Let's begin at the beginning. When did you first become interested in
Well, I was about 2 and I started reading H G Wells'. The sort of
age everyone who's famous starts reading sf. No, I started getting
it from a travelling library that came round about every six months.
I think the earliest sf book I remember borrowing that was really
impressive was the Best of Startling or Thrilling Wonder edited by
Sam Mines. There were some remarkably good stories in that,
quite adult ones that actually mentioned SEX, which really turned
me on. I was only 15 at the time and I hadn't heard about things
like that. After that I got into Biggles, Capt W E Johns and all
that sort of stuff. Patrick Moore and Kemlo were a real turn on.
How did your interest in sf lead into fandom?
Well, I finally got hold of a copy of New Worlds and in the back of
it was one of those ubiquitous adverts about joining the BSFA so I
joined. I got a letter from that well-known dwarf, Charlie Winstone,
who said you're very welcome to join and sent me all these fantastic
lists - exciting! Through that I got involved in the first con
I didn't go to because I had appendicitis. Not going to that con was
one of the most exciting times of my life! Really ace. It was at
that con that I didn't meet Greg for the first time - it was his fist
convention - we met later.
What was your first actual contact with fandom?
When I touched Audrey Walton's knee. Audrey Walton was a large
lady with a husband who spent all the time laying around not doing
anything. I used to go round to see her because she put out a fanzine -
Wadezine - and in some obscure way I'd got in touch with
her through the BSFA. Every time I went round there we used to
talk about science fiction and her husband just used to lie there,
not doing anything. I'd look at him, and he'd look at me, and that
was it. Audrey and I put out a fanzine that was pretty awful, but
I must have enjoyed getting involved in it because I did a lot of stuff
for it - pretty rubbishy stuff, but it was my first venture into the
field. I think everyone starts off on a low level - Greg for instance
with his famous non-existent fanzine New Pembrokeshire Review,
which everyone here didn't get a copy of.
I put it out at the convention before the one I first went to.
So at what stage in your career did you decide to go to a convention?
I can't really recall why I wanted to go. It was advertised in the
BSFA literature... possibly in the bulletin Archie Mercer did ...
and I thought it sounded like a good idea but I got appendicitis.
When I finally did go I only knew one person...
No, Audrey didn't go. She gave me a pile of fanzines to give out
which were so abysmal I just left them in a little heap in a corner
and five minutes later they were all gone - that was really bizarre.
Which was your first one?
Which I believe was the first banquet. I think it was John Brunner's
idea for his trendy friends.
Well that's a bloody good reason for doing away with that then!
For those who weren't here, Stan was asking eariler when the first
banquet was held.
Yeah, that was the first time I was ever nauseated by John Brunner -
it was the first time I'd met him. He's not here, is he? No, he
really did, he got up and ponced around in front of everyone. When
he was on a panel with anyone he had this routine with a cigarette
lighter so attention was drawn to him, flicking away with it and
beaming at people and talking about his own books. If he was
introducing someone, say Brian Aldiss, he'd say "here we have Brian
Aldiss who is a friend of mine and I'm John Brunner and I wrote
this" (holding up a copy of one of his own books) and Brian Aldiss
would be sitting there thinking "cretin".
Do you recall from that convention since it was your first, anything
that particularly stuck in your mind as a brand new neo at your first
Yeah, it was fucking incredible that's all.
Incredibly good or incredibly bad?
Incredibly good, I'd never experienced anything like that before. I'd
only taken to drink a year beforehand.
And did you feel the "I want to get into fandom, I wish I was one of
those sorts of people", or didn't you even notice there was something
called fandom that you could get involved in?
No, there was certainly something different there - there were a lot
of cretins and there were only a few people of my age and younger
(Greg) but it was nice meeting those people and keeping in touch
with them. At that time, however, eighty percent of the people there were
a lot older, middle-aged, about my age now.
Who was the King of Fandom in those days and has the emphasis
Oh, it was Phil Rogers and John Brunner and people like that.
John, as a fan? No he must have been a pro.
No, he was trying to dominate the fannish sort of thing, and people
like Phil Rogers - people who haven't got an ounce of wit or sense
Were Charles Platt and Peter Weston there?
Charles Platt was there trying to steal the big poster they'd got up
He got there before us, the bastard.
It's true, Greg and I stole down in the middle of the night...
Gerry Webb stole it surely because he had it stuck on his wall.
Yes, Gerry had it on his wall but I think Charles Platt was the one
who stole it.
And do you find cons getting better over the years?
