gostak index SFN INDEX
**** LONDON S-F CONVENTION 1952 ****
Chairman:- E. J. Carnell Secretary:-
Committee members included:- J. Rattigan, T. Tubb, A.Vincent Clarke, M. Wilson, F. Brown, Dorothy Jacobs and Daphne Buckmaster.
I wrote CON TOUR, the longest section in this booklet, as a personal account, a highly personal account of the Convention for publication in SCIENCE FANTASY NEWS. Unfortunately (?), so much news was waiting that I had to publish SFN and announce that a full Convention Supplement would be sent separately, including Dorothy Jacob's interesting 'first time' and feminine report with it.
The supplement was stencilled when it was suggested that the 'zine should be extended into a semi-official account with data, etc., from other sources. That has now been done, and you find before you a wildly heteregenous report, fact and fantasy mingled together. It just growed!
This booklet is being sent to all readers of SCIENCE FANTASY NEWS and, in addition, all members of the CONVENTION SOCIETY.
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SCIENCE FICTION 'FANDOM'
Some of you may have contacted this mysterious science-fiction 'fandom' for the first time at the Convention, and would like to know more about it. I cannot do better than direct you to the OPERATION FANTAST HANDBOOK, 1952 edition, published by Capt. Ken Slater of B.A.O.R.
Therein you will find details of the meetings for fans, authors, editors and artists in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, etc, details of the Fantasy Art Society etc., advertisements from the various fan magazines of Great Britain, details of fan slang, and numerous notes on the large-scale American activities, both professional and amateur.
You will also find plenty concerning the OPERATION FANTAST trading concern, library and fanzines, and announcements from purely professional dealers in s-f. 7d in stamps to the British branch of O.F., sent to Mavis Pickles, 41, Compton Street, Dudley Hill, Bradford, Yorks., will get you a copy of OPERATION FANTAST and a free copy of the HANDBOOK.
There is, however, no official nation-wide organisation of s-f fans. It's been tried, several times, and failed. Fans are too independent for organisation, say some. Too lazy, say others. Whatever the reason, s-f 'fandom' is about the easiest thing to enter in the wide world. When you find that merely buying the odd s-f 'zine from your nearest bookstall isn't enough, and start hunting for s-f and readers of it, you're a 'neo-fan'. When you attend conventions, write letters to magazines, attend meetings, collect, you're a 'fan' ... and if you plunge over the brink of sanity and write for fanzines, or worse, publish them, or organise meetinge, you're an 'active' fan.It's as simple as that. S-f fans are just like ordinary people ('True Confessions' ) with about 3 times the average originality, imagination, and independence of outlook ... usually.
Fandom itself is an accidentally semi-secret 'underground movement'. It's for the enthusiast, not the casual reader, and therefore the latter never discovers it. And, naturally, fans find a lot more to discuss than s-f. You have that basic interest in common, but it's astonishing how many other subjects are dissected by active minds in fanzines and at meetings.
You, Sir or Madam, must have discovered fandom to be reading this. Welcome, and come right on in ... we're glad to meet you!
A STRICTLY PERSONAL OUTLINE OF THE LONDON
It began, of course, some months ago; an agony of sitting at a 'White Horse' table surrounded by fans discussing intensely interesting topics and reading intensely interesting magazines whilst we grimly debated the questions of films and hotels and charges and the unaccountable disappearance of Bill Temple everytime he was approached with a request for a Convention speech.
Things began to come to a boil the Sunday before the Con.; I managed to get away from the topic of NEW WORLDS long enough to persuade Ted Carnell to write the Programme introduction, spent most of the rest of the day explaining to Jim Ratigan why he couldn't have solid blacks on his programme design. All but one page of the pg. was finished by Monday night, when we three with Dorothy Jacobs, Frank Arnold and Ted Tubb met at the 'White Horse' for envelope addressing.
I was cursed for not completing the programme, explained that I'd wait till the last possible minute in case of alterations. It turned out that the major change in the set-up since the previous Thursday was in the text already duplicated. I didn't recover from this till on the train back, when I had the stuff spread out on my knees and was making notes. The chap sitting next to me was eyeing it in a very interested fashion; I gave him an encouraging look, he asked me where to get to the Con., and Bingo! I'd caught another fan. Reading for some years, never seen a U.S. edition, never heard of Ken Slater; a real neo-fan. I noted his address (2-3 miles from home), returned in an exhilarated frame of mind which lasted till 5 am., when the last page of the last pg. fluttered into the duplicator tray.
Went to bed for a few hours (wish I was like fan John Phillifent, a four-hours-per-night sleeper), arose to staple and post the stuff. Some I took up to Secretary Arnold by cycle, and must have nearly reached the speed of light, because the thing acquired infinite mass the last couple of furlongs back. Wrote to Walt Willis in Belfast, James White in Paris, arranging a rendezvous in London on Friday.
