This is SKYRACK 53, dated 20th April 1963 and published by Ron Bennett, 13 Westcliffe Grove, Harrogate, Yorkshire, England. 6d per copy, 2/6d for six issues. 35cents for 6 issues in USA (65cents for six issues sent airmail) where subscriptions should be sent to Bob Pavlat, 6001 43rd Avenue, Hyattsvilie, Md. Cartoon by Arthur “Atom” Thomson, colour by Dave Hale and. contributions by Bobbie Gray, Brian Aldiss, Tom Boardman, Ted Forsyth, Tom Schlueck and others.
EAST FANGLIAN TIMES TO CONTINUE PUBLICATION!
IT WAS CONVENTION TIME ONCE AGAIN when the British National Convention was held at the Bull Hotel, Peterborough, Northants., from Good Friday 12th April to Easter Monday 15th April. This was the best attended. British Convention to date, with over 130 avid fans gathering to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the British Science Fiction Association. Once again there were many new faces, always a healthy sign, whilst the exceptionally large number of professional writers and editors present was an autograph collector’s dream. If the programme itself tended to lag at times (mainly because of the small hall and the inadequacy of the public address system) this was easily overlooked and a darn good time was had by all. The weekend was too short. Conventions like this one should last a month.
IT’S PETERBOROUGH AGAIN NEXT YEAR. The old-guard fans present declared that it was the end of the world and shook their heads but it was true! The Management of the “Bull” asked us to come back again next year and at an extraordinary meeting on the Sunday evening a Committee was formed and registrations were collected. The number has already reached the sixty mark, a fantastic state of affairs in itself.
THE CONVENTION was well-covered by the local and national press, radio and television and interviews with professional personalities present were recorded for later use.
THE CONVENTION WAS OFFICIALLY OPENED on the Friday evening by Committee Chairman Kenneth F. Slater who spoke against a superb backcloth painted by Oxford’s Marcus Ashby and depicting a scene from Brian Aldiss’ Hothouse. Aldiss himself was introduced and he interviewed some of the personalities present.
THE SATURDAY MORNING PROGRAMME opened bright and early at ten with the address given by the Guest of Honour Edmund Crispin. Brian Aldiss introduced him briefly by saying that he was “incredibly handsome.” Crispin remarked that he was attending as a member of the BSFA who had been lucky enough to do a few anthologies. After what he had seen the previous night one’s life span is shortened if one is a practising member. He moved on to his talk - Science Fiction: Is It Significant? - by saying that he had noted five main points, the first of which was that S.F. is rather taken with “the above.” Most stories reach out to the stars. More people in this country are writing S.F. than ever before, he said, and this can be a danger in itself. A parallel was drawn between crime fiction of the early thirties and it was noted that there is a strong attempt to “jockey the genre into the mainstream of literature.” This led on to the second point which was that S.F. has become more generally recognised because established writers have occasionally produced S.F. He would not comment on these books, he said, as his remarks might lead to an action for slander, but later he did say that On The Beach was poor. In the main, established writers have not taken the trouble to acquaint themselves with the conventions and special problems of writing science fiction. The danger to the field is that a non-SF addict may pick up such a book, read it and after seeing that it is bad decide that all S.F. is similarly bad.
Crispin’s third point was the influence of “the Telly.” On T.V., he said, “there is little differentiation between merit and lack of merit.” Anything with spaceships or aliens will do. He moved on to his fourth point which was that people are generally becoming more aware of the “cosmos” which of course has a general association with the S.F. field. He mentioned satellites, projectiles (launched in the general direction of the planets) and the fact that even the Astronomer Royal has stopped saying,”... ..........“ His fifth point was that space travel is usually used as a presupposition and not as a theme in itself.
He concluded by saying that S.F. writers are generally underpaid, to which remark Harry Harrison shouted "Hear hear!” Many S.F. writers use novel length ideas for short stories, said Crispin, and noted that thanks to Ken Slater there were 60 titles he could not mention, either favourably or unfavourably, a reference to the Convention’s novel competition. He closed a most stimulating talk with the note that people do not like to be told that Man is unimportant and that S.F. is the major revolution which has occurred in literature since Marlowe and Shakespeare.
In answer to questions Mr Crispin said that he had chosen his pen name from “Crispin” meaning curly haired and “Rufus” meaning red. He did not like “Rufus” so substituted “Edmund” from King Lear. He was once asked to write a SF story and he had sent it to F&SF but it had been rejected with “a long, cautious and courteous letter.” He said that because of main stream writers entering the field the name of SF was becoming debased in the eyes of the general reading public. He deplored the success of that which is bad and also the state of affairs which allows the bad to be successful.