You're not enjoying them any more than you did then?
I enjoyed my first convention the most and then there was a big
hiatus around Chester and Bristol for some reason, I don't know
why. Mancon was quite a low, but this one's a good one at the
Does anyone have any questions they'd like to ask Roy on early
conventions? Any scandal from early on?
When was your first convention Simone?
Well, before him.
I should point out that when I first met Roy I was very impressed
by him because I was under the impression that he was someone
called Leroy Tanner who at the time was writing book reviews for
Amazing. I was really knocked out to be introduced to this
incredibly famous Leroy Tanner.
Right, can we get onto Fanzines now. At what stage did you
decide you wanted to start pubbing your own ish?
After I packed up doing one with Greg. Greg had been trying to pub
his own ish for some time and I went to see him for a few days,
and it was the one occasion actually that I went to see him and
neither of us got arrested.
Could you expand on you being arrested with Greg?
I'll expand on that in a minute.
It sounds more interesting than what you're going to say.
No it isn't. We suddenly decided we were going to produce a
fanzine and we did it in a weekend. We put out issue No 2 of Fouler.
It was a lot of fun, Greg used a lot of stuff he was going to put
into his non-existent New Pembrokeshire Review, and it seemed to
strike a cord in a lot of fandom of our age. It really irritated a
lot of older people, Graham Boak and people like that. He did
enjoy it to begin with I think and responded to it but it was
something very much of our generation. Greg did virtually all the work
on it after the second issue, he made sure Fouler was spelt right
and things like that.
And how come your meetings with Greg nearly got you arrested in
those early days?
Well, whenever I went down to see him we always got incredibly
drunk. On the first occasion we were just walking around and
Greg said he knew a woman who lived in a house we were just
passing and I said "you know a woman who lives in that house?"
We were with another friend of Greg's and so the two of us grabbed
hold of him and lifted him up like a battering ram and charged at
the door with him. He wasn't particularly happy about that. Just
as we reached the door it opened and we all stumbled inside past
this woman who was standing there. She said "I know you Greg
Edwards". Obviously she didn't. Apparently he'd been going
around molesting her daughter and giving a false name. We stumbled
down the steps while she was shouting at us and looked to the right
of the street to run away that way and there was a policeman there.
so we looked to the left and there was a policeman there - we were
surrounded. We had our names put down in their little books and
then we went home.
Then the next night we were sitting around next to the canal at 2 in
the morning, chatting drunkenly away when this policeman comes up
and wants to search us - to make sure we'd got our balls in the
right place, you know what policemen are like - and then he put our
names down in a little book.
We used to take it in turns to look after each other. One of us
would get incredibly drunk and the other guide him. On another
night it was Greg's turn to get incredibly drunk and he was lying
in the gutter, so I just tapped him in the stomach with my foot to
wake him up and he went B L E U G H - just like that - all over
the place. Then he stood up, got hold of this bottle, broke it on
the wall and held it in my face. I was a bit taken aback by this
because I had made him better, I'd made him throw up. For some
reason he forgot what he was going to do with the bottle and threw
it over this wall. Suddenly a policeman appeared and apparently
he'd been leaning against this wall just around the corner, listening
to us. He picked Greg for littering, but he didn't say whether it
was the bottle or the vomit. He got Greg to walk along the yellow
line in the road but it was one of those roads that was all curved
and Greg walked an absolutely straight line, totally missing the
yellow line and so the policeman said, "Right, you'll have to come
back with me". We were both a bit reluctant to go through this
routine of police stations and things so I tried to phone a cab to
pick us up but I couldn't. Eventually he let us go as long as I'd
look after Greg. I took him away and we stumbled homewards.
Eventually we stopped outside a machine that sold us milk at
exhorbitant prices because it was the middle of the night. As we
were standing there drinking this milk a police car came screeching
to a halt and this policeman said, "You were going to take him
home". "We'rejushhavinglilldrinkofmilk". "OK" they said and
zoomed off again. We got our names in books three times because
I got my name in only once. Then finally, the coup de grace was
that Greg's name in the final event actually got him in court and
fined - front page of the local paper - 'LOCAL BOY MAKES
Did you make any other friends in fandom ?
I didn't make him, he was created like that! Peter Roberts - I
met him at the same time I met Greg and he struck me as rather
peculiar - long hair and wearing pyjamas all the time. I remember
trying to impress him once by telling him about this famous folk
singer who was at university with me. He kept on saying "Are
you sure, are you sure?" It turned out that I'd got the name
completely wrong . . . I've forgotten who I was talking about . . .
name a famous folk singer, quick, quick . . . PETE SEEGER,
RALPH McTELL. . . Ralph McTell . . . actually it was: So I
was saying Ralph McTell was at university with me when actually
it was some cretin who used to get up and sing in the bar, name
was Bert Sponge or something. From then on Peter realised I was
a cretin and he's never looked back.
To move on again, have you always had this fannish desire to write
Yeah, from about 11 I used to sit upstairs in my room writing these
tedious science fiction stories that never had an ending. My parents
were expecting me to be up there doing homework and would suddenly
burst in so I'd cover up the writing, open a book and pretend to be
reading it - I had the most crumpled science fiction stories you ever
saw in your life - they were pretty bad as well - I'm still writing
them, the same ones.
Did you ever submit any stories when you were very young?
Yes, when I was about 16 I sent some handwritten stories out once
but I never got them back. I sent three stories out to Keith Roberts
when he was editing Impulse that I'd typed on a typewriter that was
worked by an elastic band attached to a chair leg. The return carriage
mechanism had stopped. The problem was that it didn't work
smoothly - you were typing on it and would get through a few letters
OK but then suddenly it would jerk and you'd have big gaps in it. It
was ludicrous. They were all stupid stories where it turned out that
the heroes were Adam and Eve, or a giant sentient potato - all this
great avant guarde stuff, and they got rejected pretty badly. I didn't
submit anything for years after that.
What made you change your style from these Adam and Eve type
stories to something that could possibly be saleable.
I grew up.
So you grew up, and did you start writing more successfully?
Oh, I sold half a dozen stories, pretty abysmal stories really but
there's so much rubbishy science fiction written that anyone who can
put pen to paper and spell can get published - well look at Ron
Goulart for christ sake.
Is there any truth in the rumour that any time you have submitted
a story that's been accepted, something terrible has happened to the
Yes, actually now totally. I thought that the one instance where it
hadn't happened was New Writings because they actually published
one, but they've packed up now so it's a hundred percent record, Six stories
sold and six publishing houses collapsed completely. Anyone wants
me to destroy Analog I'll submit another!
Have you sold a story to Pete Weston yet?
No, he rejected it, too much like Ron Goulart.
At what stage then did you decide that you ought to start writing
full-time, give up nasty work and concentrate your skills?
When I was incredibly bored with working in the bank and I thought,
bloody hell I can do better than these fools who're writing regularly.
I did give up work. The other reason I gave up work, actually, was
that I'd been having a day off a week to study for exams but instead
of doing my work I Just had the day off and stayed in bed and I was
dreaming their retribution on me. Rather than have them come up
and say "you have not been talking your exams, smacked botty for you"
I resigned and the writing was just an excuse.
And how long did you actually have off work trying to write?
It was about ten months, it wasn't quite twelve because I was struggling
to make a living as a temp working in R Whites ' lemonade
factory. You get free lemonade there actually, all that free lemonade
and it's totally nauseous.
Do you think that's the way to try and write? If you're going to write
you should devote yourself to it all the time.
I think there's two schools of thought on this, mine and the correct
one. Mine is that you pack up work and live off the state having a
really good time but not doing anything at all in terms of writing.
But that doesn't get you anywhere. The Jim Blish method, apparently,
is that you write in the evenings until you can make enough
money from actually selling stuff to give up your job. I couldn't
cope with that at all. I like doing fun things in the evening like
sitting around and doing nothing rather than write.
Rumour has it, though, that Chris Priest started by just deciding
to quit accountancy work and try starving to death or writing.
Fair enough, he's proved that he's got the talent to do it. I'm
talking about people who haven't really got the talent to be very
successful but have possibly got the talent to make a living out
of it like Brian Stableford.
Did any of your friends try and discourage you from trying to
write, or your parents?
My parents didn't try to discourage me, they sort of said "you do
what you want to do as long as you stay at the bank." No actually,
they were very good about it, saying "you try it and if it doesn't
work then go back to the bank."
What about professionals? Did they give you advice?
Yes, people like Chris Priest and Ken Bulmer were very helpful,
they said "don't ask us". Actually, they were helpful. Chris
himself did put me onto a number of useless things. He suggested
quite a few things I could do that were totally useless.
Which professional writer, if you could choose to be one, would you
like to be?
The one who makes the most money - unless it's Jerry Pournelle.
Artistically though, would you really like to be the richest? Who
writes what you would like to write?
Philip Dick writes what... like what I like to read. He's the only
author that Peter Roberts reads other than Melville. And that's
only because he wrote Moby Dick.
