THE WHITCON BOOKLET (1948)
REPORT OF THE WHITSUN 1948The first science - fiction and fantasy Convention to be held in Great Britain since 1944. What would it be like? Who would be there? Would it be successful? Such were the thoughts of dozens of fans as Whit Saturday approached. Fans from all over the country came; fans from all over the world sent their congratulations. British fandom was not yet dead.
Saturday May 15th.
2.30. The first contingent of fans met at Leicester Square station where London fans were waiting to conduct them around the bookshops in Charing Cross Road. Another party left to visit the Science Museum, where they spent the afternoon pressing buttons and watching the wheels go round.
5.0. At the second meeting place, outside Lyons Corner House, at Tottenham Court Road, the parties were met by other fans, and treasures aquired in the bookshops were displayed. The fans had tea before they went on to the main meeting, at the White Horse in Fetter Lane.
4.0. Arriving fans had their first glimpse of the Meeting Room, which was liberally decorated with dozens of original covers and illustrations. A long table was covered with books and Another table held copies of all the latest magazines, for exhibition only. The outstanding exhibit was Dr. Aiken's typed magazine Beyond.
6.15. By then about twenty fans had arrived and the bar - tender was beginning to feel the strain and the guest of honour, A. Bertram Chandler, had arrived.
6.30. Fifty fans were present and the Convention President gathered the fans together and called the meeting to order. During the next one and a half hours there were four speakers, Wally Gillings, Ted Carnell, Arthur Clarke and John Newman, the Secretary. A list of those who were unable to attend the Convention but had sent a1ong their best wishes for its success was read out and, later on, a number of points were voted on. By a large majority the assembled fans decided that the excess money from the Auction should be donated to the Big Pond Fund.
A meeting at Kew Gardens the following day was announced and it was hoped that a Convention would be held in 1949. A Convention Booklet would be published and a copy given to everyone who had attended or helped the Whitcon. Fans were thanked for their generous gifts to the Auction and for the help they had given. Unfortunately there was not enough time for a general discussion about a National fan club after the Meeting or the Auction.
A vote of thanks to the Secretary was proposed, seconded and carried unanimously.
8.0. The meeting then broke up to drink the health of Ken Slater, who had sent two pounds to buy everyone a drink. Attention was then turned to the food, plenty of which was available. Even the combined efforts of all present could not cope with the quantities which had boen supplied. Animated groups gathered round the bar downstairs, the buffet and the auction table.
8,30. The plates and glasses were cleared away, coffee served and the Auction begun. Ted Tubb was a magnificent auctioneer and, ably assisted by Sandy and Plum, he succeeded in keeping everybody in an excellent humour but still extracting their money. Bidding was keen, especially for the magazines and books, many of which were rare collector's items.
The first books to be auctioned were those given to the Big Pond Fund to be sold over here. These were followed by the magazines and then the books; Finally a number of original illustrations and one of Bertram Chandler's manuscripts were sold. Bidding for the drawings and paintings was not at all good. An original Dennis went for 3/- whilst Wally brought back an original cover from Tales of Wonder for 2/-.
10.0. The Auction was finished half an hour before closing time and, as there was not enough time left for a discussion, the meeting was adjourned to the bar downstairs until 10.30., when everyone was thrown out, tired but happy.
THE SERIOUS SIDE OF THE WHITCONWelcoming the visitors -- especially the ladies -- the Chairman said most of them knew that for some time past the so-called London Circle had been meeting regularly every week in the bar downstairs, where many editorial conferences had been held and countless arguments and business transactions had taken place between fans who attended. It was felt that in some ways these informal gatherings had been more successful than the meetings of the S.F.A., which took place before the war, but someone had suddenly decided it was time to organise a general get-together of fans from other parts of the country, and this Convention was the result.
The general desire was to keep the day's proceedings as informal as possible, but they did want to find out if there was a feeling in favour of a new organisation or against it. If it was felt that an organisation was needed, it was up to the new generation of fans to establish it and keep it going, for the older enthusiasts who had run things in the past felt that their successors would bring new ideas to bear which might be more effective than theirs. At the same time, they would heartily support any new body which was set up by those who were willing to organise it.
