Charles Partington

(1940-2022)

A life in science fiction

Charles, together with his lifelong friend and business partner Harry,
was, among much else for fandom, responsible for the printing of
SF² Concatenation's first edition (1987) back in our print days.
So it was with much sadness that we learned of his passing

 

Charles Partington
Charles Partington, 1997.

Charles Partington, the British SF fan and writer, has died aged 82.  Much, if not all, of Chuck's adult life was SFnally related and much with his friend from his school days, Harry Nadler, who was also his life-long business partner. He, Harry, Anthony (Tony) Edwards, Bill Burns, among others, were members of the Delta SF Group, with occasional help from Liverpool SF members such as Ina Shorrock, that made spoof SF films (occasionally with SF notables such as Harry Harrison). Delta SF was founded in the late 1950s but the main body of its output spanned the period 1963 to 1970 with 12 short films and 3 spoof, satirical TV adverts. One film was made in 1995, Night of the Monochrome Monsters.

Delta SF members, including Chuck, were also a mainstay of MaD SF, the Manchester & District SF Society (not to be confused with BaD SF down the A666 Devil's highway in Bolton). In many of its heyday years (late 1970s and through the '80s) MaD met fortnightly at the Crown & Anchor near Piccadilly Gardens station and meetings continued into the 2000s with Chuck invariably in attendance.

Knights of Saint Fantony
Knights of St Fantony charter

BECCON '87

Chuck, along with the afore fans mentioned, were also Knights of St Fantony: a group of fans who would help introduce new SF aficionados into fandom and generally support good causes. For example, Chuck and Harry were responsible for printing the Ken Bulmer Bibliography for BECCON Publications, a virtually complete listing of Ken Bulmer's oeuvre, as well as printing the first edition (1987) of our SF² Concatenation back in its pre-online digital days: we have always been appreciative that Chuck and Harry were part of the team and associated with our founding. They also printed the programme book for the BECCON ' 87 Eastercon(1) at which SF² Concatenation was launched. This was particularly notable as it was the first time an Eastercon's programme book had a full colour cover: Harry processed the artwork to create the plates and Charles printed.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Back to the 1960s

 

 

Left: The 1987 Eastercon programme book front cover. This was back in the days (prior to the 2010s) when Eastercons had a souvenir programme book in addition to the schedule timetable booklet. It is particularly notable as being the first British Eastercon programme book to have a full colour cover. The cover art was by one of the convention's GoHs, Keith Roberts.

The Delta SF Group was very enterprising and this was picked up by Charles' employer's trade magazine which once featured a young Charles aged 17 (see below).

Charles Partington
Reed News December 1967.

Charles was inducted into the Knights of St Fantony at the 1967 British Eastercon, a convention they regularly attended from the 1960s to '90s.  With Harry Nadler, Charles was on the committee of three Eastercons (1968, 1972 and 1976) and so was known for his national-level fanac.  Arguably, his serious fanac began with Harry and Tony Edwards when they produced the fanzine Alien between 1963 '65. This ran for 15 issues. What came next was the semi-prozine Alien Worlds (1965) which sadly only ran for one issue.  Charles regularly wrote fiction for Alien as well as other zines, sometimes under a pseudonym.

Charles Partington & Harry Nadler
Charles and Harry


Alien Worlds (1965)


Something Else (1980)


Winter Hill (2015)

Charles' own semi-prozine, irregularly produced in the 1970s and 1980s, was literally Something Else.  With high production values, despite it being the pre-desktop era, and paying its contributors, Something Else attracted some high profile writers including Michael Moorcock with whom he had a friendship over many decades.

In 1976, with Dave Britton and Mike Butterworth, he co-founded the Savoy Books publishing house. Though Charles was only involved in the publishing house's formation and the publication of its first title (by Michael Moorcock), Savoy Books lasted over three decades and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2006. It too attracted high-calibre writers, some of whose output was considered by the major publishing houses as non-commercial. These writers included the likes of Samuel Delany, Harlan Ellison and Charles Platt. Savoy was infamously subject to censorship and notably for the very dark, humorous, satirical and pοrnοgraphic Lord Horror (1989) which landed one of its editors (Dave Britton) a brief time in jail.  Various Manchester-based folk associated with Savoy, including Charles, were involved on and off in the magazine New Worlds no.213-215 between 1978 to 1979.

Harry and Charles' business for many years was the Manchester Print Centre based in a basement of the Corn Exchange. This commercially viable venture enabled it on the side to produce a number of SF conventions' progress reports, programme booklets and promotional leaflets for other SF fan groups and conventions.  So SF² Concatenation first issue has just a part of a much broader print contribution by Charles and Harry to British fandom.

The early 1980s began to see a change in print. The first newspapers began experimenting in full-colour photos and photocopiers were improving. Traditional print was beginning to change and Charles and Harry were going to have to move with the times or go under.

In the 1980s, at the very start of the software games industry era, while keeping the Print Centre, the pair created Red Rat Software that devised and published approximately thirty 8-bit, 16-bit and IBM PC compatible computer games. These were very unlike the video computer games of today. The program came on a standard audio cassette. Some of the games Red Rat created were genre-related. Awards for its games included a Tilt d'Or prize in 1992 for 'Best Puzzle Game'. Meanwhile, the Print Centre produced the software's physical packaging, instructions leaflet and so forth.

Graham Connor, Charles Partington, Jonathan Cowie, Laura Wheatley
Graham Connor, Charles Partington, Jonathan Cowie and Laura Wheatley at the Festival of Fantastic Films.

 

Around the time when Harry and Charles 'retired', Harry, as is well known in British SF film fandom, established the Festival of Fantastic Films (along with the fellow SF fan and Knight of St Fantony, Tony Edwards) which was a thriving convention up to Harry's passing in 2002. Albeit much reduced, such was the momentum the Fest gathered that it has continued to the present day (see our convention reviews link list for past Fest con reports) and Charles could always be found at these Fests in the bar chatting to old friends right up to the late 2010s.

Charles also wrote stories professionally beginning with 'The Manterville Inheritance' in the anthology Dark Things (1971) edited by August Derleth. Others appeared in editions of the New Writings in SF anthology series edited by Ken Bulmer. His only novel was the young adult book Winter Hill (2015). This was meant to be the first of a series but sadly others never arrived.

Old age subsequently took its toll and many of us saw little of Charles from the late 2010s onwards. Nonetheless, he packed much into his life and was a true master of SF fandom.  A chapter of SF has closed in the NW of England.

Jonathan Cowie

 

Jonathan Cowie first met Chuck and Harry 40 years ago during his postgraduate studies (Salford University) at the end of Novacon 12 (1982) when they gave him a lift back to Manchester (Salford abuts Manchester's northwest border) and during that time attended MaD SF meetings. He was also on the committee of the BECCON Eastercon (1987) which Chuck and Harry generously supported and at which SF² Concatenation was launched.

Bill Burns kindly provided some of the above photos as well as additional information. Bill used to live in Manchester and was a member of the Delta SF group before moving to the USA. Today Bill runs eFanzines.com and makes an annual return to Britain for the Eastercon.

 

Note
(1) BECCON originally stood for the Basildon Essex Crest CONvention, a regional SE England con. The 1987 iteration was an Eastercon and so then BECCON stood for BECCON's EasterCon CONvention.

 


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