Sunday 24th MayROBINSON:
Somewhere around 5 a.m. everyone seemed to be spluttering poetry and Shakespeare sonnets were being recited at Bea from various directions in fact more than one of us had a Bea in his Sonnet. Inevitably the topic of conversation mutated into sex; it became what we might describe as quite frank. Somewhere around six or seven the party broke up, and Bea, Rita, Jesse, Ted Tubb and myself travelled back to the Bonnington looking pretty bleary and we males all needing a shave.
After the girls had freshened up a bit, we found ourselves some breakfast and then broke up. I made my way back to my digs only to find another breakfast awaiting me - this just about cooked me, but nevertheless I couldn't sleep so I contacted the other boys and we returned to the Bonnington which looked awfully bare of fans, and those present reminded me of somnambulists. Eric Bentcliffe told me I`d missed quite a party. It seems that there the Northerners had bribed the night porter with some whisky, to let them onto the roof where they held the party; this went on all night and only broke up when several fen started dropping empties down the chimneys.
The first item on the agenda Sunday morning was billed as a "tour of the stands" "guided by that rascally streak Ted Tubb." However, as Ted was feeling like the rest of us the item never materialised. In fact, practically nothing happened during the morning except fans trading experiences of the night before, and this was when the actifen went into a huddle trying to choose a delegate to the Philicon with the result I listed earlier. I met Mike Tealby who was hiding behind a dark moustache and a blinding tie. Then along came Ken Slater who had finally made it to his first Con. Having met Ken I can quite understand how he gets through so much work. Sorry I didn't get more time to talk to Ken, and for that matter a lot of other folk, but remember there never was enough time - and always another picture to take.
At somewhere about 2p.m. (Con-jective time) the Con got under way again with editor's addresses, this title was of course a front for Ted Carnell (Bert Campbell has a natural front behind which he can lurk at will, if Will doesn't mind being lurked at). This item was beautifully done--completely deadpan with Bert bringing into use a whistle and a bell to put Carnell out of his stride--but as I said afterwards he'stride hard.
The International Fantasy Award followed -- or -rather, a pale ghost of the expected award followed. Item A. - the awards themselves hadn't been completed in time and Item B - both authors were in America. Les Flood who commented on the item seemed very, very depressed about the whole, thing. I shall be surprised if there is an award next year - unless things alter a bit. Pity, as I for one think this award is a very good thing. This year the judges chose "CITY" by Clifford D. Simak to win the fiction award and "Lands Beyond." by de Camp to win the non-fiction.
(The IFA Awards would be eventually be formally presented at a special dinner in September.)
The results of the competitions run in the printed programme were announced next. Dave Barker won one of those -- he never did tell me how much he won, - I'm worried he might start a. rival fanzine with it.
After the results came what I would term the most unappreciated item of the whole Con. "Editorial Ravings" postponed from Saturday. This was a series of inter-editor letters read by Ted Tubb, There was hardly a giggle from the audience although there was a gag in every line, - I think the audience was gagged as well. A surprise item followed this. A playlet presented by two of our transatlantic visitors whose name I never did succeed in getting, a young lady from the States and a guy from Canada. (This was "written by Canadian Bill Morse and Londoner Terry Wright", according to FANTASY TIMES.) The setting being an artificial satellite occupied by a woman scientist -- more the former than the latter - and a robot with a human brain. He had been her companion until burned by radiation and having to adopt an artificial body. Into this situation enter two men. with ideas - unfortunately for the woman who also has an idea -- they prove to be androids. The most was obtained from the situation and the whole thing was very well presented. A very novel idea was a large portrait of Arthur Clarke headed by the words - "Per Ardua ad Arthur" - this portrait was bowed to every time anyone passed it. The audience really lapped this one up.
Tea break proved interesting - -in fact very much so. The weather in London was terrifically hot - for London, and right opposite the Bonnington was some kind of hostel for girls. So half the Con types were ranged along the opposite pavement admiring the fillies sunning themselves in sun-suits on the balconies - one of them even...but that's another story!
During the afternoon there was to have been a film show of 'Destination Moon' in the Temple Room while the main Con went on in the large hall upstairs. However, there was no film show. Seems that there is a regulation forbidding the use of 35 mm. projectors without a fire-proof operating box. This of course wasn't discovered until the last minute - too late to get anything on 16 mm, One thing - no one can complain that the films were poor, even if it seems queer that a different hotel was chosen this year mainly so that the `glass roof wouldn't interfere with the films.
However, having two halls gave fen a nattering place if they didn't feel like staying with the official proceedings. After tea the Medway Club, aided and abbetted Tony Thorne to present a crazy display of fauna and flora of that area. The items were many and very varied, from an electric torch bulb in amber, a stone-age exhibit dating from the days when they were used as ornaments -- before the discovery of electricity, to a Meccano robot via a pair of diapers - the exact purpose of which seems to elude me.
To round off this item the Junior Fanatics presented to WAW. on behalf of Lee Hoffman a binder lettered in gold - QUANDRY, as an award for that fanzine winning a poll for the most popular fanzine.
The other item on the extra programme was the Medway Group's. This I believe was doing quite nicely when Fred Brown came upon the scene and drove a large number of attendees to the main hall where something was supposed to be happening. But when they got there, they were asked if they would be be patient and wait as they had been doing on and off throughout almost the whole convention.
And so the day dragged its weary way through desultorily presented items, for many of which the participants could not be found and the audience was exhorted to be patient and remain seated.
The most encouraging things which we can pick out for mention were the Guest Editors' addresses, when Nic Osterbaan of Planeet, Maurice Goldsmith, former science editor of UNESCO, Bea Mahaffey of Other Worlds, and Peter Hamilton of Nebula, gave short speeches. These four made a very good sally and revived a little of the then almost moribund convention tone.
The other event of the day was the sudden arrival of L.Ron Hubbard and his presentation to a completely unsuspecting audience. After pointedly remarking that he was "going to talk about SF" he went on to tell us in a roundabout way of his coming 250,000 word novel, far removed,as he put it, from the usual blurb "book length novel" of about 20,000.
Hubbard appears to have walked in off the street unannounced and unexpected, but since he had been a significant pre-war American SF writer the committee were not slow in offering him a spot on the programme. The founder of Dianetics, and later Scientology, Hubbard had been in London since December and would be departing for Spain before the end of the month.
Back upstairs to the main hall for the Guest Editor's Session. While people were assembling for this who should turn up but L.Ron Hubbard.
Carnell opened the session by introducing Nic Osterbaan editor of the new promag PLANEET. Nic proved to be a short guy but long on humor, and a perfect speaker in English. He was the only editor I've ever heard say he was in for the money, which is why he's an authors' agent and translator as well. PLANEET should go a long way with Nic at the helm. He was followed by Maurice Goldsmith, a former UNESCO Science editor who read a paper on Stf that went over very well. Then Ted introduced Bea Mahaffey and proceoded to fire questions at her about OTHER WORLDS and its future. Seems OW is going places with higher author rates - must keep my eye on that 'zine. Bea was followed by Hubbard; he has quite a sense of humor and made quite a neat though unrehearsed speech, strictly about Stf. One important item to be revealed - he's taking up writing again and is at present working on a long novel.
Hubbard was accompanied by a young woman with a very large and imposing press camera so that all through his speech he was "fired at" from left and right by the two of us. Then followed something of a surprise. Ted introduced Peter Hamilton of NEBULA. Now to look at Peter one would never imagine him to be an editor, or even a good speaker, yet he made one of the best "public appearances" of the Con. His handling of the questions - and there were plenty of them - was masterly. NEBULA is to go bi-monthly shortly and is to be joined by a companion mag printing rather more juvenile Stf; this, hopes Peter, will sell in large enough quantities to help subsidise NEBULA and allow him to purchase top-line stories for it. Already on hand is.a hitherto unpublished Eric Frank Russell story and another by Bradbury. Also, negotiations are being made with Heinlein. NEBULA has gone a long way in three issues, and I think it's going a lot further in such capable hands.
