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BIRMINGHAM '77 (NOVACON)

THE LOST WEEKEND

by Kev Smith





First published in Dot 3, edited by Kev Smith



Well bugger I down dead!

That was another Novacon, that was, number seven, and the sixth I've been to. It hardly seems five minutes since the last one, when Skycon and Channelcon joined in battle for the right to the Eastercon in 1978, and JohnandEve Harvey was just a name. This year things seemed much quieter. There was no Best Award, for one thing. But then, the Best will always be the Best. It would surely be superfluous to give it to D. West two years running, and hugely inaccurate to give it to anyone else. Surely.

One or two things, though; one or two things....

Chris Southern's metamorphosis, for example. He changed from good, careful driver all the way up to Birmingham to manic fool as we progressed deeper into its heart--no doubt something to do with the psychopathic gestalt that enables all native Brummie drivers to know exactly what dumb thing all other native Brummie drivers are going to do next. It might have been preferable to take the alternative route-- straight up and turn left at Coventry. Gets you direct to the Royal Angus, I'm told. It's a pity we're all going to have to find our way anew next year. What am I talking about? No it's not?

The Saturday night was quite a good night. A quick taxi ride got 19 assorted Rats, Gannets, Odds and Sods to the Best Indian Restaurant In Town, and in fact it probably was. It featured a very solicitous Indian gentleman in a funny hat who stood by the Gents and directed anyone who went near into it. He grinned hugely all the time and Harry Bell wanted to know if he shook the drops off for you as well. He didn't.

This was the Anti-Banquet---Goh, Graham Charnock; Fan Goh Greg Pickersgill. Big news of the evening was the name of the Nova Award Winner, which the Fan GoH prematurely announced. As predicted in Dot 2, Dave Langford got it, and deservedly so. Don't you think so, Dave?

Back at the Angus the disco was starting up. I bought myself a gin and tonic and made a solemn vow not to drink even half as such as I did last year---sixteen gins after dinner. Not pleasant.

Mike Dickinson produced a small, green, plastic tub containing small, green, plastic slime. This revolting stuff stuck to things, such as ceilings and D. West's glasses, and dripped off very slowly, long strands of it drooping to the floor, or whoever happened to be in between. Someone unnamed ---probably half the con, or else Simone Walsh---took out a contract on John Brunner, the hit to be made in the disco. Mike spent most of the evening stalking Mr Brunner, but with no success. For a long time Mr Brunner sat against the back wall with a good clear space in front of him---a superb defensive position. At other times Mr Brunner dodged.

"Every time I get close, the bugger walks out the door," said Mike.

Maybe someone tipped off Mr Brunner, though I can't imagine it.

Someone else---probably three quarters of the con, or else Joseph Nicholas---took out another contract on Helen McCarthy. But Mike didn't get her either; he was too busy not getting John Brunner.

Miss McCarthy failed to win the fancy dress pun competition. She and two sycophants went as the Foundation Trilogy ---no prizes for guessing how: one in red, one in black, one in white. Miss McCarthy, I am reliably informed, looked as mad as muck.

Joseph Nicholas was on the fancy dress pun judges panel.

I don't remember any sparkling wit or dazzling events illuminating the procedings thereafter, although Dave Langford was doing his pissed philosopher act at a small gannet's room party, scattering polysyllables to the four winds.

"It's frightening," Rob Holdstock said to me later. "He's more lucid when he's pissed than when he's sober."

And we did have, for a select small group, an sf book title charades session, highlight of which was Christine Atkinson's rendition of 'Brontomek', via "three women writers". (The Bronte sisters, you great oiks! Our excuse for taking fifteen minutes to get it was the lateness of the hour---4.30 am---and the booze---lots. You have no such excuse. Unless your name is Glicksohn.) That apart, the charades had about as much wit as a damp doughnut.

On the Sunday I bought the second 'Berserker' novel by Chris Carlsen and bludgeoned the author into signing it by the simple expedient of going within two hundred yards of him carrying the book and a pen. I don't know what the book is like... No, let me rephrase that; I do know what the book is like, this being the reason why I haven't read it. I don't know what the book is about. But come to think of it, I could make a damn good guess at that too. Anyway, it does have one interesting bit, round about page 70. Some very strange characters appear, called the Pai Iairian druids. This bit really is very good; it's the only bit I have read, or ever will. On the strength of that bit alone I can heartily recommend this book. Pick it up in W.H. Smith's one day, and have a flip through it.

On Sunday afternoon I went home.

-- Kev Smith



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