Mr. Gillings then introduced Mr. John (Ted) Carnell, editor of New Worlds, who first reported on the progress of the Big Pond Fund, started by Los Angeles fans with the object of enabling a British representative to visit the World Science Fiction Convention. He suggested that it would be better if they waited until this was held in New York; which it probably would be next year.
He went on to recall how at pre-war Conventions Mr. Gillings had invariably a long story to tell of his efforts to establish a British s-f magazine, which had finally resulted in Tales Of Wonder and, in its turn, Fantasy. Since the war they had seen a new Fantasy emerge, almost neck and neck with New Worlds, which he was sorry to announce had now suffered the same fate as Mr. Gillings' magazine. This was because Pendulum Publications had suspended operations, not because of any failure of NW itself; the last issue had been over-sold by 3000 copies and he had been looking forward to an even greater demand for No. 4, which had been ready for press for some time. Now they were faced with the prospect of indefinite suspension of the magazine, as in the case of Fantasy.
Because of the paper situation, he could not approach any other publisher to take over New Worlds. But only a few days before he had been discussing with Mr. Gillings. Mr. Ken Chapman and Mr. Eric Williams the possibility of forming their own company to continue publication of the magazine, and they had practically agreed upon this step. It would not require a great deal of capital; it was felt that they would have the full support of the fans, and they were considering how they could afford them the opportunity of participating in the enterprise, which would ensure the continued development of fantasy-fiction in this country.
Mr. Carnell was instantly bombarded with questions by fans who wanted further information of the proposed company. The Chairman said the details had not yet been worked out; there were many difficulties to be overcome, and the whole success of the magazine depended upon proper distribution.
But he had
decided -- and he thought Mr. Carnell would agree with him,
after his experience -- that they were wasting their time
trying to interest British publishers in the proper development
of fantasy-fiction, and if other people interested in an
idea (such as the Communists), could establish their own
publication and make it grow, why not fantasy fans? The idea had
been at the back of his mind for many years, but it was only
now that they had been forced to consider it seriously as the
only way out of the present deadlock. He had started Fantasy
Review, not only to keep readers informed of all developments
such as Fantasy and New Worlds, but partly in anticipation of
the sitution now confronting them.
The Chairman then introduced Mr. Arthur C. Clarke, Council member of the B.I.S., who gave an interesting talk on "Science Fiction and Astronautics" in which he considered whether s-f had been a good or a bad thing, for the space- travel movement. He recalled that many of the earliest organisers and supporters of the Society were science fiction readers interested in the philosophical and sociological aspects of space-flight; the first secretary, Leslie Johnson, was an active s-f fan. Today, with a much bigger membership, such people were in a 20% minority. Of the whole membership, there was a very small number which would not touch s-f with a barge-pole; there was a larger group which read it surreptitiously and didn't like to talk about it, and many more who read and discussed it openly and didn't give a damn what the rest thought. These s-f fans were to be found among both technical and non-technical members.
He went on to trace the sread of interplanetary ideas through the stories of Verne and others, and to show how serious students of astronautlcs such as the Germans, later used s-f to propagate their notions. In that respect, s-f had been of great service to the movement; indeed it was practically a law that people were interested in the science through s-f. He had been inclined to question the value of some of its less desirable specimens, but people had been forced to take even "Flash Gordon" seriously after the developments of the last few years.
"So, though we cannot altogether dismiss s-f without a stain on its character, it seems evident that astronautics would never have reached the stage of development it now has if it hadn't been for science fiction, which has done much to break down the psychological barriers which are still hampering our progress."
Thanks to the speakers and organisers of the Convention were expressed by Mr. G. Ken Chapman.
THE COSMOS LIBRARY
A library containing many hundreds of magazines and books available to all Anglo-- fandom is being run by Jimmy Clay. If you are interested write to Mr. Clay at 17 Fludyer Street, Lewisham, London, SE13, and he will do all he can to help you.
Ken Slater has published, a Whitconzine containing more articles and information on the whitcon. Copies- 3d each, can be obtained from J. Newman.
CAUGHT IN A CONVENTION
By our Raving Reporter - Bill Temple
Harold Chibbett and myself came on the Saturday evening to the "White Horse" direct from visiting the one-time home of the late Maurice Hugi. His aged, deaf, and impoverished father lived there alone now, and was still missing his son badly. We missed him too. He had been a bright spot in the "White Horse" and - as Ted Carnell mentioned during his address - 'Mo' would thoroughly have enjoyed this unconventional convention which John Newman seemed to have whipped up and thrown off on the spur of the moment.
A burglar alarm was ringing in the silversmiths opposite the pub when we arrived. It became the musical accompaniment to the whole evening. Squads of police were patrolling the street and frisking the fans as they arrived (they should have waited till they left). Treasures were laid out in ths pub's upper room: the latest books, rare magazines, original illustrations, the TALES OF WONDER cover paintings from the National Gillery at Ilford: the entire Gillings family was guarding them (from assault?). Bodies were laid out in the bar. I got my radiator filled, but I had to underline my hints about how hot it was. Some people are slow.
Next thing I recall is sitting behind "Sandy" Sandfiald's ears regarding Wally Gillings addressing his shoes. Occasionally Wally looked up, and than one caught bits of what he was saying: "There are a lot of strange faces here tonight..." (There certainly were, but he needn't have been so blunt about it.) "We oldsters hand on the torch to the younger generation of fans..." (With the rheum running from his eyes and dripping off his long white beard.) "You will find some interesting publications of ours on the table..." (Including WORDCRAFT, prospectus of the ABC school of authorship - director, W. Gillings. Short story course by Stacy Aumonier, deceased, Elinor Mordaunt, deceased, and Sapper, deceased. Let the masters teach you how to become deceased.)
The fragments continued: "Science-fiction in this country...I... grim battle...TALES OF WONDER...began again...hard fight...FANTASY.. carried on...FANTASY REVIEW...I say with all modesty..." (Here the publican began carrying endless trays of sausages to and fro in front of the speaker, who continued to address his audience every time it came into view.) "..a mission...evergrowing enthusiasm... the future.. glorious...triumph." Wally sat down to a resounding peal of the burglar alarm.
Ted Carnell got up. "There are a lot of strange faces here tonight... " (O.K., O.K., you're no Robert Taylor.) "We of the older generation..." (I find myself nervously plucking out my grey hairs.) "There are Seven Ages of Fan; (1) He starts with Flash Gordon. (2) Learns to read AMAZING. (3) Moves on to the sexy cover mags. (4) Starts collecting mags. and reads the articles in ASTOUNDING. (5) Starts reading and collecting books. (6) Collects so much can't read anything. Becomes a publisher and goes bankrupt...Gillings, Chapman, Eric Williams and myself are starting a company to finance NEW WORLDS. We aren't paying the artists anything. Nor - as a matter of precedent - the authors. In fact, they'll be expected to buy 5/- shares...Perhaps Bill Temple, with his Stock Exchange experience, can give us some assistance in floating this company?" (Bill Temple: "Certainly. Our office deals exclusively with companies that go broke") "We're starting a Big Pond Fund to get a British fan off on a goodwill visit to the States - I am not thinking of myself. This should promote international understanding, etc.,etc., and I am still not thinking of myself..." Ted sat down. There were cheers. Which might have been for the publican with another tray of sausages.
Arthur C. Clarke, more commonly "Ego," gave a talk nominally on "Stf. v. Astronautics." Naturally, it was all really about Ego: how he'd just introduced TWS to the Cavandish Laboratory, whose sole diet hitherto had been ASTOUNDING. How he'd...and then he'd...Next to me, Eric Hopkins was trying to take a photo of the speaker. Because of the light, he had to give it an exposure of 2 seconds. During which time Ego managed to assume 639 different postures. The result will probably look like a scrambled sheet of polyfotos. Ego sat down. Somebody clapped. It was probably Ego.
Ken Chapman saw fit to get up and announce to the company that he
was still wearing the same clothes in which he attended the last pre-war
Convention. He waited expectantly, but nobody seemed able to do
anything about it. He sat down with an injured air. The interval
was declared - by Charlie Duncombe in a voice like thunder. Everyone
one rushed for the pickled onions. The alarm was still ringing, and
in the street below the police were still keeping the pub under
In the interval I chatted with Bertram ("Jack") Chandler, who'd got a story coming up in the new ARGOSY, got a drink from Syd Bounds and another from Fred Brown, and was stung for one by Ken Chapman, and picked the brains of Frank Fears and the other Clarke (A.V. - the sane one).
