Abi Frost


"Work, work, work" he said, "and if I were in London I'd be on six grand. Of course, one thing that helps you get on this life -- even more than being a Member of the English Bar -- is having a tattoo." I nodded listlessly.

"You've seen mine?" I said I had. I thought it was really not bad -- indeed one of the finer examples of the tattooist's craft. On that hot August afternoon there were many men going around naked to the waist. G's chest revealed a pattern of a summer dreamland; bright blue waves, small sandy palmed islands, a mermaid or two.

"Yes -- lot of judges have tattoos. If I had to appear in court (not on the usual side, of course) I'd make damn sure to go before a judge, not a bloody beak. Even though judge means jury too -- full of bloody halfwit women. Bloody Tory JP liable to think tattoo means you're a drunken sailor -- specially in bloody Liverpool. Judge almost bound to have tattoo himself -- quite likely Oxford man -- understand."

On his chest a storm seemed to have broken out, waves ever larger -- palm trees drowning -- mermaids fleeing in terror. It was not a tattoo -- it was his shirt -- and he was taking it off to show me

"There's another chap at the Poly with a tattoo. Mind you, we don't talk, all that much, in spite of it. He's a Lecturer I, while I'm only an L II. One of the Chosen Race, of course."

I wondered if perhaps -- this time -- my friend was going too far. One heard the suggestion everywhere that the tattoo cult was something more sinister than a mere Clubland whim. It was said that men broke into girls' rooms at night with tattoos, that glowed in the dark; as the jacket was removed the slavering head of an Alsatian would appear, its teeth especially prominent. But he droned on, heedless.

"Of course, you have to be careful." he said "You probably won't understand, Abi, being a woman, but some tattoos just aren't acceptable in the right crowd. Hearts and anchors and Mother are all very well -- but they don't get a chap anywhere -- in fact they can be downright harmful. I'm a democratic socialist, as you know, nothing to do with these bloody Trots who think they know it all, and have never created a day's wealth in their lives -- but the workers will never get anywhere until they learn to accept the right sort of values. Why I even heard of a chap who walked into Chambers with a snake up one arm and 'Will you kiss me in the dark?' up the other. J soon sorted him out -- fine figure of a woman, that."

The horror was upon me; mermaids ever banished. As the last button surrendered he turned with a grin: "Mine's not bad, you know. Chap in Jermyn Street. Always pays to go for the best, even on my salary." But just as I finally could see the tattoo, a reflective cast entered his eye.

"Only trouble is -- put it this way -- well, like this ... Trouble with having BLOODY SOMERVILLE WOMEN tattooed across your cheat is -- it marks you down instantly as a member of the middle classes...."

New River Blues ½ (1979)


'I think it's bloody disgusting, all these people going on about their expensive tattoos,' he said.

'Funny you should mention tattoos,' she said with a bright brittleness, 'did you know that the Vikings had a tattoo cult?'

I yawned. It was so nice of them to be talking to me, but it was late. Until they stopped talking I couldn't go and get another drink.

'I mean,' he said, 'what's so bloody special about it all? It's just a silly fad they get into to prove they're better than the rest of us. You don't get any of that rubbish about tattoos in America. I've got an anchor, he's got a I Love Dirty Gerty, makes you sick. There are kids in my class without shoes.'

'The Vikings attached a deep and mystical significance to tattoos. They regarded them as the fountain of virility. In fact some sources quite explicitly ...'

'Kids in my class without shoes; without socks. Some of them have done better tattoos than some of these wankers have with their dad's old cobblers awl and a bottle of Quink. Last longer too.... It's all so ephemeral.... When I was a flower child I had this tattoo -- it didn't look like much but it came alive on acid. Where is it now? I ask you.'

'... Explicitly state that the demise of the West Greenland settlements came about as a direct result of the enforced abandonment of tattooing. Of course, some people say balls, it was the inhospitable climate, the absence of familiar flora and fauna -- but the two aren't incompatible, you know.'

'What are you talking about? Of course the Vikings gave up tattooing. They had more bloody sense.'

'No, it wasn't that. There was a direct ecological reason; the dearth of higher plant forms.'

'Oh gawd. What?'

'They couldn't get the woad.'

