TIME magazine dubbed 1966 the year of 'Swinging London' and London did indeed seem to be the cultural capital of the world that year as far as the young were concerned. Carnaby Street became a fashion Mecca and the young became even more obviously differentiated from their elders as male hair grew ever longer and female skirts ever shorter. The availability of the contraceptive pill led to a sexual 'liberation' that was embraced by the young and caused outrage among those easily outraged. Yet in Britain at least, the views of the young were sought on all manner of topics -- and Prime Minister Harold Wilson seldom missed a chance to be photographed with the Beatles. There were race riots in America in 1966 but, as yet, few large scale protests against the Vietnam war. That would all change in 1967. On a lighter note, the first episode of the TV series STAR TREK aired in in the US in 1966, a show that would eventually spawn a whole sub-fandom of its own.
Harry Bell discovered fandom in 1965 when he first met John Barfoot, who was a work colleague at the Department of Health and Social Security in Newcastle. Barfoot told him about fandom and, thinking it a requirement, Bell joined the BSFA. His first contribution to a fanzine was the cover he drew for the third and final issue of Barfoot's BUMBLIE, which went out with PADS in mid-1965. Sometime later that year, Barfoot got a call from another fan who worked in the Department, Tom Porter. Porter, a member of the apparently short-lived Newcastle SF Circle whose formation had been announced in mid-1959, was being transferred to London and wanted to dispose of his fanzine collection -- which Bell and Barfoot split between them. Soon afterwards the two decided to form a formal and cohesive Newcastle fan group. To this end they contacted a couple of local BSFA members -- Maire Hilary Steele and Sandra Becket-Tagg -- but the group idea was torpedoed when Barfoot started dating one of them. Barfoot's interest in fandom had been waning as Bell's had been growing anyway and, when Barfoot moved to London, Bell decided to join PADS.
Distributed via the fifth PADS mailing in February 1966 were PROTEUS, from Tom Jones and Brian Stableford, and GRIMWAB, Harry Bell's first fanzine.The third issue of Mary Reed's CRABAPPLE was also in this mailing, the first two issues having been distributed via OMPA in September and December of 1965. CRABAPPLE contained more of the 'Tribe X' and 'Ulf' tales that Reed had been doing for LINK and, with its mix of SF quzzes, large number of quirky and humorous quotes from the press, occasional comments on current music, and general feelgood philosophy, it was unlike any other fanzine. It was to go on to develop a circle of admirers that were to form a sub-fandom of their own, called Kinkay Fandom, that included Reed herself, Arthur Cruttenden, Dave Baldock, and others. The tenth and final CRABAPPLE appeared in July 1970.
New to the British fanzine scene in February 1966 was NEMESIS, from Cambridge fans Roger 'Roje' Gilbert & Brenda Piper, then active in CUSFS, which saw only two issues. Also in February, BSFA BULLETIN 4 announced that, in accordance with the recent change in the BSFA Constitution, the offices of Treasurer and Secretary would not be up for re-election until 1967. As for the other positions, one Stephen Oakey had been nominated unopposed for Publications Officer (and hence VECTOR editor), with Ken Slater running against Pete Weston for the post of Vice-Chairman.
A new column about fandom, 'Behind the Scenes', started in VECTOR 38 (March 1966), one that would see five instalments in all over the next sixteen months. It consisted primarily of fanzine reviews and was written by Pete Weston under a pseudonym, which allowed him the somewhat dubious privelege of reviewing his own fanzine. Weston chose a fairly nondescript pseudonym for himself (derived from the names of Scots fans Don Malcolm and Edward Macklin, who regularly wrote for VECTOR, in what Weston termed "an elaborate bit of misdirection") but fate proved it had a sense of humour when a newcomer with that very name arrived in fandom a few years later -- and was puzzled by the number of people who expressed their pleasure at finally meeting him. The name Weston chose was Malcolm Edwards.
SFCoL member Jimmy Groves had been due to emigrate to the US in December, but due to difficulties with red tape he was still in Britain as spring began. (In fact, he did not finally leave for America until 8th October, some ten months late.) In his OMPAzine, HAGGIS, which went out with the March 1966 mailing, Ian Peters, the SFCoL treasurer (a post to which he had been elected at the club's December AGM, when Ethel Lindsay became Chairman, and Keith Otter the Secretary), announced:
"The Science Fiction Club of London (SFCoL) in an attempt to boost membership and at the same time contribute something to London fandom in general, has started, as an experiment, a series of monthly open meetings consisting of a talk followed by a discussion, refreshments being provided."
The open meetings were to be held in the hall on the ground floor of the block of flats where Ella Parker lived, the same hall that had been proposed as an alternative meeting place following the demise of the Friday night gathering at Ella's, and some had already been held. The first had featured John Brunner, who gave a talk titled 'The Fiction in SF' (which was immediately snapped up by Mike Moorcock for publication in NEW WORLDS) to the 25 or so fans who attended. This number included SFCoL members, and Peters expressed disappointment at the turn out. The second meeting, on 13th February, featured a talk by Frank Arnold on 'Characterisation in SF'. The SFCoL planned three such meetings at first, after which they would decide whether it was worth continuing them. Clearly, it must have been since there's evidence of them continuing at least as late as January of the following year (specifically, an ad in NEW WORLDS inviting readers to the open meetings held on the second Sunday of every month).
Leeds fandom underwent a rebirth of sorts around this time. In September 1965, Bill Burns moved to Leeds to study for a degree in electronic engineering at Leeds University. Early in 1966 he founded the Leeds University Science Fiction Group, which met monthly at a pub near the campus. The club would last two years during which time they put out no fanzines, had virtually no contact with fandom nationally, and remained largely a purely social group. Naturally enough, Mike Rosenblum took an interest in their affairs. Quite independently, a new Leeds group would form in 1967.
SKYRACK 89 (Apr '66), carried details of the voting in the 1966 TAFF race. There was heavy voting from the Continent, and the final tally was 83 for Tom Schluck, 39 for Eric Jones, 20 for Pete Weston, and 5 for Bo Stenfors. So German fan Tom Schluck became the first non-Briton to win an East-to-West race and was the TAFF delegate at TRICON, the 1966 Worldcon in Cleveland, Ohio.
The 1966 Eastercon, YARCON, was held at the Royal Hotel (where Charles Dickens apparently wrote part of 'David Copperfield'), on the sea front at the resort town of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, over the weekend of 8-11th April 1966. Guest of Honour was publisher Ron Whiting, a former director of Dobson's who had started the publishing firm of 'Whiting and Wheaton Ltd' the previous year. The committee were Dave Barber, Ken Slater, Steve Oakey, Phil Rogers, and Archie & Beryl Mercer. The programme book listed 133 members, about 100 of whom actually attended. One of these, attending her first ever convention, was Chris Atkinson. It would be a decade before she attended her next. Programme items included three auctions (!), the GoH Address, the Fancy Dress, and a 'new' authors panel featuring Dave Busby, Ramsey Campbell, James Colvin, Hank Dempsey, Langdon Jones, Paddy O'Halloran, Terry Pratchett, and Keith Woodcott. The more astute among you will have realised that some authors came as their pseudonyms. The first British Fantasy Award, one sponsored by the BSFA, was made at YARCON. According to the programme book, it was:
"...to be made to the person or organisation which, in the voted opinion of the Association, has made the best contribution to speculative fiction in the preceeding calender year."
The award went to John Brunner. Another award, the Doc Weir, went to Ken Slater. This award was made directly after the second ceremony of the revived Knights of St.Fantony had been held. Brian Aldiss, Harry Harrison, Mike Rosenblum, and con chairman Dave Barber were all initiated.
Those at YARCON had a ringside view of a fight on the beach between members of the mods and rockers, 1960s youth groups that made a habit of having these rumbles at various seaside resorts on Bank Holiday weekends. The atrocious weather kept the fight small.
