If late 1963 had been the start of the period of social and artistic revolution we think of when we refer to 'the Sixties', then 1974 surely marked its end. That period began with the death of one US president and ended with the disgrace of another as Richard Nixon, mired in the Watergate scandal, only escaped impeachment by resigning first, late in 1974. The Vietnam War, too, was winding down to its ignominious end but, badly bruised as America would be by these twin traumas, the West as a whole faced a far graver threat. In October 1973, in the wake of the Yom Kippur war, the oil states of the Middle East increased oil prices by 70 per cent and cut back production in protest at US support for Israel in that war. Western Europe, which then depended on Arab producers for 80 per cent of its oil, was particularly hard hit by the fuel rationing which followed with Britain, already reeling from a wave of industrial strikes, soon forced to adopt a three-day working week. The social revolution of the Sixties and the liberal advances that were made then had only been possible because of the affluence produced by near full employment. Jobs had been easy to come by, but in the wake of the Oil Crisis there was a rapid increase in unemployment, an end to easy affluence, and the beginnings of a more conservative mood in the country. A grim situation then, and one which was to affect fans as much as anyone else, yet British fandom was soon to receive a large influx of new people. Most of these would learn of it from a single new source.
As a general rule individual professional SF magazines haven't had that much effect on British fandom, but SCIENCE FICTION MONTHLY changed things irrevocably. Large-size poster magazines were popular in the early 1970s; until SFM, though, no-one had put out an SF magazine in this format. The title of the magazine as originally announced before publication was 'SCI-FI MONTHLY'. It was changed after it was pointed out that this hideous neologism (much beloved of the media and Forrest J Ackerman, who coined it in the first place) was anathema to the SF community. The first issue, in February 1974, featured fiction by Brian Aldiss, Christopher Priest, and Isaac Asimov (a book extract), a film column by John Brosnan, art column by SFM editor Pat Hornsey and, most significantly for fandom, a news column by Penny Grant. That first column carried details of the 1974 Eastercon, the BSFA, and the monthly Globe meetings (this last at the suggestion of Priest), with drastic consequences for all three. In 1964, British fandom had been overwhelmed by the first wave of post-war 'baby boomers', and now it faced another wave of them. The 1974 Eastercon and the BSFA received a flood of membership applications thanks to SFM, while the first-Thursday gatherings at the Globe were suddenly crowded with newcomers. Many of these were followers of TV shows such as STAR TREK and DR WHO and these media fans, the Trekkies and Whovians, soon formed a large and separate contingent at the Globe.
The first ROMPA mailing appeared in February 1974. The official organ, BUMF, listed sixteen members, ten of whom had zines in the mailing (only two of which ran to more than six pages). Members listed were Britons Rob Jackson, Keith Walker, Gray Boak, Pete Presford, Lisa Conesa, Ian Williams, Ian Maule, John Piggott, John Hall, Greg Pickersgill, and Ian Butterworth; Americans Frank Balazs and Chris Hulse; South Africans Nick Shears and Brian Lombard; and Rune Forsgren of Sweden. Pickersgill and Forsgren never produced anything for ROMPA and were soon dropped. Keith Walker ran his FANZINDEX through the first mailing, a first brief attempt at a fanzine bibliography for British fandom, albeit not a very successful one. In the January CHECKPOINT, Peter Roberts commented:
"Contents of the first mailing might be judged light and certainly rather feeble for a new apa (interest should be at its highest at the beginning). Nevertheless, ROMPA already looks healthier than its ailing forbear, OMPA itself."
This last was an odd verdict since the January OMPA mailing, the 72nd, was 128 pages as against the 72 in ROMPA's first mailing (the highest ROMPA was ever to achieve), while those on either side, the 71st and 73rd OMPA mailings, had 166 and 143 respectively. Few OMPAzines were shorter than ten pages, and most were longer. Using these figures as an indicator, it's clear there was still a level of interest in OMPA among its members that ROMPA was never to match, let alone exceed. However, while OMPA was obviously still healthier than its feeble rival would ever be there were those in the apa who were no happier about its condition. In his 'President's Letter' in that January mailing, Terry Jeeves bemoaned the fact that only four members, himself included, had voted in OMPA's recent 'Egoboo Poll', which covered the previous year's OMPAzines and had categories similar to those in the CHECKPOINT Fan Poll. He was also concerned about the gradually decreasing size of the mailings, and annoyed with those who thought that "slim affairs of about two or four sheets" constituted fanzines:
"...but even these slim efforts are genuine efforts, and of greater value than the blank pages not submitted by our sleeping members, those who join OMPA, produce one zine and are never heard of again. Responses like this make even more ridiculous Ian Maule's claim that OMPA has a stranglehold on British fandom -- our only stranglehold is on ourselves. Likewise, how can we be ruining fandom as he alleges if we produce nothing, be it good, bad or (like Ian's ROMPA circular) idiotic? Surely non-existent fanzines from non-active fans cannot seduce fandom?...It seems sad that a small society like this can put on a major convention but can't put out a handful of fanzines."
On 9th February 1974, John Brosnan flew out of Britain for an extended visit to his native Australia as announced that month in SCAB 5, the final issue. Nor was he the only fan leaving for the Antipodes. In March, Jean Muggoch emigrated to New Zealand, "to revitalise New Zealand Fandom, I trust" commented Peter Roberts. It was not to be. Jean Muggoch was taken ill on arriving in New Zealand and died before her new life could even commence.
The Norwich Science Fiction Club, also known as the 'Discovery' SF Society of Norwich, was formed in March 1974 by Phil Watson, proprietor of Goose's Bookshop. Starting out with around a dozen members, the group met fortnightly in the Queen's Head pub on Upper St.Giles St. Its first officers were Phil Watson as President, Roger Robinson as Secretary, Sheila Ritchie as Treasurer, and Alan Marshall as Treasurer.
In SCIENCE FICTION MONTHLY 2 (March '74), Penny Grant's news column carried a short piece on fanzines and gave the addresses to write to for copies of SPECULATION, ZIMRI, and CHECKPOINT. By the time it appeared, only one of these was still being published. As Peter Roberts wrote in the issue where he bowed out, CHECKPOINT 46 (March '74):
"Three years is enough, Meyer. Producing a newszine, particularly a small-scale one like CHECKPOINT, is a comparatively thankless task. A fanzine like EGG is interesting to produce and stimulates a fair amount of comment and response. CHECKPOINT too often becomes a burden to publish... So farewell and thanks...."
In a note to SFM readers, Roberts added:
"As you can see from the above, those of you who've written after seeing the plug in SF MONTHLY have come upon CHECKPOINT rather too late. The large response, however, has encouraged me to go ahead with a small project that I'd been intending to do for some time, namely: the production of a brief guide to current fanzines."
That same issue carried the results of the third annual CHECKPOINT Fan Poll with Malcolm Edwards being voted Best British Fanwriter (runners-up being Pickersgill, Brosnan, Boak, and Williams -- last year's number one, down to number five), Andrew Stephenson being Best British Fanartist (followed by Bell, Turner & Rowe, and ATom), and Best British Fanzine being ZIMRI (followed by VECTOR, BLUNT, CYNIC, and RITBLAT/GRIM NEWS, the first issue of which had only been published a few weeks earlier).
RITBLAT/GRIM NEWS 1 (March '74) was the first solo fanzine from Greg Pickersgill. Conrad Ritblat was an estate agent (realtor) whose signs were then much in evidence on London properties. Pickersgill, liking the name, purloined it. GRIM NEWS was actually a separate newszine that went out bound with RITBLAT, one started in response to the news that Peter Roberts was folding CHECKPOINT. As to the main fanzine, RITBLAT carried pieces by Ian Williams, John Brosnan, and Leroy Kettle, with Pickersgill's own column of fanzine criticism making a (for many, but not all) welcome return and just as acerbic as ever. It was well received, got generally favourable reviews, and even roused John Piggott, who was then deeply involved in games fandom and still publishing ETHIL THE FROG:
"When I received your rag, Greg, I suddenly realised again what a lot of fun fandom can be. I'd drifted away over the past eighteen months, chiefly because there seemed to be so little happening in the fanzine world...but I suddenly realised, reading RITBLAT, that I wasn't getting as much out of postal games as I might...that I wasn't getting enough response. The following day I typed out a final issue of ETHIL, number 46."
This renewed interest in fandom caused Piggott to produce a fanzine, 61 CYGNI C 1, for the next ROMPA mailing. Unfortunately, it was a one-off and, in fact, Piggott's last SF fanzine.
Though enthusiastic about the BSFA, Graham Poole, the BSFA Company Secretary, was discovering that living in Cheltenham was a problem:
"I felt I was doing a useful job and people were interested in what I had to say. I raised many ideas and suggestions, some of which were adopted, many more of which were not although I am sure they would have been if I could have argued my case over a pint face-to-face rather than by the long and laborious process of typing out and posting the idea and receiving the reply a week or so later."
Determined to improve the BSFA and to shake up its apathetic membership, Poole decided to put his ideas directly to the members. To this end he produced REVELATIONS/THE FANNISH INQUISITION in March 1973, a single sheet questionnaire that was also a flyer for the first issue of REVELATIONS proper, which he intended as a forum for BSFA members. Despite the scepticism of other committee members, Poole received seventy replies. It looked like REVELATIONS would get off to a flying start.
TYNECON '74, the 1974 Eastercon, was held at the Royal Station Hotel in Newcastle over the weekend of 12th -- 15th April, registration was 504 with a final attendance of over 400 -- a testament to the effect SCIENCE FICTION MONTHLY was having. Guest of Honour was Bob Shaw, Fan GoH was Peter Weston, and other notable attendees included Samuel R.Delany, Roger Zelazny, Brian Aldiss, Chris Priest, Anne McCaffrey, James Blish, Don Wollheim, Michael Moorcock, Mark Adlard, Ken Bulmer, James White, and John Brunner. As the committee: Ian Maule was Chairman, Ian Williams was Secretary, Rob Jackson was Treasurer, and Harry Bell was Press Officer. Irene Bell was also a committee member, but the Programme Book lists no specific role for her. Programme items included a 'Poetry Soiree' hosted by Lisa Conesa; 'Out of the Slushpile', a new writers panel chaired by Chris Priest, with Ian Watson and Andrew Stephenson; 'What's Wrong with SF Art' with Eddie and Marsha Jones and others; ' The Future of Fanzines', a panel chaired by Gray Boak, with Peter Roberts, Ian Maule and Lisa Conesa; 'The Golden Fifties', a panel discussion of 1950s fandom chaired by Bob Shaw, with Ron Bennett, Ken Bulmer, and James White; 'The Need for an Ideology', an examination of how SF had so far reflected need for a belief in higher beings, with John Brunner, James Blish, and Anne McCaffrey; a 'Publishers Panel' featuring John Bush, Don Wollheim, Sam Lundwall, and Phil Harbottle; 'Whither the BSFA?' with Ken Bulmer, Fred Hemmings and Keith Freeman; and other items.
Though originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon, Bob Shaw's GoH speech -- the first in what was to be a long and celebrated run of such speeches -- was delivered after Sunday's banquet. The films shown at TYNECON included The Omega Man, Slaughterhouse-5, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Cat People, and a feature on Apollo-17.
In other business at TYNECON, Malcolm Edwards received the Doc Weir Award in appreciation of his editorship of VECTOR (the Ken McIntyre wasn't awarded this year), Mike Rosenblum and Ken Bulmer were made life members of the BSFA, the BSFA SF Award went to Arthur C.Clarke's 'Rendezvous With Rama', Brian Aldiss received a special BSFA Award for 'Billion Year Spree', and the winners of the Gollancz/Sunday Times SF Competition were awarded their cheques by John Bush of Gollancz. At the BSFA AGM, Chris Bursey (of the Kingston/Kittenfandom group) took over from Keith Freeman as Vice-Chairman. The other committee members were Graham Poole, Roger Hensey, Fred Hemmings, Malcolm Davies, and Dave Tillston, Tillston being the Membership Secretary. Chris Fowler offered to take over editorship of VECTOR from Malcolm Edwards, who was retiring from that position after his next issue. Also, as Darroll Pardoe reported afterwards:
"The business meeting...was the liveliest for some time. The night before it had seemed that three bids were likely; as it turned out there were only two, the Manchester bid having withdrawn in favour of 1976 (for which they requested, and got, the meeting's approval). In view of the confusion the two year in advance system has caused in the past, I doubt the wisdom of reviving it, even though all concerned were at pains to make clear that next year's convention is not bound by the decision. The two bidders for 1975 were a Bristol convention committee with Keith Freeman as their chief spokesman; and a SEACON (South-East Area) committee spoken for by Rob Holdstock and Malcolm Edwards, and containing a formidable combination of forces including Peter Roberts, Peter Weston, and the Rats. The latter bid won by a large margin."
This last was particularly impressive given that Ratfandom had only decided to bid for 1975 since arriving at TYNECON in order to block the Manchester bid, which they expected to produce a disastrous convention. In many ways that win marked the end of Ratfandom as any sort of cohesive unit. What had been largely responsible for holding them together until then was their 'us-against-them' attitude but on winning the 1975 Eastercon the rebellious young turks, as always happens, became the Establishment. They would still be known as Ratfandom by some as late as 1979 but things were never really the same again. SEACON was to be their swan-song as a group. It was intended that SEACON should be held in a coastal resort town but, as we shall see, things didn't quite work out that way. The latest in the series of short fanzines produced by Ratfandom for handout at conventions, SOME LETTERS WE HAVE NOT RECEIVED, appeared at TYNECON. It was the last.
TYNECON '74 is commonly held to have been a classic Eastercon, one where almost everything went right, and whose tremendous end of con party sent the attendees away on a real high. Bob Shaw rated the event a 'five-bed convention', while Brian Aldiss was seen at one room party bouncing up and down on a bed with such enthusiasm that he broke it. TYNECON was to be the yardstick by which all other British conventions were measured for years after. One of the first reports to appear after the convention was by Darroll Pardoe in CHECKPOINT 47 (April '74), which appeared a mere month after the last Roberts-edited issue. New editor Pardoe explained:
"I have taken over the rights from Peter Roberts and will continue to publish CHECKPOINT as a news-and-chatzine with basically the same philosophy as before."
Not with the same format however. Where previous issues had been duplicated on quarto paper, the Pardoe issues were all litho-printed on a single sheet of A4, folded down to A5. This made them all four pages long where the Roberts issues had varied to suit the amount of news to hand.
Now that CHECKPOINT wasn't folding, the GRIM NEWS part of RITBLAT/GRIM NEWS was rendered superfluous. However, it may well have been what was providing Pickersgill with the impetus to continue publishing since RITBLAT 2 (April '74) was the final one. Another solid issue, it contained an admission by Pickersgill of fanhistorical interest:
"Sitting around...I had the unpleasant spectre of Silly Animal Fandom cross my mind like a deformed and retarded black cat. And it occurred to me for the first time in several days that it's not a generally known fact that I, directly or not, have been responsible for the whole depressing thing. This is not a happy thing to identify with..."
Pickersgill explained that one day in 1969, while still living in Wales, he'd travelled to Bristol to visit Peter Roberts and the Mercers and had mentioned to them an item he'd seen in a MENSA newssheet about an aardvark hunt in Swansea Docks, organised by that town's Young MENSA Group. This inspired a flood of jokes, puns, and the like from Roberts and the Mercers, to his immense irritation:
"Next damn thing I knew EGG had come out as the Official Organ of Aardvark Fandom, and my opinion of Peter James Roberts had slid down several stages. That, of course, started several related inanities such as Wombat fandom, which I had only the distant connection with. The reality of the situation finally came down during the publication of FOULER, when I called for something to put up as a parody of all these cuddly cretinacies. Something vaguely repellant, not at all warm, friendly, or sweetness and light."
Leroy Kettle came back with 'Rat' in response to his co-editor's suggestion of 'Axolotl', and Ratfandom was born. Pickersgill's final contribution to Silly Animal Fandom was to rename the North East Fan Group as 'Gannetfandom'. The Kittens came by their name without his help.
Making their first appearance in April were PETER ROBERTS' LITTLE GEM GUIDE TO SF FANZINES (the project referred to in his final CHECKPOINT), and BLAZON 1 from Eric Bentcliffe for the Knights of St. Fanthony. Nor was this the only zine Bentcliffe put out that month since April also saw the publication of TRIODE 19, which he co-edited with Terry Jeeves, the first issue since 1960. It featured some beautiful James Cawthorn artwork, articles by Bentcliffe, Jeeves, and Don Allen, and even an adventure featuring 'Harrison', the fictional mainstay of pieces in many earlier issues. It was firmly in the mould of the TRIODEs of yore, and appreciated by many for that very reason. The revived TRIODE would see eight issues in all, folding late in 1977 with TRIODE 26.
Formed at some point in early 1974 was Reading SF Club, which met the first day of the month at Reading University and featured formal SF readings and discussions. Founders were Keith Freeman and Chris Fowler.
VECTOR 67/68 (Spring '74) was the last issue to be edited by Malcolm Edwards, and could have been the last one ever. Few realised it as yet, but the BSFA was in serious trouble. Though still eager to improve the BSFA, Graham Poole was beginning to realise that all was not well with the Association. As he later wrote:
"At the same time as producing THE FANNISH INQUISITION and the first issue of REVELATIONS, I also produced GENESIS which took a lot of time and effort to compile. I succeeded in my task and sent it for publication in April (actually, 13th May). GENESIS was my endeavour to let new members, and old ones too, know a lot more about the BSFA and SF fandom. REVELATIONS was my endeavour to get BSFA members corresponding. The con came and went. I felt wildly enthusiastic and sent a letter dated 28/4/74 to the new Vice- Chairman Chris Bursey, Fred Hemmings, and newly elected Malcolm Davies. I asked for deadlines, their views on REV's contents and name, and made at least nine other suggestions all requiring answers. None of the Committee members had the courtesy to reply."
GENESIS would never be mailed out, and over the next few months the BSFA's silence would become total.
'WESTON WINS TAFF' was the headline on CHECKPOINT 48 (May '74). Weston beat Peter Roberts to become the TAFF delegate at the 1974 Worldcon (called DISCON and held in Washington DC at the end of August) by 154 votes (62 US, 60 UK, 32 Europe) to 65 (42, 19, 4). CHECKPOINT 49, later that same month, carried a letter from Don Allen stating his intention to reform the North East SF Society, an idea which ultimately came to nothing.
John Brosnan, returning to the UK after his trip back to Australia, decided to re-enter the fanzine stakes with BIG SCAB, successor to his earlier scandal- sheet, in June 1974. Apart from an interview with Richard Matheson, one of a number conducted by Brosnan during a stay he made in Hollywood on his trip back to the UK, the issue was entirely editor-written.
The final regular first-Thursday meeting to be held at the Globe took place on 6th June 1974, but it was not the final meeting of all at the Globe. That occurred on Wednesday 12th June 1974, a special gathering held to honour the first visit to these shores of Isaac Asimov. Asimov's ship arrived at Southampton on Wednesday 5th June. As well as the usual book-signing sessions, interviews, publishers' receptions and the like, his itinerary included a reception on Monday 10th June to install him as an Honorary Vice President of International MENSA; a lunchtime lecture to students of the Science Faculty of Kings College, University of London, on Tuesday 11th June; the Globe meeting on Wednesday 12th June; a lecture to the Birmingham Group at the city's Holiday Inn on the Thursday 13th June; and a public lecture, organised jointly by British MENSA and the SF Foundation, at the Commonwealth Hall, Craven Street, London, where Asimov was introduced by Arthur C.Clarke. Of the Globe meeting, Asimov wrote in his autobiography:
"That evening I attended a science-fiction fan-club meeting at a bar, one that had the air of an impromptu convention. Ruth Kyle was there. She and Dave Kyle were living in England at that time, and Dave was recovering from an appendectomy."
As of Thursday 4th July 1974 the first-Thursday meetings were held at the One Tun. This was a pub on Saffron Hill in London's Farringdon district, a short walk from the soon-to-be-demolished Globe, and had been found by John Brunner. It would be the venue for the meetings for the next decade.
HELL 10, the final issue, appeared in July 1974. Though credited to both Paul Skelton and Brian Robinson it was essentially a solo Skel production and marked Robinson's last connection with fanzines. Also out in July was the first issue of WRINKLED SHREW, edited by Pat Charnock with assistance from husband Graham. The first issue carried pieces by both Charnocks, Chris Priest, Dicky Howett, Charles Platt (whose London flat Pat and Graham were then renting), and the first in a column of excerpts from letters Graham Hall had written Graham Charnock in the 1960s. It was all high-quality stuff, and SHREW would go on to become one of the classic fanzines of the decade.
Out in August 1974 was 'Progress Report 01' of BRITAIN IN '79, the British Worldcon bid, which listed 201 pre-supporters to date. This had risen to 360 by October, more than 200 of whom were American. Among the fanzines to appear in August were EGG 8 and BIG SCAB 2. BIG SCAB ('The Special Robert P.Holdstock Issue') contained a couple of hilarious and unflattering pieces about Holdstock, and a piece by Brosnan titled 'Bitchings... or How to Start a Fannish Feud' which was about an argument between him and Malcolm Edwards over who had the 'right' to interview authors for SCIENCE FICTION MONTHLY. Brosnan, who had sold interviews to SFM, alleged that Edwards had tried to sew up a deal that would leave him as their sole interviewer. A few months after this, in the course of an article in WRINKLED SHREW 2 in which he blasted those who trashed SFM (which he thought 'crass' and 'shoddy') yet bought it anyway, Graham Charnock commented on...
"...the ridiculous example of two fans like Malcolm Edwards and John Brosnan, not only not making vast sums of money or accruing vast glory from SCIENCE FICTION MONTHLY but making utter fools of themselves not doing it by running around arguing and feuding about who has the right to interview people for the magazine. Neither of these are undertaking their work in a strict professional sense (although John would appear to have a better claim in this respect than Malcolm) and both of them have told me at some stage or other how worthless they feel the magazine is. What are they doing it for?"
Shortly before Easter, Gannetfandom were barred from the Gannet after an argument with the landlord and thereafter had moved their meetings to other venues such as the Ceolfrith Arts Centre and the Imperial Vaults pub, both of which were also in Sunderland. Exhausted by TYNECON, but buoyed by its success, Gannetfandom lay low for a few months after the con, and in September there was a burst of activity from them in the form of the fourth and fifth issues of Ian Williams' SIDDHARTHA, and MAYA 6. This was Maule's last MAYA, but the fanzine would survive, going on to its finest hour under the guidance of a third and final editor, Rob Jackson.
The Friends Of Kilgore Trout (FOKT) was a new fan group that formed in Glasgow in the wake of TYNECON, where most of its founder members had first met each other, and which included people from that city's earlier ASTRA-derived fan club. As to the group's name:
"John Duffy thought of it first. Ian Black echoed his enthusiasm, along with Alan Milne. Chris Boyce and Jim Campbell applauded warmly...The Friends Of Kilgore Trout were baptised in a beery bar named The Dunrobin, one of the last genuine Glasgow pubs. Having failed to persuade any female to come twice running, a change was made to a classier establishment, the Horseshoe, in Drury Lane. Here too were problems, not least being the sheer popularity of the place with the rest of humanity. At last, after six months of travel, the perfect home was found in the Andros, a large and empty pub in the West End. FOKT had a name, and now -- a home! (Of course, as soon as we had publicity material printed, the pub changed hands; it is now Wintergill's, and we're stuck with 100 postcards promoting the Andros.)"
Wintergill's was on the Great Western Road, and FOKT meetings were held there every Thursday evening. (Later, a comics fan group called the Friends Of Clark Kent, which had some members in common with FOKT, would meet in Wintergill's on Wednesday evenings.)
A mention from Jim Linwood of the Kingston SF Group (Kittenfandom) on the news page of the August SCIENCE FICTION MONTHLY (Vol. 1, No. 7) brought them a new member in the person of Janice Wiles. On Thursday 26th September 1974, in the early hours of the morning, the 6 Hawks Road venue for the group's meetings was raided by officers of the bomb squad much to the surprise of Bernie Peek, the fan who had taken over the flat following Gray Boak's move to Preston some months earlier. As Linwood reported:
"The room was quickly filled by several officers looking for explosive substances; the contents of the room gave them much concern as Bernie is a full-time chemist and also a photography and electronics buff. After sniffing and tasting assorted chemicals and poking various pieces of circuitry they began to interrogate Bernie, asking if he was associated with any known terrorist group (..."I've never heard of Ratfandom," he screamed as they...). Eventually they left, leaving Bernie to his slumbers."
