When the 1960s began Britain found itself in a much better position than it had at the start of the 1950s. Then austerity had reigned and 'belt-tightening' had been the order of the day, but now Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was confident enough about the economy to tell the people, in his famous phrase: "You never had it so good!". In America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was soon to become President of the United States, his election seeming to many to signal the beginning of a new era, and on both sides of the Atlantic the children of the so-called 'baby boom' - the biggest generation in history - were starting to come of age. They would go on to make their mark on the decade in ways that few could have foreseen.
While the established British fandom of the 1950s had been tearing itself apart the fandom of the 1960s had been slowly developing. It had got its start at Kettering over Easter 1958 when the British Science Fiction Association was born, an organisation that was to leave an indelible imprint on 1960s fandom. From that point the national convention was run under the auspices of the BSFA and as a result of the first of these, 1959's BRUMCON, the Stourbridge and District Circle (SADO) had formed. Later that year the London Circle dissidents had founded the Science Fiction Club of London (SFCoL), a club that newcomer Ella Parker took over the running of for a short while before meetings moved to Ethel Lindsay's flat at Surbiton in Surrey. These groups were to be important precursors of those that were to make Birmingham and London the main centres of British fan activity during the decade to come.
After SFCoL moved from the Penitentiary, her 151 Canterbury Road flat in London's West Kilburn, Parker started a Friday night open-house for any BSFA members who cared to drop by. She also became Secretary of the BSFA at the organisation's AGM over Easter 1960 and so played her part in its first major period of growth. Not that there weren't teething troubles. Following Terry Jeeves' tenure, Michael Moorcock took over as editor of VECTOR with its fifth issue in the autumn of 1959, having put out the single-sheet VECTOR EXPLANATION shortly before to explain the delay between issues. This was to be the first of four issues he was to edit (the others with assistance from Bobbie Gray - the former Bobbie Wild, Sandra Hall, George Locke, and John Phillifent, variously) before Jimmy Groves took over with the eighth issue in June 1960, his proposal for VECTOR having narrowly defeated that of Mike Moorcock and Gerry Mosdell in a vote taken at the BSFA's Easter AGM. That same month Ron Bennett passed editorship of OFF-TRAILS, and the position of OE for OMPA for the following year, over to Daphne Buckmaster (who had moved from London to Kircudbright in Scotland a few months earlier).
The sixteenth issue of Ron Bennett's newszine SKYRACK (April '60) was the first annish and carried the results of the first SKYRACK Fan Poll, in which readers of the zine had cast their votes on the best fan activity to come out of Britain in 1959. Sandy Sanderson's APORRHETA was voted Best Fanzine, John Berry was Best Fanwriter, and ATom was Best Fanartist. SKYRACK 18 reported that Jim Linwood, Brian Jordan, and Alan Rispin had discussed the formation of a 'Young Fan Apa' in a meeting at the Rispin's home on 3rd April, and that a small convention was being held in Kettering over the Whitsun weekend. The former was to emerge at the latter, though not in quite the form originally envisioned.
The small 'Minicon' held at Kettering's George Hotel (site of the CYTRICONs of a few years earlier) in June 1960, over the Whitsun weekend, attracted thirteen fans. A small attendance, perhaps, but it included the committee of the 1961 Eastercon and most of the BSFA Committee. Both convention plans and Association business were discussed, even though the Minicon was largely a social event, an attempt to recapture the intimate atmosphere of CYTRICON. The Minicon is most significant, however, for the part it played in the formation of a couple of new groups. Destined to play a large role in both was Jim Linwood, who was by this point living in Nottingham. It was at the Minicon that Linwood first met Bob Parkinson, a student at Nottingham University. They resolved to form a fan group in that city and, soon after the convention, formed the NotFans. This group included Linwood, Parkinson, John Dyke (who, like Parkinson, was a student at Nottingham University), Jacqui Bratton, and "various local BSFA members and friends". They met every Wednesday evening at the Bell Inn on Angel Row.
Somewhat larger in scope was the second group that emerged at the Kettering Minicon, following a discussion between Linwood, Ella Parker, Ken Slater, and Alan Rispin. As Linwood explains:
"We felt that the under-25 membership of the BSFA (and any other young SF readers) wanted more social contact with each other than an annual convention which many couldn't afford anyway"Soon after the convention, VECTOR 8 (June'60) carried an ad for 'The Science Fiction and Fantasy Group' that was written by Linwood and addressed to the BSFA's under-25 members. This was soon re-christened 'the Young Science Fiction Reader's Group', and the first YSFRG NEWSLETTER was prepared. As Linwood recalls:
"Although the presentation of the newsletter was an embarrassment most of its members did get in touch with each other. I believe the first newsletter was circulated to BSFA members in Autumn 1960 by Ella Parker and Jim Groves..."Ads for the group were also placed in NEW WORLDS 98 (Sept'60), and in later issues.
SKYRACK 20 (June '60) carried the results of the 1960 TAFF race, which was won by Eric Bentcliffe with 377 votes, followed by Mal Ashworth with 277 votes, and Sandy Sanderson with 261. Interestingly, Sanderson came first in the voting in the US and last in the UK! The high numbers of votes were not indicative of the number of fans who voted but rather of the preferential voting system used at the time in which second and third place votes were also added in. Nonetheless, UK administrator Ron Bennett received 92 voting forms, a very impressive return.
On 20th August 1960, the SFCoL travelled down to Middleton-on-Sea, Sussex, in what was to be the first in a series of annual outings organised by the club. The following weekend they gained a new member when OMPAn Bruce Burn, previously one of the mainstays of New Zealand fandom, arrived in Britain. On 27th August a party to celebrate his arrival was held at the Penitentiary and attended by Ella Parker, ATom, Ethel Lindsay, Don Geldart, Ken and Irene Potter, Tom Porter, Ted Forsyth, Chris Miller, Jim Linwood, Archie Mercer, Ron Bennett, Jim Groves, and Ken Cheslin. Notable by his absence was Bruce Burn. His ship was 24 hours late. The following day a party of SFCoL members travelled down to Southampton to meet Burn's ship, the 12 150 ton 'Castel Felice', and held up placards produced by George Locke that read: 'BAN THE BURN' and 'GO HOME BRUCE BURN'. Burn was suitably impressed, and would go on to be an active part of London's fannish scene in the early-60s. The SFCoL gained a further new member the following month when Scottish fan Joe Patrizio moved to London. He shared a flat in Ferndale Road, Clapham, with a fellow member, Ted Forsyth, another recent Scottish exile. Up until a few months earlier, he and Patrizio had formed the entirety of active fandom in Edinburgh. Now, with Ethel Lindsay and the Glasgow-born Arthur Thomson also in the group, SFCoL constituted the largest concentration of active Scottish fans in the country - Scotsfandom in exile. Burn moved in with Forsyth and Patrizio in December.