At the BSFA AGM, Ken Slater beat Pete Weston for the post of Vice-Chairman by 30 votes to 11, and Weston was then roped in to fill the newly-created non-committee post of BSFA Public Relations Officer. American Dave Kyle, a regular at British conventions, was charged with overseeing the future administration and organisation of the British Fantasy Award. In other business, the BSFA membership threw out the annual financial accounts when they were presented, with consequences we shall see later. A decision was also taken to investigate the possibility of the Association publishing an original SF anthology in order to "consolidate the BSFA's position as the central authority for SF in this country". Chris Priest and Rog Peyton initially took charge of the project, though it eventually ended up with Beryl Mercer, who did a considerable amount of work on it. Unfortunately, despite shows of interest from a literary agent and two publishing houses, it ultimately came to nothing. However, the most important change resulting from the AGM was decision to officially divorce the BSFA from the Eastercon. This was no small step as Eastercons since 1959 had officially been 'the annual BSFA Convention', and referred to as such in the literature of all the conventions since then. It was further decided that henceforth Dave Barber and Jill Bridges would serve as trustees to preserve convention continuity from year to year. Not everyone was happy with these decisions, not least Ron Bennett. Though he hadn't been able to attend YARCON, Bennett rushed out an issue of SKYRACK, number 88, soon after in which he had this to say:
"...it does appear, to me, that to break away from the umbrella of the BSFA is to jeopordise the chances of entire success of future conventions... Anyone who has actually organised a convention will, I am sure, agree with me that the main concern is the financial resposibility... Having myself organised a convention which summarily suffered a loss, I can but emphasise the relief felt at the taking over of the debt incurred by the BSFA. Can future conventions afford to be without this 'umbrella'? Furthermore, is this rather drastic 'divorce' at all fair to Tony Walsh and the other members of his 1967 Committee, Tony having contracted into convention organising at the Birmingham Convention last year at a time when this BSFA backing was still in existence?"
Others apparently agreed with Bennett, since in the event the 1967 Eastercon was run under the auspices of the BSFA -- after a fashion. Nevertheless, the link between the BSFA and the Eastercon had been weakened and it would eventually break, with unfortunate consequences for the BSFA.
In the wake of YARCON, the Birmingham SF Group underwent some changes. For a year or so the monthly BSFG meetings had been held at Charlie Winstone's house in Erdington, a period during which interest and enthusiasm had gradually declined. Winstone had not had a good time at YARCON, and shortly after the con he ejected the group, which now found itself without a place to meet. After a special meeting at Darroll Pardoe's Stourbridge home it was decided that henceforth they would meet at 'The Old Contemptibles', a pub on Birmingham's Edmund Street, the first meeting to take place on Thursday 5th May 1966. It was hoped that the new venue would breathe new life into the group -- instead it was the beginning of the end.
YARCON was Harry Bell's first convention. Shortly before the convention he received a call from Jim Marshall, who would have got his name from the BSFA membership list, offering him a lift to Yarmouth. Bell accepted, and travelled to YARCON in the company of Marshall and Con Turner. As a result of this he was drawn into the Monday night sessions at the Lambton Arms, but he was unable to impart his new-found enthusiasm for fandom to the old NESFSans there. He later met Alan and Linda Rispin, who had moved to the area, and occasionally saw local fan Rich Gordon (later to become SF author Stuart Gordon), but such contacts never developed into anything more substantial and Newcastle was to remain without an organised SF group until the 1970s.
Still the new fanzines appeared, with May bringing the first issue of Graham Charnock's PHILE. A young Londoner, Charnock had got into fandom the previous year after seeing fanzine reviews in NEW WORLDS 145 and writing off for two of those reviewed, BEYOND and ZENITH. Though he corresponded with people such as Chris Priest, Charnock wasn't to actually meet another fan until later in 1966:
"Charles Platt was the first fan I met. Graham Hall was the second. Charles interested me; Graham terrified me. The two together were a shocking experience. Charles persuaded me, however, to come along to a Globe meeting...There I bounced uncomfortably and at times drunkenly to and fro between a number of people. I pretended to be blase when I saw Mike Moorcock stumble drunkenly out on to the pavement at closing time waving a broken bottle...."
Charnock also finally met Priest at the Globe, and went on to become a member of that group of bright young London fans who were to be increasingly involved with NEW WORLDS. PHILE itself would see seven issues in all, the final one appearing late in 1968.
BSFA NEWSLETTER 6 (May '66) reported that the Association was setting up a 'Central Contributors Pool'. This was intended as a clearing house where fans who wanted to contribute to fanzines could send material, which would then be distributed to those fanzines that requested such items from the CCP. Stories and articles were to be sent to Tom Jones for distribution, while Mary Reed was responsible for "illoes, poems & anything which doesn't fall into the other class". This issue also reported that Charlie Winstone had given up operating the fanzine library which, according VECTOR 40, was now called the Fanzine Foundation and had accumulated 5000 items in its short existence. Now all it needed was someone to take on the responsibility of distributing them.
After two years of editing VECTOR, Rog Peyton decided to quit. His final issue was number 39 (mid-'66). As he explains:
"I wanted a change and took up ten-pin bowling seriously. This latter led (in a round about way) to joining the Young Conservatives, getting involved in their committee meetings, getting married, selling my collection of SF and then starting ANDROMEDA ((his SF book-selling business))."
The June 1966 mailing rounded off OMPA's twelfth year, but all was not well. The page count for the previous year's mailings had totalled 1302, a figure comparable with that of earlier years, whereas this year's page count was only 734, which demonstrated a fairly drastic fall-off in members' interest. The situation was even worse than the figures suggest because, as of the June 1965 mailing when he took over from Ethel Lindsay as Association Editor, Brian Jordan had credited apazines printed on US quarto (which is larger than British quarto) not with their own page count but with their "equivalent" page count had they been printed on British quarto, and it's those equivalent figures that make up the 734 page count. (American membership of OMPA currently stood at around 50% and British membership at around 40%, proportions they had stabilised at in recent years.) Bad as this situation was it would get far worse. Though no one knew it at the time, the June 1966 OMPA mailing would be the last for more than a year.
The Delta Group received numerous accolades in 1966, with 'Breathworld' copping the Highly Commended Award in AMATEUR MOVIE MAGAZINE's 'Top Eight Competition', and 'Frankenstein's Xperiment' getting a Diploma of Merit at the Scottish Amateur Film Festival. Not everything they touched was successful, however. ALIEN WORLDS the fanzine having folded with its sixteenth issue, Nadler and Partington launched ALIEN WORLDS the prozine in July/August. This was 64 pages long, featured fiction by Harry Harrison, Ken Bulmer and Ramsay Campbell, and retailed at two shillings and sixpence. It can't have been as successful as hoped since there was never a second issue.
A group around at this point that had ties to SF fandom was the Horror Film Club of Great Britain, which appears to have been formed early in 1965. This was the most prolific period for both Hammer and American International, who were major producers of horror films, and a boom time for horror fans. Many of these had grown up with the horror film magazine FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, which had been edited by Forrest J Ackerman since its inception in 1958, and consequently their fandom was based on, and tied to, films rather than books. The HFCGB organised what can probably be regarded as Britain's first media-oriented convention, which attracted many from the SF community.
The Delta Group were out in force at at the Horror Club of Great Britain's first annual convention, which was held over the weekend of 23th -- 25th September in Bath at the White House, which was just that -- a white house. Some eighteen or so films were shown, John Ramsay Campbell conducted an auction, and there were various panels and quizzes. Among those attending from the SF community were Ted Tubb, Ken Bulmer, Dave Baldock, Ray Fawcett and Derek 'Bram' Stokes, who at this point was running 'Vault of Horror' (the mail-order precursor to his later SF and comics shop, 'Dark They Were and Golden Eyed'). Attendees were split between two hotels, one of them run by the Salvation Army, so there were no parties.
This was the Horror Film Club of Great Britain's first, and indeed only convention. The final issue of the club's quarterly official magazine, the ninth, appeared in June 1966, and the convention finished them off, the club fading away soon after. This was not the end of horror fandom, however, which continued right through the end of the decade, after which it linked up with the more fantasy oriented section of SF fandom to form a new fandom. The major horror fanzines of this period were GOTHIQUE and Dave Sutton's SHADOW, with ALIEN WORLDS being the main 'cross-over' zine.
Pete Weston's ZENITH had become ZENITH SPECULATION with its tenth issue the previous October. SPECULATION 14 (Oct '66) was the first to dispense with the 'ZENITH' part of the title entirely, and with it the last connection to its New Wave beginnings. SPECULATION was now Britain's leading fanzine, a critical SF journal that was attracting increasing interest and contributions from established SF pros. Weston found an outlet for his more fannish urges in his OMPAzine, NEXUS, the first two issues of which had been distributed through PADS in 1964. NEXUS saw six issues in all, the final one prepared in 1966 but, due to OMPA's problems, not distributed until a year later.
