[Cinvention Memory Book]
[Wha' Hoppened?]

« Afterthoughts »

Stan Skirvin

{ n a v i g a t i o n   m e n u }


Survivors of cataclysms and eyewitnesses of scenes of carnage and uproar are notoriously unreliable in their accounts of same. The former, if not mute because of damages, are prone to exclamations like, "Oh, my God!", "What hit me?", and ''Where am I?" The latter are liable to the same triteness, but, depending on the nature of the carnage and uproar, can often have their memories jogged slightly, at which time the bewildered, perhaps hungover expression fades from their faces to be replaced by a secret little smile as a few half-memories return to them. You press them again for information and they assure you smugly, still with that secret smile on their faces, that they don't remember a thing and then they wander bemusedly away to commune with their subconscious; just what did happen?

Like the Cinvention.

Elsewhere in this memory book, in which I optimistically assume this article will see publication, you are going to find accounts of the official happenings at the Cinvention and also accounts of some of the unofficial happenings; the latter are the ones that are the most fun. I shall try in my allotted span not to repeat too many of these and, above all, to be most discreet in choosing those I do tell.

So let's take a look at what happened to me from the time that I was sucked into this maelstrom until the time it spewed me forth a mere shadow of my former self on September 6, 1949.


Hell didn't really break loose until late June, 1949. When Don came back from Toronto with the bid for the next convention, I had typical reactions; shock, elation, and dubiousness. We got into gear quite nicely -- in fact, surprisingly so. However, in a few months, the inevitable letdown occurred with practically everyone sitting around on their tails while Don beat his brains out to keep things going. I dabbled only slightly in convention matters through the school months, my time being rather fully occupied by college work and merely helped a bit on advertising and mimeo-ing. In the spring Don asked me to take over the job of editing the program book and I agreed to.

It took a while for the fact that there was much work to be done to sink in; that the time for fiddling and diddling was past. Around the first of July I began to go to work on soliciting ads and along about the middle of the month I was swamped with copy and orders for the program booklet.

It was just about this time that I went to work as a manual laborer. This enabled me to achieve such a state of exhaustion by the end of each day that the challenge of work on the program booklet was quite stirring -- stirring enough, in fact, to occasionally stir me off the bed.

The only adequate compensation for this little hag-ridden period of my life was the intense and exhilarating relief I felt when I at last delivered the completed dummies to the printer -- almost in time for the deadline.

For the next week and a half or two weeks, I didn't much give a damn about the Cinvention, having shot my wad. During this period, my depleted strength replenished itself and by September 2, 1949. I was ready to re-enter the mad, mad world of fandom at its fullest fruition.

Stepped on a nail at work that Friday morning and that, combined with the hectic preparations to get clothes, typewriter, records, and books ready for transport to the Hotel Metropole, put me in a fine state of mind for the coming fray. The books included items both for autographing and for foisting off on preferably unsuspecting fans. Those in the latter category did not see service. Not, as far as I know, through lack of proper victims, but through lack of time. There was entirely too much fun to be had to bother with such mercenary matters, although that spirit was not universal.

So, I was in fine fettle as I limped into the convention hall late Friday evening. A small group of Cincy fans was working feverishly to sort out the items for the auction. Still more Cincy fans were standing around doing nothing but talking, a well known and much liked occupation among them. Small groups of strangers were wandering around looking lost; apparently fans. I felt very superior. I didn't know what the hell was going on either, but at least I knew what town I was in.

Helped sort out items for the auction and organized a working party from among the talkees to assemble and staple the auction guides. Now I was really in the convention.

Big deal.

All in all, was amazed at this time that things seemed fairly well under control even with me not giving a damn, as was mentioned earlier. Surprisingly enough, certain individuals had actually come through with their promised contributions, even if somewhat after the last minute.

After the pressing work was done, a large group adjourned to Don Ford's room. Room 100. For me, and for quite a few others, Room 100 was one of the most interesting spots at the Cinvention. Others have undoubtedly described in some detail the personnel at these gatherings, so I shall try to avoid repeating all those big names, even as thrilled to the core as I was that little old me should be associating with them.

Remember in particular being a member of a group talking with Ray Palmer and Rog Phillips, which talk revised considerably the rather pungent opinion I had had of AMAZING and those connected with it. Money and, in general, the necessity for making a living, can make men do strange things.

Somewhere along about here, met Hannes Bok. However, ran into him so often as he flitted about that it's impossible to remember just when and where.