Thursday ... put all pg. stencils back on duplicator to run off a few more copies. There's no messier job on Earth, tho' I hear there's a Messier nebulae. Loaded with pg.s I battle to get inside the 'White Horse' that evening, but then things get hazy. There's a dim recollection of meeting Derek Pickles, looking twice life size, being introduced to the new Mrs Pickles and a collection of photos of ordinary, well-fed looking types whom DP assured me were US fans. Mike Rosenblum of Leeds was talking volumes at the bar, and Fred Robinson, editor of some obscure Welsh fanzine appeared with a shiny new camera and a flash-gun that practically hypnotised you rigid whilst he took the picture.
Sigvard Ostlund of Norway, Dave Cohen, Eric Bentcliffe, Norman Weedall and lots of others from oop North, plus many London Circleites who don't usually appear more than once a quarter brought the total attendance to 60 or 70. The Con. Committee escaped to the privacy of the Public Bar, and the last thing I remember doing is staggering home with a suitcase full of auctionable NEW WORLDS originals.
I suppose I'm a typical Londoner. Never been inside St. Pauls, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Monument, etc. etc., and Friday night was my introduction to Victoria Coach Station. I'd never have thought they could have done things so smoothly without running on rails. Walt Willis' coach was due at 6.57 am. a coach duly arrived at 6.58. He wasn't on it. Or the next. Or the next. My heart was thudding painfully against my instep, and at 7.30 I was just thinking of giving up, when Something caused me to look outside the station yard, and there, towering over everything except the double-decker omnibuses, was the bhoy himself.
In a few minutes the first puns were being exchanged, and we were on the Tube to Earls Court, to pick up James White. James, you may remember, had been to Paris. James, we agreed, was due for a thorough inquisition as to what he'd been doing. As it happened, he forestalled us by meeting us at the station and asking what we'd been doing. He did tell us about the champagne, tho.
On to the 'White Horse', where Walt was introduced to several neofans who knelt before him, and to Fred Brown who hadn't, he said, heard of him before. Walt was grabbed by Bill Temple and I found myself being persuaded to buy a Space Patrol Handbook by one Denis Gifford, the author of same. I introduced him to several people. No good. He finally sold me one. I got my paltry revenge by pointing out that there was only one 'c' in 'vacuum' (p.5), and to use his own Plutonian on him, he gave me a 'hosk'
The Manchester boys wre present in force, with a large poster advertising the MANCON to be held later this year All the 'o's in the notice were ringed Saturns; Eric Bentcliffe told me that they had already forestalled WAW by calling the 1953 Con. the SUPERMANCON. I also collected a copy of the Manchester group's British 'zine Checklist, turning faintly green at the beautiful reproduction of small type therein.
Other out-of-town types present included the old S-F Service, now Milcross, boys, Les Johnson and Frank Milne, Alan Hunter and his wife from Bournemouth, and several others whose faces were more familiar than their names. It was about here that I began to wish everyone had a large label with their name on it ... it wouldn't be egoboo ... just convenience.
The night ended with us being chucked out of the White Horse at 10.30, chucked out of the pub. around the corner (and in a different district) at 11.00, and with Walt and myself arriving at Welling at 12.30 am. We went to bed fairly early ... about 2.30.
We parted in London that morning; Walt to collect a case at Victoria, myself to invade the 'Royal Hotel'. It was 10.15, but there were 7 or 8 fans there already. Tony Thorne was fixing up an exotic display of drawings and photos of his new club-cum-shop and another gent from the vicinity of Charing Cross Road who's been taking a (commercial) interest in s-f was setting out hundreds of books, and Tony Cooper had racks of carefully displayed 'zines. I hastily inserted a 'Committee' badge in my lapel, but couldn't get any free samples. I was introduced then to Dave Wood and Ken Potter, the Boy Wonders of Lancashire, who had a table positively littered with hand-written fanzines. I had a little trouble in distinguishing which fan was which at first, but eventually settled on the mnemonic Kurly Ken and made out OK. Also on hand was John Gutteridge, another youngfan but from Southern England.
Derek, Alan and Co. arrived with masses of artwork, '53 Calendars, fanzines and things, and began to plaster all available blank spaces with them. Fred Brown and myself made an unsuccessful attempt to collect some cash, but had to wait for Charles to arrive with The Book, and, Ghu be praised, some change. After that a merciful haze descended ... I remember sticking up pictures and some SFNs on a wall ... someone had vanished two valves from the amplifying equipment overnight, but our chief projectionist and equipment fan Kerry Gaulder was lucky enough to get replacements at the first place he tried ... before I could turn round a couple of hundred times it was dinner time, and Walt, the Pickles, Paul Enever and self hunted a meal.
There must have been nearly a hundred present when Ted Carnell opened the first formal sessions with introductions. I'd hoped he'd read through the list of members, but instead he cast an eagle eye around the hall and picked various red-faced person from the audience to stand and take a bow. (Drawing a bow at /Con/venture?)
Curiously enough, the first thing to be discussed was where the next Con. would be held, and after each out-of-town speaker had described his club he'd insert a plug for his particular locality as the site, in most cases. Various accents floated through the PA system as the Bentcliffe-Cohen pair exhorted us to Come to Sunny Manchester, Derek advocated a Con. organised by the People Who Make A Business of It at Harrogate, and the Liverpudlians gracefully admitted that anywhere did them.
