John Boston & Damien Broderick: Building New Worlds, 1946-1959: The Carnell Era1
Time Out of Joint (Part 1 of 3) • serial by Philip K. Dick ♥♥♥+
Breaking Point • novelette by Colin Kapp
Appropriation • reprint short story by Robert Silverberg ♥♥
Peace on Earth • short story by Michael Moorcock and Barrington J. Bayley [as by Michael Barrington] ♥
Nearly Extinct • short story by Alan Barclay ♥♥♥
Time Out of Joint • cover by Brian Lewis
New Worlds Profiles: Philip K. Dick • essay by John Carnell
Two In… One Out • editorial by John Carnell
Outward Bound 6: Project Mercury • essay by Kenneth Bulmer and John Newman [as by Kenneth Johns]
Postmortem • reader’s letters
This is the first early issue here of one of the stalwarts of British SF magazine publishing. First published in 1946, it has, in various incarnations, been in and out of existence till almost the present day—if you count a recent online version. One of the two main editors was John Carnell (Michael Moorcock being the other), who helmed the magazine from its first issue to #161 in 1964. This issue was from the middle of a period where the magazine had settled into regular monthly publication with a regular stable of authors.
As to this issue’s cover, I have never been that much of a fan of Brian Lewis’s colour work in New Worlds and this one is poorer than most. I’m not any more a fan of this ‘individual elements against a grid’ style than I was of the various floating heads you used to get on old Astounding covers. I’d also add that the cover layout doesn’t make matters any better: the ‘Time Out of Joint’ title is barely legible against the grid of the painting, and the other material on the cover is far more cluttered than it needs to be.2 All in all, the whole thing looks like some badly executed attempt to copy the cover layout of Galaxy magazine.
While I’m talking about layout I’d also add that the typography inside the magazine is peculiar. Nearly every open quote mark is followed by a space but there isn’t one at the closing quote. Also, before the start of every sentence there are two spaces rather than one, and there are other peccadilloes as well.
Anyway, the contents. This issue starts the serialisation of what was probably the first noteworthy Philip K. Dick novel: Time Out of Joint.3 This was an unusual novel for New Worlds to serialise. It starts, for instance, in quite a low-key manner with Vic Nielson at his daily job at a grocery store and, indeed, the first part of the serial turns out to be almost entirely like a mainstream 1950s novel. However, towards the end there are a number of slightly unusual occurrences. It must have been quite odd for all those 1950s SF readers well into the first part with very little sign of it being a SF novel.
As it turns out, Vic isn’t really the main character—that turns out to be Ragle Gumm, his brother-in-law. Ragle has an odd occupation in that he spends all day scrutinising the paper to complete a ‘Where Will The Little Green Man Be Next’ competition, at which he is very successful.
The odd things that happen to these two, and also Vic’s wife Junie, are: Vic lifts his hand in the bathroom to try and pull a light switch that isn’t there; Junie tries to go three steps up where there are only two; most significantly, Ragle sees a drinks-stand disappear leaving only a slip of paper with printing on it. There are other inexplicable events as well, e.g. Marilyn Munroe is unknown in this world, etc. The plot thickens at the very end of this first part when Bill Black, a close neighbour of the Gumm’s, telephones a work colleague and wonders whether Ragle is becoming sane again…
This is actually a lot more engaging than is sounds and I found it an intriguing read, and I look forward to the next part.
By the by, it is worth noting that this serial is edited not only for length but for content: a certain amount of bowdlerisation is evident, albeit not all this material has been removed—some has been left where required for narrative reasons.4
Colin Kapp wasn’t a particularly fashionable writer to like in the mid-seventies when I first discovered his work but I liked some of it (The ‘Unorthodox Engineers’ for instance) while realising that he could also be pretty bad at times. Breaking Point is one of those stories and does not match up to Editor Carnell’s introduction:
…a breakaway from the traditional approach to a psychological story. Colin Kapp now joins Brian Aldiss and Jim Ballard as British writers who are pioneering the new type of science fiction which is rapidly replacing the old.
This is a pretty dreadful novelette from Kapp. It opens with a military unit running the gauntlet of a mob in a world that seems to have gone mad. At some point a ‘giant’ spouting gibberish and laying about the mob with an iron bar appears. There are other periodic bouts of action throughout the story which helps drive it forward. In between this the characters talk incessantly about the fact the world has gone to hell and the contribution of the ‘Beats’. Oh, and a conspiracy involving a couple of the army personnel and the ‘giant’ develops. At one point the unit commander chirps up:
“I think,” said Foresyte dangerously, “you’d better start talking sense.”
I wish they had as I would have had some idea of what this was supposed to be about.
There are three short stories. Appropriation by Robert Silverberg (Satellite Science Fiction, May 1959) is an OK story about Earthmen on an alien planet populated with empaths. When they are ordered to leave they fear it will cause irreparable damage to the aliens. Matters, it turns out, are not as simple as they seem.
