Harrison Country, The Fragments

1983: Not too many people are aware of it today, but once upon a time I won TAFF. However, among the pitifully small remainder who do remember such an improbable fact, there are even a smaller minority of bilious whiners who just can't keep quiet about the fact that I never did complete my report -- which was only half finished. The reasons for this lapse are twofold; the fanzine that was running my report folded -- and I wasn't able to find a suitable replacement, and (2) I lost all my notes on the trip. This last point seemed an unsurmountable problem, but in then last few years I've come to a startling realization: nobody in fandom today remembers anything at all about British fandom of the late 60s -- I can FAKE it! Fortunately, that won't be necessary. I found a previously unpublished fragment of my original report, and I'm publishing it here to put an end to all the sniping once and for all....

 Chapter 37 - Page 268:

      There we were, Bill Burns and I, clutching our suitcases and hopes for a fine, fine convention as we strode through the Manchester streets -- taking great big strides as befit a con chairman and (me) a TAFF delegate, yet a bit apprehensive, as if remembering other times, other conventions: memories of dreadful bores regaling stupefied captive audiences with breakthrough descriptions of the greatest science fiction plots ever, and worn grey mornings when the mouth felt dry, and leaden phrases were recalled -- like something out  of a Norman Mailer novel. Stiles himself felt worried about his TAFF speech, half unwritten and perhaps unappealing to his UK audience.

       It had been enough, he reflected, to insult U.S. fan audiences in the past -- they reveled in it, flaying themselves with the guilt of past fannish gaffes. But these British were a new, unfamiliar lot to Stiles; hardened by inflation and graduated tax rates, lacking the soft underbelly of the easier Americans. It would be a hard thing, a near thing, and Stiles knew that if someone shouted `Who killed Kennedy?' [remember, this was the 60s] he would be lost, wilting under the knowledge that -- excepting the Indians -- We Are Really All To Blame. Yes, it would be a pisser.

      Otherwise we felt pretty eager and excited. I wondered if Atom and Willis would be attending, and looked forward to meeting the fabulous Goon -- John Berry himself. Berry had been an influence. I had devoured each and every one of his written fannish exploits, and envied my friends Gerber and Reiss, who had met The Man himself in New York, during the late fifties. They had even donned trench coats and carried plonkers for the occasion. Unfortunately, I never did get to see Berry, who didn't attend the Buxton con. Perhaps  April is a busy time for N. Ireland's police force.

      There was, however, Sgt. Joan Carr....

                                                                                            (to be continued)

(Footnote, 1997: `I think I was trying to ape Norman Mailer.' -- SS)

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1984: I've been putting off continuing with my TAFF report. I guess it's been about 14 years since the last chapter appeared in the near-legendary QUIP -- so I haven't been too crazy about resuming the project. Besides, I don't remember much, and I've lost all my notes. But nobody today remembers much about British fandom of the late 60s, including the British fans themselves (those anarchistic lunks), and I've been getting little reminders abut my TAFF  obligations lately: snide cracks, verbal threats, not to mention the psychic portents on my bedroom ceiling at three in the morning (those flying eyeballs are damned hard to hit with a broom handle, I'll tell you!). So I guess it's time....

 Chapter 18 - Page 127:

      They were all in their Grey Lensman costumes when all the really big homemade wine-making fans in Great Britain filed into the small room with all their little jugs of wine concealed on their persons, under coats, tucked behind caps and blaster holsters. When we were all assembled, we uncapped the jugs and drank from them one by one, making a little ceremony by rolling the wine around in our mouths in order to guess the various fruits and vegetables the wines were made from. Carrot wine, surprisingly enough, was really delicious, especially after being washed down with a hearty swig of strawberry wine. There were about 86 jugs of wine in that room with their 86 wine makers, and we were all smoking Benson and Hedges. I knew then that these wine-making fans of Great Britain were about the best gosh-darned guys I knew.

Then I uncapped another little jug and sloshed a little around in my mouth -- avocado? -- and it ran down my chin and all over my Carnaby Street shirt, putting out my Benson and Hedges. I had forgotten to open my lips!

      Then I remembered that I was due on a panel sometimes that evening. I didn't exactly know when, or even what I'd be saying, but I thought maybe I ought to do something. I wondered about that for awhile, and then it hit me. Maybe I should get up off the floor! Which seems ridiculous now, but at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.

                                                                                           (To Be Continued)

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1986: Two years have gone by, so I suppose it's about time to continue on with yet another installment of my 1968 TAFF trip report, Harrison Country. As mentioned in the last SAM, part of my difficulties in continuing this series is that I misplaced my notes; you know how it is, I put them in a safe place -- in this case, Florida in 1975. However, a transcript of my TAFF speech at Thirdmancon was discovered sandwiched in between the pages of a treasured Tales From the Crypt, and here it is:

 Chapter 31 - Page 147:

      `Well, it certainly is gratifying to be here in Buxton, in this the official convention hotel, the St. Ann's, here in this room -- for free! -- and all because I won TAFF, beating out my opponents by a margin. And a very big hand to my TAFF predecessor, without whose help I wouldn't be here today; thank you old friend, and I'll see you later. Word to the wise, say no more! *

      "You're scum. Scum! Every last one of you. You know, as I look out over your sallow faces I, I ... ack! ack! ... I have to swallow very hard. There is something quite scabrous about British fandom, and I know that Gardner Dozois sitting out there in the audience will agree with me (G.D.: "Right on!"). And Gardner, I don't know what you're doing here today; but you will have to pay for it! When I say "scabrous", I naturally mean gross, impure, podgy and also imply the perverse, the dogged pig-headedness, the impudent mold of an insular cabal that spreads across fandom like some skin disease or fetid sandwich spread, pock marked and leaking yellowish fluid ... ack (pardon me)! that demands to be slowly -- very slowly -- mashed into extinction.

      "Decency ... You've heard of decency? Are you even aware of what the word means? I thought not ... I think that if I were to take that word and inscribe it on the head of this pin, and take that pin and immerse it in this pitcher of water and lock the pitcher in this drawer, and perhaps wrap the whole thing in pliable styrofoam ... why, if that word had sentience it would scream in outrage!

      "You're all damned! Damned and deserving of those torments; deserving of the red hot gridirons blistering you up nice and crisp, the pong of sulfur in your nostrils, and you screaming for mercy but there will be no mercy, for you ... are ... British fandom!

      "And the Irish! You should get down on your knees and beg forgiveness of the Irish! I'm reminded of that tune:

          "In Dublin town they murdered them. Like dogs they shot them down,
            God's curse be on you, England now, God strike you, London town."

      "Well, I see that's all the time I have. I'd like to thank you again for having me here, and I'd like to mention that I'm up for the fanartist Hugo. **   Roast in hell, you devils, and be damned with you!"

(Thunderous applause.)

--Steve Stiles
 * That wouldn't go over too well for TAFF years later!
 ** I lost!!

                                `Chapter 37, Page 268' from SAM 15, Spring 1983
                                          `Chapter 18, Page 127' from BSFAN 13, January 1984
                                          `Chapter 31, Page 147' from BSFAN 15, Summer 1986
                                           Text copyright © Steve Stiles, 1983, 1984, 1986.