Editor, Michael Moorcock
The Shores of Death (Part 1 of 2) • novella serial by Michael Moorcock ♥♥
Private Shape • short story by Sydney J. Bounds ♥
Integrity • short story by Barrington J. Bayley [as by P. F. Woods] ♥♥♥+
I Remember, Anita… • short story by Langdon Jones ♥♥♥
Andromeda • novelette by Clifford C. Reed ♥♥♥
New Experience • short story by E. C. Tubb ♥
Cover • by Jakubowicz
Interior artwork • Cawthorn, Gilmore, Graham, Thomson
What’s the Argument? • editorial by Michael Moorcock
Books • by Michael Moorcock, James Colvin
Letters to the Editor
Michael Moorcock’s editorial, What’s the Argument?, opens the issue with this:
Sparked off originally by the recent Guest Editorials, fanned by Ballard’s article on William Burroughs (NW 142), a dispute has been in progress between our readers. Largely it has been between those who are nervous that SF will become too far-out and obscure for their taste and those who want it to go as far-out as it can without coming back on itself. The former say that they read SF for entertainment, not ‘art,’ the latter say that SF may be the only hope for literature and want it to be as artistic as hell.
Controversy is healthy in any field and gives it progression, but we feel that those who want ‘art’ and those who want ‘entertainment’ in SF may simply be quarrelling over terms. All good entertainment is art of its kind, all good art is entertaining.
[. . .]
We get a lot of ‘straightforward’ stories from authors which are merely re-workings of themes so tired, so over-used that they can’t possibly entertain. We also get ‘experimental’ stories which, apart from seeming to be obscure for obscurity’s sake, are also badly written. We don’t want either. p. 2
He goes on to discuss the difference between anthologies (‘the best of the old’) and magazines (‘the best of the new’), and how the latter have an obligation to innovate:
Really new treatments of old ideas, fairly conventional treatments of new ideas, and best of all new treatments of new ideas, all have a place here. p. 3
It’s a shame that this is followed by something that would appear to be none of the above, i.e. his serial The Shores of Death (later expanded and published as the book The Twilight Man, 1966). This first part isn’t bad, particularly, it just appears to be a quickly written potboiler (produced, I suspect, to fill a hole in the magazine).
It is one of those far-future pieces that have a familiar decadent setting, i.e. lots of art installations, men in colourful tights, anti-gravity cars, etc. Indeed, the opening has a glimmer of his later ‘Dancers at the End of Time’ series, but without the humour:
The party was being held in his honour, celebrating his return from the cold misery of space. But he thought of it also as something of a farewell party for the human race, a premature Wake held by the soon-to-be-deceased.
It was a noisy party, a colourful party, a splendid, exciting party, and it swirled all around him in the huge hall. It was packed full of life; full of heads and hair and bellies and breasts, legs and chests and arms and hands; people with flowing blood in their veins, pumping hearts under their ribs, nerves at work, muscles moving. Their bizarre and grotesque costumes were of a dazzling multitude of colours. They drank down the liquor and ate up the food and they danced and flirted and they talked—they talked all the time. p. 5
Clovis Marca is at the party after returning from space, and he sees a man in dark clothing. Marca has seen the man several times before and wants to know why he is being followed but can’t get to him. Later, Marca goes to a meeting where people discuss the collision that will occur in two hundred years between their galaxy and another, destroying all life.
A woman called Fastina also goes to the meeting and afterwards finds Marca and proposes marriage. He is non-committal but says that she can come back and stay at the artist Narvo Velusi’s for a few days. Later, when Marca and Fastina go to his room, they encounter the dark man who tells them his name is Take and that he knows what it is that Clovis seeks. He then escapes.
The rest of the first part cycles through a number of episodes: they meet a returning spaceship and find that the crew, like most others, have been affected by space sickness and died after their crazed behaviour (the examination of the craft is quite a good scene); Narvo addresses the populace and suggests they build a transmitter to say “We Are Here!”; meanwhile, an alien spaceship turns up.
The final section details the attempt to communicate with the aliens, and the plan they have to save the solar system by moving it out of the galaxy. Now that salvation is on hand Marca feels able to pursue his still unrevealed plan. He gives Fastina the slip and leaves for the Bleak Worlds. Take is standing behind Fastina as she watches him leave.
This has the feel of something from a late 1940’s or 1950’s pulp and is an average effort at best.
Private Shape by Sydney J. Bounds isn’t much better. A shape-shifting alien PI is employed to get the goods on a husband who has apparently left his wife for another woman. This is told in a light, breezy style but it is painfully dated by a stereotypical scenario that involves photographing the husband in a compromising encounter.
Integrity by Barrington J. Bayley is the second of three stories in consecutive issues, all under different names.1 It is described on the back cover as ‘an ironic story of Free America—the kind dreamed of by Barry Goldwater and his supporters—where rugged independence is taken to the ultimate…’ It is actually a satire (although the ending is, indeed, ironic) and starts with this:
The wedding had been lively. The bride was a remarkably pretty girl, and to keep her the groom had been forced to battle desperately with about a dozen determined men. The refrigerated armour which he wore both by custom and necessity had at times glowed cherry-red as it absorbed the energy of assorted heatguns.
If the wedding ceremony was one of the most savage traditions in the social life of Free America, it was also one of the most entertaining. Juble was in a good mood by the time his companion Fleck eventually flew him home. “Ah nearly had her,” he boasted in his drawling voice, carefully wiping over the parts of his disassembled heat-gun with a clean rag. “This neat package nearly got me the neatest package you ever did see. What a night this would ha’been!” p. 55
It continues in an equally entertaining and over-the-top manner as Jubal decides to offer his services to a scientist/inventor type called Joe to earn enough money to pay his taxes. He wants to do this rather than provide the equivalent day of labour (under police supervision) to maintain public buildings (‘It offends against mah personal integrity to be degraded so’).
Scientist Joe wants to build a machine that will enable him to perceive reality beyond the normal reach of his senses.
The ending (spoiler) involves the pair using the perception enhancing headsets that Joe subsequently develops, whereupon they discover that their brains and nervous systems only function as highly organised and ordered entities. Unfortunately, Joe transmits his libertarian philosophy to both their nervous systems with fatal results. This is a neatly ironic ending and, along with a typical Bayleyian SFnal idea about reality perception, plus lots of entertaining satire throughout, it is an original and satisfying piece.
Another story of note in this issue is I Remember, Anita… by Langdon Jones. The narrative is a straightforward one of a young man who meets an older woman in Scotland while they are both on holiday, and they start an affair. This is written in an, at times, almost ridiculously overwrought and mawkish manner:
You told me how you had been born illegitimate. You told me of your mother, and how she had tried to give you everything, to make up for the loss of a father. You told me of how you had shown yourself to be an intelligent child, and how you had gone from Grammar School to University. How your mother had died when you were eighteen, and how you realised then what a strong relationship there had been between you. How you were completely shattered by her death.
How, to try to escape your morbid ideas, you went to a wild party, only a month after her death, and how there you were raped. . . And how you were twenty-five before you next touched a man. He was a man whom you met at work. You felt instantly attracted to him, he seemed generous and kind. How he flattered you, took you out on long, happy evenings, bought you presents, and made you really feel like a woman. And how you became pregnant, and at last, after days of sickening, nervous worry, finally told him, and never saw him again. . .
And you told me of the long, dark evenings in your little bed-sitter, of the bitterness in you as you lay in tears on your bed. Of how the date when the baby was due used to hang over your whole life like a black cloud, but then, later, how you wished and wished, with your whole being, that the time would pass quicker, so that at last you would be rid of the alien thing within you.
And you told me how the baby was still-born. And how you were so happy, and yet, at the same time, torn by an inner grief. And you told me of how, for the rest of your life, you had nothing whatever to do with men; and how you fought against the increasing aridity and bitterness within you.
My God, you had never really been loved. p. 73-74
Later on there is, for the SF field of time, some quite graphic sexual description (even if nowadays it rather reads like an entry for a bad sex writing award):
I remember the weeks that followed. Oh Anita, Anita, I remember our love-making! I remember the perfection of your body; the smoothness of your flesh. I remember the smooth beauty of your breasts, the sleekness of your stomach, as I used to run my hand over it. The yielding firmness of your thighs. The black triangle, where I used to find the warmth of you. I remember your clumsy, skilful hands as they brought ecstasy to the straining symbol of my passion. I remember the sounds our love made. The little sighs you used to give, and then later, the gasping and the coughing noises you made in your convulsion. I remember the liquid sounds of our love, and the rhythm of our bodies. I remember the musky odour of your excitement. p. 76
At the end of the story (spoiler) there is a nuclear attack on London. He picks his way through the devastation to find Anita terribly injured, and she dies in his arms.
Given the comments above you may be wondering why I originally said it was a notable story. Well, there are a few things. First, you get used to the style after a while. Second, there is an attempt here to write about adult matters in the (at the time) rather taboo-bound field of science fiction. Finally, the last scenes in the story, which describe the aftermath of the nuclear blast, are graphic and brutal enough to still pack a punch. It is worth a sympathetic reading.
I didn’t hold out much hope for the last two stories, given that they are both by New Worlds old-timers, and with New Experience by E. C. Tubb I wasn’t wrong. This is one of those stories where a man wakes up to a shifting reality (this is actually quite an effective initial scene). After a few pages of his experiences of objects appearing and disappearing randomly we find out that he is trialling an experimental drug. This makes him think he is God, as the only things that appear real to him are those he concentrates on. His handler, who has been following him around in the real world, eventually gets him back to the clinic, where he wakes up and they tell him it was all a dream. If there is a point to all this I didn’t get it.
Andromeda, the novelette by Clifford C. Reed, on the other hand, isn’t that bad.2 This one is set in a future that has humanity spread throughout the solar system, and its opening scene has the police breaking up a demonstration on Earth:
So far as the ordinary citizen observed, it was a normal Free Speech Sunday. There appeared to be no more than the average number of armoured personnel carriers and pick-up wagons about. There did not seem more riot police about than usual. The licensed marihuana vendors shrilled their wares as usual; the habituees browsed at the pavement porno stands.
In the centre of the square several hundred citizens stood with their personal ear microphones tuned to a speaker on the rostrum. They packed close to the platform, shutting out the activity around them, as a fresh orator moved forward to underline the convictions of the converted, and crystallize the emotions of those not yet committed.
From the upper side of the square, on the steps of one of the buildings, two men watched the scene.
“That the woman?” the civilian asked.
The uniformed man nodded. p. 81
The rest of the story follows the attempts of the authorities to make this woman conform. After the demonstrators are arrested they are all shipped to camps rather than being released as normally happens. At the camps there is an effort is made to recondition and release them:
No violence. Only the day and night, never-ceasing insistence of the hammering loud-speakers. No flesh and blood opponents to refute, but canned arguments which went on, and on, and on.
After a week all the weaker rebels had been weeded out, removed to other centres. From which, when they were safely cleansed, they could be fed back into normal society. For those who still held fast, there was more pressure on another flank.
They had stuffed their ears with cloth against the canned voices. Now they would have to close their eyes.
Overnight, posters bloomed all around the camp, accusing, exhorting. The pointing finger, “Why are You still in prison? Don’t you want to be Free?”
The signs and slogans, static and mute, could be shut out by mental discipline. But movement caught the eye, was harder to ignore. Projectors could be swivelled and aimed at will. Without warning, walls and ceilings, even floors, could come suddenly to life, the message smashing at the prisoners’ minds before they had time to shield themselves.
“It’s inhuman,” the woman protested. Two warders led a man away towards the hospital; a man who stumbled as he walked, a man who laughed, turning his head from side to side. A stream of blood ran down either side of the man’s nose. He clutched a pointed piece of metal in one hand. There was blood on the metal. The woman clung to the chairman’s arm. “Why are they doing this to us?”
The blind man was led out of sight, and he looked at the woman. “I think they are afraid,” he said.
“Of us? Of us!” p. 84-85
The final few are later shipped to the moon. There, a doctor tells the woman that the governments on Earth are making this extraordinary effort to break them as, simply put, they can’t afford to tolerate dissent now that humanity has stopped progressing. This isn’t convincing, and it isn’t helped by the overlong and tenuous way it is explained either.
Eventually she is the last one left, and the powers that be decide to put her on a spaceship called Star Seeker and send her out of the solar system. This way they can still pretend that the human race has an outward urge, and the populace won’t find out that they have lied about re-educating all the dissidents. The final scenes involve a three way showdown between her, the various world leaders and her doctor.
