The news that John Brunner was leading a bid to combine the 1984 Eastercon with that year's Eurocon was greeted with alarm in some quarters when it was first announced in 1982, Quite apart from the particular significance of the year itself in British SF many felt that while it would be a good thing to hold a Eurocon in Britain at some other time of the year to combine it with Eastercon could be disastrous. A number of those who felt this way, who didn't want to see the character and traditions of Eastercon subsumed in this of all years, organised a rival bid in direct opposition to Brunner's. The rival bid, for an Eastercon to be called 1984CON in honour of Orwell, had on its committee a number of those who'd organised the 1975 and 1979 SEACONs so the decision of the Brunner bid (which had none) to call its convention SEACON 84, and by implication to trade on the goodwill those earlier conventions had generated by suggesting a link of some sort, caused a certain amount of acrimony. At ALBACON, the 1983 Eastercon, the convention was awarded to the Brunner bid, an example of a pattern that was to repeat itself throughout the 80s, where a multi-media bid would inevitably beat one for an Eastercon where the emphasis was on SF books and fandom. Such results indicated not only the growing numbers of convention attendees who got their SF from TV and films rather than from books, but also how the view of those who felt the Eastercon should be all things to all fans was winning out over that of those who felt things had gone too far and that there should be a return to those values that had made earlier Eastercons what they had been. Those who held the latter view were soon to have their day, however.
Over Easter weekend 1984 SEACON 84 was duly staged. Unfortunately it proved to be the disaster that the 1984CON had feared it would. Many of the visiting Europeans and those British fans whose first convention it was reported having a good time but most of those who regularly attended other British conventions considered it an organisational shambles and the worst Eastercon since the notorious MANCON 5. Still, it wasn't as if this hadn't been expected, and at the ALBACON bidding session Kev Williams had taken the platform after the vote and announced Gannetfandom's intention to put on TYNECON II in 1985 regardless of whether or not they won the vote at the SEACON 84 session. As it happened, things would develop quite differently.
Sure that SEACON 84 was going to be the shambles it ended up being Greg and Linda Pickersgill began to give serious thought to organising an alternative convention to be held that same Easter weekend. They, and a number of like-minded London fans, had been much taken with the convention manifesto that Kev Williams had published in OUT OF THE BLUE 5 and which formed the ideological core of the TYNECON II bid. This proposed an Eastercon limited to an attendance of 350-500 and stripped of programming catering to media and other fringe interests, one that focussed its energies on high-quality fannish and SF programming. An Eastercon for people who read and one, it was argued, that would naturally appeal to those who felt disaffected with modern Eastercons.
"'But isn't this elitist? Aren't you all living in the past?'
YES TO BOTH QUESTIONS.
Great. Isn't it?"
Indeed. This was just the sort of convention the London group envisaged staging opposite SEACON 84. It was decided to call this convention MEXICON (after a comment Abi Frost had made during CHANNELCON as to how those of us disaffected with modern Eastercons ought to establish ourselves as a special interest group -- she suggested Mexican fandom -- and demand the committee cater to us as they seemed to cater to all other fringe groups). Gannetfandom were approached to see if they would consider joining forces with the London fans and staging the con a year earlier than they had planned. They agreed, but still wanted it to be called TYNECON II. So, over the weekend of May 25-28 (the decision having been taken not to proceed opposite SEACON 84 after all, for the benefit of those who wanted to attend both), TYNECON II: THE MEXICON was held at the Royal Station Hotel in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, site of the original TYNECON. With its well-run and innovative programming, with the satisfaction and enjoyment it gave, MEXICON was everything that SEACON 84 should have been but wasn't, and with a lower attendance and hence a lot less money to play with. It was so successful in fact that, though originally intended as a one-off, popular demand led to there being a second, equally successful, MEXICON two years later. In a situation reminiscent of that in 1984 (a bid with a catch-all bigger and better multi-media approach once again beating a bid for a straight SF con) the vote to hold the 1989 Eastercon on the island of Jersey (a con dubbed 'Yuppiecon' by detractors who regarded it as being affordable only by wealthier fans) resulted in MEXICON III being announced as an alternative.
