Editor, Keith Seddon
The End of All Songs (Part 3 of 4) • serial by Michael Moorcock ∗∗
My Time, Your Time • short story by David Penny ∗
The Agonies of Time • novelette by Ravan Christchild ∗
Cover • by Rodney Matthews
Interior artwork • Eddie Jones, Michelle Robson, Richard Hopkinson, Jocelyn Almond
Editorial • by Keith Seddon
I mentioned when reviewing the last issue that there was a strong sense of déjà vu from the first issue—that is even more pronounced this time around. Once again we have Moorcock’s serial, another series novelette by Ravan Christchild, and an editorial by Keith Seddon. The only variation is a story by David Penny (there is no artist interview, not even a Next Issue section). I note in passing that this latter writer was the first to appear in Vortex, apart from Moorcock, who wasn’t a complete unknown. He had previously published a short story, The Durable Man, in Galaxy, March 1974.
His contribution to this issue, My Time, Your Time, has a narrator called Percy Bysshe (after Shelly) who is rebuilding an old house on the planet Tipit after a tour as a deep space pilot. The house was left to him by his parents hundreds of years ago—the long time-interval is a result of the time-dilation effects he was subject to while in space.
He meets a young woman called Sandi. She is an outcast from the village due to the fact that she spends her time with an alien krie, a dragonfly-like inhabitant of the planet that can teleport. The two become romantically involved, and they later use the krie to move a small space shuttle and explore the Galaxy. They think (spoiler) that the krie can teleport across vast distances without any time dilatation effects but they are mistaken.
This, for the most part, has a pleasant rural/seaside feel, like of some of Michael Coney’s work, but the problem it has is that the world building is completely unconvincing. Although hundreds of years have gone by during his time in space, he returns to a society that has barely changed. There has been no linguistic drift, or much in the way of technological progress: he buys a typewriter to write his memoirs, drinks vodka and orange, and the only meal in the story is fried ham and eggs. This isn’t the future—it’s the 1970s on another planet.
A readable enough story for all that, just an amateur one.
The End of All Songs by Michael Moorcock gets off to a good start in the ancient city, where Jherek and company see the Lat arrive and unsuccessfully attempt to use their energy weapons:
Popping a translation pill into his mouth (he had taken to carrying them everywhere just recently) Jherek said: “What brings you to the city, Captain Mubbers?”
“Mind your own smelly business, sonny jim,” said the leader of the space-invaders. “All we armjoint want to do now is find a shirt-elastic way out!”
“I can’t understand why you wanted to come in, though…” He glanced apologetically at Mrs. Underwood, who could not understand anything that was being said. He offered her a pill. She refused. She folded her arms in an attitude of resignation.
“Spoils,” said another of the Lat.
“Shut it, Rokfrug,” Captain Mubbers ordered.
But Rokfrug continued: “The knicker-patch place seemed so rotten-well protected that we thought there was bound to be something worth having here. Just our shirt-elastic luck—”
“I said shut it, arse-brain!”
But Captain Mubbers’ men seemed to be losing faith in his authority. They crossed their three eyes in a most offensive manner and made rude gestures with their elbows.
“Weren’t you already sufficiently successful elsewhere?” Jherek asked Rokfrug. “I thought you were doing extremely well with the destruction, the rape and so on…”
“Pissing right we were, until…”
“Cork your hole, bum-face!” shouted his leader.
“Oh, elbow-off!” retorted Rokfrug, but seemed aware that he had gone too far. His voice became a self-pitying mumble as Captain Mubbers gazed disapprovingly back at him. Even his fellows plainly thought Rokfrug’s language had put him beyond the pale.
“We’re under a bit of a strain,” said one of them, by way of apology. p. 3
During this conversation Inspector Underwood and his men arrive on an airship piloted by the Duke of Queens. The latter is now a special constable and sports a yellow truncheon.
The ancient city is malfunctioning, and a huge power drain causes a gaping pit open up on the plain beyond the city. Mongrove and Yusharip arrive and tell them that the End of the Universe is nigh. Mongrove is in his element, and Yusharip informs them that the only way to survive is to use their spaceship as a refuge and eke out a spartan existence. Neither the Duke of Queens or Jherek is interested in this kind of existence, and Jherek wanders off with Amelia, who has confessed that she loves him.
After this it all becomes a bit of a plod. Captain Bastable and Una Persson turn up but are not that concerned about the momentous events that are unfolding. Then Lord Jagged and the Iron Orchid arrive, and we then get an endless data dump: Jagged admits (spoiler) to being Jherek’s father, explains his origins, and reveals that he has discovered how to time travel without a machine. He then goes on to explain how he is going to create a time loop to save their society. All will be well.
