APPORTIONING THE BLAME
A Welcome to SEACON 79 by the
Chairman, Peter Weston
Five years is a long time.
In fact, the history of the British bid for the 1979 World
Convention goes back even further, to September 1970, when
in an issue of my fanzine Speculation I suggested British
fandom should think about hosting the Worldcon at some
time in the seventies.
At the time it seemed a good idea. Hell, it was a good idea!
The question was, who would do something about it? I was
busily planning the British Eastercon and had quite enough
to do, thank you, even though I'd made a vague survey of
hotels and concluded that the Brighton Metropole was really
the only sensible place.
No-one else obligingly stepped forward, and inevitably my
Eastercon rolled around; it wasn't a bad year, though I say it
myself, but to my horror I found the Worldcon idea had
caught on, and thanks largely to Dave Kyle had been pinned
very firmly to my coat-tails.
"No!, no!, no!" I screamed, overwhelmed by Ken Eadie's
Vigilantes, people who camped out in the hotel lounge, and
the sheer hectic pressure of organising so vast an event. Why,
over 200 people attended the Worcester convention!
I went for a soothing walk on the banks of the Severn—it
was a beautiful Spring day, I remember—and quietly consigned all thoughts- of Worldcons to the deepest part of the
river. And there things remained for nearly three years.
The credit for reviving the idea must go to Malcolm
Edwards, himself an energetic organiser and also prone to the
temptation to plan ever bigger and more spectacular projects.
"Wouldn't it be nice to run the World Convention?" he
whispered seductively in my ear. And Peter Roberts, too, was
similarly beguiled, to the extent that our triumvirate made a
bold declaration of intent at the 1974 Tynecon.
We would make a bid!
We'd show those Yanks what British fandom could do!
"Britain's fine in 79" applauded Ruth Kyle, thus
completing what her husband had begun, providing our
slogan, and setting us irretrievably on a path which ends in
Brighton on August 23rd.
Why did we do it? Why does anyone do it? I've been looking
through my back-issues of Speculation to try and gain some
insight into the motives of that strange, earlier self. A fanzine
is like a diary, you know, prompting memories or events long
forgotten, preserving odd chunks of thought and introspection and a wonderful exercise in nostalgia.
Here's a comment from a time when my committee and I
were enthusiastically planning the 1971 Eastercon:
"I used to wonder why on Earth anyone should want to
take on the job of organising something as demanding and
complex as a large convention. I now know the answer —
there is a certain feeling, not of "power", which would be
ridiculous, but of satisfaction in making arrangements and
exploiting opportunities to the best advantage."
Then there's the other side of the coin, a more melancholy
assessment of my attitude after the event was all over:
"I can't in all honesty say that other commitments alone
have kept me silent; rather, as some of those who met me
this summer will know, I think I must have felt a bit disenchanted with the whole business of Eastercon. I seemed
to have spent the entire time rushing around without
sitting down to actually listen to anything, meet anybody,
or otherwise enjoy myself. After completing an exacting
four days I felt that I wanted to relax at a convention—and
suddenly discovered there wouldn't be another one for six
months or more." (October 1971)
But time is a great healer; after Tynecon I was once more
full of energy, plotting and scheming with Malcolm and
Peter, weighing up the chances of success in our efforts to
bring the World Convention to this side of the Atlantic again,
for the first time since 1965.
We didn't have a proper committee, at this stage; we didn't
have a chairman or even a name. But we had decided upon one
very important thing, which was the date—1979 was the year
when we would face the weakest competition on the North
I won't go into the rules which govern the selection of
Worldcon sites, but suffice to say that while overseas bids are
welcome in any year, they must face opposition from any U.S.
group who would normally be entitled to bid. And we knew
that we would inevitably lose if any American city made a
strong effort; we just didn't have the firepower to win without
the wholehearted consent of a large slice of U.S. fandom.
So we conceived the idea of a "pre-emptive strike", whereby
we would go all out for support long before any competing
force could get off the ground. We produced campaign buttons, advertisements, began selling supporting memberships
and published a Progress Report—and I went across to the
1974 Worldcon in Washington (through the generosity of the
TAFF fund) to lobby for votes when the time arrived.
I don't know if this story is true—my memories of Discon
are confused for all the usual reasons—but on the Sunday
night I seem to remember that Mike Resnick, prospective
chairman of a bid for Chicago in '79, suddenly discovered that
all his potential committee members were supporting our
efforts. With good grace he bought me a beer and signed-up
If that is true, then our 'strike' was worthwhile, for we
would have surely lost against a united Chicago contingent.
As it was we only had to face some hastily-organised opposition from a New Orleans group, and by 1977 the actual
voting was almost an anti-climax. An enjoyable anti-climax,
of course; this time Peter Roberts went across with TAFF to
the World Convention in Miami, along with Rob Jackson and
myself and other supporters. We had a fine time—and were
suddenly confronted with a huge pi leof money and the reality
which now seems to grow more daunting every day; we had to
do it in 1979!
That's very largely the story of the last nine years, although
there is an interesting sub-plot in the genesis of our name,
You see, Malcolm was really bitten with the organisation
bug in 1974; not only did he launch the British Worldcon bid,
but during the same weekend he also took on the job of
chairman for the Eastercon in the following year. Afterwards
we rationalised it, as a good chance for Malcolm and his team
—most of whom, like Leroy Kettle and Graham Charnock, are
on the present committee—to gain actual experience of
running a convention.
That's true, it was. But Malcolm's bid really originated
during a crazy Saturday night when certain members of
fandom decided that the prospective Manchester bid for 1975
would be a certain recipe for chaos. Something Had to be
Done; a group composed mostly of London fans conceived the
idea of a seaside convention as a more palatable alternative—and "SEACON" became the immediate title for what
proved to be a very enjoyable event. In Coventry.
Well, yes, they realised Coventry is 100 miles from the sea,
just about as far from the coast as it is possible to go in
Britain. Malcolm made a few brave attempts to suggest
"SEACON" stood for SouthEast Area Convention, but his
heart wasn't really in it. The truth of the matter was that
British seaside hotels proved a fairly negative lot and the
committee simply couldn't find a site anywhere along the
There isn't anywhere! Except the Metropole at Brighton.
And in a sub-sub-plot, Eve Harvey and husband John tried to
arrange a 1978 Channelcon at the Metropole, as a sort of try-
out for this coming August. Their bid collapsed and they
joined the SEACON 79 committee instead; now do you see
why our title simply had to be what it is, even though we
apologise to Seattle, one of the bidders for 1981. For if they
win, you know what they're going to call their convention,
don't you? ...
Having written the above, I suddenly realise that a large
proportion of the people who read this programme book will
probably have little or no idea what I'm talking about. Once
upon a time that would have worried me; today, after these
nine years, it doesn't. I've put in a lot of effort (and enjoyed
every minute of it) and my committee members have probably put in more. So forgive us our little indulgences, the
anecdotes we tell during our brief moments in the sun, and
remember that despite all the serious stuff about Science
Fiction, SEACON 79 is about people, it's a chance to have
And if anything goes wrong don't blame me—blame
Malcolm. I never wanted to be chairman, anyway!