|Dave Langford provides an appreciation of the 1987 UK Eastercon's Fan Guest of Honour.|
Malcolm Edwards: man or myth? Friend or foe? Half-drunk or half-sober? Is there no end to his talents? (Answer withheld on legal advice.) Is he the ruthless SF/fannish empire-builder he sometimes pretends to be ... or the builder of ruthless fannish/SF empires which other people call him? All will be revealed, though not here.
I was a mere tot reading Asimov when Malcolm emerged from the fiery melting-pot of the Cambridge University SF Society with an unusual social problem. Imagine coming into fandom only to learn you were a pseudonym of someone like Robert P. Holdstock. The once-famous Peter Weston had been in the habit of writing fanzine columns as "Malcolm Edwards", and ...
Undeterred, our hero did various things which I mercifully forget. One was to publish Quicksilver, a serious SF fanzine which his mates still swear was way above average, even as they hide the remaining extant copies from my mocking gaze. With one mighty bound he became editor of the BSFA's Vector, producing some of its all-time best issues (having as he did the totally unfair advantage of being able to write and review as well as any of the huge name contributors).
The BSFA ended this by inconsiderately though temporarily dying after Vector 67/68. By then Malcolm had bashed out a personal fanzine, Magic Pudding (late 1973, to remind you how cobweb-ridden all this now
seems), wherein he confessed "I'm in the middle of an empire-building period right now," and gave a first tentative push to what became the juggernaut of Britain's third Worldcon: Seacon '79. Yes, he was on the committee of that one; and ditto the successful Eastercon, Seacon '75; and moles report that he has some involvement with our fourth Worldcon, Conspiracy '87. Then there was his stint as editor of the very serious Foundation (issues 14-19) and his part in the founding of frivolous, light-hearted Interzone.... When does he find time to read SF?
Presumably he must, since with hideous professional efficiency he's done portions of the SF Encyclopaedia, half the SF Book of Lists (great SF stories about planetary tilt), and several blockbuster nonfiction collaborations with Rob Holdstock (you know the sort of thing, Twenty Really Triffic Bits Of SF Art Tenuously Linked By A Few Words) -- meanwhile moving from the lofty rank of publisher's reader (the lucky guy who gets to read Piers Anthony novels that even Grafton won't print) to the ignominy of being SF director at Gollancz (the wicked beast who rejects all your favourite authors like L.Ron Hubbard).
Behind that owlish gaze, do professional and fannish impulses occasionally clash? Malcolm has always been quiet, and sometimes this internal crosstalk makes him even quieter. At other times (separated from "sometimes" by mere pints of lager) he loosens up to make deeply scabrous remarks: no sooner had I jotted down his tasteless one-liner about Heinlein than Malcolm nervously asked me to cross it out again, because "I've just remembered he's one of our authors."
These days he's too circumspect even to publish his erstwhile scandal-sheet Drunkard's Talk, featuring the "Complete Naff Guide to Fandom" and quoting embarrassingly awful passages from rejected N*rm*n Sp*nr*d novels. Or maybe that bit was in the tastefully named Tappen, which printed ace stuff by live-in contributor Chris Atkinson and won awards. (Its fifth issue foundered in 1982 under the weight of "Performance", D. West's epoch-making 36-page exploration of the myriad interconnecting ramifactions of D. West.)
Shy, retiring, modest, unaffected -- maybe not, but I like Malcolm just the same. (He published a quarter of a book by me once: interest declared.) You'll find him in the bar ... as the level of the Carlsberg Special goes down, so does the tone of his anecdotes, maliciously ripping the lid off the seething cans of radioactive wormoids otherwise known as SF publishing and SF fandom.
As a Fan Guest of Honour, his professional qualifications are impeccable. And when you want to make him writhe, ask him when he's going to do another fanzine.
|First published in Beccon Progress Report 2,
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