Welcome to the Photo Gallery. I thought it was a good idea to make some of the various images I post in my monthly news updates more accessible by gathering them together in one place. Over time I hope to add various categories to this section, such as memorabilia from my time in bookselling and photos from events like conventions and literary festivals.
I began posting a single monthly photo with the January 2019 News update. The order I’m displaying the photos here is from earliest down to latest.
Here’s what I said when I posted that first photo at the beginning of 2019:
I should stress that I’m a writer, not a photographer, except in an amateur snapper sense. But once in a while fortune favours perseverance and a reasonable photo results. So I thought I’d post one a month, just for the hell of it.
It seems to me that there’s a kind of affinity between playing with words and playing with pictures. For me, photography started to make some kind of sense when I looked at a subject and thought, “What’s the story here?” Not unlike having an idea for a piece of fiction and posing the same question to yourself. And I have a fairly “visual” imagination when writing, in that if I can inwardly “see” a scene I can usually depict it. So there’s a sort of connection.
Where possible I’ll post photos relevant to the season holding sway in the month of the update.
I've attended many science fiction, fantasy, horror, comics and other genre conventions since the mid-1960s. I don't have photographs from all of them, and lots I do have are prints queuing to be scanned. So the following is inevitably a bit patchy, but will hopefully be added to as I convert the images to digital. I'm also including associated ephemera where I have it - covers of programme books, posters, leaflets, that sort of thing. (Along with the odd reminiscence to put things into perspective.) If a photo here is uncredited it usually means I took it. If by someone else, I credit the photographer where known.
My very first convention. I had a few friends who shared my interest in science fiction and related genres but had only the faintest idea that there was something called fandom. Then I saw an ad in one of the Nova science fiction magazines - either New Worlds or Science Fantasy - announcing that Worldcon, almost always held in the US, was coming to the UK for only the second time (the first was in 1957).
I hadn't long left school when I attended the con, and having never been to anything like that before I thought I should wear a (borrowed) suit! At the Mount Royal Hotel, Marble Arch that weekend my friends and I met John W Campbell, Robert Bloch, Jack Williamson, Christopher Lee, Forrest J Ackerman, Harry Harrison, Ken Bulmer and a bunch of other famous names. Though I confess I was too young and lacking in self-confidence to have much of a conversation with many of them. I got some cool autographs though.
l-r: Gary Parfitt (founder of The Horror Film Club of Great Britain), Forry Ackerman, Derek Stokes
The first issue of our fanzine Gothique had been published a month before the convention, and we couldn't wait to regale Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Ackerman with copies:
All you can see of me on the left is the copy of the mag I'm holding. Then it's Martin Walsh, David Griffiths, FJA and Ernest Harris.
Teenage me in my suit
Here's the cover of Loncon II's souvenir programme book, with cover art by Atom (Arthur Thompson)
My first Eastercon. It coincided with one of the infamous 60's Mods and Rockers seaside invasions. There were literally thousands of teenage, Parka-wearing Mods parading up and down the seafront, where the con hotel stood, or chugging past in squadrons of scooters. The Rockers were far outnumbered, but their roaring bikes and leather garb scored higher in theatrical effect. Although there was a hardcore in both tribes looking for trouble, causing some fights and vandalism, I think most of what went on was just adolescent posturing. Neither side knew what to make of us science fiction nerds, as we obviously didn't fit into any recognisable category. I recall at one point hearing someone exclaim “Beatniks!” as we walked by.
I got to the convention early with my old friend Dave Baldock-Ling, before many other attendees had arrived. We made our way to the hotel's bar, which was deserted save for one lone drinker, who turned out to be John Brunner. He was very welcoming and friendly, and offered to buy us a drink. We thought it rather grown up to ask for lager and lime, a trendy drink at that time. Brunner toasted us, and as we raised the glasses to our lips he said, “It might interest you to know that you're about to drink the equivalent of the royalties from three or four of my hardback books.” I don't think he meant to put a damper on things, but we were at a bit of a loss to know how to respond. Brunner's antipathy with publishers was legendary, reinforced by his speech at Yarcon when he spoke of an editor
“ … walking across his [Brunner's] crisp, white manuscript in boots covered with shit.” (I paraphrase this from memory, but I think it's pretty accurate.)
To be honest, Brunner could be a contentious character and people's opinions of him tended to be polarised. The Marmite science fiction writer, you might say. I encountered him a number of times in the following years - at the Sunday soirees he held at his Hampstead home; during the author signings he undertook at the bookshops I worked in; at other conventions, etc. My experience was that he was fine if you spoke with him one-on-one, but any kind of audience could bring out his less tolerable facets. That and his often stormy relationship with publishers could obscure the fact that, at his peak, he was an exceptional sf writer. One last Brunner connection, and it's an oddity. For about fifteen years I rented a ground floor flat in a small apartment block in Belsize Park, North London. A few years ago I found out, by chance, that around a decade before I lived there Brunner and his wife Margery occupied the same flat. I was shown headed notepaper proving it. Cue spooky music …
Ironically, I have no photos of John Brunner from Yarcon, or at least none I've unearthed so far. But here are two of Michael Moorcock from that convention:
They show Mike conducting the auction, while enjoying a tipple. Enjoyed so much, in fact, that at one point he fell off the stage. (Which shouldn't be taken as any kind of criticism of MM, who I admire greatly and have reasons to be grateful to. Anyway, I did my share of falling over back in the day myself.) During that auction I successfully bid for three pieces of black and white artwork that had appeared in Galaxy and If magazines, two by Emsh and one by Wally Wood, both legendary artists, of course. £8 the lot! I still boggle at the cheapness. But there was a sad PS. A couple of years later, that artwork, along with a stack by other artists, was ruined when a storm ripped tiles from the roof of our family house and rainwater cascaded into the top floor room where I kept my collection. A number of books and magazines were destroyed too. I took some small comfort from the fact that I'd previously taken out specialist insurance, and put in a claim. The insurance company turned it down. Apparently the storm was “an act of God” …
Here are a couple of admittedly not brilliant photos of a peculiarly fannish group that was active from (I think) sometime in the 1950s until it petered out in the '70s. The Knights of St Fanthony was a kind of science fiction hall of fame that certain people, by invitation, were inducted into. Those welcomed into its ranks were usually fan veterans, and that aspect led some younger or newer entrants to the sf community to see it as somewhat elitist. To be fair, the Knights were said to offer support and even financial assistance to fans suffering hardship, and in that sense resembled UK's Lions Clubs or America's Rotary societies. Their induction ceremonies were public, typically staged at conventions, during which the participants wore kind of cod medieval costumes and consisted of tongue-in-cheek rituals that included imbibing generous draughts of alcohol. (See a pattern here?) These photos shows their ceremony at Yarcon:
Here's an equally low quality shot from the convention's fancy dress parade:
The final photo from Yarcon recovered so far is this less than flattering portrait of the editors of fanzine Gothique - myself, Derek Stokes and David Griffiths in comfort- conscious mode at a room party:
The top hat was borrowed.
This was the Horror Film Club of Great Britain's one and only convention, held over the weekend of 23rd-25th September 1966. The event was staged in two venues, one owned by the Salvation Army, so no alcohol was allowed. Perhaps not the wisest choice for a convention ... All credit to HFCGB founder Gary Parfitt for staging the con, but the consensus was that it was a bit of a shambles.
Most of the photos I've located so far feature Ramsey Campbell, probably because at one point I filed prints by author rather than venue for some reason. Hopefully more general pix will come to light. I believe that some of these photos were taken by my late friend Moira Reed (who as an artist signed her work “Moy” - examples of which can be found in the Gothique and Stardock section of this website).
I don't know who the vampire is.
Derek (“Bram”) Stokes and Ramsey
Here are authors Ted Tubb and Ken Bulmer. The woman having her book signed is unknown:
Here's the cover of the HFCGB's last newsletter (number 10):
We produced a special convention issue of Gothique for this one:
Me, David Griffiths, Ramsey Campbell, Julia Stone and Derek Stokes in the dealers' room.
At the risk of making this look like a Ramsey Campbell tribute page, here are two more photos of him, giving a talk and just after being inducted into the Knights of St Fanthony:
Mary Reed collects her Doc Weir Award
Two somewhat muzzy group shots:
Back row: David Griffiths, me, John Muir.
Front row: Not too sure about the first three, but that's Dez Skinn on the right
Me, John Eggeling and David Griffiths. God knows what we're doing.
There's quite a leap at this point. Not because I didn't attend conventions, on and off, but due to all the photos I have being pre-digital and waiting to be scanned. Among others I attended Seacon, the 37th World Science Fiction Convention held in Brighton in 1979; Conspiracy, the 45th Worldcon, again in Brighton in 1987; and 1995's Intersection, the 53rd Worldcon in Glasgow (the convention during which the aforementioned John Brunner died). Here are the souvenir books from those three:
And the only two photos I have to hand from Conspiracy:
Leon Gamble, me, Paul (“Gamma”) Gamble
Me with unknown cosplayer (Beauty and the Beast!)
I was also at 1997's 23rd World Fantasy Convention in London, and here's the souvenir book for that:
I hope to fill the pre-1979 and post-1997 gaps in future months,
I really should seek out photos from Fantasycon 2000 in particular, as I was a guest of honour at that Birmingham-based event, along with Storm Constantine, Stephen Lawhead and Doug Bradley. Meanwhile, here's the programme book:
The ease and convenience of digital has us all generating a lot more images, and I'm no exception. I've accumulated literally thousands of photos since the early 2000's, many from conventions and similar events. It'd be tempting to post hundreds here, but I'm going to resist that and be selective, with the aim of giving the essence of an event rather than a detailed coverage.
Interaction incorporated 2005's Eurocon, the annual European science fiction convention.
The venue was the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) and the adjacent Clyde Auditorium (known as the “armadillo”):
The souvenir book:
On the banks of the Clyde:
Anne with author Maggie Furey
Author Ian Graham
Author Justina Robson
Author Juliet McKenna
French graphic novel author Ange Guero
Author Freda Warrington and husband Mike
Anne with the TARDIS
One of my contributions to the programme was the honour of moderating this panel:
The somewhat awkwardly named Nine Worlds Geekfest, which ran from 2013-2018, was a multimedia convention. Anne and myself attended the first three, and we held the David Gemmell Awards For Fantasy ceremony there in 2015. Its venues, in or near London, meant that the con was expensive to stage and to attend. That, and in truth an increasingly confused level of organisation, led to the convention's demise. I have only a few photos from 2013 at this time; photos from 2014 and 2015 await scanning.
I was on two panels:
Life Beyond Westeros: What Does Game of Thrones Mean For TheFantasy Genre?
Heroes Vs Villains – The Debate! I spoke on behalf of villains.
Cosplay at Nine Worlds:
Part of a steampunk exhibit:
This con, and all subsequent WFCs, were designated by year; for some reason the numbering was dropped at the 25th in 2000. Nevertheless, it was the 39th.
We held the David Gemmell Awards For Fantasy ceremony at this convention.
The souvenir book:
As most of the photos I have from this convention centre around the David Gemmell Awards For Fantasy ceremony, and I'll be using many of them in a Gemmell Awards gallery under construction at time of writing, I'm going to put just a few here.
But first …
And from the Gemmell Awards ceremony:
Michael Marshall Smith, John Gwynne
James Barclay conducting the auction
Anne and me MC'ing
Loncon III was held in the vastness of ExCel:
At its height, on the Saturday, the convention attracted over 15,000 attendees:
An exhibition of Hugo Awards and their variation of design over the years:
Some of the many dealers' stands:
At the stand of my UK publisher, Gollancz:
With the inevitable TARDIS:
With author Robert Silverberg on a panel discussing the history of Worldcons:
Another panel, on genre awards:
A couple of exhibits in the main hall:
Some of the cosplayers at Loncon III:
Part of the convention's exhibition area was given over to the many and diverse groups within the sf/f community. The David Gemmell Awards For Fantasy was invited to participate, and we created this poster:
The souvenir book:
Novacon is the UK's longest-running regional science fiction convention, and would have celebrated its fiftieth year in 2020 if it hadn't been for the pandemic. (It's re-scheduled for November 2021.) Novacon is a “pure” sf con in the sense that its focus is almost entirely on literature, with a dash of science fact. Unlike most conventions its programme is essentially single-stream.
Most of the photos that follow were taken by Al Johnston, a long-time science fiction enthusiast and an exceptional photographer, who covered many Novacons. Sadly, Al passed away in June 2019.
Anne and myself had attended several Novacons prior to 45. In fact, we met at a Novacon in the '90s, thanks to David Gemmell, so we have a special affection for the event. I don't have photos from pre-2015 to hand, though hopefully they'll come to light.
Novacon 45 was particularly important to us as we had the accolade of being joint guests of honour.
The programme book, with cover artwork by Anne:
It’s traditional for Novacon guests of honour to write original pieces of fiction to be presented to attendees in the form of a signed, limited edition chapbook. Here's the cover of our chapbook, with artwork by David. A Hardy:
We both had book launches at the convention, Anne for her collection Music From the Fifth Planet (Alchemy Press) and me for my collections Shake Me To Wake Me and Orcs: Tales of Maras-Dantia (NewCon Press). These two photos are by Peter Coleborn:
With Ian Whates of NewCon Press
The following photographs are by Al Johnston.
With members of the convention committee:
Anne with Eve Harvey
During our choice of 'Desert Island Discs'
Three nuts pontificating
No photos from 2016's Novacon 46, held in Nottingham, are currently available.
Juliet E. McKenna was that year's guest of honour, and here's a flyer:
Some photos by Al Johnston:
Novacon committee member and Birmingham Science Fiction Group Chair Carol Goodwin
Adrian Tchaikovsky interviewed by Juliet McKenna
Novacon committee members Tony Berry and Steve Lawson
Anne and Stan gesticulating
A couple of photos by me:
Al Johnston photos:
On a panel with Chris Beckett and committee members
GoH Mike Carey (Stock photo)
At this point the only photos I have available from Novacon 49 are of Anne with her contribution to the art exhibition.
© Stan Nicholls
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