Behold the Man • novella by Michael Moorcock ♥♥♥♥
That Evening Sun Go Down • short story by Arthur Sellings ♥
Signals • short story by John Calder ♥♥
A Taste of the Afterlife • short story by Charles Platt and Barrington J. Bayley ♥♥
The Atrocity Exhibition • shortstory by J. G. Ballard
Another Little Boy • short story by Brian W. Aldiss ♥♥♥+
Invaded by Love • novelette by Thomas M. Disch ♥♥♥+
Behold the Man • cover by Keith Roberts
Why So Conservative? • essay by Michael Moorcock
Behold the Man, A Taste of the Afterlife • interior artwork by James Cawthorn
The Work of Philip K. Dick • essay by John Brunner
Climate Inclement • essay by James Cawthorn
When It’s Time to Put On the Buckskins a Man Knows What He Has To Do… • essay by Hilary Bailey
By the time New Worlds had got to this point in its run it had grown from a 128pp. bimonthly to a 160pp. monthly magazine and was obviously maturing as a publication.
The highlight of the issue is Michael Moorcock’s Behold the Man, a novella that I probably enjoyed more this time around than when I first read it. Its story of Kurt Glogauer travelling back to the time of Christ is probably too well known to require a synopsis, so I’ll limit myself to saying that the two things that I remembered from the first time around were: the striking image of Glogauer immersed in the milky fluid of the time machine and it cracking like an egg, and (spoiler) his discovery at the end of the story that Jesus is a congenital imbecile. The latter seems quite brave given that there would be a blasphemous libel trial a decade later.1 Certainly one of the best stories in the Moorcock New Worlds and deserving of its Nebula Award.
Arthur Selling’s That Evening Sun Go Down starts with a couple pages of near gibberish before becoming the far-future trial of a man for heresy. A song with the words of the title seem to be significant but this was completely lost on me.
While I was reading John Calder’s Signals I could have sworn it was a pseudonymous work by Barrington Bayley — it concerns a scientist working on radio signals from universes that are contained in atoms, in this case one in a drop of water. This one is intriguing as far as it goes but has a rather arbitrary ending.2
Talking of Barrington Bayley, he has a collaboration with Charles Platt in this issue, A Taste of the Afterlife. I wonder if the reason this novelette became a collaboration is that one of the authors couldn’t get the story to work. As it is, this is quite interesting for the most part. The protagonist is killed to release his electromagnetic ‘afterlife’ and given suitable devices to enable him to travel to a secret weapons factory in Russia to assist with a raid by British forces. This works quite well until the enemy’s ‘afterlife’ troops come for him. The final section is somewhat anticlimactic and open-ended, and gives the impression that there is a longer story or a sequel still to be told.
J. G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition is another of his concentrated stories, probably the most impenetrable one I can remember reading and I got nothing out of it — unlike, for example, Journey Across A Crater in New Worlds Quarterly #1.
Brian W. Aldiss’s Another Little Boy is a lively and entertaining story about the commemoration a hundred years from now of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima . The problem is that virtually no-one can remember the significance of the date or why it should be important, never mind the best way to commemorate it. Added to that, Aldiss manages to add references to, or scenes including: IUDs, orgasms, orgies and homosexuality. I suspect that would probably have been enough to see off the last of the Carnell’s old guard. One very minor cavil: given the current WW1 commemorations, the 2044 date is a little unconvincing.
The last of the fiction is Thomas Disch’s debut in New Worlds, the novelette Invaded By Love. This is an entertaining story of an alien race trying to subjugate Earth by sending a representative who preaches a religion of love. The ending isn’t as strong as the rest of the story but the best of it is the cat-and-mouse maneuvering between Brother Luster Lovely, a two metre tall alien preacher who glows due to his phosphorescent blood, and the Secretary General of the UN.
It is perhaps worth noting that these last two pieces are both entertaining, occasionally amusing stories, not the obscure and serious stuff that people sometimes think typifies Moorcock-era New Worlds material, or the later period anyway.
As to the non-fiction and artwork, this issue has Keith Roberts’s best cover, probably: three crucifixion crosses, black against a dark blue, darkening sky, each of the men a silhouette. Inaccurate but the better for it (the story states Christ/Glogauer is crucified on his own). There are a couple of internal illustrations by James Cawthorn.3
Moorcock’s editorial discusses controversial stories in SF magazines (although he stretches the point by shoe-horning Langdon Jones’s mawkish I Remember Anita in alongside Farmer’s The Lovers and Harrison’s The Streets of Ashkelon). Midway through there is also something of a non sequitur:
It is also interesting to note that at least two prominent US SF editors suffered or suffer (a) from agoraphobia and (b) from an obsessive interest in restriction symbols. p.3
The first is presumably Horace Gold but I have no idea who the other is. He ends by saying he hopes the stories in this issue will be accepted on their own merits.
The book reviews comprise a matter of fact listing and description by James Cawthorn and a more opinionated column by Hilary Bailey. The major essay is an overview of Philip K. Dick’s work by John Brunner. An interesting snippet herein:
As far as I can determine, only three of his books (not including the Hugo winner) have been published here, and of these I can only find one currently in print. p.142
Strange that Dick was so poorly published in the UK a handful of years after his Hugo win.
A couple of minor points from the subscriptions page: they are charging 4/- a copy when it cost 3/6 on the newsstand. They would have made more money out of a cover price subscription minus the postage and handling than they would have from the distributors after the latter had taken their cut of newsstand sales. I didn’t understand why they charged more until it was pointed out to me this may have been forced on the UK publishers by the UK distributors. One wonders if these kinds of practices exacerbated the distribution problems that the magazines had. By this I mean every time newsstand distribution was disrupted, for whatever reason, there was no substantial subscription base to fall back on.4
Also: Charles Harness, Anne McCaffrey and Meryn Peake are all touted as having stories forthcoming but I’m not sure any of them appeared. Did these get lost in the throes of Robert & Vinter going bust?
Finally, in the small ads, Edwardian postcards are wanted by a Mr Colvin (Michael Moorcock), c/o NWSF…
In conclusion, a particularly noteworthy issue, and I suspect it would be difficult to find a better issue from this era of New Worlds. Apart from Moorcock’s Nebula award winning novella, a fine piece of serious writing, you get good work by Disch and Aldiss and interesting and/or promising material from Calder and Platt/Bayley. Highly recommended.
- Gay Times trial, 1977.
- John Calder is a well-known publisher.
- I have always enjoyed James Cawthorns’ work and think it a pity that there has never been a collection.
- I’m also looking at the Sol Cohen published 1970’s Amazing and Fantastic here, although the American situation was not the same as the British. Have a look at the circulation figures between F&SF and those two and compare the wildly varying percentages of subscribers.