Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as President of the United States soon after 1977 started, and would be President for the rest of the decade. This was also Silver Jubilee year, the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's reign, and one in which the Welsh and the Scots got to vote on limited political Devolution within the context of the United Kingdom. The industrialised world's economic situation continued to worsen in the wake of the 1973 Oil Crisis and Britain was swept by a wave of lengthy industrial disputes that led to such strikes being dubbed 'the English Disease' in the rest of the world. In the cinema, the success of STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND would unleash a tide of SF films such as had not been seen since the early 1950s and SF would finally achieve huge mass-market popularity, a development about which much of fandom was deeply ambivalent. Meanwhile, in Britain, a generation of young musicians broke free of the rut rock music had slipped into, rebelling both against their musical elders and against the dismal economic and job prospects faced by their generation, with punk rock. Punk was loud, fast, and angry, and sometimes nihilistic, but it also fed directly into things such as Rock Against Racism, which was set up to combat the rise of the National Front during the late 1970s. Punk, which burst onto the music scene in 1976 and came to national attention in 1977, attracted a body of hardcore fans who started producing fanzines devoted to the form. Needless to say, these soon came to the attention of SF fans.
There was a piece on the punkzines by Jonh Ingham in CHECKPOINT 78 (Jan '77). Ingham, an American active in West Coast fandom in the early '70s, had relocated to the UK the previous year, landed a writing job with SOUNDS music paper, and in that capacity had gone on tour with bands such as the Sex Pistols, the Patti Smith Band, and the Rolling Stones. He wrote:
"There's been an incredible spate of fanzines recently in the rock world. ZIG ZAG is the granddaddy and there've been a few imitators plus the fifties-collectors zines; but now fans of the new wave bands -- or punk bands, if you will -- have been popping them out like a plague. Eight in two weeks, to be precise. There's a similarity to some of them -- mostly gushing reviews, which is what fans are about after all -- but a couple are pretty hot. The oldest is SNIFFIN' GLUE, which first appeared in July and has kept to a pretty regular schedule."
Ingham went on to describe other punkzines such as RIPPED & TORN, ANARCHY IN THE UK, 48 THRILLS, LONDON'S OUTRAGE, NEW WAVE, and MORON, before concluding:
"Most of these people have never heard of the concept of 'the usual', nor even of selling fanzines. With my innate fannish superior intelligence I am attempting to inject such concepts as 'the usual', mainly by putting my own zine out. This is called LONDON'S BURNING, after a song by the Clash, to whom it's devoted. It's mostly collage & photo montage, and the only thing wrong about it is that my first fanzine in four years has nothing to do with SF fandom."
The other thing wrong with it was that Jonh Ingham was never heard from again in SF fandom. As Ingham indicated, there had been fanzines devoted to music before the punkzines. Indeed, during the 1950s Michael Moorcock had published at least nine issues of RAMBLER, a fanzine devoted to folk music (John Brunner was a contributor), and at least fourteen of another called JAZZ FAN (with Bill Harry, later the publisher of MERSEY BEAT, as its Art Editor). However, rock fanzines in general, and punkzines in particular, were a relatively new phenomenon. Writing in his zine WHO PUT THE BOMP in 1974, editor Greg Shaw had enthused about the growth of rock fandom in the few short years since its birth:
"I tell ya folks, nobody could be more surprised than me at how large rock fandom has grown. The 50 or so fellow fanatics I used to correspond with back in 1970 are now well-known actifans, with articles and fanzines of their own appearing all over the place, and whole new generations of kids coming along and adopting rock fandom as a way of life as though it had always been there."
Shaw, an American who had been active in SF fandom during the 1960s, is responsible for the term 'fanzine' crossing over into rock fandom, and from there into general usage. This is not quite how things are assumed to be by those who know nothing of SF fandom, however. In the early 1980s, in an article in the magazine CREATIVE REVIEW, one Graeme Ewins wrote:
"West Coast record collector Greg Shaw, publisher of WHO PUT THE BOMP, is credited with coining the word fanzine for mags which were about single bands or branches of the rock family tree. Other less specific publications he called genzines."
So now you know.
Among the many fine articles in the MAYA 12/13 (Jan '77) was the latest instalment of Peter Weston's regular 'Slice of Life' column in which he wrote at length about his 'battles' with Charles Platt during the early 1960s and of Platt's attacks on Walt Willis. A fascinating piece of fanhistory, this was destined to generate a lively exchange in subsequent issues.
TANGENT 1 (Feb '77), edited by Ian Garbutt for the BSFA, was a re-launch of the ill-fated amateur fiction magazine published by the Association during the 1960s. It would see five issues in this incarnation, as against the two it saw first time around. Another new sercon fanzine to arrive in February was the first issue of London fan David Wingrove's KIPPLE. Yet another sercon fanzine was Geoff Rippington's ARENA SF, which made its first appearance under that title in February 1977, and which would become the leading sercon fanzine of the late 1970s/early 1980s. It started life as a rather different publication. Called TITAN for its first four issues, it had been set on its determinedly sercon course following a less than totally complimentary review in the first STOP BREAKING DOWN. Stung by Pickersgill's remarks, Rippington announced, in a letter printed in the second SBD (all in capital letters in the original), that:
"You have done one thing with this review. You have helped me decide if TITAN was going to be a fannish fanzine or a SF oriented fanzine. The latter has been decided."
And so TITAN followed the same path Weston's ZENITH had taken more than a decade earlier, even to achieving its main success after changing its name. ARENA SF/TITAN would see thirteen issues in all, before folding in 1982.
Another fanzine changing its name was Paul & Cas Skelton's INFERNO, which became SMALL FRIENDLY DOG, with its fourteenth issue, in February 1977. Paul Skelton had often referred to the zine by the latter name within its pages anyway, but he was spurred to drop the INFERNO name entirely when the British Library Board, having somehow learned of its existence, demanded that he send them four copies of all future issues and of every issue to date, as they were entitled to under the Copyright Act of 1911. Skelton replied, truthfully, that he no longer published anything called INFERNO, and that though he distributed copies free of charge and didn't sell any (the act requires publishers to supply copies 'in the like condition as the books prepared for sale') he insisted the personal couriers who delivered them travel in luxury which, of course, the British Library Board would be expected to pay for in this instance. By law, copies of all works published in the UK, including fanzines, were supposed to be sent to the British Library, but the only items published by UK fandom and always lodged with them were OMPA mailings. Skelton got other aspects of copyright completely wrong, believing, for example, that it was necessary to have an ISSN number and send free copies to the 'copyright' libraries in order to receive copyright protection, if the work wasn't to drop straight into the public domain. Neither is true. In the UK, writers automatically have copyright to anything they write. The situation is different in the USA, however, and a proper copyright notice has to be added for it to enjoy protection in that country.
FAANCON II, organised this time by Mike Meara, was held at the Clarendon Hotel, Derby, over the weekend of 4th -- 6th February 1977. The con attracted around thirty or so attendees, including many from Gannetfandom and the MaD Group, though none from Ratfandom. Others attending included Rob Hansen, Ian & Janice Maule (the former Janice Wiles -- they married the week after NOVACON 6), and Joseph Nicholas. As before, operating on the principle that trufans never go to convention programme items anyway, FAANCON was totally unprogrammed, though a lot of D&D was played. Dungeons & Dragons was at the height of its popularity with fanzine fans at this point (that popularity dropping off sharply when D&D ceased being a cult interest and gained a huge mass market following) and Peter Roberts had even published a D&D fanzine, THE MASSYMORE OF TREVAROW. Though he didn't attend FAANCON II, Graham Boak sent his fanzine collection along to be dispersed among those present. It was his final contact with fandom.
The South Wales SF Group, the first formal SF group in Wales since The Cymrades of the early 1950s, held its inaugural meeting early in February 1977 at The Greyhound pub in Newport. Those present were Rob Hansen, Bryn Fortey, and Mike Collins (a friend of Fortey's who had attended a few cons with him) and the pub was chosen for its proximity to the railway station in deference to Hansen's need to dash from the pub at closing time in order to catch the last train back to Cardiff. Hansen and Fortey had been put in touch by Greg Pickersgill, and among the things discussed at that first meeting was the possibility of bidding for the 1980 Eastercon to be the first con ever held in Wales. Sadly, nothing came of this. In years to come, the SWSFG would more often be known as 'the Newport Group' than by its formal name. Before the year was out the group would acquire a fourth member, Dai Price, a childhood friend of Newport-born Dave Langford. Apart from their weekly Friday night pub meetings, the first thing the group did together was attend a party at Greg Pickersgill and Simone Walsh's new London home....
The housewarming party held at 7A Lawrence Road, South Ealing, on 19th March 1977 was the first fannish event at an address that was to host many more over the next fifteen years. As well as the Newport Group and most of Ratfandom, the event attracted Joseph Nicholas, Ritchie Smith, Dave & Hazel Langford, Dave Bridges, Dave Griffin, Jim & Marion Linwood, Ian & Janice Maule, Martin & Liese Hoare, Chris Priest, Peter Nicholls, Brian Parker, and Jack Marsh -- many of the major British fans of the day. Dave Bridges chose this occasion to reveal that fellow Sheffield fans Jean & David Staves had been responsible for STOP PUKING UP. The party was a great success and inspired Bryn Fortey's fanzine ACTION REPLAY, which was entirely devoted to a party report. As well as having achieved the sort of level of social cohesion and self-awareness that is the mark of a mature fandom, 1970s British fandom was now also producing fanzines that bear comparison with the best ever produced. As Fortey put it in his report:
"After Graham Charnock's late arrival I took him and Pat to one side and told them what a bloody terrific issue WRINKLED SHREW 7 had been...Fanzine fandom has been on a definite upswing of late. A good TRUE RAT 9, a bloody good MAYA 12/13, a bloody terrific STOP BREAKING DOWN 4, a bloody superb WRINKLED SHREW 7."
March 1977 was a classic month for fanzines. Not only did it see the publication of Harry & Irene Bell's TOCSIN (containing a piece from Harry Turner on the pre-war Manchester Interplanetary Society's brushes with the law) and of THE ASTRAL LEAUGE YEARBOOK, but also the appearance of what may well be the two finest single issues of fanzines published anywhere during the 1970s. The first of these, STOP BREAKING DOWN 4, was the first issue in nine months, sported a Jonh Ingham cover, and featured superb contributions from Rob Holdstock, Graham Charnock, and others. The second was WRINKLED SHREW 7, which carried excellent contributions from Greg Pickersgill, Andrew Stephenson, Rob Holdstock, Charles Platt, and Tom Perry. What it is most remembered for, however, is the fanzine review column by D West.
The first major column of fanzine criticism by West had appeared in TRUE RAT 8, during the brief period that Kettle converted his fanzine into a large scale production with lengthy outside contributions, and the second in WRINKLED SHREW 7. They weighed in at over twenty pages apiece, leading to much amused comment about West getting others to publish and distribute his fanzine for him, disguised as columns in theirs. Playing along, West subsequently declared that, yes, these columns had in fact been the second and third issues of DAISNAID, with the next issue he published himself, later that year, being DAISNAID 4 (though, confusingly, called SCAB TREK). West's criticism was solidly in the tradition established by Jim Linwood and Greg Pickersgill, but went much further. His WRINKLED SHREW piece, 'The State of the Art,' was later described by US fan Patrick Nielsen Hayden as "...a white-heat manifesto that nonetheless showed all the signs of having been rewritten several times, all the way to a ripping sensawonder-inspiring conclusion. It croggled us all." Yes, indeed. It deservedly topped the 'Best Article' category in the 1977 CHECKPOINT Fan Poll and was largely responsible for Pickersgill's decision to stop writing fanzine criticism. As he explained: "...with the advent of D. West, who is just about the Master as regards fanzine criticism, any gestures I had left to make more rapidly becoming redundant." Though Pickersgill soon bowed out gracefully there were others who fancied themselves fanzine critics of the same stripe and whose efforts would ultimately discredit this whole style of reviewing (which was known as KTF, or 'Kill The Fuckers'), at least in the eyes of some. Not that everyone was enamoured of it even at this point. In the course of his review of MAYA 12/13 and of Peter Weston's column therein, West revealed that his sympathies lay entirely with Charles Platt vis-a-vis Walt Willis, and then launched his own attack on Willis. This was too much for at least one fan who had been around since Willis' heyday....
Tom Perry's QUARK had published four instalments of Walt Willis' US column during the early 1960s. In QUARK 14 (Apr '77), the second of two issues published in the UK, Perry reminisced about returning to fandom, through attending MANCON 5, after a decade away and the differences he had found. He wrote of West's criticisms that they...
