« Afterthoughts »
he Tuesday before the convention, Franklin Karkhof of Washington, D.C., called me up saying he'd arrived and asked if anything special was going on as yet. Made arrangements for him to come out to the house for supper on the following night. While sitting around talking, after supper, Charlie Tanner called saying that Harry Moore and Paul Juneau were at his house and wanted us to drop over. Since it is 15 miles to Charlie's house, I declined. It was already 8:00 P.M.: and the travel time involved would merely cut the evening that much shorter. While slyly slipping Karkhof more highballs, I managed to get an idea of the fans in and around Washington through his descriptions. As Washington had announced that they intended to bid for next year's convention, I wanted to get an idea of what sort of a group they had; and how they would work together. I had no intentions of helping them or any other city get the bid; I just wanted to find out all I could about their members and their club activities. As far as next year's convention was concerned, the only thought I had in mind was for someone to take it. Take it anywhere; but, for God's sake don't leave it here in Cincinnati!
Thursday night I had nothing scheduled but rest and relaxation; as I would be busy for the next 4 days. There was a long distance call in from Michigan, and Sol Levin, the artist, called me up from downtown Cincinnati when he arrived. I hated not being able to get with him before the convention; but, I was tired and really needed the rest. Along about 9 o'clock or so, Doc Barrett and Jerry stopped by on their way downtown to the Metropole. We talked for awhile and then they left; taking along a batch of originals for the Auction that were at the house.
Friday morning found me checking into the hotel around 9. Lou Garner and John Millard were the first two fans I saw in the lobby. They and 4 or 5 others helped me unload the car. It was really loaded; they let themselves in for a job that time. The Doorman had that fixed peculiar smile on his face; reserved for humoring screwballs. Guess he figured he couldn't be lucky all the time.
After the checking in process was completed, met E.E. Evans and the two of us went over to a building a few blocks away where I made arrangements to rent a room for the CINCINNATI FANTASY GROUP and their future meetings. That completed, I went back to the hotel to meet some more of the incoming fans who were now coming in rather fast; and to see the hotel management about a few last minute details. By that time it was noon; so, Doc Barrett, Jerry, Walter Coslet, Forest Ackerman, Evans, Richardson, and a few others I don't recall at the present, went out to eat dinner together.
The afternoon for me was taken up with more last minute details and some more visiting in between. The hotel was agreeable to our going in and decorating the hall; even though our rent did not officially start until the next day. The tables were moved in; and some of the publishers started to set up their nice displays. Doc Barrett, Jerry, Chick Houston, Bea Mahaffey, Nancy Moore, George Earley, and myself then started in to get the originals slated for the Auction sorted out to correspond to their number and description listed in the Auction Guide. Richardson's secretary had just finished running these off and he made a mad dash, down from S. Ft. Mitchell, to deliver them. The identifying was quite a job; because of the large number of originals obtained. In addition, more were coming in and donations were made during the first two days of the convention. One of the nice things about Science Fiction Conventions is that all the early birds; and the older fans come up to the committee and ask you if there is anything they can do to help out. This is unique, I think, in the way of conventions. So, while there are some specific names listed here and there in this account, as doing something or another, they were not the only ones doing anything. Trying to remember who all did what is impossible. Anyway, it doesn't make much difference; those who helped did so because they wanted to; and not for any future publicity.
After finishing with the job of identifying, we called it quits for the night and invited what fans we saw over to my rooms for a bull session. They came and went in a steady stream; and the only ones that I can remember, outside of our local group, are Lou Garner and his wife. Getting rather sleepy and tired, and seeing no signs of the crowd diminishing, I gently invited them to leave and hit the sack. Roy Lavender and I had gone together and rented a suite in order to have plenty of room for visiting, during the affair. This turned out to be a wise move. Two hours a night was my usual average sleeping time for 4 days. If I'd have had to drive 1/2 hr. each way to my home from downtown, I'd never made it.
After a late breakfast, we got set for the Registration Period from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M. We managed to get about 175 to 180 names on the books; but the others merely picked up their Program Booklets etc. and took off; rather than stand in line. So, we can only guess and say approximately 200 attended.
At a little after 1, we got everyone herded into the hall; and Tanner gave the opening greetings. I got up to remind everyone who was interested that the State Liquor stores would close for the week-end at 7 P.M. This was duly noted after which Mel Korshak was asked to introduce some of the outstanding fans and professionals in the audience. Since he is well acquainted with fandom, we were glad to have his assistance on this.
Next came the speeches. These are covered rather thoroughly elsewhere in this booklet; so, there is no use repeating here. Dave MacInnes burned out his wire recorder on the hotel's D.C. current. Having none of his own, then, he offered to do the recording for Doc Barrett while he was helping us. It is from these recordings that the speeches were transcribed.
Bob Bloch and Fletcher Pratt were unable to attend; so, Ray Palmer and Lester del Rey agreed to take their periods. I thought this was very generous of them especially on such a short notice. In the meantime, V.T. Hamlin, the creator of ALLEY OOP, showed up; and we got him to agree to be on our Program in the evening. This worked out nicely; Ted Sturgeon, who was on the evening spot, had sent us a telegram saying he'd just gotten married and was leaving on his honeymoon.
With the end of the first afternoon, everyone seemed well pleased; and the conversations started humming. A delegation gave directions to the nearest liquor store; and after the plasma was secured, food was the next item on the agenda.
The 3 evening speeches by Hamlin, Williamson, and Smith were over fairly early and left quite a bit of the evening free for the little get togethers that the fans want. They had had a short, snappy, first day; plenty of big names to dazzle them, and now the rest of the evening was ripe for discussions, swaps, poker, drinking, politicking for next year's convention, or anything else.
In the meantime, Hannes Bok from New York showed up. I'd invited him to come and stay with me during the convention; and was wondering if he could make it after all. He looked a little older than the picture of himself he'd sent me. He was bubbling over with enthusiasm when I first saw him; and it is always a real pleasure to meet Bok. That night, with Bok as a drawing card, we collected an even greater crowd in our rooms. It was five A.M. when we got everyone pushed out the door; and 6 when we hit the sack.
A few hours later, we woke up to a nice Sunday morning. The NFFF had been given the hall for the entire morning for their own Business Session. Bok, Roy, and I decided to skip this; in favor of dinner at my house. While waiting for dinner, my 4 year old daughter was entranced by his sketches of various animals on her blackboard. She was so fascinated that she sat real still while he drew her portrait. Since then, the blackboard has been put away to prevent her erasing it. Would you? After all, it's a Bok original.
The time for the Main Auction had come. Over on the side I had Bea Mahaffey helping me take the money and give out receipts along with recording the purchasers in the Auction Guides for future reference. Mel Korshak was our Auctioneer. He does a good job; and is fast, too. We were hard pressed to keep up with him. We were constantly adding more items as we went along. Ted Carnell gave us the cover to his #5 New Worlds; and Ray Palmer donated the cover and all interiors from the #1 Other Worlds. All in all the amount of material, and the range of subjects, should have pleased every fan. The Alley Oop originals donated by Hamlin went at $1.00 apiece. There was not much excuse for every fan to have come away empty handed. By 5:30 there were still many items to go; but, we had to stop in order that the fans who were to appear on the television program from 6:30 to 7:00 over WLWT could get something to eat; and be out at the studio on time. Those who cared to do so, could go out and watch in the studio; and for the others, a table model was set up in the hall by Phil Stephenson so that the remainder could watch from there. That is those on a milk diet. They say the program was pretty good; me, I was out eating supper at the time. I was feeling just a little rugged after that fast and furious bidding. There's something about auctions that stir up the emotions; even though you may be only a spectator most of the time.
