Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

The hype and the hyperspace

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1979-08-27 Guardian.jpg


Alex Hamilton visits the international jamboree of sf fans in Brighton

After Iguanacoan in Phoenix, Seacon this year in Brighton. The greatest ever con in Europe, said a voice floating above the press of bodies in the hotel Metro-pole, where the first impression was of SFixia. Over 3.000 fans and funs (the same but different, like Siamese twins) paid £13.50 each for a revel, a wallow, a massage of consanguinity.

Outside, the sea grew gurly and the rain walloped the roof of the 1,200 seater main hall with a sound like the coming of the fifth glacier, but inside was the comfort of knowing that, even had that been the case, some one of their pantheon would have foretold it, belonging as they do to the only art which really knows what is going on, anywhere, from here to Aldebaran.

Even the speakers paid, in acknowledgment perhaps of the fact that they all began as fans. Tap any SF writer, and his first perceptions of the stuff always came as a coup de fourdre. And the sense of democracy is so strong that it would take little to found a movement to liberate Mars.

According to Colin, Lester, editor of the International Science Fiction Yearbook, a fan, or to give him his full title a sercon fan is serious and constructive, whereas a faan contributes chiefly his presence.

He doesn't say that this is actually destructive, though it may be, as in the case of one on Friday night who tried to pitch his tent in the lobby because it was raining outside.

Fans or faans, it is their worldcon, the 37th of that ilk and the first in Britain since 1965 — the competition to hold them is now fiercer than for the Olympics — and their own big, sprawling private party. For the purposes of remembering Eden, trolling dice in the corridors, zapping aliens in electronic games, singing filk with Filthy Pierre and his melodica — which is the SF brand of folk — and a massive programme of artwork shows, rare pulp sales, fanzine floods, talks, panel discussions, films and one play, a spellbinding adaptation of Theodore Sturgeon's Some of Your Blood, to interest the sercon.

The climax came last night after the banquet — Queue de boeuf au madere, suivie d'alyau de boeuf mexicaine — when the announcements of the Hugo Awards were made. As distinct from the Nebular Awards, which are chosen elsewhere by the "filthypros" (published authors) and sometimes for filthy prose, the Hugos are based on polls of the convention members themselves. Hugo was the pulps editor Hugi Gernsbach, who laid down the mulch from which Eden grew.

This year they picked Vonda McIntyre — the third woman to succeed — for her novel Dreamsnake.

In other categories : The young John Varley for his novella the Persistence of Vision ; Poul Anderson, whose mantelpiece now has half a dozen rocket ships to cheer him on, for his novellette Hunter's Moon ; and C. J. Cherryh for her short story Cassandra. Superman was thought the best drama.

Giving an award to an editor is a bit like pupils pinning a rosette on their teacher, but they show the historic importance of a succession of crazily inspired impresarios, by having one in this category too. It went to the novelist Ben Bova — like all the others an American — who labours through the slush pile for Analog, and more recently has gone onto the mast head of the Penthouse publications Omni. This glossy is either a distribution miracle or an index to the huge increase in interest in science fact and fiction. Perhaps both. It circulates million copies.

To ingest, much less regurgitate, the whole compass of Seacon 79, I'd have to be either a cluster of clones or a realisation of Dr Christopher Evans's prediction of a computer able to suck in the content of several human brains simultaneously. Like the diplodocus, Seacon has its long thin bits, and a central solid bit, but in all fairness, considering the way that SF and its ratfandom has been rubbished, SF's brain has evolved into a remarkable analogue to the human, warm and curious, with a formidable capacity for total recall.

Slight and wiry, a master rhetorician, the American novelist Theodore Sturgeon wears his trade mark round his neck, a pendant Q with an arrow through it. It means, he said, "ask the next question," and it represents his reason for staying in sf for 40 years.

The fans come to meet the giants, and I use the word literally, in the case of a seven year old who asked me to reach down his balloon lodged against the ceiling 20ft above us. He should have appealed to the guests of honour, Fred Pohl, Fritz Leiber, Harry Bell, or Brian Aldiss. Or Alfred Bester, Arthur Clarke (" I am interested only in bicycles and Concorde") or Harry Harrison, who wants people to have fun every second, and believes Seacon is almost sinisterly efficient — "you want some muddle, to set against the Teuton gni-leiters."

I heard Sprague de Camp, dressed like a Butlin's red coat, describe his continuation over 30 years of the late Robert Howard's barbarian hero Conan and account for his revival when better contemporaries moulder, and austerely rebut a fan's view that Howard was homosexual : "He was normal in direction but heavily retarded, with an Oedipus complex a yard wide. He never got as as pre-pubertal homosexuality with a little girl. Next question.

Ask the next question. Why did L. Lionel Fanthorpe do it? What's, he did was write 150 novels in eight years, for 15 shillings, a thousand. He never told us why, but in the jaunty accents of British Grub Street he told us how, with slides, speaking at about 300 words a minute to imply that he could repeat the performance.

Next night at the fancy dress parade he turned up with, a whip, flogging on his wife and daughters dressed as slave girls. The competitors lived out their favourite fantasy scenes, with Michael Moorcock's Sword and Sorcery scenes much in use and at least as much point as textiles. " There is some nudity" mused the wife of one ,of the judges, "but not as much as I expected of the British." At the photo call the Green Empress of Melbourne endeared herself to me by remarking to one impatient cameraman, "an Empress doesn't have to know which way is left.'

I saw Jim Burns's artwork being offered, and taken, at £900 a tableau, and a paperback of Harlan Ellison that he so loaths that he destroys every copy, go for £25. I saw Philip. Strick's composition of embarrassing moments in SF cinema. I met the Number One Fan, and fantasy collector, J. Forrest Sokermann sporting Bela Lugosi's Dracula ring on one hand and Boris Karloff's on the other, and he said he'd attended every Worldcon but one—the year his wife died.

I found a man dressed like a Gumby, trousers rolled to the knee, Hitler moustache and knotted handkerchief on his head. Nothing uncommon in that. The nice point is that he carried this image of himself photographed on his lapel.

And I heard Brian Aldids brilliantly making his mandatory personal statement. He said inperporation, "we know the mind is populated. We know no such thing about the universe. There may be nothing out there, friends, not even a branch of McDonalds." I asked him where he was going instead. He hoped, China. To sell them a Pekin-con ? " Why not, if we can sell them Coca-cola."

Seacon ends today. You've just time, at the final programme, to ask the next question yourself.

Caption: Tom Baker (Dr Who-in the television series) on the platform during Seacon '79 at Brighton : Picture by Martin Argles

Spelling correction: Forrest J Ackerman

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  • APA 6th ed.: Hamilton, Alex (1979-08-27). The hype and the hyperspace. The Guardian p. 8.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Hamilton, Alex. "The hype and the hyperspace." The Guardian [add city] 1979-08-27, 8. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Hamilton, Alex. "The hype and the hyperspace." The Guardian, edition, sec., 1979-08-27
  • Turabian: Hamilton, Alex. "The hype and the hyperspace." The Guardian, 1979-08-27, section, 8 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The hype and the hyperspace | url= | work=The Guardian | pages=8 | date=1979-08-27 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=29 February 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=The hype and the hyperspace | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=29 February 2024}}</ref>