Walt, speaking in a low voice at roughly 250 words per minute, suggested James for the next Con. Secretary, with the ringing slogan 'GAY PAREE IN '53', an idea that was virtually ignored by the Chairman, and after the disadvantages of London in Coronation year had been pointed out (hotels packed, high prices, etc.) and the advantages of London in Coronation year had been shown (plenty to see, more trains, etc.), a vote was taken on a show of hands which London naturally won hands down (?). Ken Bulmer immediately asked if it would be called the Coronvention. There was a general feeling that Manchester, who were second in the voting, should have some sort of official backing next year in any case, and as the sessions closed soon afterwards, little groups could be seen arguing the fairness of the voting-system and the possibilities of a postal vote ... more will be heard about this, I think.
After tea-break, a recorded speech by Arthur C.Clarke, at present touring the U.S., was played. After sundry cracks at Bill Temple, Jim Ratigan and others, he broadcast a portion of 'Sands of Mars' read backwards, and then for the benefit of Bill, part of a Yma Sumac record. I don't know the technical details of what he did to that reproduction, but he shouldn'ta done it. Senorita Sumac sounded as if she was not only a hot singer, but roasting alive. (Bill says Arthur nearly put off his American trip when he heard of Sumac's London visit during that period. With malice aforethought Bill went to see Yma on that Saturday night, so that he could gloat at ACC on his return.) ACC then followed with his broadcast review of s-f films, originally heard from the BBC last November, illustrating then with sound-effects. The over-all impression left by ACC's period was the absolute silence in which it was received throughout .....
The next item was a debate on the motion 'that s-f is true to the facts of human experience'. This wasn't my idea of a subject likely to arouse controversy, but luckily I was called out --- Fandom's leading critic and expert (vide NEW WORLDS), Walt, had become embroiled with a 'Sunday Pictorial' reporter. I'd exchanged a few words with the gent previously; he'd been searching desperately for a slant (no caps), and apparently Walt had put him on to the old stand-by, s-f slang. It's surprising how few phrases one can remember off-hand, even tho one may use them easily and unconsciously in writing or talking. Eventually the Sunday Pic. man had Walt, Derek, Tony Cooper and myself all scrabbling through fanzines trying to pick out appropiate words. Poorish publicity was preferable to none at all. Eventually we got about 4 column inches on the back page of some editions. A threatened write-up in the 'Sunday Times' never materialised, and a brave attempt to crash the front page of 'Reveille' was shouldered aside by the curves of a pin-up girl. It was a case of convention or bust, and somebody beat us on points.
We therefore missed the episode of Ted Tubb and the lecherous spiders, returning in time to see the vote taken on the debate ... none for, six against. There was a short interval of pandemonium as chairs were gathered in a close semi-circle around the Chairman's table, piles of magazines and books were heaped on it, and the auction began. Ted Tubb as an auctioneer was magnificent. There's no other word for it. Heavily fortified by mysterious bottles that had appeared in the Entrance Hall during the afternoon, he swung into the auction with really high spirits. Here I regret to say that I lost the chance of recording some amazing exhortations to buy! buy! buy!, being too busy watching WAW snatch a notebook from his pocket five or six times a minute to catch the latest Tubb epigram. One of these days I'll get audited if only to recapture those suave tones extolling the virtues of a beat-up AMAZING ... "it's worth the price in paper alone" ... Walt has it down for publication in QUANDRY, anyway.
The sums fetched by magazines were generally low ... 2/- each on the average. The early British 'zines were fetching higher prices, about 3/6d each, and books were going at roughly cover-prices. Unlike U.S. conventions, our brand are usually in the nature of bargain sales.
Supper break followed and after a long interval of reversing chairs and re-arranging them, stifling young fans who were yelling 'Chocolates, ices, cigarettes!" etc, we started, with some misgivings, on the films. 'Misgivings' because, owing to a breakdown of the one we should have had, we were practically forced to take some semi-unknown shorts to go with the hired projector and 'The Man Who Could Work Miracles'. Also, nice tho' the ancient hall of the Royal Hotel is, with space, good lighting, adequate seating, freedom to arrange everything from cover-girls to amplifying equipment on its panelled walls, etc., it isn't made for showing films on a summer evening. There's no means of darkening the windows, and for the first hour or so the screen was a slowly brightening rectangle of creamy yellow on which shadowy blobs swam like amoeba during a mating dance. Paper darts sailed through the air from the young-fan section. I didn't dare look at Jim Ratigan during this time, because he'd painstakingly worked out a lush programme of shorts, timed to the minute, only to have it scrapped within a week of the Con.
The agony, which involved a young lady dressed in the latest fashion of '33 demonstrating how the new-fangled sound-pictures worked, the usual V-2 rocket, and some French astronomical films gave way at last to the shadowy Star Watchers riding down the Milky Way ...
"Cannot you leave those nasty little animals alone?"
... and soon the Man began to Work Miracles. A little naive perhaps, after all these years, and too much caricature instead of character, but the old Wellsian touch, the fantasy-cum-moralising, is still fresh and interesting. What would you do, with unlimited power over everything except men's (and women's) minds?
The first full day was over --- we wandered out on the various homeward routes in the cool summer-evening air; the give-and-take of small talk coming easily ...
It started at the local station. Walt looked in his wallet for something, and there was his boat return-ticket, missing. He did have a cheap-day return half that he should have given up the night before. The inference was obvious.
One of my keenest memories of the Con. is standing in the little, wooden-walled station office, elbow deep in return-tickets, searching for the One. Walt swore it was a green, three-quarter inch square exactly like the others, the only difference being that it was worth something over £2 by itself. In case you didn't know, tickets are tied together in sticks about, a foot long and sent for checking a couple of days after being handed in. These sticks disintegrate at a touch ... we found out. We spent some time scrabbling on the floor and a longer time checking on the table. No ticket.
We eventually left with an address to contact for a possible re-fund; Walt was keeping cheerful; I was wondering if he'd be mortally insulted if I started a Little Pond Fund. I decided he would be, and didn't. I had faith in British Railways, anyway.
We arrived at the Royal during dinner-break, The only official item on the programme that morning had been a get-together of editors and their readers. We learnt that Ted Carnell had answered for Authentic Science Fiction and Bert Campbell for New Worlds, and the thing had been a terrific success. We had a light lunch, sharing it with Charlie Duncombe, one of the un-sung heros of the London Cons. He is the Treasurer, the Man Who Collects the Cash at the Entrance, and the proud possessor of an accounts book London fans learnt to dread in the month before the Con.
Sunday afternoon sessions began with an 'Authors Circle', in which Ted Tubb, Bert Campbell, Dan Morgan, Frank Arnold, Syd Bounds, Dave McIllwain and Bryan Berry discoursed on s-f and why they wrote it ... answers were generally (a) money, (b) they preferred it to other kinds of fiction. Artist Alan Hunter was also drawn into the discussion, and from the audience an executive of Grayson and Grayson, one of the few publishers in this country interested in book s-f, gave an informative and succint account of their side of the business, ending with the hopeful news that G&G are looking for English stories.
John Brunner introduced himself as probably the youngest pro-author in the country, having had stories published under the 'Gill Hunt' 'housename' at the age of 17;. even literary men, he said, were turning to s-f nowadays. (At this point, I find that the scrap of paper on which I was taking notes covered with puns, e.g. a rather obscure Willis-Clarke combination running 'A nice Gill, but one of the droving kine' ... I mention this to show the difficulties under which I was trying to memorise a coherent account). Mr. Fairthorne, introduced as a physicist working on a Government project, was an advocate of more science in s-f if it was logical; he also mentioned an Irish myth as s-f, causing intense excitement in my vicinity.
Came the International Fantasy Award; no-one ran around screaming with enthusiasm at the announcement of the fiction trophy's destination -- John Collier's little known book of fantasy shorts, 'Fancies & Goodnights', tho' Secretary Les Flood consoled s-f fans with the news that 'Day of the Triffids' by John 'Wyndham' (Beynon) was a close runner-up. There was no doubt whatever about the book for the non-fiction award, Arthur Clarke's 'Exploration of Space'. Arthur's brother and sister-in-law (who types his mss.) received the spaceship-and-table-lighter trophy on his behalf, and Ted Carnell stood in for Collier.
A long break followed the award -- an opportunity rarely given at English Cons for fans to get together. During this period I met numerous Sunday-only visitors, including bibliophile and former actifan Richard Medhurst at the first fan meeting he'd attended for 9 years. (Mem. for future cons, advocate this lapel-button-with name idea!), and spent some time at the 'Authentic' display stand, where Editor Campbell had not only assembled his 'zines, cover-originals etc., but also many items of interest such as fanzines, authors photos, etc.
The evening film show began with a series of atomic-bomb explosions, the creamy half-light giving them an odd super-fried-egg appearance. Then came the long-awaited 'Metropolis', and for me at least it really lived up to expectations. I don't know which I enjoyed most, the fantasy or the unconsciously funny effects, but I'll remember for a long time the great Futuristic Babel breaking up into waterspouts and crumbling buildings, and Dan Morgan's voice from the back of the hall calling "Look! the Mancon!".
I think that there was a faint attempt at a formal winding up of the Convention, but for a long time after Secretary Arnold and Chairman Carnell had gone to relieve their aching throats, a fair sized auction in which everything, floggable was flogged was in progress ... the last item being a plain notice, bringing 4d. James White was last to leave the hall, which now looked as tho' a small typhoon had struck it.
That ended the Convention proper, altho' a small party went to find a showing of FLIGHT TO MARS on Monday, and that afternoon saw the first meeting of Walt and James with Chuck Harris, who had been unable to attend during the weekend. James happened to be wearing a false beard and dark glasses when he opened the door to Chuck. Mere words can hardly recapture the expression on the latter's face and I'm not going to try, but an account of that meeting, by James and Chuck, will appear in HYPHEN No 2, due mid-September '52.