One thing I forgot to mention so far is the backdrop we had. Bill Kroll and John Grossman offered to do us a backdrop in trade for table space in the convention hall. We got a good bargain on that deal. Everyone who came in had a nice comment about it. It measured 9' x 12'; and shows up in most of the photos taken in the hall. They had it rolled up in a long roll; and brought it on the bus all the way from Des Moines. Bok thought those boys had real talent; and while asking them some things about it, they told us how they tacked it on the side of their house back home while painting it. Then they got up on step ladders doing the upper portions of it. The neighbors got quite a kick out of them doing that.
Sunday evening we led off with Ted Carnell giving news and sidelights of the English Fans and their activities over there. Arthur J. Burks followed; then Geo. O. Smith; before Judy Merril's panel discussion. All of this was over by about 8:30; and the evening sessions were in the planning stage. For me, the highlight of the convention came that evening. After stopping by Shasta's cocktail party for awhile, we started collecting a group for our rooms with the accent to be more on talking than drinking.......at least for awhile. As near as I can remember, the following were there: Doc Smith, Jack Williamson and Wife, Ed Counts, Charlie Tanner & Wife, Lee Greenwell & Wife, Lloyd Eshbach, Lou Tabakow and Wife, Rog Phillips, Ray Palmer, Nancy Moore, Basil Wells and Wife, Bok, Arthur J. Burks, Lester del Rey, Marty Greenberg, A. J. Donnell & Wife, Andrew Harris, Reva Smilansky, Ben Keifer, Geo. O. Smith, Bea Mahaffey, Stan Skirvin, Ted Carnell, Dave MacInnes, etc. There was no attempt to conduct any organized discussions; but, with such a group like this thrown together, it was not monotonous.
Any professional who comes to a convention is more of a fan than author when he gets there. They are always willing to talk to the fans and listen to them; instead of trying to play big shot. Ed Counts, Doc Smith, and Jack Williamson were off in one corner with a cluster surrounding them; while the rest were breaking off into little groups of their own, or shifting from one to another as the tides of conversation flowed. There were times when I was actually keeping up with two discussions; one on each side of me. Managed to wedge in a few brief moments of uninterrupted talk with Donnell about his collection of Hot Jazz records; picking up some tips for my own collecting. Eshbach is pretty good at imitations; and was the "life of the party" in one corner with his jokes and monologues. He's pretty good on the comebacks; and with 5 or 6 people to take up the repartee, the gags flew thick and fast. A wire recording of that evening would be priceless. Along with all this, the wives of the pros, who are about as interested in Science Fiction as the fan's wives are, had a good time discussing the trials and tribulations of being "Science Fiction Widows". That, to my way of thinking, did as much as anything in making this convention the success it was. When the wives find out that they, too, can have fun and a lot in common with the other wives at these conventions, there will be an interesting attendance each year.
Bok showed a couple of boxes of 3 X 4 Kodachromes of his paintings. These brought exclamations of admiration from everyone. All of us had gained an impression of his art from the work he has done in the mags. and books. However, all of this pales into nothing; when you get a look at his landscapes. That man is without doubt, a genius. The detail is minute; and the colors are something I have never seen. This all adds up to the fact that I will never rest until I have a Bok landscape for my living room. Why this man does not have national recognition, I cannot understand.
That pretty well covers the highlights of the second night of the convention. As you can gather, the unscheduled events are what everyone looks forward to getting in on. To the newcomer, or casual visitor, there is enough on the regular Program to interest them; but, to the initiate, the various get togethers in the rooms afterwards, are THE convention. Thus it was to me. By putting all these people in one room together, it was like putting the ingredients into a cake batter and stirring up.........the finished product is good. Wonder how many ideas were gathered for future stories that night?
In passing, there's one thing that should be mentioned.........Geo. O. Smith was actually seen in front of at least 10 sober, reliable witnesses, to be drinking ice water! That is an event that should be recorded for posterity. It's too bad no one had his camera along.