Since the time the first fanzine appeared fandom has never been without them, and while the quality and quantity of fanzines varies considerably over the years the urge to produce them never seems to die. With the greying of fanzine fandom in Britain and its apparent inability to attract new blood, there have been more voices than usual predicting the imminent death of the fanzine in recent years, but it hasn't died yet and there was no sign of its death in the mid-80s. The year 1983 saw the publication of fanzines like ABDUMP (Paul Vincent), NUTZ (Pam Wells), IDOMO (Chuck Connor), MICROWAVE (Terry Hill), LE NOUVEAU REVEL! BLEU (Abi Frost), NOT SFN (Vince Clarke), CHOCOLATES OF LUST (Phil Palmer), PROTON (Simon Bostock), THIS NEVER HAPPENS (Lilian Edwards & Christina Lake), GRAZING SAINTS (Cath Easthope), EMPTIES (Martin Tudor), WASTE OF A TREE (Alex Stewart), MINCE (Ian Sorenson), SPAGHETTI JUNCTION (Mike Dickinson & Jackie Gresham -- from Italy, where they'd temporarily relocated), RASTUS (John D.Owen), and the final issue to date (no. 20) of Langford's TWLL DDU. It also saw a full ten issues of DRUNKARD'S TALK, Malcolm Edwards's 'ensmalled' successor to TAPPEN whose fifth and final issue late the previous year had carried D West's tour-de-force 'Performance'. Probably the most unusual fanzine to make its first appearence in 1983, however, was SHALLOW END (Janice Maule, Eve Harvey, Pam wells, and Judith Hanna) which, as its name implies, was set up for the benefit of fannish newcomers, and was full of information and 'how to' tips and the like designed to ease their passage into fandom. It was also intended as a philosophical rival to TWP, a place for both male and female newcomers to find their feet where TWP, SHALLOW END's founders felt, unfairly catered only for the latter. How much it actually accomplished is difficult to gauge, and its ability to meet its aims was treated with much skepticism by established fans, but it soldiered on for a year, its fifth and final issue appearing in early-1984. Its demise went largely uncommented on but what did receive a lot of comment in 1984 was the publication of FANZINES IN THEORY AND IN PRACTICE, a collection of the fanzine articles D West had produced over the previous ten years. Some of that comment centered around its rather interesting UK/US price difference (£5/$20) but most praised it and it was generally regarded as the fanzine publishing event of the year. There was much else of interest in this and the following few years, however, including fanzines such as STILL LIFE and STILL IT MOVES (Simon Ounsley), XYSTER (Dave Wood), FOR PARANOIDS ONLY (Nigel Richardson), SOMEDAYS YOU EAT THE BEAR (Anne Warren), THE ODONIAN (Jeremy Crampton, HARD RAIN (Sue Thomason), DOMBLE IN THE WORKS (Lesley Ward), HELPMABOAB (Jim Barker), ALEX'S RESTAURANT (Alex Stewart), WALLBANGER (Eve Harvey), DEAR RUDE BITCH (Avedon Carol and Lucy Huntzinger -- while over here on holiday in 1984), BLATANT (Avedon Carol -- following her move to this country in 1985), and many others. Probably the most prominent, however, were PREVERT (John Jarrold), STOMACH PUMP (Steve Higgins), ANSIBLE (Dave Langford), and the variously-named fanzines of Owen Whiteoak, all of which were much talked about and were winners of, or runners up for, various fan awards during the period. David Bridges's A COOL HEAD won him the Best Fanzine Nova Award for 1983 but the massive two-volume edition he put out the following year (nicknamed 'the Sheffield telephone directory' and highly personal) was greeted with puzzlement and even hostility. It was the last fanzine he put out before moving to the US in 1986. The BSFA, meanwhile, continued pumping out its publications as usual and a variety of fans (Graham and Linda James, Simon Polley, Chris Hughes, and Dave Hodson) took turns at editing MATRIX.
In the years since its inception TAFF had sent British fans such as ATom, Ethel Lindsay, Peter Weston, Peter Roberts, Kev Smith and Dave Langford to the US and also European fans Mario Bosnyak and Tom Schluck, the races being followed with varying degrees of interest (or uninterest, as the case may be) but rarely rousing much passion. There were rumours of vote-buying in the Bosnyak race and a strong campaign for 'No Award' when Smith won, but nothing really heavy. Until 1984.
As it had been in the late-1950s, TAFF was the focus of a lot of acrimony in 1984. The race that year was between Rob Hansen and D West and Hansen won, on the North American vote (they drew in the UK). The North American administrator at that time was Avedon Carol and during her TAFF trip to the UK in 1983 (she was FGoH at ALBACON) she and Hansen had developed a close personal relationship, one which was far from being secret. Over in Puerto Rico, Richard Bergeron -- a fervent supporter of West during the race -- chose to believe that Avedon had unduly influenced people to vote on Hansen's behalf and, taking an offhand comment about him in one of her fanzines as a jumping off point, launched into a series of attacks on her in both fanzines and in private correspondence. Americans such as Ted White and Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and Britons such as Chuck Harris and Dave Langford (a group including some of West's nominators), wrote letters arguing that he was mistaken but were unable to persuade him. A feud was brewing and it started to come to the boil as Hansen was beginning his TAFF trip across the US. Seeing this Dave Locke and Jackie Causgrove of Cincinnatti, fans who had had grievances of their own with the administration of the fund during previous races, entered the fray in support of Bergeron. D West, Avedon's supposed victim, thought Bergeron's charges against her groundless and wrote an open letter dismissing them out of hand, but it did nothing to stop the feud. By this point it had taken on a life of its own. Even so the feud, though the cause of much stress among those caught up in it, aroused little interest among British fans as a whole since most of the action was occurring in the pages of private correspondence. That all changed when the 1985 TAFF race was drawn into the conflict.
Usually those wanting to run in a TAFF race make their intentions known long before the nomination period opens and there are rarely eleventh hour entries, but in the 1985 race there was one. As the nomination period was drawing to a close the administrators began to receive nominations for Martha Beck. Since one of her nominators missed the deadline date by a week she failed to make the ballot, but that was not the end of the matter. In early November '84 copies of a 'Martha Beck for TAFF' flyer that was being circulated in the American midwest by Jackie Causgrove were 'leaked' to Linda Pickersgill. This document urged local fans to vote for Beck by writing in her name on their TAFF ballots, and called her the midwestern candidate. (Of the other candidates, Rich Coad lived on the West Coast and the Nielsen Haydens on the East Coast, though none of them were actually from these areas originally.) TAFF has never operated on the basis of the candidates representing any particular region of the sending country but there were reasons why midwestern fans were peculiarly susceptible to such an appeal. During the business session of the 1984 Worldcon Ben Yalow, an East Coast fan, had suggested that for the purposes of Worldcon rotation the US in future be split into two zones rather than the current three "_.in order to eliminate wimpy bids". This quote got somewhat garbled on the grapevine and word went round that an attempt was being made by East and West Coast fans to squeeze out 'the Wimpy Zone', ie...the midwest. Much was made of 'the Wimpy Zone' in Literature for the Martha Beck write-in campaign, as if a Beck victory would somehow show fans from the coastal regions that the midwest was still a force to be reckoned with and not so wimpy after all. Needless to say this appeal to US regional chauvinism didn't go down at all well in the UK since British fans didn't give a damn about such matters. Indeed, they viewed the attempt to swamp the ballot with a massive midwestern vote as an attempt to disenfranchise them, to render their vote and their voice in this race irrelevant, particularly since no-one involved in the Beck campaign ever directly informed British fandom about it. Beck was completely unknown in the UK and there was no attempt made to start a campaign over here or even to make copies of the flyer available. Noting that candidates Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden had strongly supported administrator Avedon Carol in the still-raging feud, and that Jackie Causgrove had supported Richard Bergeron, many found it difficult to believe that Causgrove's campaign was unconnected with the feud. A British response to all this was inevitable, and it soon materialised.
Linda Pickersgill was appalled by the campaign and determined to do something about it. With Greg she put together a petition that spelled out what was happening and the importance of taking a stand against it. "It is vital that we make our voices heard even though our votes may now seem to count for nothing", read the petition, "...we must register our protests with the TAFF administration over the way our vote is being disregarded". The petition argued its case eloquently enough but it was reading the copy of the 'Martha Beck for TAFF' flyer attached to it that convinced many to sign. "If the majority of British TAFF voters protest the use of British TAFF funds to support candidates who have no contact or interest in British fandom", concluded the petition, "there will be a mandate for the freezing of such funds until a more acceptable solution is reached". Such was the offense the campaign had caused that copies of the petition rolled in from all parts of the UK, the signatories including most of the best-known fans of the day -- and 57% of those who had voted in the TAFF race over here. What with feelings running so high and all the talk of withdrawing from TAFF and setting up an alternative fund it was beginning to look as if TAFF couldn't survive a Beck victory. As TAFF administrator Hansen was faced with a serious quandary. He hadn't been elected to preside over the dissolution of the fund, the destruction of a worthy cause that had endured more than three decades, but could the wishes of a British fandom that had so unequivocally stated its position in this matter be ignored? Whoever won, this was going to be the most crucial race in TAFF's history.
The voting deadline was midnight on 31st December 1984, and the next day the votes were tallied. The final count said it all. In North America Martha Beck received 183 votes and the Nielsen Haydens 144, while over here the figures were 6 and 117 respectively, which meant the Nielsen Haydens defeated Beck by 261 votes to 189 (both the largest TAFF vote in the UK ever and the largest overall). It also spelt an end to the feud as far as most of the antagonists were concerned. However, that one half of TAFF thought it was possible to be disenfranchised by a group in the other, and that such acrimony could be generated by something intended to improve the links of friendship between our two fandoms, showed that the TAFF rules were in serious need of another overhaul. Ironically enough Hansen had seen the danger of something like this happening and had proposed a couple of changes shortly after assuming office. Unfortunately Carol vetoed these since Bergeron had just begun his attacks on her and she thought that any tinkering with the rules at that point would have just given him another excuse to attack her. Hansen had proposed introducing a requirement that in order to win a candidate must secure 25% of the vote in the host country, and was in favour of dropping the write-in vote option which had always seemed merely a way of avoiding the nomination requirements. Both Carol and the Nielsen Haydens thought the latter would be too difficult to sell to US fandom but a version of the former, modified to the requirement that a winning candidate must secure 20% of the vote on both sides of the Atlantic, was accepted. This proposal was incorporated into the TAFF rules after being ratified at a meeting of current administrators, previous administrators, and founding fathers of TAFF that took place in Leeds at the 1985 Eastercon. Greg Pickersgill won the next UK to US race (defeating Judith Hanna and Simon Ounsley) and he too suffered attacks from certain US fans both during and after the race. The pretext usually given for these attacks was that he had written a piece in 1981 in STOP BREAKING DOWN 7 criticising the contemporary state of TAFF. However, since most of these attacks came from those he had opposed by helping to organise the protest petition during the 1985 race, people thoroughly discredited in the eyes of most British fans, they were largely ignored over here. And so the TAFF Wars came, finally, to an end.
While on the subject of international fandom it's worth noting that a a new twist on fanzines -- responsibility for editing and production rotating between fans in different countries -- emerged in September 1985 with the appearance of CRANK, edited by Ted White and Rob Hansen. CRANK's editorship could be said to have been 'bi-continental', and the reason for this arrangement was to eliminate expensive transatlantic postal charges and the time-lag caused by sending a fanzine 'surface mail'. A few months after it first appeared CRANK was joined by FUCK THE TORIES, a tricontinental fanzine edited by Joseph Nicholas & Judith Hanna (UK), Leigh Edmonds & Valma Brown (Australia), and Terry Hughes (US). CRANK was a monthly fanzine that saw five issues before White's incarceration led to its demise while FTT continued to be published for several years after this.
Meanwhile, back in the pub.... Regulars at the One Tun had long regarded it as too small to hold the first-Thursday meetings and it had become so overcrowded and uncomfortable that various groups -- most notably the local SF professionals -- had taken to meeting elsewhere on the same night, but there was never sufficient impetus to effect a full-scale relocation. This came in January 1987 when the Landlord objected to a local gay fan kissing his boyfriend. A petition protesting his action was circulated and handed to the landlord at the end of the evening but this didn't seem enough. A couple of weeks later representatives of the various groups that regularly attended the One Tun got together to view the Wellington Tavern near Waterloo Station, the venue of Friends In Space meetings since September 1985, and approve it as as alternative venue. They did, and in February it became the new venue for the first-Thursday meetings for all save certain media fans, such as the Trekkies, who decided to stick with the One Tun. There had already been another change in venue for a major London meeting during the mid-80s, this one far from voluntary...
The mid-80s saw some changes in the BSFA. The monthly meetings of London members in the King of Diamonds came to an abrupt end in December 1984 when the landlord decided that he no longer wanted them there and refused to continue hiring out the pub's facilities. Having noticed the CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) badges worn by some who attended and the animated conversations they had about such matters he protested that the meetings were not those of a science fiction association as was claimed but those of an antinuclear group. Since SF fans as a whole probably think more about the future and what it might hold than most other groups its not too surprising that a movement campaigning to ensure there will be a future would find adherents among them, but as the landlord of the King of Diamonds didn't share such sentiments the BSFA was barred. On 18th January 1985 a group of those who had been regulars at the King of Diamonds met at the One Tun to decide on a new venue: while little was settled that night it was announced only a few weeks later that the BSFA meetings would in future be held above the Cooper's Arms in Chelsea. Unfortunately this venue was both less appealing and less accessible than the King of Diamonds had been, and never attracted the same levels of support. In little over a year it was decided to call it a day and the London meetings were discontinued. Nor was this the only change in progress. In August 1985 Alan Dorey resigned as Chairman and was not immediately replaced. ("Headless Monster Terrorises Fandom!" announced one wag at the time.) Paul Kincaid picked up the reins a year or so later and became the association's 'co-ordinator', fulfulling the same function as Dorey had but eschewing the figurehead aspect inherent in title of Chairman. The final passing of the old order occurred shortly afterwards when, after six years of sterling service, John and Eve Harvey gave up printing the BSFA publications and their production passed to a commercial printer.
The 1985 Eastercon reunited Walt & Madeleine Willis, Chuck Harris, Bob Shaw, James White, and ATom, a group that had not been together at a con in decades and one that comprised almost all the surviving members of Irish Fandom. It also had TAFF winners Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Linda Pickersgill as FGoH and featured another staging of his dramatic adaptation of Philip K.Dick's THE TRANSMIGRATION OF TIMOTHY ARCHER (first seen at MEXICON I) by Geoff Ryman, but it may well be best remembered for being the first British convention to split its programming between the main and overflow hotels. With fannish and literary SF programming in the main hotel and media programming in the overflow, this might seem to be a reasonable solution to the problem of finding hotels large enough to house the three-ring circus the modern Eastercon has become. However, despite the fact that the bookroom and other facilities were also in the overflow there were howls of protest from mediafans who felt they were being relegated to second-class citizen status. It was a thorny situation, and one some future Eastercon will have to resolve, but it wasn't one faced by the next few.
The 1986 Eastercon was held again in Glasgow, as it had been in 1980 and 1983. In fact for an eight-year stretch the Eastercon was shared between three cities, the other two being Leeds (1979, 1981, & 1985) and Brighton (1982 & 1984). This seeming monopoly was finally broken by BECCON, the 1987 Eastercon held at the Birmingham International Exhibition Centre, whose committee had like that of Glasgow's ALBACON before them kept the name of their local convention and decided to go for the 'glory' of the national convention. By all accounts BECCON suffered many of the same problems experienced by SEACON '84 since, like those of the Brighton Metropole, the facilities of the Exhibition Centre are more suited to something the size of a Worldcon and the convention was dwarfed by its venue. One innovation launched at BECCON was the introduction of two-year bidding, which meant that at this convention the next two Eastercons had to be voted for. The 1988 Eastercon went to Liverpool and the 1989 Eastercon to Jersey.
