Vince Clarke's PC Letters

These are all the letters found on Vince Clarke's PC and included in VINCEPC.ZIP, as linked from the main memorial page. The street address is no longer associated in any way with SF fandom; the email address lapsed long ago; the phone number has been redacted. A NOTE FOR THAT TIRESOME WOMAN WHO KEEPS SENDING "I HAVE FOUND A FEW TYPOS ..." EMAILS DESPITE BEING ASKED NOT TO: THESE LETTERS ARE AS FOUND. THEY HAVE NOT BEEN PROOFREAD OR CORRECTED.

Letter to Brian Jordan

16 Wendover Way, Welling, Kent, DA16 2BN

25th. Sept., '95

Dear Brian,

Just a line or two to say that John Harvey, a Good Man, delivered several boxes of complicated machinery here yesterday afternoon. Plus innumerable books and How To manuals. Also, you'll be interested to hear, a STAR/LC24-100 Multi-Font printer (I suppose single-font printers would be simple items like the Amstrad one?). Anyway, I'm delving into the bumph. Of course, it had to be last week that, not expecting all this so soon, I got Hawking's Brief History of Time from the Library........

As you can imagine, I'm completely overwhelmed with new information – don't know how long it'll take me to get fluent, but what a challenge! Right at the moment the major hitch is the arrangement of the various bits. I have the tower on the floor on the left-hand side of the table/desk (made up of some loose wood that was knocking around), then the printer, then the monitor with the keyboard in front of it. Mouse and pad on the right-hand side.

Only trouble with that arrangment is that I'm finding it difficult to use the left hand properly as it keeps knocking against the printer when using the Caps key. Haven't got the various electric leads properly disentangled from the initial set-up yet – must try and not be impatient.

I can't thank you enough for being apparently the prime mover in this.

Ummmm – still a lot to learn, even on simple documents like this. Ponder ponder ponder.


Letter to Dick & Nicki Lynch

16 Wendover Way, Welling, Kent, DA16 2BN

21st.Oct, '95.

Dear Dick & Nicki,

It was great meeting you both at Intersection – I'm just sorry that I wasn't able to hand over another Hugo.

I'll probably be on the Internet (which seems to be a pretty good facsimile of a World Con) in the near future, as through the kindness of a number of fans I've acquired a PC386, and they're threatening to install a modem soon. I'm slaving away on this 386 hoping that I'll learn it's quirks before that happens. Someone (in the States as it happens) has installed a word-processor program on the hard-disk called 'JustWrite' dating from primitive times ('92 – well, we're speaking computerese here), but unfortunately without the manual. As said manual appears to have 300-odd pages according to remarks on the screen I feel slightly handicapped. I've tried central London bookshops, Foyles, etc, without success and am now putting an advert in a computer 'zine. But John Harvey has dripped a bit of cold water on this – says instead of wasting time and money borrow a more up to date program from him.

The above is put in to excuse any blunders you note here.

Thanks for the bumper bundle – MIMOSA, '60s fan-history synopsis, sheet of comments on NIRVANA piece, and personal notes. Re. the synopsis, I was only in on the very beginning of the '60s, but will help where I can. I've sent you and Bruce Pelz copies of those SKY RACKs that Bruce was missing, except for No.96, which even Ron Bennett can't trace. As it was issued in July '71 I shouldn't think it would be of much help, but as I know that it's hurtful for a collector to be missing one issue of a 96-issue run, I am, as the local cops say, pursuing enquiries on the matter. Sherlock Clarke to the rescue.

In re. the synopsis, it looks very comprehensive to me. Of course, there are various names of those days one could contact – the Mercers, Brian Jordan (who has been largely instrumental in getting me this computer), Peter Roberts, Ken Cheslin, the Shorrocks, Arthur Cruttenden, etc., etc. – but Rob Hansen's THENs probably contain all the facts that an international history such as this would need to draw on. (And you need something for contributors of MIMOSA to write about).

So – on to MIMOSA 17.

Nice cover, tho' I always have an uneasy feeling about Steve Stile's stuff – he seems to work in some sort of trufan environment from which I'm excluded. Private jokes.... But at least this time it ties in with Ahrvid's article. And very much appreciated the graphic tribute to ATom.