New River Blues 1½ (1979)


Stan and Ollie were on Skid Row, forced there by severe economic recession within the moving picture business. They were so reduced that they could no longer afford even the cheapest of recreational household products. So they passed the time creatively In the manner of true connoisseurs, describing to one another the ultimate aesthetic experiences they had known in happier days.

'There was the surgical spirit at O'Hagan's drug store, back in '34.' said Ollie, 'A whimsical little brew, but with a deceptive kick which you only noticed as it flowed towards the back of the tongue, more or less in alignment with the third molar. I expect never to know such bliss again!'

'You might have done,' said Stan after some thought, 'had you tried the boot polish that Rastus had on his stand back in '29. Blacker than treacle and stickier too. It was polish for the serious drinker -- the sheer effort of ingesting it put it beyond the neophyte. But the work was amply repaid, you knew, as you lay back in satisfied stupor.'

"When I played the piano at Madame Kelly's whorehouse,' sighed Ollie, 'I used to try a French drink -- eau de cologne. It had a terrific bouquet. And the alcoholic experience matched the olefactory.'

'But best of all, you must admit,' decreed Stan, 'was the purple nectar sold at Finkelstein's Household and Ironmongery Emporium. Straight from the wood. They say he has some still. I can barely begin to describe the multifarious pleasures that were in one's grasp after a mere half-pint.'

'I don't think I've ever tried that,' mused Ollie.

'Oh Ollie, I could weep,' said Stan. "A man should not go to the grave without having known such intellectual joy. Why, had I a dime this minute -- that's all it was, one thin dime a gallon --' Stan stopped in his tracks. For there on the sidewalk lay -- not a dime but a quarter.

'Go, Ollie, go to Finkelstein's and spend this magnificent benefaction of a kindly Providence. I'll stay here enjoying the subtle pleasures of anticipation as I watch the sunset.'

Ollie set off at a brisk waddle. The sun was well down and the stars were twinkling over City Hall when Stan started to worry. Suppose his friend had been murdered for his precious burden? He found Ollie stretched out ecstatically under the El. Scattered around were empty bottles. 'Have you no gratitude, Ollie? No sense of the fellow feeling of companions of the road? You haven't left me one drop!'

'I'm sor-ry, Stan-ley,' wept Ollie uncharacteristically. 'I shouldn't have done it, I know. Now more than ever I realise what I owe to you, to you alone. For Stan, ol' buddy --' his face brightened --


New River Blues 3 (1980)


Last night I had supper with an adperson friend and her bloke. She came in about 8, having spent from 10 in the morning supervising the taking of one photograph for a new pack design for Terry's Filled Neapolitans. The idea was to have a huge pile of the things all over the pack, and in closeup in front, one cut in half with the gunge oozing out. Well, how do you photograph half a chocolate, given the tropical heat in a photographer's studio? Well, first you unwrap a whole packet's worth to find one that is perfectly formed -- taking care not to get fingermarks on it. Then you varnish it, to make it more lusciously shining. Then put it in the fridge for a couple of hours. Then take it out and spray it with something that takes off the condensation that has formed on it. Then cut it in half, using a hot knife. (You will probably ruin several at this stage.) Put it on its pedestal, and wait for the filling to flow at the right angle. If it does, shoot. Then start again, in case it doesn't come out....

New River Blues 3 (1980)


It is the Friday of Novacon 10, at about 7 in the evening, and the flower of British Fandom is in the Royal Angus Hotel ... all except one. This one is sitting a couple of train lengths away from Birmingham Station, in her smart juryservice suit, cursing the gods and not daring to go and get a drink in case the train jam suddenly moves and she doesn't have time to finish it. She has been in this state for a couple of hours; the train should have arrived at five.

What could make life worse, I ask you? A couple of kids run down to the top of the train to see if they can see what's causing the blockage. They return and report to their mum, 'There's a train stuck about 20 metres ahead of us ...'

It wasn't that they expressed distance in terms of metres: any of us could do that at a pinch. It was that they did it so naturally; they'd never known anything else. We are breeding up a generation of FOREIGNERS. The metric system, though doubtless rational, scientific etc, is pretty useless for everyday purposes; try working out your height in centimetres and see if it means anything.

A similar thing occurred a couple of days ago. A gang robbed a jewellers, using as a getaway car Mike Yarwood's Roller (which they'd stolen). The number of MY's R is LSD 777, and the evening Standard kindly explained: 'LSD is slang for cash'! Pull the other one, I thought, though I'd never of thought it of ... But hang on. LSD is indeed slang for cash; my cynicism was purely a reflection of my inability to believe that anyone would need it explained. But by now there must be a lot of newspaper readers whose weekly income was five bob if dad was in a good mood in the days of proper money.... Yes, the rot has set in.

Another indictment of our educational system is the fact that several coachloads of skinheads could, back in the short hot summer, invade Sikh territory (Southall) In the sincere belief that 'Pakis' don't fight back. There was of course a minor bloodbath and the pub they were going to got burnt down. Teach them a lesson.... I suppose Imperial History isn't taught in schools any more, for good anti-racist reasons. Oh well....

New River Blues 5 (1981)


A special message to all Upper Class Fans In the country's hour of need:





Mainly, though,


New River Blues 6 (1982)
The Falklands War Issue

THE KEY TO ALL EXISTENCE: This issue's cover

[PDF "Langdon Chart of British Fandom" here]

Here it is, the only true original genuine real Great Diagram, devised by AJF and HS from a crude and ill-informed original concept by Linda Pickersgill, and EXCLUSIVE to Slag Heap. Any other versions you may have been offered by shady characters are fakes phoneys bootleg pirated editions and NO BLOODY GOOD. This is the only real true Great Diagram.

It will help you in your life! Notice, for instance, how the only 100% heterosexual men in fandom are A Stephenson, D Bridges, P Kincaid, J Durante, K Williams, Dr Johnson, A Gray, Grendel and S Freud (assuming the cactus is female, which doesn't seen terribly likely.) Stick with then, girls; all others are likely at any moment to nick your underwear and flutter their eyelashes at Tom Shippey. Avoid these perverts; you know it makes sense.

The people most likely to find true fulfilment are Wonder Warthog, JG Ballard, Sue Hepple's cactus and Sigmund Freud. Jarrold seems nicely into a mutual and uncomplicated relationship, the jammy bugger. Those having the worst time (apart from your editors) are Harry Bell and Lilian Edwards. Come on Harry, this silly prejudice is out of date in this day and age. Anyway she only held the box of nails, and is prepared to go more than halfway. Only today she said she'd signed the 39 Articles, though if you ask me the best bits were written by Christina. Make her happy, Harry! (Mind you, I wouldn't be Graham's loo seat for a million pounds. Or Pete Lyon for that matter.)

Alternatively, Lil, have you thought of the Kirk? Can't you get Alasdair to pop the question, eh? Er -- excuse me asking, but is there any sort of -- er - problem? Take my advice; it's either the booze, or his choice of reading matter.

If you are Anyone Who Matters you already know what the different sorts of arrows mean, so that's ok. The shapes should be obvious enough; the other shapes are for psychological types the System can't cope with. If you don't appear then either you are an abject nobody or we are treating you with kid gloves. If you don't know which you are and why, we can't help you. Ok? (3 viii 84)

Tales from the Slag-Heap (1984)


Abigail leaves FRANK'S APA and explains her past contributions for the hard of thinking:

Ian [Williams] is entitled to see my work as 'intellectual wank' if he likes (though personally I'd see the term as more appropriate to, for instance, endless monologues about philosophy -- which, when they were in full flower, I just ignored, since they appeared to interest the people who were into them). But he shouldn't oppose my last two pieces for Frank's with 'people writing about their lives'. Those pieces were about my life, dammit. They came directly out of a period of intense anxiety, self-questioning and emotional turmoil round about Christmas, when I felt different pressures from different areas of my life cancelling each other out and making it impossible to do anything of any use, grief at the death of my grandfather, guilt at the death of one of my cats, terrible anxiety about Interzone -- and on top of it all, I was constantly mulling over the possibility (by the time of A Mitcham Mint, the impossibility) of starting a relationship with a man who would not understand fans/fandom/fanzines AT ALL.

Why didn't I just write all this down in an acceptably 'confessional' manner, eh? Because I didn't bloody want to. Because the secret places of my heart are the secret places of my heart, and whereas, as some of you know, I'll talk about my emotional crises from here until Doomsday sometimes, I like to choose who I put through this particular form of torture. Besides, I find that sort of thing incredibly BORING to read, and DEATH WARMED UP to write.

Splinters and Mysteries was about my work -- the business of sitting down trying first to work out what one's responses to an exhibition or whatever are, and then the further problem of putting them into words. It was also about fandom as a story -- the type of story, like myth or soap opera, where you have to know a great deal about what's gone before to make head or tail of the incident being related. I tried, by using casual references to people only one or two FRANKERS would recognise (and none of you know) to put you lot into the position of someone listening to me telling some anecdote about fans, which seems funny in itself to me but isn't really without the background. Then, with the conversation between the two debby types, I suggested that everyone's life is really a soap opera and inaccessible to outsiders in the same way. I threw in a few bits of Swim-Two-Birds pastiche (metapastiche?) to point up the theme of myth. No FRANKER has any excuse for not knowing the works of Brian O'Nolan after Barfoot's efforts.

A Mitcham Mint was about solitude, the frustration of not quite being able to transfer what one wants to say from the head and the notebook to the formal article, anxieties about one's professional standing and abilities, rage at the way life throws in some random distraction or annoyance which prevents one from getting one's life tidily sorted out. The cat stands for conscience, kin, the people with whom one has relationships and to whom one has responsibilities even if one would rather not have them. Mike Ashley's fanzine stands for the stupidities and demands of fandom. Art Monthly stands partly for an idea of a professional peer-group, and partly for the world of men, what I find attractive and annoying about them. Virginia Woolf stands for nothing in particular.

There! I hope it all makes sense now. Personally, I think this kind of explanation ruins writing, and destroys the impulse that gets proper writing written. I didn't start out with a plan to write either piece to the formulae given above; this is what I can see in them now, six months later. Both started with a series of pictures in my head, which needed clarification. I wrote those pieces for FRANK'S, because I thought there were enough people in FRANK'S who had inspired bits of them, or simply would appreciate the feelings in them, to be worthwhile. I have no idea whether I was right or not. Apparently the current FRANK'S ethos has no room for experiment, speculation or anything which I consider worthwhile. The wanton troopers riding by have shot my faun and it must die, and I hope it chokes you all.

I wonder who's next?

FRANK'S APA 19 (May 1985)


Inner city life: Two New Year's invitations in London, from Graham Kent {South London) and Chris Atkinson (North): wildly decided to do both, and caught the last Tube from Brixton for the real party of the night -- courtesy of London Transport and Fosters-sponsored free fares. Tube carriage full of buppies (black yuppies, square) plus one extremely decrepit white old hippie who had, he said, been trying since 5pm to get home to Dagenham. In gratitude at my telling him to get off at Victoria and change to the District (whereas the buppies had just wound him up and demanded a spliff) he gave me a few draws on his joint; just as well since when I got to Chris's I'd missed the Travelling Dave Berrys and I was off wine so I had nothing to get wrecked on but my own lager. Then on the bus up to Duckett Road another bunch of blacks (whom I suspected of being the local steamers on working days) ran manically up and down wishing everyone Happy New Year.

Apparently I did the smart thing by avoiding Chris Donaldson's failure to find the tape with the Time Warp on it to play at midnight; she was still looking at half past two, and kept taking things I was dancing to off because she'd decided it was the wrong tape again. Julian Headlong's contribution to the festive spread was a bowl of cod-liver oil capsules and high-fibre tablets; they looked very pretty, especially when I added a brass watch found lost on the floor and dubbed it a time capsule.

Not having enough money for my own cab I decided to go home with Rob, Avedon and Martin Smith, after what seemed like several years of Avedon kicking Rob to the telephone to nag the taxi firm yet again. Then she thought she heard someone at the door: "Time to go, assholes" she said, and led us outside to a scruffy car with a very small black man in it. So we all opened the doors and Rob started to give directions to East Ham and the man said, er, this isn't a cab, actually, I'm just going to my friends' party over there ... I thought we should have hi-jacked him (four against one, after all), but Rob pointed out that his friends were looking out of their window and they were bigger than us. So we all went back in, Rob was nailed to the phone and I said very sweetly "So who's an asshole now, dear?" On the way home we saw a night-club being raided.

Inner city life 2: As I stood on the threshold fumbling for my key one day, a shabby man came up and asked if I wanted any knives or scissors sharpening. I said no, but thank you anyway. He looked at me malevolently and said "Think of your wits, your eyesight and your tongue." I am a rational girl, yes I am, and I don't believe in Ancient Gypsy Curses, no I don't, but I could've done without it anyway .... Then there was Tracey's Chandelier. Like everybody else, I snuck into Fantasycon for an evening's drinking. Not a bad evening's drinking at that (hastily suppress wistful memories of unidentified Canadian toy-boys), but alas, no chance of a bop. So, having taxied to Roz's and walked here, I thought I'd play the Walkman .... Next day, an angry knock splits my head in two. It's Tracey downstairs, and friend who is probably called Sharon: "I don't know what you do at night, Abigail, -- but last night you broke my chandelier!" Gulp. What did I do -- break down her door and swing from it? Turned out my gentle movements to Talking Heads on the Walkman had caused her ceiling to vibrate, dislodging a naff pink droplet from her nasty Argos light-fitting (not what a civilised person would call a chandelier), which broke on the floor. Selfridge's seemed a fair bet for a replacement, but was out of stock, so I took the remains to Novacon, intending to try Rackham's. Left the bloody thing on the train, didn't I? And now all the stores which used to sell naff pink droplets deny they ever saw them. Free lifetime CB sub in exchange for help.

Chicken Bones 1 (1989)


Miscellaneous page-fillers. First batch with help from, presumably, Mike Dickinson and Jackie Gresham.

THINGS THEY NEVER SAID: That's all right, I don't mind -- Greg Pickersgill; You may have a point there -- Avedon Carol; We've made a huge profit -- Paul Oldroyd; I'm feeling really cheerful today, can I buy you a pint? -- D West [MD/JG/AJF]

THINGS THEY NEVER SAID: Isn't that rather outdated? -- Owen Whiteoak; Who's interested in all those boring old fans, anyway? -- Rob Hansen; Oh, just a little thing I ran up at home -- Lilian Edwards; Roll on the next Beccon! -- Jackie Gresham; I'm voting for her in the next election -- Mike Dickinson; I'll be all right now I've got Locostyle -- Steve Green; Of course, he's got no style, but that doesn't matter, does it? -- Helen Starkey; Sorry I'm late, I've been spring-cleaning -- Abigail Frost

THINGS THEY NEVER SAID: Conrunning's a piece of cake -- M Hoare; You're right, Martin! -- C Mullan; Let's do the con right here in the barn! -- T Illingworth

It's all on behalf of charity -- Steve Jones; My next book's going to be a SMASHEROO! -- Geoff Ryman; So's mine! -- Rob Holdstock; I'm working on Star Wars IV -- Chris Priest; Mine's a martial arts book -- Colin Greenland; Mine's a Barbican -- John Brosnan; I have an innate horror of cliché -- Dave Wingrove; Things have been pretty quiet for me lately -- Neil Gaiman; Not done much programming recently, too busy on the novel -- David Langford; But that's enough about me -- David Brin; Michael Who? -- John Jarrold

THINGS THEY NEVER SAID -- The Critical Heritage:
It's quite simple really -- John Clute;
Oh, I don't know her -- Roz Kaveney;
Myself, I think Ballard's vastly over-rated -- David Pringle

Chicken Bones 1 (1989)


Context: the Nova Awards are given annually to UK fanzine editors, writers and artists. Several fans, especially the 1986 double winner Owen Whiteoak, had expressed mighty outrage when a 1988 Nova went to the rude and irreverent young Michael Ashley. See also Yesterday in Parliament.

Hello, I'm Abigail Frost, and in 1985 I had the genuine honour (as it then was) to be awarded the Nova for Best Fanwriter -- so, like the rest of you, I now have a pressing problem. What does one do with an honour that has turned to ashes in one's hands? Everywhere I go, I meet distressed Nova winners; they don't want the tainted thing in their house any more, but like the lovely people they are they daren't just put it on the Council dump for fear of polluting the environment.

I myself pioneered this trend in 1986, when I tried to send the award back in protest at an unsuitable winner, but I came up against the same insoluble problem as you have now discovered. There was nowhere to send the bloody thing back to. The callous Novacon committee laughed in my face, saying the award was not their problem, and it wasn't their fault if people I didn't approve of got more votes than people I did. I tried to donate it to Mexicon II's fund-raising auction, but Greg said it was unsaleable at any price. But I wasn't deterred; I just knew there had to be a way to rid myself of this embarrassment and help others too. And now I think I've found it.

All over Britain are the Forgotten Ones: poor old fanwriters who've never known even the transient pleasure our Novas gave us. People like Chris P, 45, in his day one of the finest fanwriters this land has ever seen. Now he lives in an isolated country village, with only an empty electronic mailbox for company. He can't get out and about as much as he used to, and lives on his fading memories. Sometimes the loneliness gets to him so much that he contemplates writing a novel.

Or there's Mike D, 42, whose fanzines once crossed the continent of Europe. Reduced to living in a seedy walk-up flat in a depressed part of North London, he scratches a pathetic living by giving "English lessons" to Arabs. This fine old English gentleman is too proud to ask for help, of course, but we all know that the most deserving are the least likely to ask.

Then there's Roz K, 39, one of the unsung heroines of the inner cities. For the past few years she's been running a charitable home for juvenile delinquents and mangy cats; pathetic little creatures which used to sleep in the same dustbins they scavenged for scraps. (And you should see where the cats lived!) Now they're all happy and well-fed, but Roz, like everyone else, needs a little encouragement now and then to carry on her wonderful work.

And there are so many other names -- like Rochelle D, with too many little mouths to feed; Martin T, thrown on the redundancy scrapheap at 29; Alun H, trapped in a remote suburb, afraid to go out and face the muggers, traffic, Wellington bar prices etc; Robert P H, bravely fighting a losing battle with low-alcohol lager; Mike C, struggling single-handed to paraphrase the complete works of Jacques Derrida; Linda P, with a smile and a helping hand for everyone, but nursing a secret sorrow; Helen S, who confesses she doesn't know where her next rubber mac is coming from. These brave people, and so many more ... Think what joy your unwanted Nova Award could bring to one of them! What degrades and depresses you would bring fresh hope to these lost souls! And, above all, a new sense of pride! Hope, joy and pride are worth so much more than money -- and they're cheaper too. So don't delay; send your Nova now to the Distressed Fanwriters' Aid Association, using the form below.

To: DFAA, Top Flat, 11 Horsell Road, Highbury, London N5 1XL

YES! I am a public-spirited fan and enclose my Nova [  ]

Please rub out my name and insert that of a deserving recipient/leave my name on and rub their nose in it (delete what does not apply)

NO! I'm a miserable cunt, I won my Nova fair and square and I'm keeping it [  ]

One-shot (1988 or 1989)


'I'm not sure about the sometime interest in non-sf ... zines amongst fans of a decade ago. Sure, Hansen did a rock zine [blah blah blah] ... apart from the Simsa/Palmer axis (which was firmly rooted in sf tradition), the sempiternal Chuck Connor and the short-lived Big Dummy [bore bore bore, teach grandmother to suck eggs] I don't think there's much more outside interest than there is now among sf fans in Diplomacy [more names] . Then again all I have to go on is the written evidence in the shape of the fmz of the time. ("Fanzines falsify, Harry!" -- Joseph Nicholas, circa 1988.) Still ... you were there at the tine, so maybe other fans' interest in other genres' zines was purely verbal.' -- Harry Bond: loc on Chicken Bones 1.

Yes, yes, dear child; and indeed it is a measure of our radicalism that we true early-80s fans (Hansen? Worn-out old 70s hack, m'dear!) confined our verba to fanzines, conducting our intense pub conversations about fanzines far and wide in an innovative, non-verbal language which shall never be surpassed in subtlety, making the Clute Interpretation System (Inflatable Esperanto) look like a crude and unharmonious pidgin:

[With subtitles for the visually illiterate]

Scene: The old Tun, some month or other in say 1982. The Simsa/Palmer axis is as ever setting the hidden agenda. Enter Abigail.

Abigail: {Whistles several early bars of Beethoven's Ninth}

[Hey chaps, I've just discovered this totally brilliant new artzine!]

Cyril: {Raises one eyebrow in a sophisticated gesture which elegantly portmanteaus interrogation and deep, deep, scepticism}

[Oh really? What's this one called, then?]

Abigail: {Draws a perfect Arabic zero with her finger in the sludge on the bottom of the ash-tray}


Phil: {Picks a passing Steev Higgins up by the scruff of his neck, gives him an empty glass, puts him down and sends him scuttling on little clockwork legs to the bar}


{Indicates an imaginary ruff round his neck, then mimes, making appropriate noise, flushing of lavatory. Holds up one warning finger}


{Points to Lilian Edwards while somehow managing to mime keyboard action of Jelly Roll Morton}

[Jewish pi -- oh, I see, Till!]

{Grabs from passing BSFA member a newspaper bearing the banner headline STICK IT UP YOUR JUNTA!}

[Son. By Jake Tilson]

Cyril and Phil: {In perfect unison, as if choreographed by Busby Berkley, take from their pockets their Letts Schoolboys' Diaries -- there being no Filofaxes in this remote and primitive age -- and turn back the pages until they reach the one for the last Thursday of the previous month. Stab at the page with rhythmic fingers}

[That was last week!]

Things I don't want to do at the Worldcon: Fall in love with a Bulgarian; eat pickled herrings; get poisoned by the North Sea; strangle Caroline Mullan; get shouted at by a WOOF representative; eat pickled herrings; get sued for libel; lose my passport; drop my shoes in the sea; fail to recognise Gary Farber; not be recognised by Teresa Neilsen Hayden; eat pickled herrings; meet millions of Scientologists; turn up incorrectly dressed at the Casino; eat pickled herrings; go to the Perry Rhodan event; eat pickled herrings.

Chicken Bones 2 (1990)


Well, hombres and conchitas, here we are again. Who'd have thought in 1984 that Mexicon would still be going strong seven years later? It's been a hectic few months. contacting programme participants, hustling up equipment, registering the usual last-minute rush of members; now, as we enter the home stretch, we're convinced that it will prove worthwhile. We've got a splendid programme, and plenty of the extras which make a Mexicon special.

Our guests this time are Iain Sinclair, Howard Waldrop, and Paul Williams, and between them they sum up what Mexicon's about. Sinclair's a very British, very surrealistic writer whose works cross genres and mainstream -- somebody who SF readers will want to know about. His latest book, Downriver, has attracted attention in all quarters.

The news that Howard Waldrop is coming has been met with overwhelming enthusiasm both from those who've met him before and those who've simply read his stories. If you haven't read his short-story collection Strange Things in Close-up, by the end of the con you'll want to.

Paul Williams is a critic, a Philip K Dick expert (and literary executor), and many things besides. He has deep roots in fandom, and a thousand tales to tell.

Our programme covers the usual eclectic range, from werewolves to space opera via criticism, obsession, and SF classics. Full details are contained in the centre section of this book, along with the membership list and a plan of the hotel.

I've tried in this programme book to relate articles to specific programme items. Colin Greenland's essay on New Worlds provides an insight into the magazine as it was and as it will be. Paul Kincaid presents the case for the revival of space opera, Dave Langford introduces an author who is gone but all-too-understandably forgotten, and Paul Williams has chosen a classic short story and shown how it has relevance today. Langford also provides a searingly truthful slant on one of the subjects of our sidebar programme, an innovation we hope you'll enjoy. But, since context is all-important, I've asked Roz Kaveney to review the last two years in SF, and done the same for fandom myself; and since Mexicon wouldn't be Mexicon without some Desperate Fun, David Garnett reveals all about his travels in Mexico. Interior illustrations are a selection from our ATom display; it's sad that Arthur Thomson can't be with us, but his drawings can still give us pleasure for years to come.

Mexicon is a small convention with big ideas, and we wouldn't be able to carry their, out without first, generous support from sponsors, and second, a lot of hard work by committee members and others. So I'd like to thank all our sponsors, who are individually credited in the programme section; and the indefatigable Gamma, whose efforts to raise sponsorship were so successful. Special thanks to Nick Austin, ex-editorial director at Grafton, for his help in bringing Iain Sinclair to the convention. Thanks are also due to Harry Bell, for the cover illustration; Roger Robinson, quiz-setter; Vince Clarke, for lending his electrostenciller; Lee Montgomerie, Caroline Mullan, Bernie Peek, and Dave Langford, for help with publications; the Conception committee, for help at the conception; USexCo; everyone who suggested ideas, helped make contacts, or lent ATom work for the display. Ex-committee members Greg Pickersgill and Martin Tudor also (obviously) put in a lot of work early on; thanks to them.

Mexicon IV Programme Book (1991)


While you were away....

Geoff Ryman had a party to celebrate the very wonderful Was; much falling about in the upper room of the Munchen, graced by everyone from Dave Wingrove to scummy little fans like me and Ashley Watkins (of whom more later). I handed out pale imitation Ansibles (having left most of the remainder of the nice yellow ones somewhere) courtesy of Paule Searle (for a few minutes on Friday, British Telecom's profit sank to an alarming £95.99999999999p per second). Jane Johnson looked radiant and smug as she accepted the congratulations of all readers (Ryman being by then too pissed to hear). Dave Barrett and Roger Robinson handed out Eurocon Award voting (or nomination? not sure) forms with orders to vote for Foundation; scanning the other categories I squealed: 'Young Author/Artist? Giggle giggle giggle, let's all vote for Charles Stross!'

'Yes, he's quite a strong contender,' said Barrett, not giggling one little bit. Stuffed socks into mouth and did complicated deal with Young(ish) Authorette whereby I voted for her and she voted for (42 years and counting) Roz. But the laugh was on me; next day Roz wandered into the Greg Bear signing and found Strossers and Deborah Beale celebrating his new two-book contract. 'Mine's a pint,' she said, faster than a speeding bullet, and actually got one. 'Aaargh!' I said, 'He'll become insufferable, no, not become ...'. 'I think fame will mellow him,' she said magisterially. 'Yes -- you could say, "Charles (fame will mellow him) Stross was buying rounds and telling Greg Bear what was wrong with his science ..."'

Geoff's book was glowingly reviewed in the Observer, patronisingly in the Sunday Torygraph.

Unpublished letter to David Langford (17 February 1992)
That Stross contract fell through and fame was denied him for many years ...


Currently working odd days at a children's book company in Islington. Last week was an adult encyclopedia of weapons -- writing jolly spread intros about nuclear missiles and poison gas. Now it's a how-to-draw-and-paint book for teenies of the usual unspecified age-range. Only actual artists mentioned are Warhol and Lichtenstein (or they were until I took them out -- I have no ideological prejudice, despite having written for Modern Painters, but it seemed a bit samey, and the dreaded National Curriculum prefers Brits, Frogs and the vaguely ethnic). Telling you how to draw furniture our brilliant author says 'follow the rules of perspective which you saw on page 52'. Turn to page 52 and you find two pictures of houses, one with a lot of lines drawn over it, and the text: 'Look at these two drawings of houses. One is wrong and the other is right. Can you tell which is the wrong one and which is the right one, and why?'

Unpublished (?) letter to Simon Polley (9 May 1992)


The Editor
Perseverance Works
Kingsland Road
London E2 8DQ

28 January 1993

Dear Steve Platt

Personally I do not care whether John Major is bonking the entire civil service catering staff -- provided, perhaps, he refrains from doing it in the custard and thereby endangering the health of the workers who have to eat the stuff. Here in Bethnal Green, we are more concerned that, living less than a mile from your offices we are unable locally to obtain NSS until Friday morning. We know our place. We have grown accustomed to waiting patiently while the Clintonising yuppies of Camden and Islington have all of Thursday to steal a march on us; what has really rankled is learning in the Catergate context that hacks accompanying Major in Oman were faxed copies of the article on Wednesday night.

So, the People of the Abyss have to wait until Friday; trans-Bishopsgate trendies until Thursday; while Fleet-Street-in-Exile rejoices in its NSS on Wednesday. Elitist or what?

I was brought up to read the New Statesman on Thursday morning, as the Goddess intended. Kindly kick ass among your distributors and restore the cosmic balance.

Yours, fucking this custard

Abigail Frost

Unpublished (1993)