Convention Review

Memories of the First SF Eurocon in Trieste in 1972

The first ever Eurocon was held back in 1972, Trieste, Italy.
Thomas Mielke remembers it well.

It is now (2006) already thirty-four years. A long time, a short time? Probably it is just relative. Let therefore the time machine take us some more years back to the past. In 1957, when I was only seventeen years old, I experienced my first Science Fiction con in London. It was then, when the first SF Worldcon took place in old Europe with approximately 400 participants, mainly Britons and Americans. Very few came from the continent - just five chaps from Germany, amongst them Walter Ernsting, who, later, became father of Perry Rhodan; and myself of course - hitchhiking from a very small village near to Porta Westfalica in the centre of Germany, but still on the outskirts of the then known Science Fiction world. That must have been so extraordinary, that the big BBC focussed its cameras on me to explore a young German's view on Science Fiction.

In the course of five decades I attended various cons, organised some myself, or enjoyed them as a guest of honour. The Heidelberg Worldcon in 1970 is one of most treasured memories as well as the unforgettable 1989 Annual Meeting of World SF in Xendgu/China, when Brian Aldiss took the leadership over a group of SF professionals, who were caught by landslides at Panda Valley.

A very special experience was the first SF Eurocon in Trieste in 1972. It was at that time when - whilst working as creative director with Ferrero - I had, as a crazy creative experiment, the first samples of Kinder Chocolate and Nutella printed in cyrillic letters and when I was working intensively on the introduction into the market place of Kinder Surprise (chocolate eggs with surprise toy).

To me, as a German, Trieste seemed to be within a stone's throw of Torino in North Italy. But to cover 550 km by train in Italy in a single day? Wow - that was a real challenge in those days, thirty years ago. At the same time, I could have passed the border controls of the former GDR on my way to Berlin West.

And then the big surprise: the first Eurocon in Trieste was not the nice, somehow amateurish meeting of fans that I had expected, but a perfectly organised event with a great location in the Marina of the honourable, still imperial-Austrian looking city of Trieste.

On this occasion I had the luck to experience the so-called 'Italian Wonder'. The Italians proved that, despite of all the chaos, they were acting more like professionals than for example the fusty, traditional Britons. Apparently that was not at all an event of crazy fans, like it would have been in Germany, but an event in which media and business promotion took part as well as did well-known scientist and artists.

After overcoming the first shock about the wild increase of room rates in the noble Jolly Hotel I achieved a brilliant poster of the Con - showing a candle on an ammonite and of course with an autograph of the artist. I framed it and for the rest of my official working life it accompanied me hanging on the walls of my various offices. Furthermore I bought a collection of first issue stamps of Rudolfo Viola and the programme of the simultaneous film festival 'X Festival Internazionale del Film die Fantscienza'. Poland, Hungary and the Czechoslovakia took part as well as the USSR and the USA but neither West Germany nor East Germany.

Together with Wolfgang Thadewald, currently the leading German Jules Verne expert, and Tom Schlück, Germany's most important agent for internationals Science Fiction copyrights and illustrations, I admired the film Silent Running. We also saw the Soviet film Shag y Krysk, produced at the Odessa Film Studios and the awful American trash film Beware the Blob.

Amongst the guests that were already famous in those days, I especially noted Brian Aldiss and Forry Ackermann. If I am not mistaken Harry Harrison was there as well. But I was much more interested in the Swiss Erich von Däniken. With him I had a panel discussion about his 'theories' on extraterrestrials. In fact, to meet Däniken, I abstained from a possible membership with the elitist Tolkien Society, which was convening at the same time in another conference room.

Instead, later on, I was somehow recruited by FOLLOW, the German-Austrian Fantasy Association of the "Fellowship of the Lords of the Land of Wonder". Having been a member for twenty-five years I even reached the position of a "wise man of the Clan of the Dragons" in this Fantasy Organisation. But, honestly, I am still not enlightened about what this association is dealing with and what is the reason behind it. Anyhow, this occurs to me also with some Science Fiction stories - even with my own ...

In the last thirty years I had attended British, Italian, Polish and German conventions and although Trieste tremendously impressed me, I - much to my regret - never again attended an Eurocon. I have absolutely no idea why and all the more I am looking forward to Kiev.

Thomas R. P. Mielke


Editorial note. Thomas brought his above-mentioned first Eurocon poster to the Kiev Eurocon (that was even signed by the artist) to share with fans but somehow it got 'lost' from the display on the last day. But the spirit of fandom lives on and Thomas has given us an electronic copy he previously scanned which we are delighted to reproduce at the top of this article.
          This conrep complements Dave Rowe's review.


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