This doesn’t entirely work, and Reed takes a lot longer than necessary to wrap matters up in the final scenes, but I rather enjoyed this one. It covers a lot of ground for a novelette, there is the odd flash of intelligence, and it perhaps has a 1984 thing going on, too.
The Cover by Jakubowicz is the first full colour cover in Moorcock’s editorship. The artist would contribute another cover for New Worlds #147.3 Moorcock notes in his editorial that they have started using Interior artwork again, and there are four artists listed for three illustrated stories. The Cawthorn and Thomson contributions are obvious but I am not sure if the illustration for Langdon Jones’ story is by Gilmore or Graham (future issues aren’t much help as they stop crediting artists from #146 onwards).4
The Books column leads off with a review of J. G. Ballard’s collection The Terminal Beach under Moorcock’s own name before he switches to his James Colvin pseudonym for the remainder. It starts with this rave:
There can be no question now that J. G. Ballard has emerged as the greatest imaginative writer of his day. This latest collection of stories is profoundly stimulating and emotionally exciting. It shows us a writer whose intellectual control of his subject-matter is only matched by the literary giants of the past, and it shows us a writer who is developing so rapidly that almost every story he writes is better than his last. He is the first really important literary talent to come from the field of modern SF and it is to his credit that he is as popular with his magazine audience as he ever was. He has shown that SF need make no concessions to the commercial publisher’s idea of what the public wants. p. 119
He explains a little about the title story:
In The Terminal Beach, however, Ballard dispenses with formality and uses an impressionistic technique which is absolutely effective in its description of a wartime American bomber pilot who returns to Eniwetok obsessed with the idea of finding ‘a key to the present.’ p. 119
As Colvin he gives two anthologies by John Carnell (New Writings in SF #1 and Lambda One) a better review than I would have expected (old loyalties perhaps) but is less than impressed with Robert A. Heinlein’s Revolt in 2100.
Letters to the Editor starts with a letter from P. Johnson of Orpington in Kent, who has this to say:
Although the two best SF writers in the world are British, and several other British writers are among the top ranks, Britain has no strength in depth. The Nova magazines published some stories that were unsurpassed by American writers, but the average stories which make up the bulk of most magazines were particularly weary and unoriginal in New Worlds and even Science Fantasy. Why not, therefore, try for some American writers. I can only deduce by the prolific amount that they write, that Laumer, Damon Knight, Dickson etc. are professionals. Surely they would welcome a new market? The only obstacle (a big one, admittedly) would be less financial gain. p. 123
Writer Joseph Green of Seattle, WA says:
I question whether Burroughs, Anthony Burgess or any other writer should move so far out of the realm of common understanding that the essential message of the book is lost to a majority of readers.
[. . .]
I think Finnegans Wake and Ulysses are eminent examples. Any person of normal intelligence can enjoy the latter, while Wake is customarily issued over here with an explanatory book which attempts to help you understand it! Both are highly original works. Ulysses is a classic. Wake was a dud. p. 124
Moorcock suggests that everyone is capable of training themselves to get the most out of a book, and that perhaps the guide and Wake should be regarded as one book. I’m still not going to bother.
There is a third letter in this interesting column from Eric L. Vorbez of New York, who asks Ballard and Moorcock for more specifics on what they regard as good SF.
Finally, there are Story Ratings for issues #140 to #143. Ballard comes top in #140 for The Terminal Beach and in #142 & #143 for Equinox. Do I hear you yell ‘Fix!’? I have my doubts about the first one, too.
An interesting issue, with a good Barrington Bayley story that I hadn’t read before.
- Presumably Bayley was asked to use different names for these three stories to make it seem like there was a larger group of contributors than there actually was. He would contribute six stories to the first ten issues of the paperback format of the magazine and then only one solo effort and one collaboration for the remaining twenty one.
- According to ISFDB, this was Reed’s penultimate story. A decade’s worth of production stopped a year or so later.
- If you look at the bottom of this eFanzines page you can see Michel Jakubowicz’s original cover art for this issue, and some other work. You can see his covers for the French magazine Fiction (a foreign edition of F&SF) by clicking here.
- Two of the three Cawthorn illustrations: