As the 1970s began, the Vietnam war was still raging and protest marches against it were still taking place in cities across the world, including London where, in January, a march on Downing Street ended in violent clashes with police. Nor was the war the only cause of conflict in the UK in 1970. A few years earlier, inspired by the civil rights movement in the US, Catholics in Northern Ireland launched a campaign for equal rights with the Protestant majority and an end to what they perceived as discrimination in jobs and housing. The first marches were held in 1968, and violent clashes between protestors and the authorities (Belfast fan John Berry, a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, was struck by bricks and slightly injured during a riot in August 1969) led to the army being put on the streets in 1969 to reinforce the police. They would still be there decades later, with terrorist campaigns having been directed at both communities in the province and at targets on the British mainland itself. Not exactly an atmosphere conducive to fannish activity you might think, yet before 1970 was over there would be a new fan group in Northern Ireland. In the meantime, fandom was stirring on the mainland....
Having folded his earlier fanzine, the sercon MOR-FARCH, Peter Roberts distributed the first issue of EGG via the January 1970 OMPA mailing. EGG, which was also general distribution, was determinedly fannish, deliberately harking back to the British fandom of the 1950s, and the precursor of a larger rebirth of such fannishness. In contrast, a survivor of that earlier fandom, Ethel Lindsay's SCOTTISHE, celebrated fifteen years of continuous publication in March 1970. SCOTTISHE 55 weighed in at over 70 pages and boasted a stellar roster of contributors that included John Brunner, Richard E.Geis, Bob Shaw, Robert Bloch, Ken Bulmer, Ted Tubb, Harry Warner, and many others. The other surviving fanzine from the 1950s, Terry Jeeves' ERG, would maintain an impressive quarterly schedule throughout the 1970s, changing its emphasis somewhat to become increasingly devoted to book reviews.
The first Eastercon of the decade, SCICON 70, was the brainchild of chairman George Hay and vice-chairman Bram Stokes, and by most accounts something of a washout. Held in London's Royal Hotel (scene of the 1951 and 1952 conventions and not redecorated since then -- it was demolished shortly after SCICON) over the weekend of 27th -- 30th March 1970, the con was ruined by a programme that gave too much time to fringe events and a bar that shut early. Peter Weston summed up the discontent felt by many when, in the American newszine LOCUS, he wrote:
"This was the first con I have ever been attended that didn't have anything to do with SF. Arthur C.Clarke turned up but wasn't even introduced let alone asked to speak! There was but one SF talk on Friday (McNelly), one on Saturday (Blish -- no question time), and none on Sunday....There were something like 150 present in the worst hotel I have ever visited in my life. Staff were surly to the point of outright rudeness, attendees were bullied into paying in advance, the manager was 'away' most of the weekend, and the bar closed at 10pm every night!"
Among the 'fringe' items on the programme were Dr.John Clarke from Manchester University's Department of Psychology with 'A Map of Inner Space', which presented 'a scientific theory of mysticism'; Kit Pedlar on 'the need for a Scientific Ombudsman'; P.J.Hills of Surrey University with 'Teaching Systems, Present and Future -- a Multiple Image Tape/Slide Presentation'; Tom Morgan on Scientology; 'Late Night Poetry' by Edward Lucie-Smith; and Keith Albern and Gerald Carter on 'Spaceship Earth'. Guest of Honour was James Blish (who had recently moved to the UK), the Programme Book listed 149 members, and more traditional programme items included the Fancy Dress, a fanzine panel chaired by Peter Weston, and the showing of films such as 'Thing From Another World', 'Night of the Eagle', and (an old favourite at British cons) 'Things To Come'. Mike Rosenblum took the Doc Weir Award and the 1971 convention was awarded to a group of Birmingham fans led by Weston.
Though SCICON '70 was generally regarded as a poor convention not everyone was unhappy with it. For some of those whose first convention it was, who had nothing to compare it with, the meeting with kindred spirits and the sheer wonder of being with so many people who read SF, gave SCICON all the magic of any other first convention. One first-timer thus enchanted was Ian Williams, who was then briefly resident in London (during which time he first met fellow Geordie exile Graham Boak). Fired by enthusiasm, Williams returned to his native Sunderland and, in June, formed a new SF group in the North-East. The group's founder members were Sam Smith, the recently degafiated Harry Bell, and Williams himself. They met regularly in the front room of Williams' home until the end of August, by which time the group had grown to include Jim Marshall (no relation to the 1950s fan of the same name), Ian and Thom Penman (no relation to each other), and Ritchie Smith, and had outgrown the Williams front room. At this point the group called itself the North East Fan Group (NEFG), but it was soon to move its meetings to the pub that would give it its true name.
On Sunday 14th June 1970, Birmingham's Cannon Hill Park & Arts Centre ("a futuristic collection of studios and theatres devoted to the arts and crafts") hosted the first Speculation Conference. Organised by Peter Weston, who saw the possibilities when the Centre had hosted a Tolkien conference titled 'An Afternoon in Middle Earth', the one-day conference provided a printed programme and overnight facilities for guests. Featured speakers were Brian Aldiss, James Blish, Ken Bulmer, Philip Strick, and Professor Willis McNelly, and the conference was sercon in nature.
There were two new fanzines launched in June. One was NEOEIL from Brian Williams, a slender production devoted to poetry which saw five issues between now and the final one in late 1971. (Williams' similarly-titled FANNEOEIL saw four issues over the same period). The other was Mike Sandow and Jim Goddard's CYPHER, a sercon fanzine that over the course of its run would attract contributions by people such as Brian Aldiss, Harry Harrison, Ted Tubb, Walter Gillings, and Phil Harbottle. CYPHER was attractive and well-written and if not for Peter Weston's SPECULATION, which was still going strong, CYPHER would have been the leading British sercon fanzine of the time.
July brought the first issue of Graham Boak's CYNIC, the real one this time. (The third issue of Boak's TRANSPLANT had appeared in April with a cover declaring it to be CYNIC 1.) Its contributors included Peter Roberts, Harry Bell, Archie Mercer, and Jim Linwood, among others, Linwood marking his return to fannish activity with a fanzine review column.
The results of the 1970 TAFF race, to send an American fan to the 1970 Worldcon in Heidelberg, were announced in July. New York fan Elliot Shorter beat fanartist Bill Rotsler and LOCUS editor Charlie Brown, 139 votes to 79 to 47 (European voting was 28, 9, and 19, respectively). The race was originally going to be between Rotsler and John & Bjo Trimble, but the Trimbles had dropped out in January and the deadline for filing as a candidate extended until February in order to attract candidates to run against Rotsler. Shorter was the first black person to win a TAFF race.
FOCAL POINT was an American newszine that had been started by rich brown and Mike McInerney in January 1965. By the time 1970 rolled around it had been relaunched and in its second incarnation was being edited by rich brown and Arnie Katz. In FOCAL POINT 10 (Aug '70), the editors announced the BoSh Fund, a special one-off fund set up to raise $1000 in order to bring Bob Shaw (who had lost to Eddie Jones in the 1969 TAFF race) to the 1971 Worldcon. Katz and brown claimed they had started the fund in the belief that there would be no TAFF race in 1971, but soon after the BoSh Fund was up and running the 1971 TAFF race was announced. Charlie Brown, editor of the rival American newszine LOCUS (still at this point a duplicated fanzine and not the glossy semi-prozine it later became), took the FOCAL POINT editors to task for setting up a fund that would divert attention and money away from TAFF and reported Elliot Shorter as denying Katz and brown's claim to have checked there was no 1971 race with the TAFF administrators. There were heated exchanges in the next few issues of LOCUS and FOCAL POINT, but these soon blew over and the two funds ran in tandem.
In Belfast, around mid-1970, Bob Shaw and James White were responsible for the birth of a new fan group. As Shaw wrote at the end of the year:
"At the moment I'm congratulating myself on having successfully launched a brand new Belfast fan group which has about ten members up to the present. The new group is coexistent with the old Irish Fandom, but organised along different lines. It came about when James White and I got the feeling that we ought perhaps to get some new blood into Irish Fandom. The IF system is one of rotational meetings in members' houses, but as this wouldn't work out too well for a larger group we decided to emulate the old London Circle idea of meeting in a pub. We selected a place called White's Tavern...."
Shaw had managed to persuade the columnists in local newspapers to include mentions of the group, but these only brought in one new fan: Ed Dilworth. Fortunately, Dilworth had the idea of putting up notices in Smithfield bookshop, then one of the main SF outlets in Northern Ireland, which eventually brought in others such as Frank McKeever, Jim Lavery, Rodney Beck and Tommy McDermott. The group, called 'New Irish Fandom' here to distinguish it from the existing group, met at White's Tavern every Thursday night and George Charters occasionally joined them there. So did others, as James White recalls:
"Three Army fans joined us for a while, two blokes and a woman soldier who was the girlfriend of one of them. The other was married (I can't remember any of their names) and lived close to our place in Riverdale, on the adjoining Ladybrook estate. He was a clerk in the paymaster's office in Lisburn, and he and his wife came to visit us several times (Ye Ghods, in Andytown, and without even an armoured car!) but when The Situation began to deteriorate they were moved away to a safer district somewhere and we lost touch."
The 1970 Worldcon, HEICON '70, was held late in August 1970 in Heidelberg, West Germany, the first time the convention had ever been held on the European mainland. Robert Silverberg, Ted Tubb, and Herbert W. Francke were the Guests of Honour, John Brunner was Toastmaster, and TAFF winner Elliot Shorter was Fan GoH. Among the 620 who attended were a large contingent of British fans including Ethel Lindsay, Bill Burns, Phil Rogers, Darroll & Ro Pardoe, Arthur Cruttenden, Norman Shorrock, Eddie Jones, Roger Gilbert, and Frank Arnold, among others. There was some trouble at the convention when 'the Opposition', a group of left-wing German fans, called noisily for SF and fandom to be politicised and used as an instrument of change. Given the times it was inevitable that such a suggestion would be made, and put forcefully but, as the earliest history of fandom had shown, such attempts were doomed to failure. HEICON was sufficiently successful that the continental fans present decided to start a bi-yearly EUROCON, the first to be held in Trieste in 1972.
A month or so after HEICON, Peter Roberts wrote a piece in EGG 4 (dated Oct '70, but not distributed until the following April) called 'Oppositional Politics':
"...the points made by the Opposition and their criticism of the running of the convention were often valid -- they suffered from a cack-handed approach to the finer points of public relations and thereby turned many potential sympathisers off. For example, their charges of fascism regarding certain pro-South Vietnam authors, the feudal German/Austrian sword & sorcery organisation FOLLOW, and St.Fanthony, were little short of inane because of their obvious exaggeration. Yet I think many fans dislike the latter two groups because of their fairly blatant attempts at creating an elite of fans and their wretchedly childish ceremonies. It doesn't worry me too much, since I'm always free to miss these occasions, but naturally I sympathise with anyone else who objects to FOLLOW or St.Fanthony."
As this quote demonstrates, younger fans already felt antipathy towards St.Fanthony -- for the reasons Roberts cites and because of what he and others perceived as the closed and exclusionary nature of its parties at conventions -- an antipathy that would also be directed at other institutions created by earlier generations of fans, such as OMPA.
The UK's first academic course devoted to SF, started by Philip Strick in 1969, entered its second year with the start of the new academic term in September 1970. Those on the course, held at the Stanhope Institute in this second year, began going to a nearby pub, The Cock -- at the bottom of Euston Tower, near Warren Street -- after class, continuing to hold meetings in the pub during the summer recess. Later in the decade the classes would move to the City Literary Institute (aka 'the City Lit.', on Stukely St) and give the group, which would continue to meet at The Cock, its name: The City Illiterates.
It sounds improbable that the next major step in the story of British fandom would occur in a small town in a distant corner of Wales, but that's exactly what happened. Leroy Kettle and Greg Pickersgill had, like the generation of fans before them, discovered fandom through the BSFA, and they discovered each other at the 1969 Eastercon in Oxford. Recalling that first meeting some years after, Kettle explained that:
"Greg was...like I wanted to be: unsavoury, uncaring, degenerate, appropriately rude, apparently well-read, rebellious, well-stocked with SF esoterica, perpetually teetering on the brink of total alcoholic abandon, fannish within his own carefully defined limits, extremely and frequently faithful to his friends, a budding writer".
They got along well at the convention and began a correspondence that led in turn to Kettle visiting the Pickersgill home in Haverfordwest. It was during this visit that they decided to publish a joint fanzine and they put it together that same weekend. So it was that in September 1970 the first issue of FOULER appeared.
Though FOULER is generally regarded as having begun the revolution in British fanzines that would occur during the 1970s, that first issue wasn't a particularly impressive package, and intentionally so since it was designed to be as irritating and offensive to the fannish establishment of the day as was possible. It was poorly duplicated and laid out, full of vulgar poetry and fiction, held together with a single staple in the bottom right-hand corner, and was issue number two (the editors unknowingly pulling the same stunt that Ron Bennett had used with the first issue of PLOY in 1954). This last enabled Pickersgill to berate the readership about the total lack of response to the non-existent first issue, and in the process make some trenchant and (for the time) extremely acerbic comments on the state of contemporary British fandom. Not surprisingly this aspect of FOULER didn't go down too well with certain older fans though most objected more to the liberal use of four-letter words than to the contents (though, in fact, the first British fanzine to run the words 'fuck' and 'cunt' in its pages appears to have been the Dave Hale edited LES SPINGE, back in 1964). Nevertheless, FOULER was favourably received by younger fans.
The move in September by the North East Fan Group to The Gannet, the Sunderland town centre pub that was to be the new venue for their Tuesday night meetings, cost them founder member Sam Smith, who strongly disapproved of pubs. In place of the absent Smith, Harry Bell brought along his fiancee, Irene Taylor, while Ian Williams came across another local fan in the list of new members published in the BSFA BULLETIN and wrote inviting him to the meetings. Thus, in October, Ian Maule joined the NEFG.
The second FOULER (number 3, The "Special 'Fanzine' Issue"), published in October, was in many ways a more orthodox fanzine than the first yet it still succeeded in being a full-frontal assault on the complacent and apathetic fandom of the day thanks to the first of Pickersgill's famous columns of fanzine criticism. This included the now notorious review of the one-and-only issue of Dave Womack's VIRIDIANA that ended:
"Jesus Christ I'm reading this bloody thing now and I can't believe it. It's worthless. It gets Brit fandom a bad name it hardly deserves, bad as it is. Every copy ought to be sought out and burned, with Womack securely roped down in the middle. My fury knows no bounds."
As this quote shows, Pickersgill was prepared to wield the big stick when necessary, but his reviews also displayed more thought, and evidence of a more considered approach to fanzines, than was then common. The more established fans of the day didn't know what had hit them, but many of the new fans coming through responded enthusiastically to FOULER, to its attitude and to its approach. It was almost as if 'punk', with its abrasive anti-establishment attitude, hit British fandom six years before it broke on the music scene, the 'foul' language and savage reviews being the total antithesis of prevailing notions. Commenting on this shock-treatment in a later FOULER, Pickersgill said:
"...if FOULER shocks and offends, that's purely incidental. The main purpose is to entertain, and maybe sow a bit of fandom around at the same time, and, maybe, irritate the deserving enough to let them know they're not having it all their own way."
Having acquired some old copies of HYPHEN not long after first joining the BSFA, Pickersgill knew the heights fanzines could aspire to and was determined to both raise his own standards and to bully others into raising theirs, often holding up HYPHEN as the ideal to be aimed for. The reverence in which some younger fans held HYPHEN did not extend to other products of the fannish past, however. In many ways, what Pickersgill and Kettle were doing was picking up where Jim Linwood had left off in 1964 -- indeed, Pickersgill's style of fanzine reviewing owed a lot to Linwood -- but fannish fandom had been derailed by the New Wave, the schism of 1964 breaking the chain of continuity between one fannish generation and the next. Knowledge of the past was no longer passed on, and respect for it was lost. This, too, played its part in the antipathy felt by new fans to institutions such as St.Fanthony and OMPA.
FOULER 3 also heralded the formation of what was undoubtedly the decade's most talented fan group, if not its most productive, with an ad that asked:
DO YOU SEEK TO UPHOLD THE TRUE FANNISH TRADITIONS OF BOOZING & LECHERY?
DOES DRINKING, PERVERSION, SEX, AND SELF-INDULGENCE ATTRACT YOU MORE THAN
COMMUNITY SINGING OR WEAK-MINDED INTELLECTUALISM?
IF IT DOES THEN YOU ARE A POTENTIAL
* RATFAN *
AND YOU CAN JOIN THE NEW BREED OF THING RARING TO PUT THE SHIT
BACK INTO THE FAN
Though originally intended as a joke, a response to the increasing use of animals as fannish totems, 'Silly Animal Fandom' as it was known (VIRIDIANA was supposedly at the head of Wombat Fandom, while Peter Roberts' EGG styled itself 'the Journal of Aardvark Fandom'), 'Ratfandom' quickly became the collective name for a diverse group of people either loosely associated with FOULER or generally perceived as being sympathetic to its aims. These all lived in the London area and the group would eventually include people such as John Brosnan, who arrived in Britain in 1970 after an epic journey from Australia by bus; Cambridge undergraduate Malcolm Edwards; larger-than-life budding author, Robert Holdstock; and Pat and Graham Charnock, Graham having eventually come around to the idea of fanzines being a worthwhile end in themselves rather than just a step on the way to prodom. First making contact with each other at conventions, parties and, of course, the Globe, they soon formed a loose alliance.
The October 1970 OMPA mailing, the 59th, marked the start of a new year for the apa and as always OMPA began it by electing new officers. These were Ro Pardoe as President and Darroll Pardoe as Treasurer, with Ken Cheslin continuing as Official Editor. Membership stood at 18 UK, 10 US, and 2 Aus, while the page- count achieved in '69/'70 was 699. OMPA was still slowly declining, a state of affairs the Pardoes were determined to remedy. One of their first proposals was that an OMPA combozine be published for the 1971 Eastercon as a way of advertising the apa and possibly attracting new members.
1970 also saw the inauguration of the Science Fiction Foundation, which was established under the aegis of the Department of Applied Philosophy within the Faculty of Arts of the North East London Polytechnic. As Charles Barren, a senior lecturer in the Department of Applied Philosophy who would eventually become the head of the Foundation, was later to write, it did not:
"...spring, Antaeus-like, to strength from nothing. For more than a year before its incorporation, the idea of a Science Fiction Foundation had been peddled among various parties by George Hay. One of his contacts was Ellis Hillman. a one-time member of the Greater London Council...and a senior academic at the then North East London Polytechnic. Ellis Hillman had the ear of the Director of NELP, Dr George Brosan, who welcomed the idea of founding a centre of excellence devoted to science fiction, of which he was a knowledgeable, if critical devotee."
The inaugural meeting of the Board of Management was held on 22nd October 1970, the board including, among others, Dr George Brosan, Barren himself, and author James Blish. It was a small beginning for what would become a major research resource.
The first fanzine to emerge from the NEFG appeared in November 1970. MAYA, edited by Ian Williams, was a relatively sercon fanzine, messily duplicated but showing a great deal of promise. Of particular interest was a piece by Graham Boak reviewing the current British fanzine scene:
"Why there is so little good quality work done in British fanzines is another, more complex matter. I think that it is because there was no continuity within British fandom throughout the sixties. The excellent magazines at the beginning of the decade -- ORION, APPORHETA, HYPHEN -- died without leaving any successors. The schism of the New Wave -- both fannish and professional -- put the old fans on one side of a great divide, the 'young' neos on the other. Without guidelines the British fanzines of the sixties became ingrown. Too few writers appeared in the fanzines, which seemed to set out to become amateur prozines. They failed. British fandom has had the fanzines it deserves for too long now -- the time is ripe for a fannish renaissance."
Indeed it was. Though none could have known it, British fandom had turned the corner and had already attracted most of those who in a few short years would make the 1970s one of the most fertile and exciting periods British fandom has ever known. There was still much that needed doing first, however, not least of which was improving the reproduction quality and general appearance of British fanzines. For some reason, one of the things Boak thought necessary to achieve the latter was for fanzines to be printed on A4 paper....
In the 1960s the decision had been taken for Britain to switch from Imperial to metric units of measurement. These were quickly taken up by schools, universities, and the general scientific community but, by and large, did not spread into the population at large, which continued to use miles, gallons, and acres. However, one consequence of going metric was the introduction of A4 (210mm x 297mm) as the standard paper size. (The first UK fanzine to be printed on A4 was the initial progress report for 1969's GALACTIC FAIR, which appeared in 1968.) At the start of the 1970s, few fanzines were printed on A4. By the end of the decade most were, as quarto (8" x 10") became increasingly difficult to find and foolscap (8" x 13") almost impossible. During the same period, photocopiers made their appearance, the first fanzines to be printed this way being published early in the decade. Early photocopiers didn't give particularly good results, with large areas of black bleaching out, but by the end of the decade these technical problems had largely been licked. From that point on photocopying was to swiftly replace mimeo/duplication as the preferred method of printing fanzines.
Previous issues of Darroll Pardoe's PABLO had been distributed via OMPA but the twelfth, late in December 1970 was general circulation since Pardoe wished to discuss matters of wider interest. In it he brought news of OMPA's continued existence to those who might have thought it dead, welcomed the creation of the Ken McIntyre Award (which was being organised by Rog Peyton and would be presented for the first time at the 1971 Eastercon), and deplored the decision of the BSFA Council to widen the eligibility of voters for the Doc Weir Award to include all BSFA members rather than just Eastercon attendees. He also reported that Britain's Tolkien Society, which had formed the previous year, was:
"...currently the subject of argument amongst its members, some of whom feel that it should confine its attentions strictly to the works of J.R.R.Tolkien himself. Others feel that the whole related field of fantasy literature is its scope, including for example Mervyn Peake, Lord Dunsany, or William Morris. It has been suggested by several people that there is a real need for a British Fantasy Society to cater for interest in the fantastic as a whole. There does seem to be some support for such a society, and I'd welcome any comments people have to make on the idea. I know that the BSFA does in theory cater for fantasy in general, as well as science fiction in particular, but you'd never know it from the amount of attention paid to it in practice. This is where perhaps a British Fantasy Society could fill the gap."
Malcolm Edwards, then a student at King's College Cambridge and Chairman of CUSFS, the university SF society, published his first fanzine in December 1970. Called QUICKSILVER, it was sercon, weighed in at 44 pages, and was produced "with much assistance from Graham Charnock". Contributors included Charnock, Christopher Priest, Brian Aldiss, and Dicky Howett.
Since the start of the BoSh Fund in its pages the previous August, FOCAL POINT had been vigorous in its fundraising. In FOCAL POINT 22 (Jan '71) it was announced that the $1000 target had been reached and that Bob Shaw would be attending NOREASCON, the 1971 Worldcon, in Boston that September.
Distributed with FOULER 5 in March 1971 was a single sheet flyer/fanzine, the prototype for a series of short zines that would be especially produced by Kettle and Pickersgill for distribution at Eastercons over the next few years. Written by this duo in collaboration with John N. Hall, the zine was called NEW PEMBROKESHIRE REVIEW (on one side, at least -- on the other it was called TALES FROM A TRANSISTORISED TYPEWRITER) and was both scurrilous and very funny. Among other things, it contained an entertainingly vicious review by Hall of YANDRO 202, an American zine in which editor Buck Coulson had described FOULER as "crap". Of greater significance, though it hardly appeared so at the time, was a tongue-in-cheek advertisement plugging Pickersgill for the 1971 Doc Weir Award. As Ian Williams later explained:
"The ad purported to be 'inserted by the Gannet Science Fiction Fandom & Drinking Association', which was untrue as until then we'd thought of ourselves as the North East Science Fiction Fan Group. When we saw that, we realised that we had been well and truly named. Boak had suggested 'The Monkwearmouth Mafia'. That had never seemed right, but Gannetfandom did."
Early in April 1971, Peter Roberts published trial issue 00 of the new series of CHECKPOINT. The original CHECKPOINT had been a reviewzine but Roberts was reviving it as a newszine, one designed to pick up where Ron Bennett's SKYRACK had left off a few years earlier. As Roberts explained:
"Since the departure of SKYRACK, British fandom has been without a regular newszine beyond the BSFA BULLETIN...The value of a fannish magazine of news and waffle lies in its stimulus to fanac and fan contact, and the need for a specifically British newszine can be found in the decline of groups in fandom, the increased sercon influx through the BSFA, and the unevenness of fan publishing in the UK. By supplying news, chatter, comment, and discussion, a newszine can prove extremely helpful."
The reason this was a trial issue only was in order to test the response of British fandom to the idea of a new newszine. Since the regularity required of newszines puts their production and, particularly, their postage costs beyond the pockets of most fans, they are inevitably available by subscription-only rather than for the 'usual' (ie. trade, letters of comment, etc.). This being so, launching a newszine without a reasonable number of people willing to subscribe becomes a risky proposition. This issue was published for distribution at the Eastercon, where Roberts doubtless hoped to pick up subscriptions, and in it he announced his intention to put out a second trial issue after the con.
The 1971 Eastercon was held over the weekend of 9th -- 11th April at the Giffard Hotel in Worcester. It was called EASTERCON 22 due to Ken Bulmer and con chairman Peter Weston having got together to figure out just how many national conventions there had been. The list they came up with formed the basis of the listings that appeared in most publications for many years after. (They counted 1948's WHITCON as the first national convention -- prewar and wartime cons were ignored -- and somehow omitted 1957's CYTRICON III. Fortunately, one of the cons they included, 1951's FESTIVENTION, shouldn't have been counted as it was an international convention rather than a national one, so this keeps their numbering straight.) Anne McCaffrey was Guest of Honour, Ethel Lindsay was FGoH, Phil Rogers was Toastmaster, while committee members were Weston, Rog Peyton, Bob Rickard, and Vernon Brown. 404 fans registered for the convention and there were 284 official attendees. The films shown at the con included 'The Tenth Victim', 'Alphaville', and a number of NASA shorts, while the main programme included the usual sercon panels, a fanzine discussion panel featuring Ethel Lindsay, Graham Boak, Peter Roberts, and Malcolm Edwards that was chaired by Peter Weston. (A transcript of this panel appeared in CYNIC 4, an issue devoted entirely to EASTERCON '22, which was published early the following year.) Probably the oddest 'item' on the programme was the free boat trip on the river that was open to all attendees, though EASTERCON 22 is also notable for having what was probably the first fully successful Fancy Dress at a British convention. Previously, the Fancy Dress had mainly been no more than an excuse for established fans to have a bit of fun, but the quality of many of the entries and the obvious seriousness with which some people were beginning to approach the Fancy Dress probably marked a sea change in attitudes towards costuming in British fandom. There were about fifty entrants in all, the Best Costume prize going to Fred Hemmings for his costume based on H.Beam Piper's 'Space Viking'; the 'Best Lady's Costume' going to Eileen Weston for her 'Olivia Presteign' costume; and Dave Kyle, as 'The Spirit of First Fandom' took the 'Most Comic Costume Award'.
In other business at the convention, the Doc Weir Award went to Phil Rogers, John Brunner's 'The Jagged Orbit' received the BSFA Award, and the Delta Group were awarded the 1972 Eastercon. This was to be held at the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool and to be called SLANCON (ie. South Lancashire Convention). No bids were placed for the 1973 Eastercon though OMPA (which had published a combozine for the convention) were rumoured to be interested. There was also a discussion, as part of Sunday's programme, of the possibility of Britain hosting a Worldcon before the end of the decade. Peter Weston had originally suggested the idea, and had been proposed as its chairman by unanimous acclaim, but after he had chaired EASTERCON 22 his enthusiasm had cooled a little. The still-incomplete Birmingham International Conference Centre had been suggested as a venue at first, but since then, as Peter Roberts later reported:
"A good con site has been discovered in Brighton with room for over 800 and plenty of overspill hotels if necessary."
Ultimately nothing was decided at the session, and after the convention the idea was soon forgotten. Overall, EASTERCON 22 was judged the most successful Eastercon in recent years, though there was one aspect of it which pointed up a distinct difference between UK and US fandoms. In America in recent years the 'head fans', or pot-smokers, had become an accepted sight at conventions, but the same was not true over here. Peter Roberts, who liked an occasional toke, explains:
"Head fandom is not well-thought of or well-established in Britain...The fringe fans who do indulge have been dealt with somewhat harshly and unpleasantly in the past and Pete Weston, for example, delivered an obviously heartfelt tirade against 'junkies' (which I take to mean pot-smokers) at the convention, going so far as to suggest vigilante groups to deal with them; this would have been fairly amusing, since I was intending to volunteer to lead such a group... As it was, there was a slight clear- out of fringe-fans nobody knew, which many found a disturbing action, but which didn't seem to cause any real viciousness (I think most of them managed to drift back in later on -- I hope so, anyway)."
One of those attending the con was American fan John D.Berry, who had one or two telling observations to make about the newer fans:
"FOULER is a phenomenon that has stirred up British fandom in recent months, with no knowledge of it sloshing over into American fandom...The tone is brash and rude, and by attacking current fandom in his editorial in the first issue, Greg Pickersgill drew a lot of fire by return mail. The attack was contradictory and never entirely serious...The effect of all this in print is to make a sloppy, angry, whimsical fanzine that has drawn more response from its 50-person mailing list than almost any other fanzine. FOULER is the closest thing to a focal point that British fandom has, yet it's an adolescent focal point, filled with excess for the sake of excess. Curiously, Greg and his co-editor Roy Kettle seem to want a return to 'fannishness', and yet they've become involved in a paper feud with Darroll Pardoe, the very man who for years has taken the brunt of young fans' attacks for being a prehistoric fossil, crying out for a return to old-time fannishness."
CHECKPOINT 0, the second trial issue, rode out as a flyer with the long-delayed EGG 4 soon after the con and carried a full report. Two weeks later, shortly before the end of April, Roberts published CHECKPOINT 1 in which he reported the recent birth of the British Weird Fantasy Society:
"This is a newly-formed group which is intending to deal with all aspects of fantasy and horror. Its main features will be a monthly bulletin and a quarterly magazine and these two are already progressing with Keith Walker editing the bulletin, and Phil Spencer the magazine. Rosemary Pardoe is the first secretary and is now accepting membership fees...Phil's magazine is to be called DARK HORIZONS...."
This group, which would soon shorten its name to the British Fantasy Society, was made up of the more fantasy-oriented members of fandom and horror film fans such as those who had set up the Horror Club of Great Britain in the mid-1960s. It was yet another group that would branch off from SF fandom and go on to form a whole new fandom of its own.
New to the fanzine scene in April were the first issue of John Muir's CRUCIFIED TOAD, which went on to become a short-lived semi-prozine, and ARTHUR ROSE WEIR: A MEMORIAL ANTHOLOGY, that was published by Darroll Pardoe to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Doc Weir's death.
The 1971 Speculation Conference was held at the Birmingham and Midland Institute on Saturday 12th June 1971. Guest speakers were James Blish ('Some Nebulae'); John Brunner ('Looking Back at the Future'); Philip Strick ('Heinlein -- A Perspective'); and Chris Priest ('Difficulties and Solutions'). Also, George Hay hosted a National Book League and Science Fiction Foundation exhibition titled 'The Best of SF'. Organiser Pete Weston estimated the attendance at 75- 100, a number which included fans such as Peter Roberts, Malcolm Edwards, the Pardoes, Rog Peyton, and VECTOR editor Bob Parkinson. Of more significance to fandom was that a fortnight later, on Friday 25th June, the newly-reborn Birmingham SF Group held its inaugural meeting in the George Room of Birmingham's Imperial Hotel. According to the first of the monthly BSFG NEWSLETTERs thirty people attended including some newcomers, such as Stan Eling, whose first contact with fandom had been the Speculation Conference two weeks earlier. Indeed, the conference's Visitors Book had provided a list of interested locals who were contacted and invited to the inaugural meeting. From the outset, the BSFG was intended to be more sercon than most groups with formal meetings and guest speakers. Among those who addressed the group in the early months of its existence were Michael Moorcock, Philip Strick and Jack Cohen. The constitution of the new model BSFG was based on that of the Young Conservatives by Peter Weston and it was to this, many years later, that he attributed the group's endurance.
CHECKPOINT 4 (June '71) reported that, due to the National Union of Teachers having booked the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool, the 1972 Eastercon would now be held in Harrogate. By the time CHECKPOINT 5 appeared, later that same month, it had moved again, this time to Chester. CHECKPOINT 5 also reported that a new Manchester fan group (originally to be known as 'Oozlot') had been formed by Pete Colley, Peter Presford, and Lisa Conesa. Called the Manchester and District (MaD) SF Group, its inaugural meeting was to be held on 7th July in the Albert Inn on William Street in the Didsbury district of the city. Colley was to be the editor of SATELLITE, their proposed monthly newsletter. Early recruits included Paul Skelton and Brian Robinson, who also joined OMPA with its July '71 mailing (its 62nd), which carried the first issue of the fanzine they co-edited, HELL, a genzine that also saw general distribution. (Conesa joined them in OMPA the following January.) The Delta Group, who were running the 1972 Eastercon, were still going strong in Manchester, but the MaD Group would ultimately entice away the more fannishly-inclined Delta members leaving that group, with its main emphasis still firmly fixed on films, to eventually fade from the fannish scene and become more properly a part of one of the other fandoms that sprang up in the UK during the 1970s.
Shortly after publishing FOULER 6 (June '71), Greg Pickersgill left Wales and moved to London where his co-editor Leroy Kettle, formerly of Wolverhampton, had already been living for some months. Thereafter he was to be a prominent and often contentious part of London fandom.
CHECKPOINT 6 (July '71) carried the results of the 1971 TAFF race, with Italian fan Mario Bosnyak beating out British fans Peter Weston and Terry Jeeves, and Swedish fan Per Insulander by 138 votes to 84, 66, and 47 respectively. The European part of that vote was 106, 33, 22, and 20. Weston got the biggest vote in the US. There were later allegations of vote-buying on Bosnyak's part, but whatever the truth or otherwise of those allegations he attended the 1971 Worldcon, NOREASCON, in Boston in September.
To the surprise of almost everyone, Ron Bennett's SKYRACK reappeared in July. This issue, the 96th, was the first to appear in three years and also the final issue, but it still managed to scoop CHECKPOINT on several stories, including the death of John W.Campbell. That same month ZIMRI 1, edited by Lisa Conesa and Phil Muldowney, was published as was the first issue of Skelton and Robinson's HELL. These were the first fanzines to emerge from the MaD Group. Named after a biblical King of Israel (though Conesa lifted the name from a Dryden poem, namely his 1681 satire 'Absalom and Achitophel'), ZIMRI took a determinedly 'arty' approach to poetry and fiction and would be produced by Conesa and a string of co-editors over the course of the decade.
Having edited two issues of MAYA, the second produced in time for EASTERCON 22, Ian Williams decided to pass the title to Ian Maule. Though it carried sercon articles, MAYA was still essentially fannish and at this point Williams found his sympathies lay with the sercon. To this end, in August 1971, he published SF ARENA 0, a trial issue of what he told CHECKPOINT was "...intended to be a very small circulation zine distributed to people who want to play an active part in talking about and criticising SF." SF ARENA 1, which followed in December, was just as scrappy and inconsequential as the previous issue and Williams never did another. An SF ARENA 2 was published, in February 1972, but though credited to Williams and largely indistinguishable from the issues he did (except for being far better duplicated) this was in fact a hoax by Maule.
On 7th August 1971, Rog Peyton opened his 'Andromeda SF Bookshop' at 38 Reddall Hill Road in Warley, near Birmingham to provide SF readers in the Midlands with the same sort of service as Bram Stokes' 'Dark They Were and Golden-Eyed' did London fans. Also in August, Bill Burns married US fan Mary Ensley (they had met at HEICON) and they settled in America, visiting the UK annually thereafter at Easter and attending the Eastercon.
CHECKPOINT 9 (Sept '71) carried news of yet another new group. The Kingston SF Group was being formed by Jim Linwood (Chairman), Graham Boak (Secretary) and Brian Hampton (Treasurer). The group, which would soon also become known as Kittenfandom, met on the last Saturday of the month at Boak's home in Kingston, Surrey. As well as the officers, regular attendees included Dave Rowe, Fred Hemmings and Syd Bounds. (The Herts Group, which Boak and Hampton had been associated with over the previous few years, still continued under the aegis of Keith and Jill Bridges.)
The October OMPA mailing marked the start of a new year for the apa though, for once, there was no election of new officers. Mailings for '70/'71 had totalled 877 pages, up from the previous year and a sign that OMPA's slow decline had been arrested. In the AE's report, Ken Cheslin announced the intention of the officers to bid for the 1973 Eastercon (that month's CHECKPOINT also carried the story). The idea had been born during a conversation at EASTERCON 22 between Cheslin, the Pardoes, Phil Spencer, John Coombe, and Gerald Bishop, and after a subsequent search they had settled on the Midland Hotel in Birmingham (site of BRUMCON, the 1965 Eastercon) as the venue, though this was to change. Conventions were usually bid for and organised by fan groups, but this marked the first time an apa had ever bid for one.
On 23rd October 1971, the first meeting between the MaD Group and the Gannets took place when Peter Presford, Lisa Conesa, Brian Robinson, and Pete Colley travelled to Sunderland for a gathering in the Gannet pub. By forming such links, and by talking about each other in their fanzines, the new generation of fans were already building a new fandom. It was young as yet, and still ill-defined, but that it was growing was unmistakable. Consolidation of another sort was reported by editor Roberts in CHECKPOINT 10 (Oct '71):
"A London co-operative, VUG Publications, plan to print the following fanzines: FOULER, QUICKSILVER, MACROCOSM (Rob Holdstock), MOTORWAY DREAMER (John Hall), and an enigmatic GILBERT..."
These last two (the latter being named for Roger Gilbert, who had been much mocked in FOULER) never actually appeared. Nevertheless, Ratfandom was serious about VUG Publications (Vugs being a race of aliens in Philip K.Dick's Game Players of Titan whose name had tickled Pickersgill's fancy), and to that end they began by investing in a duplicator. This was to prove a mistake. CHECKPOINT 10 also reported that there would be no TAFF race in 1972 "mainly because of financial difficulties". The intention had been to send a North American fan to EUROCON.
Another sign of the new vitality of British fandom was the appearance, in November, of a second annual convention. There had been occasional conventions besides the national convention over the years, even during the war, but this was the first in a line that continues to this day. Held in Birmingham's Imperial Centre Hotel over the weekend of 13th/14th November 1971, NOVACON was organised by Vernon Brown and the Aston University SF Group. Brown was Chairman and the other committee members were Pauline Dungate, Alan Denham, Alan Donnelly, and Ray Bradbury (no relation to the author). James White was GoH and other pros present included John Brunner, Anne McCaffrey, Ken Bulmer, James Blish, Bob Shaw and Kit Pedlar (creator of the popular and prophetic TV series, Doomwatch). Items included a talk by Peter Weston on fanzine production (during which he figured out that the most recent SPECULATION had cost him £50 to produce, a fact he'd have preferred not to have discovered), Bob Shaw on his recent trip to NOREASCON, John Brunner and Kit Pedlar on 'Writing For The Screen', and James Blish and Jack Cohen on 'Pantropy vs Terraforming'. Films shown were 'Jason and the Argonauts', 'The Time Machine', and 'Village of the Damned'. NOVACON was judged a great success and attracted 150 fans, many more than had been expected. Only the Gannets were notable by their absence. There were three bids for the following year with Pauline Dungate, on behalf of the Aston Group, for a return to the same hotel; Lee Hopewell for Nottingham; and visiting US fan Fred Lerner for Teaneck, New Jersey. The Dungate bid won resoundingly.
The first issue of Gerald Bishop's HOWL OF FEEDBACK came out in November, the fourth and final issue appearing in March 1974. Making their first appearances in December were Lisa Conesa's one-off FLYER and Robert Holdstock's MACROCOSM. Holdstock, who had moved to London from his native Dover to study at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (hence the 'kitty-cutting' vivisectionist jokes about him in other Ratzines), set out to be determinedly sercon, stating in his editorial that "nothing in MACROCOSM 1, or in subsequent issues, will be fannish". MACROCOSM saw three issues in all, the final one coming out in July 1972, and had much in common with Lisa Conesa's ZIMRI (she and he were regular contributors to each other's zines). Issues averaged 48 pages, making it one of the largest zines of its time, and contained a lot of fine artwork by Andrew Stephenson. Stephenson, who signed his work 'Ames', had entered fandom in 1969 but only started appearing regularly in fanzines in 1971. As he explains:
"At the time most publications used mimeo and, while many artists (eg. ATom and Harry Bell) were capable of amazing results in the medium, I wanted to be free to pile in detail and textures. This meant favouring faneds prepared to use offset litho. Hence work in such places as Lisa's ZIMRI, Rob Holdstock's MACROCOSM, and the BSFA's VECTOR."
While discussing ZIMRI and MACROCOSM, it's worth mentioning that though they and other contemporary fanzines ran poetry its widespread use represented a relatively recent return to favour, one later identified by Steve Sneyd as originating with a bleak poem published in John Hall's ZINE in August 1968:
"With those words poetry returned to fanzines after an effective absence of nearly two decades, and...a much harsher note is struck than in the mainly mellifluous verse of earlier years. It is also curiously appropriate that the author of this first evidence of resurrection was Greg Pickersgill, whose influence in fandom was subsequently to be so great."
Despite a meeting at which Kettle, Pickersgill, Hall, Holdstock, Edwards, and Brosnan gathered to launch VUG Publications, Holdstock's MACROCOSM was the only fanzine that ultimately emerged. FOULER remained in limbo while the second QUICKSILVER, which had appeared in April 1971, would prove to be the last. The main cause of the VUG collapse was the duplicator that Pickersgill and Holdstock had bought for the collective, which unfortunately defied all efforts to get it to work.
CHECKPOINT 14 (Jan '72) opened with the news that Larry Niven would be GoH at SLANCON and that NOVACON had now become an 'official activity' of the Birmingham SF Group. "This is to ensure that it does have a future, not to grasp any sort of 'power'!" Pete Weston was quoted as saying. From this point on, all future NOVACONs would be run under the aegis of the BSFG.
ETHIL THE FROG 1 (Jan '72) was edited by John Piggott, a student at Jesus College Cambridge and member of CUSFS who often travelled down to London for the monthly Globe meetings and hung out with Ratfandom. It was the newsletter of a gaming organisation of the same name being set up by Piggott and another games fan, Will Haven. Their intention, according to Roberts in the write-up he gave them in CHECKPOINT, was "to specialise in British Abstraction, a variant of Diplomacy, while including regular Diplomacy, Risk, Shogi, &c." Diplomacy is a board game for seven players, each of whom takes the part of one of the seven Great Powers in Europe at the start of World War I. The object is to gain control of as much territory as possible, the players being allowed a period of time between moves in which to discuss plans together, make alliances, lie to opponents, and the like. Writing about the game a few months later, Piggott explained that this period of diplomacy, from which the game derives its name:
"...makes it a perfect choice for a postal game. When the game first appeared it was obviously only a matter of time before some bright spark thought up the idea of playing Diplomacy postally, and, as it turned out, it didn't take too long.
I can even tell you the exact date on which it started: 31 May 1962. This was the date on which John Boardman, a New York SF fan, began the first postal Diplomacy game in his magazine set up for the purpose, GRAUSTARK. As intimated...postal Diplomacy fandom is an offshoot of SF fandom: today the two entities are separate, though a number of fannish terms are common to both and several people are active in both fandoms. It arrived in Great Britain in 1969 and, curiously, had no connection with British SF fandom at that time. In the following year, a magazine of Diplomacy connected with SF fandom was issued -- the players in the first game included Peter Roberts and Gray Boak -- but as far as I can judge, when the two sources discovered each other there was surprise all around.
And it was Peter Roberts who can take the blame for introducing me to the hobby, which I enquired about after reading a cryptic notice in EGG. Becoming hooked, I graduated to publishing my own Diplomacy fanzine at the start of this year. ETHIL THE FROG now consists mainly of game reports, and a sheaf of letters criticising various aspects of the British Diplomacy Club."
So Postal Diplomacy fandom was yet another offshoot of SF fandom, the first manifestation of the fannish interest in gaming that would grow up over the next few years and which would come to be dominated by fantasy role-playing games. As it happens, even these had their roots in SF fandom, specifically in Los Angeles and a game that had already been raging through LASFS for years when John Boardman was starting up GRAUSTARK in New York. According to Harry Warner Jr, in A WEALTH OF FABLE, it all started when youngsters living in and around Pasadena, California, began pretending their city was the imaginary Mariposian Empire. SF elements crept in as the participants:
"...developed gradually its history, they engaged in international intrigues and projects, they permitted some fantasy elements to be active in this science fiction concept, and by the end of the 1950s, the Coventry mania had spread to LASFS, Orange County College, and Florida Speleological Society."
Don Fitch, a LASFS fan of the period, recalls how Coventry arrived at LASFS:
"When Paul Stanbery came into LASFS (about the time of rich brown and Ted Johnstone) and brought with him his adolescent fantasy world, Coventry, people leapt on the bandwagon and started writing/publishing stories based on it in fanzines -- including themselves (or versions of themselves) -- as personae in it...and their versions of other people. Rather quickly, any extant undercurrents of personal animosity surfaced, and grew...."
The game that developed along with this, Coventry, was in many ways similar to modern role-playing games. Ted Johnstone acted as gamesmaster, but things soon got out of hand and he started receiving a lot of heat from players who had invested too much of themselves in the game and who got very angry with him over a certain aspect of it. The problem lay with a character called 'the Guardian' whose identity was unknown to the other players and who was allowed to sabotage the game as he chose. Things got out of hand, with threats of lawsuits and a firebomb reputedly left on someone's lawn. In order to divert attention from himself, Johnstone started dropping hints that the Guardian was someone he thought sufficiently far away, a newish East Coast fan called Jack Chalker, who in turn started receiving threats in the post. According to Ruth Berman, a LASFS member of the time and author of a Coventry story called 'Manywhere':
"The Guardian was Dean Dickensheet. Dean feared that the Coventry enthusiasts were losing their grasp on reality and wanted to attack Coventry in various humorous ways with the intention of reminding them that it was only a game. The humour was often felt as 'joking on the square', and so taken as a more serious attack than he (consciously, anyhow) intended, and it left enough hard feelings to be a factor in the decline of Coventry. After that, few people wrote or published Coventry stories. I think I am the only one who published a Coventry story professionally -- I later re-wrote 'Manywhere' as a fantasy story set in a kingdom called Ceremark, with various characters changed accordingly, and published it as To Ceremark in NEW VOICES IN SCIENCE FICTION 1, ed.George R.R.Martin."
A decade after the Coventry affair, one of the LASFS fans involved with it, Gary Gygax, created 'Dungeons and Dragons'. Wisely, there is no analogue of the Guardian in his game. Dungeons and Dragons began appearing at British cons in the mid 1970s, one of the earliest fannish dungeon-masters being Ian Maule.
Not content with publishing ZIMRI, Lisa Conesa launched ISEULT in February. Weighing in at 44 quarto pages, ISEULT 1 contained much the same mix of poetry, fiction, and serious articles as ZIMRI. That first issue was also an OMPAzine, but none of the subsequent three (it folded in 1974) were distributed via the apa.
BSFA BULLETIN 46 (Feb '72) opened with a letter from Ted Carnell, the BSFA Chairman, who had been admitted to hospital twice in recent months but was now feeling much better and hoping to be at the 1972 Eastercon. It also carried the first news in a long time of the BSFA's Fanzine Foundation. According to editor Archie Mercer:
"The collection of fanzines has long languished at the home of its erstwhile custodian, Charlie Winstone, who has been unable on grounds of constant ill-health to do anything in particular with them. Arrangements have been made for Mike Meara, of...Derby, to acquire custody and reactivate."
Things didn't quite work out that way, however, and the story of the Fanzine Foundation was about to take a new and bizarre twist at the Eastercon.
New fanzines making their first appearance in March were Peter Presford's MALFUNCTION and John Piggott's TURNING WORM. TURNING WORM 1 was four duplicated foolscap pages containing an incisive and well-written essay on what was wrong with British fandom. this was split into three sections headed 'Worship of the Past' (about the constant harping back to the supposedly 'golden age' British fandom of the 1950s), 'Infrequency of Publication' (six to eight months between issues of a fanzine were not uncommon), and 'Turning a good 10-page fanzine into a lousy 40-page one' (being a plea not to print poor material, even if it did mean slimmer fanzines). All valid points.
A new fan group sparked briefly into life in the early months of 1972, one started by Graham Poole, a new fan whose first contact with fandom had been his attendance at EASTERCON 22 and at NOVACON. As he explains:
"Both times I thoroughly enjoyed myself and both times I heard about these fantastic tales of local fan groups and the antics they allegedly got up to, including the old Cheltenham SF Circle in the fifties and early sixties. Knocked out by this idea I decided, in a drunken stupor, to revive the Cheltenham group and a month later saw adverts placed by me in the local paper. Two people replied."
One of these was John Newman, organiser of the 1948 WHITCON, who was then living with his wife in nearby Southam. A meeting was arranged at Newman's house to launch the new Cheltenham SF Group and nine people showed up, but Poole was not happy with the way things went:
"The meeting was a disastrous flop...nothing serious was discussed and, to all intents and purposes, it as like an upper-class Women's Institute social evening...inanities and small talk in between cocktails and crisps. There ended the first meeting."
Poole was no more pleased by the second meeting nor by the third, which was held at the house of a friend of the Newmans in Cheltenham proper. There wasn't a fourth meeting. Despite Poole's best efforts at recruiting new members the group fizzled out.
The first issue of FOUNDATION, the critical journal published in association with the Science Fiction Foundation, appeared in March 1972. Charles Barren was listed as Editor-in-Chief, Ken Bulmer as Technical Editor, and George Hay as Features Editor. It contained articles by John Brunner, Larry Niven, and John Boardman, among others. The SFF itself had by this point also acquired a salaried administrator...
Peter Nicholls, an Australian and a former lecturer in English Literature at Sydney University, had arrived in London in 1970 fresh from two years study in the USA. In October 1971 he answered an advertisement for the position of SFF administrator in the Times Literary Supplement and got the job which, as Nicholls recalls, was ill-defined:
"To some extent the job was what I made it. It seemed urgent in the early days to establish as many links as possible with the SF community on the one hand, and the academic community on the other, which meant attending SF conventions -- I'd never attended one before -- and accepting speaking engagements all over the UK....
The most fun, of course, was first investigating and then becoming a part of the SF ghetto, which I now think of as being, however ramshackle, my home. There are dangers of course, ranging from being called a Fakefan by Peter Weston to being bitten by Ken Campbell's ferret, but these were amply recompensed by the hundreds of friendships formed with SF writers, publishers, agents, and fans, who -- not all of them -- came to constitute the heart of my social life...."
One of the early things Nicholls got involved with was the travelling National Book League Exhibition of SF that George Hay and Ken Bulmer had largely put together and which the former had overseen at the 1971 Speculation Conference.
When it finally came off the road its books were incorporated in the main SFF library, where they would soon be joined by those of the BSFA library, which was to be placed with the SFF on permanent loan. Nicholls had no input into the first issue of FOUNDATION, which had been planned before he joined the SFF, but he made sure he had a voice in the second:
"I wouldn't have been so ruthless if it weren't, to be blunt, that I'd seen the first number as disastrous, the second about to go the same way, the whole thing about to go down the tubes, and my job description seen by the world as Administrator of Low Farce. On the masthead of Number Two I appear in the lowly guise of Editorial Assistant, but the actual editorial, inserted at the last minute in the place of another person's work, was mine. I was, in fact, planning a putsch...."
Nicholls increased his input in subsequent issues, becoming official editor with FOUNDATION 5 (Jan '74).
On 23rd March 1972, Ted Carnell died. The funeral service, held seven days later at Eltham Crematorium, had an overflowing crowd made up of soldiers from his old regiment, relatives, fellow masons, and fans.
By the time the 1972 Eastercon rolled around it was no longer called SLANCON. Being both in Chester and the fourth convention to be run by Manchester fans, it was re-christened CHESSMANCON. Held over the weekend of 31st March -- 2nd April 1972 the con had Larry Niven as GoH and, as well as the usual British authors also featured Harry Harrison and Fred Pohl. The Programme Book listed 233 members, and also carried an ad by Brian Aldiss urging everyone to vote for his novel Barefoot in the Head in the Europa Awards to be presented at the forthcoming EUROCON in Trieste in July, the first ever Eurocon. Due to the unprecedented number of relocations CHESSMANCON had suffered it had ended up in The Blossoms Hotel, which was totally inadequate for a convention of its size. As a consequence many fans found themselves booked, and even double-booked, in hotels in remote parts of the town. Being a Delta Group production, CHESSMANCON had a large film programme, one that included episodes from a number of 1960s SF TV shows. Panels and talks included 'Disbelief Be Hanged!' with Brunner, Pohl, Shaw, and Bulmer; Fred Pohl on 'The Shape of Science Fiction to Come'; Brian Aldiss on 'Tourist Class Utopias'; Peter Weston on 'Fifty Years of Science Fiction'; and Harry Harrison on 'Symbols in SF'. The BSFA Award went to Brian Aldiss for Moment of Eclipse; the Doc Weir to Jill Adams; and the Ken McIntyre to Martin Pitt. There were no fannish panels, and the hotel had no large bar where fans could congregate, but there were many fannish fans at the con, according to Peter Roberts:
"...including the newly degafiated Tony and Simone Walsh; German fans Gerd Hallenberger, Tom Schluck, Waldemar Kumming, Mario Bosnyak, and others; Rat and Gannet fandom en masse; and many more, all of whom will be rightfully annoyed that I failed to mention them."
Larry Niven's GoH speech apparently didn't impress his audience ("As a public speaker, Larry makes a good window-cleaner" -- Mike Meara) and many people left before the end. As Rob Holdstock later wrote in his report for ZIMRI:
"Imagining that Larry Niven would enlighten and uplift me, I glued myself to a chair in the con room and nothing could shift me. Nothing, that is, except the Guest of Honour speech...
It wasn't... that is, it seemed to lack... what can I say?... it... er... there was something missing... not so much missing as... I didn't... I couldn't... it failed to... Jesus!
Somebody rushed out clutching his nose and screaming, 'Oh the blood, the blood!' and made straight for the bar with a look of relief on his face. I watched 'The Amazing Theoretical Mathematics Show' for a few more minutes and followed this eminent figure out."
Kettle and Pickersgill published another in their series of one and two sheet con zines for distribution at Chester. Called AN EGREGIOUS GUIDE TO THE CONVENTIONS it was in large part a reprint of the previous such production, THE LITTLE-READ STOOL BOOK, which had presumably been distributed at NOVACON.
On Sunday morning, programmed opposite each other, were 'Godzilla vs The Thing' and meetings of the Tolkien Society, the British Science Fiction Association, and the British Weird Fantasy Society (at which it was decided to drop the 'weird' from its name). At the BSFA AGM, John Brunner became the new Chairman, a position made vacant by the recent death of Ted Carnell, and Doreen Parker and Phil Rogers resigned from their posts. Graham Poole took over from Doreen Parker as Company Secretary. In respect of Ted Carnell's death, Ken Eadie proposed that the BSFA should create an award in his name, a motion seconded by Rog Peyton. Ted Tubb and John Brunner opposed the motion, sensibly pointing out that so many memorial awards were being started that the whole idea had been devalued. There was also the problem, as would eventually happen with Ken McIntyre and Doc Weir, that newer fans coming along would have no idea who these people were and why awards were named for them. The motion was initially carried, but nothing came of it.
After the BSFA AGM was the auction...and the Fanzine Foundation Scandal. A number of people later wrote reports of what happened, including Peter Roberts:
"A mass of fanzines were to be sold, part of the BSFA collection which had been rotting away unseen for many years (despite the gallant efforts of Charlie Winstone); these were unsorted, and Rog Peyton and I spent a frantic half-hour just before the auction trying to sift out some of the hideously rare items that had been mixed in with the general crud and chaff. It was a mark of the unfannish nature of the con that no-one seemed to know anything about fanzines and none were in fact auctioned at the major sale. An unscheduled auction, however, grudgingly allowed a few things to be sold and, lo and behold, they fetched higher prices than the rare books and artwork put together."
And Peter Weston:
" 'This will probably be the last time that you'll see fanzines like these for sale at a British convention,' I said, 'and if we must sell our heritage then I intend to get a good price for it.'
Or similar words. That was what I said at an impromptu fanzine auction on the Saturday night at Chester during which I sold a large part of what I believe to be the BSFA's irreplaceable Fanzine Foundation...it began when I wandered innocently into the con hall during an auction of leftovers which hadn't been sold earlier in the day -- artwork, old books, and the like.
Roger Peyton and Peter Roberts were ferreting amongst a pile of cardboard boxes which were bulging with fanzines and which the con committee, knowing nothing about fanzines, was proposing to sell by the box, sight unseen. Rog to his credit had realised that some of the things in those boxes were worthy of better treatment, as I discovered when a complete file of HYPHEN slid out onto the floor. Then Peter and I started to burrow..."
So great was the number of fanzines to be auctioned, however, that not all of them were sold at that auction. John Piggott explains what happened to the rest:
"I was wandering around the hotel sometime on Monday morning...and purely by chance I stumbled into the room where Bram Stokes, Mike Meara, and a few others were scrabbling about a large box of old zines. A half-hearted bidding for huge piles of these fanzines was going on at first, but not many were really interested. I think that the number of zines sold already had been so great that even those with their own transport had decided they wouldn't be able to carry anything more home, and so the bidding session came to a halt and a few people, myself included, started scrimmaging on the floor amid large quantities of these fanzines. Some were so ancient that they were disintegrating where they lay, their staples rusting through, their paper yellowed and brittle....
I came out of that room with a few more articles than I came in with...were I not also running out of room to carry things, no doubt I would have collected more. As it was, I'm sure that most of the pile stayed in that room. I hope someone carried it away eventually, but I have more than a slight suspicion that it was left there when the con ended, to be consigned to the Blossoms' dustbins by the hotel staff. That was the end of the last of the BSFA Fanzine Foundation, duly documented for all to see."
Among the 'unwanted' fanzines that Piggott grabbed were an issue of THE SATELLITE (ed. John F.Burke, 1938-40) and three issues of THE FANTAST (ed. Sam Youd,) from 1939. All virtually irreplaceable. More would be heard of this affair after the con.
Though the BSFA BULLETIN, under the sterling control of Archie Mercer, had continued to appear regularly over the previous few years, the Association's flagship journal, VECTOR, had fared rather less well. There had been two issues in 1970 and two in 1971, the latest issue having appeared in July '71. With almost a year having passed since the previous issue, Malcolm Edwards volunteered to take over the editorship of VECTOR. His first issue, the 59th, was dated Spring '72 and rushed out in time for CHESSMANCON. As Edwards explained inside, the contents were originally intended for the never-to-be- published third issue of his own fanzine, QUICKSILVER. These included a short story by Stanislaw Lem with an introduction by Franz Rottensteiner, and pieces by Dicky Howett and Pam Bulmer. Production was minimal, being basic 'no-frills' mimeography. It was an inauspicious start to what was to be probably the most highly-regarded period that VECTOR was to enjoy under any editor.
New to the fanzine scene in April 1972 were Mike and Pat Meara. Their first fanzine, LURK, was fannish (it printed a transcript of the talk Peter Weston had given on fanzine publishing at the 1971 NOVACON) and went out with that month's OMPA mailing. It was also general distribution. Residents of Derby, the Mearas had met at Liverpool University in 1966, married in 1970, and their first con was EASTERCON 22. Also appearing in April were MACROCOSM 2, HELL 4, IDIOCY COUCHANT 1 (edited by Arthur Cruttenden) and two fanzines from Ian Maule. The first of these was MAYA 3 which, like most of those mentioned above, was produced in time to be distributed at CHESSMANCON. This was just as well, since reports by Ian Williams, Thom Penman, John Piggott, Mary (Reed) Legg, and Maule himself on the 1971 Eastercon formed the bulk of the issue. Delayed it may have been, but MAYA 3 was a substantial improvement over the Williams-edited issues in that it was actually legible. The second Maule zine of April appeared after CHESSMANCON. This was PARANOID 1, which featured verse by Williams, fiction by F.G.Smallmount, scurrility by John N.Hall, and fanzine reviews by Maule. It was all curiously lightweight stuff.
TURNING WORM 2 (May '72) weighed in at 38 pages, all except the letter column written by editor Piggott, and was a fine example of the quality of zine that UK fans could put out when they tried. It was duplicated, contained no artwork, used a purely typographical layout, and proved the old adage that it's the words that count. This kind of minimalist approach, also utilised by zines such as FOULER, became almost a school of fanzine design in its own right, one that would be defended as such by later critics. Piggott wrote a report on CHESSMANCON for this issue, one of at least ten that followed the convention (the others being Holdstock in ZIMRI, Weston in SPECULATION, Roberts in VECTOR, Mike Meara in LURK, Thom Penman in KING KON -- a fanzine devoted entirely to the convention and published by Skelton and Robinson almost a year later -- and reports in Fred Hemmings' VIEWPOINT from Sam Long, Pauline Dungate, Tony Rogers, and John Steward). Such overlapping reports, which provide multiple views of the same events and so aid the myth-making process, are a sure sign of a healthy fandom -- as are fanzines of the quality of TURNING WORM, the third and final issue of which would be published in August. Slowly, British fandom was emerging from the doldrums it had been in since the collapse of the New Wave.
BSFA BULLETIN 47 (May '72) reported that the BSFA's Fanzine Foundation was "now firmly in the custody of Mike Meara", editor Mercer clearly unaware that, following the CHESSMANCON auction, there wasn't any longer a Fanzine Foundation for Mike Meara or for anyone else to take firm custody of. This was the last BSFA BULLETIN. Inside it was explained that, following discussions at the BSFA AGM, the position was that:
"Unless something unforseen occurs, this is the final issue of the BSFA BULLETIN as such. The intention is that from now on this material will appear as part of a bi-monthly VECTOR, and Archie Mercer will continue to assemble news of the Association and of its members in the capacity of News Editor. VECTOR will again be printed....the first of the new VECTORs should be appearing within two calender months of this Bulletin."
In fact the next VECTOR appeared the very next month. VECTOR 60 (June '72) was professionally printed, carried articles by John Brunner and by Philip Strick, a CHESSMANCON report and fanzine review column by Peter Roberts, and appreciations of Ted Carnell by Ted Tubb, Brian Aldiss, Harry Harrison, and Dan Morgan.
CHECKPOINT 17 (June '72) was the first issue in three months due to editor Roberts having to sit his final exams, for a degree in English & American Studies, at Keele University (these were now over and Roberts had moved back to Bristol), and to the original masters for this issue having mysteriously gone missing.
The third Speculation Conference was held on Saturday 24th June 1972 at the University of Birmingham. Guest speakers were John Sladek ('Science Fiction & Pseudo-Science'); Geoff Doherty ('Science Fiction -- Does It Have A Future?'); Edmund Cooper ('Violence in SF'); and conference chairman Phil Strick on humour in SF. Among the fifty or so people who attended were Brian Aldiss, Mark Adlard, Chris Priest, Jack Cohen, Dave Kyle, Josephine Saxton, Tony and Simone Walsh, Malcolm Edwards, Fred Hemmings, Dave Rowe, and Peter Roberts, who wrote the event up in CHECKPOINT 19. Also present were American fans Forry and Wendayne Ackerman, who were on their way to the first ever EUROCON, which was held on 12th-16th July in Trieste, Italy. (Hemmings, Rowe, Howard Rosenblum, Vernon Brown, and John Brunner were among the Britons who attended.) An eighteen-foot tall statue of King Kong that was in Birmingham at the time also somehow played a role in the conference. This was the last of the Speculation Conferences, organiser Pete Weston having decided that, with the growth of the BSFG and the birth of NOVACON, Birmingham fandom no longer needed them.
In LURK 2 (July '72), Mike Meara stated his own position regarding the scandal of the Fanzine Foundation:
"The Fanzine Foundation is dead. It died at Chester during the Easter weekend, and the various parts of its dismembered body have been carried off to various parts of the fannish world, even to America. There seems to be some confusion over how this was allowed to happen, but it seems to me that a combination of reluctance to intervene by the BSFA officials in a position to do something about it, together with a connivance by certain people -- I don't intend to name names; the guilty ones know who they are -- to hide the true source of the material, was the main cause. However, the foundation is dead, and will not rise again...from now on all fanzines sent to me will be deemed for my personal use, and I have informed the BSFA accordingly."
The Fanzine Foundation Scandal occupied most of Malcolm Edwards' editorial in VECTOR 61 (Sept/Oct '72), which included excerpts from Pete Weston's editorial on the affair in SPECULATION 30 (Spring '72), as quoted in a letter from BSFA Vice-Chairman Keith Freeman. At CHESSMANCON, Weston had recognised the fanzines he was to auction as the same BSFA fanzines he had transported from Liverpool to Birmingham in 1965 when the Fanzine Foundation was being established. This had resided with Charlie Winstone for some years after until, as Weston explains:
"...in 1970/71 or thereabouts, a Northern fan by the name of John Muir acquired the FF from Charlie, seemingly without the authority or consent of the BSFA, who indeed had until very recently completely 'lost' the collection.
Here the story degenerates from fable into hearsay. When I protested to the BSFA Chairman ((actually, to Vice-Chairman Keith Freeman)) at Chester that the fanzines about to be auctioned appeared to belong to the BSFA, at least in my opinion, he evidently confronted John Muir who 'explained' that these were only duplicates and/or part of his own collection which had been sold to him by Charlie Winstone.
That's alright then -- or is it? Doesn't it sound pretty thin to you? I mean, Charlie as a 1963-fan, like me, never built up much of a collection himself and so I can't see how he could pass on many 1940s fanzines to John Muir. Things like...post-war Ken Slater FANTASTs, and that complete run of HYPHEN, just don't grow on trees.
But the salient point is that the BSFA believed John Muir, and so instructed me to proceed with the auction... Here is the joker, however. After the con I heard by word-of-mouth (which may be incorrect, don't forget) that John Muir had not donated his (?) fanzines to CHESSMANCON after all. Oh no. He had offered them on the understanding that the concom kept 15% of the proceeds, the rest going to him. Now this is a statement which I have been unable to check; but if true, it makes me wish that I had given the things away!"
Commenting on all this, Edwards made a number of observations:
"John Muir is said to have claimed to have had in his possession one or two copies of all the valuable items sold at Chester. Does he? Where did the fanzines sold at Chester come from, if not from the FF, and where did the proceeds of the auction go? Both Pete Weston and Keith Freeman say that John Muir claimed it was OK to auction off these fanzines because they were duplicates -- but even if they were duplicates, surely that doesn't make it right if they were from the BSFA's collection? Anyway, whatever emerges it would be nice to know that someone, somewhere, in the BSFA is doing something about the FF -- because despite what some people say, if it has been sold it isn't too late to recover it, or most of it..."
This was almost the end of this phase of the story. It would not have a happy ending. Also in VECTOR 61, in the news section, it was revealed that Rob Holdstock was now running the BSFA's 'Orbiter', that Graham Poole wanted to start a fan group in Cheltenham (to replace the defunct CSFG), that members had overwhelmingly voted in favour of the BSFA library "being loaned on a long-term basis to the SF Foundation" (it was transported from Liverpool to Barking on 2 Dec 72), and Dan Morgan reported that lack of response had killed off the BSFA SF WRITER'S BULLETIN.
New to the fanzine scene in July were MADCAP, from Petes Colley and Presford, and FANZINE FANATIQUE from Keith Walker. The latter was filled with fanzine listings and would see over thirty issues before the end of the decade. Such listings are invaluable to those compiling bibliographies in later years, but unfortunately Walker's appallingly slipshod typing and duplication ensured that FF was held up as an example of how not to produce a fanzine, and generally savaged, through most of its existence. Nor was MADCAP much more highly thought of, a fate that was to befall most Manchester fanzines (the main exception being Lisa Conesa's ZIMRI) throughout the 1970s.
CHECKPOINT 21 (Aug '72) carried the results of the first fan poll to be conducted in Britain since the heyday of SKYRACK. EGG was voted Best British Fanzine (followed by CYNIC then SPECULATION, MAYA, and CYPHER, respectively); Harry Bell was Best British Fanartist; and Graham Boak was Best British Fanwriter.
The final TURNING WORM, the third, appeared in August, and the final FOULER, issue seven, followed in September. That same month, CHECKPOINT reported that Irish fans Ed Dilworth and Graham Andrews had been slightly injured in bomb attacks in Belfast. Also in September 1972, Phil Rogers and Doreen Parker were married in Scunthorpe.
As usual, October signalled the start of a new year for OMPA, the only change in officers being the election of Terry Jeeves as President. In the 1971/72 year just ended page count in the mailings had totalled 1167, the third successive rise and a figure to compare with those achieved during OMPA's first decade. In fact the April '72 mailing was a whopping 447 pages, the second largest ever (only the June '62 mailing, at 483 pages, was larger), as good an indicator as any of OMPA's health. Membership stood at 24 (15 UK, 5 US, 2 Aus., and 2 Belgian), and with OMPA running the 1973 Eastercon things were looking good for the apa. Not that everyone saw it that way. In his 'President's Letter'
"Elsewhere (in ERG) I mention Ian Maule's comment on OMPA as 'a collection of fandom's failed fans'. Idiotic as his statement was, it will be taken at face value by some readers...so it is up to us to give it the lie by putting out good magazines...and putting on a good con. I wonder if Ian will attend a con put on by 'failed fans'?"
Maule's feelings about OMPA would lead to him starting a new apa in 1974.
NOVACON 2 was held over the weekend of 4th/5th November 1972, at Birmingham's Imperial Centre Hotel once again. Guest of Honour was Doreen Parker and programme items included a Tom Shippey talk, 'The Interpretation of History in Science Fiction'; Anne McCaffrey and others discussing 'Extra-Solarian Planets, Fact and Fiction'; Eddie Jones, Philip Strick, and Jim Pitts on 'Vision in SF'; 'One for the Pod' with Mark Adlard, Vic Hallet, and Fred Hemmings; and a panel called 'CON-fusion', which featured Ken Bulmer, Tony Walsh, and Ian Macauley discussing conventions past present and future. Films shown were Marooned and Island of Lost Souls, and the convention was chaired by Pauline Dungate.
The results of the TAFF race for a west-to-east trip in 1973 were announced in November 1972. The candidates were Len & June Moffatt, Frank & Ann Dietz, and Howard DeVore. DeVore was eliminated in the first ballot, and his votes reallocated on the second ballot to make the Moffatts the winners with 123 votes (84 US, 26 UK, 13 German) to the Dietzes 108 (55 US, 1 UK, 52 German). This was the first time couples had stood in a TAFF race and not everyone was happy with the precedent it set, Peter Roberts refusing to throw CHECKPOINT's support behind the race as he had in previous years.
Though largely gafiated, Walt Willis still maintained some contact with fandom. In November the American newszine LOCUS carried a letter from him, under the penname used on the book he had written a few years earlier, about the situation in Northern Ireland:
"My name is Walter Bryan. I wrote a book called THE IMPROBABLE IRISH, for Americans who love Ireland. To you I say now, Ireland needs your help. In Ulster at this moment people of the two great Irish traditions are being driven by terror into a civil war which could destroy Ireland more cruelly than the Famine. Both sides are caught in the same historical trap, of political parties based on suspicion and fear. The great majority of Protestants and Catholics who want peace and friendship are lost for leadership and hope. The fast growing Alliance Party, in which Protestants and Catholics work together for a new Ulster, can give that leadership and hope, but it must make its impact in time for the local elections in late November. Please send what you can to the Alliance Party, Walter Bryan Appeal...."
Once again, fans were getting involved in the peace movements of their time.
VECTOR 62 (Nov/Dec '72) contained a letter from Charlie Winstone, who was somewhat put out by coverage of the Fanzine Foundation debacle in the previous issue feeling, as he put it : "...that I am somehow being made out to be one of the villains of the piece -- one of the main persons responsible for the apparent disappearance of the Fanzine Foundation." In his reply, editor Malcolm Edwards mentioned that Keith Walker had volunteered to take over and rebuild the FF:
"...on condition that he be allowed to run the section. This seems a very generous offer...As I said last issue, my own view is that the Foundation would be safest deposited with the SF Foundation, like the BSFA library. I know the Foundation is already collecting fanzines, but only SF fanzines, which is perhaps a little short-sighted. Maybe the two organisations could work something out..."
Hardly. In CHECKPOINT 27 (Nov '72), Peter Roberts reported that:
"Keith Walker has the remnants of the BSFA Fanzine Foundation; after the wholesale auctioning off at Chester there is, says Keith, 'precious little left'."
And that was it, the last gasp of the BSFA Fanzine Foundation. For now, anyway. There was to be a bizarre sequel to this affair at the 1976 Eastercon.
In December 1972, the final Apollo lunar mission took place. Astronauts Cernan, Evans, and Schmitt flew to the moon in Apollo 17 against a background of large scale public apathy. In the three years since the initial moon landing, public interest had dropped with each succeeding mission, only reviving briefly for the near-disaster of the Apollo 13 flight. Following the return of the Apollo 17 astronauts the Apollo programme was cancelled by President Nixon. Manned exploration of space, it seemed, had come to an end. Henceforth, human beings would be limited to Earth-orbit.
December 1972 was a busy month for Ian Maule, seeing him publish not one but three fanzines. The first of these, MAYA 5, continued that zine's improvement and featured a number of interesting items including a 'Goblin Towers' column by Ian Williams (whose nickname, 'Goblin', derived from his diminutive stature) on how he got into fandom. Williams also did the fanzine reviews. At the end of MAYA, Maule announced that within a few weeks he would be publishing a new fanzine produced for the express purpose of improving his writing style. MAULE'S WELL 1 duly appeared, a four page personalzine consisting largely of a report on NOVACON 2 by Maule. A few days later, he published PARANOID 3. This was also four pages long and consisted mainly of letters of comment on the previous issue. In it, Maule announced that this was the final issue since PARANOID had become "just like MAYA only of a lower quality" and that MAULE'S WELL would replace it. There would be two further issues of MAULE'S WELL, both of them appearing in May 1973. Nor was Maule the only Gannet to publish in December. Also appearing was SIDDHARTHA 1, a personalzine and letter-substitute in diary format from Ian Williams. In subsequent issues SIDDHARTHA would develop into a rather more personal and introspective journal than was then usual for British fanzines, which led some commentators to accuse Williams, perhaps unfairly, of 'whining'.
Old time fans were coming out of the woodwork at the turn of the year. In MAYA 5, Maule revealed his discovery (from Eric Bentcliffe via Harry Bell) that Don Allen lived in the next street to his. Maule made contact, and Allen started socialising with the Gannets and occasionally contributing to fanzines. ZIMRI 4 (Jan '73) sported a Harry Turner cover and carried an interview with him by editor Lisa Conesa. Thereafter, Turner was the regular cover artist on ZIMRI, also contributing a substantial amount of internal art, and from that point his superb work made ZIMRI the most visually impressive British fanzine of the 1970s.
The wave of Gannetzines continued in January 1973 with GANNETSCRAPBOOK 1, which contained a compendium of small zines from Gannets such as Ians Maule and Williams, Thom Penman, Harry Bell, newcomers Rob Jackson (ex-OUSFiG) and Henry Pijohn, and expatriate Geordies Gray Boak and Mary Legg. CHECKPOINT 29 meanwhile, reported the formation of SF groups in Stafford and at Nottingham University, again. (It seemed like every other influx of students to Nottingham would form an SF group, which would cease to exist when they left, leaving the way clear for a new group to form a year or two later without the new people having any knowledge of those who had preceded them...) There was no further information on either group, unfortunately, but there was an amusing item from Malcolm Edwards about The Chelmsford Independent...
"...Essex's trendiest new newspaper-cum-fanzine. Apart from boring local news about rabbits and food prices, it has cartoons by our own Dick Howett (who just happens to be one of the editors), reprints of his VECTOR and QUICKSILVER articles (without a word of acknowledgement...I'll sue!), awful record reviews by John Hall, pseudonymous book reviews by me, and film reviews by Penny Grant, a friend of Chris Priest's. What more could you want?"
As a postscript of sorts to the Fanzine Foundation Scandal (part 1), Malcolm Edwards reported in his editorial in VECTOR 63 (Jan/Feb '73) that:
"I have heard from two separate sources reports that ((US fan)) Joanne Burger (who bought a lot of stuff at the auction) has been saying in American fanzines that a lot of these items do carry the BSFA stamp."
One of the odder events to take place in 1973 was reported in CHECKPOINT 31 (Feb '73) by Fred Hemmings:
"The 26th/27th January saw a new event in the annals of British (?) fandom when the American Embassy, through its Student Information Office, held what was advertised as a seminar and exhibition and turned out to be a con -- if a very minor one."
Since the American Embassy is technically US territory, this was the first American convention to be held in Britain. Speakers/panellists included Brian Aldiss, Kingsley Amis, James Blish, Robert Conquest, Peter Weston and Richard Roud (of The Guardian and New York Film Festival). Philip Strick chaired the event, which also included a NASA film of the Apollo 16 mission (whose launch Ella Parker had travelled to the US to witness, her report on her trip subsequently being serialised in SCOTTISHE) and a showing of Night of the Living Dead. At a panel on the second day, Aldiss was joined by Strick, Blish and, after he was spotted in the audience, Samuel R. Delany, who was then living in Britain. Among the fans who attended were Malcolm Edwards and Lisa Conesa.
The 'embassy con' was the lead item in CHECKPOINT 31 (Feb '73). Later in that same issue Keith Walker suggested that a new award should be established and awarded annually for fannish achievement in the UK:
"My own feelings are that initially it shall be a single category award, ie. the best fanzine, that it shall be judged by a panel, not a popularity poll, and that the award should be presented at the Novacon (if the concomm agreed) rather than the Eastercon -- Novacon seems to me the more fannish."
Oddly enough, the NOVACON committee had already had the same idea, right down to the award being single-category and voted on by a panel. And in those proposals lay the seeds of future conflicts.
The Leeds University Union Science Fiction Society was launched in February 1973 after David Pringle had suggested the idea of a group to Eve Simmons (later to become Eve Harvey). With Pringle as honorary Chairman only since he wasn't actually a member of the union, Simmons as Secretary and another girl, Nicky Hayes as treasurer, the inaugural meeting of LUUSFS attracted twenty other students. There were occasional meetings in the student union bar after this, and a library of sorts was gathered together, but LUUSFS wasn't really to get off the ground until September and the start of the new academic year.
CHECKPOINT 36 (Apr '73) carried the results of the newszine's second annual fan poll. EGG was once again voted Best British Fanzine (followed by MAYA, then by SPECULATION, CYPHER, and ZIMRI), Ian Williams was Best British Fanwriter, and Harry Bell was again Best British Fanartist. Other fanzines appearing in April included the third issue of Pete Presford's MALFUNCTION, which was just as highly-regarded as his MADCAP, and the first issue of Hartley Patterson's BENJAMIN DISRAELI, a short and frequent zine devoted to discussion of conventions in general and Eurocons in particular.
Also published around this time was SPECULATION 32 (Spring '73), which was to all intents and purposes the final issue. (Weston did produce an issue 33 but was so embarrassed by it that he failed to even put his name on it, keeping the printed copies locked away in his attic until finally allowing them to be distributed some years later). Following the demise of SPECULATION, the only fanzines of any stature still carrying the sercon banner were VECTOR and CYPHER. The latter continued to attract contributions from UK pros, but had loosened up enough to run a couple of humorous strips by D West in its pages in 1972. With its ninth issue, in March 1973, Jim Goddard became the sole editor of CYPHER, a position he held until its demise with its twelfth issue in November 1974. VECTOR was still going strong, but Malcolm Edwards was beginning to have doubts about it. The result of those doubts would appear before the end of the year.
The 1973 Eastercon, OMPACON, the 24th (post-war) British National Science Fiction Convention, was held in The Grand Hotel, Bristol, over the weekend of 20th-23rd April 1973. Guest of Honour was Samuel R.Delany, and the committee consisted of Ken Cheslin, Gerald Bishop, Terry Jeeves, Fred Hemmings, Mike & Pat Meara, and Brian Robinson. By the start of the convention 346 people were registered, actual attendance later being estimated at 250-300. There was a fairly small overseas contingent at OMPACON, due in part to a smallpox scare that made entry into Britain impossible without a vaccination, but this didn't deter TAFF winners Len & June Moffatt. Programme items included 'Random Fandom' a panel on which Dave Kyle asked June Moffatt, Ethel Lindsay, Tom Schluck, Terry Jeeves, and Keith Freeman about the personal and professional influence of fandom on their lives; 'Signposts For The Future', where Ken Bulmer chaired a panel of would-be authors; 'The Influence of Other Stars', which featured Brunner, Delany, and McCaffrey discussing "non-SF in an SF context"; 'Chrono- Logic', a discussion of time-travel chaired by Phil Strick; and 'H.G.Wells' Moustache', an SF general knowledge quiz that was won by the Ratfandom team. Films included The Running, Jumping & Standing Still Film and Beyond the Time Barrier. There was also a bomb scare during the con.
The Fancy Dress on Saturday evening featured one of the more memorable entries at one of these things when, at the instigation of Tony & Simone Walsh (with help from LiG), Peter Roberts and about twenty others were wrapped in cooking foil (over hands and faces) and sent into the hall, strewing computer tape over the audience and carrying placards demanding 'Robot Liberation'. Not that the March of the Robots was to be Roberts' only contribution to the con.
There were innumerable auctions at OMPACON, and during one of them the old Bristol and District (BaD) Group library was sold off. This had resided with Peter Roberts ever since the BaD Group disbanded in 1968, Roberts being virtually the only fan now active in Bristol.
In other business at OMPACON, Fred Hemmings, Malcolm Edwards and Peter Nicholls were all elected to the Association's council at the BSFA AGM; Ethel Lindsay won the Doc Weir Award; Dave Fletcher won the Ken McIntyre Award; and Vernon Brown won the Fancy Dress. In the con-bidding session, the choice was between a Newcastle convention run by Gannetfandom and a multi-media extravaganza in London run by Bram Stokes. In the event, Stokes virtually threw away the convention with his performance at the bidding session and so Gannetfandom were awarded the 1974 Eastercon. They announced that Bob Shaw would be their GoH. Shaw had recently moved to England to take up a new job, a move which had its effect on New Irish Fandom. As James White recalls:
"Mainly due to Bob's absence -- his humour and fatherly presence was greatly missed -- and that our wives and/or sweethearts worried when we went into the city centre at night where more and more pubs were being attacked, the numbers attending shrank to a handful. Republican extremists bombed Loyalist pubs and vice versa, and the pubs who didn't mind who they served were hit by both sides."
