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Milford 1981

From Andrew Stephenson's Archive and Dave Langfoird's Ansible

Sun 27 Sep 1981 - Sat 3 Oct 1981
@ Compton Guest House, 59-61 Keyhaven Rd, Milford-on-Sea, Lymington, Hampshire, SO4 0QX

Andrew says: Is cited as the ninth Milford in flyer -- but this may be wrong. See my earlier remarks, for 1979 & 1980, concerning a cancelled Milford. Hence, following Milfords may have been wongly numbered

Listed on flyer of July 1981 (some may have dropped out before the event):
Duvic, Patrice:
Edwards, Malcolm:
Evans, Christopher:
Garnett, David S.:
Holdstock, Robert:
Kilworth, Garry:
Langford, David:
LeConte, Marianne:
Maddern, Pip:
Martin, George R.R.:
Ryman, Geoff:
Smith, Kevin:
Stephenson, Andrew:
Tuttle, Lisa:

MILFORD (UK) WRITERS' CONFERENCE 1981
GEOFF RYMAN

The Yooping Pricket Ate A Rizzarded Snig And Passed A Collet From Its Hypural

Imagine something on your plate that you would not wish to step in if you saw it on the pavement, and which requires only diced carrot to look like a special effect for Ken Russell's The Devils: A Milford breakfast. Grey runny powdered egg on greasy bread. God, the food was terrible: too little, too early, breakfast at nine, supper at six. The feeling of debilitation was compounded by the bar arrangements – we just signed for drinks and served ourselves any time day or night, leaching out any remaining trace of vitamins with alternating doses of coffee and booze. The Milford sensation is hollow-eyed, jaded exhaustion from too many late nights, too many words read, too much talk, too much booze and not enough to eat.

There were 120,000 words to read this year – and they really did have to be read at least twice. The standard of criticism was dauntingly high. Flaws in logic, incorrect word usage, gaps in characterization, and mistakes in tone were pounced upon and thouroughly chewed over for the benefit of the writers. My own 10,000 word chunk was admirably digested. But what I really found valuable about Milford was the reading and the criticizing. I found I was out of touch with my own reactions to what I read. I'd shrug off my own boredom during the boring bits, or ignore my own squinting confusion when the logic was faulty. The opportunity to criticize a story while there was still a chance for it to have a constructive effect focused the mind wonderfully. I had to notice I was was bored and come up with a reason why. One thing: I'll never be quite so tolerant of my own stuff again. But enough of that.

George RR Martin, fresh from two Hugos in one year, spent about £50 on the video machine, topping Chris Priest's high score last year of £20. Malcolm Edwards and Chris Evans played something called Macho Pool, the main object of which seemed to be to bash hell out of the balls, preferably against the walls or floor. Edwards played with the cue between his legs, but Evans was clear winner, reducing the tip of his cue to a splintered pulp with one masterful shot. Fans of Milford pool will be distressed to learn that the Cowper Tappens were finally discovered by the Management – those little holes will have to be left unblocked from now on. Someone invented, or simply remembered, a cocktail called the Death Wish, which may or may not have included Guiness and Pernod among its ingredients. Lisa Tuttle, revealing the raunchy Texas Barfly aspect of her personality, did a truly staggering imitation of a large mouthed frog that should have dislocated her jaw. It was also Lisa who slid out of her chair and collapsed onto the floor in a kind of giggling pudding during Call My Bluff. Something about native drums being stitched together out of hymens, with only plastic replicas being now available. Call My Bluff is the perfect Milford game – all those writers digging up ludicrous words or making up even more ludicrous definitions for them. Cambism was defined as cannibalism with your mouth full. A Caccagogue is nothing to do with a synagogue or a demagogue, but is an ointment of alum and honey used to cure constipation. A Pricket was defined as a obnoxious guardsman ... and round and round. Gary Kilworth, however, expended his literary talents on this little piece: There was a sex dev. on parole/Who went looking for a Black Hole/He'd been sucked before/By both ends of a whore/But he wanted to be swallowed whole.

In his youth, Rob Holdstock used to paste a little white dot onto the bonnet of his car in order, he told us, to seduce women. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember how on earth a little white dot on the bonnet of his car was any use whatever for that particular purpose. He did, however, in one story session, apprise Marianne Leconte of the obvious. In her story a woman backs away from a strange growth and bumps into a man; the bump is described as being soft. Robert informed Marianne that if she backed into him, 'it wouldn't feel soft at all, I can tell you, it would be hard.' Marianne, a woman of Gallic experience, agreed that it probably would. I contributed a blunder of my own while criticizing Pip Maddern's story about a crochety, wrinkled old woman. 'Pip,' I said, 'I get the feeling that this is you a couple of years on.' That wasn't quite what I meant to say. It wasn't as bad as Dave Garnett though, who started off on the same story with something like 'The old bag doesn't half bang on.' Explanations did not do much to muffle the blow. Dave Garnett, dead white of face, covered with lines like the glazing on old pottery, achieved distinction on several levels. First, he ate his appalling Milford apple pie with ketchup. Second, he was without doubt the most durable of the late-nighters, surviving the Edwards/Holdstock beer throwing and soda shooting match to be left drinking alone in the dark at 3am. Third, he was the most direct and honest of the critics: 'I thought it was fucking awful,' was one terse comment.

Things you wouldn't believe if you read them in a story department: Hazel Langford spent her time knitting a Klein bottle – a 3-dimensional object with only one surface. Pip and I tried to turn it inside out and it really did begin to get smaller and smaller in a rather unsettling way. Patrice Duvic presented everyone with brandy after the reading of his excellent, amusing story. Kev Smith and Andrew Stephenson drove me nuts with a stupid game in which I was supposed to decode a 'digital' number code that used toothpicks. It turned out I should have counted the number of fingers on the table instead.

Very suddenly, it seemed, everything was over. We all hung around the bar the last day, paying our bills, feeling a bit let down. Lisa Tuttle came in bemused, having found a pair of green rabbit ears attached to what looked like ladies' knicker elastic in her room. Cambrian Chris Evans put them on and stuck out his teeth for a photo. 'Is that what you call a Welsh Rabbit?' asked George Martin. And somehow that was that. Kisses on cheeks, shaking of hands, writing of addresses on little bits of paper that would soon be lost. Groups of people began to stagger away. Chris Evans fell asleep on Marianne's maternal lap as Kev Smith drove us home. Oh yes, there was this fellow named Dave Langford there as well, but most of you know about him. (GR)

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