EIGHTIES LETTERS AND FAN DIARY
27: NOVEMBER 1985Friday 1st - Sunday 3rd November - from fanzine
My illness and NOVACON 15 both started on Friday and it was soon clear that each would have an effect on the other. Quite what the illness was I never did find out but its nature unfolded as the convention itself did.
NOVACON was held in Coventry's De Vere Hotel, which was smaller than I remembered it being in 1975 and 1977, and a lot further from the train station. Could the illness be affecting my perceptions, I mused, particularly as the place evoked so little nostalgia - a surprise for the hotel that hosted the first convention I ever attended.
My suspicions were further aroused when I 'saw' Dave Bischoff and Charles Sheffield at the con, but they were confirmed when I stumbled into the fan room and imagined it to be bursting at the seams with more people than were to be found in the rest of the hotel.
"This will never do", I told fan programme supremo Tony Berry as we were carried to and fro by the seething crowd (and who wouldn't seeth when it took so long to get a pint?). "There's no way you can hold any programme items in here."
Berry - who will one day grow up to be John Jarrold - agreed, and with one mighty bound he had the fan programming transferred to a suite on the same floor but far enough from the bar to keep the beer- swilling hordes away. Unfortunately it was also far enough removed to keep most of the audience away, which was a shame as Berry was the committee member who most had his act together and the fan programme was the only part of the convention that really went as originally planned.
Rob Jackson was hovering around the fan-bar and selling copies of THE TRANSATLANTIC HEARING-AID, the chapters of FGoH Langford's now completed report gathered together in a single edition for the first time. Rob has done a nice job and it's a handsome volume, but I have my reservations about the cover. Jim Barker has caricatured Langford many times before so it's a shame he should have produced such a poor likeness this time, and particularly on this of all Dave's works. Ah well.
Clearly it was time to start the evening's drinking, a long and serious session punctuated only by the official opening ceremony. This was a lacklustre affair save for the bizarre little film that opened it - all about a man doing strange things in a lift - which would have been totally unmemorable had it not been for the sight of Chuck Harris and Pro GoH James White greeting each other, heartily on meeting for the first time in decades. Just the sort of thing to warm the time-binding cockles of a fanhistorian's heart - and not a zap-gun in sight!
As the evening wore on it seemed wise to crash out early in order to give my body a chance to fight back against the encroaching virus. Wise, yes, but totally ineffectual. By the time I woke the virus, having established a beachhead in my skull and invaded my nose, had opened a second front in my 'gut and I was all too aware of the battle being waged along the length of my intestinal tract. This last had its usual consequences and I got to read a lot of fanzines during the course of the day, wondering all the while if the little bugger had any plans to march into the Sudetenland.
Up and about, though feeling rough, I wandered into the bookroom where Hazel Langford sat behind a table selling husband Dave's books in a vain attempt to help finance major repairs to their crumbling manse. She was doing a brisk trade in copies of THE TRANSATLANTIC HEARING-AID and of THE LEAKY ESTABLISHMENT (which you should rush our and buy immediately), but was less successful at flogging copies of the ubiquitous WAR IN 2030, THE SPACE EATER, and of other parts of the Langford opus with titles too improbable to be disbelieved.
Later, Arthur Thomson who - as exclusively revealed in the last issue of CRANK - was attending his first con in 20 years, began haranguing me about being described in that selfsame issue as 'diminutive'.
"How do you know?" he protested. 'You've never seen me without my pants!"
After sending Arthur away screaming in the wake of a series of truly dreadful puns on the word 'thai'(of which I'm now suitably ashamed) I jotted this down for the benefit of Chuck Harris, who guffawed loudly. Chuck went to pocket the slip of paper this was written on but I knew his game and forestalled him by writing 'All above c.1985 for CRANK #3 NOVACON report' on the bottom. You see, one of the consequences of Chuck's deafness is that he gets all manner of amusing snippets scrawled on bits of paper for him during the course of a convention. On getting home all he has to do is copy them all out, string them together with a few choice ifs, buts and ands, and he has one of those famously funny Harris pieces that sparkle with wit and inventiveness and make him the envy of those of us who spend hours staring at a sheet of paper before being able to squeeze out the feeblest of bon mots. If only we all had it so easy!
