After the Eastercon this year someone said - "I'd love
to go to a 1970s-style convention again. Or even to an early Mexicon,
where sf and fandom were treated as one and the same, indivisible.
I'd even be happy with a MiScon event where everyone did everything
and there was a presumption that we were all interested in sf and
fandom. Is it possible to re-do any of that, albeit for a smaller
and ever-shrinking audience? I even want Peter Weston to run or
even licence his ReRePeterPeterCon just so us over-40s have somewhere
to be in a warm puddle of shared enthusiasms."
And someone else said - "There's always the George at
Kettering. Is there still time to celebrate the 1958 Cytricon IV?
I don't see why fans of an uncertain age should be excluded provided
they dress-up in clothes of the period and can handle a zap gun."
And then Peter Weston said "And just like
that, fans, it seems we're going to have a 50th anniversary celebration
at Kettering. Eileen and I visited the George and walked around
consulting old photographs and trying to work out where so much
fannish merriment had taken place. Some things have changed - the
Devil's Kitchen is now the reception area and it looks like the
original bar has been ripped out. However the main con hall seems
almost unaltered and I walked around touching the pillars in awe
- this was where the BSFA was founded! But gosh, wasn't it small!"
"Call it Cytricon V, I thought , and contacted
and invited everyone who attended a Kettering event and all
those people who were around at the time but somehow never got to
Kettering. It's also open to more recent fans who understand the
deep mythic significance of Kettering to fannish culture."
The George Hotel, Kettering, site of the 1958 Eastercon,
and before that the 1955, 1956 and 1957 events. Yes, the very same
hotel in the same town.
for information on the hotel in 2008,
to wallow in nostalgia for the Golden Age with a hotel brochure
from the 1950s and some contemporary fanphotos, and some links to
other potentially interesting related stuff including a list of
sf novels of 1958, which you are urged to examine...and,
to invoke the right state of mind, several CONVENTION
REPORTS from Cytricons past
Friday 3rd - Sunday 5th October, 2008.
The idea is
that all the happy fans will arrive on the Friday afternoon,
in time for a get-together from 6.30 p.m. onwards. Programme
events are all on Saturday, so you will be able to leave on Sunday
at any time to suit yourself.
Forget all the usual bureaucratic conrunner stuff, there's
no registration, no membership fee, no booking form. This is what
you have to do -
Contact the George Hotel at 01536
518620 (Fax 01536 485407) and either ask for Melanie Ingram, duty manager,
or specifically mention the '50th Reunion Convention' when making
your booking for Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th October. This will
get the special
10% discount on room rates. The email address is:- email@example.com
FYI - the George's basic rates are £65.00 per room
for double/twin (including breakfast & VAT), and £45.00
per single. We get 10% off in both cases. There may be minor
variations in actual room rates but the discount will apply
in all cases.
Please note, your booking, and any queries you may have about the
hotel is entirely your responsibility. There is no concom,
and no central booking, and no 'hotel liason' except
in the most rudimentary form, or as a last resort for real problems.
NEW NEW NEW NEWS -
As of 27th September 2008 -
The Final Progress Report has been issued and the MC says
It's less than a week now until Cytricon V and I'm sending
this final Progress Report so you know what to expect.
The Con Suite
Well, that's what the Americans
call it, but we're not that fancy. Everything happens in the
main hall - programme, displays, socialising, dinner. That's
because the hotel has done away with the former lounges and the
other public areas are open to, well, the public. So we'll
hide in our own self-contained facility - you get to it through
the restaurant - and yes, we do have a bar.
I'm expecting to be setting-up
in the hall from early Friday afternoon onwards so come and say
hello as soon as you arrive (and especially if you're bringing fannish
artefacts). You can pick-up your badge and programme book
at the same time. The idea is to assemble at 6.30 so we can
all meet and have a chat before sitting down for dinner at 7.30.
your choices for Friday & Saturday and tell the hotel when you
check-in. It's a fixed-price (£17.50) which they'll
put on your bill, so you'll only need to pay for drinks on the night(s).
Ina's bringing her beanies,
I'm bringing Ken Bulmer's armour, Greg will have some ancient fanzines,
Andy & George are bringing books & magazines, (some for
show and others for sale). Susie has more of Ken's 'rubbitch'; what
do you have that will recapture times past? Lots of table
& wall space will be available.
Our three moderators are limbering-up,
at least one of our panellists has done some homework, and we're
hoping for a lot of audience-participation. All programme
items take place on Saturday.
