Saturday, 7 September 2013

Sol III Star Trek Con, 1985

I've been having a clear out, and at the bottom of a cupboard I found a file full of - well, historic documents!
Back in the dim and distant past ("Remember the good old 1980s, when life was so uncomplicated?") I was a member of a couple of Star Trek fan clubs, STAG (Star Trek Action Group) and Starship Excalibur. I also used to go to Star Trek conventions, and I wrote Con Reports for the newsletters of the clubs. In a way, I was blogging even then, but in those days I would type it out on a manual typewriter, and send it off to the club secretary. She (and presumably her minions) would then type it out as part of the newsletter, make photocopies, and send them by post to the members, once every two or three months. And if we wanted to reply to a letter or article in the newsletter, we had to wait three months for it to appear!

So here is the Con Report for Sol III, 1985, just as I wrote it:

"Friday: We reached Liverpool from London about the same time as the opening ceremony. The Adelphi Hotel is a mere stone's throw from the railway station, and Reception proved to be quite spectacularly Edwardian, with a mirrored ceiling and lots of marble and gilt. We discovered that the hotel had been modelled on a luxury passenger liner when it was built in 1914. The washstand in our room was original marble (so was the plaster, complete with cracks, but otherwise the room was very comfortable).
The mezzanine level was even more impressive than reception, dotted with potted palms among the seats, with more marble pillars and gilt. All the rooms were off this central area, with the main hall through a hypostyle, more pillars and mirrors. There were a lot of new faces about - first time attendees had a green star on their badges; and a few costumes were already in evidence, including a very good Imperial Klingon who, I learned later, reacted completely in character to a passing tribble - leaping about eight feet backwards.

Saturday: Rose fairly early, and then spent three-quarters of an hour trying to put some new blue make-up on evenly. It was really too dark for an Andorian, and as per usual I hadn't tried it out pre-Con. I went down to breakfast looking like a blue panda, and found that the waiters were extremely helpful (perhaps this had something to do with the split in my skirt from ankle to waist). The poor staff were coping very well, considering that this was their first Con.
Then to the main hall, for James White's talk, which he read with a magnifying glass, as he suffers from a diabetic eye complaint. He was very amusing, for instance about his early days as a writer, when the carriage return on his aged typewriter was three cans of baked beans in a string bag. (N.B. All my quotes are paraphrases, more or less). "Press 'release' and let gravity and baked beans do the rest.... at least I knew that I would never starve as an aspiring author." James White wrote the Sector General hospital books, and other 'hard' SF, and was curious as to why a Star Trek con had invited a member of the 'lunatic fringe' to talk. He also told a rather involved and very funny story about intelligent plankton who wove themselves into a tartan carpet under stress.
Shortly after this, while collecting a drink (orange and lemonade, I hasten to add) I was approached by someone who asked me if I would like to speak on local radio! "Good grief!" I said, followed by "Yes, of course." Being told to go down to the registration desk in ten minutes, I had no sooner taken a sip of my drink when I was approached by a chap with a badge marked 'PRESS' in large friendly letters. Would I mind having my picture taken? So off we went to the art room, where the light was good, and he took several pictures, including a closeup of my by now blotchy blue make-up. He borrowed a pen from a passer-by to take my name and species, and said that my picture would be in Monday's Liverpool Daily Post. Gosh, fame at last! Then I went down to the registration desk, to have my picture taken again, in a group shot with all the other costumed fans they'd been able to round up. It turned out to be a local hospital radio service, and they interviewed James White, me, an Australian midwife who works in Harrow (dressed in a 14th century ball gown, having got the century wrong when she decided to visit Earth), Miri Rana in Starfleet uniform, and a Vulcan ambassador and STAB member, Robert Wooder. It was during the general chatting after recording the interview that it was mentioned that a group of educationally subnormal children would be coming with their teacher on Sunday morning, as a way of introducing them fairly gently to strangers in the outside world. (I didn't actually see them, being busy elsewhere - and if this is the outside world, lets have more of it!)
I arrived back in the main hall in time for Mark Lenard's talk. As on his last visit at Aucon 81, he was an excellent speaker, and told many anecdotes about the series and the two films. He got us all to repeat his Klingonese phrases from the first film. "The green slime was coming towards us. I was shaking, the camera was shaking, I was shaking the chair, and I had to look up and try to act...."
In the evening I changed my make-up for a paler blue greasepaint which I've used before. The standard of the fancy dress was as usual high. The best Trek entry was the priestess T'wit, keeper of the marbles on Mount Seleya. She was looking for the miscreant who had robbed her of a great prize i.e. Spock's katra. "She pauses... (she points at Mark Lenard on the judge's table)...but no - the eyebrows are wrong and the ears are wrong.... Perchance she will have more luck in London where she has heard of a certain Elgin, who has a great collection of marbles...."
The end of the competition was enlivened by the kidnap of Sarek of Vulcan by STAB, the statutory murder of Chris Chivers and Anne Page being forced around the audience so that paper money could be put in her garter. £110.53 was collected up off the dance floor.

Sunday: Sat with a lady called Susan Broughton and her mother for Lisa Tuttle's talkk, which was much concerned with sexual equality, how she discovered SF and started writing and what it was like to be an American living in England. She thought it a good thing for an SF writer to always have the edge of feeling a little bit alien, and suggested that the same thing gets people into SF fandom - feeling a little bit different from 'normal' people.
While at lunch, Mark Lenard wandered by. "My, aren't we pretty?" he said to me. "You're an um...?"
"Andorian," I supplied, trying not to grin stupidly. "That a Vulcan ambassador could forget names is acceptable - but species?) He spoke again in the afternoon, mostly about other shows he'd been in, like 'The Wild, Wild West', 'Buck Rogers', (as an ambassador who could remove his head) and 'Mission Impossible'. He also demonstrated on a small boy from the audience, how the latex appliance for Urko in 'Planet of the Apes' had been put on. He was also in 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' when, as a magi, he fell off his camel.
A STAG meeting took up the earlier part of the afternoon, with its own slide show quiz. Questions ranged from the serious - 'name the episode' - to the ridiculous - 'name the kid in the yellow shirt' (who happened to be Kirk) or 'name this brain and his two friends'. Best answer came to a slide which actually showed Spock leaving the bridge in 'Amok Time', to which the question was 'where is Spock going?' The answer: 'To re-negotiate his contract.'
(Best T-shirt of the Con, by the way, was "My Ceti Eel died of hunger").
The evening was taken up with the Heroes and Villains party - I got my free drink by saying I was Thelev's sister from Journey to Babel, and also an Orion spy. This got me shot by a friend dressed as Blake, after asking if there was a bounty on me. There was a great variety of costumes, including the sixth Doctor, the Master, a Skeksis, cowboys, Supergirl, Princess Irulan and the Shadout Mapes, and several devils with tridents. We stayed for the Starfleet Academy Challenge - the questions ranged from general media and books to specialist sections on a ST character, episode and film, and were really quite hard. The PARSEC team was a worthy winner with 84 points.

Monday: And the programme was running late again, in true con tradition. We arrived in the main hall for the end of 'Beastmaster', which Tim Broadribb had volunteered to put on at 7.30am for those who had missed it on Friday evening. There was a guest panel before the closing ceremony, when it was announced that the money collected for the various charities would come to nearly £2,000 when it all came in and was counted. Mark Lenard had brought some pictures to sell for the US Diabetics and the proceeds were split evenly with the British Diabetics charity, the rest of the money raised going to the main charity, the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Appeal. One sponsored swimmer raised over £100 single-handed! And finally, back to London (and my picture never did get into the Daily Post).

Good grief - it all comes flooding back! I went to the con with Pat Keen - I was living with her in London at the time - and most of the names I mentioned were famous fans. Miri Rana was a lovely retired lady who loved all the dressing up and was very popular - everybody knew Miri. Chris Chivers did technical things with soundboards and things, and I think he also worked at Andromeda Bookshop. Anne Page was actually collecting for the con charity and was in on the whole thing (which was why she was wearing the garter in the first place). And Tim Broadribb was the projectionist at many Cons. I honestly don't remember anything about STAB.

In the same newsletter was the news that DeForest Kelley was coming to the UK for the first time; Theodore Sturgeon had died; Riverdale, Iowa had declared itself to be the birthplace of Captain Kirk, and Thom Christopher was trying to interest Hollywood in a film or TV series of The Ship Who Sang, after he and Anne McCaffrey had done a reading from the book at a previous con.

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