Darroll Pardoe's first LES SPINGE, issue 15, had been published in August. At 20-pages, it was considerably shorter than the monster issues that had preceeded it. The following month, Pardoe moved down to London to attend university. In October, in LES SPINGE 16, he reported the demise of the BSFG:
"Last August marked the final departure from this world of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group. In the old days we met at Charlie Winstone's house, every other week. Then it was changed to once a month. And, after YARCON, Charlie gafiated, which meant that we could no longer meet in the comfy Winstone front room, but were exiled to the lounge bar of the 'Old Contemptibles', a pub fairly near the centre of Brum -- and therefore located at just about the Hub of the Universe; it was unfortunately not particularly suitable for meetings, though. The rot really set in, although we did go back to having meetings every fortnight. At one meeting near the end the attendance was down to three. Then, Pete Weston defected to the Young Conservatives...."
This had been during August. On 25th September, H.G.Wells' birthday, Pardoe and another BSFG member, Martin Pitt, met to toast Wells and to formally declare the BSFG dead. And so Birmingham's second fan group passed away, but Birmingham fandom would rise again in the 1970s.
Charles Platt had become increasingly involved with NEW WORLDS as time had passed, becoming its designer with NEW WORLDS 165, the August 1966 issue. This involvement was the cause of some amusement in fandom, given the opinions Platt had held previously. Chris Priest's one-off THUD-F, for instance, featured a Dicky Howett cartoon depicting Mike Moorcock operating the strings of a Charles Platt puppet with one hand while the other held a sheet reading "MJM assisted as always by his London group of hangers-on". This last was a disdainful quote by Platt from the report on REPETERCON he had run in BEYOND 5.
BSFA BULLETIN 7 (Oct '66) carried the news that TANGENT (which had not seen an issue since September 1965) was being "suspended indefinitely". It had always been intended for TANGENT to be self-supporting, but "not enough interest has been shown...for it to be anywhere near that ideal". Announced as its replacement was a "critical panel" with:
"an establishment of 25 persons -- professionals and some others -- and is to be divided into five sub-panels of 5 apiece. Submitted stories will be passed to one another of the sub-panels for constructive criticism. If four out of the five panellists consider a story to be of professional standard, they will if possible give advice on its marketing."
Clearly feeling ambitious, the BSFA also announced their intention to produce a listing of current fanzines and to organise educational visits to places such as Jodrell Bank and the Planetarium. None of these schemes appear to have amounted to anything.
During November 1966, a two-page leaflet headed THE BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION ASSOCIATION REGIONALISATION SCHEME was circulated calling for the BSFA to set up regional committees. Ted Tubb, Archie Mercer, Chris Priest, Mike Moorcock, Brian Aldiss, Ken Slater and Pete Weston were down as supporting the idea, and anyone who was interested was asked to send two shillings and sixpence (twelve and a half new pence) to Chris Priest. All very interesting, but actually a hoax. None of those listed knew anything about it. Archie Mercer warned members not to be fooled by the circular in BSFA BULLETIN 8 (Nov '66).
The first post-Peyton VECTOR, issue 40, was edited by Steve Oakey and came out in late '66. This was the only VECTOR he was to produce despite being BSFA Publications Officer and despite this being the mid-point of his term. The next, VECTOR 41 (Dec '66), was a marked departure from the previous few. Gone was the professional printing and cover art; VECTOR had reverted to mimeo reproduction and spartan layout. Produced by Ken Slater and Doreen Parker, this was something of an emergency issue, one necessitated by the BSFA's sorry financial condition. In his 'Vice-Chairman's Report' in the issue, Slater reported that the Association's expenditure was exceeding it's income, hence the rise in membership fees announced in the recent BSFA BULLETIN and the 'basic' production used on this issue of VECTOR. New accounts had been prepared and examined by the Association Auditor, Chris Priest, but it appeared that a period of frugality was still required.
BSFA BULLETIN 10 (Jan '67) announced that Doreen Parker had been nominated to remain Secretary and that Dave Barber was to take over from Charlie Winstone as Treasurer. Nominations were also being requested for a new Publications Officer to finish out Steve Oakey's term, something it had become increasingly obvious that Oakey was not going to do himself. Oddly enough, the 'bare essentials' VECTOR produced by Slater and Parker was warmly received by the membership, as demonstrated by the praise in the lettercolumn of the equally basic VECTOR 42. One person not impressed was Rog Peyton, who felt that it was a giant step backwards, an amateurish production that would only harm the BSFA's efforts to be taken seriously. He offered to return to editorship of VECTOR -- so long as he could again use the printer who had produced his later issues. Citing finances the committee regretfully declined his offer. VECTOR 42 also carried news of the death of Eric Jones, who had passed away earlier that month.
February 1967 saw the first issue of BADINAGE, the Bristol Group's clubzine. It was edited by Graham Boak, one of those members recruited from the students at Bristol University soon after the BaD group was formed (Brian Hampton was another), and among its contents was a lettercolumn containing letters from fans who had been talked into responding to a non-existent issue zero, and an ad for the Norwich Union insurance group (!). As with most groupzines, BADINAGE was paid for out of group funds and so ran contributions from any member who produced one, with the usual uneven results in terms of quality.
Early in 1967, some years after its US counterpart, British comics fandom was born. People such as Dez Skinn and Frank Dobson had started advertising their sales lists in 'The Exchange & Mart' as early as 1965, and there had been earlier manifestations such as Andrew Skilleter's ASTRAL (which was devoted to 'Dan Dare') -- also the occasional SF fanzine such as Mike Higgs' SHUDDER had treated comics seriously -- but it was in 1967 that it finally came together. Following up on his early effort, 'The Merry Marvel Fanzine' -- which he had advertised in the letters pages of several British comics -- Dublin's Anthony Roche started HEROES UNLIMITED early in 1967 to capitalise on its success. Almost simultaneously, Steve Moore (who had put out four issues of the fanzine VEGA through PADS in 1964/65, and gone along to the Friday night meetings at Ella Parker's) published KA-POW with Phil Clarke (and featuring a comic strip drawn by Mike Higgs. Both of these zines were devoted to American comics, of course, and were inspired as much by comics fandom in the US as by anything their editors knew about British SF fandom. Comics fandom grew quickly, soon attracting newcomers such as Dave Gibbons, Dave Harwood and Brian Bolland (who did his own stripzines while in college), and succesful comics conventions were held in Birmingham in 1968, and in London in 1969. By the end of 1969, comics fanzines in Britain included Dez Skinn's EUREKA!, Steve Bee's HERO, Trevor Goring's SEMINAR, Tony Roberts' FAN-FARE, Haydn Paul's ORACLE (co-edited with Skinn), and Frank Dobson's FANTASY ADVERTISER (which had started life as a sales list). Adding to the scene by that point were a number of the more fantasy-inclined SF fanzines, which often ran pieces on comics and operated in that zone between SF and comics fandoms.
Following an exhaustive examination of the BSFA's many problems and numerous discussions, Ken Slater announced a number of recommendations in VECTOR 43 (March '67). These included proposals that the Association should encourage the formation of local groups, engage in teach-ins, purchase its own typewriters and printing equipment, and the like. It was also proposed that VECTOR should become a twice-yearly, printed critical journal and be placed on general sale, with the BSFA BULLETIN becoming a monthly internal newsletter which would include current reviews, announcements, and general Association business. The most important recommendation, however -- one presumably arising out of the BSFA's current financial troubles -- was that the Association become a limited company in order to limit any financial liability on its officers in the event of its collapse. As a consequence, it was also recommended that administrative officers be elected for an indefinite period, only leaving office when they chose to or when voted out for incompetence or inaction. A referendum was to be held on the major proposals and a ballot form was included.
The 1967 Eastercon, BRISCON, was held at the Hawthorns Hotel in Bristol over the weekend of 24-26th March. The con was put on by the BaD Group with Tony & Simone Walsh handling hotel liaison and con funds, Archie & Beryl Mercer handling publications, Graham Boak being in charge of the Cabot Room (where the book tables, fanzine sales table and the art show were located), Brian Hampton in charge of logistics, and various other members acting as gophers. Tony Walsh was con Chairman, Guest of Honour was John Brunner, and the programme book did not list those who had registered (so no attendance figures). There were the usual auctions and panels, speeches by Brunner and Moorcock, and a St.Fantony ceremony at which Ramsey Campbell, Charles Partington, Wendy Freeman, and Jill Adams were inducted. Doreen Parker won the Doc Weir Award. BRISCON had no Fancy Dress -- which was only an occasional item at British cons at this point anyway, and the only film listed was 'La Jetee'. In actual fact, this was followed by Ed Emshwiller's 'Relativity'. Before this latter film was shown, Tony Walsh warned that it was "bloody, very bloody" and that the squeamish should leave before it began. Few did, and the film generated so much comment that it was screened again later in the con. The proceedings at BRISCON were reported in depth in SPECULATION 16 in the Autumn, which carried transcripts of the speeches by Brunner and Moorcock and of the pro-panel discussion, a review of 'Relativity', and a con-report by editor Weston.