In June 1960, Eric Bentcliffe had started Mi, a single-sheet zine that was distributed with Ron Bennett's newszine SKYRACK, and in August he edited (and Norman Shorrock published) the first issue of BASTION, for the Liverpool Group. BASTION was a worthy successor to both TRIODE and SPACE DIVERSIONS, the fanzines it had been conceived as a replacement for. Behind its beautiful cover (a good example of just what can be achieved with stencil-art) by 'staff artist' Eddie Jones, were a number of fine articles by the best fanwriters of the day. In his column, 'Drums Along The Mersey', John Roles gave formal recognition to the metamorphosis the Liverpool Group had undergone since its early days as the Liverpool Science Fantasy Society:
"LaSFaS having passed peacefully away in its sleep, and the Liverpool Group's aims having now been roughly formulated, it might be as well to briefly summarise these...Firstly, fandom will remain the basis for many of the Group's activities, both social and otherwise. We still hope to attend fan conventions...but one can say that as far as our ordinary, average Member is concerned, LiG is now officially a 'fringefan' organisation. Why the change - or rather, why the sudden official recognition of the change? principally because we feel strongly that, if we are not to stagnate, we urgently need new blood...."Roles went on to describe the general loss of 'Sense of Wonder' among group members, their increasing lack of interest in SF, and how redundant a club whose ostensible aim was to promote interest in SF had become now that SF was being widely-read by the general public. Thus, he explained, they were going to campaign for new members by emphasising their cine, tape, amateur publishing, and social activities as well, and would as happily accept fans of these activities as they would SF readers. He concluded:
"The Old Guard of fandom may consider all this - if it considers it at all - to be deplorable; as we see it, however, the course we're adopting is absolutely necessary if we're to persist as an organised Club, and not merely a party of friends. Those who know us will hardly need reminding that we've always been a social rather than a fannish group; in effect, therefore, it might be said that we're merely bowing to the Inevitable."
The most important piece in the first BASTION - though it hardly appeared that way at the time - was Mike Moorcock's 'Blast-Off 1960'. Moorcock had been surprised by how many people at the 1960 Eastercon had expressed their generaldissatisfaction with the state of current SF, and he used the article to expound his own ideas on what was necessary to alter the situation. A few years later he would get the opportunity to put those ideas - much further developed by then - into practice, and would be at the forefront one of the most radical new movements SF has ever seen. Moorcock would be greatly aided in his aims by the more liberal publishing atmosphere that came about as a result of the obscenity trial, at the end of 1960, in which an Old Bailey judge overturned a 30 year old ban on D.H.Lawrence's book 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'.
Ethel Lindsay's HAVERINGS was another new fanzine at this point, one devoted exclusively to fanzine reviews, that would be almost as long-lived as her SCOTTISHE. Other zines that were to be shorter-lasting included Ivor Mayne's FOOP in July, and Alan Burns' KEEPING POSTED in November - both of which saw only one issue before folding. As revealed earlier in the year in his OMPAzine, VERT, Mayne had been part of a plan to keep 236 Queen's Road, 'Inchmery', as a fan centre. He had intended to move there, along with Ken and Irene Potter, but an argument with the landlord put paid to that, and to their plans to co-edit a zine called FOOPSCHLUSS.
Another new fanzine, in August, was Daphne Buckmaster's HOBO. This was originally intended to be published by individual members of a rotating board of editors - and Ken Bulmer was scheduled to produce the second issue - but the idea clearly didn't get off the ground as the first issue was also the last. Others approached to edit issues of HOBO were Ted Tubb and Mike Moorcock, the latter agreeing inititially but then finding his energies diverted elsewhere when he got engaged to Sandra Hall. Also in August, Buckmaster turned her OMPAzine, ESPRIT, into a general circulation fanzine with its thirteenth issue. Numbering it Vol 2 No 1, she wrote that she now intended to make it...
"...an attempt at the sort of fanzine which I have long waited to see but have never come across - a magazine in which observations, experiences and ideas can be exchanged."She obviously struck a chord. That first of the 'new' ESPRITs was 16-pages long. By its third issue it had grown to 50-pages with over half its correspondents being American. It attracted letters from most of the well known British fans of the time, and even from pre-war fan D.R.Smith. The 'new' ESPRIT would see five issues in all, the fifth appearing in late-'61.
A fanzine that folded after only two issues, dated Spring and Summer, was Peter Mansfield's DREAM QUEST, but this was reborn in November as ELDRITCH DREAM QUEST. Jim Cawthorn supplied artwork to this publication and has since claimed that it was the country's first sword-and-sorcery fanzine, an honour that should perhaps more fairly be given to Moorcock's BURROUGHSANIA in which some of Moorcock's own early tales first appeared. Coincidentally, August also saw the publication of the first issue of an American fanzine devoted to a related branch of fantasy fiction. Edited by US fan Ted Johnstone, I-PALANTIR was the official club journal of The Fellowship of the Ring, a group devoted to the fiction of J.R.R.Tolkien. There was no corresponding Tolkien society in the UK at the time so Ken Cheslin became the British representative for the American group. Unfortunately, I-PALANTIR folded after only four issues, to be replaced eventually by a zine called ENTMOOT. In the interim Cheslin, feeling the need to keep up the interest of British members, started up NAZGUL'S BANE, which was almost certainly the first British fanzine to be devoted to Tolkien's work. This newly-formed Tolkien fandom became the first separate fandom to spin-off from SF fandom. It would be far from the last.
It was inevitable that the contradiction between the BSFA's apparent purpose and the reason it was actually created would lead lead to conflict and so it did. The first sign of trouble had come when in VECTOR 8 (June '60) editor Jim Groves ran through the aims of the BSFA the first of which, of course, was to recruit new members to fandom. This was its actual purpose it's true - and a number of new fans had indeed been brought into fandom by the BSFA - but there were those who felt that it should stick to its stated purpose, which was the furtherance of Science Fiction. In VECTOR 9 (Sept '60), Groves repeated his points and there was a piece by Joe Patrizio, one of those new fans brought in by the BSFA, largely supporting his view. However, the letter column in the following issue carried a number of dissenting voices, including that of Daphne Buckmaster who argued that those writing for VECTOR had too casual an attitude, what with the reports it carried on fannish socialising and such. She concluded:
"The main problem seems to be the fact that you (the officials) are trying to cater for two separate and differing bodies of people, fans and non-fans. I would suggest, with all modesty, that you cannot do both in one magazine...the editors and publishers in the professional SF field have never made any secret of the fact that they do not want or need any contact with fans, as such. It is my belief, therefore, that you will either have to decide that you are going to be a reputable organisation to encourage a serious and impersonal interest in the SF field or that you are an organisation for recruiting SF readers into the ranks of fandom. And if you want to do the first, you will need a more formal attitude if you want to be taken seriously...."In VECTOR 11, John Phillifent (a.k.a SF writer John Rackham) agreed with Buckmaster wholeheartedly and further complained about the BSFA "...being run by, and heavily slanted toward 'fandom'...", a group he had strongly negative feelings about. Yet, as Archie Mercer replied to him, it was only the fannish fans who were interested in putting in the work necessary to keep the BSFA going. Still, the tensions these exchanges revealed were an indication of what the central conflict in fandom was going to be in the early 1960s. As always it is those new to fandom who tend to be the most enthusiastic and, with no-one to provide a lead since so many of the most active fannish fans of the previous decade had gafiated or lapsed into non-activity, it was impossible to tell whether the fandom they would create would be predominantly fannish or sercon. Either way, the next couple of years would be crucial.
Actually, those younger fans who were already starting to organise were pro-fannish. The YSFRG was the first of their groups and, as Jim Linwood put it:
"The purpose of the YSFRG is to find potential fans, and introduce them into fandom, not unlike the BSFA's policy except that its fees tend to scare away the schoolboy-student-apprentice type."Unfortunately, this pro-fannish attitude would not be shared by the large influx of new young fans who would enter fandom a few short years later. Ironically, Jim Linwood would be at least partly responsible for the change in attitude.
TAFF-winner Eric Bentcliffe attended the 1960 Worldcon, PITTCON, in Pittsburgh in early-September, a con not without its scandal. Writing in VECTOR 10 (Winter '60), Ken Slater revealed that there had been an attempt at ballot-stuffing in the voting for the Hugo Awards at PITTCON, and that as a consequence the voting requirements were being amended. Interestingly, this attempt (to secure a Hugo for Badger Books hack R.L.Fanthorpe) came from Britain:
"...the PITTCON committee received over 70 votes, all emanating from around a small English village with a population of under 7000...none of the voters were names recognisible to prominent British fans...and as the votes plugged solidly for one set of first choices (hardly recognisable to the real fans who actively support the Hugo Awards and similar schemes)...well, the result is that henceforth you wanna vote you gotta pay (in future only convention members will be able to take part in the final vote)..."