Imposingly titled "Lecture From The B.I.S.", the next item was nowhere as near as dull as might be imagined. In fact the platform was suddenly occupied by a weird looking character in corduroy pants, a coat on back to front, a battered trilby and dark glasses, not to mention the beard which left no doubt as to who was hiding behind it. This mad scientist was joined by a contemporary no less typed, carrying a mysterious cardboard box labelled MARGARINE. Followed a "lecture", dealing with a revolutionary rocket motor. Notes were read from a book titled "Fiziks" and some complicated maths on the blackboard for some reason worked out to OXO and BISTO (free ads). Then came the demonstrations. Unfortunately I was in a bad position to see much of it, however someching "flew" a few yards, but it looked like a torch to me. Suddenly a cry was heard - "The Russians" - and everything was quickly rammed back into the margarine box and the lecturers practically fell off the platform in their rush to get away.
Bert Campbell went into a spiel about a new system of propulsion they had discovered utilising light. A blackboard was found and HJC proceeded to outline the equations of the technique. This took some time and eventually we arrived at BISTO/OXO = SOUP. Meanwhile the other character had been heaving stuff out of a suitcase and rigging it up on the tables: a length of board, a mirror, a space ship, loads of paper (I suspect that this was the SFNews that Vince Clarke should have issued in January.'). The demonstration was then given. The ship was placed on the board, with the mirror behind; when a light was shone-on to the mirror the ship promptly took off. Very clever bit of faking... you couldn't see the elastic band...always supposing that there was one. Delving deeper into his bag, Bert started to produce some more paper, when the other character nudged him and pointed down at the audience., "Russians;" they hollered, promptly stuffed everything into the bag and vanished..."
It wasn't long before Bert was back on the platform to be presented by Tony Thorne with the "Nut Award". This seemed to consist of a sort of Robot yo-yo at any rate Bert soon prostrated the audience by dancing around waving it in the face of Hubbard and mouthing strange noises - Dianetics was never like this!
Congratulations to Bert Campbell and Brian Berry for this novel item. Barely had aching sides relaxed from this when the long awaited Ballet came on. Now much had been whispered about this item all through the Con, it was, we were assured, the piece-de-resistance of the whole Convention and sure enough that's just what it turned out to be.
WILLIS (in NEBULA):
A knockabout skit in which Bert Campbell and Bryan Berry played the parts of eccentric scientists was followed by what was solemnly announced as a visit from the D'Oyley Carte Ballet Co. However the "Company" decided to put the horseplay before the D'Oyley Carte and we were treated to the breathtaking spectacle of critic Fred Brown, author Ted Tubb, Convention Treasurer Charlie Duncombe, and fan Ron Buckmaster, all dressed as young ladies and cavorting coyly about the stage to the strains of "Danse Macabre," protecting their honour against male impersonators Dorothy Rattigan and Daphne Buckmaster.
(The 'ballet' was apparently titled "First Man on Mars".)
I was so interested in the "dancers" that I can't remember what music they were using, However I have an idea it was "Danse Macabre" which couldn't have been more inappropriate - or funnier.
Enter Fred Brown, dressed in flowered dress, nylons and bashful expression - enter Dorothy Jacobs (Mrs Jim Rattigan) in black tights, masked and red cloaked, who danced like she was used to it. I'm no expert on ballet, but I thought her interpretation of the part and mood of the music excellent. Then enter the rest of the "girls". Tedd Tubb, who unfortunately was having trouble with his figure - half of which kept slipping down while the other half changed sides. However, the sight of Charlie Duncombe nearly choked me, the wide eyed expression, the attitude, every time I think of it or look at the photos I can't help bursting out laughing. Enter Daphne Buckmaster dressed as an American soldier - the theme was a bit weak but who cares - after the first few minutes everybody was too helpless with laughter to worry about themes.
