Jupiter Laughs • short story by Edmund Cooper ♥♥♥
The Pause • reprint short story by Isaac Asimov ♥♥
Clown Fish & Anemone • short story by Chris Morgan ♥♥♥
Write-Off the Planet • short story by Ernest Hill ♥
Cover • Ray Feibush
Interior artwork • by Eddy Lowe, David Field, Karel Thole, Brent Armstrong, Robert McAulay, Lucinda Cowell, Alan Aldridge, M. J. Perry
The Size of Things to Come (4) • comic strip by Malcolm Poynter
Vol 2 No 4 • editorial
Science Fiction Monthly Painting Competition Mk II
Hope for the Future: The Science Fiction Novels of Edmund Cooper • essay by James Goddard
An Interview with Edmund Cooper • interview of Edmund Cooper • by James Goddard
News • by Julie Davis
SF in the Cinema: The Land That Time Forgot • film review by John Bronsan
Modern Masters of Science Fiction: 10: Isaac Asimov • essay by Walter Gillings
Butterfly Ball: An Illustrated Fantasy • essay by Julie Davis
The Query Box • essay by Walter Gillings [as by Thomas Sheridan]
This issue of Science Fiction Monthly is essentially one that is dedicated to the writer Edmund Cooper. As the editorial on the first page states, almost half the issue is filled with material about or by him. Cooper was a popular British writer of the 70s and 80s, as well as the SF reviewer for The Sunday Times, but he almost disappeared from sight after his death in 1982.1
There is a price increase apology (35p) at the bottom of the editorial page. Between the editorial and that item is the notice and rules for the second artwork competition. Rather strangely the competition is open to ‘all residents of the UK, Eire and the British Commonwealth as constituted on 1 January 1947’!
The first item of the Edmund Cooper material is his story Jupiter Laughs. According to the introduction it was written for a US anthology of alternative histories2 due later that year, and it tells of a small unit of Roman centurions involved in Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. In this world they also kill the three wise men before they catch up with Joseph, Mary and their child…. The coda (spoiler) flashes forward to a Queen Victoria in a Roman Empire. Caesar tells her that the reason their empire still survives is because the Roman god Jupiter motivated them more than the tribal gods did their opponents. This is quite good story-telling but having Victoria as the Queen is a bit of a stretch given the branching point in that history’s timeline.
The essay that follows, Hope for the Future: The Science Fiction Novels of Edmund Cooper by James Goddard, gives a useful overview of his work and the second page is nicely decorated with the distinctive covers of Cooper’s Coronet paperbacks.3
The meat of the material about Cooper though, is a condensed version of an interview that appeared in Goddard’s fanzine Cypher.4 Cooper had very forthright, sometimes reactionary, views about a number of issues:
The whole point is that the average cranial capacity of the human female is 125cc less than that of the average human male; what I’m saying is that on the whole they’ve got a smaller computer, and, granted that they are the same type of computers, the bigger computer is better than the smaller computer.
Let them have equal opportunity. I’m all in favour of it. I dislike this idea that they are blocked in the City. For example, if you are a woman, you just cannot get on the Stock Exchange unless you’ve been very lucky; in industry, if you are a woman, you cannot rise above a certain level unless you’re very lucky. They’re blocked for two reasons; one, because men are afraid of them, and two, a valid reason, because they consider that most women are going to get themselves impregnated, and move off shortly after they’ve mastered the job and got themselves a decent salary. My point is that, in equal competition, and let them have totally equal competition, let them compete against men, they’ll see that they can’t make it. p.9
More people have been killed by internecine wars in the Christian Church than in the First and Second World Wars put together. There have been more destruction and more misery created by the brotherly love that is promulgated by this dreadful religion than by anything else throughout history, it really is appalling. We’ve got it now in Northern Ireland. Surely any thinking person must feel that if that’s what Protestantism is and that’s what Catholicism is, let any sane society outlaw both, because they are death and destruction. And talking of male chauvinism, for centuries the Church has kept women in bondage. Women are unclean when they have babies, they have to go and be churched afterwards so that they are fit for human consumption again. They don’t have rights, the Church has kept women in total subjugation. So I, male chauvinist pig that I am, want to grant them emancipation, and the Church is busy keeping them down. p.10
I don’t admire sf writers, I admire certain books. Take the case of Brian Aldiss’s Non-Stop. I think, was an excellent book, An Age was an excellent book. Report on Probability A was rubbishy, it wasn’t even sf, it was a wornout essay in metaphysical speculation. Barefoot in the Head was a psychedelic fantasy with no real value, Frankenstein Unbound certainly wasn’t sf, it was fantasy masquerading as sf, with a great many loopholes. I think he’s only written two very good novels; so, do I admire Brian Aldiss or not?
No, I admire two of his books. p.11
Some (or all) of these quotes will probably put people off reading his books which, I think, is a shame. I recently read his post-holocaust novel The Cloud Walker, and thought it a superior book: its story of Kieron and his dreams of flight in a feudal world where machinery is considered heretical is a good read, non-didactic and quite witty in places; the second half also has some exciting action.5
The Cooper material is followed by a rather uneventful News column and another good John Bronsan SF in the Cinema review of what would seem to be a crap film, The Land That Time Forgot. I was surprised to see Michael Moorcock and James Cawthorn listed as the screenplay writers. There was one part that made me smile:
Use is also made of full-scale models—such as in the scene where a pterodactyl swoops down and picks up a man in its beak. That’s not very convincing either—it’s very stiff and you can see the supporting wires—but it’s not every day you see a full-scale model of a pterodactyl in action, so one shouldn’t really quibble. p.12
Modern Masters of Science Fiction: 10: Isaac Asimov by Walter Gillings is a short essay on that writer’s work. I think I knew that Pebble in the Sky had been rejected for serialisation but learnt that the same had happened to The End of Eternity. I also discovered that The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun had been dramatised in the BBC series Out of the Unknown.
