Many things began in 1976, including dear old Uncle Peter Weston's Andromeda anthologies, Galileo magazine, Greg Pickersgill's Stop Breaking Down, and Sean Wallace (born on 1 January, later to publish much 21st-century Langfordiana at Cosmos Books/Wildside Press). So much for other people: it's time to quell my natural reticence, adjust the bushel to full transparency, and sear you with the coruscating radiance of egotism.
1976, my first leap year in fandom, is remembered (if only by me) for the launch of my debut fanzines. Kevin Smith and I had been hatching our genzine Drilkjis for months, and finally achieved the first ink-spattered issue in March. The looming presence of a stack of rejected Drilkjis covers goaded me to print a personalzine on their blank backs: Twll-Ddu, of which it was later said but always hotly denied. Drilkjis 1 contained worthy things like a George Hay interview and determinedly serious book reviews (though my first published review feature had appeared a month earlier, in the newsletter of an Establishment with Atomic in its name, which eight years later would be fictionalized as Leaky). Twll-Ddu 1 consisted of desperately ephemeral wittering, and got more feedback than Drilkjis because fans seized the obvious comment hook to make telling points like "This wittering is desperately ephemeral."
Thus Eastercon 1976 was the first con at which I enjoyed the supreme egoboo of handing out fanzines. No doubt Peter Weston fixed me with his glittering eye and intoned that doing so was terribly bad form, the act of a rank neo, and no one would respond. This was the legendary Mancon 5, still fabled for its classic mix of woodlouse-brained organization with a dire university venue staffed by instinctive fan-haters. The hideous privations led to my first con report:
"I found the convention in Manchester very interesting but a little surprising. There were many interesting Science-Fiction events such as the B.S.F.A. annual general meeting, but few of the attendees seemed to take them seriously. In fact some people seemed to spend all their time in the bar, and I think it would be a good idea if this were closed during programme items at future conventions, To continue my complaints, the Guest of Honour [Bob Silverberg] did not speak about Science Fiction as I expected, but instead read some odd experimental literature which was very disappointing. And Mr. Robert Shaw's scientific talk was completely spoilt by antisocial people who laughed at his proposals." (Twll-Ddu 2, May 1976)
Enough; it's all on line at ansible.uk. Among other 1976 firsts, I underwent the D. West Experience and joined the Astral Leauge; or did it join me? My first articles for other peoples' fanzines appeared, in Dave Rowe's and Bernie Peek's K. One was slagged off for pretentiousness in a Cynic review by the legendary (at least according to the Leauge) Graham Boak, who was distributing that very issue all through Mancon but whenever I drew near courageously pretended he'd run out. Had I ... arrived?
Late in the year came two fits of insanity. One was induced by promises of egoboo during Novacon 6 in Birmingham: they shanghaied me on to the Novacon 7 committee as master of the publications, priceless artefacts of their time which fandom has mercifully forgotten. The other unwise act, brought on by the still unfathomable enthusiasm of Dave Bridges, was to join Britain's long-moribund apa OMPA with my third debut fanzine of that fateful twelvemonth: Cloud Chamber.
Perhaps because it was relatively pronounceable, Cloud Chamber still persists – #160 appeared in December 2009 – while Drilkjis folded at #6 in 1982, Twll-Ddu at #20 in 1983, and I swore off con publications after the debilitating excesses of daily newsletters for two Eastercons and a Mexicon in 1993/1994.
What else in that dark backward and abysm of time? Hazel and I bought our first house in 1976 and held many fan-infested parties during six years of residence. In June, taking a little time off from all the above pioneering, we got married. I am quietly smug that this enterprise, at least, continues.
The same cannot be said of another intended life partner to whom I bonded in 1976 or just possibly 1977. She was faithful but I was fickle, and over the years she became erratic and smelly, so around 1990 a local charity was persuaded to take that Roneo electric duplicator off my hands. We'd had great times between the slipsheets, but a man must move on. The fannish guilt still lingers.