I wrote my first SF novels in the early 1970s as a lecturer II at the School of History of Art in Brum's Summer Row—within a small stone's throw of Rog Peyton's Andromeda bookshop; very convenient, very influential! Thus I found out about Novacon and attended my first Novacon in 1973. Later Novacons would involve such capers as the fraught Manager of the Royal Angus Hotel stepping upon my then-infant daughter Jess strapped in her buggy in a crowded bar.
But fast forward to Novacon 34 in 2004 when I was guested. A strong memory of N34 is meeting for the first time Serena Culfeather—such a medieval fantasy novel name!—herself arriving at the front door of the Quality Hotel while I was having a fag and telling me that this was her first brave journey of exploration south from the safety of Scotland. And yet she revealed that she spoke Italian. Could there be an ice cream connexion? This is probably a hallucinatory memory since Serena isn't on the membership list of Novacon 34.
I remember walking over the M6 bridge together with someone to visit nearby Walsall which I was told is pronounced Warsaw as in Concerto. The purpose of this walk was very likely to investigate pubs, so I may well have been with Mr Big Ian Whates whose name is on the list of members. I think that I caused Big Ian to go to this Novacon as his first convention; he may think differently. This makes me realise that one evening us two (maybe even 3) took a taxi halfway in the direction of Wolverhampton for a tasty Indian. Since my memory is jogged, I must have ordered some sort of Proustian Madeleine Madras. A pint of Mild plus a King Prawn Madras and I'm your man (not that this paradise combo is at all likely anywhere).
Oh Quality Street, or rather Quality Hotel. Later, a Holiday Inn, it seems. Singles at 47 Quid in 2004 including Full English with black pudding and a swimming pool! We never had it so good, as Harold Macmillan once said. Oh Quality Hot...—I hear you were incinerated in 2019. "Thick black smoke was visible for miles around the Black Country." So that's where the name of the area comes from. I'm feeling very sentimental. Or mental. I remember someone at Novacon being excited about a hotel in space real soon. No no, hotol means horizontal take-off and landing, I hear Gerry Webb or Mali correcting travel agent Dave Lally (member #24).
Courtesy of the generous and imaginative Committee hiring cothes, I dressed up as H.G. Wells. Storm of Immanion launched my Mockymen novel with wine. This novel is well worth reading and may well be my best if neglected book, no kidding! (Given this hint, I expect sales of the Gollancz ebook version to soar soon.) I even have a photo of me as Bertie Wells accompanied by Storm, which I shall put below. Bizzarely the photo is electronically stamped 2 January 2002, whereas the Immanion Press Mockymen certainly was printed in 2004. Even photos have a hard time remembering accurately.