Tuesday 10th September

The convention was now over but there was still one final event to go. At some point during this day, the SF Luncheon Club (which was initially composed of John Wyndham, Frank Cooper, Ken Chapman and Les Flood) held a restaurant lunch at the Criterion Club in London's Piccadilly. This was a private affair not open to the general membership of the convention or officially associated with it whose purpose was to present the International Fantasy Award for Best Novel of 1956 to J.R.R. Tolkien for his then just completed LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. This had been voted the winner by an international panel of judges which included Forrest J Ackerman, Anthony Boucher, P. Schuyler Miller, Ted Carnell, and August Derleth. Tolkien did not attend the Worldcon itself, but he was talked into attending the luncheon. As Les Flood later recalled:
Jumping ahead to 1956 (regrettably the last award) and to the point of this letter, the fiction winner was J.R.R. Tolkien, whose RETURN OF THE KING had just completed the trilogy at the beginning of the world-wide acclaim which followed. As I.F.A secretary I managed to convince C.S. Lewis, another Oxford don and not unknown for his own fantasy books, to cajole his great friend Tolkien (both great ale drinkers) to attend a celebratory luncheon we were giving in his honour.
Those known to be present at the luncheon included Flood, Carnell, Ackerman, Arthur C. Clarke, Tolkien's publisher Stanley Unwin, and Clemence Dane (aka Winifred Ashton) a playwright and novelist who in the mid-1950s edited a series of science fictional 'Novels of Tomorrow'. It was she who apparently presented the award to Tolkien. Les Flood again:

Unfortunately there was no photographer present on this occasion but I relish the memory of the bemused expression on the distinguished man's face when receiving the spaceship... These were in the form of a pre-Strek style spaceship on a plinth with a cigarette-lighter (quite inappropriate really for some of the previous winning titles).
This particular year the metal IFA rocketships were used for both the IFA and the Hugos, the design of these being based - according to Ted Carnell - on the ship shown on the Bonestall cover for the Feb. 1951 issue of GALAXY. Carnell later recalled the luncheon in YANDRO #122 (March 1963, ed. Buck Coulson):

Tolkien, incidentally, protested quite strongly about receiving the award in 1957 and was not at all keen to travel to London to receive it. He did appear, however, and seemed completely vague as to what the whole thing was about and was only too pleased to retreat to his college and apparently forget all about the occasion.
For our still-vacationing American visitors, there would be parties and visits for a while yet after this but eventually, on Friday 20th September, it was time for them to depart:



The fanzines will be full of reports on the London Con; the Americans made it for us: we hope we made it for them. But have any of you intrepid KLMers stopped to think what it felt like over hare directly you had gone?

As soon as the lunch at the airport was finished, you were sucked into immigration. For you, it was farewell to the shillings and tanners, those endless red busses, those savage, bearded faces, those filthy cigarettes we find so smokeable, those cups of muddy coffee which give us our wonderful English complexions.

Dave & Ruth Kyle, Brian Aldiss
For us - well, two grim-faced Customs men held me back as, kicking and struggling, I exchanged one last vital word (on the subject of science fiction) with the Kyles, Forry, Val (Anjoorian), Lee, Mary and Steve (Schultheis and Dziechowski). The fact that I could not pronounce the surnames of the last two made no difference to the warmth of my feelings. And here and now, in the interests of Anglo-American unity, let's make it clear that anyone at all in the States, with no exceptions, may weep on my shoulder at any time they care to name, provided they look and behave like Ruth Kyle.

The British contingent now made its downhearted, shame-faced, lame-brained way to a point of vantage from which you Americans might be observed to cross from the Customs sheds to the KLM plane. We consisted, for the record, of Ted Carnell, with wife and daughter and movie camera complete with continuous belt of film, Ken Bulmer, Daphne Buckmaster, Bert Campbell (Late Editor of "Authentic"), Vince and Joy Clarke, Sandy, and Brian Lewis, the artist - oh, and me, though I would rather have been lying disguised as a record of "Dirty Old Town" in the luggage rack of your plane.

You now came out of the sheds, where you had been inspected, disinfected and stamped "U,S.A. Fondle Carefully", and climbed into the bus which would take you over the tarmac to the plane. You were only some two hundred yards away, so we had quite a clear view of you. At. once, a doubledecker bus, two Comets flown over specially from Dar-es-Salaam, a fire engine and the Airport Controller's bicycle were parked in front of us. So you made your way to the plane unobserved. We nearly caught a glimpse of you ascending the gangway, but six men ran up and hastily built a radio station with control tower in front of us.