The afternoon was capped by the arrival of a porter from Welling station who after searching some 3000 tickets had found Walt's return half. It was blue, totally different from the others.
A. VINCENT CLARKE
THE FUTURE OF S-F
(A paper read by Sydney J.Bounds during the 'Author's Session', June 1st)
Mr. Chairman, ladies, and gentlemen.
For the next few minutes I propose to read you a paper I have prepared on the future of science-fiction.
I feel that science-fiction is in a rut, and that before any real development is possible, we must first change our attitude towards it.
For too long, science-fiction stories have been tied to mechanical gadgetry, to scientific problems, to the tyranny of the abstract idea. The result has been magazines of a small and necessarily restricted circulation, and I feel that there is little hope of interesting that large body, the non-sf reading public, until a radical change is made.
Critics of science-fiction have long labelled the field as 'childish', a criticism I believe to be particularly valid not only of the 'space-opera' class of story, but also of the more scientific work in the field.
Most fans to whom I have spoken consider DESTINATION MOON, the first of the current cycle of s-f films, to be scientifically accurate --- indeed, their praise, criticism, and general understanding appears limited to this one viewpoint.
I agree, in the scientific view, DESTINATION MOON is a big improvement over most films of this kind --- yet the film critic of my local paper dismissed it as 'suitable for mechanically minded boys'! The point is, that while DESTINATION MOON pleases the rocket enthusiasts, it does not satisfy the larger body of the public because the film is not emotionally mature. And this, I feel, is what is wrong with most s-f stories --- it is time for science-fiction to grow up!
It seems obvious to me that present-day sf magazines, limited as they are by the type of story featured, have already reached the saturation point in circulation. I doubt if there are many more potential readers of the gadget, or science-problem story. Yet there are magazines on the bookstalls -- not science-fiction -- which have a circulation of between a quarter and one million regular readers!
Is such a readership beyond the scope of science-fiction?
I believe it is, while we cling to the old ideas, and that we need a drastic change of outlook. Let us consider the requirements necessary for such a development in this field.
Firstly, the emphasis must be on a well-drawn, sympathetic character in whom the reader can believe.
Secondly, the story problem must be emotional, not scientific. I visualise this problem as stemming from some new scientific discovery or perhaps a change in social conditions, or again, the environment of another planet during colonisation. Even so, the story problem must be an emotional one, for human emotion is the keystone of any story appealing to a large number of readers -- which is where science-fiction falls down so badly. In the past there have been many stories of colonizing Mars, or Venus, -- some of them very good -- but how few have shown dramatically the effect such a major-change in their lives must have on the first settlers on another world.
I should like, briefly, to recall two published stories which I believe typify this new approach to science-fiction.
The first is John Beynon's TIME TO REST. In this story, 'Bert Tasser' is one of the few Earthmen left alive after his world is destroyed. He is stranded on Mars, restless, filled with a sense of not belonging, a loneliness, an emptiness --- he is a tormented soul knowing no home, one of Earth's lost children. The story concerns his relationship with the Martians, amongst whom he wanders as a tinker, mending pots and doing odd jobs --- and the bitter desolation inside him is beautifully contrasted with the calm, philosophic Martians, who advise it is TIME TO REST.
Here, you will find no scientific gadgets, no chemical formulae, no abstract ideas --- it is a story of feeling, of emotion, and therefore one which can appeal to a much larger audience than we usually associate with any science-fiction publication.
The second story that I have chosen to illustrate my theme is THE GREEN HILLS OF EARTH by Robert Heinlein, originally printed in the American SATURDAY EVENING POST, a magazine whose circulation must be the envy of every sf publisher.
This is the story of Rhysling, the Blind Singer of the Spaceways, and Heinlein makes him the most sympathetic character ever to appear in a science-fiction story -- a carefree, riotous 'jetman' forever making up verses and singing them to the accompaniment of his accordion.
The futuristic setting is firmly handled, kept in its rightful place in the background, and no technical details are allowed to swamp the main character.
On one of the first rocket ships to be converted to atomic power, Rhysling loses his sight when a power jet fails --- he is set down on Mars and left, no longer any use to the men who run the deep-space ships. He becomes a roving minstrel, travelling from planet to planet and earning his keep with his songs. When, eventually, Rhysling becomes famous, the author carefully contrasts his real character with the one that the public knows.
The day comes when Rhysling feels the urge to visit his home planet. Aboard the ship carrying him to Earth, Rhysling is composing his last song when trouble strikes --- the jetman on duty is killed by the blast from the atomic motors and Rhysling takes over. He saves the ship, but sacrifices his own life in doing so. And his last chorus is the famous 'Green Hills of Earth'.
Again, you will notice a complete absence of mechanical gadgets, science-problems, or abstract ideas --- it is, like TIME TO REST, a story of pure emotion, and, I believe, the more powerful because of that.