In September, OMPA elected its new officers for the coming year. These were Eric Bentcliffe as President, Daphne Buckmaster as Editor, and Ron Bennett as Treasurer. Total page-count for the previous years's mailings was 1343, and membership stood at 57.
SKYRACK 25 (Oct '60) reported the birth of the Nottingham group, and that Alan Rispin and Jim Linwood had taken part in a CND march between Coleby and Lincoln on 17th October. Once again, as so often in the past, British fans were involved with the peace movements of their time. How this came about in Linwood's case was probably fairly typical:
"I was introduced to radical politics by Ivor Mayne in the late '50s and met many of his various anarchist/pacifist friends including Mike Randall and Pat Pottle, who later sprang George Blake from Wormwood Scrubs. I was secretary of the Nottingham Youth CND (1960-62) and was involved with the Committee of 100. C100 advocated Ghandi-style passive resistance [as an alternative] to the CND's marching and singing. Most of our fannish circle (Hale, Jordan, Rispin, Miller, Kearney, Mayne) were all active in CND and radical politics and Dave and I regularly had our mail opened. There was no particular political orientation or organisation among young fans at the time - we considered ourselves anarchists, socialists or liberals depending on who we were talking to and even took a right-wing line occasionally against left-wing cant. Mike Moorcock had a dog which he taught to bark ferociously when he said 'C-O-N-S-E-R-V-A-T-I-V-E'."HYPHEN 25 appeared in November, the first issue in eight months. By this point - as indicated by the lettercolumn, which contained responses from three times as many Americans as Britons - HYPHEN was increasingly aimed at US fandom where the type of fannishness that had characterised 1950s fandom was still alive. Nevertheless, HYPHEN's reappearance was due in no small part to the enthusiasm of Ian McAuley, its new co-editor. McAuley was a Dublin fan who had made contact with the Belfast group a year or so earlier and who regularly made the trip from the Republic to attend their meetings. Thanks to McAuley's enthusiasm HYPHEN would see five issues in 1961, it's best year in some time. Not that all was well with Irish Fandom. Writing about the group for an American fanzine early in 1961, Willis expressed his sadness at John Berry's distance from the group:
"As John began to write for other fanzines and to publish his own, he stopped coming to the regular meetings of Irish Fandom. He never said why and I often wondered, and I wonder now, whether he had felt I was jealous of a talent that was so much more prolific than mine and of a gift for comic invention I could never surpass. But if it was, and if there was some way I had betrayed it, I couldn't find out about it. We were left to wonder if it was something we'd said...."
In February 1961, Brian Jordan and two friends formed the Sheffield University Union Science Fiction and Fantasy Association. Jordon was a member of OMPA, and as of the November 1960 mailing had been producing a fanzine for the apa, KOBOLD. In KOBOLD 2, in the April mailing, he reported that SUUSFFA had a committee of eight and a membership of one.
During March 1961, not one but two TAFF reports were published. These were COLONIAL EXCURSION, Ron Bennett's report on his 1958 trip, and EPITAFF, Eric Bentcliffe's report on the 1960 trip. This will almost certainly never happen again.
On 4th March 1961, Arthur Rose 'Doc' Weir died. Though a relative newcomer, he was already old when he discovered fandom. He had been a dedicated worker for the BSFA and so, on 15th March, John Phillifent wrote to Ella Parker and Peter Mabey suggesting that the BSFA could help out his widow by making an offer for his SF collection. This was believed to be of high quality and Phillifent thought it would be a useful addition to the BSFA library. More would be heard of this idea in the months to come.
Also in March, some of fandom's younger newcomers announced their arrival with the appearance of the second YSFRG NEWSLETTER. This stated that, as of the beginning of December 1960, YSFRG membership stood at 30. Almost all of these had heard of the group via the BSFA, with only two having responded to the ad in NEW WORLDS. Among those listed as members were the NotFans, Alan Rispin, Dave Hale, Pat Kearney, Brian Jordan, Darroll Pardoe, Ivor Mayne, Mary Munro, and US fans, Andy Main, Peggy Rae McKnight (later Pavlat), and Robert Lichtman. The NEWSLETTER was a 'combozine' with each contributor paying the production costs of his own section and a proportion of mailing costs. The pieces in this issue were by Linwood, Hale, and Rispin - who wrote that the YSFRG should be:
"...as anarchistic as possible, and with the sole, final and sworn task to get more young people interested in fandom. Once a fan gets the bug, there'll be no holding him, and the group will simply become the section of the fan population that he/she first knew. The BSFA takes dues, so has an obligation to the reader-only, anti-fandom types. This group has no such obligations. Anyone who is stimulated by any of the YSFRG's other members into taking an interest in the events of fandom at large, not simply vegetating and writing to his/her few chosen correspondents, is the object of this organisation. The people who do vegetate and become bored are quite welcome to do so as far as we're concerned."There wasn't a third YSFRG NEWSLETTER, but it's perhaps a fitting tribute to the short-lived YSFRG that most of the group's members later became active in the mainstream of fandom.
In November 1960, George Locke and John Berry had pushed out a single-sheet flyer touting a new APA they proposed setting up, the OE setting a subject each mailing that those contributing to the following mailing would use as the topic of their contributions. Locke and Berry hoped the mailings thus produced would end up as a series of symposia on various issues of interest to fans of the day. Response from both sides of the Atlantic was fairly enthusiastic, so in January they had put out a second flyer - this time an 18-page publication - that printed a selection of the letters sent in response to the first flyer and ended with a draft constitution for the APA. In April 1961 the first mailing of Britain's second APA, IPSO (the International Publishers Speculative Organisation), duly appeared and the topic under discussion was, appropriately enough, APAs. Among those listed as members of IPSO were John Berry, Bruce Burn, Ethel Lindsay, George Locke, Joe Patrizio, Alan Rispin, Ella Parker, and Americans such as Bill Donaho, Ron Ellik, Robert Lichtman, Len Moffatt and Ed Meskys. Ted Forsyth and Joe Patrizio helped George Locke to assemble the first mailing, and contributed to IPSO-FACTO - the official organ of the APA, edited by OE George Locke. The topic set for the second of the quarterly mailings was 'The Lunatic Fringes of SF, and Editorial Influences'.
On 12th April 1961, the Soviet Union became the first nation to put a man into space when Major Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth in a Vostok spaceship, returning safely after a 108 minute flight. Three months later, in July, he visited London and received the sort of ecstatic welcome the British public only usually accorded to film stars. Though Britain didn't play an active part in what was then termed 'the space race' British fans would follow the advances made in space travel throughout the decade with great fascination. Before their eyes, the dream that had sustained earlier generations of fans would be realised.
It had originally been voted to hold the 1961 Eastercon at the George Hotel in Kettering, venue for four earlier Eastercons and for 1960's Minicon, but due to the hotel undergoing structural alterations it had to be switched to a new location. So it was that the 1961 national convention, LXICON (after the Roman numerals for sixty-one, and pronounced 'Lexicon'), was held over Easter weekend (Friday 31st March - Monday 3rd April) at the New County Hotel in Gloucester. The hotel had a capacity of 63, a figure which had been reached with bookings by February, so the Bell Hotel opposite was used as an overflow - though those registering there were advised not to mention the con as the Bell's management had taken against it for some reason. Final attending figure was 77. The con was organised by the Cheltenham group and Kingsley Amis was GoH. His critical book on SF, NEW MAPS OF HELL, had just been published and was given much publicity at the con. As well as the usual contingent of British fans present were Ian McAuley, representing the otherwise absent Irish Fandom, and Dave and Ruth Kyle from the USA. Eric Bentcliffe gave a talk on his recent TAFF trip, and there was another 'This Is Your Life' with Eric Jones as the unsuspecting 'victim'. Also, SFCoL members performed a short play on the Sunday afternoon, which was well received.
