by Ian Maule
First Published in Maule's Well, published by Ian Maule

Went to Novacon 2 in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago. The general impression I got was one of lots of neos running around laughing at the pearls of wisdom that one of the pros would occasionally let slip. Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against pros or neos (why, only a year ago I fell into that latter category) but when I see fans degrading themselves to such a degree, well, it makes me slightly nauseous. Why, oh why, do such people have to throw themselves at the feet of the BIG men? Don't these pros get enough egoboo when they have their books published? Fandom and fanzines are the important and tangible offshoots of Science Fiction not the swollen head of John Brunner or the thousands patronising Brian Aldiss. (Didya know that at Chester in Lisa's room party Harry Harrison started laughing at Greg and Roy's Egregious Guide To The Con, Aldiss looked across, saw what Harry was laughing at and said in his clearest voice so all the IN people could hear what a clever fellow he was. "You're not laughing at fanzines now are you Harry?" Harry answered like a trufan, "Hey, this is good.")

But anyway, back to Novacon. I spent most of the time pissing about with revived Ratfandom, John Piggott and the lovely Pete Roberts. The five of us would commandeer a corner of the lounge nearest the bar and sit for perhaps three or four hours at a stretch just laughing at the people who came into the lounge. Between these fits of laughter Pete tried to start a conversation: "What British fandom really needs"..."is a flame-thrower" finished Greg. Many a true word spoken in jest as they say.... On the whole Novacon was rather dismal with regard to the programme anyway. Good old Doreen Parker prattled on for five minutes on the subject (I think) of the respectability of SF, and then asked the audience if they had any questions, completely ignoring the fact that she hadn't said anything to ask questions about. Other items on the programme included that man Aldiss reading three of his unpublished short stories. I'm sure they were up to his usual standard, but I left the con-hall soon after he started reading the very first paragraph of the first. Highlight of the programme was the fanzine auction, this year held as a seperate auction from the book and art one. Gray Boak did a good job of boosting the prices as did Mike Meara who tried to outbid me on almost everything I wanted to purchase. I even had to bid E1.5O for six issues of Granfalloon. As Rabbit mentioned in Checkpoint I also bought three issue of Axe for 90p. Ghod only knows why, I didn't particularly want them. Possibly I did it just to deprive Mike Meara of the pleasure of buying yet another bundle of zines. I did however get a few things that I did want. First of these was about 25 issues of Fanac and secondly about 30 issues of Skyrack, for each of these I paid about 1 pound.... quite reasonable I thought at the time. Oh'yes, I was somewhat drunk at the auction so perhaps that's why I paid such exorbitant prices for the zines. Ah well I'll know better next year.

So much for the programme.

Faaanishly the con wasn't up to scratch. Of the 150 or so people there at one stage or another, about 1 in 20 was in fact a fanzine fan I had actually heard of. The remainder being the Birmingham SF group and sundry other nonentities. I hate to admit this but one of the sercon devils at the con was a, wait for it, Gannetfan, yes, it's true. Rob Jackson is a sercon infidel. A couple of incidents do stand out in my mind. The group of us were sitting quietly in the corner talking away about nothing in particular, when Piggott and Greg decided to show their appreciation of each other by mutually masturbating, but masturbating with a difference. John placed his right foot in Greg's hands and began making the usual noises. "OOh, AAh OOOOh, groan, AAAAAH!." Two non-fen, one male one female sitting next to John, exchanged glances and changed seats. Kettle as usual managed to do a few silly things. On the Friday night, pissed as ever, he fell out of his armchair and just lay on the floor, the chair half on top of him. One of the Hotel residents came hack from the bar and Roy grabbed hold of him and commenced licking his tie in a seductive and rather sexual fashion. Somewhat taken aback the man was momentarily speechless, but nevertheless recovered in time to point to the window and threaten to throw Roy to the street below.

Jesus, things become confused: Was in the lift one evening drinking a glass of coke when Roy decided to knock my arm and make me pour the whole bloody lot down my shirt and trousers. Not having a spare shirt I scrounged John's dirty one and wore that the remainder of the week-end. Funny incident occured early on the Saturday evening. John and I came across three lovely young ladies sitting on the stairs, we stopped and started chatting to them. One, who shall remain nameless, informed us that they had been waiting for the first man to go up the stairs past them. She would offer herself to this man, and subsequent men would be propositioned by the other two. John and I discussed this for a few moments and finally John mounted the stairs. Nothing happened tho' so we didn't attempt to go any further in our investigation.

The Imperial Hotel itself I thought ideal for a con. Long winding corridors, dark passages, many halls. I remember Roy coming up to us and beckoning us to follow him. He led the way down dark passages and through deserted corridors and rooms until he stopped outside a small door. "Just look inside, there's this little man sitting asleep in front of a television. We crowded into the room and there, sure enough, was a little man sitting in front of a television, asleep. Loud chuckles ensued and the man woke up, so we pissed off out of it and made our way back to the lounge for another drink.

The staff were particularly friendly. On the Saturday night there was a party on the third floor, and after the incident with me locked in a bedroom with a certain female, all of us got down to some serious drinking along with a few younger members of staff who had even brought bottles with them:

Sunday morning I was up about 8 am after having a sleepless night. I wandered round the hotel for an hour or so, and finally succumed to the pleadings of my stomach and went down to the dining room for breakfast. I wasn't a resident of the Hotel but I did have a room key on me. So I made my way to the corner and joined British fandom. Luckely the waitress didn't check up to see if I was registered, although one fan sitting behind me was asked for his room number. Nothing really happened on Sunday, being as it was the last half day of the con. The programme officially closed at 4.30pm but long before that quite a few people had gone for trains and things. I stuck it out until 5pm and then walked to New Street station for the 5.10pm train back to Newcastle, no mean feat as I was carrying about half a ton of old fanzines and an overstuffed haversack. Some six hours later the train pulled into Newcastle and regurgitated its passengers onto the platform, 1:13 hours latel!

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