|Dave Langford was asked to produce something in an almighty hurry for Novacon 30's first progress report ...|
He was there at the first convention I ever attended, Novacon 3 in 1973, when I was a hapless neofan entrusted with the mission of restocking the Oxford University SF Group library. How I remember Rog Peyton's kindly smile as he welcomed me to fandom, assured me that my book-buying troubles were over, and -- in a simple but moving gesture of friendship -- grasped me by the wallet.
What can one say about Rog Peyton, giant of fandom and pusher of fine sf? That he used to have rather more hair? That he memorably co-founded the Birmingham SF Group in 1961? That his fan credentials include editing the BSFA's critical magazine Vector from 1964 to 1966? That during this period he launched the Andromeda book company that was to grow into a mighty 1990s empire stretching from 2 Suffolk Street, Birmingham, to 5 Suffolk Street, Birmingham? That his first convention committee appearance -- preceding work for countless Novacons -- was on Brumcon 2, the 1965 Eastercon? That his capacity for gin and tonic has passed into myth alongside the Norse story about Thor being tricked into swallowing the ocean? But all this is common knowledge.
I have especially fond memories of Rog's small press Drunken Dragon, which among other titles has published the most superbly wonderful collection of sf parodies produced by a small press in 1988, being The Dragonhiker's Guide to Battlefield Covenant at Dune's Edge: Odyssey Two by some guy called Langford. Uniquely among my publishers, small or large, Rog celebrated the launch of this masterwork with copious champagne and even invited the grateful author, who still remembers every detail of his hangover.
One of the stipulations of Drunken Dragon Press was that no page numbers should appear on the contents page ... er, sorry, it's just that we all missed that in proof. Another was that a drunken dragon must appear, forcing me to insert a brief Anne McCaffrey spoof, with lovely but bitchy dragonrider Vanilla failing to control her dragon's thirst for the methylated spirits which seemed a logical source for these great beasts' fiery halitosis. Hence the Teaching Doggerel of the Weyr:
Dragonman, avoid excess,
Tell your beast to tipple less:
The Harper is a licensed sot,
But drunken dragons slow the plot.
Another Peyton sally into publishing was the Venture SF space-opera imprint that he and his Andromeda partner Rod Milner edited for Arrow in the mid-1980s -- promising 'no short stories, no fantasy, no boredom', and thoughtfully helping out the then-struggling artist Eddie Jones by using his cover paintings on all 25 selections. According to some low rag called Ansible, the Venture flyer memorably began: 'DO YOU REMEMBER when humans were heroes, androids didn't have social hang-ups and the only good alien was a dead one?' And so several sf classics were saved from the oblivion of Robert Hale & Co, such as Come, Hunt an Earthman by Philip E. High, Sold -- For a Spaceship by Philip E. High, and Speaking of Dinosaurs by Philip E. High.
Rog has enlivened innumerable conventions as a raconteur, a splendidly theatrical auctioneer, and a cheery bookseller whose infectious enthusiasm has persuaded so many of us to try the novels where he sees star quality, like Ken Grimwood's Replay, Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow and Philip E. High's Come, Hunt an Earthman. He richly deserves his honour as Novacon 30's Special Guest.
|First published in Novacon 30 Progress Report 1, November 1999.|
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