At the BSFA AGM, Slater, Parker, and Barber retained their positions as Vice-Chairman, secretary, and Treasurer respectively, while Roger Gilbert stepped into the long-empty post of BSFA Chairman and Darroll Pardoe became Publications Officer. The 1968 Eastercon was awarded to the Delta Group, confirming the provisional acceptance of their bid at YARCON, and would be called THIRDMANCON. It was also provisionally agreed that Cambridge should be the site for the 1969 Eastercon.
VECTOR 44 (May '67), the first (and in fact only) Pardoe-edited issue, carried the results of the referendum. The vote was small but conclusive, with 57 in favour of the BSFA becoming a limited company, 27 in favour of that decision being made subject to the findings of a select committee set up to examine the idea in more detail, 6 in favour of either one or the other of the above, and 1 totally opposed to both. Consequently a select committee composed of Slater, Weston, Doreen Parker, Archie Mercer, Mike Rosenblum, Tony Sudbery, Graham Boak, Peter Mabey, Phil Rogers, and Keith Bridges was set up, and Keith Otter, a BSFA and SFCoL member who was also a chartered accountant with specialist knowledge of company formation, was co-opted to advise them. In a related item, Jean Muggoch and Daphne Sewell, a pair of new fans who shared a London flat and who had discovered fandom the previous autumn, offered to be BSFA representatives in London for overseas visitors, acting as a sort of point-of-contact and as native guides.
In BSFA BULLETIN 13 (July '67) Archie Mercer, commenting on the 1968 Eastercon, said:
"...THIRDMANCON is definitely being held under the auspices of the BSFA -- which, one hopes, firmly and finally deals with that particular bit of obscurity. Following on the 1966 AGM of the BSFA, the status of the ensuing (1967) Convention in Bristol never was entirely cleared up. Technically, Bristol was a 'sort-of, more-or-less' BSFA Convention: it is to be hoped that nobody in fact noticed any practical difference."
In that same issue was the SF clubs listing. Nottingham fandom had been reborn as a university group and was being run by Martin Pitt, the BaD Group was now reported to be meeting on alternate Sundays, and Hartley Patterson was interested in luring "all students in the Manchester area" into his Faculty of Technology SF Society. (The group may not have been all Patterson had hoped for, however. Writing of the 'TechSFSoc' in August 1969, he said "there is no contact at all between members -- out of 115 about six actually talk SF; we hold no meetings at all. This, I might add, is not through lack of enthusiasm among those who are interested".) Leeds, too, had a new group -- the Leeds and District SF Group. This was organised by Barbara Mace, met on alternate Monday evenings in the Victoria pub behind Leeds Town Hall, and was reported to be "thriving". Unfortunately, the report gave no further details. The column was rounded out by a plea from Ken Eadie to anyone in the Wolverhampton area interested in starting a local group.
In July 1967, Jean Muggoch put out the first issue of the monthly LONDON NEWSLETTER whose stated purpose was "to inform fans of any interesting happening in the London area". That same month Jon Williams and Bryn Fortey, two fans from Newport in Wales, put out the first issue of RELATIVITY. The fanzine was named for the film shown at BRISCON, and inspired by the con itself. Both Williams and Fortey had been BSFA members for some months, contributed to other fanzines and struck up correspondences, but it was BRISCON -- their first convention -- that made them decide to fully plunge into fandom. Soon after, Fortey began contributing to BADINAGE and occasionally took the train to Bristol to attend BaD meetings.
NEW WORLDS faced an uncertain future in late-1966. Roberts and Vinter's distributers went bankrupt, causing the company to re-think their policy. A consequence of this 're-think' was the decision to drop NEW WORLDS, and its sister magazine SF IMPULSE (the former SCIENCE FANTASY), which looked like they would now have to fold. NEW WORLDS 172 (Apr '67) was the last of the digest-size issues, and it appeared it might be the last one ever. However, help was at hand in the form of Brian Aldiss who successfully petitioned the Arts Council for a grant to keep the magazine afloat. The sum involved, £150 per issue, was hardly sufficient for the purpose, but the prestige attendant to an Arts Council grant was enough to convince David Warburton to stick with NEW WORLDS for a while longer. It was agreed that he would cover the printing while Moorcock was to pay the contributors, usually with money brought in by hastily written fantasy novels. NEW WORLDS was back in business it seemed, and in July issue 173, the first of the large-format issues, duly appeared.
OMPA was in serious trouble by this point. It began when the 1965/66 Association Editor missed a mailing, and ended with a 'Blitzkrieg -- a rather basic 'procedural device' borrowed from FAPA. Darroll Pardoe explains:
"...the Great OMPA Blitzkrieg...started in the middle of 1966 when Brian Jordan was AE; he missed the September '66 mailing because he was in the throes of moving house. Then he moved again and missed the December mailing as well. Attempts by the other officers (Archie Mercer and Ron Bennett) to get in contact by post were unsuccessful, so Ron Bennett went to find Brian Jordan in person. When confronted, Brian said he'd get the overdue mailing out as soon as possible. However, in spite of many letters from Archie Mercer, he didn't do so, and time passed until August 1967. This is where the Blitzkrieg came in. Terry Jeeves went in person to Leeds (where Brian Jordan was living) and got him to hand over all the OMPA material in his possession. This was passed on to Archie, who posted it out as combined AE and President."
So it was that the forty-ninth mailing went out in September 1967, exactly one year late. A new AE was needed and, though there were some misgivings about him living in Germany, member Heinrich Arenz seemed both eager and competant and so was given the files and made the new AE. This was to prove a grave mistake.
A letter by Chris Priest in SCOTTISHE 44 (July '67) about the 'rift' in UK fandom between old and new fans dating from 1964, and editor Ethel Lindsay's reply that BRISCON had been the first time she had really felt "conscious of not being fully integrated with the whole", produced a number of interesting responses in the letter column of SCOTTISHE 45 (Autumn '67). Since they explain the relationship between the various groups, some of these are worth quoting from at length. First, Archie Mercer:
"The younger element of the 1964ish intake was centred originally on four localities -- London, Birmingham, Manchester (or Salford), and Nottingham. Nottingham virtually disappeared from the scene early on. Manchester formed the basis of the 'Delta' group, which seems to be integrated quite successfully with pre-existing fans in the area, including LiG. I got the impression that Birmingham was integrated well enough with what pre-existing fandom there was in those parts -- namely Ken Cheslin -- though the younger Brummies were never a very united group among themselves in any case. That leaves London. And there, somehow, the younger element did not integrate effectively into the established scene. I'm not entirely sure of the reason, but a clash of personalities between certain of the parties concerned may have had something to do with it. The sub-group...of younger fans that revolves around CRABAPPLE...has in the main been instrumental in cutting itself off from the pre-'64 mainstream of things fannish, by being privately in-groupish."
And from Darroll Pardoe:
"The majority of British fanzines are PADS-produced, and indeed they are mostly alike and mostly mediocre. The neo these days can rush straight into fanzine publishing, can get his material from the CCP without difficulty, can have someone else type the zine for him, and gets the duplicating and collating done for him through PADS. There's just no hard work involved anymore, or indeed much work at all. The inevitable result is that PADSzines look and read alike and, since they compare themselves with each other, there's no reason to try and improve the fanzines; though heaven knows, they need improvement. Although Chris Priest took the wrong example with CRABAPPLE, which is quite unlike any other fanzine, of any fan era. It stands alone, and though probably an acquired taste, is intensely enjoyable once you get hooked on it. But the other PADSzines are, sadly, not up to the standard of pre-'New Wave' days. The trouble with British fandom is that the New Wave ever existed. Too many people came in all at once, and they identified with themselves as a group, rather than fandom generally. And this trend continued later with PADS...and the PADSers see themselves as PADS members, not as fans. Many of them are content to be completely insular, and make no attempt, for instance, to contact American fandom. So there is, definitely, a split in British fandom at the moment, or rather a fragmentation into little sub-cultures."
SKYRACK 94 (Aug '67) was the first, and only, issue of the year and carried a BRISCON report and various items of news that were badly out of date. Editor Bennett's mind was on other things it seemed, and in this issue he announced his intention to establish himself as a book and magazine dealer, an intention that was increasingly to restrict his fannish activity.
LONDON NEWSLETTER 3 (Sept '67) reported on something called a 'gaze-in' that had happened in a London park earlier in the month, and also carried news of a one day 'Minicon' to be held at the hall in William Dunbar House, the block of flats where Ella Parker lived. This was being organised by Parker, Ethel Lindsay, and Keith Otter and would have Ted Carnell as GoH. Tickets were available at ten shillings each, which covered lunch and tea.
At some point in 1967 the Delta group moved to a room above a church in Altrincham (essentially a Manchester suburb) that had been a printer's shop. Not wanting the trouble of moving it, the previous tenant gave the group a good deal on his printing press. This was a treadle-powered sheet-fed letterpress, and a number of the progress reports for the 1968 Eastercon were run off on it.
A full year after the demise of the Birmingham SF Group, fannish life returned to the city in the form of a new SF group that sprang up on the campus of Aston University in Gosta Green, a suburb of Birmingham. The group started in the autumn term of 1967, and was organised by a student at Aston, Bob Rickard, who was producing artwork and articles for SPECULATION. Rickard, Pete Weston, and David Pringle -- a Sutton Coldfield resident Weston had introduced to fandom via SPECULATION -- had been meeting monthly in the basement bar of a Birmingham city centre pub for a while, but the Aston Group was entirely Rickard's own idea. Being interested in the works of Charles Fort he had intended it to be a more 'speculative' group than the conventional SF society it turned out to be. Weston went along to the group's fourth meeting, and it was here he first metother members such as Vernon Brown. Soon after this, another member of the old BSFG, Darroll Pardoe, flew to the United States to spend two years in further study at a university in Columbus, Ohio. This also meant his departure as BSFA publications officer, of course. He was replaced in that post by Tony Sudbery.
VECTOR 47 (Nov '67) was the first issue to be edited by Tony Sudbery, following two 'fill-in' issues edited by Phil Muldowney, and carried the news that the BSFA was now the BSFA Ltd, following its incorporation on 24th October.
In the accompanying BSFA BULLETIN, the Mercers pleaded for someone to take over the running of PADS, which they no longer had time to run. In fact the tenth PADS mailing, in November 1967, was the last. It contained only one fanzine, the third and final issue of Adrian Cook's WARLOCK. Interest in PADS had been falling, along with the quality of the fanzines produced for it, for some time, and one by one most of the fanzines originally run through PADS had either ceased publication or gone general circulation only (most PADSzines had always been distributed externally as well). The Mercers eventually got Birmingham's Dave Sutton to take it off their hands, but he only received a single show of interest in continuing it. In September 1968, PADS was declared officially dead, but it had finally died in 1967.
The London Minicon was a success according to LONDON NEWSLETTER 5 (Nov '67), which commented that "...we are very lucky in London to have so many professionals who are willing to come along to a function of this kind..." but gave few other details. The following month, LNL 6 reported an SF writers' forum at the National Film Theatre featuring Arthur C.Clarke, Brian Aldiss, and John Brunner (in place of no-show J.G.Ballard):
"My favourite moment was when John talked about the authors banding together when outsiders were present, but when the outsiders were gone proceeding to cut each other's throats. The chairman asked in a very concerned voice if it was really such a cut-throat business. Three fannish-authors went rather glassy-eyed as they adjusted to non-fannish thinking!"
Early in 1968, Muggoch started EUROPEAN NEWSBULLETIN (later re-named EUROPEAN LINK), a companion zine to LNL that was centred on international fandom.
American fan Ron Ellik, the 1962 TAFF winner, was killed in a car crash in January 1968. That same month, votes were counted in the 1968 race (there was no TAFF race in 1967) to bring an American fan to the 1968 Eastercon. Steve Stiles tied with Ted Johnstone in the first ballot, but when third placed fan Ed Cox's votes were re-allocated in the second ballot Stiles beat Johnstone by 61 votes to 58. Surprisingly, only 15 people voted on this side of the Atlantic. This was the first time since its adoption in 1965 that the Australian ballot system, with its automatic run-off, was needed.
NEW WORLDS' troubles continued, meanwhile. The first five issues of the large-format magazine had not sold well enough for David Warburton to consider the magazine financially viable, so in November 1967 he bailed out, leaving the magazine to Moorcock. Once again NEW WORLDS was saved from extinction, however, this time by Silvester Stein of Stonehart Publications, who read about the magazine in the Diary section of 'The Times' and decided to help out. Thus, only slightly delayed, issue 178 appeared at the turn of the year. In it was the first part of a serialisation of Norman Spinrad's novel 'Bug Jack Barron', which was to spark off the biggest fuss in the history of NEW WORLDS.
NEW WORLDS 180 appeared in March 1968, and that was when the shit really hit the fan. Britain's two major distributors, John Menzies and W.H.Smith, refused to distribute it on the grounds of 'obscenity and libel', though it was never made clear just what NEW WORLDS contained that they imagined to be libellous. This was picked up by the 'Daily Express' newspaper, and in the House of Commons a Tory MP demanded to know of Arts Minister Jennie Lee why public money (the Arts Council grant) was being used to subsidise filth. Moorcock's experiments with NEW WORLDS had brought condemnation from the more traditionally minded SF pros and fans, but this was the first time the Establishment had reacted to what he was doing. The head of Smith's magazine division agreed to re-consider their decision if Moorcock dropped 'Bug Jack Barron', which he refused to do. However, in the face of bad publicity resulting from their action, Smith's decided to take NEW WORLDS back anyway, but the magazine was still in trouble. Soon afterwards there was an argument with the Arts Council over the grant and Stoneheart bailed out. Consequently there were no issues in May or June and the July issue was largely financed, once again, by Moorcock's fantasy writing.
The 1968 Eastercon, THIRDMANCON, was held over the weekend of 12-15th April in the St.Ann's Hotel at Buxton in Derbyshire, and was organised by the Delta Group. Registrations peaked at 215, and among the 160 who actually attended were a US contingent of Don Wollheim, Dave Kyle, and TAFF winner Steve Stiles, as well as a German group, there to drum up support for a Worldcon in Heidelberg in 1970, that among others included Tom Schluck, Waldemar Kumming, and OMPA AE Heinrich Arenz. Arenz had put out his first OMPA mailing the previous month. Unfortunately, it was also to be his last.
With the Delta Group running the con the programme naturally had a strong film bias, but as well as this GoH Ken Bulmer gave a humorous talk on trends in SF, Eric Bentcliffe ran a fannish slideshow, and Dave Kyle spoke about the long awaited Arthur C.Clarke film '2001 -- A Space Odyssey', which was due to open in London two weeks after the con. Costumes at the Fancy Dress included Doreen Parker as the girl in 'the Ballard of Lost C'Mell' and Tony Walsh as 'The Black Cloud' (there were no separate costume-fans as yet). Parker, Ken McIntyre, and Beryl Mercer were inducted by the Knights of St.Fantony, and Mary Reed was presented with the Doc Weir Award.
At the BSFA AGM on the Sunday, Dave Barber resigned from both the Management Council and the post of Treasurer, to be replaced in both positions by John Hart of Essex. There were no other changes at the top at the AGM, but soon after the con Tony Sudbery resigned as Publications Officer and was replaced by Michael Kenward. At the previous year's AGM Cambridge had been awarded the 1969 convention, but due to a lack of suitable accomodation this had fallen through. A sub-committee composed of Ted Tubb, Jean Muggoch, Daphne Sewell, Gerry Webb and Anne Keylock were charged with finding an alternative site for 1969. This being so, no decision was taken with regard to 1970, two-year planning having apparently gone by the board. The British Fantasy Award, to quote from the issue of BSFA BULLETIN that appeared shortly after the con, "...this year somehow contrived to fission. Part of it went to P.K.Dick, the remainder to Michael Moorcock for services to magazine SF in this country".
A one-off 'combozine' was done for THIRDMANCON, which featured special sampler versions of SPECULATION, BADINAGE, GOTHIQUE, and SCOTTISHE. Also done, but not included, was a sampler of RUFF-CUT, a fanzine whose first issue editor Ramblin' Jake Grigg of Isleworth had put out in March. The eight-page sampler he had done was later issued separately.