By the evening the virus had won most of its battles and I felt as if I'd been kicked in the stomach by a mule. I wandered around feverishly for some hours, the ghost at the party, until even the convention-instinct was conquered and bed was all that remained.
Sunday passed in a blur, and only a few hallucinatory fragments remain: Langford's speech, which was long and funny and already bagged for publication by John Jarrold before the convention began; Brian Burgess getting trapped in a lift; hearing a rumour that a person or persons unknown had put in £10 worth. of COFF votes for Avedon, fearing that agents of that person in Puerto Rico were responsible, and then discovering that the votes had been cast not for Avedon but for Joy Hibbert.
Me being short on holidays we didn't stay 'Sunday evening and so missed both Monday and the Nova Awards ceremony, though as it turned out 'I had to take Monday off anyway as I was still ill. Nonetheless, we later learned that PREVERT 'got' the award for best British fanzine, Abi Frost for best British fanwriter, and the fanartist award by Ros Calverly. This last worried me since I've never seen anything by her and began to wonder if I was as plugged into British fandom as I thought I was. Surprisingly, COFF was won by con chairman Phill. Probert rather than by the infinitely more deserving runner-up and the result was quite clearly a last-minute fix by other members of the committee and/or other members of the Brum group. I don't agree with this. While NOVACON 15 was a pretty poor convention (though I managed to enjoy myself because of the good friends there and despite my virus,) Probert has hardly been as consistent a thorn in the flesh of so many people over the last year as the runner-up was. Let's do it properly next time, eh?
So that was NOVACON 15, not a great con but despite my condition I had a good time.
Thursday 7th November
Usual crowd present, but with a surprise brief appearance by Simone Walsh and her daughter. Simone had changed her hair and looked so different I didn't even realise it was her at first. As a consequence, I never got to talk to her before she left. Those she'd presumably come to see - the Rats - didn't show up until after she'd gone.
Abi Frost was presented with her Nova Award during the evening. What with Dave receiving his Hugo here two months ago, the Tun is turning into the venue where we do this. I approve.
Monday 11th November
Lisa Tuttle was there when I got in from work today. She had come over to see Avedon about the encyclopedia of feminism she was working on. Avedon enthused to her about the pizza place on our block so, inevitably, we ended up eating there again later that evening.
Wednesday 13th November
After tagliatelle at the Oxford Street Pizza Hut, Avedon and I made our way over to Harringay for the monthly pool night at The Salisbury, where we expected to find Kevin Smith waiting for us, but he was late. Once again, no pool was actually played. News of the pending Dave Bridges/Linda Blanchard nuptials was greeted with some disbelief.
Also present this time were Dai Price, Abi Frost, Pat Charnock, Sherry Francis, Malcolm Edwards, and Keith Mitchell, who was down from Scotland.
Friday 15th November
At the BSFA meeting were people whose faces we recognised, but no one we actually knew - no Harveys, no Nicholas/Hanna. A pleasant enough evening, but not really worth the effort of getting there. I really can't see these lasting much longer.
Saturday 16th November
I got the final stencils for CRANK #3 typed up and run off at last, but the electrostencilled front page tore on the drum. Fortunately, I'd had Vince burn a spare against such an eventuality so I was able to bundle this and the other stencils off to Ted White, though later than I should have. In fact, Ted phoned that evening demanding to know where the stencils for the issue were.
Sunday 17th November
The third Wellington FIS meeting, and again we had a good turnout. It started with Mike Dickinson, Jackie Gresham, Vince Clarke, Avedon, me, Malcolm Davies and Kate Solomon (Kate Davies reverted to her maiden name on attending university). We were joined a bit later by Pam Wells, Abi Frost, and the Pickersgills - fresh from a MEXICON committee meeting - and later still by Roz Kaveney and Lin Morris. At one point Avedon and I investigated the upstairs room as a possible venue for the BSFA meetings, which are dying at their current one.
Going home, Avedon got into an argument with Greg, who then stormed off into another tube carriage. Ho hum.
19th November 1985 - letter to Ted White
Rejected illo for CRANK #3 (see text of issue):
(This illo of Ted being menaced by Joy Hibbert was one I'd thought long lost, so it was a surprise to find I'd included a xerox of it at the top of my letter to Ted. As for why I rejected it, I think it was because while I had problems with Joy her weight wasn't one of them. It was only after finishing the drawing I realised it might be taken by some as 'fat shaming', which wasn't my intent. Or was it Avedon who pointed this out to me and I'm giving myself too much credit? Anyway, here it is more than three decades later, an illo only Ted and I - and possibly Avedon - have seen before.)Profound apologies for the lateness of this issue of CRANK but, as I mentioned during our brief phone conversation the other night, this was due for the most part to factors beyond my control, including illness, domestic problems, and a sudden unexpected increase in the amount of work I had to do in my job. Since this last left me feeling 'wiped' at the end of the day, and since I usually do most of my fanwriting while at work, you will appreciate the effect this had. One delaying factor that was avoidable was the amount of time I spent brooding over your last letter rather than getting on with writing my contributions for this issue. Had I written a reply straight off it would have performed the necessary 'exorcism' and cleared my mental decks of a lot of the stuff that was blocking me.
I've been sending CRANK to the EPSILON mailing list, more or less. Since this doesn't include Europeans no copies have been sent over but if you give me a list of those on the continent you'd like to have receive it this can be rectified. Once again CRANK has come out eight pages but I'm quite happy for it to go over that when necessary if you are - what do you think?
Yeah, I'm aware that my duper has a bit of a problem with the LH side of a sheet due to inadequate inking but since I don't want to increase the margins on the US copies further I can live with that. (Actually, this seems to be partly the fault of the electrostencil. Must see Vince about that.)
I'll get my contributions for the next issue to you ASAP, and these will include a review of current British fanzines, mainly those I got at NOVACON, with the usual trenchant comment about the current state of fanpublishing in the UK.
21st November 1985 - letter to Walt Willis
Your photo of myself and "another woman" was much appreciated at 9A Greenleaf, as was your wedding gift. Avedon was pretty depressed at one point last week, both by her inability to find work and by the cold (being a pampered American she's never lived anywhere without central heating before and our flat is particularly difficult to heat properly for some reason), so I suggested she go up to Harrods next day and spend those gift vouchers on anything she pleased "no matter how frivolous". It worked too, cheered her up no end - and if happiness is what it's all about, which it is, then I don't think your gift could've been put to better use.
Avedon's working at the moment, too, so things are looking up.
Saturday 23rd November
Travelling down to Reading today to spend the weekend with Dave & Hazel Langford, we got a big shock at the station when we discovered British Rail don't do weekend returns from London to Reading. Instead we'd have to buy single tickets both ways at £4.50 for each of us!!
Dave and Hazel were as delightful as ever and turned their heating up to make things more comfortable for Avedon, who spent most of the afternoon putting her TAFF report on disk using Dave's word processor while he and I played computer games. Dave was much pleased with the quart of Jack Daniels we brought him, though Hazel was less approving of this gift.
(Sadly, somewhere along the way Avedon's TAFF report was lost and it's never turned up in the years since. Lost forever, I fear.)In the evening we trooped into town for an Indian meal at a restaurant called The Shamir, before decamping to the ICL club where we linked up with Martin Hoare for drinks.
Sunday 24th November
We all met up with the Oborns and the Harveys at a canalside pub around lunchtime and spent a very pleasant hour or so on drink and conversation. Stopping off at a supermarket on the way back to London Road, we bought lots of food then sat around eating this in the Langford dining room. When we were on tea and coffee, Chris Priest and his new girl friend Leigh Kennedy dropped in. Chris and Dave are 'Ansible Information' and currently making a fair bit of their bread and butter selling program disks such as PASD - Professional Author's Scriptwriter Disk - for use with the Apricot computer's own word processing program.
Later, after Chris & Leigh had gone and before we set off for home, Avedon continued wordprocessing her TAFF report while I played more games and watched Dave enter a new page on his 'Prestel' SF column via a modem. It was a review of Chris Priest's THE GLAMOUR. Oh, the nepotism of it all!
Thursday 28th November
Thanksgiving dinner at Greg & Linda's Ealing flat tonight, as bought by Greg and Avedon (I'm guessing this means they paid for it and Greg & Linda cooked it, but I don't honestly remember). As well as we four, Pam Wells and Lisa Tuttle were also at the meal. Excellent food, good wine, and good conversation. A superb evening.