The pieces about The Fire very good indeed – satisfies all the queries that have been stirring restlessly under the surface. Looks as though you have a good insurance company.

Es Cole and Dean Grennell's twin tributes to Bloch very well done, and Charlie Williams was exceptional on the heading and illo for Dag's piece – exactly suited to the subject .

Wish I had the time to comment on each of the articles, but a uniform "I liked xxxxx" might get a bit monotonous, however egoboosting. However, I will say that the first time I came across the name of Robert Conquest (re. Walt Willis column) was a poem about SF in our prestigious Radio Times (circulation several million) in the early '50s. I came across a book by him fairly recently, a mixture of SF critiques, poems and literary stuff, but a quick look at the shelves shows it's missing. I may have passed it on to poet Steve Sneyd. Incidentally, the poem was not the Conquest couplet described as 'immortal' by Brian Aldiss in Trillion Year Spree – "SF's no good," they bellow till we're deaf / "But this looks good " – "Well, then, it's not SF."

In the 'Letters' column, Dave Rowe mentions Ron Buckmaster. Daphne was the fan-writer of the family, Ron more of a party & Con man. They're probably the two main '50s fans I've been unable to trace since I re-entered fandom in '81. Ron was, in fact, the brother of Pamela, the now-divorced wife of Ken Bulmer, but I didn't get anywhere in querying her. Odd.

Thanks for another very good 'zine. Now, I wonder what I can contribute..........


A. Vincent Clarke

Letter to Derek Pickles

16 Wendover Way, Welling, Kent, DA16 2BN

6th. May, '96

Dear Derek,

Didn't manage to get the APAzines off before you're holiday, but at least you can relax and enjoy them now – wotta big 'ead! Hope your health is better for the rest. Rest?

I'm afraid that I've got so tied up with computer and the possible Internet connection (still only possible!) that I've completely neglected the Amstrad. It's all set up in the fan-room, but virtually alien to everyday life at the moment. Thanks for the cheque, anyway.

Damn, I forgot about that address you gave me for ribbons. Will have to look it up, tho' the present one seems to be lasting out better than the previous.

Odds and sods terrific again. I wish I could contribute, but never ever get a newspaper these days. Fixated to News on the Box. Sometimes one of the 3 local free-press papers boobs, usually spelling in an advert., but I only glance at them anyway.

I heard from Ken recently, when he sent me an APAzine to copier. He seems to be using a PC, and is making a fairly good job of it. No experiments, tho, and he still hasn't learnt how to put in the second side of a sheet without it being upside-down to the first! I think he's so occupied with various woes that he just hasn't time for writing much.

Still awaiting to hear about the heart, but the news must be fairly good, as when I went to the Doctor's about four days ago I was told to come back in a week. No rushing ambulances or anything like that.

Thanks for tip on copying covers. I already have a couple of Letraset-type screens, but they're buried somewhere. Now I've got some toner (the last lot, bought by Chuch Harris, ran out about 50 copies after me getting a new supply – that's running it close!), I can experiment a bit more. Actually, everything I do is experimental on copier and computer these days.

Also getting deep into fan history. Have had the first issue of a Fan History APA from the States – Avedon & Rob and self are the only Britfans in it at the moment except for someone called Pat McMurray over in Bromley, Kent (about 8 miles from here) – I believe he or she is a fantasy/horror fan, seem to recall seeing the name in Critical Wave. Heaven knows what hir interest is in fan history. Shome mistake? The editor confesses that she was going to put the thing on Internet, but aside from her eight-year old son wiping a vital disk, she found it just too tiresome. She, as the old Willis pun had it, is reverting to type.

Enclosed, besides the two APAzines, is a copy from an American fanzine of a Bob Shaw obituary which might be of interest. I'll also enclose a copy of the page/s concerning the Major Fanzines in which PHANTASMAGORIA holds a place. This was in the section by Joe Siclari, who apparently holds about 50,000 fanzines (I suppose roughly 1000 titles).


