Friday 27th AugustTERRY CARR:
Next day, Carol and I moved to the con hotel and got caught up in the hurlyburly of an international worldcon, meeting old friends from the States and new ones from England, and things went fast and furiously thereafter; it's all a blur in my memory and I think it was even at the time.
When I descended to the lobby, I ran into Ron Ellik, who was trying to scare up ribbons for the art show, A trophy dealer he'd been recommended to seemed never to have heard of lst, 2nd and 3rd prize ribbons, so I suggested we shop for the necessaries ourselves. We walked down Oxford St, to Selfridges, a giant department store easily the equal of Macys, and began shopping. We found a ribbon counter and picked out blue, yellow and red lengths of ribbon, And, on a whim, a short length of tartan, "In case Arthur wins something." we told each other. Than we headed for the stationery department for gold, two-inch seals of the sort notaries use. I'd worked in a stationery store when I was younger; I know exactly what I wanted -- even the U.S. brand. But due to the language barrier we had to make our explanations in halting sign language, not even certain the British know what notary seals were.
Well they didn't, in this particular department. But in the process of searching their stock, I found come sheets of numbers and alphabets of the sort which one can apply to a piece of paper by positioning and rubbing. I pulled out a sheet of numbers. "This would be perfect for putting a One, Two or Three on our gold seals, if we can ever find gold seals," I told Ron.
"Al isn't going to like this," Ron muttered. "We were supposed to have First, Second and Third ribbons all made up. He isn't going to like this."
We found a stationery store, a block over, and there we found notary seals, exactly what I wanted. But -- red, No gold. We took a box, and escaped.
Despite Ron's trepidations, Al only smiled and nodded when we placed our small hoard of ribbons, seals, and numbers before him on the art show table. "That's fine," he said. "That looks fine." Ron shook his head; unbelievingly.
I rather liked the Mount Royal in spite of itself. It is trying to become a classy American hotel and isn't quite making it. While the convention was going on they were still building and refurbishing the main floor; the banquet hall was only just finished in time for us.
Everyone seemed to have rooms as far as they possibly could be from the elevators, and the hotel covered a large city block. This meant that a visit from one floor to another was a major excursion (unless, like the Carrs and me, you were on adjacent floors and near the staircase). Once in the rooms, though I found them quite impressive by American standards. I paid for a single but had a double bed in a rather large main room, with a small dressing room off the side. For parties this was just grand: large enough to accomodate a couple of dozen people, but small enough so that sitting around on the carpet, one of my favorite party activities, was forced upon the company. One of the nice things about the room was the multi-channel radio/music device, which carried much better material than the American counterparts and didn't discriminate against the pirate stations; and the volume could be turned up quite high without disturbing the neighboring rooms.
Another pleasant aspect of the convention was the unusually quiet nature of the neofan element. There were a number of young fan types running around and I suppose some of them were obnoxious or overly drunk and so forth, but the group I ran into, headed by Charles Platt, had all the proper characteristics. They didn't boisterously overpower a party, they were generally responsible about the liquor they drank, and some of them were even interesting.
On the Friday afternoon, the Film Show opened, which was attended by a continually growing, though never large, audience. The main feature film was ZOTZ; - a not very successful comedy.
The London 1965 World Science Fiction Convention opened with the promise of being a great success, with attendence by this afternoon estimated at over 400. The Banquet sales have already been cut-off at 150; this being the maximum the Hotel has personel to handle. The brand-new convention hall in which the meetings are being held was a great surprise; a modern attractive auditorium equiped with a complete electronic control room for all activities; with adjoining Lounge and Display rooms.
Science-fiction fans and professionals from many countries are here, including among the pros: E. J. Carnell, Ted Tubb, Brian Aldiss, John Brunner and Arthur C. Clarke of England, and a long list of Americans: James Blish, Fred Pohl, John W. Campbell, Jr., Donald A. Wollheim, Poul Anderson, Jack Williamson, Robert Bloch, Robert Silverberg, George O. Smith, and many others.
After a registration period Friday afternoon, the convention was opened in the evening by Chairman Ella Parker, who introduced many of those present.