"...resemble Norman Mailer's forays into the New Journalism -- in fact, they're just what Mailer might write if he ever turned to fanzine reviewing. Beautiful metaphors, sustained diatribes, enviable invective, all in support of opinions that you may agree or disagree with. If you haven't seen the fanzine under discussion you can still enjoy what West has to say about it, but you'll come away knowing more about West than about the fanzine.
West spends three pages venting rage at Walt Willis, largely on the basis of Weston's MAYA column. The vehemence of the attack interests me more than anything he had to say, for unfortunately there's little intellectual content in those three pages...Don's censure is too violent. And there's no evidence he has any but the vaguest idea of what he's attacking...West has put all his might into several savage blows -- all ineffective because Willis wasn't where they happened to land."
QUARK 14 also contained a SILICON report by Eric Bentcliffe and a full account of 'the War of Hazel's Nose'. While visiting these shores in 1976, Harlan Ellison had dropped in on the July meeting at the One Tun and had a long conversation with Hazel Langford, during which he playfully tweaked her nose. When husband Dave joined them and was told of this he had, on impulse, tweaked Ellison's nose. He thought no more of the exchange but, in the course of an interview with Chris Fowler in VECTOR 75 soon afterwards, Ellison complained about "the son of a bitch" who would now go around boasting that he had "tweaked the great Ellison's nose":
"I have an enormous number of people who think they're going to make points with themselves, who must lead such mingey little lives that to be able to do this kind of thing must be a great feather in their cap."
Dave Langford was understandably annoyed by this, and his piece in QUARK was an attempt to set the record straight about a trivial incident he hadn't thought interesting enough to be worth writing up for a fanzine at the time. He still didn't, but yielded to Perry's badgering.
March 1977 saw IPC launch 2000 AD, a weekly British comic whose various strips were all SF-based. The comic's flagship strip was 'Dan Dare', featuring the famous SF hero of the 1950s and 1960s, but recast as a grimmer and grittier character designed to be more appealing to the reader of the 1970s than would the upright, square-jawed original. As it happened, it was a character first introduced in the second issue, a grim avenger far more in tune with the times than even a retooled Dan Dare could ever be, who would quickly become the favourite of 2000 AD's readership, his popularity far outstripping any that Dan Dare had ever achieved. This was Judge Dredd, described by historian John Newsinger as:
"...a violent, bullying, authoritarian policeman, a veritable 'fascist pig', who helps maintain in power an undemocratic, dictatorial regime that rules by means of lies, manipulation, fear, and violence without any regard whatever to civil liberties. Of course, the reality is far more complex than this. What we are looking at are comic strips that are imaginative, exciting, often funny, sometimes ferociously satirical... Judge Dredd can be seen as very much a product of the Law and Order debate that came to dominate the political agenda towards the end of the 1970s, a debate that was a response to social change and social conflict that the British Establishment found deeply threatening."
One of 2000 AD's first editors, Nick Landau, formed Titan Distributors with his partner, Mike Lake, in 1977. Titan would eventually become Britain's biggest specialist distributor of imported American SF and comics. In June 1978, the pair would open Forbidden Planet bookshop in London, which would eventually become the country's largest SF and comics shop. They would go on to open a branch in New York in June 1981.
After the debacle of MANCON, the Eastercon returned to the De Vere Hotel in Coventry, venue for SEACON '75 two years earlier, for an agreeably relaxed and low-key convention organised by the Brum Group, with Pauline Dungate as Chairman and the other positions filled by Laurence Miller, Dave Upton, Mike Brown, Rog Peyton, Chris Walton, and Marsha Jones (wife of Eddie Jones and organiser of many an Eastercon Art Show). Held over the weekend of 8th -- 11th April 1977, EASTERCON '77 had moved from Leicester to Coventry earlier in the year when the original hotel deal fell through. Guest of Honour was John Bush of publishers Victor Gollancz, and the programme book listed 450 people as registered. As well as the usual panels, auctions, and quizzes, there was the by now traditional 'serious' scientific talk by Bob Shaw, this time on 'The Bermondsey Triangle Mystery'. Films were Fantastic Planet, Daleks Invasion Earth, and Zero Population Growth. There was a disco with live music provided by Graham Charnock's band, The Burlingtons. This was also the convention at which Charnock unveiled THE ASTRAL LEAUGE'S GOLDEN GREATS, a tape-recorded album of songs by him which were parodies of well known tracks with their original lyrics sharply and wittily rewritten to be comments on fandom. Such reworkings are often referred to as 'filk music', a term that arose from a US apa, SAPS (Spectator Amateur Press Society), during the mid 1950s. As Harry Warner explains:
"SAPS accidentally helped to popularise a new fannish term when it refused to distribute one publication. Lee Jacobs manuscript on 'The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern American Filk Music' was rejected by Wrai Ballard as unmailable. The publicity from his decision helped to put into general fannish use the typographical error, 'filk' for 'folk'. Fannish poems set to pre-existing tunes were known henceforward as 'filk music'."
There were two further Astral Leauge albums in later years (THE NEW ASTRAL LEAUGE ALBUM and THE DEAF LEMON ASTRAL MEMORIAL ALBUM) containing tracks such as 'D West, D West', 'W.E.S.T.O.N.', and 'Hey Joe Nicholas'.
At the BSFA AGM Dave Kyle stood down as Vice-Chairman (he was soon to return to the US to live), a position filled after the Eastercon by Tom Jones. The BSFA Award went to Michael G. Coney's 'Brontomek', while the Doc Weir was awarded to Keith Freeman. At the bidding session the 1978 Eastercon was given to the SKYCON group bidding to hold it at the Heathrow Hotel, the rival CHANNELCON bid for Brighton having folded at the start of the year.
Despite being a fairly traditionally run con, EASTERCON '77 was responsible for an innovation that was to contribute significantly to future Eastercons: the first true Fan Room. Though they had been attempted at both the 1975 and 1976 Eastercons, the one organised here by Greg Pickersgill and Simone Walsh was the first that succeeded. Where 1975 had offered, essentially, an informal display of fanzines (1976 was rumoured to have been similar in the fleeting periods during which the tiny and remote room wasn't locked up) the 1977 Fan Room set the pattern for those that followed, with a table where fanzines old and new were on sale, a variety of fan-related panels and games, and rock'n'roll tapes playing most of the time. The Fan Room was originally intended to be a place where newcomers could be introduced to the joys of fandom, but things didn't quite work out that way. Just as SILICON and FAANCON had been a response to burgeoning convention attendances and the feeling of many fanzine fans that their cons were slipping away from them as they sought to be all things to all people and catered increasingly to media-fans and to others seen by them as fringe groups, so the Fan Room became a place where fanzine fans could retreat and do their own thing. As events were subsequently to demonstrate only too well, the Fan Room was often to prove the salvation of a number of otherwise dull Eastercons, providing the venue for something that became almost a convention- within-a-convention. At later cons, the Fan Room also provided a venue for bidding parties, and as a consequence was partly responsible for the decline in popularity and gradual death of the room party at British conventions.
Among the fanzines to appear in April 1977 were BARDDONI 1, a poetryzine from Pete Presford; VIBRATOR 7, the final issue, from Graham Charnock; IDIOT FAN '77, a humorous one-off from ONE-OFF editor David Bridges; and it was also about this point that John D. Owen of Milton Keynes published CRYSTAL SHIP 1. A somewhat serious fanzine, CRYSTAL SHIP was a substantial A5 litho production that featured some excellent artwork over its run, notably that of Martin Helsdon, but which many fans failed to warm to.
Re-alignments in personal relationships before and after Easter (with Irene Bell leaving Harry Bell for Brian Rouse, and Leroy Kettle's wife, Chris Atkinson, leaving him for Malcolm Edwards) created tensions in London and Newcastle, but whereas those among the Rats were soon resolved, those a few months later in the North-East split Gannetfandom in two. Brian Rouse, Irene Bell, Thom & Cath Penman, and Alan Isaacson started meeting on Friday nights, but soon faded from the scene, leaving the remaining Gannets to form the nucleus of latter-day Gannetfandom. Disruptive though all this was there were other potentially more destructive tensions present in British fandom in 1977, tensions generated for the most part by the BSFA. The BSFA publications had kept up their attack on fannish fandom with the result that by mid-1977 the sercon and fannish sides of British fandom had become seriously alienated from each other. With most BSFA members tending to rely on the Association's publications for information about fandom, fanzine fans had little opportunity to effectively refute the slurs. Since the BSFA was still seen as a potential recruiting ground for fanzine fandom, there was clearly a need for something to be done about the situation.
The Leeds University group had attracted a number of local fans who weren't actually students and in 1976 some of these -- David Pringle, Mike Dickinson, and D West -- had started meeting informally for drinks at the Victoria Hotel. This was the start of the modern Leeds SF Group. After EASTERCON '77 these drinking sessions expanded with the arrival of Carol Gregory, Kate Jeary, and Alan Dorey, all three of whom were, or had been, members of the University group (in fact Dorey was then editing BLACK HOLE for LUUSFS). Meetings began to grow, and the Leeds Group and the university group gradually became separate entities as the latter also started taking in more and more members, some of whom in turn would later move on to the Leeds Group proper. As the Leeds Group expanded over the next few months, its members began to talk seriously about bidding for the 1979 Eastercon.
CHECKPOINT 81 (May '77) opened with the news that its editor had won the 1977 TAFF race. Peter Roberts got 104 votes (43 Europe & 61 US), Terry Jeeves got 88 (34 & 54), and Pete Presford got 12 (2 & 10). That same month, Roberts published the first part of his BRITISH FANZINE BIBLIOGRAPHY (covering 1936 -- 1950) and Ian & Janice Maule published the first issue of NABU, a genzine.
LUUNICON (late May/early June '77) was a one day event held at London University. Pros present included Bob Shaw, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Sheckley, Chris Priest, Peter Nicholls, Brian Stableford, and Ian Watson. No further details, unfortunately.
Pete Weston's column in MAYA 12/13 had already produced the D West response and its Tom Perry counter-response by the time MAYA 14 appeared, in June 1977, carrying letters responding to the original column. Most actually supported Platt, or at least expressed regret that Weston had raked up old feuds, while Platt himself professed amusement at what he described as Weston's....
"...retired colonel role...these are clearly his memoirs, and his perspectives have narrowed in a fashion that I normally associate with senility. Of course, he never did have a sense of humour..."
Ted White's letter told of a dispute between Platt and himself that had led to Platt arranging to have White twice hit with 'custard' pies during the 1976 LUNACON in New York. This letter led in turn to a further exchange between the two concerning a professional 'feud' over White's handling of the prozine he then edited, AMAZING STORIES, which Jackson ran as 'The Ultimate Debate' in MAYA 15 (June '78), the final issue.
CHECKPOINT 83 (July '77) carried the results of the annual fan poll. WRINKLED SHREW was voted Best British Fanzine (followed by STOP BREAKING DOWN, MAYA, TRUE RAT, TWLL DDU, and VIBRATOR), Leroy Kettle was Best British Fanwriter (followed by Graham Charnock, D West, Dave Langford, Greg Pickersgill, and Bob Shaw), Harry Bell was yet again Best British Fanartist (followed by Jim Barker, D West, Tony Schofield, and Jon Langford -- brother of Dave and drummer for punk band 'The Mekons'), WRINKLED SHREW 7 was voted Best Single Issue, and that issue's D West piece, 'State of the Art', was voted Best Article. Interestingly, British fans also made a good showing in American fandom's short-lived FAAN Awards (which were intended to cover fan activity worldwide) for 1977 with Rob Jackson voted Best Fan Editor, Bob Shaw voted Best Fan Writer (Leroy Kettle and Peter Weston came in at fourth and fifth respectively in this category), Harry Bell voted Best Fan Artist in 'Humorous' category, and MAYA 11 tying for Best Single Issue.
In July 1977, Brian Parker launched a new fanzine, A BIT OF THE OTHER ONE, and the following month the improbably-named Richard C.C.Nixon published the first issue of AETHER (a second and final issue appeared in 1978). Even though the film wouldn't have its UK premiere until 27th December, VECTOR 82 (Aug '77), was a special 'Star Wars' issue with a photo cover and a number of articles devoted to it. This issue also reprinted the text version of Bob Shaw's 'Bermondsey Triangle Mystery', and the first instalment of 'Half Life: The Life and Times of Elmer T. Hack' a satirical SF humour strip by Jim Barker and Chris Evans, a London-based fan, expatriate Welshman, and fledgling SF writer. That month's MATRIX, issue 13, was Tom Jones' last. Explaining that his duties as the new BSFA Vice-Chairman left him no time to edit MATRIX and that Andy Sawyer would be the new editor, Jones reminisced about his eleven issues:
"Editing this magazine has produced mostly high spots, but there was one low. Although the BSFA should not be a recruiting post for fandom quite a number of people are interested in that aspect of SF and as it is on the whole a fine institution I want to encourage people to get into fandom. But having just returned to the fold myself I could look at it with an objective eye and see some grubs in the apple. When I pointed some of these out I was roundly attacked by certain factions in fandom for being 'anti-fandom'. I was angry about this as I am not anti-fandom; it is possible to love something and still notice its faults."