Looking the part
Still time for Greg &
Mark to have short-back-&-sides, I have a sports-jacket somewhere
(though can't do up the buttons) and Jim's wearing a leather jacket
and jeans. Ladies, have you chosen which hat to wear?
The George has room for twenty cars,
they tell me, though it looks a bit tight. If full, there's
a public car-park across the road. From the station, it's
about 300 yards to the top of the road and the George is on the
Don't forget I'm asking for £5.00
per head for 'registration'; there have been a few expensees.
That's about it - see you next weekend!
Previously on this channel...
The MD has done the badges (there will be badges, some of you people haven't seen each
other for decades, if ever at all in some cases...). There will
be a Programme Book (breaking the tradition of Cytricons III and
IV which didn't have such things), and of course a PROGRAMME !
Which you will all attend, oh yes. Simply putting a bunch of fans
into a room and leaving them to it is rarely the course to joy,
so a certain degree of organised activity is essential to ensure
all leave with a sense of shared experience and wisdom.
The intention is that we will
all have the evening meal together in the hotel on Friday and Saturday, menu here.
Collect your badge, etc, on Friday evening.
There will be an admin cost of £5.00 per head to cover
various costs (printing, tea & coffee, a few other items). Any
surplus will be spent at the bar!
Anything you can think of to enrich the general
atmosphere of fannish jollity will be a Good Thing!
By ROAD - If you're driving, take junction 7 off the A14,
(a fast dual-carriageway), follow signs into town until a large
roundabout at the bottom of the hill, turn right (not signposted)
and keep going.
The George is on the left-hand corner as you
enter the town centre, right opposite the parish church (the tall
spire you can see for miles).
The hotel car-park holds about 20 cars; when full the staff will
direct you to the public park, right across the road.
By RAIL - Walk straight ahead out of the station, up a
gentle slope and again, The George is on the left-hand corner.
be the last update report.
Unless the hotel burns down...
get Robert Presslie as Pro
Right then, we'll be seeing you in a few days, most definately.
Peter Mabey -
the Backroom Boy
That reference is of course from Francis Spufford’s super little
book, one that should be required reading for all SF fans. Subtitled
‘The Return of the British Boffin’ it tells how Britain has excelled
in producing those patient, hard-working types who have come up
with some of our greatest scientific and technical ideas. And
without knowing a great deal about Peter Mabey’s real-world life
I get the feeling that he’s been one of those boffins, working away
in backrooms all these years on truly ground-breaking stuff.
It’s like that in fandom, too; Peter has been around for a long
time but because he’s a steady, conscientious, reliable sort of
chap he’s not the sort that attracts attention. Thank goodness
he received the Doc Weir Award – the very first time it was given
out, in 1963 – for his sterling work in pulling the BSFA library
into shape in 1958 and then running it from the Cheltenham basement
for the next five years, almost until the group lost their premises.
Peter began reading SF pulps at school in 1938, rapidly moving
up to H. G. Wells and on to other things. Ken Slater
put him in touch with Eric Jones in 1955 and he was one of the first
to join the Cheltenham Circle, just too late for the first Cytricon.
But Peter went along in 1956 and this subsequently led to
his famous ‘chart’, published in Sidereal and recently exhumed in
Prolapse-7, which suggested that the downward trend in convention
attendances would go into negative figures by 1957!
Happily, these rumours of fandom’s demise were exaggerated although
due to family reasons Peter missed the third Kettering con and therefore
the first St Fantony ceremony when it took to the boards in 1957.
This was a pity because in the months beforehand he’d been
very involved in helping Eric Jones and Bob Richardson create the
entire mythos of the Order, although he became a Knight himself
through his membership of the Cheltenham Circle.
Peter did come to Cytricon IV and though he doesn’t appear in
person on any photograph we have several shots of his highly unusual
vehicle – he turned up in a Messerschmidt bubble-car! And
on the Sunday afternoon he was present when the BSFA was formed
and (according to Bobbie Wilde’s report) was one of the two Cheltenham
fans appointed as librarians for the new Association.
They must have had a great time in that cellar, shuffling the
books and magazines, talking science fiction and sharing diverse
memories of their war-time experiences; Eric had been in flying
boats, Bob was a naval officer on midget submarines and Peter had
gone to the Royal Aircraft Establishment for a crash course in structural
engineering, working on such things as seats for troop transports.
I get the feeling that they were advocates of the Campbellian tradition
of SF, coming from Science/technology backgrounds rather than from
the Arts/literary stream which is more common today.
Peter himself was a Maths graduate and even in 1946 was looking
for a job in computing, before moving instead into aerospace with
Gloster Aircraft. He went into the structures department –
called the Stress Office – developing the Meteor, the first British
jet-fighter (the tail unit was unsatisfactory, and a new one had
to be designed).
He gained experience on Ferranti ATLAS computer, the biggest
in world at the time, and eventually became department head in 1962
with the title of ‘Chief Stress-man'. He then went on
to the Hawker Advanced Projects Group and spent time on a Mach-5
hypersonic ramjet, using a concept “which NASA still haven't got
to work 45 years later”.
After that Peter tried for a job at CERN and was invited there
for an interview, but they were “looking for a better mathematician
than me”. In 1966 he finally got into computing full-time
and joined STC as ‘Computer Consultant’, his skill being “an ability
to pick up a language sufficiently quickly to be pretty good at
Unfortunately, all this meant leaving Cheltenham but at least
his new location meant he was able to attend meetings of the SF
Club of London, usually meeting at Courage House, Ethel Lindsay’s
Nurses’ Home in Surbiton. And that led naturally (and
unavoidably, if I know Ella!) into the job of Publicity Officer
for the second London worldcon in 1965. This saw the
third major outing for St Fantony, and Peter was Master of the Rolls
at the induction ceremony that year, a position he has held for
He has rarely missed an Eastercon and can always be found in
the science-oriented programme topics.
Ina Shorrock -
“I was in love with Ina,” sighed Jim Linwood. “We all were.”
And who could have blamed them? Lovely Ina, Hostess with the
Mostest, was the ever-smiling heart of the Liverpool group and she
was at the very centre of British fandom all through the fifties
In 1947 Ina Picken was nineteen and already a secret SF reader
when she went to a neighbour’s party and amazingly – because he
lived on the Birkenhead side of the Mersey – she met Norman. Was
it love at first sight? Well, maybe, but after they’d been
courting for six months the romance literally took off when she
saw a copy of Astounding in his sports-coat pocket. Wow! –
they both read science fiction! “After that I had to marry him,
for his collection,” Ina said.
The river was but a minor obstacle and after work Norman would
come across on the tube (you forgot Liverpool had an Underground,
didn’t you?) and Ina would meet him at the station. One time
he had a nose-bleed and was late and while Ina was pacing back and
forward outside the station she was told by another female to "push
off, this is my pitch!”
They married in 1950 and moved the collection into a little flat
on Norman’s side of the river, and soon afterwards various dodgy
characters started to turn up who he'd met on his trips to Frank
Milnes’ Milcross bookshop, people like Les Johnson and Norman Weedall.
So Ina was in the Liverpool Science Fiction Society from the
start , when it was formed in November 1951, throwing her first
fan-party for the group that Christmas despite having given birth
to daughter Janet earlier that year.
After that came their first con in 1952, decorating the Space
Dive, more parties, and an unending stream of visitors from all
parts of British fandom and beyond, most of whom spent the night
on Ina’s floor. She was our first costumer as a Bergey girl
at the 1954 Supermancon (see above, with the Fred Smith Monster).
She was a Space Warrior Woman at Cytricon, and she wore a
coat of green paint as a Krishnan in 1956. In a scene for
the LāSFāS film ‘May We Have The Pleasure’ (shown at the first London
worldcon) the camera zoomed-in on Ina lying in a bubble-bath; “It’s
no good, love,” said Norman after a tricky bit of filming, “we’ll
have to have that top off.”
So, all round good sport, yes, but to mention a more serious
side Ina did her time as effectively the first chairman of the BSFA,
for two years, 1960-62 (Dave Newman was elected in 1958 but gafiated
without striking a blow), something she may tell us about on Saturday.
And, of course, she carried on reading Astounding.
What else? Oh, I forgot to mention the other four children
(Linda, Alan, Roy and Gavin) who somehow managed to arrive despite
the Shorrock’s busy social life. And the damson gin (already a legend
when I entered fandom) which would be teleported into Shorrock room
parties in innumerable plastic containers.
Ina was knighted a Lady of St Fantony at the very first initiation
at Kettering in 1957, she won the ‘Doc Weir’ Award in 1976 (about
ten years late!), and a special Nova Award at Novacon 33 for ‘Fifty
Years in Fandom’.
Sadly, Norman passed away in 1999 but Ina has hardly missed an
Eastercon and she still gophers most years. Unbelievably,
however, she has never before been asked to be Guest of Honour.
Well, we can put that right. Here’s to you, Ina, Fannish