However, when your plane taxied to the take-off runway, we had a fine view of it. Those faces at that window - Sam Moskowitz and Bob Madle surely? Or perhaps it was Art Kyle - or hadn't he got on at all? And whose was that tiny figure running madly as the speed of light after the plane? Yes, that was me, friends, but I never made it: these KLM jobs are too fast. Finally, after a comprehensive tour round London Airport, you were airborne, your plane lifting irrevocably into the grey haze with which we shroud our country from alien eyes.

That was our worst moment. We watched and watched till the spots before our eyes formed star-spangled banners in the air, and then we turned away. Ken Bulmer reassumed the false beard he had been waving. Mastering our emotions, English-fashion, we deposited our chewing gum and went to have a cup of English-fashion tea. Avidly drinking, I saw the leaves in my cup form up into the shape of a phallic symbol; of course, I know these things are really only space ships, so I took heart and felt slightly better.

Well, we had to get back to routine. I had to return to Oxford (the others were just simple local boys, Londoners all). The cold draughts of everyday life were blowing again. We caught a bus into town; it took an hour to get from Bushey, where the airport is, into central London. We talked of you all the time - in fact, we were so engrossed we accidentally let Bert Campbell buy all the tickets. The most fruitful and practical suggestion emerging from this discussion was a proposal to move the Azores over into mid-Atlantic far the establishment thereon of a permanent, time - and moneyproof Convention site, with the finest features of both our great democracies (i.e. Coca Cola and espresso coffee) available at all hours.

Finally we reached Hammersmith Broadway, and the conductor helped us off the bus. We picked ourselves up from the grimy pavements and made for the Underground (tube, subway) station, There this great and happy Fifteenth Convention finally broke up. "South Gate in '58", we shouted, more in sorrow than anger. The names of the stations were a blur as I headed alone for Paddington ....... Coldhawk Road, White City, Ladbroke Grove, Royal Oak.... Around me was this shabby, battered weedy, dusty, grand old city which had been so glad to welcome you all here. Ah, me, nothing will look the same again - not even the corpse-faced prostitutes under the sodium-vapor lights of the Bayswater Road. So I reached Paddington mainline station, feeling both sentimental and semi-mental.

I had ten minutes to spare before my train left: The carriages were crowded with Oxford faces, most seats were taken. It was 4:45 on a warm afternoon. I'd been walking about all day -- to say nothing of the preceding sleepless night. The loveliest thing in the world, I thought, next to being headed for New York in a charter plane, would be to cool my aching feet. Going along to the toilet, which packs all mod. con. into a room no bigger than Val's suitcase, I took off shoes and socks and thrust my feet under the spout where it says 'Not Drinking Water'. It felt wonderful.

The dryer was an elaborate mechanical business, into whose sides you thrust a penny and get out eighteen inches of roller towel. It hung shining overhead. My feet don't extend that far. Slipping out of my jacket, I climbed nimbly up onto the jakes and the wash basin. Steadying myself precariously with one hand on the window, I inserted a penny in the gadget and jerked out a coil of towel. Then, flexing my muscles, I stuck out a foot to dry it. At that moment, the train started with a jolt...

So I say farewell, as I hang downward, caught up in the folds of a British Railway towel. It is my sincerest hope that travel has similarly reoriented all of you, turning your preconceived notions upside down. Adieu for now, and thanks for the memories. We'll meet again someday, once I've really found my feet again.

....(c) Brian Aldiss, 1957 (used with permission)

This epilogue first appeared in SPHERE (Sept/Oct 1957, ed. Joe Christoff) and was originally titled 'Oh To Be In England After The London Con'.


1) Acknowledgements: My thanks to Bill Burns and Greg Pickersgill for their aid in piecing together the story of the IFA luncheon, and in particular to Doug Anderson who put the results of his own researches on this at my disposal, greatly helping in completing the story. Thanks also to Rainer Eisfeld for supplying a copy of the Aldiss article, and to Pete Weston for the loan of various convention materials. Further thanks to Roger Robinson for scans of hotel and pre-convention material, and to Ian Covell for being the first to identify the issue of TARZAN ADVENTURES where Mike Moorcock's report appeared.

