By way of preface:
At the Worldcon I represented Writers of The Future, a distinct entity, and only WOTF, The only other thing I ever represent anywhere is Algis Budrys, I have a freelance contract with Bridge Publications to edit the annual anthology, and there my connection with Bridge, or New Era, ends.
Actually, Bridge does sponsor the Contest now, but by WOTF policy they simply provide the funding and have agreed they have no say in what we do. My responsibilities include maintaining WOTF as a clearcut entity. That's on the instructions of L. Ron Hubbard to the WOTF administration when he set up the Contest and when it began to grow into a program including the anthology, workshops, and other potential features. As it happens, that was what I was going to insist on when originally considering the pros and cons of coming aboard, but insistence proved needless.
Having gone to considerable lengths to successfully make these things clear in the USA, I arrived in the UK naively unaware of any need to defend myself against efforts to connect me with New Era in any way except that they publish the UK edition of the WOTF book. (New Era is not a subsidiary of Bridge, as so many seem to think.)
New Era chose to promote WOTF at the con, rather than Mission Earth, and so I came to England. Because New Era's edition of WOTF III won't be ready until late October, they imported some Bridge copies and put their own bookplate in. Somewhere in there, perhaps by spontaneous generation, there came into being a confusing New Era/Bridge pseudo-entity which has very little existence in fact.
I became aware of some unhappiness about New Era/Bridge early in my stay at Brighton, of course. But I didn't at first think it had anything to do with me or WOTF. I didn't realize the full extent of what was happening until a week after the con, so you can imagine how innocently happy I was, I had just directed a successful writing workshop in London, and the experience had been entirely pleasant and fruitful. Then, at the con, I had moderated a very heavily attended panel on the WOTF program in general. As in the USA, response to WOTF was excellent... in fact, if anything it appeared even more desirable there than it does over here.
Not a voice in the crowded panel audience had been raised in sharp question or objection as the panel proceeded, and afterward WOTF novice-writers' starter-packs were being picked up at the New Era booth in great numbers, Over 900 of these giveaways were given away during the con, many novice writers had sat and talked with me and other pro writers in the booth, and in general it appeared to me that I was the usual good person I enjoy being, and that WOTF was a good thing in fannish eyes. I like it when WOTF is well-received; a lot of the sweat in it is mine, and Karen Joy Fowler's Campbell Award is, I hope, not the last of the proofs of its worth to the SF community.
Now that things have been cast in a very bad light, I've joined with the WOTF administration in an effort to reconstruct what happened. I can't say We Have Gotten to The Bottom of It as yet, but here it is so far:
New Era wants to get along well with fandom, but is very new to it, Conscious of its limited experience and casting about for ways to be a good neighbor at the worldcon, New Era had hired Steve Jones. He was to liaise between it and the con committee, and to draft news releases and ad copy as appropriate.
Over the period preceding the con date, through this connection New Era received a series of suggestions to sponsor various segments. The principal ones were a portion of the masquerade, a post-Hugo party, and advertising in the pocket program book. It's my understanding that this eventually added up to L 5000 income to the con what with one thing and the next and the next. In view of the fact that Malcolm Edwards has told me the con was still in the red as it opened, whatever one may think of what was done and how it was done, New Era was of significant help, and undoubtedly provided a sense of reassurance to the con treasury during the weeks preceding Brighton.
One form of advertising suggested to New Era was taking the cover of the program book. For that purpose, New Era submitted the cover of Writers of The Future Vol. III, a Frank Frazetta painting which has everywhere been considered a significant piece of new SF art, and which was reproduced in the decor of the New Era booth, as distinguished from any Mission Earth artwork. I think it's possible New Era regards WOTF as more institutional than commercial; if so, that's some clue to what face they were hoping to present to UK fandom. That interpretation would be consistent with the tone and nature of their advertising inside the program, their creation of the "starter pack," and their heavy emphasis on a forthcoming UK workshop schedule.
The con committee rejected the Frazetta painting as "sexist." New Era, somewhat baffled by this characterization (as am I, to this day), and up against a very tight deadline at that point, then submitted the artwork from Mission Earth: Vol. I, which the committee accepted.
I get a slight frisson from realizing that this series of inadvertences is what led to the "overwhelming" injection of Mission Earth into New Era's graphics at the con. Even so, the pocket program cover is not based on Black Genesis, and inside the booklet is a New Era ad congratulating all the nominees in the Novels category.
It is also apparently a fact that New Era was astonished to discover no other publisher had advertised in the pocket program book. They had received a rather different impression, I believe. Be that however it was, the Conspiracy pocket program was waved around at NASFIC the following weekend and commended for setting an example of excellent publisher support for a con. So it's where you're standing in relation to which way the horse is pointed, I suppose.
Leaving that and going on toward the next, it is apparently a fact that the committee, or some other verticalized portion of it, deliberately chose to combine the post-Hugo photo session with the New Era party. The motive of the committee there, I suppose, was to save the outlay of holding one at its own expense.
