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adies and Gentlemen, it is indeed a very great pleasure for me to be here on this platform tonight. I'd like to say right now that one of my childhood dreams has been broken...you are not all Cowboys and Indians. I haven't any set speech at all; because I think you would like to hear a lot about Stf. in Britain and later on you'll probably like to ask me some questions about British Stf. I will be only too happy to answer them.
Ever since I arrived in New York, before I even got ashore, the hospitality of your country has hit me greater than I can really express. I don't think I can ever recollect seeing before now, the kindness, generosity, and friendship extended between our two countries. And I know; for a long time I had personal experience with American soldiers in Europe; of the friendliness of the American people as a whole.
It's very appropriate, I think, that Cincinnati and my visit to your country coincided in respect to the fact that eight months during the last war, I was attached to the 168th Regimental Combat Team of the U.S. Army; which was mainly National Guardsmen from Ohio; and I formed some very nice friendships during the eight months. So, to come to Ohio on my first trip to the United States, is as much a privilege as it is a pleasure.
In Great Britain, we have a set up very much the same as you have here. If I say that we're just a bunch of goofy goons, the same as you are, you know how we are. We have a considerably different set up than you have because we have a far smaller country; and communications are a lot faster, with people being able to visit each other much easier. The natural tendency is for London, the Capital, to take the lead in British Fandom; and, we have built up, in the last two years, a very considerable fan gathering which has now been called "The London Circle". But; from what I've seen here in Cincinnati the last two days, there's no great difference between the fans in London and the fans in Cincinnati; or any other city in America.
The bunch gathers every Thursday evening in Whitehorse Tavern...which is beginning to get a reputation; even among newspapermen. Everything from politics down to, last, but, not least, Science Fiction, is kicked around in odd corners; and everybody has a good time. However, we have one great difference which is very noticeable to me. Here, I see many National fan groups; when, in Britain, we have really only one fan group. Although, the British Fantasy Society is nominally in existence, in actual practice, it isn't functioning; because, over the last two years, everybody who has had an executive position has for one reason or another shifted the balance of his titular job to somebody else. Thus, there has been a constant shift off the shoulders of one person onto the shoulders of another; until really, the Society isn't functioning as it was hoped it would.
Now, going back considerably earlier; before the war, in '38 and '39 we had a very strong, active fan group in the Stf. Association. This was mainly carried on by 8 or 9 fans in London, who did all the work; very similarly to most fan groups I've met, where a number did the majority of the work. During the war, this was closed; and there was no Stf group in Britain. A name very well known to you, Mike Rosenbloom, managed to carry on; in some small manner, with the few remaining fans in Great Britain.
This, is where I would like to, personally, give the thanks of everybody in Great Britain to all of you good people in America, for the unbounding help and assistance you gave to Britain, during the war, in the fantasy line. Individually, I cannot thank any of you; because, so many of you sent Bundles to Britain at a time when Science Fiction was almost dead in our country. Those packages which came in from the big names in American Fandom, and the small names, too, the odd magazines that were sent; ALL of them, each one, were very deeply appreciated. Although the Britisher's natural tendency is not to get excited, and to be profuse in his thanks, I really can assure you that we did appreciate those gifts. I only wish that sometime we could reciprocate on the scale which you have given us over such a long period.
Before I get off the thanks, I would like to say, now, that I personally am grateful for the Big Pond Fund; which was, at least sponsored by Forrie Ackerman on my behalf, in the long run. Although it wasn't intended that I should come, to everybody who donated something to that fund, I would like to say thank you. I would thank Forrie Ackerman, also, for his support; and to Alfred C. Prime, Lloyd A. Eshbach, and all the people I'm constantly in touch by mail in a various number of business ventures in Stf. Everyone of them has contributed to some small part of my trip; and I deeply appreciate that.
I'd like to go on, now, discussing S-F in Britain, as opposed to Fandom.
