Monday 25th May

ROBINSON:

Somewhere about six in the morning dawn was breaking and people were lying about all over, Bert Campbell drifted briskly in asking "Netball anybody?" - "right, get your ankle socks on!"

However, no one was strong enough to laugh.

LONCON '53 (a convention one-shot):

10 am. James White is here at the moment suffering from Convention Head. He tells us that Bea is making what amounts to the Grand Tour of Yurrup. Starting for some peculiar reason in Belfast, she plans, after visiting the Coroncon, via Liverpool naturally, to continue to Coblentz and on to Switzerland, Italy, France, (then) back to the US by air from Britain.

This is being written in room 326, and just along the corridor, in 320, lies fandom's sleeping beauty. Bea did promise us yesterday to sum up her impressions of the con this a.m., but as James tells us she only left the Rattigan party at 8am, we guess we'll have to wait for the Willis conreport.


James White, Chuck Harris, Walt Wilis

ROBINSON:

Eventually everyone drifted off with farewells till next year. Vince, Walt, Madeline, James, Chuck, Bill, Fred and myself went off together, tottering along to the station. I can't think why, but every time I looked at James he shuddered and hid behind Chuck. Eventually he told me not to look at him as my eyes frightened him. However, eventually we arrived back in the city, said our goodbyes, and headed for home. Home - ah, it seemed like a dream after this mad weekend and when I got to bed Monday night I'd been up for 60 hours - and I used to grumble at 24 hour guard duties in the army - Ghod!

However, in retrospect this was. a real Con. the Con we have been dreaming about for years. We all grumbled a bit at the time but I doubt if anyone could have put on a better show. Whoever runs the next Con is going to have a job to better it - or even equal it - but you can be sure of one thing - We'll be there!

FAN OF THE CON ------ Bert Campbell.
ITEM ------ The Ballet.

Not everyone shared Robinson's assessment of the convention. Northern fans in particular seem to have taken against it, as witness below the opening paragraphs of the ASTRONEER and SPACE DIVERSIONS reports. Their disenchantment began at the pre-con gathering at the White Horse when, seeing Bea Mahaffey talking with a group of Northern fans, Bert Campbell had bellowed across the room:

"For God's sake, get her away from those bloody provincials!"

This was probably meant good-homouredly but it doesn't appear to have been taken that way. Indeed, among the many scathing comments on the convention in the next issue of SPACE TIMES was a piece by Brian Varley titled 'A Bloody Provincial at the Coroncon'. Then there were the complaints about the lack of support by Londoners for the recent MANCON and the complaints over the future of the national convention that were aired by Dave Cohen. There was a fair bit of bad feeling, as would become clear over the following year.


John Roles, Frank Milnes Norman Weedall, Norman Shorrock, Jim Mooney.


Terry Jeeves, Eric Jones Eric Bentcliffe, Brian Varley, Sandy Sanderson.
Note CORONCON banner on car windscreen.

SPACE DIVERSIONS:

IN THE YEAR of the coronation, many fans looked forward with eager expectation to the Convention, to be held in London as is usual. Not the coronation itself was so very important to the average conventioneer, but with foreign visitors in London....one could be excused for expecting Great Things (no, not you, Hubbard., siddown). Anticipation is often more enjoyable that the event -- and this certainly applied to this year's con. Months before, the Liverpool fen who were definitely going, had already decided to do the thing in style and hire a car, as a more independent means of transport than British Railways. Had we known better at the time, the money would not have burned through our pockets so quickly for such a poor return. Never was so much so badly managed by so few in so short a time and space.

We enjoyed the car ride.

ASTRONEER:

"The coronation decorations were fine... about the only thing that was fine about the Whitsun weekend, apart from the weather. There was some convention or other being held, but one could hardly call it a Convention as those sort of things are usually very well organised, This was very well disorganised. Scheduled to commence at 11 am on Saturday 23rd May this so-called Con started at 3 pm and stuck rigidly to the unpublished programme. Oh yes, they do send you a programme... but that is only intended to convey adverts for O.F, Nebula and the London circle. They could have left two clear pages for one to make out the programme as it happened; my copy now looks like the three - draws column of a football coupon, or the last page of a love letter. The film Destination Moon must have arrived at its destination okay: we never saw it at the con!"

WILLIS:

So ended British fandom's first gallant attempt at an American style convention. I felt a little guilty about it all since this movement seemed to have started after my glowing accounts of Chicago, but it still seemed to me that everything would have been fine if the hotel had had bigger and more soundproof rooms and a more tolerant staff. The fans seemed to take naturally to it. The Liverpool Group, for example, fought a gallant rearguard action from room to room, succeeded in getting the porter drunk, and made a historic last stand on the roof. There they invented an entirely new convention pastime, that of dropping empty bottles down chimneys. Admittedly the only reason this idea has never occurred to American fans is that their hotels don't have chimneys, but no one can deny that the Liverpool group have made a valuable contriribution to Conventionship, and one that is in the true Ben Singer tradition. (Singer was the perpetrator of the infamous Bob Tucker death hoax.)

FANTASY TIMES:

Unlike previous Conventions in London, most conventioneers stayed over at the Bonnington Hotel, and for the first time the whole atmosphere took on the semblance of an American Convention. Both Mahaffey and Rita Krohne were always surrounded by a wall of admiring fans, but managed to survive the incessant rounds of parties thrown in their honor. Champion crying jag was had by all when Mahaffey left London on Thursday for Paris - after a farewell party at London's WHITE HORSE TAVERN she was escorted by car with motor cycle outriders through garlanded and flag bedecked city streets to the railway depot (Liverpool Street, for a train to Harwich, where Bea would be boarding a ferry for the Continent), where fans packed the platform to bid her bon voyage. It was touch and go whether Mahaffey turned back - and stayed for good.


photo by Norman Shorrock


Notes:

The preceeding edited-together report uses most of the text of those by Walt Willis from HYPHEN #4 (Oct '53, ed. Willis & Chuck Harris) and by Fred Robinson from his fanzine CAMBER #2 (Autumn '53); about half the text from those in SPACE DIVERSIONS #7 (Dec '53, ed. Dave Gardner, Norman Shorrock & John Roles) and ASTRONEER (Summer '53, other details currently misplaced); and a couple of paragraphs from FANTASY TIMES #179 (June '53, ed. James V.Taurasi) and Walt Willis' report in prozine NEBULA #4 (Autumn '53, ed. Peter Hamilton). Original full text copies of the fanzine reports can be found here.

A month before meeting Eric Frank Russell, Bea Mahaffey was taken to dinner by Isaac Asimov (see p.676-677 of 'In Memory Yet Green'). They made very different impressions on her, however, as can be seen here.

His report on the convention in CAMBER #2 was Fred Robinson's final fanactivity. Following this, he handed editorship of the fanzine over to Alan Dodd and left fandom to follow other pursuits, never to be heard from again. For more on Robinson, see here.

Bill Harding led a very interesting life from an SF fan's point of view. He died in June 2010.

In 1954, Rita Krohne married writer Jack Ritchie. Under her married name, she wrote a series of historical adventure novels for children. Among these was the award-winning "Night Coach to Paris".

In 1955, Bryan Berry stopped writing SF and vanished from fandom. It was believed he had died - a motorcycle crash being the most popular story - and 1955 was given as the date of his death in THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE FICTION. However, Steve Holland has recently discovered that he actually died in 1966. So why the abrupt total severing of all ties with the SF community, both professional and fannish? We 'll probably never know.


Peter Phillips, Bryan Berry & Lew Mordecai

Here's an autobiographical sketch by Berry taken from his article in SPACE DIVERSIONS #7 (Dec'53):

IT WAS THROUGH an inherent love of fantasy that I came to science-fiction; came to know it, to appreciate it and finally, much more recently, to start writing it.

But fantasy came first and, I must admit, still does come first with me. When at school I was far more interested in Zulu witch-doctors, Tibetan Lamas, Red Indian Medicine Men and the like than I was in the men whose names I had to learn because they were more belligerent and had larger armies than their neighbours.

From then onward's I read fantasy and science-fiction regularly, though by no means exclusively, but it was not until early 1950, when I finished my period in the forces, that I discovered just how much the field had developed. This discovery, in turn, led to the thought that I might start trying to write the stuff myself. And the purchase of an antique three- bank typewriter and some paper made me convert these later thoughts into actions. Thus, unfortunately, I more or less "missed" true fandom altogether, my contact with it (in my case the London Circle and the White Horse) coming after I had started writing sf and, too, after I'd started selling it. From solitary reading of odd magazines and books and without very much of the normal discussion of such literature with other fans, I tumbled myself, willy-nilly, into the weird and dubious-sounding category of "professional".

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