Sunday, 12 August 2007

(28 OCT) Fan History: Ted Carnell at the British Interplanetary Society, 1936

Photo: from the collection of E.J. Carnell; text by Peter Weston.

Science fiction and space travel have always been inextricably entwined, as demonstrated by the first meeting of the London branch of the British Interplanetary Society more than seventy years ago on 28 October 1936. Among the members were Ted Carnell, prominent on the left of the picture, later to become editor of Britain’s most important SF magazine, New Worlds, for 141 issues from 1946-64. In this image – which has been air-brushed at some date possibly for use in a later publication – in the front row to the right of Carnell is the 19 year-old Arthur C. Clarke, at this time newly arrived in London from his native Minehead to work as an auditor for HM Exchequer. Next to him is Walter Gillings, who only a few months later would launch Britain’s very first SF magazine, Tales of Wonder, which ran for five years until 1942. To the right of Gillings is the somewhat older Prof. A.M. Low who had by this time already written his first SF novel, Adrift in the Stratosphere. The Professor became President of the British Interplanetary Society for a period, and this meeting was held in his office in Piccadilly.

(FEB 16) Born on this Day: Iain M. Banks

Photo: © 2007 Pete Young, used by permission.

Experiencing a Significant Gravitas Shortfall: born on 16 February 1954, Iain Banks is seen here during an interview for the British Science Fiction Association on 28 November 2007 at Imperial College, London.

Con History: Arthur C. Clarke receives his first Hugo, 1957

Photo: from the collection of Norman Shorrock; text by Peter Weston.

Arthur C. Clarke looks delighted to get his first Hugo Award for his short story ‘The Star’ - after waiting twelve months since the 14th Worldcon, in New York, made the award. But finally NyCon chairman Dave Kyle and Clarke managed to be in the same continent at the same time, allowing the presentation to be made at the first London Worldcon in 1957.

As a point of historical interest the 1956 Hugos were only the third set to be presented and were unique for this occasion, being in reality hood ornaments from the Oldsmobile ‘Rocket’ car; look carefully at the picture and you can see how chairman Kyle had cleverly mounted the rockets to hide the fixing details!

(JAN 15) Born on this day: Pierre-Jules Hetzel

Image: the cover for Jules Verne’s Les Aventures du Capitaine Hatteras au Pôle Nord, type “Aux deux Éléphants”, by Pierre-Jules Hetzel. (public domain); text adapted from Wikipedia.

Born 15 January 1814, Pierre-Jules Hetzel was the French editor and publisher best known for his discovery of Jules Verne and his extraordinary illustrated editions of Verne’s novels, such as the collected Voyages Extraordinaires (‘Extraordinary Travels’).

Hetzel was to later reject Verne’s 1863 manuscript for Paris in the Twentieth Century because he thought it presented a vision of the future that was far too negative and unbelievable for contemporary audiences, though to many present-day scholars the story was remarkably accurate in its predictions. Verne locked the manuscript away and no longer wrote any futuristic, dystopian stories. Paris in the Twentieth Century was not rediscovered until over a century later, and was first published in France in 1994.