Nevertheless, the view persisted that Jones, Garbutt, and Fowler had turned the BSFA against fandom and the resolve to do something about this was slowly gathering strength.
SILICON 2, was held in Newcastle's Imperial Hotel over the weekend of 26th -- 29th August 1977. Though SILICON had not been heavily advertised, and it had been stressed that it was a fannish gathering rather than a traditional SF con, there was still a contingent from Norwich's 'Breakaway' group, including Mike Bootman and Sherry Ward, who had arrived at SILICON expecting traditional SF programming. As Dave Langford later reported in TWLL DDU 8:
"I can't have been in control of myself on Saturday morning of SILICON: I found myself on some sort of panel. Fortunately there was no need to actually say anything, since pissed Leroy was grabbing 95% of the action, much to the horror of certain representatives of the Norwich SF Group. These poor folk, lured on by false hopes, now found themselves amid commies and perverts who quite openly spent whole minutes not talking about SF. Their most immortal line was 'How is it that a big place like Newcastle can't support a decent SF group?'. Rob Jackson, then absent, didn't count: MAYA, the Norwich Group declared, was just another of those nasty fannish fanzines which Mary Whitehouse ((a right-wing Christian moral campaigner)) would get around to in due course. Leroy fell off his chair and insisted that Greg probably knew more about SF than anyone in Norwich. Scandalised expressions: 'Look, anything he's read we've probably read in the same edition!' Leroy fell off his chair again. I made a sign saying DEAF AND DUMB and erected it before me. We turned to happier matters -- 'Should we always have a GoH at cons?' and were back on familiar ground as soon as Greg screamed 'You'll be having the typesetter from Badger Books in the end!' -- 'Good choice,' said Leroy, falling off his chair."
Tom Perry and Dave Kyle both returned to the US to live during the summer of 1977, a fact reported by Peter Roberts in CHECKPOINT 84 (Aug '77), as was the news that there wouldn't be an issue in September or October since Roberts, too, would be in America during those months. As the TAFF winner he would be attending SUNCON, the 1977 Worldcon, being held in Miami Beach, Florida. Nor was he the only British fan attending. Graham Poole, Pat & Mike Meara, Peter Mabey, Rob Jackson, and Peter Weston also made the trip. SUNCON being where the 1979 Worldcon would be awarded, Weston was there to present the 'Britain in '79' bid and to drum up that last bit of support prior to the bidding session itself. To this end he recruited the help of the other Brits present. Jackson later wrote of:
"...the manic excitement of the Britain in '79 party, where Pete Weston worked himself into a frenzy of euphoria and infected the audience (most of it, anyway) with enthusiasm and delight."
Coming on top of all the hard work that so many people had put into the bid, and the widespread goodwill it had already generated, this did no harm at all and Britain won by a landslide. As SMALL MAMMAL reported soon after:
"According to our correspondent at the Miami Worldcon...the actual voting figures weren't announced simply in order so that the New Orleans bid opposing Britain shouldn't be embarrassed."
And as Langford put it in TWLL DDU 9:
"SHOCK HORROR NEWS! Fandom reels as, despite all that Messrs Weston, Jackson et al could do, the deluded voters at SUNCON force SEACON '79 into shuddering reality. All over Britain, ashen-faced fans are counting the number of people on SUNCON's committee and realising that only A Select Few will be mere carefree attendees...."
Though there could be a couple of hundred people at One Tun meetings, making them almost certainly the largest monthly gathering of SF fans in the world, those present represented many groups. This meant that the largest single fan group in the country at this point was the Birmingham SF Group, but their membership wasn't well represented in fanzine publishing. In September, three of the newer members, Steve Green, Noel Chadwick, and Paul Harris attempted to change this with META. Soon after this, Green and another local fan, Chris Cutts, started publishing ASTRON. Where META lasted only one issue, ASTRON saw three before folding late in 1978. As Green later wrote of these zines, "neither was particularly innovative or inspired" since he had yet to encounter the fanzines and editors so recently responsible for revitalising British fandom:
"However, NOVACON 7 that November finally provided an opportunity to meet many of these editors in person and -- perhaps more crucially -- to engage in the ancient ritual of exchanging fanzines; by the convention's close, I was well and truly hooked."
Green would go on to be one of the most active Birmingham fans of the 1980s.
Peter Nicholls resigned from the Science Fiction Foundation at the end of September 1977, leaving its immediate future looking rather uncertain. As Martin Easterbrook reported in SMALL MAMMAL:
"With the resignation of Peter Nicholls last week the staff of the Science Fiction Foundation at North London Polytechnic is now down to none. If anyone feels like getting professionally involved in the crazy world of SF there are now vacancies for a Principal Senior Lecturer, Lecturer, and Librarian."
October saw the publication of the first issue of GET FOKT from the Glasgow group. The A5 fanzine contained articles by FOKT members such as Stan Firth, Jimmy Robertson, and Sandy Brown, and was edited by the fake Bob Shaw. (The Glasgow Bob Shaw was known by various names, some of which could be used in polite company, but was most commonly referred to as 'the fake Bob Shaw', a name that will be used in this text in order to differentiate him from his famous namesake.) The FOKT group was entering the most active period of its existence at this point. It had around thirty members, would soon (Jan '78) start a monthly writers amateur writers' circle called The Friends Of Gobfrey Shrdlu (FOGS), and had a con in the planning stages that would have a profound affect on convention running in the UK. Around this same time, the Edinburgh Friends of Fandom (EFofF) was formed in that city by ex-FOKT members Phil Dawson and Eric Brodie (or 'Eric from Berwick', as he was also known) and met every Tuesday at Jim's Inn, off Cockburn St. The group would last less than two years, folding when Brodie moved away from Edinburgh.
South of the border, meanwhile, 1977 had seen the formation of a number of new groups including the Birkenhead SF Group, which had only four members and which Andy Sawyer worked hard to keep going over the next couple of years, and the University of Warwick Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, formed at the start of the 1977/8 academic year by Daves Lerwick and Moor. (The first issue of the group's official organ, FUSION, would be published the following year.) The Cidereal SF Society, which met monthly in a Taunton pub, had been formed in the summer by Allen Boyd-Newton, who had already published the first issue of the group's official organ, CIDEREAL TIMES. The new Leicester SF Group, which met on the first Friday of the month at the Freemans Arms Hotel, was another that had started during the summer, and the Matlock SF Group, which formed in August 1977 met fortnightly at The Boathouse in Derby's Matlock district. This last group is notable for giving fandom Joy Hibbert.
NOVACON 7 was held at the Royal Angus Hotel, Birmingham, over the weekend of 4th -- 6th November 1977. Chairman was Stan Eling, GoH was John Brunner, and attendance was around 300. As usual, the con was lightly programmed, with a few panels and films, an auction, a banquet, and a Saturday night disco that at its height saw most of the active fans of the day on the dancefloor. (The track that got them all going was The Stranglers' 'No More Heroes', oddly enough.) Friday night saw a 'SUNCON Slide Show' at which Mike Meara and Rob Jackson showed off their photographic talents with shots of various US fans at the Worldcon, while Saturday boasted 'The Jim White Chat Show', with James White interviewing 'guests' Peter Roberts and Brian Lewis in the hope of teasing amusing anecdotes out of them. Keen to avoid a repeat of the fuss the Nova Award had generated in recent years, the Birmingham Group had decided that henceforth the judging panel would be discontinued and the award put to a popular vote of all NOVACON attendees. To this end they had asked Dave Langford to devise a comprehensive set of voting rules, on which the vote at NOVACON 7 would be based. As it happens, the Nova Award for Best British Fanzine went to Langford's own TWLL DDU. It was a popular result. At this point, as they had been for some years, the actual Nova Award trophies were a three-dimensional replica of the image on that year's Novacon identity badge. Constructed by the Birmingham Group's Ray Bradbury, these were often less robust than might have been hoped for, many of them shedding parts even as they were being awarded. In later years the design of the award was standardised (and simplified) to eliminate this problem. Due to the Royal Angus no longer being large enough to host the convention, it was announced that NOVACON 8 would be held at the Birmingham Holiday Inn.
Having recast themselves as 'Breakaway', the Norwich SF Group launched a new groupzine in December 1977. Called SFEAR, this new publication replaced the group's earlier BLACK HOLE (which had seen two issues in 1974/75) and would be edited during its existence by members such as Roger Campbell, John Williams, Alan Marshall, and Glen Warminger. Warminger, who had joined the group as a 17 year-old in 1975, would go on to produce his own solo fanzines in the 1980s.
VECTOR 84 (Dec '77) was the first to be edited by David Wingrove. Like his predecessor, Chris Fowler, Wingrove would go on to edit thirteen issues. Also out in December was TRIODE 26, the final issue of the revived 1950s fanzine. Though it didn't build up a large following among modern-day fans, TRIODE was a favourite of those who remembered the 1950s with fondness.
The second volume of Peter Roberts' BRITISH FANZINE BIBLIOGRAPHY, covering 1951-1960, appeared in January 1978. His CHECKPOINT 86 (Feb '78) was only the second issue since the previous August and carried the news that as well as the Leeds Group bid for the 1979 Eastercon there was now also one from Bram Stokes, proprietor of SF bookshop 'Dark They Were And Golden Eyed'. This was another attempt on his part at the sort of 'multimedia' convention he had proposed for the 1974 Eastercon and which had been soundly defeated by the rival TYNECON bid from the Gannets. In other news, Peter Roberts reported that:
"Meanwhile, in the sercon strongholds of the SF Foundation, Malcolm Edwards has replaced Pete Nicholls as boss, and David Pringle has moved in as an Igor figure."
CHECKPOINT also announced the formation of a new fan fund, GUFF. Following the example of TAFF another fund, DUFF (the Down Under Fan Fund) had been started in 1971 to bring Australian fans to the US, and vice versa, but no fund for similar exchanges between Britain and Australia existed, until the formation of GUFF. This fund came about during a conversation between Chris Priest and a group of fans at an Australian convention in 1977. As Priest later recalled:
"It suddenly occurred to me that it was time the third side of the triangle was closed, and after a few minutes of non-sober reflection in the bar GUFF was created by unanimous consent. The Get Up-and-over Fan Fund was created with the specific intention of bringing an Australian fan to SEACON."
Though the story wasn't carried in this issue, CHECKPOINT later reported the death, on 28th February, of Eric Frank Russell.
The first convention of 1978 was FAANCON III. Organised by Gerald 'Boris' Lawrence, it was held over the weekend of 3rd -- 5th February 1978, in the Landsdowne Hotel, Manchester. It was the smallest FAANCON yet, with an attendance of under 30, but seems to have been enjoyed by the attendees. There were some problems with the night porter, christened 'Fang' by Martin Easterbrook, closing the bar early so, as Mike Meara reported:
"Dave Rowe, Bernie Peek, Gra Poole, and myself (the Four Musketeers), heavily disguised as mundanes, raided the local off-license and smuggled the wherewithal for a room party in through the Skelton's ground-floor window. The party went off well, so Fang's attempts to thwart us were all in vain. I can't remember much of what I did, but I had a great time doing it. The others must have too, since most of them signed up on the spot with Gra for next year."
From Pan Books in March came The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the first of three 'encyclopedias' of SF that would be published before the end of the decade. Though visually attractive the book failed to be anything like encyclopedic and is chiefly of note here for its section on fandom and for the number of fans listed among its researchers. Unfortunately, the presence of these gentlemen -- John Eggeling, Walter Gillings, Jim Goddard, Phil Harbottle, George Hay, Colin Lester, Philip Strick, and Gerry Webb -- wasn't enough to prevent a number of errors from creeping into that section, even concerning matters they themselves had been involved with. For example, the birthdate of Britain's first fan group, the Ilford Science Literary Circle, is incorrectly given as 1931 rather than 1930, despite Gillings having been a founder member.
Final issues in March 1978 were GHAS 4, from Carol Gregory and John & Eve Harvey, and STOP BREAKING DOWN 6, though this would see a single-issue revival in the 1980s. New fanzines included Harry Bell's KAMIKAZE; TIOFART 1, from Northumberland fan Dave Cobbledick; and GROSS ENCOUNTERS 1, from Leeds Group member Alan Dorey, which contained a mention by Dorey of a Harrogate SF Group, whose meetings he occasionally attended even though they seldom attracted more than three members. The group had been formed by Robin Hughes in mid-1977, one of its earliest members being John Collick. Hughes would put out a fanzine called CANOPUS before the end of 1978.
The 1978 Eastercon, SKYCON, was held over the weekend of 24th -- 27th March 1978, in the Heathrow Hotel, Heathrow Airport, London. Guest of Honour was Robert Sheckley, Fan GoH was Leroy Kettle, and Kevin Smith was Chairman. The rest of the committee -- many of whom, like Smith, were former OUSFG members -- were Dave Langford, Dermot Dobson, Keith Oborn, Martin and Liese Hoare, Stan Eling, John & Eve Harvey, and Ian Maule -- who was running the Fan Room. To the horror of many, Rob Holdstock had shaved his beard off for the event.
As well as the usual quizzes, panels, and GoH speech, programme items included 'Up The Conjunction', the latest hilarious 'serious scientific talk' by Bob Shaw, the 'Iridescent Village' disco, and the Fancy Dress ("no worse than usual, despite the frequent appearances of Brian Burgess clad only in a jock-strap" -- Roberts). An unusually full film programme included Silent Running, Phantom of the Paradise, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Young Frankenstein, La Jetee, Barbarella, Isle of the Dead, Charly, and Freaks.
As part of his FGoHship, Leroy Kettle produced an issue of TRUE RAT especially for the convention, one published under the auspices of SKYCON and paid for out of convention funds. NOT TRUE RAT TEN was so named because Kettle had misplaced the cover Harry Bell drew for issue ten, which he intended to publish when this cover turned up. It was not to be, however, and there were no further issues. Kettle was interviewed by Simone Walsh in front of a packed Fan Room audience and gave a performance regarded by those who saw it as the highlight of the convention. In that audience, making his final appearance at a con, was John N.Hall. A transcript appeared in the first issue of Eve Harvey's WALLBANGER later that year. In other business, the Doc Weir Award went to Greg Pickersgill.
SKYCON was generally adjudged a successful and enjoyable convention, in spite of the hotel and its staff. As Peter Roberts noted in CHECKPOINT:
"The Heathrow Hotel was not a suitable site for the 1978 (or any other) British convention: the hotel was isolated, the prices high, the staff rude, and the management indifferent to both the convention and the individuals running it."
The hotel management's pettiness included, at one point, the closure of the public lavatories. Greg Pickersgill, who was not one to suffer such slights lightly, protested this move by urinating on the hotel's plushly carpeted stairs.
Despite the attitude of the management, having the convention at a London location, however isolated, attracted a huge number of 'walk-ins', or day-members, with final registration topping 700. As a result of the unexpectedly large profit this generated, Kevin Smith announced at the Sunday night banquet that the downstairs bar would be serving free drink for as long as this money lasted, starting a stampede for the doors.
At the BSFA AGM, the BSFA Council were all voted in for another year. Due to the BSFA having lost money in the previous year it was decided that VECTOR should be printed by duplicator, at least temporarily. New VECTOR editor David Wingrove reported that he was looking for a cheaper print firm and hoped to have VECTOR revert to litho reproduction in the near future. Kevin Smith, who was a fully qualified accountant, was voted in as new Company Secretary. There was some talk of the BSFA Award, won this year by Ian Watson's 'The Jonah Kit', being renamed 'The Carnell', but nothing came of this. Minutes of the AGM, and the annual accounts, would be printed in the next issue of MATRIX, and the loss reported in those accounts was to be the cause of some recrimination.
New in April was YCZ from Richard I. Barycz, while May brought the first issue of Tom Jones' WAIF (fourth and final issue in Jan '80). EGG 11, that same month, was the final issue of Peter Roberts' long-running genzine. May also saw the publication of the fourth issue of Rob Hansen's EPSILON, the first in the quarto format it was to have from then on, and the first since Hansen had moved to Newport -- and into the flat being vacated by Mike Collins -- the previous month. (Following his move to London, Collins soon lost contact with fandom.) Among the items in the issue was the first instalment of the 'Notions' column in which Hansen editorialised about fannish matters of the day. In this one he asked where the new fans were, a question asked earlier by Dorey in GROSS ENCOUNTERS, and why so few had entered fanzine fandom in the three years since his own initiation. It was a question that would be asked with increasing frequency in the months to come.
CHECKPOINT 88 (Apr '78) reported that MAYA had been nominated for a Hugo Award, and that Keith Walker had "dreamed up" something called 'The International Fanzine Foundation'. Beyond saying that it should be "simple", Walker never explained how the organisation was to be constituted and run. This was another of the many projects which Walker announced during this period that never actually came to fruition.
In May 1978, Keele University SF Society published the first issue of SCOPE, their official organ, which was to be published once a term. Another group publishing the first issue of its official organ that month was the Stafford SF Group with KADU FLYER, edited by Steve Cowperthwaite. Little else is known about the group, alas, nor about the Ribble Valley SF Group which was then being run by Richard Bancroft and meeting at noon on the last Sunday of the month at the Brown Cow Inn, Moor Lane, Clitheroe, Lancs. Another new Lancashire fan group around this time was the Bolton Group, an offshoot of the Manchester and District Group formed by Steev Higgins (who used this form of his name until he got embarrassed and started spelling it sensibly in later years), Laurence Dean, and Paul & Chris Barlow. This would initially prove to be a short-lived group, dissolving soon after the Worldcon, but Bolton Group would reform later.
MAYA 15 (June '78) was the final issue. Though Jackson announced his intention to publish another before the year was out, his impending move to Surrey and marriage to Coral Clarke (whose impact on male fan libidos in her early Fancy dress appearances had been comparable to that achieved by Kate Solomon later in the decade), and his subsequent mortgage, were demands on his time and money that spelled the end for MAYA. MAYA 15 included contributions from Bob Shaw, Peter Weston, Ted White, and Charles Platt. As one Gannet fanzine died, however, a new one was born. FLEDGLING 1 was the first fanzine to be published by fledgling Gannet, Andy Firth.
In his lengthy letter, more properly an essay, published in MATRIX 18 (June '78), D West flayed those running the BSFA for what he saw as their incompetent management of its affairs, and particularly for the £2740 spent on BSFA publications -- primarily VECTOR -- from subscription income of £1901:
"Chris Fowler's editorship has ended in the bizarre and ludicrous situation of an organisation with nearly 500 members and nearly £3000 income running into the red through sheer inability to manage the production of six bundles of mediocre fanzines within the limits of a ridiculously high level of expenditure. There are university societies which produce better lithoed fanzines on less than a tenth of the BSFA's income. There are individuals who produce better fanzines at a cost that enables them to give the things away and still not feel much financial strain. The BSFA can't manage this. As Dave Cobbledick announces in a plug in his own fanzine: 'Every active member who keeps the BSFA running does so voluntarily and seeks no financial reward. The BSFA is a non-profitmaking organisation'. Apparently, he thinks he's boasting. He should be getting ready to break down and cry.
Despite the sudden and amazing revelation that there is a tomorrow and bills have to be paid sometime, they continue to sanction the publication of TANGENT, a fan-fiction magazine of such low quality that -- unless one takes the charitable view that it provides remedial therapy for the editor and contributors -- its appearance can only serve to bring the name of the BSFA into further disrepute. Yes, further. BSFA publications are not exactly a byword for excellence, either of production or content. Never before has so much been spent on behalf of so many for so little result."
West also attacked the BSFA committee for the inclusion in the previous mailing of two non-BSFA fanzines published by committee members: the first issue of Tom Jones' WAIF and the second of Phil Stephenson-Payne's PAPERBACK PARLOUR, the first having been published in February. Alan Dorey joined in this attack in his GROSS ENCOUNTERS 3 in July, adding that:
"...the council members ought to prove their worth. it is no good holding an AGM at the Easter Convention when very few people are up and about (Sunday morning). This almost guarantees the same clowns their places. No explanations of what has gone wrong in the previous year, and who's to blame. Just a simple pat on the back and 'My, what a good job you're doing', and that's it. Each potential member ought to draw up a type of manifesto stating their intentions once in office, and then when they come up for re-election, they should be forced to account for their period in control. If their activities don't meet with general approval, then they should be removed. positive action is needed to make the BSFA into the authoritative, serious and constructive body it should be... Well, I can just hear the BSFA council saying that I'm talking a lot of idealistic rubbish and that 'could I do better'etc. Well, there are a lot of people who could -- and are willing -- to do better... With a little application, the BSFA could be a force to be reckoned with, rather than a farce to be deadened with."
As Dorey had indicated, there were, for once, those among the people criticising the BSFA who were prepared to shoulder its responsibilities themselves in order to sort the Association out. More would be heard from these people in the months to come.
At the end of June 1978, Ethel Lindsay moved to Carnoustie in her native Scotland, leaving 'Courage House', the Surbiton home where she had lived for the past twenty-one years and the scene of fannish gatherings such as those of the old Science Fiction Club of London. The move was occasioned by Lindsay retiring from her job as a nursing sister and did not initially affect the twice-yearly publishing schedule of her SCOTTISHE, which was still the oldest continuously published fanzine in the UK.
CHECKPOINT 90 (July '78) led with the sad news that Mike Rosenblum had died on 28th June. By his involvement with the various manifestations of Leeds fandom down the years, he alone had provided it with continuity over the four decades of its existence. This issue also carried the results of the annual Checkpoint Fan Poll, with TWLL DDU being voted Best British Fanzine of 1977/8 (runners up being STOP BREAKING DOWN, MAYA, DOT, and TRUE RAT), Dave Langford as Best British Fanwriter (runners up being Leroy Kettle, Bob Shaw, Kevin Smith, and Greg Pickersgill), while Harry Bell was yet again voted Best British Fanartist (runners up being Jim Barker and D West, with Jon Langford and Alan Hunter coming joint fourth).
The first issue of QUIBBLE, from fanartist David "Shep" Kirkbride had been published in mid-1977, and the second appeared in July 1978. A litho fanzine, lavishly illustrated, it reflected its editor's interest in art. As it turned out, QUIBBLE would be published annually, the third and final issue coming out in June 1979.
In the summer of 1978, Scotland saw its first ever convention: FAIRCON. Held at the Ingram Hotel in Glasgow over the weekend of July 21st-23rd, the con had James White as GoH, with Bob Shaw and Peter Hamilton (editor of 1950s prozine NEBULA) also on hand. The convention booklet listed 185 members and 15 committee members, including the fake Bob Shaw, who was con chairman, and about 350 people attended. The programme included the usual sorts of items familiar from Eastercons, with the films shown being Destination Moon, Dr Strangelove, The War Game, Slaughterhouse Five, and Charly. All of this came as something of a surprise to fans down South who knew Scottish fans such as Ethel Lindsay and fanartist Jim Barker but hadn't suspected there was that level of interest in Scotland. Interest there was, though, and the fact they were able to stage a successful convention, even with minimal attendance from south of the border, was not lost on them. Nor were they alone in seeing that it was now possible to put on a convention without going through the usual channels and gaining the support of those who, possibly unfairly, were seen as 'the Establishment'. The example set by FAIRCON would have a profound effect on British con-running in the years that followed.
In MATRIX 19 (Aug '78), replying to D West's accusations in the previous issue, the BSFA Committee repudiated West's assertion that the Association was an object of derision in fandom, explained that Tom Jones had paid to have WAIF distributed with the April BSFA mailing, and that PAPERBACK PARLOUR was now an official BSFA publication rather than Stephenson-Payne's own fanzine. They could not deny that the Association had been in the red (though it was back in the black now), but claimed this was because Chris Fowler had misled them:
"In 1977, VECTOR changed from A5 to A4 format with the editor's assurance that there would be no increase in costs because of the reduced page count; ie. an issue would cost £250 to £350. In July 1977, the committee had agreed that no more metal plates would be used unless used on, and paid for completely by, advertising, in order to minimise costs. Much to the committee's anger, VECTOR 83 appeared with metal plated covers, and after Chris Fowler's resignation it was discovered that his cost estimates as presented to the committee were incorrect in that the A4 VECTORs were costing not £250 to £350, but £400 to £500. We also found that money was owed for VECTORs 81, 82, and 83...."
Responsibility for the publications account, they announced, had now passed from the VECTOR editor to the committee in order to prevent such a situation from arising again. Also announced in MATRIX 19 was that editor Andy Sawyer would be giving up the job as soon as a replacement could be found, as would BSFA Vice Chairman, Tom Jones.
Fanzines making their first appearance in August 1978 were Eve Harvey's WALLBANGER, Steve Green's CLOSER TO THE EDGE (which would see six issues before folding late in 1979), and Simone Walsh's SEAMONSTERS, which was a genzine much like its predecessor, STOP BREAKING DOWN, but with Simone Walsh in the editor's chair and Greg Pickersgill on board as a columnist and as production manager.
SEAMONSTERS lasted four issues, the final one appearing in August 1979, but though an excellent fanzine it never drew the same level of response as SBD due, no doubt, to the less contentious nature of its editor. Also out in August was NABU 5, from Ian and Janice Maule, which was notable for being the issue in which Joseph Nicholas' regular fanzine review column, 'K is for Knife', made its first appearance. Seeing it's final issue in August was KNOCKERS FROM NEPTUNE, the sixth issue being not only the final one but also editor Mike Meara's last fanzine.
SILICON 3 was held in the Grosvenor Hotel, Newcastle, over the weekend of 25 -- 28th August. The con, organised as always by Gannetfandom, was the usual lightly-programmed relaxacon, with a 'panel' in which the audience did most of the talking, and showings of the films Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Deadly Mantis. Dave Langford described the convention thus:
"SILICON was a fine, drunken, chaotic, and totally fannish event, yet not ruled by the sinister cliques suspected by last year's skeletons at the feast, the Norwich SF Group: at SILICON the hitherto obscure John Collick and Steev Higgins were plunged into the fannish mainstream and, far from protesting this infringement of their precious serconity, appeared to like it. Made euphoric by this vindication of fandom's eternal truth, Simone Walsh was heard to say: 'There's hope for Ian Garbutt.'"
With Robert Day having moved to Derby earlier in the year, and with Rob Jackson and Dave Cockfield moving to London before the end of the year (Ritchie Smith would also move to the capital early in 1979), Gannetfandom was soon to find itself with its smallest membership in years.
A new group that formed in that Autumn at Hatfield Polytechnic, at the start of the 1978/9 academic year, was PSIFA (Polytechnic Science Fiction/Fantasy Association). Founded by Steve Foard and Jonathan Cowie (late of the University of Warwick, and of that institution's SF group), who became PSIFA's first President and Vice-President respectively, the group was an immediate success and grew quickly. At the time, there was a general student newsletter at Hatfield called HYPO, so PSIFA started a 'bi-termly' newsletter of its own called HYPO-SPACE.
CHECKPOINT 91 (Sept '78) reported the death of Norman Weedall, late of the Liverpool Group, and that in American fandom's recent FAAN Awards Rob Jackson had been voted Best Faneditor, MAYA 14 had been voted Best Single Issue, and Bob Shaw had been voted Best Fanwriter. Also reported was the creation of The Walter Gillings Travel Fund, a project of America's First Fandom to bring Gillings to the US in 1980, and the formation, during the summer, of a formal Sheffield SF Group with Terry Jeeves as Chairman, Dave Bridges as Treasurer, and Pete Hammerton as Secretary. Meetings were held monthly at the West Street Hotel in the city centre.
In October 1978, VECTOR editor David Wingrove published the second and final issue of his own KIPPLE, while in November, Manchester fans Paul Kincaid and Mike Scantlebury published TRIPE PICKER'S JOURNAL 1, the first fanzine that Kincaid, a fan since the 1975 Eastercon, had edited. Meanwhile, Steev Higgins, having experienced a fannish epiphany at SILICON 3, published PERIHELION 2, the first issue in two years, and Mike Dickinson put out the one-off ADSUM, a fannish first for him after co-editing three issues of the sercon BAR TREK. Not content with this, he also co-edited the one-off SIRIUS (so-called because it was 'serious' ie. sercon) with Alan Dorey. Also, around this time, London fan Ben Burr published the first issue of his short-lived BENZINE, and Didcot-based Graham England (later to change his name to Graham Koch) published the first DON'T PANIC, which was taken up mostly by international convention listings.
NOVACON 8 was held at the Birmingham Holiday Inn over the weekend of 3rd -- 5th November 1978. Anne McCaffrey was GoH, Laurence Miller was Chairman, Joseph Nicholas was in charge of the Fan Room, and the Programme Book showed 309 people as having registered. The hotel had something that British fans had never encountered before, namely a main bar that was beside a swimming pool. This area was also used for the traditional Saturday night disco. Amazingly, no-one fell in during the dancing. Both the main and fan programmes featured the usual round of panels, talks, and quizzes, while the films shown were Flesh Gordon, Dark Star, and The Resurrection of Zachery Wheeler. Not that the con was without its moments of creative silliness, as Dave Langford recounts:
"Famed fanartist Jim Barker -- inspired by evil Graham Charnock -- lovingly created the cardboard Peter Weston Moustache. Soon this Fuhrer-like symbol was affixed with Blu-Tack to scores of upper lips, and scores of clenched-fist salutes were given -- to the dismay of Chairman Peter. Some loyal Westonites found it difficult to adopt the new insignia: Kev Smith, for example, discovered that he already had a moustache with which Blu-Tack could become irretrievably intermingled. In a burst of lateral thought, he compromised by wearing his Peter Weston Moustache on the end of his nose. (Who said the sense of wonder was dead?)"
A BSFA council meeting was held at NOVACON 8, during which editor Ian Garbutt's offer to make TANGENT a litho production, at his own expense, was accepted; Dave Wingrove announced that he would be standing down as VECTOR editor in September 1979 in order to attend university; and it was decided finances had improved enough for VECTOR to return to litho production in 1979, with a special issue being produced in time for the Worldcon. In other business, Ian Watson was presented with his BSFA Award for 'The Jonah Kit' at the banquet by Bob Shaw, and GROSS ENCOUNTERS narrowly beat DOT for the Nova Award. ("One lousy vote," DOT editor Kevin Smith was heard muttering afterwards, "just one lousy vote.")
A newcomer whose first convention this was made what may well be the noisiest ever entry to fandom, as Dave Langford recorded:
"Most of the 'organised' events I remember were in the Fan Room...mumblings on the Meaning of Fandom, which were merrily stagnating when one Alun Harries shouted that this was all nonsense.
'How can I get into all this?' he cried disconsolately.
'Have you tried asking?' said Greg Pickersgill after much head scratching.
'I'm too shy and nervous to ask,' he bellowed, 'You should be asking me to join you instead of sitting here talking rubbish.'
Alun kept very close to the door, even when informed that fans were as morbidly introvert and neurotic as he could possibly be. The sequel was almost too ghastly to relate. Suffice it to say that however strong your prejudices, incautious statements in the Fan Room can lead in mere hours to a hideous aftermath of chatting and drinking amid the vile elitists. Take heed."
There were further consequences when Harries, by now completely seduced into fandom, joined the Newport Group shortly after the con, bringing membership back up to four.
It wasn't only the major fanzine-producing and Eastercon-running groups that met up outside conventions, as was demonstrated by an inter-group SF quiz that took place on the evening of 15th November 1978 at the Crabtree pub in Matlock, Derbyshire. Organised by Joy Hibbert of the Matlock SF Club, the quiz was to have featured five teams but the Nottingham University Group were unable to make it. In the event teams were fielded by the Matlock SF Club (represented by Mike Meara, Terry Greenhough, Robert Day, and Mandy Dakin), the Nottingham SF Group (represented by Alan Robson, Andy Hazelhurst, Jackie Thornton, and Geoff Geddes), the Sheffield Group (represented by Terry Jeeves, Trev Walton, Clive Jennings, and Susan Batts), and the Stoke-on-Trent SF Society (represented by Dave Rowley, Bill Little, Keith Burgess, and Brian Dale). Question master was Sheffield's Pete Hammerton, the winners were the Nottingham Group, and the evening was declared a great success by all present.
On 4th December 1978, Brian Lewis died. A member of the Medway Science Fiction Fan Club of the early 1950s, Lewis had later become widely known as an artist for Nova Publications, subsequently doing work for such as the Beatles' cartoon film 'Yellow Submarine' and 'the Muppet Show'.
MATRIX 21 (Dec '78) was the first to be produced by its new editors, John and Eve Harvey. Their editorship had come about after John, at SILICON 3, had incautiously mentioned within the hearing of David Wingrove that he would like to edit the magazine. Before he quite knew what was happening, he'd been quizzed on the subject by Tom Jones and a parcel of material and stencils had arrived in the mail from outgoing editor Andy Sawyer. That first Harvey-edited issue with its Jim Barker cover, its clean layout, and its contributions from fannish fans such as Dave Langford, Paul Kincaid, Alan Dorey, and Steve Green, set the style for what was to come. The Harveys' editorial tenure would produce one of the finest runs of MATRIX there would be.
Other December-dated fanzines included DEADLOSS 1, the first fanzine from Chris Priest in more than a decade; EPSILON 6 (which wasn't actually distributed until the new year), the last issue there would be for three years; A RAGGED TROUSERED PEDALCYCLIST (named after the famous Robert Tressel novel, 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist'), which chronicled an epic bicycle ride from Sheffield to London by editor David Bridges; and CHECKPOINT 92 which reported that American fans Terry Hughes, Fred Haskell, and Suzanne Tompkins would be standing for TAFF in 1979. Also reported was a dispute over the status of OMPA. Association Editor Keith Walker claimed that the twenty four year-old apa had seen its last mailing, while OMPA President Ken Cheslin said that he was willing to give the apa "one more go" before conceding defeat. This was the first that most fans had heard of the apa in years, and it would be the last. OMPA was dead.
Two SF reference works to see print in the UK before the end of 1978 were The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction published by Octopus and edited by Rob Holdstock, and The International Science Fiction Yearbook, published by Pierrot and edited by Colin Lester. Despite having excellent production values, a foreword by Isaac Asimov, and contributions by such as Brian Stableford, Mike Ashley, Patrick Moore, Malcolm Edwards, Leroy Kettle, Chris Priest, Harry Harrison, David Hardy and Chris Morgan, the Encyclopedia was wholly inadequate as a reference work, and more properly a 'coffee-table' book than a real encyclopedia. Not until 1979, and the third attempt, would a Science Fiction Encyclopedia worthy of the name be published in Britain. By contrast, the SF Yearbook had pretty awful production values but subsequently proved to be a surprisingly useful reference work, particularly in the production of this history. Intended as an annual publication, the Yearbook was necessarily a snapshot of the SF community at a particular moment in time. Sadly, there were no further editions.
The Surrey Limpwrists, a group that began meeting early in 1979, were actually christened at SILICON 3. Remembering how Joseph Nicholas had been mimed by Rob Hansen during a charades game earlier in the convention, Alan Dorey gave the name to the team of Surrey fans in the five-a-side soccer contest played there. The expatriate Gannets in this particular group had long been pressing for regular local fan-meetings, and when this finally came about the name was remembered and was adopted by them. Founder members included Ian & Janice Maule, Rob & Coral Jackson, Joseph Nicholas, John & Eve Harvey, Kev Smith, and Alan Dorey, who actually lived in Surrey and was only resident in Leeds during university term time. Limpwrist meetings were held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at The Southampton, a pub near Surbiton station.
Another group that formed early in 1979 was the Aberdeen SF Association. As member Steve Miller recalled:
"The 1978 FAIRCON was a Convention of Beginnings and Beginners; everything really started there. Most of the Scottish attendees were beginners too, having never had a con to go to in these parts. Best of all...Scotland was no longer the barren wasteland of science fiction; the way SF enthusiasts appeared out of the woodwork was nothing short of staggering. The final truth of this was evident when we formed our own SF group in Aberdeen this year, and found about 30 people so far coming along to our meetings, instead of just a handful."
This, the UK's northernmost group (unless there was hitherto unsuspected fan activity in the Orkneys), was fairly formally organised with officials, dues, membership cards, etc. Members included Gordon Johnson, Andrew Mortimer, Gareth Edwards, Alan Stephen, Andrew Skinner, Sara Hook, and David Simpson.
FAANCON IV was held in Cheltenham in February and organised by Graham Poole. No further information.
New Leeds Group fans Simon Ounsley and Graham James published the first issue of their fanzine OCELOT in February, a month that also saw the first issue of Haverfordwest fan David Redd's DR FAUSTENSTEIN, and the publication of John Collick's one-off 101 BALLOONING ADVENTURES THAT THRILLED THE WORLD.
MATRIX 22 (Feb '79) carried the first instalment of 'The Captive', Jim Barker's fannish version of the old TV series 'The Prisoner'. In 'The Captive', Barker resigns from the BSFA, after which he is drugged and abducted, waking up in 'The Convention'. Various contemporary fans would appear in the strip, most trying to get 1465 (Barker's BSFA membership number) to reveal why he resigned. In the MATRIX 22 news section it was announced that Alan Dorey, long a fierce critic of the current Committee, had volunteered to take over from Tom Jones as BSFA Vice-Chairman and that, unless other applications were received, he would take over following the AGM at the 1979 Eastercon. MATRIX 22 also carried an open letter to Ian Garbutt from the BSFA Committee that was critical of his editorship of TANGENT. In it they announced that a lithoed TANGENT must not now be produced as it was "a BSFA publication and thus the BSFA could be responsible for the full costs should you in any way default (this in no way suggests you would...)"; that Garbutt's letters in various fanzines had been "a considerable embarrassment to the BSFA", and that:
"You have shown an inability to work within the committee structure of the BSFA and several times you have stepped beyond the authority delegated to you. For example, you announced TANGENT was to go litho before approaching the Committee for their approval on this matter; further, you also threatened to remove someone from the TANGENT mailing list, which is not only beyond your authority but also that of the Committee.
As you were not at the Committee meeting of 28 January 1979, and the Committee feels you must be given the right to reply to these charges, we will wait until the Council meeting prior to the AGM to vote on a motion removing you from editorship of TANGENT. Until that motion is put we will neither pay for nor publish any further issues of TANGENT."
Breakaway, the Norwich SF Group, held an 'SF Weekend' on 9th -- 11th March 1979, "in conjunction with R. Lionel Fanthorpe and Essex Education Committee" at Wicken House, which the flyer for the event described as "a fine old country house, set in the village of Wicken Bonhunt, near Newport in Essex...about seventeen miles South of Cambridge". Speakers were Michael Ashley, Walter Gillings, and R. Lionel Fanthorpe, and the programme included films, games. quizzes, and "a carefully-structured interlude of well-chosen SF music". It would all have sounded dreadfully earnest, like the conventions held in the UK prior to 1953, if the flyer had not also promised that "a real ale pub within easy crawling distance of Wicken House will probably be the venue for some of the more informal sessions". This weekend was to be Walter Gillings' final contact with the SF community. A month or so later, Fanthorpe, a school headmaster in mundane life, moved from Norwich to take up a post in Cardiff, where he was to play a significant part in the growth of fandom in that city in the early 1980s.
The TANGENT affair continued in MATRIX 23 (Apr '79), with the following comments from the Committee appearing in the news section:
"Following the Committee's letter to Ian Garbutt, printed last issue, he has resigned as editor of TANGENT, and from the Council of the Association. Ian indicated that he had one issue of TANGENT almost complete and requested that the Committee distribute that with the April mailing; after some deliberation the Committee agreed to do this. Ian Garbutt also said he wished to reply to the letter and would produce something for this issue of MATRIX; to date neither that reply, nor TANGENT, have been received...."
Nor would they be. TANGENT 5, which had appeared the previous August, was to be the last. Later in the year, Garbutt published the material prepared for the sixth issue in the first issue of his own CREATIONS (including covers that identified it as TANGENT 6). There wasn't a second issue. Other BSFA resignations announced in MATRIX 23 were those of Club Liaison Officer Bill Little, who wanted to devote more time to trade union activities, and of Membership Secretary Dave Cobbledick, who was joining a rock band.
Published by Rob Jackson in April, in time for YORCON, was COMPLETE BOSH, Vol.1: THE BEST OF THE BUSHEL, which reprinted a selection from Bob Shaw's famous HYPHEN column of the 1950s. Vol.2: THE EASTERCON SPEECHES would appear in time for the Worldcon.
YORCON, the 1979 Eastercon, was held over the weekend of 13th -- 16th April 1979 at the Dragonara Hotel in Leeds. Guest of Honour was Richard Cowper, Fan Guests of Honour were Pat & Graham Charnock, and attendance was 300 -- 400, a number which included old-time Manchester fan Dave Cohen, making his first visit to a con in more than twenty years. Organised by the Leeds Group, the con was chaired by Mike Dickinson with Dave Pringle, Alan Dorey, D West, Carol Gregory, Kate Jeary, and Paul & Jan Matthews filling various other roles. Ian Williams was drafted in from Gannetfandom to run the Fan Room. There were the usual panels, quizzes, and speeches, though not one of Bob Shaw's 'serious scientific talks'. In its place, Dave Langford gave a talk titled 'Genocide for Fun and Profit', based in part on his recent book War in 2080. Films shown included 2001, Demon Seed, Devil Doll, Providence, Atomic Submarine, and various shorts including two Telegoon episodes. YORCON followed SKYCON's lead and paid for its FGoHs to put out a special issue of their fanzine for the convention: WRINKLED SHREW 8, the first in two years and something welcomed by most fans. It would also, alas, be the last. Not wanting to submit to an interview, the Charnocks performed a number of tracks from the first Astral Leauge albums before an appreciative Fan Room audience. Representatives of the LA in '81 Worldcon bid were at YORCON, and put on a room party whose free drink and comestibles were much appreciated by congoers. In other business, the Doc Weir Award went to Rog Peyton, and Glasgow won the 1980 Eastercon with its ALBACON bid.
At the BSFA AGM, Alan Dorey took over as Chairman from retiring Vice- Chairman Tom Jones after it was decided that Arthur.C.Clarke should henceforth be referred to as the President of the BSFA, and that the title of Chairman would thus replace that of Vice-Chairman. Malcolm Edwards, Joseph Nicholas, and Dave Langford were voted on to the BSFA Council, Sandy Brown took over as Membership Secretary, and Mike Dickinson was designated to take over as VECTOR editor when Dave Wingrove left that post in September. Taken together with the recent assumption of the MATRIX editorship by John and Eve Harvey, and the resignation of Ian Garbutt, this represented the complete takeover of the BSFA by fannish fans. The coup d'etat that some had suggested was required to bring the BSFA back into line proved instead to be a gradual and orderly transition between the new team and those grown tired of running the Association and its organs. At the AGM, Rob Holdstock expressed an interest in taking over TANGENT, but there was no enthusiasm for reviving the magazine. Instead, he and Chris Evans produced a new one for the BSFA, called FOCUS, whose first issue would appear in the summer and which became the journal for aspiring writers TANGENT was always intended to be.
YORCON would be responsible for the birth of more than one new fan group. The first of these resulted from a chance meeting at the con between Ina Shorrock and Swansea fan Linda Thomas. Thomas already knew another Swansea fan, Dick Downes, but it was Shorrock giving her the address of long-time fan and Swansea resident Roger Gilbert that gave her the impetus to form a group. She contacted Gilbert soon after YORCON, a committee was formed, and the Swansea SF Society came into existence. At the initial committee meeting, Downes was designated as editor of the group's official organ, REDSHIFT, the first issue of which he published before the group had even had its formal inaugural meeting.
On Friday 27th April 1979, the first of the monthly 'Northern Tun' meetings was held at the West Riding Hotel in Wellington St., which was also the venue for the regular weekly meetings of the Leeds Group. As the name implies, this was planned as a Northern equivalent of London's One Tun get-togethers, a regular gathering point for fans from all over the North.
In CHECKPOINTs 95 & 96 (both dated Apr/May '79) Peter Roberts reported the results of the TAFF race to bring a US fan to SEACON '79. Terry Hughes, editor of British fandom's favourite US fanzine, MOTA, won by 108 votes (61 Europe & 47 N.Am) to Fred Haskell's 40 (5 & 35) and Suzanne Tompkins 40 (10 & 30). Though she had failed to win TAFF, Tompkins would still attend SEACON, along with Hughes and large numbers of other American fans. Also reported was that, in the FAAN Awards, Dave Langford, Bob Shaw, and Roberts himself had been nominated in the Best Fanwriter category; that Harry Bell and Jim Barker had been nominated in the Best Fanartist category; and MAYA 15 in the Best Fanzine category. In the Hugo Awards, meanwhile, MAYA had been nominated in the Best Fanzine category, Jim Barker and Harry Bell in the Best Fanartist category, and Leroy Kettle, Dave Langford, Bob Shaw, and D West in the Best Fanwriter category. That so many British names had got on the ballot reflected the fact that the 1979 Worldcon was being held in Britain, with a large attendance by British fans and, consequently, a large impact on the nominating process. Even so, given the huge number of American fans who would be attending, few expected many of these to have a chance of winning in their categories. Nor did they.
NOT CHECKPOINT 96 (May '79) was actually the fourth NORTHERN GUFFBLOWER, a newssheet published by Dave Langford in order to raise money for GUFF. It featured the results of a fan poll that was the reverse of the Checkpoint poll in that those polled had voted for the worst in each of the categories. In this poll Richard Barycz' YCZ was voted Worst British Fanzine, Keith Walker was Worst British Fanwriter, and Terry Jeeves was Worst British Fanartist. Fortunately, 'worst' polls are not a regular feature of British fandom. Other fanzines out in May were LES SPINGE 33, the first issue in five years, from Darroll Pardoe, and the one-off LICKS, from Rob Hansen. This last was a 'theme' zine devoted to rock music and featured contributions from Graham Charnock (of The Burlingtons and The Deep Fix) and Bryn Fortey. Hansen used the name again in the 1990s, on his FAPAzine, though there was no thematic connection with the earlier zine.
Edinburgh acquired a new fan group in the wake of YORCON when, a month or so later, Jim Darroch rang Owen Whiteoak and asked if he remembered him. Since the two had met on the train to Leeds and spent most of YORCON together it was hardly likely Whiteoak could have forgotten him. Darroch had also contacted Phil Dawson of the now-defunct Edinburgh Friends of Fandom, and the three got together to form a new Edinburgh fan group, Friends Of Robert The Hack (FORTH). Despite later denials by the group, many took their name to be a reference to Robert Holdstock who, as he cheerfully admitted, was then churning out large numbers of pseudonymous pot-boilers to augment his earnings from the more serious books published under his own name. The group held the first of their regular Tuesday night meetings on 19th June 1979 in The Beehive in the Grassmarket, moving thereafter to the lounge bar of the Abercraig Hotel, on the corner of Picardy St. and Broughton St., near to Dawson's flat. Oddly enough, Whiteoak, Dawson, Darroch, and later member Keith Mitchell, had all been at FAIRCON '78 -- it was the first convention any had attended -- but they failed to meet.
CHECKPOINT 97 (June/July '79) opened with the news that editor Peter Roberts was quitting again, this time for good:
"LANGFORD KOs CHECKPOINT IN GRIM FAN STRUGGLE! Well, perhaps not, but it sounds more interesting that way. In fact CHECKPOINT will be folding with its 100th issue, that being more than enough for any sane fan editor, and Dave Langford will be starting an entirely new publication by the name of ANSIBLE."
This issue also carried the results of the 1978/9 Checkpoint Fan Poll. Dave Langford's TWLL DDU was again voted Best British Fanzine (runners up were SEAMONSTERS, DOT, ONE-OFF, GROSS ENCOUNTERS, and DEADLOSS), while David Bridges' A RAGGED TROUSERED PEDALCYCLIST was voted Best Single Issue. Best British Fanwriter was Dave Langford (followed by Simone Walsh, D West, Chris Priest, and Kev Smith), and Best British Fanartist was Jim Barker (followed by Harry Bell, Rob Hansen, D West, and Jon Langford). The genzine SEAMONSTERS was narrowly beaten into second place by the personalzine TWLL DDU and, commenting about the former, Peter Roberts called it: "Best British genzine without a doubt -- and at the moment that probably means Best in the World. Gosh." As this quote shows, the inferiority complex that had afflicted British fandom in the early 1970s had well and truly vanished, to be replaced by the confident belief that British fanzines were now probably the best, and certainly the most fannish, in the world. Expressing this view in print led to lively exchanges between British and North American fans, most notably in the pages of NABU, with a surprising number of American and Canadian fans agreeing with this assessment.
Other fanzines hitting the mails in June were the third part of Peter Roberts' BRITISH FANZINE BIBLIOGRAPHY -- this time covering 1961-70 -- and a flyer identifying itself as issue zero of ANOTHER BLOODY FANZINE, a long-promised fanzine with an amusing story behind it. For some months, Alan Dorey and Joseph Nicholas had been telling everyone of their intention to publish a fanzine of that name that would be devoted to killer fanzine reviews to end all killer fanzine reviews, so when ABF 0 dropped onto their doormats most assumed it was the much awaited thunderbolt. The repercussions were immediate. An angry Greg Pickersgill telephoned Joseph Nicholas and, to Joseph's astonishment, blasted him for plagiarising some of Greg's own writings in FOULER. The astonishment was because Nicholas had yet to see a copy of ABF 0, and knew nothing about it. ABF 0 was a hoax. As Dorey later wrote:
"Some toad out there in the cess-pit of fandom saw fit to produce a wonderfully witty flyer in aid of ANOTHER BLOODY FANZINE. This piece of literary excellence, this far from coy announcement, rocked whole fans to the core; it shattered years of slothfulness in certain dwarves from Sunderland; it forced Canadian fans of Portsmouth extraction to write and protest...."
Not everyone was fooled, however. D West addressed his comments to Langford:
"Got a copy of ANOTHER BLOODY FANZINE 0. Very convincing piece of work. Started writing letter to Nicholas, but finally came to conclusion he couldn't possibly be that daft... Now much exercised as to real author -- Langford, Smith, or Langford and Smith? Textual analysis seems to indicate last...."
And so it was. Nicholas and Dorey had been building ABF up for months, but with their hoax Langford and Smith had neatly pricked that particular bubble and ensured that when the real ABF appeared it was bound to be an anticlimax.
FAIRCON '79 was held at Glasgow's Ingram Hotel over the weekend of 20th -- 22nd July 1979. Bob Shaw was Guest of Honour and Bob C.Shaw was the Chairman, (which had inspired Jim Barker to produce a film-poster parody for one of the progress reports: "Just when you thought it was safe to get back into conventions...SHAWS 2."). The low membership of 164 listed in the programme book reflected the con's proximity to Worldcon and the number of fans saving their money for the latter event. The programme featured the usual panels, auctions, talks, and a fantasy wargaming demonstration. Films shown were Dark Star, Zardoz, Phantom of the Paradise, Silent Running, Destination Moon, Death Race 2000, and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. Old time fan Don Malcolm was Toastmaster at the Banquet.
Walter Gillings, founder of Britain's first fan group and editor of early British prozines, died of a heart attack at the end of July 1979. He had eventually risen to be editor of 'The Ilford Recorder', the local newspaper he had been working on as a junior reporter when he formed the Ilford Science Literary Circle in 1930 and which had fired him because of his pacifism during World War II, before leaving in 1960 to start his own short-lived press agency. He had retired in 1977. A fan fund had recently been established to finally take him to what he had once called "the land of science fiction", the USA. It was not to be.
INCA 1 (July '79) was essentially a duplicated version of the litho MAYA from that zine's editor, Rob Jackson, and, though intended as the first of many, mundane pressures on time and money made it a oneshot. CHECKPOINT 98 (June/July '79) opened with the news that Australian fan John Foyster had won the first GUFF race by 65 votes (57 Aus & 8 UK/US) against John Alderson's 44 (38 & 6) and Eric Lindsay's 18 (9 & 9). In other fan fund news, it was announced that Jim Barker and Dave Langford would be standing in the 1980 TAFF race.
Fanzines published early in August included ANOTHER BLOODY FANZINE T-1 (a prelude to the first full issue and this time actually published by Dorey and Nicholas), the first issues of Steev Higgins' STOMACH PUMP, Pete Presford's SING ME A SONG I KNOW, Alex Pillai's TERTIARY SYPHILIS, and NEW RIVER BLUES, from London fans Abi Frost & Andrew Kaveney. Others were ARENA 7, NABU 8, OCELOT 2, DRILKJIS 4, LOGO 5, PERI 4, SEAMONSTERS 4, DEADLOSS 2, SPOOK 3, SFEAR 3, DOT 7, MATRIX 25, VECTOR 94, A FINE MESS (devoted entirely to a report on FAIRCON '79 by editor Colin Fine), and the oneshots UNISON, from Joy Hibbert & Lester Hannington, and FOR A FEW FANZINES MORE, from John Collick. All this activity was, of course, so that these fanzines would be ready in time for SEACON. Having heard of the supposed takeover of American fandom by feminists, Kev Smith wrote 'Birdland' for DOT 7, an amusing fantasy tale in which US feminists take over SEACON, wiping out most of the males in British fandom in the process.
By the time it actually began, SEACON '79 had grown from the seed first truly planted in Malcolm Edwards' MAGIC PUDDING into a juggernaut threatening to push all else aside. Since British Worldcons only occur once every decade, they are important events and for that reason alone would attract more attention than an average convention, but there were other reasons why SEACON seemed to increasingly occupy the attention of British fans as it drew closer. First and foremost this was due to the number of the nation's leading fans who were drawn into actually running the event as time went on, but it was also due to what might best be termed 'fannish millenialism.' SEACON was beginning to appear to many as something that could prove very much a mixed blessing. It was clear that something of this magnitude would inevitably bring in lots of new people, and just as clear that a number of them would find their way into fanzine fandom. Few could argue that fanzine fandom wasn't in need of just such a transfusion of new blood since the year or so preceding the convention had seen a distinct drop in the level of fanzine activity in Britain and signs that more than a few 'old faithfuls' were becoming jaded and running out of steam, but with all the talk at the time of an impending 'sercon backlash' there was much concern about the nature of these new recruits and about the possibility of British fandom being altered irrevocably as a consequence of SEACON. Nonetheless, and in spite of their reservations, most fans were looking forward to the convention.
Staged at the Metropole Hotel, Brighton, over the Bank Holiday weekend of 23rd -- 27th August 1979 (the SILICON slot, and the reason that convention wasn't held in 1979), SEACON '79 was all it had been billed as, and then some. For many it began on Wednesday evening and even at that early stage in the proceedings it was clear that here was something special. The con attracted a huge number of foreign fans, far from all of them American, making it a Worldcon in more than just name. The committee was almost a roster of Britain's most active fans of the previous ten years with Peter Weston as Chairman, and thirty-nine other people listed in the programme book in various roles. These included Gerald Bishop, John Brosnan, Pat & Graham Charnock, Malcolm Edwards, John & Eve Harvey, Martin Hoare, Rob Holdstock, Rob & Coral Jackson, Marsha Jones, Leroy Kettle, Dave Langford, Colin Lester, Joseph Nicholas, Peter Nicholls, Rog Peyton, David Pringle, Peter Roberts, Tim Stannard, John Steward, Simone Walsh, Ian Williams, and Kev & Sue Williams. Guests of Honour were Fritz Leiber and Brian Aldiss with Harry Bell -- long one of Britain's most highly regarded fanartists -- as FGoH, and Bob Shaw as Toastmaster, but also present were many authors and celebrities rarely seen at British conventions. These included people such as Terry Carr, Robert Silverberg, Vonda McIntyre, Arthur C.Clarke, Frederik Pohl, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Greg Benford, C.J.Cherryh, Ted White, R.A.Lafferty, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Douglas Adams, Tom Baker, and Christopher Reeve, among others. Final registration was 5124, and actual attendance was 3114, making it not only by far and away the biggest SF convention the UK had ever seen, but also one of the largest Worldcons there had been. Those attending SEACON found an unusual item in their registration packets: a stick of seaside rock (rock candy) with the name of the convention running through it.
The five-track programme offered films, quizzes, talks, panels, readings, etc., on a scale that British fans had never before encountered; an embarrassment of riches. As Kevin Smith wrote of SEACON:
"I was all excited about it. So was most of British fandom. It was going to be BIG, for one thing, and so it turned out. It was seven times as big as the previous biggie, SKYCON. At SEACON, we Brits were outnumbered by foreigners -- about three to one. And the feel of it was going to be different. This was a Worldcon, damn it, not just any old British con! And There the predictions, or expectations, fell apart. The feel of SEACON was not different; it was familiar. I felt at home.
So was the whole thing a waste of time and money, then? No, no, a thousand times no! The feel was fannish and familiar, but there were lots of new people who fitted in and contributed to it. Legendary American fans and unknown British neos -- I was meeting both for the first time -- added enough vitality to break up the established rounds of British fandom without ruining its fannish ambience. It was great, I tell you!
But don't ask me how life was outside the fanroom."
The large fan room opened out onto a balcony that overlooked the main con hall, making it almost the perfect location. It was possible, as many fans did, to spend all your time in the Fan Room drinking, manning the fanzine tables, appearing on the fan-related panels it hosted, and the like, while still keeping track of what was happening on the main programme. It was here that the concept of the fan room as a con within a con -- as this one, with its own bar facilities and extensive programme, self-evidently was -- was first fully articulated. As to the actual fan room programme, there were a number of fanzine auctions at which the frenzied bidding of Swedish fans pushed prices beyond the pockets of US and UK fans, with many of the latter making rueful comments about the loss of their patrimony. As for panels, Peter Roberts relates what happened during one of them:
"The discussion on producing fanzines seems a bit futile amidst the fan room bustle (there'll have to be a separate room for the programme -- next time, and that's a phrase I keep hearing), but a couple of newcomers are asking around and so a small discussion actually starts. Enter the BBC (and Arthur C. Clarke -- coincidence?) to film the discussion. Sudden crush of potential TV stars. Neos frightened off. Some fantasy fan hogs the camera; I try to stutter something incoherent as a TV camera strokes my face, lights burn my eyes, microphone booms tangle in my hair, and something is shoved between my legs (is that the BBC, or someone seizing an obscure opportunity?)."
There were a large number of special fan publications prepared for SEACON. The daily convention newsletter -- a worldcon tradition -- was called TSAR (The Seacon Abstractor & Recorder) this time out, and the six issues that were published were all edited by Graham England. Those publications produced by the convention itself and on sale in the fan room were a new edition of THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR, illustrated by Carol Gregory; an anthology of 1970s British fan writing, edited by Kev Smith, called MOOD 70; and A FANARTIST SCRAPBOOK, a companion volume to MOOD 70 featuring work by British fan artists over the same period. A rival anthology of 1970s British fan writing, BY BRITISH, was published by Ian Maule and Joseph Nicholas, complete with a new article by Nicholas tracing the development of British fanzines over the decade. Other special zines were THE BEST OF ELMER T. HACK, a collection of the Jim Barker/Chris Evans 'Half Life' strips from VECTOR; and EGEO SEXTARIUS, a guide to Britain and to British fandom published for the benefit of fans from abroad, by Paul Skelton and Mike Meara. Among the invaluable facts this imparted to visiting foreigners was that: 'spotted dick' is a form of venereal disease endemic in the British Isles; a 'knee-trembler' is a particularly cold day; one should never say 'ey up mi duck' in Wolverhampton, as this is a deadly insult in Urdu; and that the correct term for a 'Big Name Fan' in Britain is 'Poof', as in "you are the biggest poof I know".
Other 'special publications' at SEACON were the now legendary Jacqueline Lichtenberg Appreciation Society Newsletters, published by diverse hands and much enlivening the convention. Started in response to a letter from Lichtenberg -- an author then and now unpublished in the UK -- to Malcolm Edwards demanding SEACON '79 provide her with a room where she could meet her fans, the JLAS was basically a number of fannish fans who had fun by gleefully issuing these scurrilous broadsheets before, during, and after the con. (The joke continued in various forms until 1981, when all the surviving broadsheets were collected as JACKIE!, a booklet sold in aid of TAFF.) The JLAS activities so incensed Marion Zimmer Bradley that she demanded of concom member Kevin Williams that he find the perpetrators and have them thrown out of the convention which, of course, he didn't. No sensahumour, some people.
The Fancy Dress, or 'Masquerade', was the biggest ever seen at a British convention with 60-70 entries, and British fans got to sample the quality and professionalism of Worldcon costuming. Even so, one of the most eye-catching costumes was that of British fan Kate Solomon who went bare-breasted and wearing nothing more than a bikini-bottom and twenty foot 'gossamer' wings. She was 'dressed' as the character Avluela from the Robert Silverberg novel Nightwings, as depicted on the cover of the 1974 Sphere Books paperback.
At the Hugo Awards Ceremony, the Best Novel went to Vonda McIntyre's Dreamsnake, Best Novella to John Varley's The Persistence of Vision, Best Novelette to Poul Anderson's Hunter's Moon, Best Artist to Vincent DiFate, and Best Editor to Ben Bova. The Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation went to the film Superman, but by far the loudest cheers and applause when the nominations were read was for the cult comic SF radio serial The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- which most US voters had never heard of, of course. When accepting the award, Superman star Christopher Reeve felt compelled to apologise for it not winning.
The results in the fan categories of the Hugo Awards often leave a nasty taste, as American fanzine fans knew only too well and as British fans were about to find out. American fan Richard Geis' SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW won the Best Fanzine Hugo for the umpteenth time. Geis wasn't at SEACON, and the presentation of his Hugo was turned into a joke, generating the instantly popular catchphrase: "Is there anyone here from Oregon?". As Paul Skelton observed:
"Yes tinies, the Hugos left a nasty taste. Like all the other flea-brained cretins, I laughed like a drain when they took the piss out of Geis at the awards ceremony, even to the extent of handing the award over to some guy in the audience to deliver simply because he came from the same state. However, I later had to agree with Mike & Pat Meara that it was in very poor taste, and I was suitably ashamed of myself. Shit, these awards are supposed to be where we honour the best among us. That was 'honouring'?"
The Best Fanwriter Hugo Award went to Bob Shaw, with Geis in second place. British rejoicing at this result was lessened for some by the fact that 'No Award' placed third, ahead of Langford, Kettle, and West. Paul Skelton's reaction to this mirrored that of many in British fandom:
"There is only one way anyone could vote 'No Award' ahead of these three, and that is if they were unfamiliar with their work. OK, but look, you pathetic excuses for a gnat's turd, if you aren't familiar with 60% of the nominations in a particular category then you just ain't fucking qualified to vote in that category. It's that simple. Your votes are meaningless, and what is more you rendered the award itself meaningless. GO AWAY AND SIN NO MORE!"
Monday morning saw an England v Australia cricket match on Brighton beach, which is not a sandy beach. As Peter Roberts reported:
"Captains Peter Weston and John Foyster were already on the field (carefully constructed of pebbles), as were the teams -- though separating the latter from the audience was none too easy. The opposition seemed to have a lot of South Africans, Americans, and Canadians for an Australian team, but no matter. I actually got the chance to bowl and get someone out -- more than I ever did at school. We would've beaten the Australians, of course, had it not been for some unorthodox play (Joyce Scrivner thundering down the beach for a wild baseball pitch -- the resulting six stopped only by Mike Glicksohn's rugby tackle of the batsman. Is this cricket?)"
As for the 'international incident' that almost occurred, and the fallout from the convention, Dave Langford, of course, was the man in the know:
"...the Great 'American Riffraff' story: if Joyce Scrivner has got it right, the phrase was used sotto voce by a 'snooty British lady' as she informed US fan Jane Hawkins that this here party was by invitation only, and so on. By the time the rumour-mills had finished, the phrase was on the lips of Vonda McIntyre's publishers as they brutally hurled her from their select gathering; a security man was said to have spat 'American Riffraff' at Karen Anderson whilst barring her from the party where hubby Poul and the SFWA were disporting themselves; 'American Riffraff' badges sprouted like mushrooms; an international incident seemed imminent, but nothing much actually happened. Still wilder rumours were flying when the con was over: Charles Platt had denounced Chris Priest to SFWA as being responsible for mockery of their members via the Jacqueline Lichtenberg Appreciation Society! Jerry Pournelle had offered physical violence to Charles Platt! Marion Zimmer Bradley and others were working to have Chris Priest drummed out of SFWA! Ted White was to become Editor of HEAVY METAL at $50000 per annum! Greg Pickersgill and Simone Walsh had split up! Andrew Kaveney had changed sex!
It seemed that SEACON had distorted our sense of reality forever. All those post-con rumours proved to be true. Help."
(Actually, Ted White's salary was closer to $30000, still a considerable amount for the time, and many recall the offending term as 'Yankee Riffraff'.)
When SEACON finished on Monday it had lasted six days, twice as long as most British cons, but its close spelled an end to more than just a convention. In the weeks and months that followed it became clear that the Worldcon also marked the end of 70s fandom. In many ways the Worldcon was the culmination of all that had occurred in British fandom in the 1970s so it was not too surprising that some of those active since the early years of the decade, who would have dropped out of things even earlier in the normal course of events, should have hung on to make SEACON the climax of their time in fandom, while the event itself left those involved with it exhausted and apathetic about fandom. And so it came to an end. The era that had started with the advent of FOULER was now over, perhaps lending weight to theories of fannish millenialism, but many of those who had been among its leading lights would go on to play a significant part in the development of British fandom in the 1980s.
CHECKPOINTs 99 & 100 (Aug/Sept '79), the final issues, actually appeared after the first issue of their replacement, Dave Langford's ANSIBLE (named for the faster-than-light communicator in several of Ursula Le Guin's SF novels; also, as Chris Priest later pointed out, an anagram of 'lesbian'), which was distributed at SEACON. CHECKPOINT 100 was an index to the complete run of the newszine, and carried Peter Roberts' farewell:
"And that's just about that. The CHECKPOINT Fan Poll continues in ANSIBLE, otherwise the name will pass quietly into the forgotten outlands of fan history. I hope. If you ever see me typing up CHECKPOINT 101 -- give me a nudge, eh? Enough is more than enough."
Though many were exhausted after SEACON, a few were revitalised by it. In September, Ian Maule started churning out issues of PARANOID, publishing five before the end of the year. As Dave Langford reported in ANSIBLE 2/3, also out in September and largely devoted to reports on SEACON by various fans:
"Ian Maule has gone into a frenzy of fanpublishing since SEACON -- a flood of PARANOIDs, each better than the next. They are released at Surrey Limpwrist meetings...."
Also out in September was the first issue of Keith Walker's SF HORIZONS which, despite being virtually indistinguishable from an issue of Walker's FANZINE FANATIQUE, was apparently published on behalf of something called 'the Teaching SF Society'. Quite what this might have been never became any clearer in the remaining two issues, the last of which appeared in December 1980.
There were a number of first issues out in October including those of AMANITA, from MATRIX-scribe Cyril Simsa; IN DEFIANCE OF MEDICAL OPINION, from Chuck Connor and Aleck Butcher (two sailors who produced the issue while on shore leave); THE PICKERSGILL PAPERS, a one-shot excerpted from an acrimonious exchange of letters between Greg Pickersgill and editor Kevin Easthope; VECTOR 95, the first issue to be edited by Mike Dickinson and the first in the new A5 format; and, finally, the first full issue of ANOTHER BLOODY FANZINE, from Dorey and Nicholas, which also turned out to be the last. The problem, of course, was that hoax flyer. As D West later wrote:
"...so well did this forgery capture the manner and message of the Dynamic Duo that the poor sods had little alternative to giving it their own (rather petulant) endorsement. After all, a couple of variations on 'Rivers of blood will flow' and 'Lots of dead wood will fall' left them with scarcely anything to say.
It might have been thought that by the time the first (full) issue appeared they would have dreamed up something new to say -- but no. ABF 1, trumpeted as the Killer fanzine of the year, turned out to be about as lethal an engine of destruction as a wet cigarette end."
The first convention of the post-SEACON period was POLYCON (aka SHOESTRINGCON 1), held at Hatfield Polytechnic, Hertfordshire, on 5th -- 6th October 1979, with Guests of Honour Ken Bulmer and special effects expert Matt Irvine. Various 2000AD creators were also on hand. POLYCON was organised by the polytechnic's PSIFA group, fourteen of whom had attended SEACON as a group and come away from it fired with an enthusiasm they then applied to POLYCON. One of the founder members, Jonathan Cowie, published the first issue of the HYPO-SPACE ANNUAL (a special edition of the group's regular organ, HYPO-SPACE) to coincide with POLYCON. A small, low-key con, it was judged a success by those who attended, and was not without its moments of excitement, as Martin Easterbrook later reported in SMALL MAMMAL:
"The plans for an elaborate party at the end of the con were more than a little disrupted by the influx of about twenty skinheads, and two committee members sustained injuries in defence of the convention (to them go best wishes and much thanks). The skinheads had obviously been told how to deal with fans as they attempted entry at one point by throwing a barrel of beer ahead of them. Eventually things calmed down, Godzilla the police dog arrived, Rambling Jake sang, and the Skinheads went away."
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by Peter Nicholls, was published in Britain in October 1979. The third, and final, such encyclopedia of the decade, it was the only one worthy of the name. Among the fans who contributed to the volume were John Brosnan, Malcolm Edwards, John Foyster, David Pringle, Peter Roberts, and former VECTOR editor Tony Sudbery. Roberts was responsible for writing the fannish entries.
NOVACON 9 was held in Birmingham, as always, over the weekend of 2nd -- 4th November 1979. Guest of Honour was Chris Priest, Rog Peyton was Chairman, and the committee were Stan & Helen Eling, Chris & Pauline Morgan, and Paul Oldroyd. A special NOVACON publication distributed with registration packs was 'The Making of the Lesbian Horse', a spoof sequel to his novel 'Inverted World' by Chris Priest. The convention returned to the Royal Angus Hotel in anticipation of a smaller attendance than last year as personal finances recovered from SEACON. However, the programme book lists 290 people as having registered, which wasn't that many less than the 309 who'd registered for NOVACON 8, though, as Paul Kincaid noted, there was a difference:
"...one of the ways, perhaps, in which SEACON had affected us. Familiar faces were missing, and a lot of new ones were about...but it is hard to divorce oneself from the subjective view that fandom is one's friends, and any reduction in this number is unwelcome. Not that I'm objecting to new faces; on a personal level I usually leave each convention with one or two more added to the list of acquaintances that will gradually metamorphose into friends. But this time it was different, the influx was too much, too sudden, presenting, purely by chance I'm sure, too solid a front. Perhaps I found their sheer number off-putting and retreated into the secure circle of my friends. Perhaps their number meant that they found it easier to find friends and mix with those who were equally new. Either way, I came away from the convention without one new acquaintance."
It seemed that the new people SEACON had been expected to bring in were beginning to appear on the scene. NOVACON 9 featured the usual panels, auctions, and quizzes, and the films shown were A Matter of Life and Death, Doc Savage, and Incident at Owl Creek. A real coup was the showing of a BBC interview with Isaac Asimov that hadn't yet been aired on TV. NOVACON 9 had no fan room, the experience of the previous year being that they weren't as necessary at Novacons as they were at Eastercons, but the con, though low-key, seems to have been well-received, and there were the usual outbreaks of silliness. Paul Kincaid later described a room party where:
"Kev Smith was viciously defensive of his naked upper lip. We performed a carefully considered editing job upon the Gideon Bible, considerably improving it in the process, for which our hosts were later charged (£3.50), though a similar improvement of the telephone directory went without comment."
Actually, the hotel backed down when forcibly asked how much they paid for Gideon Bibles. The Nova Award for Best British Fanzine went to Simone Walsh's SEAMONSTERS. Also at the con, a meeting was organised by Joy Hibbert for all those interested in forming a club, to be called 'Hitchhikers Anonymous', devoted to 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. Reaction was enthusiastic and, in December, Hibbert published a zine for the group, TOWEL AND THUMB. An ad in the NOVACON 9 programme book that read 'Keep the Eastercon Scottish -- EDINBURGH in '81', and the associated ROCKCON flyer seen at the con, would cause some bad feeling between Edinburgh and Glasgow fandoms.
NOVACON 9 (WEST) was held in the USA on the same weekend as the real NOVACON 9, at the Turf Inn, Albany, New York State. Guest of Honour was Bob Shaw, FGoH was Jack Cohen, Toastmaster was Bob Tucker, 'special guests' were Marion Zimmer Bradley, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, and Jim Barker (who kept very quiet about the JLAS), and membership was free for holders of UK and Irish passports. The con, billed as "the first British SF Convention this side of the Atlantic since prior to 1776", was organised by American fans who enjoyed British cons, notably Jan Howard Finder, though putting it on in the same year as a British Worldcon meant the con attracted fewer attendees from the British Isles than it might otherwise have done.
Fanzines appearing in November 1979 included PARANOIA, essentially an issue of ONE-OFF done as a parody of Ian Maule's PARANOID, by David Bridges, and the first issue of PERIPHERY from South Hants fan Jeff Suter. O'RYAN saw its seventh and final issue this month, as another fanzine saw its first. OUT OF THE BLUE was the new fanzine from Gannetfans Harry Bell and Kev Smith. December brought WALDO 5, the first issue in two decades, from Eric Bentcliffe (it was formerly an OMPAzine); the first RABBITS TEND TO EXPLODE, from Dave Haden; and the second NEW RIVER BLUES, from Abi Frost and Roz (formerly Andrew) Kaveney. It was issue one-and-a-half, the first having been issue one-half. (Some people just naturally like making things awkward.)
The December MATRIX, issue 27, reported that the Swansea SF Society had just published the fourth issue of their monthly organ, REDSHIFT, which was still edited by Dick Downes, and that membership stood at eleven. Also reported was that ROCKCON, the Edinburgh bid for the 1981 Eastercon advertised in the NOVACON 9 programme book and for which a flyer had been published, was a hoax by fake Bob Shaw. The names of fans in Edinburgh's FORTH group had been used on the flyer, and they were not amused. In the 1980s, Shaw would publish a whole series of fanzines disguised as ROCKCON progress reports.
And so the decade of the 1970s drew to a close. SEACON '79 had been the end of the gestalt that was 1970s British fandom and, despite the activity in the months since the Worldcon, a new gestalt had yet to form. It soon would, however, and the British fandom of the early 1980s would prove to be very different from what any of the fannish millenialists had imagined it would be.