by Irwin Hirsh
"When shall we have Corflu in Melbourne?" was a question Andy Hooper recently passed to me. What Andy may not know is that before Corflu reached out to places like Tyson's Corner and Walnut Creek, it was already on its way Down Under. Back in early 1985 Jack Herman offered to run a small fannish relaxicon after Aussiecon Two, and even went so far as to get the okay from the Powers That Be to call the event Corflu 2.5. Unfortunately, the con never came into being. The 47th issue of Thyme (August '85) noted that the convention wouldn't be going ahead due to lack of interest.
Fast forward a couple of years and DUFF winner Lucy Huntzinger is telling me that "this convention has the feel of a Corflu." What Lucy was referring to was Eastercon 87. While our intention hadn't been to run ëa convention for fanzine fans', it was nevertheless very satisfactory to be compared favourably to a convention of which I'd heard good things.
Eastercon 87 grew out of the dissatisfaction surrounding a larger convention, Capcon -- the 1987 Australian National Con. Soon after being given the Natcon nod the Capcom committee announced their convention wouldn't be held over Easter after all. Instead it would be held over the following weekend. The story goes that convention GoH Robert Aspirin told the committee he couldn't attend at Easter as it clashes with some big SCA event. As time went on and no other news was forthcoming from the committee, Capcon was becoming a convention people would attend out of obligation (it was our Natcon, after all) and not because they thought it would be good.
Carey Handfield worked around the corner from me, and during my lunchtimes I'd pop in and say hello. Sometimes we'd talk about Capcon and how the Easter weekend was going free. A small fannish gathering had all sorts of potential. The 1987 DUFF and FFANZ races were scheduled to have someone at Capcon, and the two winners would probably be persuaded to spend Easter in Melbourne. A Perth group was bidding for the 1989 Natcon (to be voted on at Capcon) and a con in Melbourne in Easter could persuade some Perth fans to make their Capcon trip into a nice, leisurely holiday. Eastercon 87 had been born.
Initially there was just three of us running the show. Marc handled membership and publications, Carey looked after the hotel and the money, and I built up the programme. Three or four panels during the day, and a party-type event in the evening. The panels were evenly-split down three areas: science fiction, fanzines, and general fannish matters. I didn't try to do anything spectacular, and sought to provide basic convention fare. One panel was "The Basic SF Library" in which panelists were invited to suggest books every reader should have. The people I invited to be on it responded with great gusto, and each independently told me that it was a great idea and wondered why it hadn't happened before.
As Easter approached, a few of my ideas weren't coming together, and I invited Michelle Muisjert to join me. She proved to be a great help, with one of her items proving to be a highlight of the con. Noting the trend of publishers attending conventions and earnestly, pompously launching their new book or magazine, she suggested we have a fanzine launch. Fan publishers who came to Eastercon with a new issue were asked to get someone to say a few words on behalf of the new ish and pop open a champagne bottle. After the drink was drunk, a copy of the fanzine was stuffed into the bottle. The convention then wandered down to the end of St. Kilda Pier, where those who had spoken launched the fanzines into the water of Port Phillip Bay. Inspired with a strong insurgent element, the launch exuberantly celebrated the hobby of publishing fanzines.
One fanzine that wasn't offered up to be part of the launch was Radiation Exposure. It nevertheless had its own unique release. Prior to the Launch a number of people wearing radiation suits went around the crowd handing out , with tongs, what they'd produced the previous evening (Good Fryday, as they called it). This instant zine, sponsored by the local branch of Mutants Anonymous (their motto: We Gave Up Changing) was a fun read, a point I made to its perpetrators, one of whom gave me another fanzine by way of compliment. That was my introduction to Ian Gunn, Phil Wlodarczyk, James Allen and Lindsay Jamieson. These days they are in the fannish center, and I'm out on the fringe.
One of the things I've come to realize about Eastercon ë87 is that it reflected on the fannish scene of the time. While it is decades since Australian fandom, on a world scale, has had an era of great fanzines, I consider the two years after Aussiecon Two (1985) as one of Australia's better periods for fannish activity. Once the Worldcon was over, it took an enormous weight off our shoulders, and committee members like Marc Ortlieb and myself could, and did, get back into regular publishing. Others benefited from the new contacts and perspectives the Worldcon gave ---for example, the issues of Thyme which Roger Weddall and Peter Burns published in 1986 were the best they did, and Mark Loney, Michelle Muisjert and Julian Warner revived The Space Wastrel and soon had a solid genzine on their hands. These, and zines like The Notional, Fuck the Notional and Apocrypha had people talking about fanzines for the first time in years, and a critical mass had developed. Eastercon 87 both fed off and reflected upon that critical mass. It was a convention for its time, and it's time probably demanded something which had "the feel of a Corflu."
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