With terrorist acts now no longer confined to Northern Ireland but also a fact of life on the British mainland, police vigilance was at its height. Two months on, in November 1974, bombs would rip through two Birmingham city centre pubs whose customers were predominantly in their late teens and early twenties, killing seventeen and maiming dozens more.
The UK's first STAR TREK convention was held on the weekend of 28th/29th September 1974 at the Abbey Motor Hotel in Leicester. It was organised by the Star Trek Action Group (STAG) which had only been in existence a year and was already the largest Star Trek club in Europe. Guests of Honour were James (Scotty) Doohan and George (Sulu) Takei. Profits from the con were being donated to the World Wildlife Fund. Advertised attractions included exhibitions of artwork, writing, and models; group discussions, panels, and speeches; and a 'shore leave' party with a disco. A few people from mainstream SF fandom attended the con including Peter Roberts, Greg Pickersgill, and John Brosnan. Or, in the case of this trio, tried to, at any rate. They travelled up to Leicester by train, attempted to register at the door, and were turned away. The con was apparently fully-booked and there was no registration at the door. Stunned, they travelled straight back to London, arriving in time for the pubs to open. Pickersgill wrote the incident up for the next EGG. (However grim something might be, there's always a little voice at the back of a true fan's mind that says: "I can write a fanzine article about this."). One of the trio's reasons for travelling to the con had been the possibility of meeting women, Star Trek fandom being known to attract far more than were then involved with SF fandom. They weren't the only SF fans to have the same idea however, and the involvement with Star Trek fandom of one who did get into the convention, Malcolm Davies, introduced him to his future wife, Kate Solomon.
By September 1974, six months after its formation, Norwich's Discovery SF Society had grown to the point that the Queen's Head was no longer large enough to accommodate them. (Membership numbered 25 -- 30, with weekly attendance averaging 20 people.) That month they moved to The Artichoke, Magdalen Gates, and meetings were held every Thursday night. Once a fortnight the group had a pre-set subject for discussion and, as of September, had a guest speaker once a month. The first speaker was Anthony Cheetham, then Managing Director of Futura Books. The second, in October, was R.Lionel Fanthorpe, who was to have a long association with the Norwich group in all the various incarnations it would pass through in the coming years. In December the group would publish the first issue of their official club fanzine, BLACK HOLE, (they didn't then know of the Leeds University fanzine of the same name) edited by Roger Robinson with assistance from David Bryant, Roger Campbell, Alan Marshall, Ian McFarlane, and Steve Paseby.
Where the plug in SCIENCE FICTION MONTHLY had boosted TYNECON, its effect on the BSFA proved disastrous. A huge number of enquiries resulted, more than the membership secretary could handle. There were now an enormous number of people out there interested in SF (and, potentially, fandom) and SFM had provided them with a point of entry to the SF and fan community they might otherwise never have found. After years of struggling, the BSFA had now received a massive and unexpected show of interest that, if it could be harnessed, might revitalise the Association. It was not to be, however. As Graham Poole reports:
"At the convention the news was released that at least 1200 people had up to then enquired after recent adverts for the BSFA appeared in SFM. But, as the months after TYNECON rolled by the ultimate gafiation was rumoured. Dave Tillston, apparently, for reasons only known to himself, decided he wasn't going to reply to any of the thousands of letters he'd received. The trouble was he didn't tell anyone of this and subsequent attempts to communicate... all proved negative. I then learnt that similar problems were being experienced with Hensey, and an even nastier shock came with the news that the long incommunicado Joe Bowman's house had burnt down, along with the complete BSFA magazine library, a fitting epitaph to the illegal sale a few years ago of the BSFA's fanzine library.
I sympathise to some extent with Chris Bursey. He became Vice-Chairman on the crest of a wave of potential members clamouring at the door, a wave that soon turned turbulent when those clamouring members were turned away.
He must have been unprepared for what happened so soon after his election, a nightmarish situation after the BSFA struggling along for years with only two or three hundred members...."
In September 1974, Poole severed his ties with the moribund BSFA:
"The Monday before last I finally resigned as Company Secretary of the BSFA, throwing off all the totally unnecessary burdens I'd laid upon my back only to find that no-one gave a damn or would give me a hand. 'Sod it!' I thought. 'I'll run an SF group and I'll show the BSFA how to do it properly'."
The first meeting of the revived Cheltenham SF Group was held at the end of September in the Hurdles bar of the Star Hotel. A few weeks later, in October, Poole published the first issue of his fanzine, SPI. SPI (the name was short for 'spirogyra') enabled Poole to make use of the replies to THE FANNISH INQUISITION that had been intended for the now never-to-be-published REVELATIONS, and to lay out his problems with the BSFA and his thoughts on where it should go from here. It also served as a diary of sorts:
"Recent events have included the visit of Tim Apps, yet another fan interested in joining the Cheltenham Group ((he did)), and the receipt of a letter from Joseph Nicholas, a Lyme Regis fan who is apparently a science fiction writing machine, introduced by Tim."
Nicholas, who was soon move from Lyme Regis to Surrey in order to take up a job in London, would go on to become the most prolific letterhack in British fandom. As for the BSFA, matters were to receive a new twist after the forthcoming NOVACON.
Among the other fanzines appearing in October 1974 were INFERNO 5, the first general distribution issue; TRUE RAT 3 (issue 2 had appeared earlier in the autumn, the first issue in a year); WARK 1, a fanzine about fanzines from Ro Pardoe; and MALFUNCTION 6, in which editor Pete Presford complained about Ian Williams not allowing two-year bids at the TYNECON bidding session so that the MaD Group now had to bid for the 1976 Eastercon at SEACON 75, and in which Andrew Stephenson explained how that same SEACON, which was going to be held at a coastal town, was now being held in Coventry. This is about as far away from the sea as you can get in Britain, and the move afforded fans across the country much amusement.
As usual, OMPA's October mailing marked the start of a new year for the apa but not, alas, of a renewed vitality. The 14 memberships were 10 UK, 3 US, and 1 Belgian. Total page count for 1973/4 had been 564, the second substantial drop in succession and this October mailing, at 92 pages, was the smallest in more than four years. It carried a letter from Terry Jeeves containing further bad news:
"With typical OMPA enthusiasm, only TWO members bothered to vote, Paul Skelton and myself...So with this resounding victory for the forces of APAthy, I hereby submit my resignation both as President, and from the virtually moribund ranks of OMPA. I have staggered along for quite a while trying to stir some sort of activity into the ranks, but it seems it is not to be. If OMPA ever regains (or regroups) in the future, and you wish to have me back, then I'll gladly rejoin."
He never did. From here on the decline of OMPA was inexorable.
NOVACON 4 was held at the Imperial Centre Hotel, Birmingham, over the weekend of 25th -- 27th October 1974, and Guest of Honour was Ken Slater. Registration was approximately 250, and actual attendance somewhat less than that. It was held earlier than usual in order to attract Americans visiting the UK for a MENSA conference in October. Programme items included a report on his recent TAFF trip by Peter Weston; 'Gods In SF' -- a talk by James Blish; Tom Shippey on 'Science and Magic'; 'Is Hugo Alive and Well?' with Blish, Holdstock, Nicholls, and Priest; and 'Wigan Pier in 1984', a panel on conventions-to-come with Andrew Stephenson, Peter Weston, Pete Presford, Fred Hemmings, and Rob Jackson. Films included The Day Mars Invaded Earth and a blooper reel. A panel of knowledgeable fans had been chosen to judge the Nova Award by administrator, Gillon Field, shortly before her death earlier that year. The judges were Jim Linwood, Greg Pickersgill, Ina Shorrock, Andrew Stephenson, and Keith Walker. They were not able to reach a consensus as to which title was Best British Fanzine of 1974 however, so the Nova was awarded jointly to ZIMRI and BIG SCAB, the third and final issue of which had been published a few weeks earlier.
The North-East Science Fiction Group (NESFiG) was set up by the Gannets as a sercon SF group that they hoped would draw in newcomers who could then be seduced by the ways of fandom and recruited into Gannetfandom. Following a favourable write-up in a local newspaper, 'The Evening Standard', the first meeting was held at the Bridge Hotel, High Level Bridge, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on Friday 8th November 1974. It featured Brian Aldiss who gave a talk: 'What Science Fiction Means To Me'. The speaker at the second meeting, on 29th November, was Bob Shaw. NESFiG NEWSLETTER, a fanzine in its own right that was originally edited by Harry Bell, would later be produced on behalf of the group. It would see twenty issues in all. NESFiG lasted a little over three years, folding early in 1978, and was judged "a limited success" by the Gannets. It did bring in some new people, though, most notably Andy Firth.
Following on from the FANZINDEX he had distributed via ROMPA and OMPA in January, Keith Walker distributed the follow up, MAIN TITLE INDEX, of his project at NOVACON 4 and via the fourth ROMPA mailing. Reviewing it in CHECKPOINT, Darroll Pardoe commented on its many errors and omissions and wrote:
"It's difficult to resist the conclusion that Keith has rushed this index into print without completing the necessary research. I hope he gets things more into order before publishing the main indexes."
He didn't, but a proper bibliography of British fanzines would be produced -- by someone else -- before the end of the decade. Walker was bursting with grand ideas at this point and in late-November 1974 he sent out a flyer titled OPERATION SF. One side showed a tombstone with the inscription: "Born 1958, BSFA, Died 1974" and asked "Why Not Join a Living Science Fiction Organisation? Join Operation SF", while on the other side was a picture of an astronaut lying in the dust and holding a flag marked 'BSFA'. Commenting on this in CHECKPOINT 57 (Nov '74), under the heading 'Come In BSFA, Your Time Is Up', Darroll Pardoe wrote:
"The present whereabouts of the BSFA are obscure, but the other day a flyer arrived from Keith Walker...Peter Weston wrote to me expressing his thoughts on the subject and I have to say that they coincide largely with my own: 'For the last two months Vernon Brown has been chewing over this subject. He first wanted to reorganise the BSFA but then realised that far too many others have sunk out of sight in that mire. So Vernon decided that something new and better is required. He took the opportunity of Novacon to discuss this with others of like mind with the hope that some ideas would be established to present at Eastercon. The thing is, any new organisation must not just repeat the mistakes of its predecessor. It needs to be thought about, structured, and its purpose defined. Interested parties please get in touch with Vernon...something like this shouldn't be a unilateral, one- man project if it is to have any chance of success...the whole subject of a successor to the BSFA...of a central organisation for fandom, is too important to play with'."
New to the fanzine scene in December 1974 was GLIMPSE 1, an SF and comics fanzine from Paul Hudson, who would later go on to be the founder and proprietor of the London shop 'Comics Showcase'. There were four GLIMPSEs in all, the final one published mid 1976.
The December issue of SCIENCE FICTION MONTHLY (Vol.1 No.11) carried the first instalment of a feature called 'Fanzines In Focus', which looked at a prominent sercon fanzine and its editor. The feature lasted for three issues, focusing first on Peter Weston and SPECULATION, then Lisa Conesa and ZIMRI and, finally, on Jim Goddard and CYPHER, which was now published from Nomansland in Wiltshire following Goddard's move there some months earlier. According to the feature, CYPHER had:
"...the distinction of being probably the only amateur SF magazine to receive a grant. The Southern Arts Association have just awarded Jim Goddard enough money to bring out the next three issues..."
A shame, then, that by the time this feature appeared CYPHER had already ceased publication with its twelfth issue in November, the only one to see print after the grant was awarded. Goddard would later join Brosnan, Edwards, and Weston as a regular contributor to SFM. The penetration of the magazine by current and former fans is well-illustrated by the January issue, which featured an interview with Chris Priest conducted by John Brosnan, the fanzine focus on Lisa Conesa, a feature on artist Jim Cawthorn, and the regular articles by Mike Ashley and Walter Gillings.
Early in January 1975, Dave Patterson, a fan who had worked with Bob Shaw and James White at Short's in Belfast, announced that he was forming the Northern Ireland Science Fiction Association. The first meeting was to be held on 14th January at The New Tudor, a privately run SF cinema, and that an association journal, CYGNUS, would appear quarterly. Things didn't work out quite that way, however.
Also formed in January was Jomsborg, the Cambridge University Fantasy Society, which was named after the famous Viking order. This in turn inspired the formation of Jomsborg-in-Oxford, the OUSFG Fantasy Discussion Group. Both groups had a large overlap in membership with their respective university SF groups.
SF TIMES 1 (Jan '75) was a follow up to editor Keith Walker's OPERATION SF which, Walker admitted, had been published:
"...to give a kick in the pants to the long-silent BSFA. By announcing prematurely the death of that august body we hoped to elicit at least a squeal of protest. But that slumbering monster shrugged off our pin-prick and went back to sleep."
SFT contained both Walker's own further thoughts on the BSFA and a screed by Vernon Brown on the possible shape of the organisation that might replace it. Brown's ideas were sketchy and impractical, calling for any new organisation to have a larger committee than the BSFA and to be aimed at active members only. For his part, Walker was unwilling to accept that the BSFA had yet died:
"Well we might be tempted to do so but your letters indicate an increasing sense of frustration and anger at the 'rip-off' being perpetrated on them as BSFA members. There has been serious suggestion of a 'new' organisation. This however will not solve the problems of the old. Someone somewhere out there has the answers. What has happened to the BSFA? Who has all the money? What is intended to be done with its assets? What has happened to VECTOR? IS THE BSFA DEAD? If so we have a right to know! If not then we have the right to some positive indication that it intends to honour its recently inflated subscription, that its members will not continue to be cheated. An honest statement giving an honest appraisal of the current status of the BSFA should, nay must be given! Let's not forget that many neofans who came into fandom via SCIENCE FICTION MONTHLY and the BSFA ad in that journal. Their view of fandom's integrity must be pretty low. For their sake and that of all BSFA members something must be done."
Though people like Walker and Graham Poole were worried about the state of the BSFA, most didn't care. The feeling of many in fandom was summed up by Peter Roberts when he wrote in EGG 9 (Feb '75):
"The BSFA was a tedious organisation which rarely generated any great interest or excitement. It hung around British fandom for sixteen years and its history can best be summed up as a series of trivial disasters. At times individual fans wasted their talents in heroic efforts to bring the thing to life; but it was moribund from birth."
That issue of EGG also contained a long and fascinating article by editor Roberts on 1940s US fan Claude Degler and his 'Cosmic Circle', an organisation that had grandiose plans for fandom, which it considered to be composed of individuals who represented the next stage in humanity's evolution (no kidding!). EGG 9 also had a unique cover, featuring as it did a photograph of Pat Charnock's naked backside.
ROMPA's second year started in February 1975, and its new thirteen member roster featured Gray Boak, Ian Butterworth, Lisa Conesa, John N.Hall, Rob Jackson, Ian Maule, Pete Presford, Julia Stone, Ian Williams, & Keith Walker, from the UK; and Frank Balazs, Chris Hulse, & Neil Stein, from North America.
Rob Jackson took over as OE from Ian Maule, who moved down to London that same month, and announced that the next mailing would appear in May. It didn't. The February ROMPA mailing, the fifth, was the last. ROMPA had lasted a mere year and, despite its original aims, had never looked like a serious rival to OMPA. Not that this left Jackson with time on his hands. In February 1975 he also published MAYA 7, his first issue as editor. It was lithographed (as all his issues would be) and A5 size (subsequent issues would be A4). During Jackson's editorial tenure, MAYA would become the fanzine with the biggest circulation of any in the country, and the most internationally well-known British fanzine of the 1970s. Fannish and sercon in equal measure, it would attract articles by well-known fans and pros and eventually be nominated for a Hugo.
CHECKPOINT 59 (Feb '75) reported that Sonya Porter was organising an SF group in the Woking/Guildford area. First meeting was to be 5th March 1975 at the Robin Hood Inn, Robin Hood Rd, Knaphill near Woking. Among the fanzines reviewed this issue was NEBULA 4. The first NEBULA (no relation to the 1950s prozine), from David H.Taylor, had appeared in January and the fanzine would see twelve issues in all, folding in September 1977. Though undoubtedly an SF fanzine, NEBULA was not really part of the fannish mainstream. As Darroll Pardoe commented in his review:
"There's a whole unsuspected alternate fandom in Britain. This fmz (mostly fiction) is a manifestation of it."
A fanzine that was definitely mainstream fannish was Graham Poole's SPI. The second issue, in March, carried further news of the BSFA:
"John Brunner is resigning as Chairman. It is quite likely that the BSFA will be wound-up after the AGM this Easter at SEACON. I've recently heard from the Registrar of Companies that the Annual Return I completed over six months ago hasn't yet been submitted...(which) contravenes the Company Acts."
So on top of everything else it looked like the BSFA could soon find itself in legal trouble as well. As to Poole's own views:
"...two years ago Jill Adams proposed that the Company be wound up. This motion was subsequently tabled at the AGM but in my view it is time to raise it again. The BSFA should be wound up as soon as possible...The BSFA and the BSFA system must be disbanded for once and for all time."
Strong stuff. The letters page carried responses to Poole's piece on the BSFA in the first SPI, including a poignant one from Mike Rosenblum:
"I wish I could offer to get back into the BSFA and try to pull it together but I'm afraid I'm an old and tired fan, with little energy or time and plenty of mundane and family preoccupations. Another point against myself is that I seem to be out of touch with today's younger people -- the generation gap, I suppose. We have a Leeds University Science Fiction Society (at least there was last academic year) but somehow I have never been able to feel close to them despite contacts and attending three meetings; and also despite the fact that they seem nice young people and know their SF literature better than I did at their age."
Jim Campbell's CELTIC WARRIOR, a one-off devoted to amateur fiction, in March 1975, was the first fanzine to be produced by a FOKT member. Other new titles were John Jarrold's PREVERT, which wouldn't see another issue until the 1980s, and DURFED 1 from Gannets Kev Williams and Neil Jones. In WRINKLED SHREW 3, that same month, Graham Charnock wrote about his experiences over the previous year working on a record album with Michael Moorcock. The album, called NEW WORLD'S FAIR and billed as being by 'Michael Moorcock and the Deep Fix' (who consisted of Charnock and Steve Gilmore), was duly released a couple of months later, sold badly, and was soon deleted. It is now a valuable rarity.
The 1975 Eastercon, SEACON '75, was held at the De Vere Hotel in Coventry over the weekend of 28th -- 31st March 1975. Guest of Honour was Harry Harrison, who replaced the previously-announced Michael Moorcock who, in fact, was never to attend an Eastercon again. (The selection of Moorcock as GoH in the first place had earlier led to the resignation from the committee of Andrew Stephenson, who had shown great prescience by insisting that Moorcock was unreliable and wouldn't show up.) Total registration by the end of the weekend was 550 which, even allowing for no-shows, made SEACON '75 the largest Eastercon to date.
Malcolm Edwards was Chairman, Rob Holdstock was Secretary, Peter Roberts was Treasurer, John Brosnan oversaw Films, and Pat Charnock guided the Fancy Dress. Other committee members were Graham Charnock, Roy Kettle, John Piggott and Christine Edwards. As well as a variety of serious items featuring Peter Nicholls, Philip Strick, Chris Priest, Tom Shippey, James Blish and John Brunner, there was another of Bob Shaw's humorous 'scientific' speeches (by popular demand after his success at TYNECON) 'Time Travellers Among Us', and the films Sleeper, Night of the Lepus, and Duel. Curiously, for a con put on by Ratfandom, SEACON featured virtually no fannish programming. It did, however, have something called the Fandom Room which featured free fanzines, fanzines for sale, convention flyers, and photo-displays of fans and conventions recent and long gone. It also featured Peter Roberts trying to publish an issue of EGG during SEACON as a way of demonstrating fannish techniques. This was foiled by an erratic paper feed on his duplicator. One flyer on display in the room advertised something called The Science Fiction Society of Great Britain. This had never been heard of before and, like the British Science Fiction Association that made a fleeting appearance in the early 1950s, was assumed to be no more than the product of someone's overactive imagination. More would be heard of the SFS after the con. There was a dance on the Sunday evening, an innovation first seen at TYNECON and a regular feature of Eastercons thereafter, with music from Graham Charnock's regular band, The Burlingtons, and there was much comment about Lee Montgomerie's amazingly lifelike impersonation of Chris Priest in the Fancy Dress.
The De Vere Hotel came as something of a shock to fans, firstly for how posh it was, and secondly for a problem with static electricity that led to an audible discharge whenever anybody who had built up a charge touched anything metal.
Manchester won the 1976 Eastercon in the bidding session, Birmingham was given the nod for 1977, and the Britain In '79 bidding group reported on their progress. In other business, the Doc Weir Award went to Peter Weston, the Ken McIntyre Award to Carol Gregory, and Chris Priest's Inverted World won the BSFA Award. This was awarded by the SEACON committee this year in the absence of the BSFA, an absence about which Darroll Pardoe said in his CHECKPOINT report:
"The BSFA mystery was not exactly resolved at this convention. Since the statutory notices had not been sent out to the membership, no AGM was held at this Easter. There was though an 'unofficial' meeting, which was followed later in the day by a second meeting in John Brunner's room. The BSFA seemed set for extinction by rampant apathy, but all these people emerged from the woodwork and made an attempt to put it back on the road. Is it worth it? The legal AGM has been set for June at a location, yet to be announced, in the London area."
Within a fortnight of SEACON ending Graham Poole, fired with new enthusiasm by the convention, published SF CONTACT, which was full of BSFA news and business and also designed to solicit fanzines.
CHECKPOINT 62 (Apr' 75), though not advertised as such, was Darroll Pardoe's final issue. It would be seven months before another appeared. This issue carried further news of the SF Society of Great Britain, but made things no clearer since there seemed to be not one but two separate groups with that name. According to Dave Kyle:
"The SF Society of Great Britain is a working name used by a few SF types who are working on a number of projects here in Britain. This Society is part of a larger group of individuals and organisations or clubs which is known as SF International. Here in Britain we have the SF & Fantasy Film Society of Britain (Stan Nuttall), the SF & Fantasy Film Festival (Harry Nadler), the SF Digest (Keith Freeman), and the Ted Carnell Society (Dave Kyle)."
However, according to Surrey fan Richard McMahon:
"The SFS is a country-wide SF club aimed at teenagers up to the 15-16 age group. It was formed after the mention on the news page of SF MONTHLY 1:10. It is a free society with county groups and (hopefully) a clubzine called SF REFLECTIONS."
Curiouser and curiouser. The relevant SFM news page, from November 1974, carried a mention from Neil Stott of Old Hutton, near Kendal in Westmorland:
"...for a junior science fiction club he is interested in forming. Strictly for 10-14 year olds, this club will be formed by Neil and his friends."
In April 1975, McMahon published INVERTED EAR TRUMPET 1. A scrappy two-sheeter, with each page a different size and printed by a different process. McMahon had further news of the SFS:
"IET is my own fanzine which, although distributed to the members of the Science Fiction Society and their friends, is not the official fanzine of the SFS...The genuine fanzine of the SFS is SF REFLECTIONS and has returned to its point of origin in Cumbria, so it won't be out yet...John Jackson, Surrey Representative of the SFS...is thinking about producing a newsheet for his group...called SURREY SCI FI."
Whether SURREY SCI FI ever appeared is unknown, but a single issue of SF REFLECTIONS was published later in the year by Neil Stott. The SFS never achieved any sort of national recognition and, since nothing more was heard of it after this, was presumably short-lived.
Shortly after Easter, the Northern Ireland SF Association (NISFA) finally held its inaugural meeting. Or, rather, its successor group did, as Dave Patterson explains:
"I carried out my plans carefully, dropping leaflets into the libraries, sent them off to the far corners of our little Province, God bless its bleeding hand -- I even had the audacity to despatch some into Indian country, saying to myself 'to pot with the hostilities'. Well, some people were kind enough to reply...after reading through the letters I found that the majority of people who would like to join were in fact living in and around North Down. So, I have decided...to narrow my sights and concentrate on this area. So NISFA is reduced to NDSFG (North Down Science Fiction Group)...."
The NDSFG's official inaugural, post-Easter, meeting was held in 'The New Tudor', a cinema they had built in "a converted over-sized hen-house" and the films The Thing From Another World and Fiend Without A Face were shown. No details on how many people attended or who they were, unfortunately.
Another group that held its first meeting around this time was the Stockport and District (SaD) SF Group. After some months of trying to drum up local support by inserting slips in SF books in local shops and the like, Paul Skelton set the date for the inaugural meeting. Nineteen people showed up which (since that number included the Skeltons, Petes Presford and Colley, and Kevin Hall, from the MaD group) meant fourteen possible converts to fandom. However, there were only six at the second meeting. After a handful of meetings the group faded away, thwarting Paul Skelton's plan to "find new blood, put it in contact with each other and with fandom, and hope some stuck none did, as far as I'm aware."
SaD meetings were held on the second Monday of the month at the White Lion pub in the Lower Underbank district of Stockport, and Skelton published a newsletter, SaD NEWS, for the short-lived group. Sonya Porter's Woking SF Group also finally held its first meeting around this same time. There were ten people at the first meeting, subsequent meetings being held on the first Wednesday of the month at the Robin Hood pub, in Knaphill.
Publishing their first issues in April 1975 were Brian Parker of Bradford with PARKER'S PATCH 1, and David Griffin of Bristol with AFTER THE FLOOD 1. Also out in April was CYNIC 7, the first issue in fifteen months due to the disruption caused by editor Boak's marriage and relocation to Preston. SCIENCE FICTION INTERNATIONAL NEWS 1, edited by Dave Kyle and Keith Freeman, appeared in May. It aimed to cover the SF scene in the UK, particularly those endeavours previously revealed by Kyle to operate under the umbrella of SF International, but was pretty feeble stuff. (The second issue, for instance, consisted entirely of a list of forthcoming SF books for the UK.) It lasted for barely five issues before folding in 1976.
The spring of 1975 was proving a fertile time for new fanzines and June brought the first issue of Stuart & Rosie Clark's EGLADIL (five issues in all, the last in Autumn '77), the one-off PREVIEW from Chris Fowler, and Ian Williams' GOBLIN'S GROTTO 1, whose contents included a transcript of Bob Shaw's TYNECON speech. Also published in June were the 'Results of the 1974-1975 CHECKPOINT Fan Poll'. With CHECKPOINT in limbo, Peter Roberts was forced to put these out as a six-page stand-alone publication. TRUE RAT was voted Best British Fanzine (runners up being WRINKLED SHREW, EGG, INFERNO and ZIMRI) with TRUE RAT 4/5 as Best Single Issue of a fanzine; Leroy Kettle was voted Best British Fanwriter (runners up being John Brosnan, Peter Roberts, Greg Pickersgill, and Pat Charnock); and Harry Bell was voted Best British Fanartist (runners up being Harry Turner, Andrew Stephenson, Dave Rowe, and Paul Skelton) with Harry Turner's cover for ZIMRI 6 as Best Fanzine Cover.
The continuing silence from the BSFA led Leroy Kettle to run the following 'advert' in TRUE RAT 6 (Apr '75):
BROMLEY SILENT FARTING ASSOCIATION
Interested in Silent Farting?
Join NOW, and we promise you won't hear anything from us.
Actually, this situation was soon to change. The 1975 BSFA AGM was finally held in an upstairs room at the One Tun on Friday 27th June. All who were paid-up members for 1974 had their membership carried forward to 1975 and were eligible to attend and vote at the meeting. Writing in SPI 3 shortly before the meeting, Graham Poole explained that:
"The BSFA is not yet dead...A members' meeting was held at SEACON and I volunteered to return as Company Secretary until the AGM. I also volunteered to contact fanzine editors with a view to buying copies of their zines for distribution to BSFA members...The support I've received for this scheme has been surprisingly good and only goes to show that fandom is willing to help the BSFA if the BSFA is willing to show interest in fandom."
At the meeting, chaired by Fred Hemmings, a new council and committee were elected, it was resolved to publish a new VECTOR as soon as possible, and Poole was charged with publishing the AGM minutes. With the appointment of new membership secretary Dave Symes it was now possible to actually join the association once again. The BSFA, it seemed, was back in business.
The July issue of SCIENCE FICTION MONTHLY (vol.2, no.6) carried a piece by Peter Weston titled 'A Stranger in a Very Strange Land', which was an account of his experiences at DISCON, the 1974 Worldcon he had attended as the TAFF winner. Given the fuss people have raised over TAFF down the years, Weston's decision to publish this in a prozine attracted surprisingly little comment.
Following the demise of LURK -- the final issue, the seventh, appeared in April -- Mike & Pat Meara returned to fan publishing with KNOCKERS FROM NEPTUNE 1 in July 1975. Having found LURK, a largish genzine, an increasing burden, the Mearas had decided instead to publish a personalzine. That same month they also co-edited, with Paul & Cas Skelton, a one-shot called THE FANNISH FOUR GO TO THE SEASIDE and inspired by a vacation the four had shared. Also out in July was the first issue of Keith Richmond's UGLY DUCKLING, which would fold with its eighth issue in November 1977.
RELATIVITY 4 (July '75) was Bryn Fortey's first fanzine since the late 1960s. Fortey had not been very active in the intervening years, writing the occasional fanzine piece and attending the Eastercon every other year or so, but had been inspired to return to fanediting after having agreed to be Lisa Conesa's co-editor on the forthcoming ZIMRI 8 (issue 7 had appeared in January, and featured fanzine reviews by Greg Pickersgill), which they intended should be more fannish. In RELATIVITY 4, Fortey ripped into Ian Williams, Pete Presford, Keith Walker, Mike Meara, and Paul Skelton for 'attacks' on Conesa that he felt were motivated more by her gender than by anything she had done. Skelton had been opposed to MANCON having a 'Poetry Soiree' while the others had criticised ZIMRI for being 'pretentious', 'arty', 'pseudy', and 'unfannish'. For the time such remarks didn't constitute a particularly savage assault, and were hardly evidence of sexism, and all of those castigated by Fortey responded in their fanzines by telling him he was overreacting and should calm down. As for ZIMRI 8, that was to take a lot longer to come to fruition, and be a much different fanzine than either Fortey or Conesa imagined.
OMPA MURDERED BY MEARAS!!!!! was the heading on a circular sent to OMPA members by Keith Walker in August. He wrote that:
"It now seems that the final coffin nails are being driven into the corpse of OMPA. I now hear from Ian Maule that the ashes of ROMPA are being rekindled and that ROMPA seems likely to survive in the hands of John Hall. Whilst we OMPAns have been walking round with doom-laden expressions wailing like a Greek chorus, whilst ROMPA our arch-rival has been drowning like a man going down for the first and second time, the Gods have been looking down upon the game. Now as penalty for our prevarication and monumental indecision we are to be punished. ROMPA will survive. OMPA will die! And clearly a special vote of thanks must go to Mike Meara for so clearly sealing the fate of OMPA. The BSFA are also indebted to Mike for his sterling work on helping to nearly wind up that sterling British institution, too. However, it seems that under new management the BSFA may still survive...."
Later in the circular, Walker conceded that Meara had done good work on behalf of OMPA and that its current state was as much the responsibility of the members. He concluded:
"There can no longer be any 'Real Soon Now' about it. It will take several weeks for ROMPA to be handed over. It may take several more for John to get out even a letter to ROMPA members. Our next mailing is not until October. It's going to be too late if we hang about kicking our heels 'til then. It's damn all use waiting until Novacon to do anything. By then our fate will be sealed good and proper.
The time to make that last gasping breath is NOW!
Don't delay, write to Mike today!"
There was a burst of activity from the Charnocks in August, with Graham publishing the first issue of his personalzine, VIBRATOR, hot on the heels of WRINKLED SHREW 4 (the second issue to be credited to Pat Charnock alone). Among the many delights in this SHREW was a fine SEACON '75 report by Peter Nicholls, his first substantial contribution to a fanzine. ARDEES 1 from Andrew and Ruth Dunlop saw the first of its two issues in August (it folded in December), while September brought first issues of Paul Ryan's ORION (no relation to the Enever/Parker ORION of the '50s/'60s), and Kevin Easthope's LOGO. Among other titles to appear in September were the second (and final) SF CONTACT and SPI 4, both from Graham Poole...and VECTOR 69.
VECTOR 69 was the first issue since the spring of 1974, the first to be edited by Chris Fowler, and part of the first mailing to its membership of the newly reformed BSFA. Unfortunately it was, apart from the fine Andrew Stephenson cover, primarily reprint material with the remainder being trivial and boring. Also sent out with this mailing and edited by Fowler was BSFA NEWSLETTER 1, a four page newsheet also known as BSFAN. As inauspicious a new beginning as this seemed, the BSFA was finally back on the rails.
One fanzine that made its first appearance in September 1975 deserves special mention. OUR FAIR CITY was produced by Martin Easterbrook for the University of London SF & Fantasy Society. (An SF group had existed in the university at least as early as 1965, and for the past five years the university's Department of Extramural Studies had organised a series of lectures on SF. (This was the course, started in 1969 by Phil Strick, whose attendees had dubbed themselves 'The City Illiterates' and the sixth series, to be presented at the Stanhope Institute with Chris Priest as course tutor, would be held on Friday evenings starting this September and ending in March.) It soon became apparent that producing OFC would be a difficult and time-consuming process, so to fill the increasing gap between issues Easterbrook began issuing a monthly newsheet, a listing of conventions and forthcoming SF events that was distributed at the monthly One Tun meetings, which members of the university group regularly attended. The newsheet was called SMALL MAMMAL and Easterbrook took it with him when he graduated, distributing it at London fandom's first-Thursday pub meetings. It was still being regularly distributed, if sporadically, as of this writing.
Dave Cockfield joined the ranks of Gannetfandom's fanzine editors in October with ATROPOS 1 (which saw four issues in all before ceasing publication in September 1977), while November brought SCABBY TALES 1, the new fanzine from John Brosnan (its second issue, in April 1976, would be Brosnan's last fanzine); the one-shot PETER ROBERTS' BOOK OF RECORDS from Pat & Graham Charnock; THE ZINE THAT HAS NO NAME 1, a fanzine produced for trade by Paul Skelton; and the sercon PROCYON 1, edited by Yorkshire fan John Collick under the name 'Paul Radford'. Collick edited the subsequent four issues under his own name.
BSFA NEWSLETTER 2, which went out in the November BSFA mailing with VECTOR 70 (which reprinted Bob Shaw's 'Time Travellers Among Us'), Vice-Chairman Dave Kyle reported that the Association's long-overdue company filing had been finally completed in September, and that Keith Freeman had taken over as Treasurer from Jill Adams, who had been serving pro tem. Freeman was trying to reconstruct the BSFA's membership records from the debris of the 1974 collapse. It was also announced that a meeting of the BSFA Council would take place at NOVACON, and it was here that Tom Jones -- a fan since PADS in the 1960s -- became Membership Secretary.
Two Gannetzines out in November were Ian William's GOBLIN'S GROTTO 2 and Rob Jackson's MAYA 9. They were visually very similar. Both were A4 and litho- printed, used double-column text and featured Harry Bell cover-art, and were typed on the same typewriter. They also had a similar mix of sercon and fannish contents, but GOBLIN'S GROTTO was the sharper of the two. Harry Bell's cover for MAYA 9 depicted a neo, a trufan, and a BNF, representing the mythical three stages of fanhood. When you first find fandom you are a neofan, filled with enthusiasm for science fiction and for this new world of fandom you've just discovered (this enthusiasm is sometimes referred to as 'goshwowboyoboyism'). After one has been in fandom for a while, fascination with fandom itself overtakes interest in science fiction as the neo becomes a trufan and begins to publish fanzines and become involved in the running of conventions. Becoming a BNF, or Big Name Fan, is not something you can readily aspire to but, rather, an appellation bestowed by your peers, and so not a status that everyone attains.
MAYA was highly regarded by this point, particularly by the Americans, but unfortunately in straining to appeal to an international audience MAYA usually steered well clear of anything likely to provoke controversy and its contents were often blander than British fans around since the heady days of FOULER had come to expect. Even so, MAYA enjoyed a good reputation in the UK, but other fanzines were more highly thought of, at least by some people. This difference of opinion about MAYA would lead one of the most prominent British fans of the early 1970s to quit fandom, after a chain of events that started at NOVACON 5.
NOVACON 5 was held in Birmingham's Royal Angus Hotel over the weekend of 7th-9th November 1975. Dan Morgan was GoH, Rog Peyton was Chairman, and the Programme Book listed 272 people. The programme consisted of the usual round of panels, films and the like, including a Fancy Dress on the Saturday evening. This last caused some problems, as Peyton recalls:
"I'd done a radio interview that morning and mentioned there would be a Fancy Dress, little thinking that anyone listening would come along and register for the con and enter the Fancy Dress Parade. If any would-be convention organisers out there get interviewed on the radio, stress that it is a Science Fiction Fancy Dress! Otherwise you too might find yourselves in the embarrassing position of having to announce entrants like 'Ena Sharples' and other TV personalities. I was doing the announcing and hadn't even heard of some of the characters. I still shudder at the memory of that evening."
The panel of judges voting on the Nova Award this year were Greg Pickersgill, Malcolm Edwards, Peter Roberts, and Andrew Stephenson, (all London fans, most being Ratfans) and the fanzines that had been nominated were MAYA and WRINKLED SHREW. There was some confusion as to whether the award was for a single issue or for the year's run of a fanzine. In the event Peter Weston, reading out the judges' decision because of stage fright on their parts, announced that the choice had been between two fanzines, one regular and of consistent quality, the other less frequent but with one exceptionally good issue in the qualifying year, and that though the panel had wanted to give the award to WRINKLED SHREW it appeared that under the rules it had to go to MAYA. Rob Jackson accepted his Nova gracefully, but the manner in which the award had been made was to cause a lot of trouble in the months to come.
Dave Rowe was the first to make adverse comment on the 1975 Nova Award, in the pages of the first issue of K, the fanzine he co-edited with fellow Kittenfan Bernie Peek. K -- which also carried contributions from other Kittens, including a fanzine review column by Jim Linwood -- had had a long gestation. Various Kittens had talked of doing a fanzine since late 1974, but it was during their February visit to Kitten founder Graham Boak in Preston that the idea finally crystallised and serious planning began. Another fanzine making its first appearance in December was TITAN 1 from Geoff Rippington, which would eventually achieve greater fame under another title.
CHECKPOINT 63 (Dec '75) was the first issue in seven months, and the first to be produced by new editor Ian Maule. Maule returned to the duplicated quarto format favoured by original editor Peter Roberts, though his reportage was closer to that of Darroll Pardoe. Apart from a brief NOVACON report and fanzine reviews, the issue carried the news that John Piggott was now Secretary of The National Games Club, that Bob Shaw was quitting his job to become a full-time writer, and that Manchester's MaD Group had two new members in the person of Mike Scantlebury (who had been a member of Bristol's BaD Group in the 1960s) and Paul Kincaid, a newcomer whose first con had been SEACON'75.
The results of the 1975/76 TAFF race were the lead item in CHECKPOINT 64 (Jan '76), and for the first time ever the race ended in a dead heat with Bill Bowers (20 UK, 52 US) and Roy Tackett (15 UK, 57 US) each receiving 72 votes. Administrators Len Moffatt and Pete Weston announced that both would be attending MANCON, but in the event only Tackett got to make the trip.
The first FAANCON (or, to give it its official title, THE 1ST WORLD FAAN CONVENTION) was held in the Gresham Hotel, Blackpool, over the weekend of 20th- 22nd February 1976, and 40 or so fans attended including numerous Gannets, Kittens, MaD Group members and others. Bob & Sadie Shaw were there, and Norman Weedall brought along old-time fan Les Johnson. There were no Ratfans attending. Totally unprogrammed, the con was conceived and organised by Graham Boak, who had first floated the idea in CYNIC 7 back in February 1975 with this question:
"Why do we have conventions? A convention is for meeting people. For the newcomer this means the professional writers, the Great Names. For the established fan, this means his friends. We all enjoy that wonderful reunion, that party atmosphere all good cons produce, and that is nothing at all to do with the programme... As one observant fan said, many years ago, 'The convention begins when the programme ends.' More recently, Bob Shaw was reported as saying, 'I'll go to any convention that has a bed and a bar.' There you have it. The two main essentials of a convention. Add a sprinkling of assorted fans, stir well, and hang around to enjoy yourself. Drop the programme altogether."
Boak's theory proved correct, and those at FAANCON (sometimes also referred to as 'Boakcon' in contemporary zines) enjoyed themselves sufficiently that it was decided to hold another FAANCON the following year, this time organised by Mike Meara and held in Derby. The Nova Award was much discussed at FAANCON, with the result that, as Boak reports:
"Riding high on drinks and fannishness, and sharpened by a bout of 'programme items not to appear at Meara Con', a group involving myself... came up with the 'British Fan Editor's Award'. An award for the best British fanzine rightly belonged to MAYA, but due to a technicality in the rules we were forced to give it to WRINKLED SHREW. For the actual award, Bernie (Peek) offered the battered rock dummy he had been wearing around his neck all convention, but we compromised on a box of ordinary Blackpool rock. After all, no-one wanted to insult Pat...but if Ratfandom required knowing what the majority of British fan editors thought of their action -- well, they know now."
Boak wrote up the FAANCON, and expanded on his disquiet over the Nova Award in CYNIC 9, which appeared in April and was, as it turned out, the final issue.
If he thought he had succeeded in avoiding giving insult, Boak was soon to be severely disabused of that idea.
The St. Albans SF Fan Group, STAFFEN, began meeting early in 1976. Meetings were held on the second Wednesday of the month, initially at the Peacock pub in St.Albans. Members would eventually include Peter Wareham, Arthur Cruttenden, Mic Rogers, Tim Illingworth, Paul Dormer, and John Dallman.
BSFA NEWSLETTER 5 (March '76), the second issue to be edited by Tom Jones, carried a piece called 'A Newcomer Looks at Fanzines' by new member Ian Garbutt. Garbutt complained that the fanzines supplied to him for review by Jones (K2, DRILKJIS 1, and MAYA 10) lacked material about SF and had an unhealthy preoccupation with beer. "Is British fandom being run by a bunch of pontificating alcoholics?" he asked. In reply to a letter from a Glasgow member about fannish jargon, editor Jones wrote that:
"...unfortunately, fans tend to use the jargon as a shield to keep new fans at arm's length. It's best to ignore these people if you come across them; they're just kids, no matter what their age, and you don't want to bother with kids."
This was, of course, nonsense. Like members of other interest groups fans had developed a number of shorthand terms for aspects of their hobby, but these were used for convenience only and not to exclude newcomers. Chris Fowler had also criticised fanzine fandom in VECTOR, but Jones and Garbutt were to take their attacks on fanzine fandom further, portraying it as a group composed entirely of louts and drunkards with no interest in SF. Quite why they chose to do this is unclear, though it has been suggested that fandom was being castigated for not coming to the BSFA's rescue in 1974. Whatever the reasons behind them, the attacks were to continue in the months to come.
Two fanzines that saw first issues in March 1976 could not have been more different from each other. The first of these, DRILKJIS, was edited by David Langford and Kevin Smith (the name derived from their initials, DRL & KJS), two former members of the Oxford University SF Group, OUSFG, where they had been regular contributors to its amateur fiction-based official organ, SFINX, which in its time had also carried work by such as Rob Holdstock and Mike Rohan. DRILKJIS was unimpressive, though subsequent issues would see great improvement. It was, to use Langford's own description, "an intermittently serious SF genzine", and as well as sercon SF items that included an interview with George Hay and reviews of some dreadful hack SF series, this first issue carried an account by Langford of what it had felt like to go on trial on bombing charges the previous year with fellow student Mike Skelding. (All the 'bombs' were in fact fireworks freely available over the counter, although Skelding managed to get hold of unusually big ones and set them off in clusters.) Replying to letters of comment in the following issue, he explained that:
"...for most of the time during which Mike Skelding was gaily letting things off all over Oxford, a bang meant 'practical joke' not 'IRA'. Even in the first half of '74 bombs were something which happened in Ireland or maybe London. The fact that Mike's last spree coincided with the Birmingham explosions was bad luck -- the rules were changed. From an irresponsible idiot who ought to be fined, Mike suddenly became a criminal menace to be locked away. In June 1974, when I committed my own indiscretion, no-one worried much (the police didn't until Mike stirred them up); by 1975 public opinion had moved so far up the hysteria-scale that Mike was advised not to appeal: there were no unbiased juries any more."
While Skelding went to prison, Langford was let off with a fine so that he could take up a job at the UK's Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston. His experiences working there later formed the basis for his comic novel, The Leaky Establishment.
Built on the experience gained from its predecessors, STOP BREAKING DOWN -- the other new title to appear in March -- was Greg Pickersgill's third entry in the fanzine stakes, and another of the decade's classic fanzines. SBD carried pieces by the best fanwriters of the day and continued Pickersgill's column of acerbic and generally spot-on fanzine criticism. It also carried a regular column by Simone Walsh, who was listed as 'Overseas Editor' and presumably responsible in that capacity for seeing that the only three copies of SBD regularly sent outside the UK (to North American fans Terry Hughes, Rich Coad, and Mike Glicksohn, if you must know) got safely on their way. The fanzine's title derived from the Robert Johnson track 'Stop Breaking Down Blues' and the covers for the first two issues were traced onto stencil from the sleeves of volumes I and II of 'Robert Johnson -- King of the Delta Blues Singers', as released by Columbia Records. Following hard on the heels of that first issue came the second in April, just in time for the 1976 Eastercon, the decade's most notorious convention....
MANCON 5 was held on the campus of Owen's Park University in Manchester over the weekend of 16th -- 19th April 1976. Committee members were Brian Robinson, Paul Skelton, Roy Sharpe, John Mottershead, Kevin Hall, Chuck Partington, and Harry Nadler, with Pete Presford as Chairman. MANCON 5 was so named because it was the fifth in a series of Manchester-organised cons that included MANCON (1952), SUPERMANCON (1954), THIRDMANCON (1968), and CHESSMANCON (1972), and the programme book listed 491 members. Unfortunately, the con was a disaster. Even as eminent a GoH as Robert Silverberg couldn't save it, and MANCON is regarded by many survivors as the worst con they ever attended. This was due not only to the collapse of the programme and the total absence of any signs of organisation, but also to the grimly awful venue. When similar situations had arisen in the past fans had at least been able to console themselves by falling back on the bar and the comfort of the con hotel, but the harsh conditions of a university campus precluded this. Walt Willis, attending his first convention in 11 years, was less critical than most, perhaps seeing little difference between the conditions at Owen's Park and those at the conventions he remembered from the 1950s. What he did notice, however, was that:
"It was stranger and more poignant that I had to go to Manchester to meet for the first time two young Belfast fans from opposite sides of the barricades".
More poignant still when you realise the troubles in Willis's native land were responsible for finally finishing off Irish Fandom. In 1975, in an American fanzine, he had written:
"What no feud could ever do has been accomplished by the IRA, and Irish Fandom has disintegrated as a group. It was nothing to do with the political polarisation of the Ulster community, though both sides are represented in Irish Fandom: it was simply that travelling outside one's own district became too chancy".
As well as the usual SF panels and talks, MANCON 5 programming included another of Bob Shaw's humorous talks, 'The Return of the Backyard Spaceship'; 'Aims and Objectives of Spectrum', a meeting to announce the inauguration of ESA-2 (the European Space Association) introduced by George Hay; and films shown were Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe, The Phantom Speaks ("a fantasy film so far refused a certificate in Britain and obtained through the usual dubious channels..."), The Legend of Hell House, Mighty Joe Young, and -- a coup -- The Man Who Fell to Earth, though, as Dave Langford notes:
"Despite what looked like a redeeming film programme, MANCON (alas) fell down in this area too. Some said the projector bulbs were under-powered, others that the screen was intended for back projection and too much of the light went through to the far side; anyway the movie pictures strained the eyes and made one long for a BRIGHTNESS control.
A major MANCON PR problem was that they'd booked the accommodation as a block and were sub-letting it to members...so the committee felt forced into the role of Big Brother/Peeping Tom, maximising revenue by checking up on fans who might be sharing rooms etc., and writing some pretty tactless letters in the process. Even man of mirth Kettle found it a bit much that one MANCON progress report made gags about concentration camp 'showers', with Silverberg as GoH. This convention never published accounts."
An unofficial item on Saturday afternoon was a soccer match in a nearby park between 'The Ratfan Dynamo' and 'The Gannet Flyers' refereed by Bob Shaw. There was an 'Official Souvenir Programme' produced which included helpful descriptions like these:
"Admire the nerve of little Ian Williams as he gets lost amongst his opponents' legs... Watch Harry Bell regret his large double-curry breakfast... After witnessing this team you'll know what made Newcastle Brown."
The match ended in a 2-2 draw after the participants were evicted from their first pitch and made to play elsewhere.
Something Malcolm Edwards reported having observed on the first evening of MANCON was:
"...three concom members, like all other concom members we saw that evening, were wearing 'Greg Pickersgill Fan Club' badges, based on a childishly insulting cartoon that appeared in MALFUNCTION a couple of years ago. Greg became, understandably, more than a little pissed off at this, especially since some of the wearers were people he had had no contact of any kind with before...The badges did not reappear the next day. It does make you wonder, though, about the level of intelligence of a convention committee who adopt something like that as a semi-official emblem...."
Actually, the badges were not produced by the MANCON committee but by a clueless neofan from Cardiff, Rob Hansen. This was Hansen's second convention, his first being SEACON '75, and he had only recently taken his first tentative steps into fanzine fandom by writing off for copies of MAYA and MALFUNCTION. Eager to join in things, but having little idea yet about fandom, he made xerox copies of the offending cartoon into badges and handed them out to the few people in fandom he then knew (MaD Group members all). It was also at MANCON that Hansen penned his first published fanzine article for inclusion in ATACON, the fanzine edited and produced at MANCON by Paul Skelton in the Fan Room during the very brief periods that room (a pale shadow of the SEACON Fan Room) was open. All in all, Hansen's initial impact on fandom could hardly have been less auspicious.
Another confrontation at MANCON occurred on the Sunday when Tim Apps was reportedly blackballed (with boot polish) by Dermot Dobson and Mike Skelding for plagiarising a Dave Langford story published some years earlier in the OUSFG groupzine SFINX, said plagiarism then seeing print in the Cheltenham Group's SPACES under the byline 'Ian Trent', which in its turn was the known pseudonym of OUSFG member Keith Plunkett. Writing about the affair later in the first issue of her fanzine, THE SOUTHERN VOLE, Liese Hoare (then the wife of Martin Hoare) asked that Apps be ostracised, and he does appear to have faded from fandom soon after this.
At the BSFA AGM, the first since the Association was reformed, Dave Kyle was confirmed as Vice-Chairman (Arthur C. Clarke having agreed to being honorary Chairman in perpetuity after interim Chairman Ken Bulmer stood down), Alan Stewart became Administrator, Mervyn Haigh the Company Secretary, Elke Stewart the Membership Secretary, Chris Fowler continued as editor of VECTOR and was put in charge of Publishing and Distribution, while Tom Jones stayed with MATRIX. The Doc Weir Award went to Ina Shorrock. Though not connected with the BSFA, an event that was due to take place after the Sunday morning authors' panel would rake up an old BSFA scandal. According to Malcolm Edwards:
"The fanzine auction was due to follow this panel, and I spent some time rushing around trying to warn various BSFA officials that the remnants of the Fanzine Foundation which hadn't been sold at the previous Manchester-run convention were about to be put up again. No-one seemed too interested, and in the event the auction was postponed anyway."
But only until Monday afternoon, when Edwards and many others had already left for home. As Keith Walker later reported in CHECKPOINT, under the headline 'LAST REMAINS OF BSFA FANZINE FOUNDATION AUCTIONED OFF AT MANCON 5':
"The full realisation of the above simple fact didn't strike home until the early hours of Wednesday morning. I could kick myself, for if I'd been able to put together the pieces at the con itself I might have registered some feeble protest at least... To add fuel to my consternation I am on record as having joked to Mike Meara, 'Looks like they're selling off the Foundation again.'... The more I ponder upon this matter the more clues come to hand and the more convinced I become that I'm right...
As evidence Walker offered the reluctance of the committee to hold the auction until Monday afternoon, the number of fanzines that had originally been addressed to Charlie Winstone or to John Muir, Winstone's own file of letters on PADS being among the material on offer, the number of multiple copies of scarce early issues of VECTOR included, and the like:
"The zines on sale covered a large time span stretching from the 1940s to the present day. Despite the appalling manner in which these fragile zines had been tossed thoughtlessly into a sack some of the items -- a bound set of the last ten issues of QUANDRY -- had obviously been treated at one time with the tender loving care due to them. Both factors indicate a collection not acquired overnight but only after a long period of sustained effort."
And so, incredibly, what little of the BSFA Fanzine Foundation that hadn't been illegally auctioned off in 1972 was illegally auctioned off in 1976. Or was it? Responding to Walker on behalf of the BSFA in the next CHECKPOINT, Jones claimed:
"The story, apparently, is not strictly as you set it out. On the Monday afternoon Keith Freeman and Dave Kyle both saw the fanzines and were allowed to go through them removing everything with BSFA on it, including those sent to Charlie Winstone which mentioned the BSFA. Ken Slater was asked to look at the ones marked 'Operation Fantast' to see if he could recognise them as the BSFA ones; he couldn't. Similarly, the MANCON committee allowed Chris Fowler to go through the VECTORs and take what he wanted. Keith's opinion of the fanzines were that they were a pretty ragtag bunch with nothing of importance in them. It is likely they were the 2nds and 3rds held by the Fanzine Foundation, but what proof is there?"
Commenting in that same CHECKPOINT, editor Maule wrote:
"My own personal opinion on this whole affair and the previous eruption after Chester in 1972 is that whether or not the BSFA Fanzine Foundation was sold the fanzines in these two auctions went to genuine collectors who will take more loving care of them than any organisation that accumulates them just for the sake of it."
MANCON was the first convention ever attended by D.West (as Don West was known), and where he was adopted by Ratfandom and started the Astral Leauge (sic). This last seems to have been started mainly as a gag so that West could sell memberships at fifty pence a go (for which you got a potato-print cardboard badge) and help finance his con, but it would grow beyond that. The following year saw the publication of THE ASTRAL LEAUGE YEARBOOK, a now-rare fanzine containing a joke article by Chris Priest on 'static gravity' that was later sold to OMNI, then the world's highest-paying SF market. There have also been three Astral Leauge albums, recorded on cassette by Graham Charnock, containing songs that could be described as 'filking', though they are a good deal wittier than most filk songs. Perhaps the most famous manifestation of the Leauge, however, is the initiation test West introduced at the outset and which has since been attempted at many conventions on both sides of the Atlantic. This involves contorting your body around a pole in a highly improbable manner impossible to describe and harder to do. Still, all of this is peripheral to what West is best known for: his fanzine criticism.
For a figure destined to loom large in the fannish consciousness from the mid-70s onward, West was a long time arriving. Having encountered fandom as far back as 1961 when he read his first fanzine, West went on to become...
"..a BSFA member and half-hearted fringefan. I used to write LoCs that were tolerant, serious, intelligent, etc., etc. Mostly they never got published. I worked away at such laborious and conscientious correspondence for several years. All to no discernable effect."
Tiring of this approach West...
"...took to writing letters sprinkled with snarls, maledictions, and recipes for unnatural methods of self-destruction. Nobody took any more notice than before, but I certainly felt better."
A talented artist, West had published a portfolio of pieces based on Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' earlier in the decade and a couple of comic strips for CYPHER in 1973. However, it was his fanzine review columns that West was to be best known for in the 1970s, the first of which had appeared in PARKER'S PATCH 2, edited by Brian Parker, in September 1975. In April 1976, shortly before MANCON, he published a largely illegible fanzine, printed on a home-made rotary duplicator and containing nothing but fanzine reviews, called DAISNAID, (Do As I Say Not As I Do). West's criticism was solidly in the tradition established by Jim Linwood and Greg Pickersgill but, good though these two pieces had been, it was the next two that would establish his reputation.
Other fanzines distributed at or around MANCON during April were INFERNO 11, KNOCKERS FROM NEPTUNE 3 and 4, O'RYAN 3 (the former ORION, now renamed after editor Paul Ryan learned of the 1950s/60s fanzine of the same name), SPI 5, TRUE RAT 7, STOP BREAKING DOWN 2, K2, SCABBY TALES 2, and ZIMRI 8 (these last three being the final issues). ZIMRI 8 was solo-edited by Conesa and was her final fanzine. Thereafter her involvement with fandom would gradually fade, the 1979 Eastercon being her last convention.
Also appearing in April were the first issues of GHAS, whose name derived from editors Carol Gregory, John Harvey, and Eve Simmons (all of the Leeds University group), TWLL DDU (which is Welsh for Black Hole, sort of) from Dave Langford, and ONE-OFF from David E. Bridges of Sheffield. Where GHAS was neatly printed on A4, stapled on the short side, and sercon, ONE-OFF was scrappily duplicated on A5, and filled with wonderfully quirky personal writing; while TWLL DDU, which was scrappily printed on A4 (including one page run off on the back of rejected DRILKJIS covers), was pretty insubstantial. Nevertheless, editor Langford's polysyllabic and idiosyncratic approach to humorous writing soon gained it a large and enthusiastic audience. Though partially deaf, Langford had an uncanny knack of hearing things he wasn't supposed to, and when committing minor indiscretions it was wise to check if he was about, since these had a disturbing habit of being reported in the next TWLL DDU. Appearing that same month was TRUE RAT 7, which included the following fine example of editor Kettle's writing, parodying Peter Nicholls:
New from TRUE RAT PUBS
Peter Nicholls' astonishing unpublished history of Sci-Fi.
Today's Tomorrow's and Yesterday's Hacks.
You'll never appreciate Sci-Fi until you read this unbelievable critic:
"Sci-fi can be succinctly defined as speculation, whether based on established scientific facts or on logical pseudo-facts consistent with the framework of the fiction in question, involving smelly green pimply aliens furiously raping or eating, or both, beautiful naked bare-breasted chicks, covering them in slime, red, oozing, living slime, dribbling from every horrific orifice, squeezing out between bulbous pulpy lips onto the sensuous velvety skin of the writhing sweating slave-girls, their bodies cut and bruised by knotted whips brandished by giant blond vast-biceped androids called Simon, and written in the Gothic mode."
Read about the Wooden Age of Sci-Fi built by John Campbell in his back garden. Before your very eyes you will see how all those 'heroic hairy boy-engineer' stories were slipsticked together.
Astonish yourself with the tale of how The Magazine of Fantasy and Sci-Fi introduced long words and poetry into the genre and Has A Lot To Answer For.
Stupend yourself by discovering all about the New Waive (so-called because it 'waived' all rights to be called Sci-Fi) and how it came into being to sell the works of J.G.Ballard.
New titles in May included the first issues of A FOR ANTARES from Ian Garbutt and of THIS DAY, NEXT DAY, SOMETIME, NEVER from Sheffield fans David and Jean Staves. Also seeing print was SUPERCRUD '69 a one-shot from Bryn Fortey that parodied the fanzines of the late 1960s.
SCIENCE FICTION MONTHLY ceased publication in May 1976 with its twenty eighth issue. In those two years and four months its price had doubled from 25p to 50p, in line with an unprecedented increase in the cost of paper over that same period, while circulation had fallen from over 100 000 to under 20 000. Despite the large numbers of newcomers SFM was responsible for introducing to fandom, the magazine died largely unmourned by British fanzines.
The Peterborough SF Club held its first meeting on 10th May 1976. Organised by Chris Wakelin (who'd attended three Star Trek cons and the MANCON, following mentions in SFM) and her husband, Dave, that first meeting attracted only two other people but by the end of the month membership was up to twelve. The group held author readings at the John Hammerton bookshop in the town centre, ran a club library, and also gathered for astronomy readings.
STOP BREAKING DOWN 3 (June '76) carried a letter from Graham Boak expounding further on the 1975 Nova Award:
"Rob seems to have forgiven you all... He expected you to give the award to SHREW; I couldn't really believe that you could -- though I feared mightily. I believed that you could be honest detached and objective -- I was nearly right. I certainly would never have believed beforehand the rotten way it was presented. (Well, maybe of Malcolm....)"
In the course of his long and angry reply to Boak's letter, Pickersgill wrote:
"I am naive enough to be astonished when someone assumes my belief that WRINKLED SHREW was in the last analysis a better fanzine than MAYA is evidence of dishonesty and a conspiracy against fair play and decency."
Indeed. The manner in which the Nova Award was presented may have been insensitive, but Boak's anger was fuelled as much by the Ratfan bias he thought he saw as by any offense he believed Rob Jackson had suffered. To Boak, the superiority of MAYA over SHREW was so self-evident that bias was the only possible explanation for any opposing view. In this he was wrong. Both were fine fanzines, with MAYA's litho production giving it the slicker appearance, but there were still those with no particular bias in favour of Ratfandom or the Gannets, this writer included, who thought SHREW the better fanzine overall. As it happened, the ultimate victim of this affair was Boak himself. CYNIC 9 turned out to be the final issue, and before the year was out Boak had quit fandom.
SPECULATION 33, the final issue of Peter Weston's celebrated fanzine, rode out with MAYA 11 early in August 1976. As Weston explained:
"Just before MANCON I decided to release the Monster in my attic. A thousand copies of SPECULATION 33 have been lurking there, undistributed, for the last three years, mainly because I was ashamed of the issue. Originally I had intended to send it out as a sort of supplement with my next real issue: but then we moved house, my wife had a new baby, and number 34 never left the ground. SPECULATION 33 should never have been started. It contains an excellent long article by John J. Pierce, so good that I asked to reprint it back in 1971. Then committed, I realised SPEC should not be a reprint magazine, but I compounded my folly by choosing to 'go litho', and in the end the issue took nine months to produce; during which time I completely lost any sense of involvement with the thing. A complete botch...."
In his column in MAYA 11, Weston told the story of his first contact with fandom. The issue is also notable for running Bob Shaw's Eastercon speech, 'The Return of the Backyard Spaceship', and 'The Revenant', the first new piece by Walt Willis to appear in a British fanzine in many years. MAYA 11 was also the first major showcase for the cartoons of Jim Barker, a Scottish fanartist whose work had started appearing in fanzines a few months earlier.
Peter Roberts temporarily resumed the editorship of CHECKPOINT in August with issue 72, which carried the results of the 1975-76 CHECKPOINT Fan Poll. MAYA was voted Best British Fanzine (followed by STOP BREAKING DOWN, TRUE RAT, WRINKLED SHREW, and EGG), Leroy Kettle was Best British Fanwriter (followed by Bob Shaw, Greg Pickersgill, Peter Roberts, and Graham Charnock), Harry Bell was again Best British Fanartist (followed by Harry Turner, Paul Dillon, Terry Jeeves and Dave Rowe); and 'The Great Seacon Freak-Out', a con report by Peter Nicholls that had been published in SHREW, was voted Best Article.
MANCON aside, 1976 was a good year for cons and two more joined the convention calender. This first of these had been FAANCON. SILICON, which was organised by Gannetfandom and held in Newcastle's Imperial Hotel over the weekend of 27th -- 30th August 1976, appeared on the surface to have a lot in common with FAANCON, both being held in small hotels and set up for the social benefit of fanzine fans rather than for the greater glorification of Science Fiction, but there the similarity ended. Whereas FAANCON was a totally unprogrammed convention devoted solely to socialising, SILICON had a programme designed to involve most of those present in fun and games and to contribute to the illusion of being a weekend-long party. Around fifty people attended this first SILICON, including most of Gannetfandom, various Rats, a number of old- time Liverpool fans, many of the Sheffield SF Group, as well as Bob & Sadie Shaw, Rob Hansen, Eric Bentcliffe, Paul Dillon, Paul Ryan, Rog Peyton and others. The hotel had a swimming pool, fairly unusual at British cons, affording the opportunity to view the unlovely sight of the cream of British fandom semi-nakedly splashing about during something called 'the Chaos Game', while on Saturday night those present found themselves sharing the facilities with the splendidly named North East Western Society (NEWS), a wild west appreciation group. One innovation at SILICON was the provision of a TV soccer game, a primitive video game and almost certainly the first time that electronic gaming appeared at a British convention. As Greg Pickersgill later reported in CHECKPOINT:
"By far the Star Event was the TV electronic football tournament organised by David 'Superfan' Bridges, in which sixteen hopeful (and in some cases hopeless) players battled through qualifying rounds for the Big Prize of 50p. Curiously enough organiser Bridges won, smashing hot (and tired) favourite Greg Pickersgill out in the final. TV games could easily become a big thing at future cons after this; Leicester and Novacon organisers Rog Peyton and Stan Eling were deeply fascinated by the whole thing and intend to acquire machines for those conventions."
Apart from a few moments of trouble when an anonymously-produced fanzine called STOP PUKING UP, an unfunny and mean-spirited parody of STOP BREAKING DOWN, made an appearance, SILICON was a remarkably good-humoured and harmonious convention judged a great success by most of those who attended.
That there was felt to be a need for conventions where fanzine fans wouldn't be swamped by all those other people who now greatly outnumbered them shows how the increased attendances from 1974 onwards had already begun to affect things. Those effects weren't all negative, however, because when those who'd been active since the FOULER incursion started to run out of steam towards the end of the year and the fanzine scene began to flag a little, there were people able to pick up the torch and carry it on. Largely made up of people whose first conventions were the 1974 and 1975 Eastercons, by 1976 this group were beginning to make their own contributions to fandom.
Though Kevin Smith and David Langford's first conventions had been the second and third NOVACONs respectively, they are usually lumped in with this group, which included John and Eve Harvey, David Bridges, Joseph Nicholas, Rob Hansen, Merf Adamson (who would shine but briefly before vanishing from fandom), and Paul Kincaid. They were referred to in one contemporary fanzine as "the bastard offspring of SFM", but not all had discovered fandom through its pages. Smith and Langford predated it, of course, and as members of OUSFG (Oxford University SF Group) had written fiction for the group's magazine, SFINX, while the Harveys had started out as members of the Leeds University SF Group. Other neos from the '74/'75 influx had produced fanzines in late 1975, most of them largely forgettable, but this particular group, having held fire a bit longer and gained a better appreciation of what was going on before taking the plunge, produced a crop of rather more worthwhile fanzines. Interestingly, they were also perfectly in tune with the existing fandom and so avoided the clashes that earlier groups of newcomers had had with the established fans of their day. The last of the new fanzines to emerge from this group were Merf Adamson's THE NEXT BEST THING TO PERFECT LEGS, Kevin Smith's DOT and, in September, Rob Hansen's EPSILON.
Among the dozen or so other fanzines out in August were the fifth issue of Ian Maule's PARANOID, the first in three years and the last for another three; THE ICHNEUMON FLYER 1 from Birmingham's Paul Thompson; MATRIX 7 from the BSFA (the previous six issues had been called BSFAN or BSFA NEWSLETTER); TRUE RAT 8, which carried the first of D West's major pieces of fanzine criticism; and QUARK 13, the first issue in ten years and the first to be published over here by Tom Perry, an American fan briefly resident in the UK during the mid 1970s.
With its 74th issue, in September 1976, Peter Roberts returned as permanent editor of CHECKPOINT, which became again the newszine it had once been. Despite their undoubted abilities, neither Darroll Pardoe nor Ian Maule possessed the particular quirky way of looking at things and dry wit that had made the Roberts issues such a joy. In contrast to the final Maule issue, which had been a mere single-sheeter, CHECKPOINT 74 weighed in at six pages. It also carried the announcement that henceforth CHECKPOINT would carry only fannish news, and that those requiring SF news should seek out LOCUS.
Peter Roberts' move from London to Devon in late October was celebrated by the publication of EGG 10 1/2, an issue of his fanzine in which various members of Ratfandom wrote humorous reminiscences of Roberts, edited by the Charnocks and illustrated by D West. That same month, in CHECKPOINT 75, Roberts announced that he would be standing for TAFF in 1977, along with Pete Presford and Terry Jeeves.
BAR TREK 1 (Oct '76) was the first general-circulation fanzine to emerge from the new generation of Leeds fans. Edited by former LUUSFSer Lee Montgomerie and Mike Dickinson, it contained a blend of serious and not-so-serious commentary on SF and lasted three issues, ceasing publication in November 1977.
Newcastle proved again what a fannish hotspot it was in October when there was yet another manifestation of new fannishness, this time in the form of the Newcastle University SF Society. Organised by Robert Carter, the society soon boasted a membership of fifty and Carter himself soon made contact with Gannetfandom, swelling further the city's burgeoning fannish population. In November, Norwich's Discovery SF Group collapsed and reformed itself as a new group called 'Breakaway' which met every Wednesday at The Adam and Eve, a pub in the city's Bishopgate area. This reorganisation was judged necessary to shake the group out of its apathy and to reform it along the more sercon lines favoured by R.Lionel Fanthorpe, Mike Bootman, Sherry Ward, Pete Tyers, Stuart Andrews and Roger Campbell. The group were now very sercon -- just how sercon would become clear at the 1977 SILICON.
Birmingham's sixth NOVACON was held in the Royal Angus Hotel over the weekend of 5th -- 7th November 1976. Stan Eling was Chairman, with Helen Eling, Rog & Arline Peyton, and Laurence Miller also on the committee. Dave Kyle was Guest of Honour, and attendance was around 300. As well as the usual panels and talks, the films shown were Soylent Green and Westworld. There was also a showing of Phil Foglio's slide show, The Capture. Reports on the con were generally favourable but, as Peter Roberts reported:
"The sixth Novacon was a pleasant, but unremarkable affair which seems destined to fade comfortably into the general haze of annual Birmingham cons. For some people in fact this haze is already a substantial fog -- ace actifan Pete Weston, for example, not only forgot to register but turned up unexpectedly on Friday at the old Imperial Centre Hotel, scene of the first four Novacons. Thus are Secret Masters removed from the shackles of everyday time and space."
As the years passed it would become ever more difficult to separate one NOVACON from another in memory.
Towards the end of the 1976 Autumn term, students Phil Wain and Dave Penn founded the Keele University SF Society. Previously known in fandom mainly for being Peter Roberts' old alma mater, Keele University was to produce a number of fans in the coming years who would go on to be active in fandom nationally and to be the venue for some memorable conventions in the early 1980s. KUSFS would grow steadily over the next few years, its membership reaching 60 in mid-1978, but would meet irregularly, its members only gathering when special lectures or film shows could be arranged.
December 1976 saw both the formation of the Stoke-on-Trent SF Society (SoTSFS) and the first parliamentary candidate to be fielded in an election by an SF group. SoTSFS was founded by Chris Hall, who became its Chairman, and over thirty people attended its inaugural meeting. Numbers dropped off sharply after this but stabilised at around thirteen regular members, including people like Dave Rowley and MATRIX scribe Bill Little. The group met on the first Tuesday of every month at the WFA, Cartwright House, Hanley, had its own library and internal newsletter, and was sercon in orientation with talks by visiting pros and regular SF discussion sessions. As for the parliamentary election, Peter Roberts reported in the December CHECKPOINT that:
"To the relief of professional politicians, Philip Sargent, standing for the Science Fiction Looney Party, gained only 374 votes and thus failed to become the new Member of Parliament for the city of Cambridge. The Cambridge University SF Society were responsible for this bizarre, fannish bid for power...and indeed polled sufficiently well to score a genuine political point by embarrassing the far-right National Front, which didn't poll much better."
In fact there was a fan in Parliament at this point, namely Lord St.Davids, a member of the House of Lords, who attended a few One Tun meetings around this time. As amusing as this was, though, it wasn't politics but developments in the fields of film and rock music that would make an impact on fandom in the late 1970s.