HARRY HARRISON presented some new slants on the old theme of’ Sex & Censorship in Science Fiction. He spoke first on profanity. The hero of his story Deathworld struggled and clawed his way through 70,000 words yet the word “damn” was cut from the Analog version of the story. Harrison said that Campbell was not aware of this, and mentioned the sub-editing rules and taboos of that magazine. He spoke of the now-famous example of over-riding this censorship when George O. Smith wrote of the original ball- bearing mousetrap machine. He held up a cover from the Regency paperback Damn It which appeared on all newsstands. Children can read this word, but readers of Analog can’t. He quoted further examples from the British and American editions of Aldiss’ Non-Stop, which dealt differently with a reference to some near-innocent sex-play.
Harrison then went on to talk of chamber pots. As he showed a mention of this utensil is widely accepted in Danish advertisements, but when he attempted to refer to a pot in mature, adult S.F. he again met with this ridiculous censorship. His conclusion, he said, was that although SF was trying to present a mature image it had not as yet thoroughly grown away from the old taboos of its pulp origins.
Ted Carnell said that he himself publishes the word “bastard” which offends him personally but deletes other references which offend him. He said that we were entering a world of sickness and quoted as an example the TV programme That Was The Week That Was which depended basically upon sick humour and yet which still receives good reviews. He said that 20% of thc stories received by Nova from new or unknown authors were in the “sick” category.
Tom Boardman agreed with Ted Carnell that a publisher has to have a set of rules and mentioned that he always changes the profanity “Jesus Christ!” to “God!” in order to sell a book in Ireland.
Ted Tubb said that S.F. is trying to break away from its association with the pulps and by association is linking itself with mainstream literature but that it still possesses these taboos.
PETER HAMMERTON of the Lincoln Astronomical Society who has attended conventions previously presented a Saturday afternoon slide show called Journey Into Space. Although the facts it covered were somewhat basic for the old guard fans the coverage was extremely thorough and the slides themselves were excellent.
A FOUR PIECE BAND and T.V. cameramen were in attendance on the Saturday evening for the Fancy Dress Party. The theme of the fancy dress this year was “After The End” and monsters were certainly in evidence. It was good to see the support given this venture by new convention attendees and Ted Tubb - hardly a newcomer, really, - caused quite a stir by rushing into the hall clothed in a costume made up sheets of manuscripts. Harry Nadler of Salford was adjudged “Best Monster of the Year” and another special prize went to cat girl Janet Shorrock, whilst Tony Walsh won first prize for his costume which was simplicity personified - a sandwich-board man toting the slogans “Prepare to Meet Your Beginning” and “The Beginning is At Hand.”
JACK WILSON won the art competition’s award for best colour work and was also presented with the special award donated by the Science Fiction Club of London. Runner up in the colour section was Terry Jeeves. Eddie Jones won the award for the best black and white work and Terry Jeeves took the cartoon award. Philip Harbottle’s artwork on themes of J.R.Fearn was highly commended and Marcus Ashby’s backdrop was judged to be perfect and greatly contributing to the success of the convention.
THERE WAS QUITE A GOOD TURN OUT on Sunday morning for the fairly early talk on TAFF by 1962 Delegate and Present Adminstrator Ethel Lindsay who was supported by Eric Bentcliffe and Ron Bennett. Ethel defined TAFF and said that there was over $500 in the kitty at the moment. In a general discussion on the Fund Ted Tubb suggested that votes should be able to be bought, 2/6d for the first vote, an additional 5/- for the second, an additional 10/- for the third and so on. Bobbie Gray suggested a limit to the number of votes which could be bought. Ella Parker suggested that the voting fee should be doubled. It was now 2/6d in the UK to 50cents in the USA. This point had been brought up five years ago, but the time was now probably right to double these fees. A vote was taken on this suggestion and a majority voted in favour. ((Note that the vote was in favour of this suggestion being made to those controlling the Fund.. No attempt was made at any time during the discussion to dictate to the Administrators.)). Ken Slater suggested that the fund might be liable to income taxation. Archie Mercer said that he was against the open election and that possibly a panel of selectors might be formed to choose the TAFF delegate. Eric Bentcliffe and Frances Varley pointed out that interest in the Fund would so drop and that less money would be collected. Ted Tubb suggested that the host country choose the delegate but Ron Bennett pointed out the differences between American and British fandoms which possibly precluded this suggestion being taken up. Ted Tubb also suggested that it should not be obligatory for a delegate to produce a report. The discussion was cut short by Ken Slater who reminded the gathering that it was time for the BSFA AGM.
AT THE FIFTH ANNIVERSARY ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF THE BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION ASSOCIATION Chairman Terry Jeeves outlined the schemes inaugurated during the year and mentioned that Vector, the official journal, hoped to go on to printed covers shortly. It had been a year of “solid slog,” he said, mentioning the year’s crises when Association Editor Ella Parker had to give up her post and when the BSFA Library had had to be moved to Liverpool. Round-robin letters were being started and there was a scheme in hand for encouraging aspiring writers. Chris Miller asked how new members were being recruited and Brian Aldiss muttered “thumbscrew.” Peterborough was voted in as next year’s convention site and next year’s BSFA Committee was decided upon, as follows: Chairman - Phil Rogers. Vice-chairman - office jointly held by Bobbie Gray & Tony Walsh. Secretary - Maxim Jakubowski. Treasurer - Jill Adams keeps her post. Publications Officers - Archie Mercer & Michael Rosenblum. -
PETER MABEY, who for personal reasons could not attend the Convention, but who has in the recent past given up much time and devoted much energy to the successful running of the BSFA Library, was the first recipient of the beautiful cup presented in memory of Dr. Arthur R. Weir, the “Doc Weir” Memorial Award. Congratulations, Peter, upon an honour so well deserved.
GEOFF DOHERTY, editor of the anthology “Aspects of Science Fiction” spoke on anthologising SF for schools. Should SF be stuffed down the throats of children, he asked, mentioning that many people had a dislike for the literature they had had forced upon them at school. He did not feel that this criticism applied to SF, however, for the children liked SF - he mentioned Tom Godwin’s Cold Equations as a good example - and they even asked for more. Doherty said that writing about human emotional experience is nothing new. This cannot be otherwise for any writing springs from experience either known or imagined. He mentioned SF-type imagery in non-SF, quoting Browning, Bunyan and Milton. Outsiders write material which resembles SF, he said. There is an affinity of manner of thought. Huxley, for example, is moved by a different view of mankind from the accepted and this fits into SF. He spoke of the pattern of mankind in stories since Darwin and said that more and more will write stories which sound like SF and that this has been so since gadgets were impressed as images in the public mind.
THE PRO PANEL was this year organised on novel lines. There were so many professionals present that they appeared in relays. Four speakers answered two or three questions from the audience and then two of these were replaced by two others. A cross section of the session is as follows:
Question “What would you write if you didn’t write science fiction?” John Brunner: Old and neglected civilisations. Brian Aldiss: Sex. Mike Moorcock:- mountain climbing. Geoff Doherty:-Sex plays.
Question: “How do-you write?” Harrison said he wrote notes when writing a short story but a novel involved long correspondence between himself and his editor. He wrote short letters to John Campbell and got back 4,000 word letters. Mike Moorcock said that ideas were often in his mind as long as two years before the stories were written. Edmund Crispin said that he attempted to write regular hours when working on a novel, from 9.30 to 12.30. He wrote in long hand on lined paper and usually gave up to go out to the pub at 11.30.
On the question of sequels to stories, Harry Harrison said that if a book is written “right” it doesn’t need a sequel. Brian Aldiss said. “For those in peril on the sequel.” Edmund Crispin said that there was the occasional exception to the rule about sequels.
The panel agreed that it would be a good thing for authors to receive royalties from lending library sales but that there did not appear to be any working scheme.
Question: “Have you ever taken your scenes or characters direct from life?” Harry Harrison: Never. Dan Morgan agreed that a writer does not use people from life but perhaps uses an amalgam. Edmund Crispin said that he had used odd details and agreed with Kingsley Amis who said that he had once put a character directly into a book and that that character had rather liked Amis’ interpretation of the type, without recognising himself. Amis said that he felt “I’d failed there.”
Question:”What was the first SF story ever to make an impression on you?” Edmund Crispin: “The Silver Locusts.” Kingsley Amis said that he remembered two stories, one in which a creature was created in a laboratory - “It grew!” - and one in which there was a moon weed which ran after you. Dan Morgan remembered “A Journey to the Centre of the Earth” and Asimov’s Foundation stories. Harrison spoke of being seven years old and alone in the house reading a story in which the hero had travelled to the Arctic to find himself back in the age of the dinosaurs. He also remembered “The Princess of Mars.”
The panel was asked about Russian SF and Kingsley Amis said that it lacked action dependent upon a crisis in the story. “In a well-planned, well-run economy one does not find crises. He told of soviet stories in which aliens are intelligent and therefore socialist. Max Jakubowski who is now living in London but who has sold SF in France said that Russian SF “is very heavy”. John Carnell drew a parallel with the early German SF. Ken Bulmer and Mack Reynolds who spoke on background in SF also made up the panel which was Cut off in full stride - aren’t they always? - by lack of time.
ERIC BENTCLIFFE pre-sented a fannish slide-show, The Gafia Show which included shots of the August 1962 Liverpool party and of visits by himself and Liverpool fans to the Black Sea coast, Yugoslavia, the 1960 Pittcon, New York, Venice and the Lido di Jessolo (Archie Mercer: “Take Me to Your Lido.”)
AT AN EXTRA-ORDINARY BUSINESS MEETING on the Sunday evening in the Wakeford Lounge a goodly proportion of the attendees gathered to discuss plans for holding next year’s convention in Peterborough. Ken Slater pointed out that he could not afford the time away from his business to put on next year’s convention but was willing to take charge of professional displays. George Locke said that he would be willing to produce the convention’s newsletters and Ken Slater said that he would also be willing to look after the hotel bookings. At the end of the meeting Ethel Lindsay staggered out to find herself in charge of the 1964 programme. She was supported (yes, held up) by Tony Walsh who looked shaken himself - he will wake up to find himself Convention Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer, a formidable combination. Peter West offered to provide and put on the films and is asking anyone to suggest titles of both professional and/or amateur SF films they would like to see next year. (Peter West, 12 Riffel Road., London NW 2) How about The Trouble With Harry, Peter?
ERIC JONES spoke on behalf of the Cheltenham Circle and said that the group had recently lost one of their leading members, Bob Richardson. Eric said that Bob had been responsible for starting the Order of St. Fantony and that it had been suggested that members of the Order might wish to show their regard for Bob in some way. It was suggested that the Order (and anyone else who so wishes) presents Bob’s daughter, Linda, with some premium bonds. This idea was readily seized upon and several donations and pledges were made on the spot. Eric is to circularise members of the Order within the next few weeks.
THE OFFICIAL PROGRAMME closed with the traditional film show which this year featured two full length films. The first to be shown was Jean Cocteau’s sub-titled fantasy Orphee which was reasonably well attended. The hall, however, was packed out for the second film, Fritz Lang’s pre-war Metropolis which, a British Convention tradition in itself, was last shown in fan circles at the 1951 London Convention at the Royal Hotel. The general SF effects and the depiction of the city of the future were generally fabulous though the silent medium of the film led to outmoded film conventions like overacting. The film was thus viewed on two distinct levels and there were many impromptu remarks from the audience. These frankly made the film even more enjoyable and several convention attendees mentioned that this was the best part of an extremely witty, varied, stimulating and fabulous programme.
THERE WERE TWO AUCTIONS during the convention with Ken Slater and Ted Tubb taking the hammers. Ted, as most fans probably know, is an entertainment in himself once he gets into full stride. Holding up four magazines he asks for a bid of 2/6, gets it and smoothly asks the bidder for ten shillings. “Oh, yes, two and six,” he says, “Each!” He reads extracts from books, improvising wildly. He jokes, he bullies. It's all in good fun for a good cause and he draws the crowd. More Tubb auctions next year, please.
THE CONVENTION PROGRAMME BOOKLET was again fantastically designed and produced by Eddie Jones and Norman Shorrock who have set, over the past three conventions, a standard it will to hard to live up to. This year a feature was the supplementary section which gave programme items in extremely handy pocket size.
THE CONVENTION RAN A NOVEL COMPETITION. Guest of Honour Edmund Crispin chose 12 books which he would like with him were he wrecked on a desert island. The winner with 10 correct (4 entries, 10 correct titles in each entry) was G.M.Webb of Ealing. The 12 Crispin-chosen titles were: Rogue Moon by Budrys, The Silver Locusts by Bradbury, More Than Human by Sturgeon, The Kraken Wakes by Wyndham, The Space Merchants by Kornbluth & Pohl, The Dragon in the Sea by Herbert, Tomorrow Sometimes Comes by Rayer, A Fall of Moondust by Clarke, The Syndic by Kornbluth, The Asimov Foundation series, The Sirens of Titan by Vonnegut and Hothouse by Aldiss.