We have a very similar set up in the professional publishing world to our own Fan world. It differs entirely, I think, to your country; mainly because we have no big publishing companies sponsoring Stf. As most of you know, we have been forced to sponsor it ourselves. After many belated attempts by publishing houses in Britain with money behind them; but, without the brains for the specialization of knowing what to do, we eventually about a year ago, got together and decided that if we pooled all our brains and resources, we should be able to produce at least one Stf. magazine which would be comparable, in Great Britain, to what you are accustomed to in America. Many of you have now seen the 4th issue of NEW WORLDS; which I personally did not like, but which has received a certain amount of praise from many directions. A great deal of praise, much to my surprise, came from America; where I should have imagined our magazine would be torn to shreds. There's something about it which has reader appeal over here. I think that all of you will begin to enjoy the next issue; which is starting to shape up more near the mark which I originally would have liked number one to be.
However, we have a great many difficulties in Britain. Not only haven't we the money, or the big publishing houses behind us, we haven't the artists who can possibly cope with the work at all. They just aren't used to the medium. Several artists that I have tried out, whose work hasn't been published; but, whose work I've seen, were just hopeless. And as you know, we haven't a great many authors in Great Britain who can really write the right stuff. If my memory is correct, I think we only have about 9. Unfortunately, the best one of them is not available to British Stf., although he would be; and that is Eric Frank Russell. Eric is a very slow writer and he contends that he cannot write enough for the American market; with what time is at his disposal. So, he cannot produce anything for the British market at the moment. Of the rest of the authors, quite a few of them have crashed into the American market recently; and I have been able to obtain quite a few good Mss which just missed being published over here for one reason or another, but which suit me, as an editor, to publish in NEW WORLDS.
I have a very happy feeling that, from number five, NEW WORLDS is really going to become something in Britain. We have certainly made the grade with number, four; it's nearly sold out, and financially, the magazine is a success. With number five, the wholesalers who saw the advance proofs of the cover, all immediately upped their orders by 50%. So, we can practically guarantee that the next issue will be oversold by the time it is on the stands. That issue will be published by the end of this month; or, very probably by the week I get back home. It's an increase in eight pages, which brings us up to 96. The artwork has been done by two artists, one entirely new to Stf, and by an old friend of ours, Harry Turner, whom so many people requested return to the field, that he eventually agreed to come back and try some. Now, his work has changed considerably over the years. During the war, Harry was away in India with the Royal Air Force, and he spent most of his spare time doing cartoon work. His fantasy work has not exactly suffered through doing cartoon work, but it has changed and the changes are very marked in his work which is coming out in NEW WORLDS.
I found it very difficult to find new artists who could be molded to the medium. Clothier, whose cover you saw today, has done some interiors for the next issue; and I think we really have a find in him. Unfortunately, BBC Television is after him for scenic background paintings and there's a strong possibility that if he gets tied up with them, we shan't see much of him. The trouble with us is the same as over here; as soon as a man gets good, he gets more money doing something else, and then you lose him.
But, we're really trying very hard to establish Science Fiction in England.
Now, while I'm discussing other people, I would really like to talk to you for a few minutes about Walter Gillings, who is undoubtedly the greatest Science-Fictionist in Great Britain. Walter should have been over with me on this platform tonight, but when January came around and the tickets for the trip had to be booked, Walter was expecting to change his job from an editor back to Fleet Street, where he really belongs, and he held up on deciding whether to come. At last he took the job in Fleet Street which was offered to him, and that cut off his time so he definitely couldn't come over with me. He sends through me his most heartfelt wishes to you all for the great support you have given him in FANTASY REVIEW. I know, personally, that he's had a tough row to hoe with that magazine which is, without doubt, the best in the field. He's been supported by a number of us in London who, being professional booksellers can afford to place advertisements with him; and that has been his backbone.
He really needs subscriptions; advertisements need subscriptions, otherwise they fall down and the advertiser decides to pull his ad. out. We're going to try to get a campaign going shortly so we can see more copies of FANTASY REVIEW in this country. Walter's changing the set up of that magazine considerably; he's going to turn it towards a digest of Stf. articles, semi-scientific articles, and enlarge the reader appeal. And I think that very soon, probably inside another six months, his magazine can be placed on any newsstand anywhere and sell. There's no doubt about it that that magazine has done more in Great Britain for Stf. than anything else. It's reaching a far wider public than it ever did before; the book reviews covered in it are bringing book orders in better than even the advertisements are doing.