At the BSFA AGM the new committee elected were Ina Shorrock as Chairman, Terry Jeeves as Vice-Chairman (defeating Jill Adams), Joe Patrizio as Secretary, Ted Forsyth as Treasurer, and Jimmy Groves remained Editor of VECTOR. Harrogate was awarded the national convention for 1962, Ron Bennett's long campaign to bring the con to his home town finally succeeding. Also raised at the AGM was John Phillifent's suggestion regarding Doc Weir's SF collection. Ken Bulmer offered to donate the surplus funds remaining from that brief period when, shortly before its demise, the London Circle had been formally organised. This was accepted, and it was decided to launch a fund with, in the words of the subsequent flyer:
"...the object of raising sufficient money to offer Mrs Weir a fair price for...the relevant items of Doc's collection, thus saving it from probable dispersal. These would then be administered by the British Science Fiction Association's library as a special Memorial Collection."
The SFCoL published their second Combozine in time for LXICON. Edited by Ethel Lindsay it contained pieces by most of the club's active members, and in her editorial Lindsay mentioned that they might have acquired a new member:
"...Pat Kearney, a young lad found through the BSFA. The club is looking him over, and he is looking the club over, preparatory to the decision, shall he become a member of our band or not..."He did. The Combozine also contained the last piece by Paul Enever to see print over here. In mid-1961 he emigrated to Australia with his family and was never heard from again.
Within three days of LXICON ending, Ron Bennett had rushed out SKYRACK 31 (some of the stencils being cut by Bennett en route from the con to London in a car) that carried a detailed report on the weekend's activities. It also carried the results of the second SKYRACK Poll, in which the readership voted Ella Parker's ORION the Best British Fanzine of 1960, ATom the Best Artist (for the second year), and John Berry the Best Fan Writer (also for the second year).
SKYRACK 32 (May '61) carried the news that Ella Parker intended to be at the 1962 Worldcon, to be held that year in Seattle during September. Originally, Parker had intended to finance the trip herself by "saving like mad" and had only confided in a few people as to her plans. One of these confidants was Ron Bennett who, in February, had sent Parker a copy of SKYRACK 29 with the headline 'ELLA PARKER FOR SEACON' emblazoned across its front cover, over an accompanying report. Understandably annoyed, Parker immediately sent Bennett a letter blasting him for breaking her trust - only to discover, when she phoned Ethel Lindsay, that hers had been the only copy of SKYRACK 29 with that front page. As Bennett recalls:
"Ella, realising that she'd been had, sent me a terse telegram (with what was to become her constant greeting to me): 'BENNETT, YOU BASTARD!'."However, by the time SKYRACK 32 appeared Parker had already gone public at LXICON. Bennett reported that the Parker Pond Fund had been set up, administered by Don Ford and Betty Kujawa in the US and by Ted Forsyth over here, for those who wanted to make donations towards the trip. Parker had a particular reason for wanting to attend the Seattle Worldcon, one that involved Seattle fan, Wally Weber. As Harry Warner Jr explains:
"Only a few weeks into 1960, Wally Weber became so exasperated by the continuing failure of his long efforts to irritate her that he called her a stupid clod of a woman. Immediately, Ella became the topic of the universe's third special fund for a fan trip, in 1961, so she could go all the way to Seattle and take action appropriate to the magnitude of the Weberian remark."SKYRACK 32 (or, more precisely, the 'special stop press section' numbered '32a' that went out with it) also carried details of another one-off fund that was being established. This was the TAWF, or 'Tenth Anniversary Willis Fund', that was being set up in the US to take Walt and Madeleine Willis to the 1962 Worldcon in Chicago. More would be heard of these funds in the months to come. One city whose fan group had escaped relatively unscathed from the schisms of the previous couple of years was Liverpool. Its members, having been in general somewhat wealthier than other British fans, had become heavily involved in producing fannish dramas for tape and film through their Mersey and Deeside Productions. Other than this their activity was mainly social and revolved around partying, as it had since the mid-1950s, and they maintained a club-room on Bold Street. This state of affairs had recently been given a belated formal recognition in BASTION, as already related. However, Liverpool was soon to find itself the launching pad for a social and musical revolution that would sweep the world, and one of the group's members was to play a part in getting that revolution started....
Bill Harry had joined the Liverpool group in the late-1950s (he was at the '57 Eastercon), had published a couple of fanzines, among them BIPED which he co-edited with Norman Shorrock, and been art editor on Ron Bennett's PLOY. However, he was best known as a fanartist and had contributed artwork to most of the major fanzines of the period. It was his interest in art that took him to Liverpool College of Art at the end of the fifties, and it was here that he met and became friends with a fellow student, Stuart Sutcliffe. Through Sutcliffe he met, and became friendly with, another student at the college - John Lennon. In the mid-fifties Lennon had formed a pop-group called The Quarrymen which, by the time Harry first met him in 1958, had become Johnny and the Moondogs. At this point the group consisted of Lennon, Sutcliffe, and a couple of friends of Lennon's - Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Since Harry and Sutcliffe both sat on the college's Student Union they were able to get Johnny and the Moondogs regular gigs at the College of Art, to the extent that they virtually became the in-house band. By 1960 the group had acquired a drummer, Pete Best, changed their name to the Beatles, and were earning a living of sorts by playing venues such as The Cavern. The Beatles were only one of a number of groups in what was a thriving local music scene in Liverpool at this time, a scene that Bill Harry was fascinated by and, having had experience in fanzines, one he got the idea to publish a magazine about. He decided to make it a newspaper covering the rock'n'roll scene, and lined up financing for the project.
The first issue of the fortnightly MERSEY BEAT was dated 6th July 1961, and on its front page was a piece by John Lennon titled 'Being A Short Diversion On The Dubious Origins Of The Beatles'. In fact, Lennon was to become a regular contributor to the paper, many of the pieces that first appeared in his 'Beatcomber' column later being included in his book, IN HIS OWN WRITE. Local music-store owner Brian Epstein was an early advertiser and, as of the third issue, his record reviews began appearing in MERSEY BEAT. In one sense, therefore, it can be fairly claimed that Bill Harry was the first to bring Epstein and the Beatles together, but it would be some months more before Epstein actually noticed them, checked them out, and became their manager. MERSEY BEAT continued to promote the Beatles as they became increasingly popular on Merseyside. Later, Paul McCartney would also write for MERSEY BEAT, and during the paper's first few months The Beatles would often drop by to help Harry out with various tasks about the office. It would be 1963 before The Beatles came to national prominence but occasional outsiders would see the group and carry the word beyond Liverpool before then. One of these early converts, in 1962, would be an as-yet unknown Christopher Priest, who was overwhelmed by the group when he saw them perform in The Cavern. Interestingly, when The Beatles (with their final line-up of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr) made their first film - A HARD DAY'S NIGHT - some years later, it would be the writer and pre-war Liverpool fan John F.Burke who wrote the novelisation. MERSEY BEAT wasn't the only fannish contribution to rock journalism, however. Later in the decade American fan Paul Williams would publish the influential rock magazine CRAWDADDY, early issues of which were run off by Ted White in his basement.
THE ATOM ANTHOLOGY, which appeared in May 1961, was a 108-page one-off showcase for ATom's celebrated cartoons, lovingly produced by Ella Parker, with many of the drawing especially re-drawn for the anthology by ATom. Later in the decade most fans would routinely have just made electrostencil copies of the originals but at this point electrostencils were not easily available. Thus, not having this option, ATom hand cut new stencils for the anthology. (It has been claimed that Pat Kearney's fanzine ENFOCADO - run through OMPA in 1963/4 - was the first British zine to use electrostencils, but as early as 1953 an electrostencilled cover had appeared on THE MEDWAY JOURNAL).
On 5th May 1961, American astronaut Alan Shepard made a sub-orbital flight aboard a Mercury spacecraft, a feat repeated in July by his colleague Gus Grissom. It looked like the US still had a long way to go to catch up to the USSR in the space race, but they were determined not to be left behind. On 25th May, during a speech in Washington, President Kennedy pledged that America would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
In mid-1961 Roger Peyton was a solitary collector who imagined himself to be the only SF enthusiast in Birmingham. Then he encountered Cliff Teague, another SF reader, serving behind the counter of a book stall at New Street Station. The two decided to form a club, the Birmingham Science Fiction Group, and to hold regular Sunday meetings at Teague's place. Expansion was not easy, however, as Peyton recalls:
"Getting new members was a very slow process - the first was Dave Casey who became a hermit, never leaving his room at home when his parents were rehoused - he just sat in his room, refusing to talk to anyone, re-reading his Eric Frank Russell books over and over again. Then came Mike Higgs who was more of a comics fan than an SF fan - he later became a professional cartoonist. King of the anthology collecters, Jack Pickering, followed but he gave it all up in favour of collecting antique pop-bottles. A few more came and disappeared."This dispiriting state of affairs was to last for quite a while. Later in the year the BSFG contacted the nearby Stourbridge & District Circle (which was soon to disband) and Ken Cheslin became a sort of unofficial mentor to the group, but it would be a couple of years before they rose to national prominence in British fandom. Cartoonist Mike Higgs contributed to many British fanzines of the early-60s, signing himself 'Mik', and had a style - independently developed - that was then similar to ATom's, if less-polished.
'GULF CRISIS', announced the headline on the front page of SKYRACK 34 (July '61), 'George Locke in Kuwait'. In a situation prefiguring a similar one that would lead to war in the Middle East thirty years later, Britain moved its forces into Kuwait early in July 1961 in order to pre-empt an expected invasion by Iraq, which claimed Kuwait as its own territory. George Locke, then serving in the Army during his period of National Service, was among those sent to Kuwait, having previously been posted in Kenya from where, as of April, he had been publishing the fanzine THE PROSE OF KILIMANJARO. Another fan then also doing his National Service, Don Geldart, was moved to Aden, on standby for duty in the Gulf, and later to Kuwait itself where he met up with Locke. On this occasion at least, the British action was enough to forestall an Iraqi invasion.
Following a farewell party thrown by SFCoL, Ella Parker flew to America on Tuesday 22nd August 1961. Reporting her departure in SKYRACK 35, Ron Bennett wrote:
"When Ella flew out she was seen off by a party made up of Fred Parker, Ted Forsyth, Joe Patrizio, Ron Bennett, Alan Rispin, Bruce Burn & Jimmy Groves, to say nothing of Arthur Thomson who had brought along a car bedecked with good luck ATom-style notices ("GAGARIN, TITOV, AND NOW PARKER"). Arthur told amazed officials that we were all Ella's husbands and had come to say goodbye to her, and also that she had a three week burlesque engagement in Nevada."Parker didn't return to the UK until December 2nd (her arrival was reported in SKYRACK 40), but various dispatches from American fans and from Parker herself charting her course across the US and were carried in the next few SKYRACKs.
As usual, OMPA elected its new officers for the coming year during September. Bob Lichtman became President, Bruce Burn was Editor, and Ron Bennett remained treasurer. The page-count in the previous year's mailings totalled 1140, and membership stood at 53.
CND's largest ban-the-bomb rally to date took place in London on 17th September, and ended in violent clashes that saw the arrest of 850 people including such luminaries as John Osborne, Canon Collins, George Melly, and Vanessa Redgrave. Some 15 000 protestors, fans among them, jammed into Leicester Square on a day that saw the USSR explode the 12th nuclear bomb in a series of tests, and the clashes came as 3 000 police attempted to arrest demonstrators staging a sit-down protest. Such sit-ins were to become a familiar feature of the protests that were to mark the 1960s...as was the violence.
The third IPSO mailing, in October, took 'Time-Travel' as its topic and announced that the topic for the fourth, in January 1962, would be 'The Works of Robert A Heinlein'. By this third mailing IPSO had 25 members (17 of whom were American), a very healthy number, and its future looked promising.
SKYRACK 38 (Oct '61) reported the results of the 1961 TAFF race. Ron Ellik, co-editor with Terry Carr of the recently-deceased US newszine FANAC, beat fellow-American fan Dick Eney by 145 votes to 62 overall (33 to 25 in the UK) and so would be the TAFF delegate to the 1962 Eastercon. SKYRACK 40 (Dec '61) carried news of the wedding of Joe Patrizio and Ann Temple, daughter of Bill Temple.
In December 1961, Ken Slater published FANDOODLE, an inconsequential one-off fanzine co-edited by fellow East Anglian fan Dave Barber. Barber would play an increasing role in the BSFA as the decade progressed, not that Slater was exactly univolved in fannish affairs...
At the start of December, a circular for the Doc Weir Memorial Fund finally appeared. This was put together by the fund's treasurer, Archie Mercer, illustrated by Jim Cawthorn and produced by Ken Cheslin, and announced that some UkpUkpf50 would be required to buy Doc's SF collection. Within days, however, the whole basis of the fund had been torpedoed, and on the 8th December Archie Mercer wrote to Peter Mabey, Ina Shorrock, and Terry Jeeves announcing:
"Fiasco. Snafu. Ken Slater having previously (this last couple of weeks) agreed to help distribute the Doc Weir Fund circular, now (having seen it) writes to say it's like up the creek. Most of the stuff he's bought from the estate according to instructions Doc left, and he says it wasn't worth our bothering about anyway. Anything of special value, Doc had previously bought from Ken."Peter Mabey, after talking to Eric Jones, a friend of Doc's, wrote in reply:
"He doesn't know, either, how the idea that there was a specially good collection got about - certainly he had never seen it while Doc was alive. Perhaps it was simply the fact that Doc had read and knew so many historic works of SF that led to the assumption that he had them in his possession."There was now the problem, of course, of what to do with the money already collected, and the money that would come in as a result of the circular.
At a meeting in Paris on 23rd February 1962, delegates from twelve countries signed an accord to set up a European space research organisation, but a rather more significant event occurred three days earlier. On 20th February, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. Between his take off from Cape Canaveral to his splashdown in the Atlantic off Puerto Rico five hours later, Glenn orbited the Earth three times. From this point on America was to make all the running in the space race, and NASA was to put all its energies into getting a man on the moon before the deadline set them by President Kennedy.
The fifth IPSO mailing, in April 1962, took 'Sex and Science Fiction' as its subject and announced that the topic for the sixth, in July, would be 'Progress' (ie. the effect of rapid technical advance on society). The fifth mailing was also the first of IPSO's second year, and existing and new members had had to renew their memberships following the fourth mailing. There was a consequent drop in numbers (IPSO 5 listed 18 members, 12 of whom were American, and 1 Australian), new members including Harry Warner Jr, Ted White, Gordon Eklund, John Baxter and Marion Zimmer Bradley. The five remaining British members were Ted Forsyth, Ethel Lindsay, George Locke, Ella Parker, and Maxim Jakubowski. Founder member John Berry had dropped out and would in fact gradually withdraw from fandom over the next few years, though an occasional Berry publication would appear in later decades.
