Charles Partington (1940-2022)

Graham Connor, Charles Partington, Jonathan Cowie and Laura Wheatley (former Warwick U. SF Society) at a Festival of Fantastic Films in the 1990s.

By Jonathan Cowie: Charles Partington, the British SF fan and writer, has died aged 82. Much, if not all, of Chuck’s adult life was in part SFnally related and much with his friend from his school days, Harry Nadler, who was also his life long business partner. He, Harry, Anthony (Tony) Edwards, Ina Shorrock among others, were members of the Delta SF Group that made spoof SF films (occasionally with SF notables such as Harry Harrison. Delta SF members, including Chuck, were also a mainstay of MaD SF, the Manchester & District SF Society (not to be confused with BaD SF down the A666 Devil’s highway in Bolton): in many of its heyday years (1970s and ’80s) MaD met fortnightly at the Crown & Anchor near Piccadilly Gardens station and meetings continued into the 2000s with Chuck invariably in attendance.

Chuck, along with the afore fans mentioned, were also Knights of St. Fantony: a group of fans who would help introduce new SF aficionados into fandom and generally support good causes. For example, Chuck and Harry were responsible for printing the Ken Bulmer Bibliography for BECCON Publications, as well as printing the first edition (1987) of the zine, the SF2 Concatenation back in its pre-online paper days: we have always been appreciative that Chuck and Harry were part of our team and associated with our founding. They also printed the programme book for the BECCON ‘ 87 Eastercon at which SF2 Concatenation was launched. This was particularly notable as it was the first time an Eastercon’s programme book had a colour cover: Harry processed the artwork to create the plates and Charles printed.

Charles was inducted into the Knights of St Fanthony at the 1967 British Eastercon, a convention they regularly attended from the 1960s to ’90s. With Harry Nadler, Charles was on the committee of three Eastercons and so was known for his national-level fanac. Arguably, his serious fanac began with Harry and Tony Edwards when they produced the fanzine Alien between 1963–1965. This evolved over three issues into the, sadly short-lived, semi-prozine Alien Worlds (1965). Charles’ own semi-prozine, irregularly produced in the 1970s and 1980s, was literally Something Else. With high production values, despite it being the pre-desktop era, and paying its contributors, Something Else attracted some high profile writers including Michael Moorcock with whom he had a friendship over many decades.

In 1976, with Dave Britton and Mike Butterworth, he co-founded the Savoy Books publishing house. Though Charles was only involved in the publishing house’s formation, Savoy Books lasted over three decades and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2006. It too attracted high-calibre writers, some of whose output was considered by the major publishing houses as non-commercial. These writers included the likes of Samuel Delany, Harlan Ellison and Charles Platt. Savoy was infamously subject to censorship and notably for the very dark, humorous, satirical and graphic Lord Horror (1989) which landed one of its editors (not Charles) a brief time in jail. Savoy published the magazine New Worlds no.213-216 between 1978 to 1979.

Harry and Charles’ business for many years was the Manchester Print Centre based in a basement of the Corn Exchange. This commercially viable venture enabled it on the side to produce a number of SF conventions’ progress reports, programme booklets and promotional leaflets.

In the 1980s, at the very start of the software games industry era, while keeping the Print Centre, the pair created Red Rat Software that devised and published approximately thirty 8-bit, 16-bit and IBM PC compatible computer games, some of which were genre-related. Its games included a Tilt d’Ore prize in 1992 for ‘Best Puzzle Game’.

Around the time when Harry and Charles ‘retired’, Harry, as is well known in British SF film fandom, established the Festival of Fantastic Films (initially along with the fellow SF fan, and also fellow Knight of St Fantony, Tony Edwards, which was a thriving convention up to Harry’s passing in 2002. Albeit much reduced, such was the momentum the Fest gathered that it has continued to the present day (see SF2 Concatenation’s convention reviews link list for past Fest con reports) and Charles could always be found at these Fests in the bar chatting to old friends right up to the late 2010s.

Charles also wrote stories beginning with ‘The Manterville Inheritance’ in the anthology Dark Things (1971) edited by August Derleth. Others appeared in editions of the New Writings in SF anthology series edited by Ken Bulmer. His only novel was the young adult book Winter Hill (2015). This was meant to be the first of a series but sadly others never arrived. Old age subsequently took its toll and many of us saw little of Charles from the late 2010s onwards. Nonetheless, he packed much into his life and was a true master of SF fandom. A chapter of northwest English SF has closed.