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Milford Science Fiction Writers' Conference

Entry updated 20 March 2023. Tagged: Community.

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1. Annual writers' workshop founded in 1956, held at Milford, Pennsylvania, where several sf authors – including one of the Milford founders, Damon Knight – lived at various times. (A writers' workshop – see also Clarion Science Fiction Writers' Workshop – includes sessions of mutual criticism of not yet published stories, interspersed with discussion groups on various professional problems.) The success of Milford, especially the camaraderie it inspired, was directly responsible for the setting up of Science Fiction Writers of America. Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, Kate Wilhelm, Terry Carr and Samuel R Delany are among the many who were at some period regular Milford attenders. Ideally, the workshop – open only to published sf writers – maintained a balance between beginner writers and more experienced professionals. It was felt by some critics that Milford attenders constituted a powerful in-group in sf (particularly since editors of important Original Anthology series attended) and that they received preferential treatment by publishers; hence the only half-joking nickname "Milford Mafia".

2. The Milford founder member James Blish and his wife, Judith Ann Lawrence, moved to the UK, where they set up a UK Milford in 1972, coincidentally the year in which the US Milford was officially pronounced dead. The 1972 event, with Kenneth Bulmer and Anne McCaffrey assisting the Blishes, was also attended by Mark Adlard, Brian Aldiss, John Brunner, Richard Cowper, George Locke, John Phillifent, Christopher Priest, David Redd, Josephine Saxton, Andrew M Stephenson and Peter Tate. Out of terminological nostalgia, the workshop was held at Milford-on-Sea in Hampshire each autumn until 1988; subsequent venues were Cheltenham (1989-1990), Margate (1991-1992), Rothbury (1994-1995), Maidencombe (1996-2001), York (2002-2003) and Nantlle in Snowdonia (2004-current).

A few years were skipped, owing to the expensive competing attraction of UK Worldcons in 1979 and 1987, and apparent lack of interest in 1993. Richard Cowper and Christopher Priest were two regular early attenders; other regulars at various periods have included Jacey Bedford, Malcolm Edwards, Christopher Evans, David S Garnett, Mary Gentle, John Grant, Colin Greenland, Robert P Holdstock, Diana Wynne Jones, Ben Jeapes, Garry Kilworth, Paul Kincaid, David Langford, Philippa Maddern (while in the UK 1980-1982), Geoff Ryman, Andrew M Stephenson, Alex Stewart, Lisa Tuttle and Liz Williams. An anthology of stories workshopped at Milford UK is Eclectic Dreams: The Milford Anthology (anth 2023) edited by J W Anderson, Pete W Sutton and Liz Williams, [PN/DRL]


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