The convention itself opened on time, at 8 pm. on Friday 27th August as Chairman Ella Parker, looking fresh, pert and spruce despite her working into the early hours of previous nights, welcomed especially the many attendees who had travelled from afar. To a call from the back of the hall that someone could not hear Ella quipped, "You can't hear ME?" and immediately set the tone of convivial informality that was to prevail throughout the entire weekend. Ella introduced the Convention Committee to the audience (each member appeared from the back of the stage, carrying his own chair. Ella remarked “As you see, this is a Do-It-Yourself convention."); and then called upon first Ron Ellik and later Tom Schluck to help her in introducing other notable attendees. In addition to the many names mentioned in the paragraph above the following were also present and were introduced: Rolf Gindorf, Walter Ernsting, George Scithers, Guest of Honour Brian Aldiss, Ina and Norman Shorrock, Michael Rosenblum, Eric Bentcliffe, Ron Bennett, Eric Jones and Judith Merril.
Harry Harrison introduced his talk ‘SF – The Salvation of the Modern Novel' by promising that he would make no mention of meat pies, immediately ducking as pies were thrown at him by Brian Aldiss and Tom Boardman. Appearing somewhat loath actually to begin his talk Harrison invited Brian Aldiss onto the platform in order to say something serious. Aldiss merely said “Greybeard costs 18/-." Harrison at last got down to stainless steel tacks, postulating that for SF to be the salvation of the modern novel must be a funny idea. But is it? In his opinion modern novelists have driven themselves into a corner. Basically Harrison's argument was that only in sf, "can an author express the idea he wishes to communicate" as far as really saying something is concerned. He cited George Orwell and Nevil Shute as two mainstream writers who have made excursions into the field in order to communicate particular ideas. They could not have written these books outside sf, said Harrison. The modern novel must write of something of importance. Sf and sf ideas are important by the very dint of this being a scientific world in which the results of scientific achievement have a definite impact upon people. SF alone can point the way, said Harrison, concluding that the modern novel is dead. “Don't be afraid to say. We are right. They are wrong."
From the audience Judith Merril pointed out that SF comprises modern thinking but not modern literature. Harrison did not altogether agree, pointing out that SF is the harder to write. The SF writer, he said, has to generate a completely new idea and then write well. The modern general writer "has it made." The world, his setting, is there already for him to use. The SF writer has to formulate entirely a new world. John W.Campbell asked whether a writer should concentrate upon the idea to the possible detriment of his writing or whether he should concentrate upon "beautiful prose with lousy ideas" and which should an editor accept, to which point Harrison answered neatly, "You should do as you have been doing." Irene Boothroyd asked how much SF is slanted emotionally at the woman reader, mentioning that in her opinion the amount was not very great. Campbell said that this was a matter of basic economic fact. SF's readership is 95% men, therefore there is a 95% slant towards the male reader. Also men writers far outweighed the number of women writers. Pete Taylor suggested that Campbell produced his magazine in two sections, one slanted for men and costing 47½ cents and the other for women and costing 2½ cents. Harry Harrison suggesting that there could be a small space on the back cover for hermaphrodites! Here the general discussion reverted to the question of whether an editor should concentrate upon good writing or good ideas. Campbell said that as he reads personally every story submitted to him he sees all types of stories, with good and poor ideas and good and poor writing. Whilst he could possibly do better he has to try for the optimum in writing style, grammatical construction and story telling in order to choose the best story for the circumstances.
Only one talk was featured on the evening program, an address titled "Science Fiction - The Salvation of the Modern Novel" given by Harry Harrison.
The Lounge with bar, proved very popular following the program, and was well-filled until the early morning.
I do remember that Carol and I hosted a big party in our room one night, assisted by Pete Graham, whose room was one floor beneath ours, just down a flight of stairs nearby; we made several trips back and forth bringing booze and ice, and the party was a rouser. I have no idea who was there or what was said by anyone.
"You're putting the horse before the D'Oyly Carte," said Walter.
I think it was in my hotel room at the Loncon. I don't know which night. Two nights of the three there were parties in my room, and the other night I went to the party in the Carrs'. Each convention I go to gets better; I think it may be because at each one I feel less like being a fan and more like being friendly with the people there whom I know and like. The Washington convention in 1963 was good, but in London there were the same people I liked (Carrs, Ellik, Raeburn) plus many more, like Walter A. Willis. I decided to play grand host, which meant buying liquor and throwing a party. Also, I decorated my room: I put up maps of England and Ireland on the walls.
I don't remember much about those parties except that they were pretty good. My room was situated almost exactly beneath the Carrs', with a staircase just a door down the hall from each of us. We shared all the bar essentials like glasses and water pitchers from night to night. By the third night we had several dozen glasses, most of which were from the Mount Royal. The major difficulty was liquor price and availability; when I called room service for a bottle of gin I found the price would be about $12.00. I may be an American tourist, but I'm not that rich yet.