April also saw the publication of PARKER'S PEREGRINATIONS (sub-titled 'The Harpy Stateside'), Ella Parker's report on her trip to the Seattle Worldcon the previous summer. Also around this time in 1962, Parker published the twenty ninth and final issue of ORION, the fanzine she had taken over from Paul Enever three years earlier.
The 1962 BSFA Easter Convention was held in Harrogate and featured a programme split between two hotels, the West Park and the Clarendon. (The Fancy Dress party, BSFA AGM, and film (one only) were held at the West Park, everythingelse at the Clarendon.) The con was organised by Ron Bennett, and 94 fans attended. (Though officially 'The 1962 BSFA Easter Convention', this con was dubbed 'RONVENTION' on the first page of the Programme Book and this is the name that it appears under in most convention listings today.) GoH Tom Boardman edited the Mayflower SF series, reviewed SF for BOOKS & BOOKMEN, and had been one of the earliest SF publishers in post-war Britain. Also attending were US TAFF winner Ron Ellik and a contingent of German fans including Tom Schluck, Rolf Gindorf, Wolfgang Thadewald, Thea Grade, Horst Margeit, and Guntrum Ohmacht. Programme items of note included a Fancy Dress Party at which many prominent fans came as characters from SF and Fantasy books, a quiz and an auction run by Ken Slater, and a talk by Mike Rosenblum on the development of British fandom over the previous twenty five years. Ken Slater and friends were awarded the 1963 convention after they had put together a scratch-bid in order to defeat a bid from Ella Parker. Parker was proposing a convention divorced from the BSFA, an idea which caused sufficient alarm to produce the rival bid.
At the BSFA AGM it was also decided to hold a vote on what to do with the money collected by the Doc Weir Memorial Fund. The vote was on whether to give the money to Mrs Weir, or to use it to establish the 'Doc Weir Fan Recognition Award'. The vote was overwhelmingly for the award which, it was decided, would be in the form of a trophy to be awarded annually and engraved with each recipient's name. The trophy ultimately bought with the funds raised was a silver cup, mounted on a plastic base. Also at the AGM, Terry Jeeves was elected as Chairman, Bobby Gray as Vice-Chairman, Jill Adams as Treasurer, with Mike Rosenblum and Ella Parker taking over the job of putting out VECTOR and the BSFA NEWSLETTER.
After the convention, Rons Bennett and Ellik put out a single-sheet FANAC (Ellik would return to newszine publishing before the year was out with the bi-weekly STARSPINKLE) and Bennett wrote the convention up in SKYRACK 42, which also carried the results of the third annual SKYRACK Fan Poll. The readers voted THE ATOM ANTHOLOGY the Best British Fanzine of 1961, Walt Willis the Best Fan Writer, and ATom the Best Fan Artist.
The week after the 1962 Eastercon, American fans Dave and Ruth Kyle dropped in on the Liverpool Group at the regular Monday night meeting at their Bold Street clubroom. The group had recently discovered a number of new young fans in the area and one of them came along that night, as reported in BASTION 3:
"This was the occasion of John Campbell's first visit to the club, and with a name like that we just had to have him as a member - evil plans are already in hand to hit the headlines in SKYRACK. Another addition to the ranks arrived a week or so later - Joe Navin (recruited via the BSFA), and he too hastened to join our select little shower. This was the beginning of a small flood of young blood - thirsty young blood - introduced by our two younger members."To avoid confusion John Ramsey Campbell would drop his first name when he later became a professional author.
The third and final issue of BASTION appeared in the spring and among the many fine articles it contained was one by New York fan Dick Lupoff describing the birth of a new group, the Fanoclasts, in that city some months earlier. At this point Lupoff was publishing a fanzine called XERO which had run a series of articles on American comics and had as a result spawned a whole new fandom in that country, one devoted entirely to comics and whose early fanzines included ALTER-EGO, edited by Roy Thomas and Jerry Bails. Thus, modern comics fandom became the second fandom to 'spin-off' from SF fandom. Archie Mercer wrote to Ken Bulmer in April, enquiring about the London Circle money that had been offered to the Doc Weir Fund at the 1961 Eastercon. Bulmer wrote back explaining that the original offer had been made to save what had turned out to be a non-existent collection, and that it was not transferable to the new award. However, the money would not lie idle, he explained:
"...the new London people led by Ella Parker asked us about the old London O money. They felt that the money was lying around doing nothing when they could put it to good use in a number of ways, not least in financing the London convention and possible Worldcon. By 'us' back there, I mean Ted Tubb and myself. This seemed to me a good opportunity to get shot of the responsibility for the cash, despite my predeliction for fan politics, I felt I'd outgrown that and could pass on the frantic activity and concern to someone else. I felt acutely that I was still the president, chairman, what have you, of the London O, which had never been wound up. All we had done, if you recall, was to call a halt to the excessively official London O we'd started and which had been deliberately sabotaged by the Sandersons."Bulmer ended his letter with his thoughts on a possible future for the London Circle: "I still believe that, given a number of variables falling into position at the right time and place, a group similar in spirit to the old London O could reform and contribute a great deal not only to fandom but to London fandom. Against that day Ted and I feel that a cash reserve is essential. The money will not lie idle, however. In the interim but will be used for good purposes similar to those outlined above. Although, for my sins, I retain the empty title of Chairman of the London Circle, Ted is now, I suppose, what you would call an ex-officio treasurer, if such an anti-constitutional beastie be possible...Charlie ((Duncombe, the London Circle's long-time treasurer)) has relinquished not only the money but his interest in fandom, I believe, a fact I regret. However, if the future London O that we envisage does materialise, he would be one of the first to rejoin, I am sure."
The NotFans disbanded in mid-1962 when Bob Parkinson and John Dyke graduated from Nottingham University and returned to their home towns of Cheltenham and Cambridge respectively. Soon after, Linwood himself moved to London. The group's zine, JETSTREAM, which had seen a single issue in April'61 and been edited by Linwood and Parkinson, now became Linwood's own fanzine. He put out a further two issues, which were run through OMPA during 1962.
SKYRACK 43 (June '62) carried the results of the 1962 TAFF race, in which Ethel Lindsay beat Eddie Jones by 122 votes to 64 overall (41 to 29 in the UK). Not all copies of SKYRACK 43 carried news of Lindsay's victory, however, the copy she was sent declaring: 'IT'S EDDIE!'. Lindsay rang Jones to congratulate him...and only then discovered that she, like Ella Parker before her, had been the recipient of a spoof copy prepared by Bennett. Thus, Lindsay got to attend the 1962 Worldcon in America, but she wasn't the only British fan to do so....
The 1962 Worldcon was held in Chicago, as it had been ten years earlier when Walt Willis made the historic trip that provided the inspiration for TAFF. In New York a group of fans - Ted White, Greg Benford, and Peter Graham - had decided the previous year that the perfect way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of that trip was to repeat it and they had floated the idea in the January '61 issue of their fanzine, VOID. The idea was taken up by the editors of AXE, Larry and Noreen Shaw, who put together a fund (the TAWF fund first mentioned in SKYRACK 32a back in May '61) to raise the money. And so it was that on 27th August 1962 Walt and Madeleine Willis flew to the US. Over the next month or so the Willises travelled all over America, and on their return Walt wrote another monumental trip report, TWICE UPON A TIME, and Madeleine - long a contributor to the various Irish Fandom fanzines and to others such as FEMIZINE - wrote one of her own that was published serially by Los Angeles fan Bruce Pelz.
September saw the annual election of new officers in OMPA, which resulted in Ken Cheslin becoming Editor, and in Bob Lichtman and Ron Bennett remaining as President and Treasurer respectively. The page-count for the previous year's mailings totalled 1603, the largest yet, and included the biggest single mailing so far, June's, which had weighed in at 483 pages. Membership stood at 54.
The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was perhaps the closest the world has yet come to nuclear war. America's alarm at the placing of Soviet missiles in Cuba, its threat to invade if they weren't removed, and Premier Krushchev's threat that any American attack on Cuba would mean nuclear war, had a frightened world holding its breath. In the game of brinksmanship that followed it was the Soviets who eventually backed down, as someone had to. The consequences if they hadn't are too horrible to contemplate...anywhere except in the pages of science fiction.
Mike Moorcock's ERGO EGO, a fanzine with Jim Cawthorn illos that pastiched Aubrey Beardsley, appeared in September 1962 and announced itself as " Being THE COLLECTED WORKS OF MOORCOCK rejected by a dozen of the best publishers and containing POEMS, STORIES and BELLE LETTRES from the pen of a Master Plagiarist and Professional Dilettante". It was Moorcock's final fanzine, and was written in the style of Victorian writers such as those who had appeared in THE YELLOW BOOK, an early example of one of the enthusiasms that was to make itself felt in his later professional work. At this point Moorcock was one of the regular visitors to what one of its denizens, Jim Linwood, described as:
"...the Kingdon Road Slan-Shack. 5 Kingdon Road, West Hampstead, was...the slanshack of young London fandom from 1962-64... a large terraced Edwardian house...comprised of four bedsits... that accomodated, and played host to, some of the less conservative elements in Anglofandom in the early sixties. Residents included (in chronological order) Bruce Burn, Alan Rispin, Diane Goulding (later Mrs Ellingsworth), Dick Ellingsworth, myself, and Marion Lansdale (future Mrs Linwood). Frequent visitors and short-term residents included Brian Jordan, Ivor Mayne, Chris Miller, Mike Moorcock, George Locke, Barry Bayley, Pete Taylor, Ethel Lindsay, Bette Woodhead, Dave Hale, Pat Kearney, Pete Mansfield, Rog Peyton, Ken Potter, Tony and Simone Walsh, and Don Geldart, together with assorted girlfriends. The only fanac of any note published at Kingdon Road was Bruce Burn's personalzine, SIZAR, which Ethel Lindsay once banned from an OMPA mailing because it contained an accurate, but unflattering, word-portrait of Ella Parker - a first manifestation of the fannish generation gap. Kingdon Road was an 'anytime' alternative to nearby Ella's tea and biscuit meetings. The group was influenced by US West Coast fandom and didn't much care for stodgy, middle class, middlebrow UK fandom of the time, steeped in wartime/national service Goon Show humour and pointless feuds. Kingdon Road was an exciting period for us all at a time when fandom and Britain were both going through periods of great change; we were discovering and debating the merits of William Burroughs, Jim Ballard and Phil Dick at the same time as those of the Stones, Beatles, and Dylan."In December, Pat Kearney, who had a low-level job in the British film industry, asked Linwood and some of the others if they wanted to be in the movies. The film in question was IT HAPPENED HERE, which was an attempt to show what life in Britain would be like now if the Nazis had successfully invaded the country in 1940, and was a labour-of-love for Director Kevin Brownlow who had been filming it periodically, when funds became available, since 1956. As Linwood recalls:
"Pat and several other London fans supported the film almost since its conception; an in-group joke about Pat's enthusiasm and the shoestring budget was the battle scene in which Pat the German soldier shoots Pat the Partisan. Pat's long devotion was finally rewarded by his name appearing on the title credits."The parts Linwood, Burn, Pete Taylor and others were being offered were as extras only - and unpaid, of course - but they agreed and entered into their roles with enthusiasm. Kearney was a little miffed when Linwood was kitted out as an officer in the SS on his first day of filming since he himself, after his years of involvement in the project, was still only a private. The film was finally finished in May 1964, with financial assistance from Stanley Kubrick and Tony Richardson - eight years after its conception. Scenes from the film were shown at the 1964 Eastercon and it went on to appear in Ireland at that year's Cork Film Festival, receiving its commercial premiere, and generally favourable reviews, in May 1966. Unfortunately, its vision of a collaborating UK caused protest from Jewish groups, which naturally dismayed the makers since it was clearly an anti-fascist film.
At some point in 1962, an SF group was founded at one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious universities. As Brian Aldiss recalls:
"The Oxford University Science Fiction Group was founded by Chris Miller, Mark Wigan, and John Pewsay in 1962. Chris Miller was really the prime mover. As was the case with undergraduate societies in those days, the club needed two outside guarantors. I was one of the guarantors, with C.S.Lewis. For the sake of respectability, the club was actually named the O.U.Speculative Fiction Group. We met in various colleges and pubs, but my house in Marston Street was the centre of activity because I was there all year."SKYRACK 48 (Dec '62) reported that the Cheltenham Circle was believed to have "...caved in and because of lack of support has even had to move from its excellently fannish clubrooms". In the following issue, Eric Jones confirmed that membership had dropped below the point where club dues were enough to cover the rent on their clubrooms, which would have to go, but expressed the hope that while this meant reverting to meeting in a pub the group would continue. Unfortunately it wouldn't, and the Cheltenham Circle does not appear to have survived far into 1963.
At the end of 1962 the Birmingham group acquired a new member, Tony Ventris-Field, a reporter with the local Erdington News. Naturally, the other members wanted him to get exposure for the group in the newspaper, and he was all for it, but there was a problem. The paper's editor would only publicise local groups - ie. associated specifically with Erdington rather than than the greater Birmingham area. To those with minds versed in science fiction this was no problem at all and the BSFG promptly became, for a few months at any rate, the Erdington SF Circle. Little paper slips advertising the group were hastily inserted in SF books at Birmingham Rag Market and in the local libraries to, as Rog Peyton puts it, "...cover up this gigantic con-trick..." and the editor was soon satisfied. The article was written, a photograph of the group in their meeting room at Cliff Teague's 35 Hinton Road home was taken, and the whole thing duly appeared, taking pride of place on the front page of the newspaper's first issue of 1963. Four or five new members were brought in by the publicity, but curiously enough it was the slips of paper inserted into into those books as part of the smokescreen designed to fool the editor of the Erdington News that were to bring them a new member who would go on to become the most prominent British fan of the 1960s.
In January 1963 the 19 year-old Peter Weston was rummaging through the SF books on sale in the Birmingham Rag Market when he found a slip of pink paper in one of them. 'Are you interested in SF?' it asked, exhorting him to 'Join the Erdington SF Circle'. In six years of solitary reading of SF this was the first indication Weston had ever had that he wasn't the only fan of the stuff in the city and he resolved to contact the group. Two weeks later he made his first visit to the tall, redbrick Victorian house that contained Teague's grubby bed-sit. He was soon a regular visitor. The Birmingham group had yet to contact fandom nationally but already they had the nucleus of the team that would make them one of the most active groups of the decade.
CHAOS, a fanzine from Roy Kay of Merseyside debuted in January 1963. It saw three issues in all, the final one appearing in March 1964. Also in January, George Locke announced that the sixth mailing of IPSO had been the last. Only three contributions had been received when the deadline for the seventh mailing fell due on 10th November 1962, so he was declaring the APA extinct due to lack of enthusiasm. In actual fact, a seventh and final mailing, consisting of the contributions received and one or two other bits and pieces, was put out in September by Los Angeles fan Fred Patten, an obituary was run in its pages, and IPSO was formally laid to rest.
At some point in late-1962/early-1963 a group of schoolboys in Nottingham formed themselves into the Forest Fields Science Fiction Society, and began publishing a school magazine, ICARUS. This was jointly edited by Brian Allport, Mike Booth, Robin Allen, and Dave Wood (not the former Junior Fanatic), who obviously learned of national fandom somewhere along the line since ICARUS was advertised for sale at three old pence in the 1963 Eastercon's programme book. The editors' interests were not limited to SF however, as demonstrated by their enthusiasm for Tamla Motown records, but most of the contents of ICARUS consisted of low quality amateur fiction and poetry. ICARUS saw seven issues in all, none of them being sufficiently impressive to bring the group any realrecognition in British fandom, and they faded away sometime in 1964. A couple of the members moved on into national fandom, but only Dave Wood became active in fanzines. In fact, what with publishing the one-off zines THE GREEN ONION SHOW (1964) and BAD NEWS (Apr'66), and becoming a regular contributor to fanzines of the day, he may well have been as active as his 1950s namesake had been.
Ethel Lindsay's TAFF report, THE LINDSAY REPORT, was published in April 1963, as was ROT 5 (though dated 'Summer 1961'), the first issue in years of theMal Ashworth's fanzine (and the last for another 20 years). April also brought the first issue of George Charters' THE SCARR. Charters had long been the least prolific member of Irish Fandom but with THE SCARR all that changed and he became their most prolific member during the 1960s. THE SCARR (the title was an anagram of 'Charters') was very much in the mould of other Irish Fandom fanzines and drew on the same pool of talented contributors. It saw 19 issues in all, the final one in January 1970, and though early issues were general distribution, many of the later issues were distributed through OMPA.
TENSOR 1 (April '63), was the first fanzine from London fan Langdon Jones, who was to move into the professional field later in the decade. The second, and final issue, appeared in May. (Jones published the 34-page TENSION, APPREHENSION, & DISSENSION in November, a zine whose title suggests it might have been a continuation of sorts of TENSOR). Among the material collected for the never-published third issue was an article by Mike Moorcock that eventually saw print as a chapter of his book WIZARDRY & WILD ROMANCE, more than twenty years later.
The results of the annual SKYRACK Fan Poll, carried in SKYRACK 51 (April '63), showed that SKYRACK itself had been voted Best British Fanzine of 1962, with Walt Willis as Best British Fan Writer, ATom as Best British Fan Artist, and Ella Parker as Leading Fan Personality of the Year
The 1963 Eastercon, BULLCON, was held over the weekend of Friday 12th April to Monday 15th April 1963 at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough, and attracted over 130 fans, the highest turnout at a British convention since the 1957 Worldcon. GoH was Edmund Crispin (aka Bruce Montgomery) and other notables present included Kingsley Amis, Brian Aldiss, Mike Moorcock, Tom Boardman, John Brunner, and Ted Carnell. Programme items included the Fancy Dress, Harry Harrison on 'Sex and Censorship in SF', a fannish slideshow by Eric Bentcliffe, the usual pro-panel, and a couple of auctions conducted by Ken Slater and Ted Tubb. There was also a TAFF panel featuring Ethel Lindsay, Ron Bennett, and Eric Bentcliffe.
This took the form of a discussion in which the audience played a large part. Various suggestions as to how the fund could be improved included doubling the voting fee to five shillings (twenty five pence), candidates being chosen by a panel, the host country alone being allowed to choose the delegate, and that it be made compulsory for TAFF delegates to produce a trip report. A majority of those present voted in favour of doubling the voting fee (or, rather, of urging the TAFF administrators to do so), but not for any of the other suggestions.
Shortly after the convention, SKYRACK reported that TAFF administrators Ethel Lindsay and Ron Ellik had "wasted little time in acting upon the suggestion passed by resolution at the recent Peterborough convention to double to 5/- and $1 the fee to accompany votes in the recently opened campaign".
At the BSFA AGM those elected were Phil Rogers as Chairman, Tony Walsh and Bobbie Gray jointly as Vice-Chairman, Maxim Jakubowski as Secretary, Jill Adams as Treasurer, and Archie Mercer as Editor of VECTOR with Mike Rosenblum as its Publicity Officer. Peter Mabey was the first recipient, in absentia, of the Doc Weir Award, for his work with the BSFA lending library. The con was sufficiently successful, and the management of the Bull Hotel eager enough to have the convention back, that it was decided to hold the 1964 Eastercon in the same hotel. Ken Slater declined to be Chairman for a second year but agreed to look after hotel bookings. Thus, Tony Walsh (late of the Cheltenham Circle) found himself Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer, while Ethel Lindsay found herself in charge of programming.
One of those who attended the convention was Cliff Teague. He had somehow heard the convention was being held in Peterborough and had decided to go along. He freeloaded for the weekend and returned to Birmingham with tales of fans from other parts of the country. The BSFG had finally made contact with national fandom. Having heard about the BSFA meetings at the Parker Penitentiary, Teague decided to hitch down to London to attend one. Unfortunately for him, Ella Parker had been rehoused by that point, in a tower block of flats called William Dunbar House on nearby Albert Road, and the Canterbury Road address was boarded up and derelict. Undeterred, he broke in and discovered a couple of fanzines that had been delivered after Parker's departure. These were Jon White's INSIDE and Norm Metcalfe's NEW FRONTIERS, and when Teague returned to Birmingham he gave them to Peter Weston. Fate, it seems, works in mysterious ways, for those fanzines were to be directly responsible for Weston deciding to publish one of his own. The only other fanzine he had ever seen, LES SPINGE, had shown him that it was possible to publish such things, but these gave him something to aim for.
In May 1963, the first issue of ALIEN appeared. This was published by Harry Nadler, Charles Partington, Tony Edwards, and Tom Holt, who were all members of the Delta Amateur Film Group, which appears to have formed some time the previous year. The group were based in Salford, near Manchester, and ALIEN was primarily a vehicle for amateur fiction.
On 16th June 1963, the USSR's Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space when she orbited the Earth in a Vostok spacecraft. It would be another 21 years before America put a woman in space.
In SKYRACK 57 (Aug'63) it was reported that London was bidding for the 1965 Worldcon. There was a 'shadow committee', drawn primarily from the membership of SFCoL, that consisted of chairman Ella Parker, secretary Ethel Lindsay, treasurer Jimmy Groves, publicity officer Peter Mabey, programme organiser Ron Bennett, programme liaison Keith Otter, and art show organisers Brian and Frances Varley (nee Evans). The committee were reported to be meeting monthly to co-ordinate the bid.
In September, OMPA's annual elections saw Bruce Burn (who had returned to his native New Zealand during the spring) become Presdent, Ethel Lindsay the new Editor, and Ron Bennett remained treasurer for the fourth consecutive year. Membership for the year just past was 50, and total page count had been 1522.
Also in September, Ron Bennett moved to Liverpool and Tony Walsh resigned as co-vice chairman of the BSFA, though he remained in charge of arrangements for the '64 con. The sixth issue of George Locke's SMOKE, the first in nearly three years, appeared in September. It was also the last. In 1964/5, Locke would publish two issues of a fanzine called DEADWOOD, to be followed in 1966 by the one-off BIRTH OF A PROJECT (no details), after which he withdrew from fandom and increasingly devoted himself to his book-selling business.
In SKYRACK 60 (Nov'63) it was reported that Nova Publications had gone bust and that NEW WORLDS and SCIENCE FANTASY were being discontinued with their March issues. Editor Ted Carnell announced that after they appeared he would become a full-time literary agent. He had also landed the editorship of a new SF anthology series, NEW WRITINGS IN SF, the first of which appeared in 1964. It looked like the end of an age...but a new one was just beginning. The times they were a'changing, and not only in fandom....
Rob Hansen would welcome feedback and factual corrections, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
All material in THEN is copyright © by Rob Hansen, 1988-1994. The THEN files may be freely copied for private enjoyment or research but may not be republished (e.g. in printed or CD-ROM versions), distributed in modified form, incorporated into other works, or quoted out of context without the express written permission of the copyright holder.