In 1954 Ken wrote:
For the information of a vast number of people who couldn't care
less, I was born of British (mixed English-Irish-Scots-Welsh and
some other nationalities) parents in 1917 (Dec. 27). No brothers or
sisters, and my parents died before I was ten, leaving me (and
little else) to a grandmother, who did her best to “bring up” a
somewhat wayward youth. Being a mobile family I'd attended some
seventeen schools (with disastrous results to what passes for my
education) by the time I turned my hand in at fourteen (without
permission) and went to work at Burnley Streamline. I'd already made
acquaintance with s-f through the local library, and juvenile
two-pennies, and my first American mag. was the September '28 Amazing
Stories, purchased in December of that year from Woolworths-at
3d! This made me think that the streamline car was the thing of the
future. Well, it was, but both the directors of Burnley's and myself
were too early - the firm closed down three years later.
I then did sundry things in the line of earning a living, with
varying success, until 1940 found me a private soldier. Some slight
clerical knowledge obtained my rapid promotion to lance-corporal
(unpaid acting) three days later, and I progressed steadily-but not
so rapidly-until I received my commission in March '43. Most of that
time I was cut-off from s-f, but when things quietened down in '45 I
went on a buying spree and by '47 I had one of the best collections
of books and mags in the U.K. During that period I met John Carnell,
Walter Gillings, and many other leading folk in the British s-f
world, and also became involved in acti-fandom. So involved that it
hardly seems possible that I knew what to do with my spare time in
earlier years. So involved that it seems improbable that I could get
out... even if I wanted to. I don't, but still...
middle of my acti-fan-tivities I found time to get married to Joyce,
getting her mixed up in the general melee of publishing and swapping and
letter-writing. Some place along the line we've acquired a couple of
kiddies (a boy and a girl), a Boxer dog, and a lot of odds and ends
which have nothing to do with s-f and therefore always puzzle me.
- Vargo Statten Science Fiction
Magazine. Volume 1 Number 1, January 1954 -
in The Inquisitor – Fan Columns from the Vargo Statten Magazine.
Fishlifter Press, 2000.)
Weston recalls: In my very early years the
only thing I knew about Ken Slater was that he wrote the book
reviews in Nebula. Then, in 1963 I learned he was
also a science fiction bookseller, and I came to eagerly await his
monthly catalogue, which provided my supply-line and usually
contained all sorts of news. Then, when I went to my first SF
convention I discovered Ken was in charge of the book-room, and was
also on the programme running a sort of 'Any Questions?' event.
Then, I discovered he was heavily involved in running that con, and
had been Chairman the year before.
Then, someone told me about
Ken's wartime and post-war trading activities with 'Operation
Fantast', which for years kept British fandom alive, and in the
wreckage of the British Science Fiction Association Fanzine
Foundation I came across some of his neatly-printed, half-size
journals and yearbooks which - though out of date - were packed with
information. Then, at the 1966 Yarmouth SF convention, Ken
became Vice-Chairman of the BSFA, and at the end of 1966 together
with Doreen Parker, rescued the BSFA's magazine Vector and
bailed-out the Association, which would otherwise have gone broke.
Then, much later. I discovered Ken had been one of the original
voices pressing for the formation of a national SF organisation.
Then, in the seventies, he was one of the first fans to embrace the
opening-up of international fandom, with his trips to conventions
all over Europe.
go, Ken seems to have been there first. He started
pushing the cause of SF fandom in the year I was born, and shows no
signs of stopping yet; he is still selling books, he is still 'reading
the rubbish' (to quote his own words) and now he's into electronic
fandom where his memory for detail is as good as ever (except
for faces!) and his anecdotes are greatly appreciated. He won
the Doc Weir
Award, been Guest of Honour at various British SF
conventions, and was properly honoured at the
Brighton Worldcon in
- Peter Weston -