The participation of the committee is made official by Peter Nicholls' specifically directing Hugo-winners to the venue of the Bridge party for the official photo session. For its part, New Era created a special photographing area and a photo backdrop (on which more later). That portion of the committee and New Era were clearly cooperating. There was no reason the committee couldn't have set up a separate photo area downstairs and then sent the winners up to the New Era venue.
I don't understand the assertions that New Era then barred photographers or anyone else who would be permitted into civilized company. This is one of the things I'm still looking into, since I've been given conflicting versions of New Era's actions at the door, But if New Era wanted to somehow "capture" the winners, why would it do that and take steps to eliminate witnesses to such a triumph?
Another instance of things appearing one way, while being another, occurred in connection with the masquerade sponsorship. Apparently a number of people, including committee members, are unhappy with New Era-Bridge's supposed role in that. On the other hand, the costumers themselves, including Ann Page, were graciously grateful for the sponsorship, and asked me to reaffirm future interest, and so forth, on the occasion of my serving as a masquerade judge.
Serving as a masquerade judge, on the third hand, proved an enormously embarrassing task. I later asked Ann Page (1) whether New Era had insisted on the seemingly incessant repetitions of "...and in the Bridge-New Era category...," rather than "in the media-recreation category...," She told me it was her idea. I then asked her, in view of a mid-event repetition of her opening announcement of gratitude to "New Era-Bridge," (2), whether anyone at New Era had pressured her to do that, and, again, she said it was her idea. It seems Robert Springall, the New Era representative Ann was accustomed to dealing with, hadn't gotten into the hall in time to hear the opening announcement, and she'd quite voluntarily thought it the polite thing to repeat it when he could hear it.
In short, for whatever reason, Ann Page and her assistants originated not only as many announcements of gratitude as anyone could possibly desire but out of the goodness of their hearts added at least one more, Meanwhile, other committee members (but not those connected with the masquerade) were becoming increasingly resentful of what they took to be evidence of "pressure" from New Era. I find it hard to believe that Ann would have acted quite the way she did, or that the resentment would be founded on quite the same allegations, if the people at the tops of subcommittees had had a structure for communicating with each other.
On the matter of what happened at the Hugos:
I had been asking Chris Donaldson whether I might make an announcement to the assembled multitude, pre-Awards, about the extension of the Contest into 1988, the addition of Ramsey Campbell to the panel of Judges, and the forthcoming U.K. WOTF workshop program. I was motivated by a desire to get the word out to the widest possible audience from all over the world as soon as possible. The WOTF administration had just given me permission to do all these things, and the official Contest year was ending September 30. It seemed clear to me that there was plenty of WOTF interest among the con attendees, and inasmuch as there are often bits of extraneous business and "special announcements" at such con events while the audience is stirring restlessly in its seats, I could stand up, speak my piece, and sit down, waiting to accept Bob Reed's Campbell Award for him should he win it.
Chris had demurred, and I was thinking over alternate ways of getting out the good word efficiently when, on the afternoon before the Hugos, Mike Christie came to me as the representative of the con committee and said the committee now urgently wanted me to make the announcement, and just before the Hugos.
The reason Mike gave for this drastic upscaling of committee attitude on the matter was that the committee had become aware of an anti-Hubbard "samizdat" publication betokening a mounting resentment. They were now hoping that if good old Ajay stood up before the Hugos and mentioned WOTF, a good work, it might help moderate some extremist behavior.
I agreed like a shot, which shows you the worth of my reputation for sagacity. But there's some background to this:
Weeks before, when Black Genesis was placed on the Hugo final ballot, I was consulted, in my wisdom, by Author Services, Inc., Hubbard's literary agents. This was in view of Charles Platt's "modest proposal," a few years earlier, that "the Scientologists" could buy a Hugo simply by packing a convention membership. My sage advice was that ASI, through Fred Harris, contact Paul Kinkaid and ask him if he had seen any irregularities in the nominating procedure. If he hadn't, I suggested, ASI should then leave the book on the ballot, presume it was an honest nomination, and let the chips fall where they might. Hubbard is an SF author whose standing predates even Heinlein's, he is the author of classics in science fiction and fantasy, and Mission Earth is being read by a very large number of people who like it. It might not be conventionally smart to leave the book on; on the other hand, this is a legitimate candidate and what's being said by withdrawing it? What in fact is being indicated by a climate in which we are even discussing its possible withdrawal?
True, there are plenty of people who can tell you, in believable detail, how Bridge's Mission Earth sales were accomplished. I think I am at least as well situated to appraise Bridge's marketing techniques as anyone in fandom, and I am not too bad on the circumstantial facts of how books are sold elsewhere, either, Bridge works harder, and smarter, probably because it has no old bisons on staff who know how to do it forty years ago. And, finally, since marketing of any sort is only good for starting word-of-mouth, the sales figures convince me there is strong reader-appeal in the work.
Kinkaid responded appropriately, ASI did not withdraw the book, so in a way It's All My Fault. This would be funny, if over the time since that decision was reached, I hadn't been approached on some occasions by various SMOFs in the U.S. and had it explained to me, in detail and with great concern, exactly how "the Scientologists" had swung the nomination. None of the stories agreed, but they were all highly circumstantial.
(NB, on the day before the Hugos, Paul Kinkaid had additionally sent me an assurance in writing, I passed it on to Fred Harris, inasmuch as I had gotten him into this.)
However, comes a time when you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, and so the book stayed on the ballot, and I stood up before the Hugos. When I later said to Peter Nicholls "Hey, weren't there to be some other announcements after mine, to clearly separate it all from the Hugos?" Nicholls, last seen by me as the Awards MC, said he'd 'heard something about some such plan, yes.' This came as a surprise to a very highly placed con committee member sitting at the same table, who had just finished telling me my pre-Hugo announcement was all a surprise to him and a very unfortunate not to say shocking, improper and unheard-of act. I have apparently not been to many cons, nor sat and toyed with my rubber chicken while the head table got its desert and various fore-runners worked the microphone to cover for them.
I have heard a number of versions of what I actually said, and various characterizations of those versions. I've asked Malcolm to review the tape of my announcement.
The emerging story that I "broke promises" to the committee appears to have no foundation in fact. The only promise I had offered was to be brief. I have problems being brief, sometimes, but I think I pulled it off on that occasion, and lumbered down from the platform, unaware of any unrest in the audience, not at all sure I had done anything for New Era or Bridge, but still deluded into thinking that an announcement on WOTF had met with a friendly reception. Then, shortly thereafter, Paul Kinkaid came to me and asked me to substitute for the short-story awards presenters. I took that as yet another sign that nobody was upset with me or WOTF, and cheerily agreed. When I went up and did it, I got a good laugh or two, and drew no flung tomatoes. I thought I had helped the committee while enjoying an honor.
I can't understand why Paul came to me in the first place, after my supposedly horrid "gaffe" pre-Hugo, or why some other committee member didn't stop him and suggest an alternate substitute presenter.
I now notice news stories declaring my pre-Hugo thing was interrupted by catcalls and I snapped "Shame on you" to the audience. To my best recollection neither of my appearances at the Hugo podium were marked by any demonstrations of hostility. But I'm clearly not the best judge of such matters. I would like it if someone neutral listened to an audio tape of my announcement. I've been complimented for carefully not mentioning Hubbard by name even once, derogated for endless re-iterations of the same Name, Charles Platt reports yet another version "from notes," etc. Perhaps I only remember what I intended to say, including yet another ill-advised attempt to take some of the masquerade sting out from under my own skin and I suppose most other people's. But I have the feeling that by now it might not make any difference if I'd simply stood up and recited Magna Carta.
I've also been told that New Era barred press and friends of Hugo winners from "its" party, that winners were made to stand in front of large Mission Earth placards to be photographed, and so forth. Robert Springall has sworn up and down to me that he barred no one, but of course he's also the chap who let the party run out of free booze early, so who's to say. But the only placard in the entire room said "Conspiracy '87 Hugo Winners" and nothing else. It was designed and prepared by New Era to be a wholly generic photo-backdrop featuring the Conspiracy '87 logo, and was then donated to the con at the request of yet another committee member.
I feel safe in saying that no one anywhere can produce a photograph taken on that occasion which shows any other placard, background or fore. And considering the number of flashguns that were fired, such a photograph would exist if it were possible. There was a table with some Mission Earth copies, well off to one side, which, considering what the party cost New Era, and what it's gotten for it, seems like a very mild return.
I also hear wonderful stories about a Dave Langford/Harris incident, and have at least a score of credible eye-witness accounts proving that alternate worlds are as common as dirt at 2:00 am. Dave Hartwell tells me he has a photo of Fred Harris and Dave Langford standing together, grinning into the camera and clearly somewhat wetted down. I wasn't there, or I'd be yet another eye-witness.
I have been told that Dave was distraught that his Hugos (which I think richly merited), were "tainted" by being awarded at "the convention the Scientologists bought." If those are his true feelings, I'm distressed for him as a fellow aspirant to the Hugo. Attending the Awards, I was struck, however, by the notably genuine warm applause drawn by his nomination and then his wins. Too, the Hugos are conferred by a vote of the convention membership as tallied by a subcommittee headed by Paul Kinkaid.
If "the Scientologists" had wanted to buy the convention, I expect a more efficient and effective job would have been done, Black Genesis would not have come in behind No Award, and fandom would have been dealt a blow for which "we" could have been legitimately indicted.
In my view, New Era appears to have not been realizing that many of what it considered genial actions would reinforce a facile opinion about how "Scientology" behaves. New Era, a commercial enterprise – and therefore strictly separated from the Church – is a publishing company, and a successful one, though some experts can't fathom how they can operate as they do and make money. I wouldn't know – I'm just the editor of the best-selling SF anthology of all time, which experts here assured me was impossible, But that record, of course, is largely due to Bridge marketing, not New Era. The thought crosses my mind at this moment that Springall may have wanted to show the Yanks from Bridge how it's done. I wouldn't call than an evil or incomprehensible ambition.
Incidentally, the only Bridge representative at the con was Simone Welch, their US fandom hospitality liaison, who is Swiss-German and was stopping by on her way to NASFIC from a visit to relatives on the Continent.