After the usual 2 hrs. sleep, we ate some breakfast; and then headed for the hall to do the wind up of the Main Auction. Dave MacInnes had some wire recordings of some radio shows that featured fantasy. Neil R. Jones also sent us a recorded speech on 3 records; so there was some entertainment for those weird people who have to get up early every day. As soon as the recorders finished, we turned the auctioning over to Bob Tucker and Sam Moskowitz. Korshak's voice took a terrific beating the day before; and he was still a little hoarse. Sam, of course, can over-ride the background conversations with his voice; and he experienced little difficulty. We got it over in a couple of hours. The Fan Auction, which was to have been in this period originally, got squeezed somewhat. Its original purpose was to help some of the fans defray their expenses by having us auction off their articles, 20% of which was to go to the Cinvention. Since we'd done as well in the Main Auction, I announced that there would be no deducting of 20%; and the fans should keep it all. We were not out to see how much profit we could make. If these conventions get too mercenary, they will tend to kill themselves off. The prime purpose should be to make expenses (of course); and clear enough extra to give the next convention a good start.
Due to a lack of time, we had to cancel The Report From The Publishers; which was to be just before the Business Session. Because of that, we are giving out all their latest information from those who answered our letters, as of April 15th. This information is given in a separate report elsewhere in this Booklet. While the sites were being picked for next year's convention, Lou Tabakow and I were checking the receipts of the Auction. This was rather complicated; as while the auction was in progress, numerous people came up and offered to give us 1/2 if we would auction a certain item of theirs off, then. Naturally, we took them up on this; and had quite a few covers more as a result. Before the convention, I had maintained, all along that we would make $1,000 in the auction. Everyone thought I was crazy; but, it only lacked $20.00 when the total was added up. We must have set a new record, there. One thing is sure; the profit was greater than at any convention before. The total gross receipts were: $1307.15. Our expenses were: $443.96. This left a profit of: $863.19. The Program Booklet and the banquet were not included in these expenses. We ran both of them on separate accounts and broke even; which was our only aim on these two. On the banquet, I had $15.00 left over; which was used to tip the Chef & his two assistants. Not a large tip, you'll agree.
After reading off this report to the members present, a Steering Committee was made up of: Tucker, Eshbach, Jim Williams, Moskowitz, Korshak, and myself. The idea of this Committee was to bring back a suggestion to the membership as to how the money should be split up. Naturally, any suggestion had to carry a vote of the majority of the membership. All of the Committee were chosen either because of their previous record, or because of their fan activity and prominence. The only reason I was included was because I was still holding the cash. The first suggestion brought back was: $150 to the 1950 convention, $150 for England, $150 for Australia, and the remainder to the Cincinnati Fantasy Group. After some discussion on the floor, the question of the NFFF participating on the receiving end was raised. The arguments flew thick and fast; both pro and con, until Darrell Richardson jumped up on the stage and suggested, over the P.A. system, that $50.00 be taken from the allotment for the CFG. This was agreeable; and the votes were cast in favor of this compromise of Richardson's.
Before I explain about the $300.00 earmarked for England and Australia, I want to get something off of my chest concerning the NFFF. First off, I've been a member for over 3 yrs.; so, I do have a right to have my say. Eventually, the NFFF should be in a position to take over these national or world conventions and be their sponsor. They can hardly do so until their membership increases. However, right now they contribute nothing to them; and in turn always expect a cut out of the profits of some one else's labors. Look at the roster of the Cinvention; and then look at the NFFF roster. If the NFFF is going to keep on collecting at each annual Business Session, then I think it is about time that their own membership contributes a dollar to the convention committees. By the same token, why can't say the LASFS, PSFS, etc., claim a share of the profits of the coming Norwescon? After all, they'll have done as much or even more than the NFFF. Perhaps with the new Administration in office, things will improve. Their other activities have; so, maybe this end will improve, too. This, I realize, is letting me in for a target from the NFFF fanatics; but, even they will admit that it is true. How about it? I don't think anyone can call themselves a fan if they do not support these annual conventions. If I can jolt a few out of their lethargy, it's worth all the griping that will come my way. Someday, I'd like to go to a Science Fiction convention and see the attendance numbered in thousands; instead of by hundreds.
Now, about the England-Australia deal. Due to the dollar restrictions, the fans in each of these countries simply cannot send out money for books, magazines, subscriptions, etc. Not only that, the rate of exchange is so high, that a wage earner has to spend a much greater proportion of their weekly salaries; compared to us, for a $3.00 book. In England, $22.00 per week is considered a fairly good wage. How far does $22.00 go, over here? Since there is only 1 fan club in each country, we voted to take $150.00 for each; to buy books and magazines for their respective club libraries. By this method, Science Fiction will be within reach of all; and their membership will increase due to this. The original idea was to get 1 copy of each "in print" book; and a 1 year subscription to all the Science Fiction Mags. However, there just isn't enough money to do both. I decided to get the books instead; figuring that at the Norwescon, the members can vote to buy magazine subscriptions, plus whatever latest books I could not buy. There's a suggestion anyway. Somebody will want to know what books I got; so, here is a list up until April 1:
Black Flame Skylark Three Darker Than You Think Spacehounds of IPC Sinister Barrier A Martian Odyssey Beyond This Horizon Forbidden Garden Divide & Rule Triplanetary Skylark of Valeron Seven Out of Time 31st of Feb. Carnelian Cube Porcelain Magician Lest Darkness Fall Lords of Creation Mislaid Charm Venus Equilateral The Torch ...And Some Were Human Without Sorcery Exiles of Time Homunculus Nomad Slaves of Sleep Wheels of If Checklist World Below Best S-F: 1949 Who Goes There? Something Near Hounds of Tindalos Lurker at the Threshold Witch House House on the Borderland Skull-Face The Doll West India Lights Fearful Pleasures Clock Strikes 12 This Mortal Coil Dark of the Moon Dark Carnival Revelations in Black Night's Black Agents In Re: Sherlock Holmes Carnacki, the Ghost Finder The Travelling Grave The Sleeping & The Dead Strange Ports of Call Web of Easter Island 4th Book of Jorkens Genius Loci Roads Not Long for This World Best Supernat. Stories HPL H.P.L.: A Memoir Arkham Sampler: Vol I Arkham Sampler: Vol II Sidewise in Time Man Who Sold the Moon
The cost on all these so far has run to: $229.86. The postage has run to: $15.30. This leaves a balance of: $54.86 left out of the $300.00. As of April 1st, everything was in the mail. So far, all concerned have been well pleased. As a follow up, we intend to send a number of copies of this Booklet to each club, also.
Monday night saw the banquet; and the final wind up of the convention. We had a Grille Room in the basement of the hotel, all to ourselves. It was large enough; but the various supporting pillars prevented any speech making down there; if all were to see the speakers. We were served cafeteria style and some thought it should have been served by waiters. The only reason we did not have it that way, was because it would have run the cost up about $1.50 more per person. At any rate, there were no complaints about the food or getting enough to eat. Stan Skirvin really did himself proud that night. I'll bet the Chef thought he hadn't had anything to eat for days. After a few minutes, Ned McKeown and several others, had a group gag act which was good; and received a big hand. Since the Banquet was mentioned as the place for any costuming or masquerading, quite a few showed up in various get ups. Photographers were over from the Cincinnati Enquirer and took a few shots for their Sunday Rotogravure Section. This feature came out 2 weeks after the convention was over. As a whole, I think our publicity turned out rather well; considering the past publicity given other conventions. Dave Kyle handled practically all of the publicity during the convention. Cyril Kornbluth and Dick Wilson (both old time fans) are the heads of Transradio Press in Chicago & New York; so, Dave phoned in the news to them every day. This went out over the teletypes to the radio stations. Several relatives told me later that they heard mention of the Cinvention over the radio where they lived. There were some who thought the idea of "Miss Science Fiction" was undignified; and cheap publicity. To this minority, I can only say, try to get publicity for ANYTHING; and see if you are satisfied with the results. The 1/2 hr. on television was the first for any convention, and presented the hobby of Science Fiction in a manner not antagonistic. Saturday night, Stirling Macoboy talked to me on the phone from Sydney, Australia. During the conversation he mentioned the fact that the Cinvention had a write up in the Sydney Daily Mirror. Most of our local coverage was pretty good. Lou Tabakow summed it all up when he said: "I don't give a damn what they write about me, or the convention, as long as they spell my name right."
After the Banquet, everyone who did not have to check out and start the journey home, went back upstairs to the ball room; where Ted Carnell, as MC gave the farewell toasts, introductions etc. By this time, I felt the inevitable collapse coming on. I was doing all right until I sat down to eat. I just kept getting more and more tired from then on. So tired in fact, that during Ted's finals, I stretched out on 6 or 7 chairs and went to sleep. Fortunately, I had the car all loaded and ready to leave whenever I got to where it was parked. At 11 P.M. I started back to Sharonville; feeling like years had gone by, and like 10 tons had been lifted from my back. I fell in bed; and left orders to tell anyone who asked for me or called me on the phone before noon, to go to hell. At noon, Franklin Dietz and Lynn Hickman stopped by for a few minutes while I was getting out of bed. Later, that evening, Doc Barrett and Dave MacInnes stopped by and were talked into staying for supper. During this time, the three of us made plans to have a get together at Indian Lake, Ohio, on the following week-end. Dave was going to spend the rest of the week with Doc; and Ted Carnell was going to be there in a few days, when he got back from Chicago. He went to Chicago with Mel Korshak for a little visit there; first.
So, September 10th saw 3 car loads of the Cincy Group at Indian Lake. The usual rehashing of the convention was in order; and then we all got together and sent a 1/2 hour wire recording to Don Day. On it, we gave him our views and advice of the convention; pointing out some of the little troubles we had in putting it on. The whole idea of the thing was to give them a little boost; and at the same time give them a chance to profit by our mistakes. That, along with the $150.00 is enough to send them off on a good start. It is more than we had received; so, the NORWESCON should be that much better improved over the CINVENTION.
One nice thing about this week-end at Doc's, was that we all had a chance to have a more leisurely conversation with Ted Carnell. The whole atmosphere was one of relaxation; you didn't get that feeling that you had to cram everything into an evening, or one hour or so; like we did at the Metropole. We took a few snap shots, and in general did nothing any too strenuous; preferring to sit, talk, and loaf. While taking some pictures, I remembered that in all the entire 4 days at the hotel, I had never had a chance to take any photos at all, of any of the proceedings, or fans!
Nearing the end of this report, I want to bring out some of the wonderful co-operation we received from various fields. First, the Editors of the Pro mags. all donated material; with the exception of John W. Campbell, Jr., of ASTOUNDING. The Editors of the Fan mags. devoted space for free advertising and kept their readers informed of any news of what was happening during the planning stage. The so called "Fan Publishers", like Fantasy Press, Shasta, Prime, and the rest contributed both books and originals in large quantities which insured our Auction's success. They weren't all; of course, many fans helped us out all the way. It all points out the fact that any convention is only as successful as the direct ratio of the amount of co-operation they receive. It's up to you; and not the Portland boys, to make the NORWESCON another success.
All fans reading this article should take note of the statement that Arthur J. Burks makes in his. Why not write a few letters to LIFE, LOOK, TIME, etc. asking them to cover the NORWESCON? If, in writing to the Science Fiction magazines, you don't get results from the Editor, write to the higher ranking "brass"; as noted on the table of contents page. If THEY get the idea that the Editor is not pleasing the readers, there will be some attitudes change. It's up to you. I don't mean to run any Editor out of his job; but, I do resent the attitude of some in regarding fans in the same class as a bastard at a family reunion.
That's all. I enjoyed meeting every one of you. Some, I expect to see in Ohio; May 21st. Others, I'll see again in New York; the July 4th week-end; and if at all possible, will see the rest at Portland.