THE SOCIAL SIDE OF THE CONVENTION is not to be ignored. The Hotel staff was extremely friendly and. special praise is given to the night lounge waiter who should be employed to travel with conventions. Parties were in abundance of course, with one party thrown by Ella Parker and Ethel Lindsay being of special note. At one time there were 53 people crowded into their bedroom. Harry Harrison made a spectacular entry, being forced almost to the floor by the weight of numbers, yet the drink in his hand remained steady. Brag, poker and solo were the card games in evidence this year. Headline for Skyrack: - Bennett lost! The photo competition was won by Jhim Linwood for his picture in the “After The End” section. The Los Angeles SFS sent a cable of good wishes which was scrambled slightly in its passage and was interpreted by Arohie Mercer who noted that amongst the names of those who had signed it was Jack Harness twice. The food at the hotel was agreed to be good but expensive and most fans ate out at either the Minster Grill or the definitely favoured Chinese restaurant ‘The Great Wall’. The auction for artwork on display brought over £9.
“Five teas and send them to bathroom four.” - “You know where it is, don’t you?”
TOM BOARDMAN is to publish SF Horizons, described as science fiction’s first professional magazine of serious criticism and comment. Published twice yearly, the first issue will be on the stands early June and will include a transcription of a tape conversation between C.S. Lewis and Kingsley Amis, a 10,000 word article on Jack Williamson’s Legion of Time by Brian Aldiss and The Use of Language in SF by Geoff Doherty as well as material by James Blish and Robert Conquest. Editors will be Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss and SF Horizons will sell at 3/6 d.
CONVENTION ATTENDEES HAVE LUCKY ESCAPE. Bobbie Gray and Sandra Hall received minor injuries during their drive home from the convention in Peter West’s van. Caught at the end of a traffic jam just over the brow of a steep bridge on the A11 outside Newmarket, Peter’s van was stationary when it was rammed in the rear by a motor cycle travelling at high speed. Both the motor cyclist and pillion passenger also received minor injuries but both vehicles are total wrecks and broken glass was scattered through the van. Sandra was badly jarred, Peter got away with a grazed knee and Bobbie sustained a cut shin which required three stitches. All agree that it could have been far worse.
IT IS UNDERSTOOD that as Atlas will shortly be losing their BRE Analog (it is shortly to be imported by another firm) they are contemplating bringing out a magazine called Venture which will be made up of stories previously not reprinted in this country and taken from old American issues of F&SF.
The paper Boy’s World is to commence serialisation of Harry Harrison’s Death World in July. This will run over twenty instalments.
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TWO YEARS, Germany has its own regular professional sf magazine. The first-issues of the German edition of F&SF are on the stands. In pocket book format and featuring a selection from the original American editions. The first issue included stories by Asimov, de Vet, Wyndham, Clarke. / Clarke’s novel.A Fall of Moon Dust has been published in Germany in the Reader’s Digest series of book selections nextdoor to A.J. Cronin which seems to bear out something about the image of sf these days.
THE FOURTH NIEDERRHEIN CON was held over 23rd/24th March weekend and T.V. coverage invited those present to speak on sf. “Even lines from Shaw and Heinlein about the important traits of literature were quoted,” says attendee Tom Schlueck, but results were nightmarish with the label “Juvenile scatter-brains” given to the T.V. newscast in which the interviews appeared.
THE MAY US F&SF is the long-awaited Bradbury appreciation issue (with two new stories by Bradbury, a complete bibliography and an article on Bradbury by William F. Nolan who was responsible some dozen years ago for the Ray Bradbury Review. The May F&SF also includes a story by Jim Ballard, Mike.
NINE AWARD WINNING SHORTS have been collected together by Asimov and will be published by Dobson in July under the title The Hugo Winners (18/-). / Penguin are bringing out monthly sf titles, and the long-awaited second Aldiss anthology will appear as the August. selection.
BRIAN ALDISS thanked me for the Skyrack poll winner’s scroll and was even inspired to poetry but lack of space precludes publication of the epic. / Ed Meskys (c/o Norman Metcalf, PO Box 336, Berkeley 3., California) requires copies of Skyrack 42 & 47 and also of the Freeman-Lindsay produced Skyreck. / One-time London visitor Jim Caughran married 23rd March. / Bruce Pelz now a definite TAFF candidate to run against Marion Bradley and Wally Weber and there is a good chance of a fourth name to come yet. / It looks as though Bill Morse will be emigrating to Canada. / Ethel Lindsay spent two post-con days in Yorkshire visiting Colin Freeman, editor of Scribble. / Ella Parker, Ted Forsyth, Jim Linwood, Terry Jeeves and Ken Cheslin sent a con tape.