Travel Back to 1957 in Hansen’s History of the First UK Worldcon

The cover photo shows the three Hugo Awards that were presented, held by E.J. (Ted) Carnell, editor of New Worlds (best British prozine), John W. Campbell Jr, editor of Astounding (best American prozine), and John Victor Peterson representing Science-Fiction Times (best fanzine, formerly Fantasy Times).

You know that phrase “putting the world in Worldcon”? The first step toward that utopian goal was the London Worldcon of 1957. You can learn all about the con and the kerfuffles in Rob Hansen’s 1957: The First UK Worldcon, the latest addition to TAFF’s library of free downloads. 

The 65,000-word book, compiled from contemporaneous participants’ own words, is available in multiple formats at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, where they also hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund. Find it here.

From Rob Hansen’s Foreword

So why the 1957 Worldcon? Because it was a singularly significant and important event in the history of fandom. Not only was it the first Worldcon to be held outside North America, it was in many ways the first true world convention, pulling in as it did fans from more countries than had ever attended a single convention before. It was also the first time that UK and US fans met en masse. Yes, a handful of US and Canadian fans had been posted to the UK while serving in their armed forces during WW2, contacting local fans while over here, but these meetings had been individual and sporadic. And in terms of legacy, LONCON started the tradition of there being a British Worldcon once every calendar decade (1957, 1965, 1979, 1987, 1995, 2005, 2014, 2024). That’s three in London, three in Glasgow, and two in Brighton, with the longest gap between Worldcons being fourteen years, and the shortest being eight.

As well as firsts, the 1957 Worldcon is also notable as a last, being the final SF convention held before the start of the Space Age: Sputnik launched a few weeks afterwards.

And when it was over, as readers will learn, the outcome was less like utopia and more like fandom: some Americans stiffed the con hotel, the committee lost money, and the U.S. charter flight organizer sued his fannish creditors for defamation. I’m sorry, was this half-a-century ago or yesterday?

1 thought on “Travel Back to 1957 in Hansen’s History of the First UK Worldcon

  1. Thanks, Mike. 66,000 words now since I belatedly decided I really needed to include something about the ‘snog in the fog’ fuss.

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