winston Churchill. Early in his writing career, Churchill learnt that there was an American novelist of the same name. In his case, the problem was sorted out amicably over a dinner in New York, with the result that Churchill, the famous one, agreed to modify his published name. This is why all his subsequent books appeared under the name "Winston S. Churchill."

Twins and doubles seem to be everywhere. One of the things that our masters, the politicians, get up to is to employ physical doubles. These lookalikes have to stand in for them when they want to be somewhere else. You may remember a novel by Robert Heinlein called Double Star, based on that very idea.

Reading about World War 2 I discovered that both Hitler and Stalin used doubles. Then I remembered that most of Churchill's famous wartime speeches were recorded by a voice double, the actor Norman Shelley. There was another well-known case, in which an actor impersonated Field-Marshal Montgomery in the weeks leading up to D-Day. All this goes on into the present day: Saddam Hussein is known to have used about a dozen lookalikes ... probably the twelve worst jobs in the world.

There is a crank conspiracy theory (the sort I love) about Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy.

The theory goes that when Hess flew to Britain on a peace mission in 1941, it wasn't him at all but his double.

A second crank theory suggests that the double was himself replaced by another Hess lookalike, this one working for the British government. At the same time, the real Rudolf Hess came to Britain by a different route and started secret negotiations.

In this way, Britain ended up with three Rudolf Hesses, while Germany had none.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the lunatic conspiracy, I discovered something that was almost interesting about the royal family. You probably didn't think it's possible to find something interesting about them. You live and learn.

Our late king, George VI, was one of three brothers. Although they weren't identical, they did bear a remarkable physical resemblance to each other. They also had names that to my mind seemed deliberately designed to confuse people.

The first thing was that the king wasn't called George at all. His real name was Albert, and was known to his friends as 'Bertie'. Bertie, or Albert, had three middle names, one of which was George.

Albert George became King George when his older brother Edward VIII abdicated. Edward, who looked just like his brother Albert, had seven Christian names, and they included Edward, Albert and George.

Albert George and Edward Albert George had a younger brother who also looked just like them. His name was George and he also had the Christian name Edward.

I must confess that I half-expected to be told that one of these three wrote science fiction under the pseudonym Bertie George Wells.

Anyway, this royal George Edward, the younger brother of the two kings, died in a plane crash in 1942. He was in a flying-boat that hit a mountain in the Highlands of Scotland.

That alone is a mystery, since flying-boats rarely flew over land, let alone through mountains. To this day a fog of mystery and official secrecy surrounds the crash. One of the possible reasons for the secrecy is an interesting one. When the rescuers went through the wreckage they found an extra body, someone who was not known to have been on board when the plane first took off.

There is evidence to suggest that this extra passenger was Rudolf Hess. Very embarrassing, if the German Deputy Fuhrer was on the same plane as a member of the German-born British royal family.

Of course, it might have been Hess's double. Or it might even have been Hess's double's double.

And it might have been one of the other Georges ...

If you're getting confused, welcome to my world.

I spent two productive years picking my way happily through this stuff, and the result was The Separation. The book opens with Churchill's discovery that one of his operational RAF bomber pilots appears to have a double life, negotiating peace with the Nazis. The complications unravel from there.


Well, I feel the Ted Tubb moment is upon me. If I had a thread when I began, I think it has unravelled completely now.

A lot has happened since that con in 1964. Most of the inmates have been released from the asylums. Many of the people who were in Peterborough are now dead, some of our best-loved friends among them. Bob Shaw and James White in particular, but also many fans from that era. We miss them all, but we carry on.

Leigh Brackett, who in 1964 was already an award-winning screenwriter, went on to write the screenplay of The Empire Strikes Back, shortly before her death. Her husband, Edmond Hamilton, died in 1977. Terry Pratchett remains alive and has done rather well. Charles Platt has a successful career in the USA as a new-technology journalist. Ken Bulmer and Ted Tubb are still around, but unfortunately no longer strong enough to attend cons. Mike Moorcock, ditto, but he is still gamely writing Elric stories. I cling on, trying to unravel complicated things.

And that bugger Tony Edwards still owes me a letter.

Thank you.


1. Who was it who fell down the stairs?

CP: Not saying.

2. What time does the belly-dancing start?

CP: Thanks for your challenging questions. Good day.

[CP exits, looking Tubb-like.]