So, I was personally very disappointed that Walter couldn't be here this evening; because he could give the detailed background of British Stf. even better than I can; although, I was in it as long ago as 1934. Gillings has been the "kingpin" behind all major attempts in our country to establish magazine Stf. there. I think that over the years, the constant disappointments have rather embittered him. He's had three very unfortunate attempts at becoming an editor the second one was TALES OF WONDER...I won't mention the first one, because that one was unofficial, and nothing was ever publicly known about it. The outcome of his first attempt was for another magazine company to take his ideas and put their own editor in and publish them. The second attempt, TALES OF WONDER, was difficult from his point of view in so far as the publishing company would not finance him above a certain figure; and they allocated certain funds for editorial requirements, out of which Walter had to make his profit for all the work put in. But, even so, that magazine drifted along right through to 1942, and reached 15 issues before it was eventually washed out.
Then, he tried again, when he got out of the Army with another new publishing house and we saw FANTASY, as it was called, in three issues, probably the best magazine we've ever had. I'd like to say right now, strictly off the record, that we'd very much like to get FANTASY back with Gillings as its editor; and the plans for Nova Publications are that, given a reasonable break in the next six months financially, we shall incorporate FANTASY as it was, into our company with Gillings as editor, and will run it in conjunction with NEW WORLDS as an alternative publication. We have the opportunity of buying, fairly cheaply, all the manuscripts which he prepared for some 16 issues of FANTASY. Some of the English authors have been fortunate enough to buy the rights to their stories, and we have seen three or four stories in ASTOUNDING within the last six months, all of which were due to be published in Britain in FANTASY, but were not, and the publisher granted rights to the authors. So, as you see, Walter Gillings himself is the kingpin in British Stf. I'm a very poor second to him, probably because I have so many other interests. It was a great disappointment when I knew he couldn't come over here.
So, on his behalf, I express his thanks and his good wishes to all of you for the future.
Now, to change the subject a little, is there any question anybody would like to ask me?
Ed. note: A question and answer period followed, with some of the answers being given below. The questions can be deduced from these.
....The rates for NEW WORLDS are $1.50 for 4 issues. The price on FANTASY REVIEW has been changed very recently when Gillings upped his price and went into a quarterly.
....The question of British fans having difficulty in obtaining American mags. is a very good one. Quite recently, the situation changed in our favor. Up until recently, we couldn't place any subscription in another country. They were strictly forbidden; and the fans had to resort to swapping magazines, or relying upon charity, and that charity is a very tough one. Much as we appreciate it, there's hardly anyone who wouldn't rather swap or pay or give their shirt; just to get Stf. rather than accept it as a gift. But, a few months ago the heat was off, for some unknown reason, and we have now discovered that a fan in England, if he goes to the post office and applies for an International Money Order Form, can now take out a subscription for one magazine for one year and it's okay. He can also go to his bank and get that same form. We are now publicizing that fact to all the fans in Britain, so we are not experiencing the difficulty which we had a year ago.
....The question of whether you can supply British fans with magazines is one which is easily answered. One of our greatest exponents of Stf. is the very well known fan named Captain Ken Slater, who is now residing in Germany with his wife; and who also sends you his very best wishes. Ken Slater wrote me before I left, and said that if anyone in America wanted to swap magazines with him, or books or anything, he would be only too pleased to take care of them. I'll be only too pleased to give you his address and you can write to him. He has probably the largest collection for the active fans in the country, and he just can't get enough magazines to go around. My experience as a book dealer, is that 15% of them buy books, and 85% of them buy magazines.
....Saying how many active fans there are in Great Britain is like saying how many active fans there are in the United States. I believe there were several hundred names on the list I brought to Don Ford; and, to my knowledge, there are at least another hundred or two who actually read Stf. However, we can start a very long debate on what an active fan is. If you mean the fan who attends a regular meeting, or drops in on a meeting occasionally, there aren't more than 80 in London, and central area. There are quite a few more further north, but they just can't get down. But, if you call an active fan a reader who writes to others, that number rises considerably and there are probably 4 or 5 hundred. From the checks that I've been personally able to make, there must be at least 50,000 readers of magazine Science Fiction in Britain. Now, I worked that on a check of the sales of ASTOUNDING British Reprints (I know what their sales figures are) and if we reckon that at least 2 other people read the same magazine, that puts it up considerably higher still. That actually has been the basis of our policy. If a British reprint of an American magazine can sell 20-30,000 copies at 20¢, there must be a wide appeal for a British mag. with new stuff in it, at thirty-odd cents.
....What would be the result of selling a large quantity of British mags. in America? Now, the question is an awkward one; because we cannot compete with the vast resources of the American magazine publishing companies. We can't have 4 and 5 color covers. We haven't the paper for a 160 page magazine. We can't even compete in price. But, I can give you a rather interesting statistic on NEW WORLDS with a bookseller in New York. As you know, the magazine is selling for 35¢ here. He took 20 copies to try it -- number 4. He hadn't had them for more than 24 hrs. when he sent an airmail letter for another 20. He had the second 20 a week when he sent another airmail letter for another 20, which brought him up to 60, and soon after that, he asked me for another 20, which made him 80 copies. Now, 80 copies of a British magazine at 35¢ that's about half the size of a 25¢ American magazine, was pretty good selling. I still can't understand it, because he couldn't have sold to 80 fans in New York all passing through his street door. He has subsequently placed an order for 100 of the next issue. That's really going some for just one magazine store or book shop, to be able to sell a 100 copies of one British magazine which is considerable higher priced than most American magazines. We're very interested in the outcome of further experiments in the American magazine field. We have approached the International News Co., who are one of the largest magazine distributors in America, and we are not prepared to offer them the discount they would like; and consequently, they are not prepared to take any copies at all. There are a number of dealers in America who are handling copies. FPCI of L.A. are handling a fairly large quantity to the western seaboard of America, but they are distributing to book shops. A number of individual book dealers are taking 50-100 copies, or maybe in smaller quantities. At the moment, the whole of your question is in the experimental stage. If someone came up and said: "I'll take 5,000 copies.", we wouldn't refuse him, anyway.
....NEW WORLDS is not considered a high priced magazine in England, to answer your question. It's an average price. A new publication which came out 2 months ago in the Detective-Mystery field, rather shook the whole trade, because it did not conform to any tradition. It's called MYSTERY MAGAZINE, it sells at 50¢; which is way above anything sold in Britain. It has little cameo cuts inside, and it is about the thickness of one of your thicker pocket books, but much larger in size. That's an experiment which is being carried out by one of the very large publishing houses. In the main, 30-35¢ is an average price for a British magazine.
....Why don't the big publishing houses in Britain publish Stf? That's a question we've been asking them for 20 years, so, I can't really give you the answer. I think that the truth behind it is that Britain is not a big magazine publishing country. Those that are, are leaning more and more toward the five and ten cent picture magazine, rather than fiction magazines. In fact, you'd probably be very greatly surprised to see any large bookstand or newsstall in London, to see the very small percentage of magazines, and by magazines I mean fiction magazines. They're in a little tiny corner; well, you probably would never see them. The big publishers do not consider fiction a profit-making end to a business when they make far more selling 300,000 copies of a picture magazine to women, or a picture magazine on general topics. Of Fiction mags., we have very few.
....MYSTERY MAGAZINE published unusual fiction. We were very much hoping in London, that they were going to take up weird and fantasy. Their first issue, which had many big names in the English fiction world, the trend was toward the off-trail weirds. Subsequently, some friends of mine who thought they were going to get in on it, found out that the whole policy of the magazine was changed after the first issue, and they are going to switch to detective stories. So, another hope for a British weird, or off-trail fantasy magazine was crushed almost before it started.
....My personal reaction to the Penguin Co. bringing out an anthology of Stf. is no.
If there are no more questions, this will conclude what I have to say, here today.
Charlie Tanner: "Thank you Ted, and I hope something unforeseen happens and you are back with us next year."