Fanorama by Walt Willis

WALTER WILLIS writes for you

All unknown to the mundane world, a unique little occasion took place in Dublin one Monday evening late in July. In the cabin of a tramp steamer in the dock area five science fiction fans from various parts of the United Kingdom sat talking excitedly while the boat got ready to sail for Baltimore, U.S.A. Two of them were Ken and Pamela Bulmer of London, who were having their fare across the Atlantic paid by contributions from the rest of fandom. The others were English fan Chuck Harris, my wife Madeleine and myself, who had come down to Dublin by train to see them off.

We'd all met at Eden Quay, near O'Connell Bridge, and then I took them on a tour round the central Dublin area. I'm afraid this was unintentional—I was really looking for St. Stephen's Green, which the IRA had apparently stolen and hidden somewhere since I was there last. However the English visitors liked Dublin, being particularly interested in the fact that the public notices were all in Irish. (I translated some of them for their benefit and Chuck affected incredulity. "If 'Oifig an Phuist' doesn't mean 'Gents'", he said gravely, "I did a very silly thing in the Post Office this morning.")

I tracked down St. Stephen's Green eventually, in time for us to rest a while on the grass until it was time to go down to the docks. There we inspected the ship and decided it would probably last out the voyage, provided no one leaned too heavily against anything. Chuck took photographs of the historic occasion and then, having been unable to find any place to stow away, us visitors had to get off. Looking at the Bulmers waving to us from the rail of the ship I felt a sense of unutterable awe: this was the culmination of two years' work on the Transatlantic Fan Fund and I couldn't believe it was really happening.

There was still plenty to worry about too. On account of the dock strike the boat's sailing date had abruptly been advanced more than two weeks, so that Ken and Pamela were arriving in a strange country three weeks before the Convention at which they were to be guests, with very little money and no arrangements made for their accommodation. As soon as we got home, Chuck and I published a duplicated letter explaining the situation and airmailed it to a dozen fans on the East Coast of the United States.

It arrived three weeks before the boat, and the response was wonderful. Representatives of the Baltimore and Washington fans—John Hitchcock, Bob Pavlat and John Magnus —met the Bulmers coming off the gangplank with two cars and detailed arrangements for looking after them until the Convention. But they'd hardly got properly introduced to one another when another welcoming contingent—Larry Shaw, Dick Ellington and Phyllis Scott—tore in from New York with another car and the key of a furnished flat. After an amicable tug of war the Bulmers regretfully allowed themselves .to be torn away temporarily from their other hosts and driven off in triumph to New York. At the moment of writing they are comfortably ensconced in a flat lent by publisher Dave Kyle . . . one of those riverside ones you see in realistic American films, all foghorns, washing and people sleeping on fire escapes. They have so many invitations that one of the New York fans has appointed herself their social secretary and gives them a daily list of their engagements!

There you have one of the wonderful things about the odd phenomenon known as science fiction fandom: that you can go almost anywhere in the world and get a warm welcome. The Transatlantic Fan Fund is just an organised extension of this individual goodwill, a development of the private Funds that in previous years brought Ted Carnell to Cincinnati and me to Chicago. It's next aim is to bring an American fan to Britain, a thing which has never been done before. Most of us in science-fiction have reason to be grateful for the generosity of American fans, and here's a wonderful way to repay it. Contributions should be sent to me at 170 Upper Newtonards Road, Belfast, N. Ireland. The U.S. fan to be brought over hasn't been decided yet, but there's a strong movement in Britain to invite Robert Bloch.

Incidentally it's not only the fans who have been helping. The professionals, including your own Peter Hamilton, have been more than generous with cash donations and gifts of artwork for Convention auctions, and I'd like to acknowledge their help here.

Hyphen 14, Chuck Harris, Lake Ave., Rainham, Essex. 42 pages, 1/- or 15c. per copy This is the only major British fanmagazine that hasn't been reviewed here before, the reason being that I'm usually largely concerned in it myself. However the present issue is entirely the work of my coeditor Chuck Harris, so I suppose I can stop discriminating against it for once. This issue is clearly and elegantly produced with many of Associate Editor Arthur Thomson's brilliant cartoons and contains lots of good material—mainly humorous and dealing as usual with science personalities rather than science fiction itself, including also Damon Knight's serious and destructive book review column.

from Nebula No. 14, November 1955

 

Last revised: 1 October, 2006

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