2). The main sources for this composite report were those of James White in HYPHEN #19 (Jan '58), and those by Walt Willis scattered through HYPHEN #19, SCIENCE FICTION PARADE #6 (Fall '57, ed. Len Moffatt), and OOPSLA #23 & 24 (Dec '57 & Feb '58, ed. Gregg Calkins, as reprinted in WARHOON #28, ed. Richard Bergeron). Secondary sources were the Chuck Harris one-shot LONCONFIDENTIAL, and Forry Ackerman's 'Wings Over The Worldcon' from March 1958 issue of IMAGINATIVE TALES (Vol 5 #2), as found and supplied by Mark Plummer. A few paragraphs by Sid Birchby, Pete Daniels, and others were lifted from PLOY #11 (March '58, ed. Ron Bennett) and all details of their preconvention trip to the Continent by Terry Jeeves and Eric Bentcliffe was taken from their fanzine TRIODE #12 (Winter '57/58). As you can see, there are links to full versions of some of these but not of others. Having to OCR/retype all of them would have meant this project would never have appeared. The full text James White's report (titled "The Quinze-y Report") is available in the NESFA Press collection of his writings.

3). In the aftermath of the convention, it became clear there was a financial hole. Part of this was caused by some US fans not covering their rooms when deciding to book into other hotels on seeing the conditions in the King's Court. Some, but not all, as Vince Clarke explained in HYPHEN #19 (Jan '58):

When the committee booked the Hotel, the Manager was French, bearded, and brimming over with joi de vivre. He entered thoroughly into the spirit of things. Drunk with excitement, he even tried reading s-f, to get prepared for fans. He thought an S-F Con was devoted to s-f.

Unfortunately, some weeks before the Con the Hotel changed hands, and the new Manager was a mundane type. Professionally willing, but not co-operative in a friendly way, we felt. Come the Con; on the Saturday night Secretary Bobbie Wild was casually informed that fans for whom we'd reserved beds hadn't booked in. As we'd booked all available beds offered, this was a shock. Omitting details, about 16% of the booking for 3 nights failed to show up. Worse, altho' the old Manager had understood we'd booked for 3 nights, the new, on the basis of a preliminary letter of enquiry, wanted payment for the full hotel for a fourth night also.

To be presented with an unforseen bill for £160 on the last day of an otherwise successful Con is a mite unsettling. We paid £100 under protest, went back to our various homes to sort things out. We can establish that the Hotel wasn't booked for four nights, also through some incredible confusion on their books we're due for about £30 back - if we can get it. Letters to the Hotel have produced no answers, and the matter is in the hands of a solicitor (lawyer to the US readership).

We've managed to collect from many of those who didn't appear, or in some cases have sufficient reasons for not asking for recompense. On the basis of hard cash we scraped through without being in debt or going around with the hat, but that's all. None of the debts of honour have been settled, including a considerable sum representing London Circle funds which had been placed at the disposal of the Committee, and none of the Committee members have been reimbursed for expenditure at the Con.

That's the position as of the middle of January, verified with Bobbie,. But...we did have fun - and made sure it was SOUTH GATE IN '58.

.... .....A. Vincent Clarke.

Based on the difference in average earnings £100 would be £4400 in today's money, so this was not a trivial matter, particularly if this sum had ended up having to be covered out of the pockets of the Committee.

A full financial report was published the following year in the SOLACON Program Book. This can be seen here.

4). Many of the photos used here arrived from Peter Weston already captioned. Those showing Sam Moskowitz's wife listed her as 'Christine Moskowitz', but in the con membership listings she appears as 'Christine Haycock'. Wanting to use her preferred name, I inquired among those who knew her as to which I should go for. Earl Kemp replied:

"As Sam's wife, I only knew her as Moskowitz. However, she was a doctor and, perhaps for professional reasons, used her maiden name there.
To which Rob Jackson added:
"Speaking as a medic, I strongly back up what Earl says - both then and now, it was/is very common for medics to stick with their maiden name, partly for patients and colleagues, but even more so for anyone involved with scientific research whose name is published in academic journals."
So, I guess the captions stay as they are.

5). Wondering what became of the young German fan who made such an impression at the Worldcon, I googled Rainer Eisfeld's name and within a few seconds had turned up his very impressive CV. I got in touch with Rainer as a result of this and we struck up a correspondence. There's more on his Wikipedia page, which can be found here:

Rainer Eisfeld

He's also a fanhistorian and wrote a book 'Die Zukunft in der Tasche' about the early years of fandom in West Germany. The photo on the cover of his book shows him with Hugo Gernsback. There can't be many fans who have photos of themselves with SF's two most famous editors.

6). TAFF Winner Bob Madle eventually wrote a trip report. This can be found here.

7) Ron Bennett's memories of the con can be found here.