Fanorama by Walt Willis

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From WALTER A. WILLIS

Even 'way back last autumn there were signs that this year's British Convention was going to be a very different thing from the desultory lecture sessions of previous years. At one time, for instance, it was whispered that the proceedings were to open by everyone dancing the conga, by way of breaking the ice—or more probably a few legs. There were few possible events in science fiction I'd rather have seen than this, even Man's first landing on the Moon. The prospect of the more staid British authors and editors cutting a rug under the shocked eyes of their younger admirers seemed far more entrancing that Arthur C. Clarke running up a flag, and a good deal less probable. In fact, I wouldn't even have thought it was possible if I hadn't known that the London Circle had recently received a blood transfusion called Bert Campbell (editor of Authentic, if your editor is one of those who thinks his readers strong enough not to expire with shock at the news that there are other s.f. magazines) and that anything was likely to happen.

In fact the Convention opened quietly enough, with the usual ritual delays and apologies for the cancellation of the proposed film showings. Experienced conventioneers were so accustomed to these that they hardly noticed them. There followed a speech by prominent author Wm. F. Temple, mainly on his traditional subject, Arthur Clarke, who this time had to be insulted some 3000 miles behind his back since he is busy spending our money in underwater fishing in Florida—engaged, as Temple sinisterly put it, "in submersive activities." For the rest of the day various talks, plays, discussions, etc. of varying merit succeeded one another with the efficiency of a well oiled machine.

Unfortunately, at some period during the night the machine seems to have got too well oiled. The worst thing that can possibly happen to a Convention had happened—the Committee had started to enjoy themselves. The first part of the second day's programme staggered dazedly through confusion to chaos, a large part of the audience leaving for what it thought was a lunch interval and coming back just in time to meet everyone else going out for the same meal.

However by teatime the Convention had pulled itself together with a jerk. U.S. author L. Ron Hubbard made an unexpected appearance and proved himself a very accomplished public speaker, though handicapped on this occasion by being both privately and publicly warned not to say anything about dianetics. Instead he announced his return to science fiction writing and deftly inserted several plugs for his forthcoming noved which, he said, was calculated to drive insane everyone who read it. Judgement must be reserved on this claim, since apparently no one has yet read the book except Hubbard. In the same session there were also interviews with guest of honour Bea Mahaffey, editoress of American Other Worlds and with your own Peter Hamilton, who though not as pretty as Bea, acquitted himself even more competently under Ted Carnell's cross examination.

This was the last serious note in the Convention which seemed to have been designed to upset all Miss Mahaffey's notions about reserved Englishmen. A knockabout skit in which Bert Campbell and Bryan Berry played the parts of eccentric scientists was followed by what was solemnly announced as a visit from the D'Oyley Carte Ballet Coy. However the "Company" decided to put the horseplay before the D'Oyley Carte and we were treated to the breathtaking spectacle of critic Fred brown, author Ted Tubb, Convention Treasurer Charlie Duncombe, and fan Don Buckmaster, all dressed as young ladies and cavorting coyly about the stage to the strains of "Danse Macabre," protecting their honour against male impersonators Dorothy Rattigan and Daphne Buckmaster.

After this the Convention petered out with an auction, in an atmosphere of premature post mortem. In spite of the irritatingly clammy weather and the thought emanations of the powerful and highly critical Northern contingent (all convinced they could do much better and determined to try next year) it seemed to be the general opinion that the Convention Committee had made a magnificent and on the whole successful attempt to put over a really lively Convention.

There was one item of serious business I'd like to mention. A Two-Way Transatlantic Fund has been inaugurated to send chosen British fans to American Conventions and also to bring American fans to ours. I think there are very few of us who haven't cause to be grateful in one way or another for the generosity of American fans, and here's our opportunity to do something in return. Contributions should be be sent to me at 170 Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and will be publicly acknowledged in the fan press.

from Nebula No. 4, Autumn 1953

Last revised: 1 October, 2006

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