Soon all would be as it had always been, before the winds of limbo had come to blow their world away. Flesh, blood and bone, grass and trees and stone would flourish beneath the fresh-born sun, and beauty of every sort, simple or bizarre, would bloom upon the face of that arid, ancient planet. It would be as if the universe had never died; and for that the world must thank its half-senile cities and the arrogant persistence of that obsessive temporal investigator from the twenty-first century, from the Dawn Age, who named himself for a small pet singing bird fashionable two hundred years before his birth, who displayed himself like an actor, yet disguised himself and his motives with all the consummate cunning of a Medici courtier; this fantastico in yellow, this languid meddler in destinies, Lord Jagged of Canaria. p. 29
While they are waiting for these changes to be completed Amelia suggests a party. She creates a ghoulish, disturbing spectacle for the venue. At the party she and Jherek seem estranged, and it appears that Amelia has become entirely like the other denizens of the End of Time.
This instalment drags quite badly, and I can think of at least one reason why, which is the length of the entire novel: the first two novels in this trilogy are around 160-170 pages long but this one runs to 300 pages, and it feels like it wasn’t edited for pace or concision.
The Agonies of Time by Ravan Christchild gives more of a clue about why this appeared under a pseudonym1: one of the main characters is a rock star called Sexton Cromlech who has a stage show (and a private life) that encompasses necrophilia, vampirism, and various other predilections:
Steve Mitchell averted his eyes as an expensive-looking black coffin was wheeled on stage. Sipping his lager, he felt suddenly tired and dizzy. He looked quizzically into the brew.
“May I join you?” Mitchell looked up and found that the owner of this voice was a pretty young blonde, wearing a short sleeved blouse with diamond necklace, and white lightweight trousers in washable Trevira.
He stood up and pulled out a seat for her.
“My name’s Ella,” she said, sitting down, “Ella Creem. What’s yours?”
“Er Steve. Steve M . . .”
“Say,” she said, looking up at his pale face, “you okay?”
Mitchell smiled weakly. “A bit drunk, I think.” He sat down.
“I don’t go too much on this show,” said Ella Creem, looking at the stage, where a lovely female ‘corpse’ was sitting up in her coffin and fellating Cromlech.
“Me neither. Would you like a drink, Ella?”
“Ohh, gin and lemonade, please.”
Mitchell signalled to the waiter. He had to shout his order, for the audience suddenly gasped aloud as Cromlech orgasmed, dark red blood spilling from the fellatrix’s mouth while the backing vocals (‘The Rites of Eternity’) chanted climatically:
We love the dead
We love the dead
We love the dead
We love the dead
Make us dead with you !
“Not quite my cup of tea at all,” Mitchell told Ella Creem. p. 37
This section occurs at the very start of the story, in a stage show that (vaguely, and probably only to me) recalls David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album (I should really get the album out and see if you can fit the lyrics to the music).
For the first three chapters or so there is a loose story that involves Cromlech, Mitchell, Dorrell, and a new character called Electra Vanderpump. It isn’t long, however, before we get more parallel world German airship action, time-travelling, and Multiverse and Lord of Chaos chatter. Added to that mix, presumably because it isn’t rich enough, there is an Archbishop having messy sex with a woman.
According to a note at the end of these novelettes, they were ‘loosely based . . . on a forthcoming novel, The Englishman’s Lady.’ This appeared in the late-80s under a different title,2 and I’m curious about the extent to which the novel version is different.
The Cover is another eye-catching effort by Rodney Matthews and, once again, appears unadorned on the rear cover.
Inside there is more extensive artwork and a lot more use of colour, although a lot of this is only a grey or yellow background colour for the text (the grey is a stupid choice as it makes the text harder to read). The inner cover is a single colour wash of a picture by Eddie Jones, next issue’s cover artist.
The Interior artwork is provided this issue by Michelle Robson, whose illustrations for the serial are no match for James Cawthorn’s (the latter’s filler images from the last two issues appear again); Richard Hopkinson once more provides what I would describe as talented amateur work and, again, Jocelyn Almond demonstrates that her black and white work is better than her full-colour (that latter comment refers to p. 42, not reproduced here).
The only non-fiction this issue, as mentioned before, is the Editorial by Keith Seddon. In this one he discusses what readers, and more specifically SF readers, want and get from their fiction.
Geek’s Corner: the first two issues were copyright Cerebus Publishing, and published and printed by Shalmead Ltd; this one has the same copyright but is published by Container Publications Ltd. and printed by Shalmead Ltd. More of this to come.
A poor issue, and the magazine’s lowest point.
- Since my speculations about the Christchild pseudonym in the last issue, I found another reference about a vicar on John Guy Collick’s blog (the passage after the Vortex #3 cover image—unfortunately, the Moorcock’s Miscellany link to the original post doesn’t work). There is more information at SFE, but it doesn’t say what the origin of this is.
- The Agonies of Time by Ravan Christchild at Amazon.uk and AbeBooks.co.uk.