THIRDMANCON was reported in SKYRACK 95 (May '68), Ron Bennett's first issue since his temporary relocation to Singapore the previous September, and the lastof the decade. His SF selling business (the Skyrack Book Service -- it used, and still uses, the newszine logo) completely consumed the time and energy Bennett had once put into fannish activity. Later generations of fans would know him only as a familiar figure behind the dealers' tables at British conventions.
Soon after THIRDMANCON, Harry Nadler got a good deal on a Multilith 1250 and started up Orion Press, a small commercial operation. Among other things, Orion Press printed the James Blish-edited magazine KALKI for the James Branch Cabell Society, a couple of issues of VECTOR, and L'INCROYABLE CINEMA, which had Ramsay Campbell as an advisor and contributor, Eddie Jones as its cover artist on all issues, and was the short-lived successor to ALIEN WORLDS the prozine. Orion Press folded around 1972, a few years before the Delta Group itself.
GRIMWAB 5, the first issue in almost a year, was rushed out in time for THIRDMANCON and co-edited, for this issue only, by Beryl Mercer. In the previous issue Harry Bell -- having acquired copies of old fanzines such as HYPHEN, THE SCARR, and APORRHETA, and having made the "...discovery that fannish fanzines were wonderful and didn't exist anymore..." -- had made a heartfelt plea for a return of that sort of fanzine. The response to his editorial was lukewarm, but Bell still made GRIMWAB 5 an example of the sort of zine he wanted to see, with fine articles by Chris Priest, Ken McIntyre, and the Mercers, and reprinted pieces by Vin¢ Clarke and John Berry. However, the dearth of interesting fanzines about and the lack of a real fannish social scene in the Newcastle area, coupled with the increasing attractiveness of non-fannish activities, all had the effect of reducing Bell's interest in fandom. GRIMWAB 5 was the final issue, and soon after THIRDMANCON Harry Bell quit fandom.
At the end of 1967, the BaD Group had gained a new member in the form of Peter Roberts, who was then living in Bristol. Roberts was enthusiastic about fandom and soon threw himself into the thick of things. In April 1968 he put out the first issue of MOR-FARCH, a title which echoed his sympathies with Celtic nationalism, as did the titles of his later apazines, CRONOGAS-DU and TYKKY-DEW.
Also in April, came the first issue of SON OF NEW FUTURIAN (or 'SONF') from Howard Rosenblum (son of Mike), Britain's first second-generation fan. In his editorial, Rosenblum mentioned that the Leeds and District SF Group was now "apparently defunct". If so, then it couldn't have been as thriving as originally reported.
On 12th May 1968, the SF Club of London held an Extraordinary Meeting at which the members decided to discontinue their regular meetings. Keith Otter was appinted Official Recorder, and the club was wound up. There was talk of meetings being held annually in future, but this was the end of SFCoL. As ATom later said, after almost ten years of seeing the same people everyone knew what the others were going to say almost before they said it. Despite this, they announced a second London Minicon, again at William Dunbar House, to be held on 23rd November and featuring James White. It would mark the end of the group.
Details of the Minicon were announced in BSFA BULLETIN 18 in July, as was the news that John Brunner had joined the committee of the 1969 Eastercon. Anyone interested in organising the 1970 Eastercon was urged to get in touch with the BSFA's Secretary.
The final issue of BADINAGE, number 5, was published in July 1968, and the BaD Group itself packed up two months later when Graham Boak left Bristol University and Peter Roberts left for Keele University.
August 1968 saw three new titles appear. The first of these was the bi-monthly KE-WE from long-time fan Keith Freeman, which was begun as the newsletter of the Order of St. Fantony, but soon became a personalzine. The others were Audrey Walton's WADEZINE, and STARDOCK, from Dave Griffith and Stan Nicholls. This last was a companion zine to the editors' GOTHIQUE. It had the same high production values but was devoted to SF, fantasy, and comics rather than to horror, as its sister publication was. With the 1000-copy print run it had from its second issue, STARDOCK had one of the highest circulations of any British fanzine. Unfortunately, this proved unsustainable and the third issue, in January 1970, was the last.
Ken McIntyre died of pancreatitis during August 1968. He was a regular exhibitor at convention art shows and contributor to fanzines and, at Rog Peyton's suggestion, would have a fanart award started in his name to preserve his memory.
In 1967, the BSFA had added THE SF WRITER'S BULLETIN to its roster of publications. This was intended to provide practical advice and tips to the many BSFA members who wanted to break into the professional market. Although announced as a quarterly publication, the second issue didn't appear until August 1968. Edited by Michael Kenward, this issue contained contained a piece by Keith Otter explaining how part-time authors should calculate tax on those earnings, and an article by Mike Moorcock about the editorial requirements of NEW WORLDS in which he revealed that:
"We have begun a policy of producing all new writers issues which will publish only works by writers who have never been published in NW before and who have published rarely or never elsewhere. 184 will be the first of these, containing stories by Graham Charnock, Barry Bowes, M.J.Harrison, Robert Holdstock, C.J.Wolfthane, Gretchen Happanen, Brian Vickers and others..."
According to LONDON NEWSLETTER 11 (Sept '68), Ramblin' Jake Grigg was starting a new fan group which would meet "every third Thursday in the month...at the King's Head on the Surrey side of Richmond Bridge".
OMPA continued to lurch from crisis to crisis, and 1968 was as disastrous a year for the apa as 1967 had been. As Darroll Pardoe explains:
"Heinrich Arenz took over as AE and put out the 50th mailing in March 1968. The 51st did not appear on time; in fact it never appeared at all. The fanzines sent to Arenz for that mailing were never recovered. By Presidential Decree, Beryl Mercer became AE and put out the 52nd mailing in December 1968. Thenceforward the mailings were regular. Thus the 51st mailing is a 'ghost' mailing; it was never actually sent out. Between mid-1966 and the end of 1968 there were three mailings instead of the theoretical ten. This was a blow from which OMPA never entirely recovered."
On the morning of 21st December 1968, Apollo-8 was launched from Cape Kennedy, carrying Astronauts Borman, Anders, and Lovell on a mission that was to be the most breathtaking to date. After three hours spent orbiting Earth in order to check equipment, Apollo-8 left Earth-orbit, the first manned spacecraft to do so, and headed into space. Three days later, on Christmas Eve, it went into orbit around the moon. This mission caught international public attention as perhaps no other had, and Frank Borman's Christmas broadcast from lunar-orbit was carried live across the world, even behind the Iron Curtain in East Berlin and Moscow. One of the photos the crew took, the famous 'Earthrise' picture, became an immensely popular poster, as common on the bedroom walls of Western youth as their psychedlic and political posters. Beryl Mercer summed up the feelings of British fans in a fanzine she put out titled simply 'DEC.27th.,1968'. This was, she said...
"...offered as a token of my gratitude to the people of the USA. I would have given ten years of my life to have been fit enough and brilliant enough to have been a member of Apollo-8's crew."
In LONDON NEWSLETTER 12 (Jan '69), Jean Muggoch pondered the state of London fandom in these post-SFCoL days:
"The Globe meetings are about the only happenings in London just now, but happily there seems to be a good crowd every time compared with, say, a couple of years ago, when the company was rather thin. The December Globe saw John Brunner, Ted Tubb, Ken Bulmer, Mike Moorcock, Ethel Lindsay, Brian Burgess, Arthur C. Clarke...also quite a few fannish newcomers."
This was the last issue of LNL. Its sister newszine, EUROPEAN LINK, lasted until the early 1970s.
TRANSPLANT 1 (Jan '69) was the first fanzine published by Graham Boak following his move to St.Alban's in Hertfordshire. His period at Bristol University having ended in the summer of 1968, Boak accepted a job in the aerospace industry, hence the move. His fellow former BAD-group member, Brian Hampton, had also moved to Herts to work in the aerospace industry and there were now, as Boak pointed out in TRANSPLANT, a large number of fans living in the area. Mary Reed had recently moved there to be with boyfriend Chas Legg (who had produced two issues of a fanzine, ENTROPY, in 1966, and two of another, FREEWHEELIN', in 1967/8), and Arthur '1/2 r' Cruttenden lived locally. With Keith and Jill Bridges also due to return to the county within a few months, Boak predicted that "there may well be an organised Herts fandom yet". And so there would be. Boak also pondered the current state of British fandom, sparked off by a review in an American fanzine:
"Ted White has written a savage attack on BADINAGE. In places, far from the unbiased commentary it was (supposedly) intended to be, it nevertheless set me thinking. And talking to people. And writing letters....I began with the premise that British fandom is in a bad way. There is next to no contact between the older, more established fans and their younger, newer, brethren. Those fanzines that are produced come from younger group -- divorced from the experience of their forebears. I'll make no attempt to portion out the blame: I think it equally divided.