Letter to Arnie & Joyce Katz


May 24th., 1996

Dear Arnie, Joyce & Co.,

I am astronomically croggled. I have WILD HEIRS # 13 in front of me with the 'Philosophical Theory' in it, and proudly (if metaphorically) present to you the Order of Moskowitz with Laurel Leaves and Crossed Pens. Oh, it has some minor faults , at times just a little trampolinish – suddenly shooting forward to some future event, then returning – but for a simple (?) fanzine article, brilliant.

It's noticeable, tho', that you don't try extending Numbered Fandoms beyond the mid-'60s. Does this show an inherent weakness in the theory? Numbered fandoms remind me of many an article from some mundane prophet. Up to the prophet's time he or she can show how history conforms to pattern. But after that – blooie!

I'd like to read a similar over-all view of British fandom some day (Hansen?). It's odd that both of our fandoms had disrupting and entirely separate events in the same decade. British fandom suffered a bad attack of Serconism in the mid-'60s, which damped down Trufannishness for a time. But I think the worst result was the disassociation of the two fandoms which started in that decade. Even when British fans became active again in the early '70s with Greg Pickersgill, Roy Kettle and others, the gap continued. When I phoned the late great Arthur Thomson (ATom) in 1982 on my return from gafia, he said that he'd been contributing to some US fanzines, but apparently he received no British 'zines directly at all, only some via. Ethel Lindsay. I was the first British fan he'd spoken to in five years.

Incidentally, when Arthur died I received some of his fanzines from his widow, Olive, and you never saw such a beat-up bunch of paper in your life. They'd been read and re-read and re-read...... Arthur must have thought of himself, as mentioned in another context by Tom Springer in his excellent article, stranded on an island of Trufannishness surrounded by a sea of Sercon.

The Rotsler cartoons in No. 13 were magnificent

Trouble with these huge 100 page issues (and smaller!) is there's too much to LoC without suspending all other activities for a week. So thanks – a brilliant issue.


A. Vincent Clarke

Letter to Derek Pickles

16 Wendover Way, Welling, Kent, DA16 2BN


24th. Feb., '98

Dear Derek,

Thanks for the phone call – it was a comfort. Nothing much is happening this end except waiting – waiting – waiting. There's bad days and not so bad days. I've just found that I can't eat my breakfast porridge without pain, so have taken a couple of (lets have a look –) Distalgesic Tablets and will have to re-heat the stuff. Guess that's a bad day. Anyway, here's my recent correspondence to Steve Sneyd and Ken Bulmer, to save me repeating chunks of it. Otherwise, I've had a request from the States from a guy doing a SF catalogue for permission to use some of ATom's drawings (I'm doing this as Olive Thomson has given me the OK), and answered someone who was asking about Meihem in ce Klasrum – do you remember it at all? – an Astounding article from 1946, which seems to have retained a curious half-life in the mundane world.

The book (ex-library) mentioned below was Pohl's The Day the Martians Came . I like Pohl and couldn't resist it. The Martians are seal-like, utterly alien creatures, who are brought back by the first Martian Expedition. The effect on half-a-dozen assorted American characters is wonderfully described. Largely satirical, technically apparently OK, and a Good Read. Pohl is marvellous.


Letter to Steve Sneyd

Dear Steve,

? Feb., '98

Thanks for the DD26 and letter. No, I didn't supply a poem from Pong, tho' I guess I could have done – I have a complete set. Never thought to check through them.

I wish I had the strength to move my bed. In the bookshelf behind it I have a pile of records (no longer played, but hung onto) in amongst which there's a HMV extract from Tales of Hoffman. Will get it out sometime and send a copy of the sleeve notes. T of H has been a favourite of mine since I saw the film in the fifties – in fact, I fell passionately in love with it and collected over the years 7 or 8 versions in video, cassette, etc. It's your complete fantasy/magic operetta; as you mention, Dr. Coppelia and his magical doll are the essence of act 1. In Act 2 the hero is in Venice, and gets his soul stolen (outward appearance the vanishing of his image from a mirror). In Act 3 the hero's new love is lured to her death by the arch-villain, who raises the spectre of her dead mother from – apparently – Purgatory. Even tho' the film is sung in English on the video it's difficult to follow! Like most enthusiasts, I'm so smitten with the music that I can't understand how just the Bacarolle has attained any sort of notoriety.