Then the auction started. Ted Tubb was the auctioneer. The aim: to raise the fare for the Big Pond passenger. Harold Chibbett hadn't known this. He thought it was for private profit. As his infallible racing system had proved exceptionally fallible that week, he'd brought along a couple of precious volumes from his library to raise the fare home. When he learned he was helping to raise someone else's fare instead, he sank from sight and was not seen again.
Pity I've not space to describe the whole auction. It was a riot: the, hit of the evening. 1st Book Edition of THE MOON POOL went for 2/-. The catch: 14 pages missing. Something else went for 2/- also: the original cover painting of ToW No.6 ('Robot Dance, on Guy Fawkes Night.") This was to be sacrifed for the good of the cause by Editor Gillings. The only bid was 1/-. Wally went white. That was too much of a sacrifice. Hastily he tried to buy it back, bid 1/6d., couldn't recognise his own voice, and Jumped it to 2/-. It was knocked down to him. Gillings had saved it from Gillings for Gillings. "Where can I put my face?" he moaned. "I make no suggestions," said Sandy, who was collecting the cash - but he did: he held up two fingers in a gesture that might have been the V sign, but he pretended it meant: "Two shillings, please." Wally paid.
Ted Tubb held up one book which he pronounced great.
Ted was soon auctioning books in bundles of 5. Alan Devereaux bought a bundle for just one book and threw the rest back in the sea. Then Ted exhibited the piece de resistance: an original drawing by Cyril Dennis of Eve and the Serpent. Virgil Finlay had nothing on it. Eve had nothing on either. But she ((had)) a pair of milkbars that made Jane Russell's look like concavities. Ron Gillings went up for a closer inspection. The auctioneer said" "Now, this is just the thing you need if you have a young son to bring up..." There was a shout that shook the pub, and the police sent for reinforcements... The burglar alarm gave it up, and stopped ringing.
I was bidding well for the Dennis when in came my wife. She'd been delayed - the police thought she was a gun moll. I parked her with the other wives - Irene Carnell, Joan Chapman, Madge Gillings, Joan Chandler. But by then it wa too late. The guy next to me had bought the Dennis. He said his fancy had been taken by the serpent's expression. I went down to help Wally hide his face at the bar.
The auction, I'm told, brought about £18 just enough to carry the
ambassador to a point a couple of hundred miles west of Ireland and drop him
in the ocean. He'll have to walk the rest.
AUCTION by E. C. Tubb.
The most popular way to raise money for a good cause is to have an auction. Usually the friends of the movement send along all their old junk, and the rest bravely bid for it, terrified lest they're stuck with something they've no use for. This time it was different.
It's a notorious fact that it's as easy to get money from fans as it is to draw a nail out of a log with bare teeth. An auction, of course, is a form of moral blackmail: the perspiring victim offering the wares hates himself for the lies he has to tell, and yet is grimly determined to do as much damage as he can - while able. This time it was different.
Yes, friends, this time it was a positive pleasure to invite bids from the close-packed throng gathered round the overloaded table. And I mean overloaded. There was hardly time to get through them all and certainly no time to do them justice. A quick listing of what was offered will prove that no idle statement: the complete SKYLARK OF SPACE in Magazine form. Several early AMAZINGS, 1927-29, etc. The first 2 issues of SCIENCE WONDER STORIES, early ASTOUNDINGS, including a Clayton. A pile of books, including SLAN, TIME STREAM, and other brand-new volumes, several donated by our American friends. Original illustrations by the score, and a great heap of miscellany that covered a large table and spread over a piano.
When I tell you that after 1 1/2 hours the rest of the stuff had to be offered in bulk, you'll get some idea of the magnificent turn-out - and all of it donated with no reserve prices. Bidding at first was slow - it always is at any auction. Fans were holding on to their cash for the real bargains. But after a subtle opening with a few choice items to arouse the interest, and a quick thrust with a pile of AMAZINGS (yes, they went too) things grew lively.
From my vantage point I could see fans nudging others, whispering behind spread fingers, and hastily counting cash. I must place it on record that no cheques had to be taken and no debts incurred, though it came perilously near it. One rabid fan had to be revived after being out- bidded and was only just restrained from sending his cartel of challenge to the successful rival. Owing to pressure of time bids had to be fast. This caused a peculiar situation. Several bid the same amount at the same time, sending heated looks at one another when they did so. One unfortunate even raised his own bid twice against no opposition - we thought it best to leave him in ignorance of his mistake.
It was all good fun, though, and most were satisfied. One original of a woman and a snake aroused great interest, some fans regretting they had brought their wives and so were forbidden to bid. Others, risking any frustration they might incur through gazing at the peerless creature (the woman, not the snake) offered their all. The winner retired to gloat over his acquisition. It's rumoured that afterwards he nearly ended it all in despair when he realised it could never be equalled in the flesh.... The auction closed with a rush. Where there had been a pile of literature, there was a pile of folding money. Yes, it was certainly different this time.
THE BIG POND FUND - By E. C. Tubb
By a majority vote it was decided at the Whitcon that all money raised, above that needed for expenses, should go into the Big Pond Fund. But what is the Big Pond Fund?
Some time ago a group of American fans decided it would be a good idea if a fan from England (i. e., Britain) could be present at one of the big conventions. They circulated the idea, began collecting the passage money. Things died dcwn a bit, espacially as we in England appeared to receive the idea with indifference. It was not wholly our fault. Owing to the lack of any organisation, the news was slow in getting round. Many fans had heard
vaguely of the Fund, but imagined that it had been dropped,
was a rumour, or a totally American concern. Ted Carnell, who had been
chosen by the Americans as the one they'd like to meet, put the matter
plainly at the Whitcon. After the initial spurt by the Americans, it was
up to us to show that we really appreciated the gesture, and to show it
in concrete form. We did.
Gus Willmorth, August Derleth, and others, had sent across several books to be auctioned (some haven't arrived yet) the money thus raised to be eamarked for the Fund. The books were placed with the rest of the material to be auctioned, and they fetched very good prices. The total sum raised for the fund after all necessary expenses had been met was the nice figure of $50. It was quite a good effort, when it's remembered that the gathering numbered about fifty, and there were other heavy expenses.
The lucky fan - he need not necessarily be Ted Carnell, who may not be able to make it - will probably be en route next year. Whoever it is, we know he'll be assured of a warm welcome. In effect our ambassador to the American convention of fandom, he will have a heavy responsibility. It would be a poor gesture on our part if we did not at least meet the American gesture of friendship to the best of our capabilities.
LOOKING BACK by the Secretary.
The Whitcon was definitely a success and showed Anglo-fans that fandom in Britain is still alive. In spite of the absence of a National Club (or because of it) the fans flocked together and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
It was evident that at the next Convention a whole aftornoon or evening must be devoted to the Auction and another afternoon or evening to a general discussion.
The reaction of overseas fans who knew of the Whitcon was spontaneous and generous, showing the strong ties between fans throughout the World.
Apparently there is a desire for a fan club on a Nation Wide basis amongst the younger and out-of-town fans but many of the older fans, who had seen such clubs collapse were not so enthusiastic. There is a definite need for a fan magazine to keep fans who live away from other fans in touch with one another. Perhaps "Operation Fantast" will fill this need.
It is possible that the recent ban on American magazines will induce enthusiasm for fan publications, as it has done in Canada. Already the Canadians have three new fan magazines and probably there are more to come.
The articles on various fan organisations in this country may help some of the younger fans not to make the mistakes their predecessors made.
THE LONDON CIRCLE.
When the B.F.S. died through lack of interest London fans came together and formed the "London Circle". The first meeting was at Fred Brown's house, and the later ones at a room in the "White Horse"in Fetter Lane. From a small gathering of a dozen or so this group grew and now about twenty fans meet regularly every Thursday evening.
The London Circle was and is successful due to its lack of formality, absence of cliches and air of friendliness. The activities of this group are many and varied, whilst regular attendees include the editors of several fantasy magazines many writers and artists, and well known fans and collectors. They are in contact with fans In many parts of the world and obtain the latest magnzines and books. They organised the Whitcon at very short notice.
If you are interested and can come along you will be extremely welcome. If you have any queries write to the Secretary of the London Circle, Frank Fears at 6, Ferme Park Mansions, Ferme Park Road, Crouch End, London, N8. who will be only too glad to help you.
BRITISH FANDOM DURING THE WAR
By D.R. Smith
In 1939 British fantasy fandom, considered as a body of persons dispersed throughout Great Britain, had been in existence about half a decade, and could already look back on a considerable history of squabbles and feuds. Even so, it had hardly aquired the stamina to survive under two cruel blows struck soon after - and as a direct result of - the declaration of war. The one which had the most real effect was inflicted by the Government who, acting with the characteristic speed and fervency of a British Government enforcing a sacrifice on a minority of voters, cut off the importation of American periodicals. Since to the average fan fantasy is inseparable from the gaudy covers of the pulp magazines (obtainable, in those happy far off days, at 3d per copy from the remainder stalls) this seemed like a sentence of death by starvation as far as his fannery was concerned, The shock possibly numbed him to the extent that the closing down of the Science Fiction Association by its Council who anticipated, somewhat prematuraly but in the long run accurately, the disruption of normal life by bombs and calling-up papers, perhaps did not affect him as deeply as it should have done, And since, though a fan, he was also a human being, he was probably immersed in the universal feeling of glum resignation at the arrival of a long-expactod disaster.
It would seem that it is possible to become accustomed to disaster, especially long-drawn out disasters, and fandom soon bounced back up to a peak again, especially as far as provincials were concerned, For these sequestered ones the fan-magazines provided, even in peace-time, much of the evidence that fandom existed and of the enjoyment of being a member of that body, and the closing down of the SFA had a negligible effect on fan-maggery. There was the best of them all, "Fantast", just reaching its maturity in the hands of Sam Youd of Eastleigh; there was Johnny Burkes "Satellite" from Liverpool, presently joined by Harry Turner's 'Zenith" and McIlwain's "Gargoyle" in the same county; and the small printed "Futurian" from Leeds reappeared in duplicated form as "Futurian War Digest" - Fido to you. They were good, partly because of the amazing industry of the editors-printers-publishers-and-part-authors who brought them out with quite notable frequency, partly because of the considerable talent available. One is given to understand, for instance, that both Youd (who won a literary award last year) and Burke have had novels accepted for publication, that Douglas Webster - who continued "Fantast" after Youd had been called up, and raised it to dizzy heights - can now use the suffix M.A., and that the well-known hack of the time, D.R.Smith has turned bright green. And, of course, there was the absence of competition from the professional publications.
It was a comparitively brief burst of glory, because the conscription of the editors did what the blitz could not, and cut the flower off at the roots, "Fido" continued to appear, concentrating on news mostly, its industrious editor, Michael Rosenblum, incorporating single and multiple sheets produced as their whimsey took them by other enthusiasts, some snatching brief moments out of military duties for the purpose. Even these began to fall away as total war ground the enthusiasts down. It was felt that the bonds which held fandom together were loosening, and Rosenblum resolved to draw them together.
The means he used to achieve this laudable aim was the creation of the British Fantasy Society, whose object was officially stated to be "To bring together for their common good persons interested in scientific or weird fantasy", and which at once aquired a most valuable asset. Ever since the start, of the war generous-hearted American fans had been sending parcels of fantasy pulps as free gifts to the exiled fans of Britain, and John Cunningham of Texas had organised a British Science- Fiction War Relief Society to further this noble aim. Forry Ackerman, Morojo, Bob Tucker, P.J. Searles, Walter Dunkelburger, Bill Watson and Joe Gibson were some of those concerned who received in return, the barren honour of being made Honorary Members of the BFS. The BSFWRS was flourishing long before the BFS. Jack Gibson being the English organiser, and he brought the collection into the
BFS as the official
library, with himself as librarian,. It was by far the
greatest single attraction of the society, and it was a great
loss when Jack, suffering under prolonged attacks of illness,
had to relinquish the post, and the library passed into less
For there was little else the BFS could do in any substantial way for its members, who were to exceed the hundred mark considerably. The bulletin was a matter of one or more sheets added to Fido, and its editor having none of the enthusiasm which had fired the fan-mag editors to such achievements, will be remembered as consisting chiefly of (futile) appeals for volunteers to execute the various projects thought up by the Executive Committee or the Advisory Board. A mambership card and a Prospectus was issued to each new member, a gratifyingly high proportion of whom were new fans, contacted by other Service members. Minor conventions were held, members wandered round making contact with other members, and a cosmopolitan touch was introduced by tha presence in our midst of American Service fans, and the Canadian Bob Gibson. Contact was made with the Cosmos Club of Teddington, a thriving band of enthusiasts, and the idea of their magazine "Beyond" - a bound collection of story manuscripts by amataur writers - appropriated and used to the extent of three BFS issues. Nobody expected much in the middle of a war, and their expectations were fully met.
The organisation was fundamentally unsound. The Executive Council consisting of President Gillings, Director Rosenblum, Secretary Smith (D.R.) and Treasurer Busby lived remote from each other and had to confer through circular letters, than which a more tedious and inefficient method could hardly be conceived. The other two will forgive me if I say that most of the actual work devolved on Michael and myself. I being both idle and unsocial this brought it down to Rosenblum. Michael had enthusiasm, energy and sociability, but he had been producing a fan-magazine for ten years, he maintained a huge correspondence with fans and book-collectors both here and in America, and his health began to deteriorate. Transfer of the library to Ron Holmes and Nigel Lindsay made an asset out of what had been for too long a liability, but the end of the war brought no signs of any fan resurgence in which the management of the BFS could be transferred to more lively, less-wearied hands, and the iniquitous Secretary put more honest enthusiasm into winding it up than he had put into any other activity. The British Fantasy Library continues the most useful part of the BFS much more efficiently than the BFS ever managed it, so the loss is by no means entire.
Looking back on the whole affair, the most remarkable thing appears to be the tenacious hold on existence of such a puny, scattered, disunited body as fandom,. Since a large proportion of fans cease to take any interest in pulp fantasy after a few years there has to be a constant influx of now members of the clan, yet such new members are not the result of anything except the pure chance of falling over some existing fan. Supplies of the pulp-magazines have been difficult to obtain for the last nine years even for the established fans - and there seems no prospect of any improvement. Why is there still a fantasy fandom in Britain?
THE COSMOS CLUB
by Dr. John K. Aiken
Surely few who belonged to the "CSC" can look back on it without a good deal of nostalgic regret. Now that the war is over, things like it don't seem to happen.... and it provided so many good things, so many comic, sociable, stimulating, even melodramatic things: so much work was put into it by people with quite the normal amount of bone-idleness in their makeup: and all in the middle of a war which might have been quite sufficiently preoccupying! Why can't we do it now?
But to factual history rather than sentimental reminiscence. The founder was Frank Parker, who formed the Paint Research Station Science Fiction Library In 1940 as a modest magazine-chain designed to keep the staff (most of whom were in the NFS) from thinking too much about beer during the long and often dull duty-hours. Little can he have thought that, four years later, the club would not only be still in existence but issuing three magazines of its own and organising a national convention. Contempt, followed by interest and finally addiction, spread rapidly amongst the staff, about half of whom were finally enrolled. A monthly news-sheet was issued which ultimately grew into the celebrated Cosmic Cuts. Parker's original collection, so generously made available, became diminished and tattered with much use, and members began trying their hands at writing. In 1942 the full-size one-copy magazine Beyond began to appear quarterly and did so regularly for over two years, featuring the work of upwards of two dozen different authors and almost as many artists: as well as a bulk of fiction, including novelettes of 30,000 words or so, it contained poetry., articles (serious and otherwise) and a correspondence section which was justly famed for the quality of its mud and the force and aim with which this was slung. Several of the contributions have since appeared in print or been broadcast in this country. Beyond was at first edited (and typed and bound) jointly by Parker and Aiken until the former had to retire into pseudonymity as a result of attacks of a particularly unaesthetic character by certain authorities at the Paint Research Station, who had formed the opinion that science-fiction was good neither for science or morals. As a result of this attitude the club was at times almost an underground movement, but like others such it throve and grew strong on persecution (a high spot of this period being when Art Williams rang up the director of the Research Station one Saturday and asked him where the science-fiction meeting was to be held).
Somehow the organisation expanded beyond the confines of the Research Station, recruiting a galaxy of new talent, amongst whom Bruce Gaffron made an instant and enduring name for himself as an illustrator, Don Smith as a critic, and Peter Hawkins as a guy who thought Lovecraft a greater artist than Shakespeare and somehow had room in his cranium for a cubic mile of statistics about magazines. Renaming of the club became inevitable, the Memo Sheet became Cosmic Cuts and was, in those early and impoverished days, run off very sub rosa in the fire-watches of the night on the Research Station's rotary duplicator, a machine with a malignant and perverted sense of humour and a fondness for a kind of puree of paper and ink. Both of those traits left permanent wounds on the outlook of the editorial staff, working as they were amongst air raids and (far worse) under the shadow of detection. Gordon Holbrow eventually succeeded Parker as editor of Cosmic Cuts and infused it with high highly individual wit; when less energetic interests claimed him, Dennis Tucker stepped into the breach and was still at work when the club finally disintegrated round him.
Meetings were held, were well-attended and of extreme variety, including film shows (with much trouble with sprockets and other intimacies of the projector), a seance (at which Benson Herbert performed prodigies of chicanery) an intelligence test, a homemade firework party, experiments on beer-divining (at the club's spiritual home., the King's Arms), water-divining (naturally a failure) and extra-sensory perception, fantasy music, debates, and a symposium of scientific papers (published in the Transactions of the club, a periodical whose success may be gauged from the fact that it ran no fewer than one issue). To commemorate the visit of Gus Willmorth a film was made - from the technical point of view easily the worst film ever produced in the whole history of the
cinema, but an unfailing source of joy to members;
frequently it would be called for twice or three times in an evening
and, much-mended and long-suffering as it was, would run through its
gamut of tricks: breaking, jamming, running partly upside down or
backwards, or flooding the floor knee-deep with celluloid.
Munificent donations of magazines and books from Morojo, Forrie Ackerman, John Cunningham, and other US fans kept the library going in the lean years of '42 - '44 and built it up to a stage where it could hold its own with almost any collection in the country. The membership rose to over thirty, and in 1944 the club made its most ambitious and successful venture, sponsoring the Eastercon, lineal forerunner of this year's Whitcon, to which came delegations even from alien and barbaric Manchester.
Then, with the gradual dispersal of the more active members to the Forces, to other jobs, and to increasing domestic responsibilities, and with the growth of that sloth which is now almost nationwide so far as any non-essential activity is concerned, began the decline. Members could no longer screw themselves up to write for or even criticise the magazines; they could not decide whether they wished to attend meetings until it was too late; the treasurer could not bring himself to collect the new year's subscriptions; finally no one could be found to take on any of the club duties. The last issue of Beyond -- No.10 - appeared, a year or so late, in the summer of 1946; No.11. is still on the stocks. Tucker's issue of Cosmic Cuts towards the end of that year was the last dying flicker of club activity, describing meetings which had sunk to the level of pub-crawls and theatre-parties, pleasant enough but demanding no individual effort. The. library (still available to the enquirer) dispersed in one direcion, the files of Beyond (ditto) in another, the club's balance (not ditto) in a third. By 1947 the Cosmos Club was no more.
May I end with a plea? The Cosmos Club was abundantly worth while: it has to its credit a body of achievement which could never have been the outcome of casual social contacts. Organisation was necessary: the assumption of responsibilities, collecting of subscriptions, obtaining of premises, typing, duplicating, running of meetings. As one of those who did his share, I say again that it was worth it. What - apart from pure laziness - is stopping us from doing it now?
BOOKS FOR AUCTIONThe following books, sent by fans in the States, will be Auctioned by post. Any fan in the World may bid, so let us have your bids as soon as possible, the closing date being July 31st, These books have not not reached us and, in the case of those donated by F.J.Ackerman, will be sent direct from the States to the highest bidder.
Send your bids to J. Newman, 36, Bulstrode Avenue, Hounslow, Middlesex.
From Gus Willmorth, the money obtained being added to the Big Pond Fund.
Three copies of A.E. Van Vogts and E. Mayne Hull's new book "Out of the Unknown".
From Forry Ackerman, the money obtained being used to organise next year's Convention.