|Midnight Shakes The Memory #1 | FOOTNOTES Page | Obituary Page ||
Thinking back, 1938 seems to have been a key year in my early fannish career. After Leeds, I went down to the London convention, a gathering held in a hall owned by the Ancient Order of Druids. (It had an inner sanctum with concealed lighting and impressive papier-mache Stonehenge decor). About 50 fans attended and it was my first chance to meet the London fans Wally Gillings, Editor of Tales of Wonder, Bill Temple, Ted Carnell, Eric Williams, Ken Chapman and Frank Arnold among them.
Professor A. M. Low was guest of honour or chairman or something equally important; he was a good front-man at the time, being 'one of the most vigorous personalities in modern Science'. Or so he described himself at the head of his regular column in Armchair Science, which he happened to edit. A dedicated self-publicist, indefatigable populariser of popular science, and author of a few abysmal sf stories and serials.
My only other memory of the official programme is that I.O. Evans was demonstrating his extensive knowledge of all sf written prior to 1938, and Wally Gillings spent a considerable time relating his never-ending struggle with British publishers to open up the magazine market.
I spent a lot of time arguing with Benson Herbert (who recently surfaced in a TV documentary as a psychic investigator) and a fellow artist from Leeds (whose name now eludes me) about surrealisam, then currently attracting attention as a way-out and controversial art form in the British press. And I had a pleasant time investigating the resources of the SFA book-lending library, a seeming vast collection in those days when you had to really search out your science fiction.
This con was also the AGM of the SFA and the influx of members from the provinces to live in the Big City enabled the London branch to vote away the power from Leeds and establish London as HQ. Two of these members were Arthur Clarke, from Taunton, and Maurice Hanson, who left a thriving sf group in Nuneaton (one of the earliest British centres of fanac).
I returned home in a euphoric state, rounded up the local fans and formed a Manchester SFA branch. ■
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