It's very difficult to write about how I'm living in a sort of slow-motion world at the moment, so you'll forgive me if instead of adding a few personal details I'll put the full text of a letter which I'm sending in the same post (I hope!) tonight – addressee Ken Bulmer. Hope this finds you a helluva lot better than it leaves me...

Letter to Ken (Lake? Slater?)

Dear Ken,

? Feb., '98

Sorry not to have been in touch lately, but my own troubles, small though they are in comparison with yours, have rather overwhelmed me the last few weeks.

You may remember that I 'fessed to one of the local MDs that I'd had dental phobia for decades. After a three week long cough and cold my mouth was so painful I could hardly think of anything else. I got a load of analgesic tablets which helped a little but made me drowsy, then had to wait and wait for the Guys Hospital appointment (and that for an X-ray, not yer actual treatment). This came through only a few days ago. It's for March 11th.

Meanwhile, I'd been feeling lousier and lousier, and running (or staggering) for a bus last week gave me so much trouble it really frightened me. I went back to the Docs, and found I had bronchitis. Chuch Harris, to whom I'd described the symptoms in an e-mail, correctly diagnosed this – a memory left from his time in the Navy. I'm now half-way through the course of tablets. Fractionally better, but it's terribly difficult to summon up the strength or to go out shopping. I'm weak in ways I never thought would happen – having to keep a pair of pliers by the gas stove to turn on the taps. And I'm frightened to have a bath for the time being – such a struggle to get out.

Incredibly, (although my trips have all been for groceries), I've only bought one book so far this year!

The brou-ha-ha about Arthur C. was examined in scores of e-mail messages. The fact of his homosexuality was brushed aside, of course, but allegedly having sex with under-age children stuck in many a craw. The Mirror was blasted in all sorts of ways. The e-mail discussion branched out into a discussion of how much damage you could do to a willing participant, differences in cultures, and the fact that Arthur referred to a 40-year old man as a 'boy' in a recent book, in that insufferable way of colonisers. The e-mails are now almost always about Clintons indiscretions, chief bone of contention being whether he tried to get a witness to perjure herself.

Other e-mail discussions have revolved around Heinlein's philosophy (inspired of course by the recent film), and some interesting stuff on the early Hubbard – where and when he is said to have said that one could make millions out of a new religion. I've retained some of this in the computer and will print it out and send it when I feel well enough.

I'm sorry not to have done anything specific about getting your fanzines for safe keeping, but the last couple of months have been devastating. Taken a couple of weeks to write this letter. I feel ridiculous telling you my woes, who is in a far worse position.


Letter to Karen Pender-Gunn

16 Wendover Way, Welling, Kent, DA16 2BN


8th.March, '98

Dear Karen,

Always good to receive PINKETTE – convenient size, brightly written.

Interesting to see Iceland as the happiest country. I was there during the War, and though I didn't get aquainted with any inhabitants (we were, after all, an occupying force there, to keep out the Nazis), it completely spoiled me for other foreign countries because of the scenery. This was stark , ice, geysers, waterfalls, etc. and the tallest tree in the National Park was four feet high, just over a metre. It made a lasting impression. And even fifty years ago there were bookshops stuffed with English and American books.

I'm sorry I haven't been able to visit the vicinity of the old Crystal Palace site and see what I can find for you. Ill health plus increasing years have cut down on such trips. I don't know if it applies in Australia, but here it's fairly simple to go from any city suburb to the city centre. Try moving around the perimeter, though, and you're in trouble.

Letter to Chuch Harris


16 Wendover Way, Welling, Kent, DA16 2BN


21th. Aug. '98

Dear Chuch,

Many thanks for yours of the 19th., containing a lot of sage advice . And onion advice if I may jest. Glad you're working off the blue meanies on other folk – hate to be on the receiving end.

This was nearly an eventful day. TURN OVER AND READ LETTER TO WALT NOW!!!

Pathetic, in a way. Good, kind hearted amateurs doing their best in a half-witted way. I honestly don't know whether to laugh or cry. By the way, letter to Walter should be swamped with quasi-quotes, but I had to compress. Pains in various places.

The feeding machine, which is more like a child's toy than anything – you just can't push the 'off' button without bracing it 'cos otherwise it would move backwards – is not really I suppose to blame – but the liquid food which coagulates quickly and sometimes blocks the tube. Funny – when it did it t'other day and trying to siphon it out was ineffectual, the nurse injected a bit of orange juice and got it free. Weird.

Anyway, the change will not involve a new bed, just a gadget to raise the bed head. I'm glad of this, because I use the space on the bed as a large table at the moment. I'm afraid you don't remember the layout of this place very well – clearing a bookcase would just leave a bookcase-shaped space. Not much use. It is absolutely crowded, chaotic. I've stopped using the Zimmer frame because I can hardly get through flurries of plastic bags full of zines, and boxes. Hardly anywhere where I'm not actually in touch with furniture. Stuff on the stairs. Kitchen half taken over by nurse's stuff, as is the hall. You've got about twice my space, as well as having Sue to clear up. envyenvyenvy.

As far as I understand, I'm not on extra dough from SS – just about £80 per week is sufficient to live on – but I do get lots of help on ye olde Poll Tax. Removing fridge, spin dryer and gas stove will allow more kitchen room. At the moment can make do with freezer, microwave and spin dryer – get other items as they become necessary, i.e. if I get swallowing reflex returning.

Glasses. I have got two pairs – hardly ever wear 'em. Will try to have near vision tested when Nicki comes back from holiday. Am trying the radio a lot more. I'd suggest you give me your tomato, but alas, can't swallow as yet. (Oh no, it was carrots, wasn't it?)

You still write like mischievous demon. Don't change – just keep on.

Now to decide whether to sit on the bed and put feet on a chair, or vice versa.


Letter to Walt Willis

16 Wendover Way, Welling, Kent, DA16 2BN

21st. Aug., 1998

Dear Walt,

I thought I'd write direct, as I know it's difficult on the phone – I'll use that to Chuch/Sue tonight..

Incidentally, this is only the second letter I've written on the PC since March – first was last night to Bridget Wilkinson who I understood from e-mail had a slight relapse after her hysterectomy operation. She's been very good at helping Chuch and self into the wilds of PC'dom.

Anyway, this was going to be the Big Day. My 5 (?) weeks without much sleep was going to be (hopefully) ended.

So at one o'clock the tall Social Services female turned up – couldn't remember having seen her before, but I seem to have seen dozens – with a smallish bearded man who carried a beautifully carpentered piece of white wood looking like a small farm gate – all chamfered, sanded down smooth.

The man bent down and applied it to the head of the bed. Then he looked up. "It doesn't fit" he said..

"I'm not really surprised" I said. "No one reconnoitred the place, took measurements".

The man shrugged. "Well, in a perfect world.....I'll have to do it again."

Meanwhile, the woman had been looking around with a dissatisfied air.. "Where's the electric motor?", she asked.

"What electric motor.?" Turned out it should have come, but hadn't. "About that," I said. "It turns out that I thought the wiring was on a ring-circuit, but it turns out it isn't. I'm a bit worried. Do you know how much wattage the motor takes?" He shook his head. "Won't be much" he said reassuringly.

And that was about that. They went, promising to be back Tuesday.

When I related this to the District Nurse, who called in later, I burst into laughter. She looked horrified, and patted me on the back as if she thought I was having hysterics. Maybe I was.

(Nothing like easy work this – bent over Stephen Hawking wise, using one finger)


Circular: ?August 1998


Well, I've come through the Shadow of the Valley of Death – nice place but I wouldn't want to live there – and am now back at 16WWW.

I'm still fed via tube (not the Underground) 16 hours out of the 24, have a crick in the neck, 1564 things to sort out, and am weak as a Zabriskan fontema (ref. for Old-timers only), but I'm FREE!

I hope to get back to normal (?) over the next 'X' months, helped by Rob Hansen, but taking it slow will be the watchword. (So what's different?)

Thanks to all the family for their support,


Undated Letter to Sheila Pover

[Apparently begun on the Amstrad PCW – DRL]


Page 6 and on the PC, much to your relief, I'm sure. Rob's fixed the rubber cushion, went and found a couple of ordinary pillows (the 'machine' turned out to be a Gestetner), and I'm fairly comfortable.

Yes, James (who is a Catholic) has hidden depths. Really nice fellow, tho' like so many I know, has an illness – diabetes. Had it for years – back in the '50s when I was visiting Belfast, he used to stop now and again to inject himself. Over the years his eyesight deteriorated badly but he can still manage to write Sector General stories with large type on his PC.

(BRRRR – bit cool. Have put on the gas fire, taking great care as I have about 40 PB's piled on top of it! Almost all given to me while I was in hospital).

There's some repetition in the Langford books, but mostly they're good reading anyway. Once I can get upstairs (that old cliché) I can lend you some at least. Is he going to the Discworld Con ? I didn't know of it. Terry and Dave occasionally appear in e-mail, I'll see if I can find some interesting items to print out.

The camera sounds exactly like the one I'd get if I ever go in for that sort of thing again. Hope the pictures are of good quality.

Terminology. There's been arguments about the description of fanzines sold for money. Pro-zines are of course regular commercial publications (SFX, etc.), some sell enough to make a small living for one editor/publisher and these are semi-prozines. Proper fanzines, within the family at any rate, are sent for 'the usual'- after the initial sample, they're sent for a LoC (letter of comment), contribution (art or writing), or anything useful, including money. And if you're a real old-timer, usually without asking for anything. Before the war most fanzines were on a subscription was the norm, but afterwards, about 1951, Derek Pickles, a good ol' Yorkshire man and still a great friend, started 'the usual' for his PHANTASMAGORIA, and the idea sort of spread throughout fandom. Of course, there are variations – there's US fanzines with loads of pictures which cost a lot to produce without a little help.

Respite/rest. There was some talk of me going away for a week to be properly looked after, but things were so rushed and muddled that tho' SS tried they couldn't arrange it for next week, when it would have been most useful with Nicki and Alan away on holiday (she rang to say they'd got down to Cornwall OK), and if the bedhead works then the necessity is not so strong.

Yes, tapes get strained, stick to themselves etc.. I once knew someone who said that it was routine to run through tapes in some official collection – a museum I think – to try and eliminate this. Incidentally, I don't know if you've noticed it but 120 tapes (2 hr. tapes) seem to be impossible to obtain these days, the longest available being 90s (45 mins a side). Awkward for those of us who want to tape from CDs, but I think there's technical difficulties in making them thin enough. I can understand it – I've had more 4 hours video tapes go than smaller ones.

Afraid I can't help with Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I have it on the video of FANTASIA, where it sounds light enough. Can lend that if you have recording facilities – hold mike in front of TV?

Funny – the name of George Scithers came up on e-mail (still ploughing through 1200 or so unread messages!) and apparently he was a good fan before becoming a pro-editor. He's been picked as FAN guest of honour at some future World Con, which is leading to some discussion. I don't know which side of the argument I'd take, but thank Ghu it's not up to me. And they have to think so far ahead that they're already discussing World Cons as far forward as 2005.

Thank Estelle for her enquiries about me. Feel free to discuss if necc. She must be a nice person if she's a pal of yours!

You never told me you were going to write a McGonagall pastiche! Of course, he's horrible to the nth degree, but you should have fun. I did almost all humorous verse when I was writing poems (or 'pomes' as we call them in fan-slang) way back. I'll ask Steve Sneyd (the major – I think – fan poet in the UK) to send you a copy of a booklet he did with something of mine in it. You have exactly the tone in that couplet – will see if I can add some more for you to accept or reject as inspiration hits me.

A sewing machine I have but it's one of the few mechanical devices that remain a complete mystery to me, and I never use it. But that gossamer stuff I wouldn't be able to use, even hand sewing . Congratulations on even attempting it.

Zabriskan fontemas can be found in the Galactic Patrol series of E.E.Smith. Don't know if they're in the first two books, but they certainly pop up in the book entitled' Galactic Patrol'. You should try it!

And now I'm making so many errors that I must be tired. Thank John again for his efforts. Much obliged.