It is with this type of story, based upon human emotion and fully realised character, and showing the effect science may have on ordinary people --- a type of story appealing to an entirely new audience --- that I believe holds the best prospects for THE FUTURE OF SCIENCE FICTION.
(Note. TIME TO REST was originally published in NEW WORLDS No. 5.)
Arriving late at the Convention on the Saturday, my guilty feelings were superseded by joy and relief at finding a good attendance. This sight dispelled any doubts lurking subversively at the back of my mind that the hoped-for attendance was just another fantastic dream.
Ted Carnell was introducing eminent personalities in the audience, and knowing I wouldn't be included my glance transversed the hall and took in the stalls and the assortments of drawings decorating the dismal Victorian walls. My wandering attention returned to Ted when the question, 'Should London Monopolise Conventions?' arose. This brought forth diverse viewpoints, and the suggestion that it should be put to the vote was hardly a fair one. A large proportion of the audience was made up of London people, and the result was more than a little obvious. The idea of having two conventions next year, one in Manchester and the other in London, seems a good one, but if Manchester still feel that they would like to have a smack at it, let them; I for my part send them good wishes for its success should they take the job. Don't let's have friction amongst fiction!
One of the most impressive items came after the tea break, when Arthur C.Clarke's recorded speech was heard. Humorous references to certain bodies present ... Bill Temple, Jim Rattigan, etc. causing amusement, but the general silence with which it was received was evident of the appreciation felt for ACC's words, and for a few minutes the whole purpose of the Convention was highlighted. ((Hark-lighted? ED)
Ah, yes! The Debate! Well, firstly, of course, the subject was such that argument was superfluous. Speaking from a 'laywomen's' point of view, the science-fiction I've read so far bears no relationship whatsoever to 'the facts of human experience'. (I nearly said "Thank God!") Does anyone know what is meant by the motion? I don't! Here is a sentence so contradictory in its construction that it's completely devoid of logic. S-f, as I understand it, is of the FUTURE, and 'experience' is of the PAST, so how then can one possibly reconcile the two?
However, Frank Arnold bravely put forward his case for the motion and succeeded in relating details of a somewhat chequered career from cars to boilers. (I'll see you behind the bar, Frank, and you can tell me the rest of your life's history.) Ted Tubb, (I imagine he had fortified himself for the ordeal), who spoke against the motion, proceeded with much aplomb and savoir faire to blow the whole thing sky-high with a few well chosen but softly delivered anecdotes dealing more or less with the rape - by some spider or other queer creature, not including man - of some poor vestal virgin!
Ron Buckmaster needs no encouragement when it comes to subjects not strictly 'Conventional', and his reference to a 'donkey' was so subtle that seconds elapsed before the audience appreciated the remark; his other comments on natural phenomena, (i.e. glow-worms), were most interesting, but then, this was not a lecture on the biological impulses of worms, and much of the hilarity subsided with the appearance of Fred Brown, who seriously criticised previous speakers for not alluding to the motion, and despite ribaldry from wits in the audience, stoutly maintained that s-f was another form of escapism ... well done, Fred! As a close associate of Jim Ratigan, (no comments, please), I refrain from any remarks, judicious or otherwise, on his handling of the Chairmanship, but hope that someone will take kindly to him and teach him the art of microphone mechanics. (London Circle won't be seeing me for some while after this appears!)
The first auction came just before supper break; poor old Ted! Has anyone got a pair of tonsils to spare, or even an odd larynx? I've attended many auctions but I've never been entertained like this. We had everything flung at us; witty comments, sheer abuse, threats, appeals, allusions such as ... "you don't know what women are for YET, boy...." etc. Since the women were in the minority we had to suffer, (and sometimes squirm) from the 'rapious' tongue of Tubb. Note! Boy-friends ... never bid against your girl-friend - you'll end the same way as Jim Rattigan - almost broke!
The least said about the first half of the Saturday film-show the better ... in fact, the shadowy outline of some feline strolling across the skylight overhead gave us more amusement and speculation as to whether it might be the 'thing from another world" than any of the short films offered us. In all fairness to those who arranged this show, I must say the hall wasn't conducive to a clear picture, and that future film shows must be considered from this point of view.
The International Fantasy Award was the 'thing' on Sunday, and although John Collier, winner of the fiction trophy, is as yet unknown to me, I'll look forward to the loan of one or two of his stories (any offers?)
In the absence of Arthur Clarke, winner of the non-fiction Award, his brother and sister-in-law received it on A.C.C.'s behalf. Both awards took the form of rockets on stands - very elegant and inspiring.
Again, Ted Tubb brought a blush to the cheeks of the fair sex at the second auction. I only hope that the ladies present, especially visitors to London, will not think that the London Circle are nothing but modern morons immersed in the immorality of modus anima.
An antiquated relic of old film days was dished out to us on Sunday evening, 'Metropolis', a silent film of no consequence at all, tho' the portrayal of ardent love was amusing; Maria the Robot was equally entertaining, and I gather from Jim's remarks - sotto voce - that she was just his cup of tea! (No accounting for peoples tastes, is there?)
The last hour was devoted to a frantic flogging of books, stills, and drawings. The film stills were popular, naturally - they were delectable femme fatales- - and I'll never forget the haunting look on some of the feller's faces!! J.R. was for buying the lot to console himself - nice type.
My first Convention was thoroughly enjoyed, and I shall look forward to next year, whether it is here or in Manchester. The only thing that annoyed me intensely was the very noisy types who would leave their seats and go and chat with folk elsewhere, probably on something far and away from the session on hand. Please be more considerate, not only for those who listen but to the person who is speaking!
To finish on a nicer note than the noisy types, I don't care if it is raining in Manchester next Convention-time ... after some of the showers we had at the London Con. it'll be like home from home ... but some of the recent news reports said that the Sun had been seen in the Cotton City lately. So let's hope it will turn out to be the Tan Con as well as the Man Con.
See you there?
OPERATION FANTAST. Lithographed. Irregular. For details, see
CONVENTION SOCIETY MEMBERS
At least two photographers were blinding the Convention with flash-bulbs. One of them was Fred Robinson, editor of the Welsh s-f newszine STRAIGHT UP, and we reproduce the following list (with some amendments) of the photos available from SU No 4.
D. 1. H. J. Campbell at White Horse
The above are now available, in 2 x 3 size, at 8d each, 7/6d per doz. , the set 15/-, from Robinson at 37, Willows Avenue, Tremorfa, Cardiff, Glam., or from Tony Thorne at the Medway S-F Centre, 78, Canterbury Street, Gillingham, Kent. Prices of enlargements on request.
At the time of writing, we have been unable to secure a full set of samples from the other photographer, but if received before this 'zine is duplicated, they will be noted elsewhere. Those noted are:-
A. 1. Charters, Tony Cooper, Duerr, Johnstone, Tee, Taylor, and
These 'A' section photos are available at 3/- each, full plate size, through Charles Duncombe, 82, Albert Square, London, E. 15.
Vol.1 No.1 SPACE DIVERSIONS, official organ of the Liverpool S-F Society (13a, St.Vincent Street, Liverpool 3,) carried a '1952 LONCON REPORT' by Dave Gardner, with very full coverage of the Liverpool fan speeches and the general proceedings re. voting etc, and a good over-all account (approx. 3000 words)
SPACE-TIMES Vol 1 No 2, the NSFC Newsletter, (available from E. Bentcliffe, 47, Alldis Street, Woodsmoor, Stockport, Cheshire) gives a report by Eric Jones with special reference to fan clubs and the Fantasy Award. (approx. 2000 words)
STRAIGHT UP, (for details see "Convention Photo's" above)' carried the first instalment of a personalised and detailed account by Fred Robinson in its 4th issue (1200).
QUANDRY (Lee Hoffman, USA, British subs thro' Walt Willis, 170, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, N. Ireland, the US ' zine To Which All Intelligent British Fans Subscribe, will carry a long (3,600), detailed, personal, humorous account by Willis. Follows an extract, stolen without permission but with very humble acknowledgements;-
(WILLIS ON TUBB) ... "I'll try to reconstruct some of his patter but of course it'll suffer by the absence of Tubb's terrific delivery and the disarming enthusiasm which he would lavish on some incredibly undistinguished paperback, like for instance the BRE of Farley's IMMORTALS ... "A FIRST EDITION! THE PLATES HAVE BEEN SMASHED! ... REMEMBER, THIS BOOK WAS BANNED IN BOSTON! (At this point he would open the book at random and pretend to read a lascivious passage --- he has a wonderful talent for improvising whole paragraphs, in any particular style.) AN HOUR OF EROTIC ENTERTAINMENT. THIS SORT OF STUFF WILL MAKE YOU INDEPENDENT OF YOUR GIRL FRIEND. DID I HEAR A SHILLING? COME OUT FROM BELOW THAT CHAIR AND SAY 1/3d. WE SOLD ONE OF THESE FOR TEN BOB AND IT WAS STOLEN FROM THE PURCHASER BY AN OUTRAGED FAN. THIS BOOK WAS BURNED IN EFFIGY IN FRANCE, SMUGGLED INTO THIS COUNTRY UNDER THE GUISE OF NYLONS. WHAT, ONLY 1/3d FOR THIS HIDEOUS TRAVESTY OF HUMAN DRAMA? (Tragically).THIS IS THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS! ALL RIGHT THEN, 1/3d. I'LL TAKE YOUR TROUSERS FOR DEPOSIT.
