Non-Fiction Reviews

The Festival of Fantastic Films
A Tribute to the Delta SF Group & The Festival of Fantastic Films

(2012) George Houston, George Gaddi & Tony Edwards, Grave Orc Publishing, trdpbk, 25, 119pp, ISBN [none]


For over two decades now (2013) the annual Festival of Fantastic Films has drawn people to Manchester, Great Britain, to enjoy old vintage SF, horror and fantasy as well as new independent and foreign offerings. The Fest is a small affair that over the years in the main has attracted between one and two hundred souls, many of whom have become Fest regulars. As such the Fest has an intimate friendliness of a degree rarely seen at other conventions. Indeed a number of its regulars travel to the Fest from overseas, and not just from mainland Europe but from across the Pond too! How many small conventions can make that claim? Very few indeed. Here, I myself am a slacker as I only go to three or four fests a decade. (There is just too much going on in the SF calendar as well as professional and real life.)

Such is the Fest's standing that over the years it has attracted many big name actors and directors whose heyday was in the 1960 and '70s: word spreads among such cinematic professionals and so the Fest has never been short of guests. Indeed a whose is who of Fest guests and this volume includes a list is almost an A-Z of 20th century British fantastic film and especially Hammer lead genre actors and directors.

However the Fest's roots lay in Manchester's Delta SF Group (which became the MaD [Manchester & District] SF Group that in turn was allied to the BaD [Bolton & District] SF group). Delta SF was founded by Harry Nadler, Tony Edwards and Charles Partington in the late 1950s with the former two going on to found the Festival of Fantastic Films. (In between Harry & Charles printed the first edition of The Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation, but that is another story.)

The Delta SF Group itself had an interest in films as part of an overarching enthusiasm for all things SFnal especially books. And so they made their own films including one (Breathworld) that was a spoof of the Harry Harrison novel Deathworld (1960) and which included in the cast that novel's author. This is just one example of how connected the Fest's founders were with Britain's SF community writ large. Stills from the film and behind the scenes pictures are among the many illustrations within this volume.

This commemorative book is printed on gloss art paper and in colour throughout. Indeed much of the text is actually photographic copy of original material. There are pictures of the guests, some of the Fest's Progress Reports, the convention badges, and many of the regulars. There are lists of the Fest's guests as well the films screened (broken down alphabetically by Festival year) and the amateur and independent film competition winners. Not to mention short articles, tributes and featurettes.

Problems, well the principal editor does rather betray his lack of editorial and fan experience with a poor regard to copyright, claiming that such is 'in the spirit of fandom'. Actually this is a sleight against fandom which has never been in favour of openly breaking the law, and there are copyright laws for very good reason. Nor is disregard for copyright any sign of courtesy and manners (hence again not a part of fannish spirit). Fortunately, such mala fide is in part assuaged by the fact that it looks like none whose material was used has complained (so far) and the fact that the book's principal editor did not get an ISBN (so the book as it stands will not get archived in the five copyright libraries and so be less likely to get electronically scanned by Google or be available through Amazon). However the editorial hints at future editions and as the Fest has a database of nearly all former Fest attendees who own the copyright (and probably include those who know of those not on the said database and so could be reached by a copyright appeal to past delegates) there is a need for the principal editor to get to grips with his publishing responsibilities. (Copyright concerns have a nasty habit of surfacing after a number of decades. In a few occasions in my career as a professional science publisher as well as amateur fan publisher I have had to provide the wherewithal that was then used by solicitors (fortunately all defending and successful) and so I would gently venture that copyright complacency is not an option.) Having said that, the principal editor has much of his heart in the right place and all proceeds from the book's sales have gone to the Fest.

The above concern notwithstanding this book is one of those rarities: a professionally-looking volume on a dimension of SF fandom. Histories of fandom are scarce and without such publications we are set to gradually lose our fannish heritage as the years turn to decades and centuries. Such projects are therefore very worthy and to be encouraged. If you have attended the Fest, or you are interested in the history of British SF fandom, then this book is one that you will want to seek out.

Jonathan Cowie

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