It was during one of these evening sessions, probably Sunday's, that Bok showed us color transparencies of the sort of work he likes best to do: portraits, landscapes, and murals. Needless to say to anyone familiar with his work, they were beautiful, but far more so than anyone who has only seen his magazine work can realize. A number of us resolved at that time that a visit to Bok's studio would be a must during any trip to New York.

This session was very interesting -- a foretaste of days to come -- but my memories of it are rather hazy -- also a foretaste of days to come. Personally, I suspicion some sort of narcotic quality in the air. Or perhaps it could have been fumes of some kind.

But I'll give you a clue: much more will be remembered about the convention than will be told, by all parties concerned. Like I said earlier, "Oh, my God!", "What hit me?", and "Where am I?".

Or even, "Who am I?"

Ah, me.........


The next morning, the official first day of the convention, saw me bleary-eyed and quite hungry. Waited in the lobby to go to breakfast with Doc Barrett and Dave Kyle, but the wheels were turning and eventually the thrill of watching celebrities arrive palled on me and I allayed approaching starvation by going to breakfast with a couple of fans, including members of the Canadian contingent.

The return to the convention hall revealed a scene showing few signs of organization but a lot of people. Eventually came across Roy and Don and made ineffectual attempts to help get the auction material hung around the hall.

Roy, Don, and I had all brought jazz and boogie woogie records with us with the intentions of playing them over Don's powerful amplifier for the delight and edification of the assembled multitude. Roy got the amplifier set up and we played records for a while, but eventually we had to give it up; there was just too much to do. Later, occasional use was made of these facilities.

The girls who were supposed to handle registration were nowhere to be found for the moment; undoubtedly thoroughly celebrity-stricken. But although late, registration finally did get started and the Cinvention was officially underway.

Somewhere in all this bustle Doc Barrett buttonholed Don and told him that Dave Kyle had big plans for publicity and needed help from someone who knew the local setup. Don threw up his hands (a gesture that was to be seen often during the convention) and stated truthfully that he had more than he could handle.

And there I was, foolishly within arm's reach. So I told Dave that we could depend only on ourselves to get any work done. With the help of one of the hotel secretaries and generally frantic and confused activity on my part, we got out invitations to a press conference to be held at Shasta's cocktail party that night (Saturday).

Which concluded my contribution to that part of Cinvention publicity, much to my relief.

Somewhere in this confusion I missed out on part of the introductions, losing, I have been told, my only chance at the limelight. So i had to content myself with what ego-boo I got from numerous compliments on the program booklet, all of which warmed the cockles of my heart.

Picked up the loose ends of the afternoon and then went to chow with Roy, Palmer, and Phillips. Talked about matters Fortean, Shaverian, and Palmer.

After the evening speeches, back to Room 100, thence a flying visit to the mob scene otherwise known as the Shasta cocktail party. Then a quick visit to Dave McInnes' room where acquaintenceship was formed with Goldberg Soda who treated us to one of his beautiful arias. And back to the comparative safety of Room 100.

Returned to the Shasta brawl as an aftermath of the mighty battle of limericks between Doc Winters and George O. Smith. There met Ted Carnell for the first time.

Back in Room 100, were later treated to the exquisite pleasure of Geo. O.'s company. What a gay and witty soul! What an act that man puts on when he has a mind to! Received a very informative lecture on the writing of sex operas with specific application to a science fiction novel.

Stepped out with Roy and Frank Robinson for a snack at one of the local all-nighters. Found a rather impressive gathering there which included Poul Anderson, Judy Merril, Fritz Leiber, Jr., and Doc Winters. This led to a combination of talking and eating after which we returned to the sanctuary of Room 100.

But a new day was dawning! New adventures! Now, however, sack time.


Dragged down Sunday morning in time to catch the N3F meeting. Known otherwise as slow death. Decided I should have stood in bed.

Auction was fun. Spent almost all the money I had and came very near to spending more than I had. Got to watch yourself at those affairs. Not for the weak of heart.

Having been busy the preceding day when everybody else was getting their autographing done, I decided somewhere along about this point that I should get the lead out. I think that I can say in all due modesty that I succeeded beyond my wildest expectations in making myself obnoxious to many "names" during the last day and a half of the Cinvention. But others can undoubtedly make that claim, too, so I will not brag too loudly of my modest abilities.

That evening, saw most of the telecast of a number of Cinvention notables and items which it was hoped would interest the general public. The show was good as far as the material went, but it was badly handled as far as kinescope pickup was concerned. It should have impressed whatever portion of the then comparatively small television audience might have been listening and viewing, however.

It gives future conventions something to shoot at -- maybe a network telecast.

The evening session in Room 100 produced a most impressive gathering of people. The details still escape my bemused mind, but I can remember such personages as Jack Williamson, E.E. Smith, Arthur J. Burks, L.A. Eshbach, A.J. Donnell, Lester del Rey, and Basil Wells as being among those present. The evening and morning were one long, absorbing bull session. One of the best I've ever been in in my life.

Left while I could still walk sometime Monday morning.


Awoke Monday morning with something that bore a bewildering resemblance to a hangover. Was lying there trying to decide whether to get up and face the world or to end it all by throwing myself out my sixth floor window. Ted Carnell dropped by to use my typewriter to type out a dispatch to Walter Gillings in England and solved my dilemma: it would not have been polite to defenestrate myself in the presence of the guest of honor. My conversation at this point was quite perfunctory, consisting chiefly of moans and groans, although undoubtedly brilliantly used.

Dragged myself downstairs with the thought that perhaps a little food (ugh) would set me at rights with the world. Ate lunch with a group which included Bok, who had his heart set on chili. We ate chili. I was not at rights with the world.

Though interesting and, as usual, hectic, it was not a happy day for me. Regular and fan auctions were terminated sometime during the day and balloting was held to determine the site of the next convention. Scurried about doing little odd tasks and continued making myself obnoxious by seeking autographs.

Was buttonholed by Dave Kyle who introduced me to a local reporter who was going to do a story on and take photos of the costumed fans that evening. I agreed to take the gentleman under my wing that evening, but I'm not sure just what did happen to him. I know that I ran across the reporter and his photographer that evening, but I sloughed them off on someone else. I suspect that that someone was Dave Kyle.

Somewhere in all this madhouse, after the business meeting had been concluded, managed to play "Head Rag Hop" for Donnell. I had been raving about this boogie woogie number for two days and he was almost convinced that he was never going to hear the piece. Luckily, he liked it, even after all my build up.

In view of my mysterious malady that morning and the very unsatisfactory lunch I had had, I was getting pretty hungry by the time evening rolled around. So at the banquet I found myself trying to sort the diners into congenial little groups, a task which proved quite futile since everybody sat where they pleased. However, it gave me a marvelous chance to view subjectively the feelings of a starving person while watching others stuff their faces. I hated them all.

It paid off in the long run, though, since by being one of the last through the chow line I was able to secure, and later demolish, a truly astonishing amount of food.

Everyone returned to the convention hall for what was left of the scheduled entertainment. Quite a few of the scheduled performers had found it necessary to leave early, unfortunately, but the Philly group did put on a fine sequel to their soap opera which was given last year at the Torcon.

People were introduced by MC Ted Carnell and things were finally concluded by having the entire Cincy group take a bow on the platform. Don had to be roused from his recumbent position on four or five chairs for this ceremony and still declares that he has no memory of it.

People scattered quickly after that, including me. With much shaking of hands, congratulations, and farewells, I bid a fond adieu to the Hotel Metropole and strode fearlessly into the night with my baggage -- perhaps luggage would be a better word -- glad I had attended a science fiction convention at long last, sorry that it hadn't lasted longer, but glad that it was over so I could begin recuperating. With shining eyes I faced the brave new world that the morrow would surely bring, confident that science fiction would blaze a pathway for man to follow into a bright future.


And so, as the sun pulls away from the shore and our boat sinks slowly in the west -- but I wander. And, what's worse, plagiarize.

I suppose that in the time elapsed since the Cinvention -- over six months -- I should have gained some perspective regarding the affair and an ability to make a mature evaluation of the value of science fiction conventions in general, but I haven't. I'll leave that to the boys who take their science fiction more seriously than I do. I think that they're a helluva lot of fun, and that's justification enough for me.

And that, dear chil'lun, is all I'm going to tell you about the brawl. So save your money and get plenty of sleep. You can just go and find out for yourself at the Norwescon.

Have fun.

{ t o p   o f   p a g e }

[[ Memory Book Table of Contents ]] >>>>
[ Return to the Cinvention page ]
[ Return to the CFG History page ]
[ The Cincinnati Fantasy Group's home page ]

URL: http://www.cfg.org/history/cinvention/mb/skirvin.htm

All material © Cincinnati Fantasy Group, unless otherwise credited.
  Last updated: Monday, August 25, 2008
    Created for the CFG by Scott Street (scottst@ix.netcom.com).
      Maintained by the author.

Comments, questions & broken link reports: (webgeek@cfg.org).

[[ CFG logo ]]