TWLL-DDU 9 is, as usual, produced by Dave Langford at 22 Northumberland Avenue, Reading, Berkshire, RG2 7PW. Sept '77.
[Witterings and letters of comment omitted. The one almost substantial chunk dealt with the exceedingly relaxed event Silicon 2, held in Newcastle over the weekend of 26-29 August 1977. To supply the omitted surnames: Malcolm Edwards, Chris Atkinson, Keith Oborn, Hazel Langford, Leroy Kettle, Greg Pickersgill. Members of the Newcastle group (who organized Silicon) were then known as the Gannets, or Gannetfandom.]
I tried, I really tried. I wanted to write the con report which would shake the fannish world, or at least give the impression that I remembered some fleeting detail of Silicon. But it just doesn't seem to work....
I'm quite reliable on details of the northward journey. We stopped in a pub for lunch, Malcolm and Chris and Keith and Hazel and I; on the way out, there was a scramble for the loo. Emerging, I whiled away the seconds by scratching the head of a conveniently-placed parrot, wandering into the car park and finding Malcolm. He greeted me as though encountering Livingstone after long leagues of trackless jungle.
"I was just poking the parrot," I explained.
He thought about that for a while.
"Oh," he said. "... I thought it must be some kind of euphemism."
Thus the insidious moral decay produced by Barry McKenzie films.
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 perverts and commies 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 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. I improvised a defence of Rob Holdstock hack books while Ms Frost gave Leroy a series of drinks – lemonade and something urinal in aspect – which knocked him clean off his chair. Meanwhile another new face (Dave Cobbledick) was ably speaking for the BSFA: later, when the Norwichites had stamped out in disgust, he said what a good thing fandom was and demonstrated his ideals by talking his way to a Scotch (for me, amazingly) from the closed bar....
"God," said Leroy, "I was sick after that panel." It's amazing he'd managed to get enough to fall off his chair: the Imperial Hotel was a little strict with such amenities as drink, swimming pools ("we don't open the pool on the holiday"), the pool table (the clashing of the balls apparently kept other residents awake) and even, it seemed, the use of their kitchen stove: "I want to eat it, not hatch it!" wailed Hazel as her boiled egg flowed across the plate, the white and yolk equally runny.... It all came to a head on Saturday night, when – although the barmaid was ready to serve drinks until dawn, and although Gannetfandom had offered to pay her wages – the cretinous manager declared that, whatever may previously have been agreed, the Bar Must Close at 12.30.
It had also closed all afternoon.
"It's not our fault," sobbed Ian Williams. "He lied to us...." No: the blame rests securely upon That Manager, and all complaints must be directed to the general manager of Swallow Hotels Ltd., The Brewery, Sunderland, SR1 3AN. [2015 afterthought: Well, perhaps not any more.]
Meanwhile, Mary the Mad Barmaid told us how she'd been fired by said manager for being insufficiently solemn and despondent in her work. And Hazel noted smugly that all the facilities the hotel was depriving us of were ones she didn't use (this was before her last breakfast of rare eggs ...). Thanks to Mary, we caroused in the manager's despite until 1.20, by which time all the worst expectations of Norwich had been justified. I attempted to recite tongue-twisters and was helped away by kindly hands after coming to grief upon Swinburne's "Surely no spirit or sense of a soul that was soft to the spirit and soul of our senses / Sweetens the stress of suspiring suspicion that sobs in the semblance and sound of a sigh ..." But I didn't fall off any chairs.
In the inevitable Bangladesh Curry session I scarred my tonsils with a chicken-bone. A nagging pain. My mistake was when, on the way home, I ate smoked salmon pate with Malcolm et al: the taste of fish kept convincing my subconscious that my throat contained a fishbone, and triggering little coughs. By the time we reached home I felt as though a huge dorsal fin were sticking from the side of my neck. A strange post-journey twitchiness came over me, and in the small hours of Tuesday morning, a sleepless Langford wandered up and down the stairs seeking solace. On one such trip, I remember, I quite seriously searched the downstairs room for burglars, armed with only a firmly-clutched can of deodorant. The Gannets have a lot to answer for.
This, of course, was only the final stage of a decay which began when I tried to lipread the speech in Gappa, the Triphibian Monster – Silicon's star film. It had been dubbed from Japanese. Help.
[Further witterings and letters of comment omitted.]