Eurocon 1 – The First Eurocon
Fred Hemmings, Howie Rosenblum, and myself arrived in Trieste in a beaten-up Morris Minor, a monument to British Engineering and made of thirteen years' accumulation of rust and dust, which just made the 2000 mile journey there and back. At our first camp site in Trieste we met Belgian fan, Claude Dumont, his wife Yvette, dog Jan, and two children; they'd brought their duplicator, as they had at Heicon, and once again spent the con publishing conreps and one-shots. I even got a mention in the first one and had, with John Brunner, to master the French typewriter's key-board to help fill the second. The Dumonts couldn't speak English and we couldn't speak French; but mime, repeating, and mutual fanac saw us through.
Tuesday we moved to another site. The sunshine had turned to rain and wind; Trieste, we found, was famous for its wind. In Maritime Station (a sea terminal built of marble and stone which looked like a municipal town hall) we met Nigel Haslock in fawn 1930s football shorts and 1/2 R Cruttenden, beaming as usual. They were both shifting furniture and artwork for the con. I use the term 'artwork' loosely, since it turned out to be either excellent or horrible, mainly the latter; this included the Salvador Dali which he spued up in an off-moment back in '39. Some of the SF art for covers and posters, however, more than made up for this, though kept apart from the 'Mastra Internationale d'Arte Fantascientifica'! Unfortunately in order to afford the con hall, a colour programme, and so on, the con committee needed the art show and film festival; this led to some art critic saying what went where, artists demanding that their artwork be moved or that more pieces be displayed, and suchlike.
A display of artwork and fanzines to be voted upon by the con attendees for the Europa Awards was moved into a room behind the speakers' platform and could only be reached when the programme wasn't on and the caretaker wasn't looking. The latter, by the way, looked like a plump docker and had lost his voice, sounding like Donald Duck with laryngitis; he gave his many directions with a series of whistles, clucks, and claps.
The programme, as usual, started at least half an hour late and the introduction was in Italian, French, and German, so I've no idea what was said. John Brunner then gave his Guest of Honour speech which, amongst other things, attacked the translators of SF novels, thus starting things off on a good international note. The next piece was in French, giving me a good excuse to try on the portable translators; these were like transistor radios with earpieces and the idea was to dial the appropriate language. It may sound simple; but nobody told us which language was on which number, the power of some of the models varied considerably, and the translators themselves often had trouble keeping up with the speaker.
I won't try to report on the programme, since it quickly descended into chaos. Instead I'll talk about what really made the con: meeting the fans. There was a party, for example, in the dungeons of the Castelio di San Giusto where the Mayor showed me round and we listened to an over-amplified group; the French fans were freaking out with gusto and the Anglo-Italian mob were doing their best as well. The next night there was a party in the Museum of Modern Art and I was introduced to some young Italian fans who were forming the Club Padovano SF. We had a great time discussing the writing of SF and the works of, believe it or not, Eric Frank Russell. The British fans, however, had to leave en masse as there was only one car and we moved to a bar near Vernon Brown's hotel where the party in fact continued, since a troop of seventeen international fans descended upon us.
The following day Fred Hemmings and I managed to see some of the films, including a Canadian cartoon, Evolution, which we've decided to show at the OMPAcon [British Eastercon], if possible. Other films included a beautiful send-up, Beware, The Blob! and a Stanislaw Lem film (not Solaris, which wasn't in fact shown).
On Saturday I actually saw some of the programme, namely Forrest J. Ackerman. His projectors didn't arrive, however, and he spent an hour improvising a speech which he gave slowly and with a lack of humour to help the interpreters. When the projectors arrived he had to interrupt his talk to make way for two other items. That was typical of the con.
By this time many fans had disappeared and the audience for the last item on Sunday evening was almost non-existent. In the morning, however, we had a chance to say what we thought about the Eurocon. The general opinion was that it was a first attempt at a genuinely international con; but it wasn't fannish enough and would have been better if held in one large hotel, instead of being spread out all over the place. These are the faults that will need correcting by the second Eurocon in Brussels, 1974.
Our thanks to Dave Rowe for allowing his conrep to be re-published here. It first appeared in the July 1972 issue of the former British newszine Checkpoint which is currently archived by Ansibleat checkpoint.ansible.uk/cp020.html#01. Dave Rowe's conrep complements Thomas Mielke's review of the first Eurocon. The convention poster appears courtesy of Thomas Mielke.