Of course I ran out of film half way through the ballet and got my film jammed as well - so I couldn't have changed the film even if I'd had any more, lucky though that the jam hadn't occured before.
I drifted out for a drink after this and packed up my miniature. Then I remembered I had a few exposures left on the roll film camera and although I had no bulbs left I had some "Flashbuttons" which are capsules of flash powder fired like bulbs - only they go off with a very sharp spit and shoot out a flame - had some fun with this when I went back to the hall where the auction was in full swing. Well at least I drove all the people from the back of the hall to the table where the auction was being held.
(That) night, those who were not resident at the hotel were refused admission to the bedrooms, even for the purposes of reclaiming one's properties. They would be brought down for you. After this followed another discussion with the night porter as to the quality of their service and hospitality to guests. I forget who it was who tried the other approach, but it sounds like Ken Slater's sound simple psychology. He asked man to man in a confidential tone, where one could go for a drink after the normal hours. (British Licensing laws and hours being absurd, the result of bureaucracy.) and was directed to the hotel opposite. We tried this but could not see any bar, so coming out we gave it up hopelessly as a bad job and retired early to our rooms, well before purchased for a dreamed-of all-night-session, and were not consumed, for lack of cooperation and amenities.
Is there no solution to this problem in this country?
Perhaps we had better accept Willis's convention suggestion last year - Gay Paree. And that's where it's likely to be for us next year.
...a few stray memories. James White's helicopter beanie falling off, the coatstand at a Lyons and being returned to him by a dear old lady with "Is this yours?"..,.A copy of Slant 3 fetching 5/6 at the auction ...... Bea Mahaffey saying that Other World's editorial policy was "flexible" and I asking Vince prophetically if she meant the magazine folded easily ..... And that all night party at the Rattigan's......
(At the time the Rattigans lived in a flat on Wynell Road, Forest Hill, S.E. London.)
People were talking about parties again and Bill, Fred and I were invited to a party at Jim Rattigan's. Bill and I took our stuff back to our digs and got so busy talking we got on the wrong tube so that we went half around London before we got back to the Bonnington. After a great deal of argument who was going to travel with who, Bill, Fred, and I went down in Ron Buckmaster's car with the booze. Interesting car Ron's -- 500 cc. two stroke, front wheel drive - has a lot of weird features I can't remember now.
In spite of the number of people present and the potentialities, this party, I regret to say never came to life. It wasn't long before a poker game had started in the middle of the floor - interesting to those who had the money and could play poker - but the rest of us were pretty bored. Walt, Madeleine, James White, Chuck Harris, Vince Clarke and I had a natter in another room while scoffing all the available food. When we drifted back to the rest of the gang we found a dance session in progress, or rather, Bert Campbell was playing records while Bea and Bryan Berry danced - this went on for hours and hours. Everyone had a sort of fixed expression with glazed eyes as if they had been hypnotised. Looked like they were suffering from Con-Cussion, certainly it deserved the title of the 'Trance - Atlanticon'.
Us True Fans had started a splinter party in the kitchen to get away from the poker players and dancers but our hostess was worried about us. About 4am she came in the immortal words: "THERE HAVE BEEN COMPLAINTS THAT NO ONE IN HERE IS DRINKING:" We denied the foul imputation. About dawn Fred Robinson opened the door to the living room and called us to have a look. It was like a morgue. Bodies lay here and there in what appeared to be advanced stages of decomposition. The sunlight wakened some to pseudolife and they stumbled out into the garden. We walked up the road for no apparent reason and then back again. Apparently everyone had thought everyone else was going somewhere. Bulmer took my arm and pointed at the rest of them. "Of course," he said, "These are all artifacts of Proxyboo Ltd!"
"I don't need a helicopter beanie," said Fred Robinson mournfully. "The top of my head just spins round."