... AND NOW .... (He pauses dramatically, holding up a copy of AUTHENTIC with his own novel 'Alien Impact' in it. He waits statuesquely for utter silence. Then, solemnly --) THE GREATEST PIECE OF LITERATURE EVER WRITTEN ... I HEARD THAT!!! COME ON! NOW DO YOU WANT ME TO COMMIT SUICIDE RIGHT HERE ON THE FLOOR? I DIDN'T HEAR THAT BID ... WHAT??... VERY WELL THEN, SOLD, CURSE YOU. (Now, holding up some issues of FA and AMAZING and waiting for the jeers to die down --- ) NOW. NOW, DON'T DERIDE THE LITERATURE YOU LIVE ON. WHAT AM I BID FOR THIS THICK WAD OF READING MATERIAL? GUARANTEED TO LAST AT LEAST THREE NIGHTS. IN PERFECT CONDITION; THEY'VE ONLY BEEN READ ONCE, I ASSURE YOU. OLD COPIES OF THE BIBLE FETCH THOUSANDS OF POUNDS, AND THIS IS A RELIGION. ALL RIGHT THEN ... SOLD FOR THREE SHILLINGS.
... NOW, WHAT AM I BID FOR THIS BEAUTIFUL PAINTING? PEOPLE HAVE OFFERED POUNDS FOR IT BUT WE JUST SHOULDN'T SELL. MY, THERE MUST BE FIVE SHILLINGS WORTH OF POSTER COLOUR ON IT! PUT IT BEHIND THE AQUARIUM OR OVER THAT SPOT ON THE WALL WHERE BABY FORGOT HIMSELF. HANG IT IN YOUR DEN IF YOU'VE GOT ONE (MY DEN HAS A CHAIN HANGING DOWN THE SIDE.) ... WHAT OFFERS FOR THIS BOOK BY OLAF STAPLEDON? THERE'LL NEVER BE ANOTHER OLAF STAPLEDON YOU KNOW -- THERE WAS ONLY A LIMITED SUPPLY. LOOK AT IT! BOUND IN GUN METAL GREY, SHOWING UP FINGERPRINTS TO ADVANTAGE. OBSERVE THE NARROW MARGINS -- NO HUNTING ALL OVER THE PAGE FOR THE PRINT. FOR ANOTHER SIXPENCE I'LL SIGN IT FOR YOU....."
And so on, Inexhaustibly. It was a tour de force.
SCIENCE FANTASY NEWS EXTRA
THE THING Reviewed by SCIENCE FANTASY NEWS film critic, JAMES RATTIGAN
Howard Hawks, who has in the past produced some remarkably fine motion pictures, now enters the field of science-fiction with THE THING (Opened London Pavilion, Aug. 1st). Made by Winchester Pictures and released through RKO, it's perhaps the best thriller to come grom Hollywood for some months.
The story? Seems a group of scientists somewhere in the Arctic Circle discover a Flying Saucer buried in the ice. Attempting to melt it out with a thermite bomb, they accidentally destroy it, but discover one of the occupants, an 8ft monster looking like one of Mr. Frankenstein' s unsuccessful experiments, is also in deep freeze. The block of ice containing it is conveyed back to base camp, where naturally the chief scientist wants to investigate it.
A heroically handsome Air Force captain, summoned to the base, argues that it should be destroyed. ... it offends his aesthetic tastes. The argument is short-circuited when an electric blanket thrown over the ice melts it. The Thing is alive, loose, and after blood ... literally.
From then on, things really get hot. The humans are hunting the Thing, and the Thing is hunting humans. It seems impossible to destroy it. It's vegetable, and bullets pass harmlessly through it; the camp huskies tear off an arm, and it grows another. In one terrific scene, the Thing crashes through a door into the living quarters, where members of the party are writing for it with buckets of gasoline.
Drenched and set on fire, the blazing Thing races back and forth, finally diving headlong through the window and into the snows ... very much alive. Suspense piles on suspense; two members of the party end in the Thing's abbatoir, and, adding to the tension, the scientists still want to capture it instead of destroy it.
That's as much of the story as it's fair to give. How does all this compare with Campbell's 'Who Goes There'? (ASF August '38, reprinted by Fantasy Press, USA, '48 ). Well, my advice is, forget that Campbell ever wrote that yarn upon which this film is based. There is no resemblance whatsoever, and if you go along with the idea that the film story is anything like the original, then I'm afraid that you're in for a disappointment.
The acting, by ''unknowns', is superb especially by Douglas Spencer who plays the part of 'Skeely', a newspaperman ... I think a definite nominee for the Academy Award for the best supporting player. Christian Nyby's direction is both imaginative and sympathetic, and Dimitri Tiomkin's brittle, alien music contributes much to the power of the film.
It's a pity that such an excellent production should be marred by, the closing scenes, which show an extreme lack of imagination, and the Thing itself resembles an 8ft Sioux Indian who's gone to seed. Beyond that there is little to say against it ... I'd certainly rank this amongst the best s-f/fantasy films, and it really shows that Hollywood is trying to treat the subject as an adult medium of entertainment.
Go ... and when you've seen the Thing, perhaps you'll treat that vegetable patch with a little more respect!
*Ed. note: The original story, plus half a dozen others by the same author, which were originally reprinted in one hard-cover volume by Fantasy Press as 'Who Goes There', has now been reprinted, with the others, by Kemsley Press as a l/6d pocket-book. The title has been changed to 'The Thing'.