GILBERT'S GOODTIME GUIDE was this Eastercon's offering from Ratfandom, the latest in a line of four-page fanzines distributed at Easter for the confusion and consternation of neofans. As usual it was scurrilous and very funny. A more unexpected fanzine to appear at OMPACON was the fourth issue of PARANOID, which had supposedly been wound up by editor Ian Maule with its previous issue in December. Maule's reason for killing off PARANOID had been that it was developing into a lower-quality version of MAYA -- which is a reasonable description of PARANOID 4! Inside, Maule expanded on his feelings about OMPA:
"...I'm trying to organise a new apa for Britain, called ROMPA. The Rival Offtrails Magazine Publishers Association speaks for itself, but...I'll explain the purpose of the new apa. For too long OMPA has existed as the only apa in British fandom, with the result that the lack of competition and incentive has led to an overall deterioration in standards. I believe that OMPA needs competition, badly. ROMPA can be just that... I expect quite a bit of criticism over this issue, but believe me, my intentions are honourable. I would love to see OMPA thriving again."
OMPA may have had an 'image problem' among non-members but the apa had just enjoyed one of its most productive years, its second largest ever mailing going out within the previous twelve months. Nonetheless, 'image' can count as much in fandom as 'confidence' can in the financial markets, and Maule was determined to proceed with his plans for a new apa.
THE GRIMLING BOSCH (June '73) was the first fanzine to be put out by Harry Bell since his return to fandom. It was small, chatty, and would be infrequent. CHECKPOINTs 39 & 40 also came out in June, and the first two single-sheet issues of Eric Bentcliffe's revived zine Mi went out with them. (It would frequently ride out with the newszine over the next few years.) In CHECKPOINT 4O, Peter Roberts announced his intention to stand in the next TAFF race. Soon after it was published he moved to London to take up a job in the Difficult Languages Section of the British Museum and CHECKPOINT went into hibernation for the next few months. (Actually, there was a CHECKPOINT in July, a solitary copy of which was mailed to Don Allen, which Roberts later junked when it had lain around so long as to become seriously dated.)
SCAB 1 (Aug '73), an incestuous scandal sheet that exposed the soft underbelly of London fandom, was the first fanzine to be produced in the UK by the Australian expatriate and Ratfan, John Brosnan. SCAB was primarily intended for distribution at the monthly Globe meetings in London and in its four brief pages Brosnan, whose 'North Sea Nog' column in EGG and pieces in other fanzines had earned him third place in the Best Fanwriter category of the recent CHECKPOINT Fan Poll, laid into Ratfandom and others with abandon. The targets of his wit would not always see the joke, however. SCAB would see five issues in all over the next few months.
OMPA's October mailing was the first of the 1973/74 year and the first to be mailed out by new Association Editor's Pat & Mike Meara, longtime AE Ken Cheslin having decided to retire from that post. The 18 OMPA membership at this point split as follows: 13 UK, 2 US, 2 Belgian, and 1 Dutch. Total page count for 1972/73 had been 876, a drop from the previous year's total to that of the year before.
October 1973 was a good month for British fanzines with a dozen of them appearing. Among these were a new CHECKPOINT, the first in more than four months, and three new titles: BLUNT, INFERNO, and TRUE RAT. The first of these, BLUNT, was edited by Bob & Mary Smith and Dave Rowe. It weighed in at 66 pages and featured reports on OMPACON by people whose first con it had been (Pamela Boal and Vera Johnson, a North American who'd been reading SF since 1937 and only encountered fandom a year ago!), and other pieces by Simone Walsh, Hartley Patterson, Ian Maule & Henry Pijohn, and the editors. The second BLUNT, in November, was just as large. There wasn't a third issue. INFERNO, from Paul and Cas Skelton, had originally been the title of the reviews and comments section that appeared in HELL, the fanzine edited by Paul Skelton and Brian Robinson (not in all copies of HELL, mind you, only those distributed via OMPA). Its first few issue were 'strictly OMPA only', but after that it would go general distribution, and prove a good vehicle for Paul Skelton's increasingly assured and humorous writing. The same could be said of TRUE RAT, Leroy Kettle's first solo fanzine, which had an interesting genesis...
Around the middle of 1973, having realised "FOULER wasn't likely to come out in the next ten or twelve years", Greg Pickersgill decided that a groupzine for Ratfandom, along the lines of GANNETSCRAPBOOK, was the way to go. The zine was to be called BUDDY but the idea collapsed due to Pickersgill and co-editor Holdstock having, as Pickersgill later recalled:
"...entirely disparate ideas of what constituted a good fanzine, and what BUDDY should be. After this collapse plans for solo, duo, group fanzines came and went with the regularity of the morning sun. Another fairly advanced idea was RAT, a fanzine nominally under my editorship, but responsible to the group. This hit the shit due to no clear format, leaving behind (like BUDDY and others) nothing more than a feeling of great irritation and about £2 worth of destroyed stencils. The next big deal was a blur of renewed interest in FOULER."
This, too, was stillborn thanks to Holdstock's submission including a put-down of John Hall that Pickersgill, who was then very concerned with "keeping group loyalties firm", felt obliged to show Hall before publication. Hall objected strongly, Pickersgill asked for a rewrite, and Holdstock procrastinated, eventually even losing the original of the piece. Exit FOULER. Finally, inspired by a copy of SIDDHARTHA he read while visiting Brosnan, Pickersgill decided:
"...that the only way out was for us all to produce solo fanzines. That decision caused all hell to break loose in the roundabout, apathetic, hamfisted way that even the most cataclysmic things happen in fandom. Kettle, having had his material returned from the FOULER file, broke out with the impossible: his own fanzine, produced in something less than a week."
The first TRUE RAT was a scruffy production (one page was even printed upside down), but within those pages lay some wonderful writing. Kettle was, quite simply, one of the funniest writers ever to work in fanzines. Unfortunately, he was so discouraged by the feeble response to that first issue (a mere five letters) that it would be more than a year before he did another. It wasn't that British fans hadn't appreciated TRUE RAT (they had) but that it was difficult to comment on a fanzine that consisted entirely of humorous items. Nevertheless, the appearance of subsequent issues of TRUE RAT would become an eagerly-anticipated event.
CHECKPOINT 42 (Oct '73) carried the first news of an organised fandom north of the border in some years with a report from Jim Campbell:
"The SF circle in Glasgow is an offshoot of ASTRA (Scotland's answer to the British Interplanetary Society) and meets once a month on the first Wednesday at the Admiral Bar, Waterloo St. ASTRA itself meets there on the third Wednesday, and also every Saturday in Hamilton. We're not very fannish, but have about a dozen active members, including two members (Ed Buckley and Gavin Roberts) and two SF writers (Chris Boyce and Duncan Lunan)."
ASTRA (the Association in Scotland To Research into Astronautics) had been formed in 1963, and its Hamilton meetings were held on the first floor of 49 Almada St.
A month-long (23rd October -- 25th November) SF festival was held in Sunderland in 1973 as part of the larger 'Wearmouth 1300 Festival' being held to commemorate the anniversary of the 673 AD birth of the Venerable Bede and the founding, a year later, of St.Peter's monastery in Wearmouth. Called 'Beyond This Horizon', the SF event featured people such as Aldiss, Brunner, Blish, Strick, Mark Adlard, George Hay, Peter Nicholls, Gerald Bishop, George Locke, Peter Weston, and Malcolm Edwards. Gannetfandom were also involved, having been asked to organise a symposium of North East writers on Wednesday 31st October. Not that most of them were terribly enthusiastic about the idea, as Rob Jackson discovered:
"...the rest of them just dumped it on me. Ian Maule doesn't think it's fannish and will have nothing to do with it, although he wouldn't mind taking the credit for finding forties fan Ron Holmes (who will be there); Harry & Irene Bell are finding out about home life and things; Ian Williams has other priorities...Phil Harbottle and Raymond Drake are the name people, assorted Gannets are in supporting roles, and I'm chairing!"
As well as a glossy "anthology of SF and science fact", with the same name as the SF festival, edited by Harbottle (it included a 'History of British SF Magazines' but mentioned the word 'fandom' only once), the festival did have at least one positive effect, bringing in Kevin Williams and Rich Loughton as new members of Gannetfandom. Loughton soon dropped out, but before doing so he in turn brought along Dave Hutchinson. Earlier in the year, Jim Marshall had moved out of the area and left the group following his marriage, so these newcomers were a welcome addition to Gannetfandom.
Among those who visited the Sunderland festival was a contingent from the Leeds University Union SF Society. LUUSFS had received much needed new blood following Bazaar Day, where all the university's various societies put up stalls and try to entice freshers into joining them, at the start of the new term. As one of the new LUUSFS members, John Harvey, recalls:
"Much to our amazement we managed to find ninety members over the two days of Bazaar Day, which boosted our finances no end. The first term was spent running around trying to organise things, and absolutely nothing happened. One thing we did manage, however, was a trip to Sunderland for the 'Beyond This Horizon' writers weekend. Here we met our first authors! The major triumph of the next term was the inauguration of BLACK HOLE."
Started after the idea of a society journal was suggested by member Lee Montgomerie, BLACK HOLE was to have many editors down the years who, unusually for people involved with university SF zines, would go on to become significant figures in fandom.
NOVACON 3 was held in Birmingham's Imperial Centre Hotel, venue for the previous two NOVACONs, on the 2nd-4th November 1973, attendance was 100-150, and Ken Bulmer was Guest of Honour. As to the programme, here's how Peter Roberts reported it:
"The programme, as is usual at these small British cons, was very light and was made even lighter when the Customs seized the films that were to be shown over the weekend. Perhaps they thought that The Transatlantic Tunnel was a longer version of Deep Throat. Anyway, some execrable low- budget movie was the only replacement that could be found at such short notice -- you could see the strings on the actors, I'm told...There was a Fancy Dress on Saturday night; James and Judy Blish won a well-deserved prize in their splendid garb as a Lord & Lady of the Instrumentality; Gray Boak won a well-deserved groan with his single black glove, going as The Left Hand of Darkness. Other than that there were a couple of panels -- one on Galactic Empires and another on the Hugo novel nominations -- and two or three talks, including one on fanzines in which Keith Walker had to hold transparencies in the air, due to a lack of projector and screen. The programme, therefore, suffered from more than its fair share of difficulties. The essence of all good cons, however, is the fine fannish atmosphere, and that certainly wasn't lacking at NOVACON."
The Nova Award for Best British Fanzine, presented for the first time at this NOVACON, went to SPECULATION. There were a number of overseas fans at NOVACON 3 including Australian Shayne McCormack, Belgians Jan & Rosa Jansen and Simon & Caroline Joukes, and Californian Rich Coad. Most were merely visiting but Coad was to live over here for a while, and to hang out with Ratfandom.
By the time his first fannish fanzine, the one-shot MAGIC PUDDING, appeared in November 1973, the low level of response from BSFA members to VECTOR was making Malcolm Edwards despair of the organisation. He explained that MAGIC PUDDING had been published to "...provide a more direct contact with fandom at large (because whatever the BSFA is, folks, it sho' nuff isn't fandom)", but the fanzine also had another purpose. In its pages was the first serious examination of the idea (proposed by Weston at the 1971 Eastercon) of holding a Worldcon in Britain before the end of the decade. Roberts, Weston, and Edwards himself were listed as members of a provisional committee formed to promote the idea.
December saw the 20th anniversary meeting at the Globe, and consequently the place was packed out. Unfortunately, the Globe itself had only a few months left before it was due to be demolished and people were already seeking a new venue for the first-Thursday-of-the-month meetings.