Of all the professionals you've met going to conventions as a fan...
who... I can't say who excited you most because that sounds obscene..
who did you find... god, I can't phrase this without sounding rude,
who were you most pleased to meet?
I think the most friendly professional is Bob Shaw, I think everyone
feels that. But I've never really got on with professionals - there's
the same gap to bridge as there is at work between underling and
manager. This is my problem, many people don't find that. I find
the people I get on with best are the people of my generation who
I've known since they were beginning writing. Like Rob Holdstock
and Chris. I've never got on with any well-known writers except
Bob Shaw, but everyone gets on with him.
What about, say, people you have just seen at cons but not actually
mixed with. Whom do you think has been the most exciting
I don't think I've ever actually been excited in that sense. I saw
Arthur C Clarke at the One Tun once and everyone was ignoring
him. Actually, years before that I was at home and had decided
not to go to the Globe when Greg phoned and said "Why aren't
you here?" like he does, so I replied "'Cos I'm here" and he
said "Arthur C Clarke's here!" and I said "Arthur C Clarke's
there, So what" and put the phone down. I thought a bit and
put my coat on and zoomed down there, but Greg said "Oh, he's
gone". I still don't know whether he was actually there or not
that night. But he was there another night and he was standing
around but everyone was ignoring him - I think everyone was
frightened of him because he's such a big name.
Let's get back to conventions. Which one stands out as being the
most enjoyable of all time?
Oxford, my first one.
Oh, you can't say that again.
But I have... OK then, Mancon, that was the best.
That's the next question, which was the worst convention?
I think I disliked Chester more than Mancon because I was sleeping
on Rob Holdstock's floor. It wasn't particularly because it was
Rob's floor, but when he turned over sideways in bed he kept
knocking me on the head. I was in there but the trouble was that we
didn't keep the same hours - John Eggling was in the same room
but he was very quiet. I'd go in to try and sleep but there was a
weir outside which would keep me awake. Then suddenly there'd
be this incredible noise - it was Rob. There was only one key and
and he'd given it to me, so to get in he had to climb up on the
garage roof, jump from the roof into the window, climb in, knock
the wardrobe over - apparently that was part of it, it was very
important that - and he'd come bursting in, talking and burbling
on. I'd come bursting awake and think, bugger him I might as
well wake completely up and talk to him. When I was properly
awake and ready to talk, he'd be fast asleep.
At Chester there were little hotels all over the place and I found it
pretty dire actually. It was a dire situation, dire convention and
was worse than Mancon as far as I was concerned because I expected
Mancon to be bad.
What about embarrassing moments?
No embarrassing moments.
What about the time I introduced you to Janet Shorrock?
I don't think we'll go into that.
What comments have you to make about the 1970 Novacon, when I
was trying to kip down with Peter Roberts?
You couldn't possibly relate that story could you, where everyone was
going round the corridors and they found the room that...
What were you doing in that room John?
I was simply trying to sleep on his floor.
That was the only time I've seen Peter Roberts annoyed.
Yes, "Fuck off you bastards!" he said.
Yes, then he threw me out.
Tell us about Worcester.
That wasn't so much embarrassing, more the most nauseating experience
at a hotel. I was thrown out with Tom Penman - that wasn't the
particularly awful part of it, but he's never spoken to me since. We
were both thrown out about 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning and because
we couldn't get any water or anything we were both dehydrating from
the drink and had splitting headaches etc. It was freezing cold and
we were just wandering through the city - we tried to break into the
Cathedral for somewhere warm to sleep and a bit of bread and a glass
of wine. Eventually we ended up lighting a fire in the street, miles
from anywhere in a derelict area. Suddenly a police car - probably
the same one from Greg's - screeched up and a policeman got out.
"Hello" he said,"what are you doing?" "Lighting a fire" Then he
asked were we came from so we said from the Science Fiction
convention and he said "Oh, all right" and drove off. That really sums
the whole thing up.
What's your opinion of fannish conventions like Silicon and Faancon?
Well, I've never been to a Faancon and I don't particularly want to
because really it's the sort of people that I either don't want to
see at all or people I don't mind, as opposed to people I really
want to see who go Silicon. I didn't go to the first Silicon because
I was on holiday, but the second Silicon I found really enjoyable.
You don't have to listen to boring creeps talking about Science
Fiction and Organisations in SF.
To a newcomer, going to an Eastercon, one perhaps feels very lost
and thinks I'm. not going to .not3ier one because they're all so
unfriendly and cliquey, do you think he'd benefit from going to a Silicon-
Yes, I think he would. There's fewer people who can avoid you.
No, you stand more chance of being able to talk to people. It's
a more informal atmosphere in a way. At a place this size,
there's so many people you could talk to, you really don't know
where to start.
How's this poor little neo going to cope with a convention like the
Worldcon in Brighton?
OK I think because there'll be a lot of Americans there and they
are the sort of people you don't want to meet in railway
compartments because they'll just talk to you.
At one time Ritchie Smith used to share a house with you. Have
you any anecdotes to relate about that?
Funny you should mention that. I don't know why it is that people
I go around with get arrested, but Ritchie was arrested. Was it
once or twice? No, just once. I was lying around in bed in the
middle of the night and the phone rings. It was the police station
asking if I knew someone called Ritchie Smith. I said no but they
persuaded me that I might know him. What had happened was that
a couple of his friends had come down from Durham. and they'd
been drinking wine all weekend. He's got one friend who lives on
carrots and wine, it's incredible. He's very pleasant, but small
and wiry and just goes about beating people up. Anyway, they all
got very pissed and Ritchie apparently went into fhis pub and beat
the shit out of a urinal. There he was, and he really showed it.
So they arrested him and I had to give a testimonial for him. I
went round to the police station with this friend who lives on wine
and carrots and I was saying "Great guy Ritchie, great guy" and
his friend he's known for years was going on "Oh christ, he's
always doing this sort of thing". Despite that they actually let
Yeah, I've got a serious sort of a question. What sort of a person
do you think you'd be if you didn't drink?
I'd be the sort of person who did an 'Organisations in SF' panel this
morning and felt really awful doing it.
Roy, before you set up residence with Ritchie Smith there was a
period when you lived in the same house as John Hall there was
one story about baked beans I recall.
Yes, John had this prediliction for baked beans. He used to live off
baked beans, chocolate garibaldis and packet soup. One day he came
back really pleased with himself from a Kentucky Fried Chicken shop
with an enormous tin of beans. I've never seen as many beans. It
was huge. He ripped off the lid and got through about six inches of
it and goes "Tummy full" and decided to put it in his cupboard and
keep it for a bit. Two weeks later he thought, "Mmm, feel like
baked beans again", opens the cupboard and there's this big blue
growth. He was thinking "If I scrape it off... " but eventually he
threw it out of the window - we were on the fourth floor - and it
burst all. over the garden. If the landlady had known Bob Rickard
who edits Fortean Times she'd have written to him about this fall
of baked beans.
At the same time, and I'm going to embarrass him now, he was
very clothes conscious and one day he went out and bought this
tremendous black outfit - black boots, black trousers, shirt, tie,
black fingernails. The problem was he couldn't quite fit into it
because he'd got this stomach through eating too many baked beans.
So what he did was to get this huge bandage and ask me to wind it
round him to hold his stomach in. I spent about an hour winding
this bloody crepe bandage round him - I'd wind it round about twice
and in between the strands the fat would suddenly squelch out, so
I'd push it in and try to carry on winding... We finally got him
all settled in, with these huge heels on his boots he looked quite
impressive actually. I didn't have to unwind it, luckily.
There's an excellent placard on the wall there entitled "The Wit of
Roy Kettle", are they your favourites, and if so, what do you think
I' m very impressed with my writing actually.
No, seriously, I spend a lot of time on it and I read through it,
The bits I like I like a lot and I can't deny it. But there's a lot
of stuff I write that I'm very disappointed with even though I do
spend a fair amount of time on it. I like other people's comments
on it. Greg's someone I particularly like to comment on it to give
me a bit of security.
I think sometimes you're more cruel than witty.
An example there is the Ian Williams comment.
Yes, I suppose it is.
Even given the fact that it's Ian Wiliiams you're talking about. My
favourite there are the bits about Gladys Hack the Lady Barbarian,
which is getting at Rob Holdstock and the Biggles Saga. You didn't
mention the Tesco Big Book of Fairy Games.
This is getting ludicrous actually. I can't really talk about my
Well, we'll thank our Fan Guest of Honour for being such a nice
FGoH and we want you all to go away feeling happy and not bored thinking
"God, why don't they finish", so thank you Leroy Kettle.
At this point the meeting fell into utter chaos, to be resumed in the
bar to resuscitate Roy who, on finding out that his pearls of wisdom
had been taped replied "Ohmigod, why didn't someone tell me?"
A *free* ebook collecting Roy's fanwriting can be found here.