Peace on Earth, a collaboration between Michael Moorcock and Barrington J. Bayley, concerns two immortal Men visiting Earth in the far future looking for a solution to the ennui they feel. After wandering about for a while they come across a deserted ship. Having discussed this they decide they should explore Earth further and they go out into the desert where (spoiler) they find the skeleton of the occupant of the ship. They then run out of air (Earth’s atmosphere has changed) and die, but before their end they find their ‘[final] few seconds of his life were charged with meaning.’ This kind of tosh could only be written by young men (20 and 22 respectively). I don’t know what Carnell’s (47) excuse was for publishing it.
The best short fiction of the issue is Nearly Extinct by Alan Barclay. In this a man helps a woman who is pursued by aliens on a future occupied Earth. After killing a couple of these ‘Frogs’ he meets up with the woman and takes her to his family group in a cave in the hills. It turns out that the man, his children and father can teleport, which is why they have survived. The rest of the story details their lifestyle and further skirmishes with the aliens. I liked the low-key feeling of realism about this, even though we have both aliens and teleporting in the one story.
The non-fiction starts on the inner front cover with New Worlds Profiles: Philip K. Dick. This has a photo of a very young Phil Dick5 with no beard and, among other material, a quote:
Of science fiction he says, “Without being art, it does what art does, since as Schopenhauer pointed out, art tends to break free of the reality around us and reach a new level of gestalting. The virtue of its approach, too, is that it can reach persons who do not have a developed aesthetic sense, which means that it has a higher degree of sheer communicability than great art.”
So there you have another definition of SF: ersatz art for the great unwashed.
There is an unusual editorial, Two In… One Out, where Carnell talks about the competition. He mentions the demise of Nebula (concentrated too much on the American market apparently, rather than consolidating during the British printing strike of 1959 with its Dublin printed edition). He also mentions a couple of new US reprint mags and wonders whether the recent end of import controls will affect them now that the originals can be imported.
Outward Bound 6: Project Mercury by Kenneth Bulmer and John Newman is about the early days of space exploration. This article covers the animals that have been shot into space—I note that no-one ever voices any concern that they must have been terrified—and the recruitment of the first batch of astronauts and what their training will involve. The authors are going for the gritty hard-work approach to space travel and not the sense of wonder one:
But space is a merciless taskmaster, and no one is going to remain alive out there without long training and superb physical fitness; things which come from study and hard work and are not to be found in dance halls and billiard saloons. p.107
Pass the hair shirt.
Finally we have Postmortem, the reader’s letters. There are four correspondents in this column, including James White, all replying to an earlier letter from a Mr Haller who disliked psi stories and didn’t want any more. Most of the replies are reasonable but one is a bit barking:
Over many years I have proved to my own satisfaction that not only is telepathy a fact beyond doubt, but also that the “materialisation” of a physical substance outside the body of the medium must be admitted. p.124
Overall, a disappointing issue, with the exception of the Dick serial and the Barclay story. Some of the rest of the fiction is so poor it makes it something of a slog reading this issue.
- This volume does not lend itself easily to issue by issue examination but here are some Kindle locations for the fiction above (searching on (89) worked best): Philip K. Dick (4719), Colin Kapp (5070), Robert Silverberg (?), ‘Michael Barrington’ (5545), Alan Barclay (5218). There may be other matter about the non-fiction, etc.
- What do I mean by clutter? Well, there is far more information there than needs be for a start. ‘Volume 30’? ‘14th year of publication’? Who cares? Also, do we really need the story titles of every item in the issue? I can see why you might want to display the author names as there may be reader recognition, but who cares about the titles, with maybe the exception of the cover story?
If you are going to copy the Galaxy cover why not do the below:
That font for the type isn’t the best but it gives you an idea. If you want to keep the odd New Worlds design:
Yes, I know: way too much time on my hands.
- Science Fiction Encyclopaedia describe it as a ‘bridge’ novel.
- I read the SF Masterworks edition as I suspected the serial version may be abridged. An example of one of the kind of things that is missing (at the bottom of p.5 of the serial version) is an encounter between Vic and one of the other store workers in the first chapter:
“I have the sweetest little old dentist I go to,” Liz chirruped. “Must be nearly a hundred years old. He don’t hurt me a bit; he just scrapes away and it’s done.” Holding aside her lip with her red-enameled thumbnail, she showed him a gold inlay in one of her upper molars. A breath of cigarette smoke and cinnamon whisked around him as he leaned to see. “See?” she said. “Big as all get out, and it didn’t hurt! No, it never did!”
I wonder what Margo would say, he wondered. If she walked in here through the magic-eye glass door that swings open when you approach it and saw me gazing into Liz’s mouth. Caught in some fashionable new eroticism not yet recorded in the Kinsey reports.”
There are several other missing sections that I noticed and there may be more:
p.15: a section that concerns the sexual dynamics between Vic, his brother Ragle and Junie Black, the neighbour.
p.16: almost a page missing where Junie asks Ragle whether he is lonely not being married, and his mention of being divorced from a Polish girl.
p.28: three paragraphs cut.
p.29: several paragraphs cut.
- The photo of Philip Dick: