[APAK logo] Issue #75, March 7th, 1997

Poctsarcds from Attitude
by Spike Parsons

Dear Andy:

It's been green with trees budding. So this is February in Jolly Old. It's quite acceptable. This is a Spa town, a product of the 19th century water cure industry. It's being re-furbished to something of its Victorian glory. Pam chose the hotel well, it has nice meeting rooms, a nice restaurant, and reasonable prices. (Well, ok the bar's a bit small, but comfy.)

Andy, everyone is here. (Well, o.k., not D. West or the other Leeds Mafia, nor Rob and Avedon) It's been a bit over 10 years since my first British convention (Rubicon) and I'm back.

We arrived on Thursday afternoon, terribly jet-lagged. Ahead of Pam, but Pickersgill was already ensconced. After a nap and a tasty hot meal in the hotel restaurant we retired to The Bar, with GP and Catherine McAuley, and the Australian, Kim Huett. Catherine brought us all a round of drinks. Tired, and talking mostly to myself as I thought about what sort of drink I wanted, Catherine caught me saying "iced tea" and promptly dispatched the barman to look for the book and make me one! The Shame! Bloody Americans!

An hour later (I think) the tea arrived, a big stein, Texas-sized, with plenty of ice. On a little tray. I reached for the handle, but caught myself before bringing the sparkling tanin-beverage to my parched lips: it was a tiny pitcher of iced tea. the liquid was meant to be decanted (past all those lovely irrelevant ice cubes) into the small fluted wine glass also presented on the tray. Saved from my second (or third?) Shameful Act of the evening! The tea was splendid, and revived me for a couple hours. The healing waters! The healthful brew! I believe!

We've had a splendid show of fanzines this con; I challenge the Corflu denizens to surpass it next month. We've acquired new issues of Attitude, Wallbanger. Plokta, Banana Wings, and The Disillusionist. Then there are the one shots, all competing for the coveted Trilby Award. As far as I can tell, this included Babes With Attitude (Marianne Cain), Welcome to the Year of the Cow (Judith Hanna), Snuffkin's Bum (Maureen Kincaid Speller), Lo-Tec (Bridget Wilkinson) (a hecto zine), and Altitude (Pat McMurray). Ms. Cain (Formerly Known As Pod) won the Trilby for best one-shot, Mr. McMurray won a special committee award, "Fanzine Most Likely to Become a Paper Airplane" (Perhaps it was the title?). Dave Langford won Greg Pickersgill's fanzine quiz, trouncing his former partner Dave Hicks. Greg presented him with the (less) coveted magnum of Lambrusco, "an award of real bloody value!" says Greg.

The quizzes were delightful, but there was much more to The Programme. At breakfast Saturday Paul Kincaid, Joseph Nicholas and I worked out that we were victims of the first scheduling glitch, and were due to give our Fanzine Review panel at 11:30 a.m. rather than the 3 p.m. start time in our speakers letters. This meant waking up Lilian Edwards immediately; a job none of us was up for. Enter Mike Abbott, suitably horrified about the glitch (or the task at hand); he went off to handle the problem. (Mike Siddall said he went looking for a witch doctor to "shake the bones" over the Body, and see if it could be re-animated in less than an hour.) Paul, Joseph and I met in the program room, debating the best seating.

In the end we all ordered tea, and it was quite a civilized affair, this zine savaging -- er -- reviewing. Lilian arrived with a minute to spare, commandeered my tea, and off we went. As moderator, I began by berating Joseph for making us discuss Fosfax, then I let him read his rather concise condemnation of the zine. Great fun! The audience seemed to relish a tough moderator, so I instructed them to be quiet until I called on them. (This did little good, but drew shouts of encouragement.) Paul Kincaid then began to talk about Ian Sorensen's Bob, which he apparently didn't find funny enough to be considered a British zine. Or something like that; Paul uses such big words and eccentric British phrasing, I had to request commentary from Lilian and others to explain what he was saying. Lilian defended the latest issue of Bob, which deals somewhat explicitly with Sorensen's sex life, and called for more male heterosexual British fan writers to write about their sex lives. She opined that writings on male heterosexuality in general are in short supply, and she thinks it's time we heard from that corner. I was croggled, and unable to say anything.

I held up Plokta, and pointed at Lilian. She defended it's superfluous technology and found the lapses into internet and techie topics refreshing. The Plokta Cabal, visible in the front row, seemed stunned but pleased by Lilian's highest praise: it makes great bog reading. Again I was croggled -- I'd heard "boff" reading -- but after further side explanations to the moderator (really, they should have provided the American with an interpreter) I understood that Lilian reserves her highest praise for fanzines that can easily be read while on the toilet. I'm not sure if this depends on size, topic, number of staples, or what. But it provided a great segue to the Apparatchik dissection. Lilian seemed reluctant to give Apak her highest rating, and I got to vent my bad feelings about the placement and number of the staples. Apak columnists in the room slid down in their chairs when Paul decried the lack of a coherent editorial voice. I read from oneshot handed out by Judith Hanna: "Basically, it turns up in the mail and tells you about things going on, some of them in and around its twin home towns of Seattle and fandom. Tightly packed, sparse, energetic, with a quality of journalistic edge, it is working well as a frequent focal point fanzine." Overall the zine seems to be something of a Curiosity in the UK. Lots of people in the audience seemed familiar with it--I could tell when that shout went up, "Bring me the head of Victor Gonzalez!" Brought a tear to my eye.

Before I run out of room I should summarize. There were 30+ program items on a variety of topics, including stand-up humour, music, drugs, pornography, feminism, King Arthur, story-telling, conventions, and fanzines. I counted 55 speakers, which was about half the convention. There were two fan fund auctions, more or less run by the Plokta cabal, and raising about 170 pounds cash in each. (The second featured the auctioning of "services." Martin Smith paid to have a lovely woman put a t-shirt on him, then paid to have it removed. Everyone wanted the "Get Out of Greg Pickersgill Free" card, giving the holder a year of not being cursed by GP. In the end, we all chipped in and bought it for Rob Hansen, who was not at the con.) The near-last program, "Death of a Fanzine," was a very sercon discussion of reasons for ceasing publication, but carried a message of hope that there are other ways to continue to be part of the fanzine scene. While Tom Becker made a final point slowly and earnestly, and the audience listened politely, a certain Welshman (out of Tom's sight) slid quietly from his chair to the floor, crawled a bit, and put Caroline Mullan's foot in his mouth.

Somehow I don't think I've said how SPLENDID this convention was. Straight A's, as good as the Mexicon in 1989 except better because I got to enter the party and pick up conversations easily because I'd been reading the zine. And the most telling fact: the committee was on good terms from start to finish, and seemed to enjoy doing things together. Imagine that!

"Hard-core juke-joint blues," it says on the cover.

[APAK logo] Issue #75, March 7th, 1997

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Previous article: Attitude: The Convention, by Pam Wells.

Next article: Stat Box 4: Geographical Distribution of Letterhacks,
by Victor M. Gonzalez and Andy Hooper.