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Septuagenarian Fans Association ROMILEY.
I've been intending to write to you for a considerable time now... I am reminded every time I see your drawings in the fanzines that arrive here, but for some reason find it hard to get down to starting a letter when it's so many years since we were last in contact. However, this week we had a surprise visit from Art Widner and Shirley [Atkins]my first contact with Art goes back to the early war years, when we exchanged fanzines, but I lost touch with him during my RAF travels.
Then in 1992, out of the blue, he sent me a copy of Yhos which sparked off an irregular correspondence and eventually a request for artwork. So I sent off a drawing early in 1995. Thereafter, all was silence from Gualala, and I wondered if all was well with Art.
Until this Monday, that is. I had a phone call mid-morning from Mal Ashworth to tell me he'd found his typewriter after several years searching, and would be sending a letter real soon; meanwhile, he had an old friend there who wanted to speak to me. "Hi", ses a deep voice, "I'm Art Widner". And a few hours later we found ourselves entertaining Art and Shirley...
We continued the gabfest over lunch on Tuesday; fanning in these circumstances becomes like time-travelling, with all the years laid out to be dipt into, and even the more remote years become mere yesterdays. I couldn't believe that we were picking up the threads of events that happened when we were both 55 years younger, and bridging the long lapse in communication with no difficulty at all.
Your name cropped up in the conversation, and I confessed that I'd lost touch with you when I first went gafia at the end of the 50s. I mentioned my good intentions in recent years to write and say hello"You should do that" asserted Art firmly.
So I have (I just can't believe that I'm about to post this!) ■
Alan Hunter Boscombe East Bournemouth.
It was good to hear from you again after so many years but do not blame yourself for not getting in touch. I have also been seeing your art in various fanzines and have often thought about getting in touch again without doing anything about it. Art Widner has been the catalyst to bring us back together.
The same day your letter arrived I received a phone call from Art saying he wished to visit me. He was touring in Cornwall at the time and it was two days later before Art and Shirley actually arrived. We also reminisced but I could not go back as far as you. My first contact with fanzines was in the 50's and my first contact with Art in the 90's. So I took them to see the local old bridge, made famous by Constable's painting of it called 'Bridge over the River Stour'. It is only a few minutes walk away and Shirley was so thrilled with it that she used up almost a whole film taking photos of the bridge from all angles, the ducks, the swans and the banks of daffodils.
Then I let Art browse through my spare file of art. He ended up taking away enough pieces, as he said himself, to see YHOS throughout the rest of his life.
It seems strange that we old fans should be getting together again although we are well into our 70's but I guess the. old magic never goes away. In recent years I have been aquiring a collection of the old sf pulps and now have around 100. On a clear night I can still look up at the stars and wonder if any of those extravagant flights of fancy might possibly be true. Nostalgia is sometimes strong enough to overcome common sense.
Hoping you are keeping well and that we all have many more years still left in which to exercise our sense of wonder.
Best wishes, Alan. ■
21 April 1998
Dear Alan: Was invited to visit the Intuition Eastercon in Manchester t'other weekend, and prevailed upon to appear on a couple of panels. One, with John Dallman and Steve Jeffery, proved a somewhat inconclusive discussion on the role of fanart. At one stage John asked if there was any point in continuing with the Ken McIntyre Award (but didn't get an answer!), which stirred up my fading memories of the fifties when the Fantasy Art Society was a link for budding artists.
The other was an ambitiously titled sessionThe Science of Colour, the History of Artwhich, in the brief I was given on arrival, was to debate "how science has changed the way we paint and see pictures over the centuries". Which struck me as a rather deep but delightfully vague topic that perhaps would appeal more to OU students than con fans.
In the event, the panel, largely made up of contemporary practising pro-artists, spent more time beefing about the demands of publishers and the enforced digitalisation of their . trade, than any interaction of science and art history. As the only dinosaur present, going back to forgotten ToW and Fantasy days when computer graphics were still pure sf, I felt outnumbered. Went on to visit the Art Show, squeezed into two rooms and split into so many small display cubicles it was impossible to view the offerings, mainly commercial work, in any comfort. I gave up.
Still, in between times I caught up with a few correspondents among younger fans and even tracked down some old-time fans... Norman and Ina Shorrocks were at the reception desk and Ron Bennett in the dealers' room. (Last time I met them was at the 1987 Leeds Conception). Inspecting Ron's stock while he was dealing with a potential client, I revived a few old memories looking through a pile of ancient Astoundings, faintly shocked to see 'em marked at £25 each (largely BRE's they were too!). And you say you have acquired a hundred? Hope you've got 'em insured!
I guess modern cons hold few attractions for me: too overwhelming. I feel happier in a fanzine environment, which occasionally gets me back to the drawing board !
Regards, Harry. ■
Letters exchanged by Harry Turner & Alan Hunter in 1998
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