Concatenation's History

This is the more detailed history of the Concat website
A shorter version can be found on our introductory editorial page


Cover of issue no.1 in 1987.

Concatenation began as part of the BECCON* 87 UK National SF Eastercon celebration in 1987 marking the 50th anniversary of the World's first Science Fiction convention. BECCON 87 (Birmingham) marked this 50th in a number of ways, and the production of Concatenation was just one. It appeared as a freebie printed fanzine distributed mid-convention with articles and reviews on topics of interest to science fiction fans. This hotpotch mix bemused some, and even outraged two, but was received with the enthusiasm of many: the pick-up rate at subsequent UK natcons through to the mid-1990s quickly grew to, and stabilised at, in excess of 80% of convention attendance. Soon after our 1987 launch Concatenation started receiving SF books for review from publishers and invitations to attend press showings of new SF films. It even began to take advertising that after two editions covered our print costs. We were also pleasantly surprised when some SF notables offered to write articles. The following year the organisers of, as it was then, both the two UK Easter national SF conventions (the book and film Eastercon and the cinematic and TV SF Elydore) offered to transport copies to their respective events for distribution...(We wont go into the distribution confusion that was caused by the score of fans visiting one event the first half of Easter before moving on to the other convention: those were the days when the UK SF community was more united) And so we found ourselves working on subsequent editions.

Concatenation soon acquired somewhat of a mission. It always was intended to cover the principal topics that hard 'science fiction' fans are interested in, and this includes science and exotic science. In the late 1980s Concatenation team began to be a focus for the inclusion of a solid element of science within the UK Eastercon as well as helping to promote the event. And so we worked with Eastercon organisers (from the late 1980s through to the early 90s) helping identify possible programme participants, and a number of the team regularly gave presentations on aspects of astronomy, physics, biology and environmental science. We even provided scientific information to a few authors and assisted SF publishers. The team also ran the press liaison operation for a number of conventions including the UK-hosted 1984 and 1993 European SF conventions. We aimed to secure good coverage on radio and in the press from local to international level (and not "look-at-the-geeks" reportage SF has been known to attract). Meanwhile Eastercon organisers were beginning to take the science part of their events seriously and the 1990 and 1993 both had a solid body of science events, as independently did the 1995 UK hosted World SF Convention (Glasgow). So Concatenation's role here began to look superfluous and we stopped getting involved with helping organise UK national conventions.

Of course there is a cost to producing what became a typeset, glossy zine with a four-figure print run. A couple of profitable Eastercons kindly provided some initial sponsorship, as did a couple of other generous conventions, and publishers took out advertising. We were fortunate that this, together with the donation of SF fan resources (such as transport) enabled us to cover our costs. For this we remain most grateful. Though the first edition (1987) was not, it has to be said, of particularly high production standard, and subsequent editions improved markedly. These, though, were pre-desktop publishing days without home computers, Microsoft, and where usually the typewriter ruled. We became inventive in ways to get typesetting done and for a few years the BBC home PC was the starting point for copy generation. (If you are aged under 35 you probably will not know of this IT landmark.)

The 1993 Eastercon cum Eurocon began a new chapter. The Iron Curtain that had separated the former communist Europe from the West had fallen in 1989/90. We had already received letters from former Iron Curtain fans who had read about Concatenation from reviews in other fanzines. Consequently we were already open to the idea of meeting Eastern Europeans so when a delegation of 50 from Romania turned up at the 1993 Eurocon in Jersey (Channel Isles) the Concat' team simply had to do something. That 'something' was the basic decision to take a different Romanian out for dinner each of the convention's five nights as well as to invite half a dozen or so to the Concat' room party. Soon all 50 of the delegation had heard of the Concat' team and we were told (note the 'told'), "you will come to the Eurocon in Romania next year and bring your zine...!" And so we did, (complete it might be said with copious quantities of AIDS awareness material on behalf of a UK medical organization). And this began our relationship with Romania and Eastern Europe that continued to involve a joint annual project - be it eastern or western based - each year for the rest of the decade that was organised under the umbrella of the Anglo-Romanian Science & Science Fiction Cultural Exchange and its Fan Fund...

The Eastern European projects between 1994 and 2003 included: two visits each with two from Romania coming to the UK for two weeks for a range of activities including broadcasting back to Eastern Europe via the BBC World Service and attending a convention; four visits by one or two British fans to Romania; the production of a tri-lingual (English, Romanian and German with a Swiss accent) print edition of Concatenation for the 1994 Eurocon (which got Concatenation the first of its Eurocon Awards);a twin parallel edition with one in English and one in Romaian in 1997; and two International Weeks of Science and Science Fiction (1999 and 2003) held in Romania near the border with Hungary and the former Yugoslavia.

Having produced a Eurocon Award-winning edition (our second) of the zine in 1997, we found hard copy production getting a little too much for us. Three of us had lost half our Christmas break each year for the decade we produced the paper magazine and this was not something we wanted to continue. Furthermore computer technology made desktop publishing so easy that many others were producing publications as glossy as ours came to be if not, dare it be said, produced to a higher standard. It was time to bow out. Fortunately though, the internet came along enabling us to continue, albeit at a more leisurely pace.

Concatenation has continued to develop. One of the major additions came in 2006 with the forging of a relationship with the leading international science journal Nature. Though Nature is a science journal it does also have a one-page short science fiction story opposite its inside back cover each week. Unfortunately unless you are a subscriber to Nature (or are at a university or research institute that subscribes) you will not be able to access these from the Nature website. However Nature allows us to select up to four of these stories a year and (with permission of the authors concerned) post these with free access. Site growth has been between 15-20% a year from 2001 to present (2009). It might have been more if back in 1987 we called ourselves something with 'science fiction' in the title as 'concatenation' is not a search engine friendly word to attract SF enthusiasts.

These days we are more active on the European-wide SF scene than the UK, but members of the team can regularly be found at a number of British events as well as involved in a variety of Concatenation's esoteric SF-related projects. The Concat' site reflects this with its regular coverage of non-Anglophone SF, and a take on science that reflects the fact that many of the team members work in grass roots science and technology-related jobs. With this site you can delve into our perspective on science fiction and science. This includes: Science Fiction News; Science Fiction Movie Chart; Science Fiction Book Reviews; science fiction short stories; science fiction convention listing and much, much more (browse the home page or recent site additions).We hope you enjoy it. If you do, then don't be bashful, e-mail a link to a friend...

As to who we are we are in fact a loose collective of a score or so with a core team of around half a dozen.

And that, as they say, is that.   Now you can check out what's new or register with our free and confidential site alert update service.

 

Details of SF2 Concatenation's Eurocon Awards are here.

 

* BECCON stood for the 'Beccon EasterCon CONvention'. BECCON 87 was the fourth BECCON, the other three being biennial London region summer conventions where BECCON stood for the Basildon Essex Centre CONvention.

 

 

For a brief introductory editorial to the site click here.


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