The story picked to accompany this article is Asimov’s The Pause (Time to Come: Science-Fiction Stories of Tomorrow, ed. August Derleth, Farrar, Straus and Young 1954). This story’s maguffin is the cessation of radioactivity in the world and all the attendant consequences. The cause (spoiler) is an intervention by aliens who need time to alter us so we do not destroy ourselves. The main character wonders if we are sheep in a field… Not his best, nor his worst.
Butterfly Ball: An Illustrated Fantasy by Julie Davis is a short article about the ex-Deep Purple guitarist Roger Glover’s album The Butterfly Ball based on the William Glover verse and Alan Aldridge’s Illustrations. The latter are the high point of this piece.6
This is followed by the last of the non-fiction, a humdrum The Query Box by Walter Gillings with questions about Robert E. Howard, the Hugo and Nebula awards, Kilgore Trout, Star Trek, Perry Rhodan, etc.
The Letters column isn’t much better, with comments about definitions of SF (yawn) and complaints about one of the short story contest winners. It does have this from P. Kingsbury of Sunderland though:
l have bought your fine magazine since the first issue and enjoyed every one. Lately though, I have deplored the space you are giving to these ‘Fandom’ people. If this trend is to continue I will cease to buy your magazine.
I want to read good sf and not features about this lunatic fringe who have latched on to sf. They are a minority of your readership anyway and gave sf a bad name years ago.
Let the good sf and fine artwork continue please. That’s what I buy your magazine for. p.25
I don’t have much to say about the art in this issue: nothing much grabbed me, and the less said about the juvenile two-page comic strip The Size of Things to Come by Malcolm Poynter, the better.
There are two short stories that close out the issue. The first is Clown Fish & Anemone by Chris Morgan. For the most part this is a readable enough if fairly routine story about an alien seeing a spaceship land on its planet and a human disembark. After gathering samples the human notices the alien and climbs up the hill towards it. The title telegraphs a rather too Earth biology analogous ending, but the alien’s final leap of faith improve matters. Nice illustration by Brent Armstrong.7
The second story is another example of unfortunate editorial scheduling in that it follows a work about human-alien interaction with the same. So there wasn’t another single page story in inventory? Write-Off the Planet by Ernest Hill is about an alien membron, a slug like creature, growing to reach a specific female membra on the other side of a cave. Some of the description of this sounds vaguely like alien porn:
She pulsated, radiated and he felt the drawing, clutching, tremulous appeal of her desire. A shiver passed up his stem, urging the tip onwards on its upward curve.
‘Oh my love! The tender power that fondles, coaxes and elongates the substance of my being and draws me to my goal like misty rays rising to the sun! Wait, my beloved! The years will pass. The wide earth will turn around its glowing sun, tilting in the elliptical orbit of its path. The sunlight will be lower in winter when the angle of the tilt is more pronounced.’ p.28
Two humans then visit the cave and one demonstrates the connection between alien pairs by whacking the membron to show the reaction in the membra. Ouch. This becomes depressingly nihilistic by the end.
An interesting issue for the Edmund Cooper section but rather lacklustre apart from that.
- From what I can gather Cooper disappeared from sight for a couple of reasons. First, and most obviously, he died so there were no new books to keep his readership going. Secondly, it appears that after his death Hodder & Stoughton, his publishers, would neither reprint the books nor revert the rights. There is a useful biography by Joe Smith that can be found on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine here. Others seem to have been withdrawn due to a difference of opinion between various parties about Cooper’s life.
- That alternative history anthology is one I’ve never seen or heard of, Beyond Time, ed. Sandra Ley (Pocket Books ,1976).
- Cooper’s paperback covers:
- James Goddard kindly gave John Guy Collick permission to reprint the interview on his blog. Collick also wrote a reflective article about Cooper’s work.
- If you are considering reading any of his other novels it may be worth noting this from SFE: ‘In general, however, Cooper’s later work lacked much joie de vivre, and although accusations that he was anti-Feminist have been denied by some critics, it remains the case that his statement about women in a man’s world — “Let them compete against men, they’ll see that they can’t make it” — is difficult to spin into a very useful contribution to the long debate. A persistent edginess about women in power becomes explicit in Five to Twelve (1968) and Who Needs Men? (1972; vt Gender Genocide 1973), and surfaces less aggressively in Merry Christmas, Ms Minerva! (1978), a Near Future tale set in a Britain dominated by trade unions. These attitudes were neither politic, in the heightened atmosphere of the 1970s, nor in fact intrinsically becoming. Cooper died with his reputation at a low ebb; but he was a competent and prolific writer, and a better balance may some day be reached.’
- In the 1970s if someone wrote an article about an album you would probably only hear it if you bought it, although you might hear individual tracks on the radio. Nowadays, with streaming services such as Spotify, you can go and listen to what is being discussed straight away. In this case my recommendation would be not to bother…. Great album cover though:
- There are a couple of artists called Brent Armstrong on the internet but I’m not sure if either are the creator of the artwork in this issue. The first image is the illustration to the story and the second is the centrefold: