Saturday 22 April 2017

THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930–1980 by Rob Hansen #rednosereviews

I recently had the pleasure and the privilege of attending the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards for the first time, mere hours after having had the publisher of this book hold the door open for me as I left the hotel toilets. The ceremony itself was marvellous, despite the Powerpoint problems that so often beset these events, and despite only four awards being handed out (a mere amuse-bouche compared to the epic fourteen given out by the British Fantasy Awards during the period when it was my good fortune to run them). I had a marvellous time watching them. So full of good-humour, friendliness, and bonhomie.

What a tragedy it was, though, to see this astonishing, informative and amazing book lose out to Geoff Ryman's writing about one hundred African science fiction writers. Yes, Ryman made everyone laugh the instant he came to the stage by kneeling down to the low microphone, and yes, he provided a brilliant example of "paying it forward" by taking his moment in the sun to announce the nominees for best novel in the new Nommo award to celebrate African writers, but what does any of that matter when the victim was THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930–1980 by Rob Hansen, so cruelly deprived of that glorious transition from nominee to winner that is reserved for a fortunate few.

Perhaps I am to blame? I think I voted in the BSFA awards, being a member of that fine and august institution, but the screen went blank after I submitted the form so who can say? Surely, for all the wondrous writers covered in Geoff Ryman's articles, those articles were not the revised, expanded and corrected edition of a history that originally appeared in four fanzine-format volumes from 1988 to 1993. And surely, however popular the winner of the non-fiction award was, it did not include over three hundred photos of contemporary fans of all eras, nor dozens of scans of fanzine covers from each decade, nor an index of those photographs.

Did Ryman's work feature an introduction by Peter Weston, was it published by David Langford, and did it feature chapters enticingly entitled "Man and Supermancon", "Aardvarks, Wombats, Gannets and Rats" or "The Bastard Offspring of Science Fiction Monthly"? I think not. If it did, I apologise for my mistake. But I suspect that the only place you will find these things is in THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930–1980 by Rob Hansen, which might not have won the award that night, but wins a place in all our hearts, just like the genre and the fans it chronicles. What else could it get but five red noses? So it does.

Buy the book here and count yourself lucky that you can! It's available in paperback, hardback and ebook.

This is the last of our Red Nose Reviews, written for fun (about a month after the event) without reading the book.

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