A World of Sound • reprint short story by Olaf Stapledon ♥♥
The Legend of GX-118 • short story by David S. Garnett ♥
The Last Weapon • short story by Douglas Fulthorpe ♥
Cover • Ray Winder
Interior artwork • Martin Venning, Josh Kirby, Barry Robson, Chris Bent, Bruce Pennington, Ray Feibush, Tim White, Malcolm Poynter, Cheryl Drower, Bob Layzell,
Future issues • editorial
Jack Arnold SF Film Director Extraordinaire • interview by John Brosnan
The Artist in Science Fiction: Roger Dean • essay by Julie Davis
Modern Masters of Science Fiction: 5: Olaf Stapledon • essay by Walter Gillings
Fanzines in Focus: Peter Weston and Speculation • essay by Aune R. Butt
Are You Alive (and Intelligent) Out There? • science essay by C. D. Renmore
Review: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin • by Malcolm Edwards
News • Julie Davis
The Query Box • Walter Gillings [as by Thomas Sheridan]
The Xmas Cover for this issue was, I think, Science Fiction Monthly’s first use of original artwork rather than a previously published one from NEL’s paperback line (although I’d have to check #5 to be sure). I think that Ray Winder produced a cover that was not only seasonal but eye-catching as well.1
The fiction, as per usual for the magazine, is the usual lacklustre selection, although the Olaf Stapledon’s piece A World of Sound (Hotch Potch, 1936) is of some interest. In this, one of his few short stories, a man finds himself quite literally in a world of sound. He describes the physicality of the world before he is attracted to the equivalent of a female, who he subsequently pursues.
A newcomer now approached from the silent distance to join my frolicking companions. This being was extremely attractive to me, and poignantly familiar. Her lithe figure, her lyrical yet faintly satirical movement, turned the jungle into Arcadia. To my delight I found that I was not unknown to her, and not wholly unpleasing. With a gay gesture she beckoned me into the game.
For the first time I not only changed the posture of my musical limbs but moved bodily, both in the dimension of pitch and the “level” dimension. As soon as I approached, she slipped with laughter away from me. I followed her; but very soon she vanished into the jungle and into the remoteness of silence. Naturally I determined to pursue her. I could no longer live without her. And in the exquisite harmony of our two natures I imagined wonderful creative potentialities. p.11
Later, he is pursued by a ‘wolf.’
The last line of this made me smile somewhat: although this type of ending usually irritates it works quite well here and, for what it is worth, is set up at the start.
The Legend of GX-118 by David S. Garnett starts with two men from Earth’s department of Extraterrestrial Affairs visiting a planet that is inhabited by natives who have no interest in interacting with the humans. The boss of Galentic, the company that discovered the planet, shows them around.
The two visitors notice that there are no children or old people and later realise that the natives must be immortal. The men (spoiler) are subsequently involved in a cover up and are killed, or appear to be killed, by company employees.
The final part is rather perplexing as it involves one of the two men—who had been shot after discovering the other’s body—arriving on the planet years later. By this point in time the natives have been wiped out and Galentic have made a fortune selling the planet’s water—the secret of the alien’s immortality.
None of this hangs together, not why one of the men has survived, nor why the water would work on humans as it does on the alien natives. I also didn’t understand the point of the framing device, which is of a movie about the discovery of the alien’s immortality being shown on his arrival on the planet. Perhaps I missed something.
The Last Weapon by Douglas Fulthorpe is labelled as a satire, which is just as well as I’m not sure I would have noticed. A man is treated by a psychotherapist and told the reason he has been unable to hold down a job is because he has been wearing shoes that have been two sizes too small all his life (his mother wanted him to be a ballet dancer).
He next turns up at a Ministry appointments board after smashing through a supposedly unbreakable exterior window and shows off a new weapon that changes peoples’ temperament. This provides perhaps the only amusing paragraph in the story:
The room had been thoroughly searched before the meeting. Only the previous week an American spy had been discovered lashed to the underside of the table in this very room. The juicy sounds of his chomping on a wad of mentholated gum had proved his undoing. (He had taken the precaution of jamming the building’s acoustic detectors, but had overlooked the natural hearing faculty of the board members.) p.28
The non-fiction is as unexceptional as the fiction, although there are a few pieces that are quite good.
Jack Arnold SF Film Director Extraordinaire is an interesting interview by John Brosnan. The director of It Came from Outer Space, Creature of the Black Lagoon, etc., is a good subject and there are a number of interesting and or funny anecdotes. I’ll limit myself to the one where he needed to do some shots of the creature underwater:
When I went down to scout locations the oceanarium people showed me this tremendous tank full of sharks, barracuda, moray eels, even an octopus. They were fed by divers going into the tank and feeding them by hand. I looked into the tank and said, could you guys possibly screen off half the tank with a net and then take out the most dangerous fish so that I can shoot the creature inside it. I told them I not only had to get the creature in the tank but also my leading man and lady. I said if they took one look at those sharks in there I would never get them in. So they assured me they would but when I returned with the company and we got ready to shoot I saw there was no net. Where’s the net, I asked. And they said, you don’t need a net . . . those fish won’t bother your actors . . . they’re too well-fed.