I decided that the only way of bringing British Fandom back to life (in fannish terms: it survives quite well in terms of numbers) was to produce a fanzine linking both age groups....Of course, it wouldn't be restricted to British fans. American contributions would be very helpful: pointing the way forward, and all that....The only query is: can I do it?...I don't know. The only way to find out is to try, and that I intend to do. One very important point: I don't appear to be alone in my aim. Many people seem uneasy about the state of fandom in British lands, several have already promised support...."
We'll learn more of the fanzine that resulted from all this soul-searching, CYNIC, when we get to the 1970s. Meanwhile, in SCOTTISHE 51 (Feb '69), Ethel Lindsay, responding to the part of TRANSPLANT quoted above and commenting on the fannish generation gap whose existence Boak was bemoaning, said:
"When I came into British fandom it was much smaller than now, but even then it was not completely in accord. Yet each part of it knew about the other part. This is no longer true...I haven't changed my ways. I still attend every con. I still go as often as I can to Globe meetings or any parties that are going. I still publish, I still trade, I still have a list of correspondents as long as my arm. Yet, obviously there is a great deal going on among younger fans of which I know nothing. Why? Is it my fault?...I don't know this new British fandom; and from my side of the gap it feels as if the don't want me to know!"
There had been recent attempts to bridge the generational rift, such as Ken Cheslin's offer in his OMPAzine WHATSIT 11 (Dec '67) for OMPA and PADS to exchange mailings (an offer made redundant by PADS, unknown to Cheslin, having faded away), that had come to nothing. Nevertheless, post-New Wave fans such as Boak, like Harry Bell before him, were starting to realise that something was seriously wrong with British fandom and were struggling to find some way of putting it right.
VECTOR 52 (Winter/Spring '69) was a special 'Fiction Issue' featuring stories by Robert Holdstock, Michael G.Coney, George Gibson, and J.G.Chapman. Only the first two would go on to greater things, Coney's first professional sale occurring that same year, while Holdstock had made his first sale to NEW WORLDS the previous year. Holdstock, a BSFA member since 1967, was also to be a very visible part of British fandom in the 1970s. And in BSFA BULLETIN 23 (March '69) the BSFA lost its longtime Vice-Chairman when Ken Slater announced that he was resigning from that post to devote more time to his SF mail-order business.
In the 1969 TAFF race, Eddie Jones beat out Bob Shaw to become the TAFF delegate at that year's Worldcon, the ST.LOUISCON, held (surprise, surprise) in St.Louis. Jones also got to be the Fan Guest of Honour at the con thanks to the previous FGoH, Ted White, standing down to make way for him and to generate publicity for TAFF. (White eventually got to be FGoH at a Worldcon in 1985, and Bob Shaw travelled to the US in 1971 thanks to a special fund set up for that purpose.)
The 1969 Eastercon, GALACTIC FAIR, was put on in Oxford by a committee consisting of Ted Tubb, Ken Bulmer, Gerry Webb, Anne Keylock, John Brunner, Daphne Sewell, Jean Muggoch, and Derek 'Bram' Stokes. London fans, they were by this time referring to themselves once again as the London Circle (and, indeed, there had been an ad in the THIRDMANCON programme book in 1968 that carried greetings from 'the London Circle'). In the programme book, they explained the convention's peculiar name by announcing that:
"We believe a convention should be more than International -- it should be Interstellar and we anticipate the day when unusual denizens of other worlds meet in mutual harmony."
The convention's unusual name was matched by some equally unusual programming including a two hour showing of prize-winners from the Trieste SF Film Festival, "the trendy poetry reading session, a brand new feature for any convention", and "the Cosmic Carnival, during which will be held the Grand Tourney". This last was a medieval-type joust that was so realistic that it resulted in the loser being taken to hospital to have his wounds treated. All this mock pageantry was the ultimate expression of the trend that had started with the Knights of St. Fantony and it resulted in Guest of Honour Judith Merrill being carried into the main hall on the shoulders of an honour guard. Unfortunately, what they carried her in on was a large butcher's tray, and someone in the audience gave voice to the image that had occurred to more than a few others when he yelled out:
"Where's the apple that should be in her mouth then, eh?"
Merrill was apparently not at all amused. As with every Eastercon since 1966, there was once again no membership list in the programme book and so no way of determining the numbers attending. Beryl Mercer won the Doc Weir Award.
In April 1969, Walter Gillings decided to join the fray once again with a new publication called COSMOS. This was almost identical in format, and editorial viewpoint, to his SCIENTIFICTION of the 1930s. It saw three issues in all, the final one dated June/July, though its 'Cosmos Tape Library' tape hire service survived it.
Two new fanzines launched in April 1969 were ZINE, from John N. Hall (no relation to the 1950s fan of the same name), and CHECKPOINT from Peter Roberts (though, strictly speaking, there had been an earlier sampler for CHECKPOINT, in December '68, with the cumbersome title of A SAMPLE COPY OF LOSTWITHIEL CHECKPOINT). CHECKPOINT was a foolscap size zine devoted entirely to fanzine reviews and saw eleven issues in all, the final one appearing in July 1970 combined with Roberts' later zine, EGG. Not that this was the end of CHECKPOINT, as Roberts would use the title for a new zine in the 1970s. All Roberts' zines, incidentally, were labelled 'Restormel Publications', Restormel being a castle captured by Sir Richard Grenville during the battle of Lostwithiel in 1644 -- another reference to Roberts' Cornish roots. By contrast with the determinedly fannish CHECKPOINT, Hall's ZINE had semi-prozine pretensions, and contained fiction and poetry. It saw two issues in all (with the associated zine, THE AMAZING DANCING BEAR, published in between), the final one appearing in the autumn of 1970.
After a number of false starts, the Herts Group finally came together over the weekend of 10th -- 12th April 1969, at a meeting in Welwyn Garden City. Graham Boak was elected Chairman and the membership included Keith and Jill Bridges, Arthur Cruttenden, Brian Hampton, Mary Reed, Chas Legg, and -- as an honorary member -- American author Gardner Dozois who had been at the Eastercon and was visiting the Herts fans that very weekend. As to the group's formal name:
"It was decided to call the beast the Herts Science Fiction and Fantasy Fan Group, as Keith had already registered it under that name with Welwyn G.C. Council in the hope of obtaining a 'Social Support Grant'..."
They had intended to use any money obtained from the council to buy a duplicator but, in the event, they travelled over to Graham Charnock's home in London's Wembley the day after this meeting and bought his duplicator from him with money from Hampton. This spelled the end for Charnock's PHILE. In May, Boak used the duplicator to print HORSE PISTOL -- a one-off and rather scrappy groupzine that doubled as an invitation to the Bridges' house-warming party that same month. In June he published INTERIM, a one-shot that told the story of the group's birth.
New fanzines at this point included Mike Ashley's IN RETROSPECT, a review of 1968 that saw print in June, as did the one and only issue of NIGHTMARE from John Muir. July brought THE CHOPPING BLOCK, a one-shot version of his RELATIVITY column by Bryn Fortey.
On 21st July 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on the moon. This was a giant leap for humankind and a vindication of the faith of generations of SF fans. Photographs taken on that historic Apollo 11 mission were later used as the cover and frontispiece for the 1970 Eastercon programme book. The dedication on the inside of the front cover spoke for fans everywhere:
"As Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, he smelled a sweet pungent odour, and observed an elderly gentleman in doublet and hose. On Armstrong's expressing some surprise and enquiry, his welcomer said "I am the spectre of those who have said for so long that science fiction is not for real." He then vanished, with a faint, musical twang. AND GOOD RIDDANCE!"
According to BSFA BULLETIN 25 (July '69), the British Fantasy Award was not dead. It was scheduled to return at the 1970 Eastercon, renamed the British Science Fiction Award. Treasurer for that convention, incidentally, was Bill Burns, who by this time was living in London and working for the BBC.
PERTINENCE was a fanzine put out by Archie Mercer with the purpose of starting a discussion about the BSFA with specific reference to its relationship to the Eastercon. It saw six issues in all, the first in January 1969 and the last in March 1970. Issues were called PERTINENCE, SECOND PERTINENCE, THIRD PERTINENCE, etc. The first three were summarised and extensively quoted from by Keith Freeman in VECTOR #54 (Autumn '69) for the benefit of the BSFA membership. Briefly, Mercer raised a few worries about the annual convention, including what he perceived as the need for a venue where it could be held year after year, a situation that had existed during the late 1950s when the convention had been held every year at the George Hotel in Kettering. More importantly, he expressed concern at the fact that the BSFA had become divorced from the running of the Eastercon, in fact if not in theory, and the possibility as he saw it for conflict between the Association and future con committees:
"...if a convention committee tells the BSFA to go peddle its VECTORs there isn't much the BSFA can do about it...This is not a very palatable fact for the BSFA to have to be prepared to face every year. What, then, can be done about it? The only certain way to overcome it is for the committee controlling the BSFA to handle the convention itself, with comparatively few coopted assistants."
In their replies, printed in the following issue, Chris Priest, Bryn Fortey, and most of those who wrote, came out in favour of the Eastercon being run by the BSFA as it had been a few up 'til a few years earlier, while John Brunner pointed out that something was wrong when a state of affairs could arise, as had developed at the bidding session at 1968's THIRDMANCON, where no bid had been forthcoming so that a scratch committee including pros such as Ted Tubb, Ken Bulmer, and himself had had to be hastily assembled and come running to the rescue. (Actually, no bid had been prepared by anyone since Cambridge had been awarded the 1969 convention in 1967. Two year bidding had at least allowed time for the Londoners to step in when Cambridge had fallen through.) Chris Priest had also expressed his belief that the BSFA had given up the running of the Eastercon a few years earlier, a belief that many shared. The 1967 Eastercon had been the last to call itself the 'BSFA Convention', a description conspicuously absent from the publications of the Eastercons that followed. Though the BSFA still awarded the Eastercon each year those who ran them barely even gave lip service to the idea that Eastercons were in any way BSFA Conventions. To all intents and purposes the divorce between the BSFA and the Eastercon had already taken place, a fact that Mercer recognised and whose possible consequences for the Association worried him, as well they should have.
Though it wasn't apparent at the time, this divorce would ultimately greatly diminish the BSFA's prominence in British fandom. Consider: when the new fans of the early-1960s discoved fandom it was usually via the BSFA but, though they usually found the organisation to be less wonderful than they might have hoped, it was obviously central to British fandom because, after all, didn't it run the BSFA Convention every year? The BSFA became central to the fandom of the 1960s because it was perceived as being central. The preceeding pages have shown how hotly contested some of the BSFA's posts were during the mid-60s, and also the level of interest there was in the Association, and the heated opinions it generated. By divorcing itself from the Eastercon, then not only the major event on the British SF calender but the sole one, the BSFA had also divorced itself from its central role in fandom. Inevitably, it was to find itself becoming an increasingly marginal part of British fandom. It would be a while before this came to pass, however.
Archie Mercer wasn't only worried about the BSFA's position with regard to the Eastercon. By THIRD PERTINENCE (May '69) the discussion had shifted to the actual purpose of the BSFA, both in terms of what it was and what it should be. Chris Priest suggested a strategy by which the BSFA could expand its membership and so have the resources to employ a full- or part-time secretary to run it. He also expressed the view that the BSFA's image needed to be polished up in order to attract new members and to enhance its reputation in professional circles. Bob Rickard made the same point, saying that the BSFA should follow the example of amateur bodies in other fields, many of which projected a learned and respectable image, some even having their issues sought by the press on appropriate issues. The problem, according to Rickard, was that the BSFA appeared to be no more than an amateur club and had few policies concerning, or positions on, issues pertaining to SF in the world at large:
"The whole issue of recruitment (both wholly new and from within fandom) depends on the corporate image and the representation of the company -- and the BSFA should honestly appraise itself, whether its ends are being served and whether indeed it has any policy or aims in this direction at all. My own opinion is that the BSFA successfully projects chaos and anarchy (not a criticism, a statement)... The BSFA is the official spokesman of the membership and the field (by default). It does not behave as such."
This was a telling criticism. However, though it provided much food for thought, PERTINENCE had no effect on the BSFA, which continued to lurch along towards thecollapse that awaited it in the mid 1970s.
August 1969 saw the launch of a new British prozine, VISION OF TOMORROW. Edited by Phil Harbottle, VOT saw 12 issues before its demise in September 1970, and is particularly notable for 'The Impatient Dreamers', a column by Walter Gillings and others that was a development of Gillings' earlier column in NEW FUTURIAN and, though not without errors, revealed much about the early history of SF and fandom in this country.
In September 1969, having completed his university studies in America, Darroll Pardoe flew back to Britain and returned to Stourbridge. The weekend after his return he met Rosemary Nicholls, his future wife, for the first time. Ro Nicholls was a recent convert to SF fandom having earlier been a member of the Horror Film Club of Great Britain. During the three months spent in hospital in 1968 following the accident in which she lost a leg, she got to meet a lot of fans and in 1969 she had attended the Oxford con, her first. In February 1969 she published her first zine, SEAGULL, whose content mirrored the strong interest in fantasy fiction that was to come increasingly to the fore. SEAGULL would see a dozen or so issues before its demise in the early 1970s.
BSFA BULLETIN #27 (Sept '69) reported that critic Phillip Strick would be delvering a series of lectures on SF at the City Lit. Institute on London's Drury Lane beginning 26th September. The lectures were to be delvered on successive Fridays and had the overall title of 'Science Fiction Today'. Strick's classes were to constitute the first academic SF course in the UK and, in the hands of his successors, still continue at the time of writing. The classes would not have any immediate effect on British fandom, but many of those who came out of them in the 1970s would to go on to play a major role in the fandom of the 1980s. Also in this issue, it was announced that the Association would be forming an SF reference library, as distinct from its lending library, and hoped to "assemble under one roof as much bibliographic material as possible". This scheme was to be "under the personal patronage" of the new Vice-Chairman, Mike Rosenblum.
Among the groups listed in BSFA BULLETIN 27 was the Cambridge University group, CUSFS, which was now being run by Roger Gilbert and which held meetings every Thursday evening in 'The Fountain', a pub on St. Andrew's St. It was also announced that Ro Nicholls wanted to form an SF group in Oxford that was unconnected with the university "though students will be welcome". Sent out with this BSFA BULLETIN was the first issue of INFO, which was put together by Mike Ashley and Archie Mercer for the Information service of the BSFA. It consisted mainly of magazine listings and other bibliographic material. Ashley later became INFO's sole editor.
According to BSFA BULLETIN 28 (Nov '69), the job of Association Secretary was "as it stood, too onerous a job for one person". This being so, it was decided to split it so that Doreen Parker assumed the role of 'Company Secretary' with Beryl Mercer becoming 'Executive Secretary'. Audrey Walton was to take over this latter role in a few months, in the meantime acting as 'Social Secretary'.
There was a confusing report from Mike Rosenblum in this issue, giving no dates, about a minicon that had recently been held in Leeds:
"Some 50/60 persons gathered in a private room at the Griffin Hotel for the minicon organised by the Leeds Science Fiction Club or the Yorkshire Fantasy Association or the British Amateur Fantasy Magazines Association -- nobody seemed to know which. A good half of these people were concerned with fantasy COMICS which apparently has its own fandom with regular minicons all over the country...The Leeds Society keeps trying to fight this comic-fan takeover without success, and promises to keep them out of any future meeting."
Rosenblum was clearly confused as to who organised the event. In referring to 'the Leeds Society' he was obviously thinking of the Leeds and District Group who, as revealed in SONF 1, were already defunct by this point. According to his son Howard, who was also there, it was organised by comics/media fans in the area and so never actually planned as an SF event as such.
Due to increasing distribution problems, NEW WORLDS was losing a lot of money as 1970 began. Various money-saving strategies were tried, including cutting the number of pages in each issue, but the magazine had ceased to be viable. NEW WORLDS #200 (April 1970) was the last to be sold to the general public. A final 'subscription only' issue, was published a few months later after which Charles Platt -- who had not only edited the final year's worth of issues but also typeset, balanced the books, dealt with printers, and supervised the design -- went to live in America. There would later be a paperback NEW WORLDS QUARTERLY, and occasional other manifestations, but the commercial SF magazine launched on the enthusiasm of British fans in 1946 was dead.
As the decade drew to a close, the sercon boom had crested and collapsed, leaving SPECULATION as almost the only fanzine of any stature from that time still being published. The fanzines that had appeared since were not very impressive, as some younger fans were beginning to realise. There were those, however, who were determined to do something about the sorry state of British fandom, and who would...in 1970, the year of the Rat.