This is SKYRACK 88, dated 15th April 1966 and published by Ron Bennett, 52 Fairways Drive, Forest Lane, Harrogate, Yorkshire, England. Six issues for 2/6d or 35 cents (70c airmail). Stateside subscriptions may be sent to U.S. Representative, Buck Coulson, Rte.3, Hartford City, Indiana 47348. Yarmouth Convention reporters were Archie and Beryl Mercer, to whom I owe an eternal debt of gratitude. Additional comments by Ethel Lindsay, James White and Eddie Jones.
The eighth (and technically the last) annual Convention of the British Science Fiction Association was held over the Easter weekend at the Royal Hotel on the sea front at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. Atrocious weather helped to offset the effects of the rival "convention" of mods and rockers that was being held simultaneously at the same resort. Contrary to public opinion these non-fan visitors were not plied with Norman Shorrock's home brew. Over 100 fans were present during the weekend.
The programme began at 8.15pm on Friday, 8th April, with the evening meal for those actually staying at the Royal, full board being part of the weekend arrangement. The seating at this meal was deliberately arranged so as to mix newcomers with older hands and opinions expressed tend to stress the atmosphere of friendliness which pervaded throughout the entire Con; there is little doubt that the Friday evening dinner promoted this right from the start.
The meal was followed by a welcome Session in the Convention hall, at which Dave Kyle briefly introduced the members of the Con Committee and the better-known professionals present, Ron Whiting, James White, Harry Harrison, Brian Aldiss, John Brunner, Ken Bulmer, Ted Tubb, Tom Boardman and John Ramsey Campbell. These worthies then conducted an auction which was followed by a party thrown by the Bristol Group.
The Saturday morning programme opened at 10.30am with a panel of new authors comprising: Dave Busby, John Campbell, James Colvin, Hank Dempsey, Langdon Jones, Paddy O' Halloran, Terry Pratchett and Keith Woodcott (I'm told that some writers, for instance Harry Harrison, came along under a pseudonym, it's not clear which face fits which tag at the time of writing).
Guest of Honour, Ron Whiting, gave a short but interesting talk on the trials and tribulations of professional publishing to which the authors in the audience alternately moaned in sympathy or groaned in disbelief, according to the degree of their avarice. The called-for questions proved to be so numerous that the session was continued during the afternoon session.
It was found impractical to hold one of the star items of the programme, the Star Debate, intended for the afternoon and accordingly the presentation of the BSFA's new British Fantasy Award was brought forward to 2pm. John Brunner was the deserving recipient this year, although no specific work of his was cited. The Award, in the form of a shield which migrates with the holding of the Award (the holder retaining a miniature replica) was presented by Ron Whiting who then dealt with the questions left over from the morning session.
John Brunner was then brought back to address the audience and was as interesting and articulate as one has come to expect. His theme concerned the trend for authors to make their readers do comparatively "more of the work" as they read. Because of the increasing use of symbolism in today's writings a real mental effort on the part of the reader is required in order to grasp the communication which the writer is trying to convey. In fact over the entire weekend much stress was laid on the contribution of what has been termed the "writer's writer" to the field.
At 4.15 films were shown, the first being a short documentary, The World of Ray Bradbury, showing Bradbury lecturing, gathering material for a book and discussing his work, the interest in which was slightly marred by the over-loud sound track. This was followed by the American feature film version of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds.
Another auction session closed the afternoon's proceedings, leaving all clear for the evening's Fancy Dress Party. Out of more than a dozen costumed entrants the prize winners were as follows:
Most Beautiful Costume: Ina Shorrock as The Constellation Andromeda.
The Bob Richardson Memorial Award for the Most Heroic Costume was won by Ted Tubb in villainous space-operatic guise and Susielee Slater won the prize for Best Child's Costume as a Wogglebug from The Lovers.
Newly-weds Harry and Marie (nee Rothwell) Nadler were presented with a bouquet and a pressure-cooker by the entire gathering. We look forward to seeing the pressure cooker featured in a forthcoming Delta film production.
By now all Convention attendees were sympathetically aware that Ken Slater had lost his voice. Welcome, Ken, to a very exclusive club.
THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE B.S.F.A. was scheduled to start at 9 am on the Sunday. This was referred to as "an unearthly hour" but nevertheless the announcement had the desired effect (more or less) and the A.G.M. actually got under way at 9.50. There were two new Committee members. The contested vacancy for Vice-Chairman saw Ken Slater gaining 30 votes to Peter Weston's 11 and Steve Oakey took over as Publications Officer, an uncontested nomination, following the resignation of Roger Peyton whose sterling work during the past two years has been instrumental in producing so many fine issues of Vector. Peter Weston was roped in to fill the newly created non-committee post of BSFA Public Relations Officer, a somewhat thankless task for which he has sympathies in advance. And Dave Kyle, honorary Anglofan, was given the job of blueprinting the future administration and organisation of the British Fantasy Award (which matter had had to be hurried through somewhat in time for this year's Con).
PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISION taken at this somewhat confused and sometimes out of hand gathering was that to divorce officially the annual Convention from the BSFA as such. The two will continue to co-exist - and, it is sincerely hoped, to cooperate with each other to the full - but the annual Convention Committee is no longer to be nominally responsible to the BSFA Committee. Instead, a body of two permanent trustees (Dave Barber and Jill Adams) is to preserve Convention continuity from year to year. At one point in the general discussion it was seriously suggested that, in addition, the BSFA should sponsor conferences at other times during the year. Sometimes BSFA Annual General Meetings seem to be stumbling over their own feet.
It would appear that no longer will a Convention Committee be allowed to employ the use of BSFA head notepaper. Whilst this would appear superficially to be a minor point in the argument, I know from experience the tremendous weight of authority carried by the use of such paper in the approach to any hotel, speaker, publisher, etc.
Anyone who has actually organised a convention will, I am sure, agree with me that the main concern is the financial responsibility. It's a constant worry whether or not the Convention will be able to meet its obligations - and please don't come back with the suggestion that proper planning can take care of this end. The unforeseen can and does happen. Older fans can remember a con "being stuck" for a sudden and unexpected £100, for example, and there are numerous other instances of similar occurrences, though admittedly smaller amounts have been involved each time. One reader in particular will undoubtedly feel strongly on this point. One convention, some ten years ago, left him some £30 out of pocket, a sum which has never been recovered. Having myself organised a Convention which summarily suffered a loss, I can but emphasise the relief felt at the taking over the debt incurred by the BSFA. Can future conventions afford to be without this "umbrella?"
Furthermore, is this rather drastic "divorce" at all fair on Tony Walsh and the other members of his 1967 Committee, Tony having contracted into the Convention organising at the Birmingham Convention last year at a time when this BSFA backing was still in existence?
One can but hope that the general membership of the Association reconsiders its decision in the near future, perhaps in the pages of Vector.
-- Ron Bennett
THE A.G.M. ALSO CONFIRMED that the 1967 Convention, as had been previously agreed, is to be held in the South-West. New information seemed to indicate that Bath, rather than Bristol, was after all a possibility, but immediate post-convention investigation has since proved this to be a false alarm. Whatever the ultimate location, however, the 7/6d registration fee should be sent to Tony Walsh, 61 Halsbury Road, Redland, Bristol 6. And in the interim the Salford-based Alien-Delta group is to investigate the possibilities of the Manchester area.
One ray of hope for the future to emerge from this year's A.G.M. is that for such future occasions Phil Rogers has accepted the post of Parliamentarian.
THE DISCUSSION DRIVE planned for the Sunday afternoon was strictly an experiment in two-way communication, and although it did not quite work out as planned, those attending seemed to enjoy themselves. (Incidentally, Beryl Mercer, who originally dreamed up the idea of the Discussion Drive, wishes to express her appreciation of the willing and cheerful help she received from the professionals and from others involved.) The Discussion Drive ran without a break into the Round Robin Story, which was taped by Dave Kyle. By the time this broke up at 5.15 some of the professionals present had been talking happily for over three hours.
AT 9.30 promptly on Sunday evening the Grand and Noble Order of St. Fantony took over the Convention hall in order to induct four new Knights, namely Messrs Brian Aldiss, Dave Barber (the Convention Chairman), Harry Harrison and Michael Rosenblum. It is understood that there will be additional ceremonies later in the year at the TriCon and in Vienna at which further new members will be admitted to the Order. The St. Fantony ceremony was followed immediately by the annual presentation of the Doctor Arthur R. Weir Memorial Award, for services to SF fandom, this year to the Association's new Vice President, Ken Slater. The Award was presented by last year's winner, Terry Jeeves, who this year was happily able to be in attendance. Eric Jones, the Grand Master of the Order of St. Fantony, having explained the Orders origins then invited all those present to an open St. Fantony party (where the drinks were dispensed to relays of attendees) where Norman Shorrock presided over the punch bowl. It remained only for Dave Barber to wind up the Convention, expressing his pleasure at his admittance to the Order.
IT IS UNDERSTOOD that owing to the confused situation prevailing at 4.30 am on Monday morning, James White became engaged to Norman Shorrock. As James is unable to remove the symbolic manacle the whole affair is under legal advisement.
THE FIRST CONVENTION of the Horror Club of Great Britain, reports the Daily Mail, is being planned for July at Bath. Visitors will see twenty-four films, hold an auction of horror books and go to a fancy dress ball.
HAVERINGS 21 (Ethel Lindsay, Courage House, 6 Langley Avenue, Surbiton, Surrey 6 issues for 2/6d or 359/) is out, with more straight on to stencil reviews and opinions on and about the world's fan press. Highly recommended to those about to take the plunge into the zinescene.
SNIPPETS: Many thanks, Eddie Jones, Norman Shorrock and others who sent cards from the YarCon and you, too, Tom Schluck, for the card sent from the Easter gathering at Marquartstein, and again to all who signed it. ::: Congratulations, Eddie Jones, on breaking into the German prozine market with four covers already sold and the promise of more work to come.