NOVACON meanwhile was suffering an identity crisis with several causes. The first was a reluctance to fully accept the responsibilities attendant to its evolution from a small fannish alternative to Eastercons to its current status as Britain's number two convention, and the second an inability to settle on a suitable venue. Having outgrown The Royal Angus Hotel, NOVACON was held at the Grand Hotel in 1984 and in Coventry's De Vere Hotel in 1985 and 1986. NOVACON survives, however, which is more than can be said of some conventions. The final SILICON was held in August 1985, Gannetfandom having grown weary and decided that nine years was enough. Indeed, with the end of SILICON Gannetfandom appeared to fade away as the Surrey Limpwrists had some years earlier. Kev and Sue Williams moved down to London in 1986 and none of the others were seen at conventions or other fannish gatherings thereafter. Given how popular SILICON was with fannish fans, it was inevitable that there would be a replacement of some sort, and in August 1986 the first RUBICON was held at The Chequers Hotel in Newbury. The second RUBICON was held in late May the following year, but it wasn't the first convention of 1987.
In February 1987 a convention was held in Leeds to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first ever science fiction convention, held in that selfsame city half a century earlier. Called CONCEPTION, it even attracted a couple of those who were at that first convention. Among the delights organised for the con were EMBRYONIC JOURNEY, a sampling of fifty years of British fanwriting put together by Graham James, and the first..ah...performance of Geoff Ryman's dramatic adaptation of D West's PERFORMANCE. Both these popular items were instantly booked for repeat appearances at CONSPIRACY, the 1987 Worldcon which would be held in Brighton.
And so we reach the present. There's always a temptation when reaching the end of a work such as this to make forecasts as to what the future might hold based on patterns seen in what has gone before, and temptation should always be given in to...
Though earlier groups such as H.P.Lovecraft's circle exhibited many of the traits we consider 'fannish' it wasn't until 1926 and the advent of AMAZING that there came into being a mechanism for a 'critical mass' of people to come together and ultimately generate what we now think of as fandom, which is why this narrative begins where it does. From the time Gillings and Hanson were getting things together in the 1930s up until the demise of HYPHEN and the fall of Inchmery can reasonably be considered 'classical' British fandom. Given that 'modern' British fandom began in 1970 with the advent of FOULER and has continued ever since (with minor interruptions such as the 'hiccup' that occurred in the immediate post-SEACON '79 period) then, clearly, this makes 60s fandom a transitional period between old and new (or an aberration -- take your pick). In looking more closely at the history of the modern period it's interesting to note that each movement within SF has been mirrored within fandom. In that period the two main developments were the advent of the New Wave SF writers (and the antagonism they roused in the old guard), and the appearance of a large number of female writers in the field who put Feminism on the SF agenda. The parallels with first Ratfandom and then the increasing numbers of women involved in fandom and producing fanzines is fairly obvious -- and unsurprising. Fans come into fandom mainly by way of SF, even now, and are likely to be young enough to be plugged into what's currently happening (this was certainly true of Ratfandom, whose early fanzines often had a distinct New Wave influence). With Cyberpunk being the new 'movement' in SF at the moment this could mean that post-CONSPIRACY we'll see a wave of computer-literate fans putting out zines (probably still on paper) peppered with computer-jargon and punk-rock references. We've had bits of each over the past few years but no real synthesis of the two. Then again I could be completely wrong (who before SEACON '79 could have predicted the rise of the APA in early-80s British fandom?). The one thing we can safely say about fandom in the next decade or so is that it will confound our expectations and, whatever else it brings, it will attract new people and new writing that will surprise and delight us.
Which is as it should be.
-- Rob Hansen, 1987.
(For this online version I have (very) lightly edited the original, primarily by changing most present-tense references to past-tense ones.)