So I was in a fix. How was I going to get my actors to go in there? Now I had a crazy cameraman on that picture, he was nuts. He said to me that I’d better go into the tank with him to demonstrate to the actors that it was safe. He talked me into it so I put on a mask and air tanks and jumped in. I closed my eyes at first. After a while I opened one eye and there was a damn shark, at least 12’ long, his mouth open and looking at me. And he was only about a yard away. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know whether to make any movement or to stay absolutely still . . . so I just shut my eyes again. It seemed the best thing to do. Then he brushed by me and I felt his skin . . . it was like sandpaper.
I shot to the surface then and said, come on in . . . nothing to it! But the amazing thing is that by the third day . . . after all our initial reluctance to go in the tank . . . all of us were so used to the sharks that we were actually kicking them out of the way. The only animal that gave us any trouble was a turtle. It developed a liking for the creature’s costume and kept biting chunks out of it. Finally we had to assign a grip to stay underwater with the sole job of making sure that the turtle didn’t bother our monster. p.4
Modern Masters of Science Fiction: 5: Olaf Stapledon by Walter Gillings is an interesting article about Stapledon’s work that left me wanting to read his Last and First Men, and Star Maker (the only one of his I’ve read is Sirius).
Malcolm Edwards’ Review: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin is a detailed review of that book and made me resolve to reread it. It has been so long since I read it that I had forgotten what is was about.
The editorial, Future issues, looks forward to next year and volume two, and promises articles by Mike Ashley on Moorcock and Ellision, and more space devoted to TV and cinema, with pieces by John Bronsan on Star Trek and Dr Who (alas). They also promise more original fiction with the winners of the short story competition appearing from next issue.
The Artist in Science Fiction: Roger Dean is a short piece by Julie Davis about an artist whose album covers and posters were part of my youth. Dean makes some interesting comments about the architectural point of his artwork:
The attractiveness in the drawings is partially incidental and partially an attempt on my part to make people want to like them, so that I can introduce them to other ideas which I want them to like and which aren’t just pretty pictures. My drawings are not about art at all, I am not interested in art, I am not interested in fantasy in the sense that your magazine is.
What I am interested in is putting ideas represented on the sleeves actually into practice. If some of those buildings and some of those sections of worlds appeal I don’t want them to appeal only out of the pages of a book, I want people to be able to walk around them, climb the staircases, walk the corridors. p.6-7
Fanzines in Focus: Peter Weston and Speculation by Aune R. Butt is a short chatty article about Weston’s fanzine, whereas Are You Alive (and Intelligent) Out There? by C. D. Renmore is a rather dull science essay about communication with aliens, which doesn’t contain much that I haven’t read before.
News by Julie Davis doesn’t contain much news. Half of the four columns are made up of synopses of recent books. Of the remaining text, half is given over to a half-baked idea by Mensa’s research officer and ideas chairman:
In short, Mr Kirby is suggesting an academic discipline of applied science fiction. He proposes that a comprehensive content analysis of all science fiction be prepared to provide a computer bank of hypotheses which can be fed to scientists; he is encouraging scientific researchers to send their problems to sf writers who will solve them in fiction; and he also suggests that liaison committees be set up between scientists and writers to combine the actual with the possible.
He rejects our passive role as objects in the universe, we are subjects and as such we should take the future in our own hands and define it into existence. Mr Kirby believes that the responsibility for this lies with the sf writers, he wants universities and research establishments to employ resident sf writers to stimulate new and worthwhile research. He even goes as far as to suggest that sf will no longer stand for science fiction but henceforth it will mean science fertiliser!
Needless to say Mr Kirby’s ideas were not received too favourably by the scientists present at the meeting. p.26
The Query Box by Walter Gillings answers a selection of questions, and Letters has an interesting item of correspondence from C. R. Stanley of Southsea, Hampshire about SF music.
Finally, it will be no surprise that the Interior artwork in this issue is equally lacklustre, excepting Tim White’s illustration for the David Garnett story and Josh Kirby’s excellent two-page spread.2 The centrefold is a diary for 1975 printed on top of an illustration by Ray Feibush.
An issue that isn’t really worth digging out.
- There were quite a few eye-catching covers that first year, as the Back Issues page shows:
- Tim White’s illustration for David S. Garnett’s story:
There is a double page spread of Josh Kirby’s cover for Ray Bradbury’s The October Country: