Three Evolutionary Enigmas • novelette by Brian W. Aldiss ♥
Dinosaur Destruction Day • short story by Andrew J. Ellsmore
The Sudden Embodiment of Benedict Paucemanly • extract by M. John Harrison —
The Russian Intelligence • extract by Michael Moorcock —
Nosferatu’s Ape • novelette by Charles Partington ♥♥♥
Cover • Michael John Garner
Interior & rear artwork •Eddie Jones, Moy Griffiths, Dave Griffiths, James Cawthorn, Richard Glyn Jones, John Mottershead
Editorial • essay by Charles Partington
Reviews • Tony Williams, Robert Holland
Providence • essay by Tony Williams
After the large-format New Worlds magazine stopped publishing in 1970 it was followed by ten volumes of the New Worlds Quarterly/New Worlds paperback series. What also followed were a number of attempts by other hands to revive the spirit of those large-format magazines, e.g. Other Times, Vortex and the magazine to hand, Something Else.1 This title was edited by Charles Partington, who was known as a short story writer2 and had also, with Harry Nadler, published one issue of another SF magazine in 1966, Alien Worlds. Although that title had been digest-sized, Something Else was an A4 size magazine published on coated stock and had some interior colour. This was used for the reproduction of a painting by Eddie Jones3 that the editor owned , a double page spread by Jim Cawthorn and Michael Moorcock that looks like it is from an Elric graphic novel, and finally a colour illustration by Dave Griffiths for the editor’s own story. There are also three B&W illustrations and a double page artwork/text spread by Robert Meadley and Richard Glyn Jones similar to those they had produced previously for New Worlds.
As for the text, for some reason the Aldiss story is set in a sans serif font (like the non-fiction) while the rest of the fiction is in serif.4
The fiction leads off with Three Evolutionary Enigmas by Brian W. Aldiss. This, as ever with his ‘Enigma’ stories, is a triptych of works. The Fall of Species B is a strange dream-like story of a war correspondent waiting to board what seems to be a flying pig, a ‘Keg’, to go to a war on the other side of the world. Someone tells him as he goes on board, ‘There is another way’. Later, a General speaks to the troops, and states there is a traitor present. At this point the correspondent transforms into a tree-like organism and expands beyond the ‘Keg’. In the Halls of the Hereafter an academic gets the chance to visit the dead and talk to Paul Gauguin the artist. They talk about the painter’s work and also Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal species. While they do this Gauguin paints a scene with ectoplasm in the void of the hereafter. The Ancestral Home of Thought largely takes the form of a discussion between two scientists at Project Vercore, a featureless building on a flat plain. The director tells the scientist that humanity is a mixture of two species (A/B, Neanderthal/Cro-Magnon) and that the first must be eliminated. This ties in some of Paul Gauguin’s ideas from the second story, and the transcendent being (again in the form of a huge tree/vine) from the first reappears at the end of this episode.
I can’t say that these Enigmas are really my cup of tea, and this one less than most perhaps, but your mileage may vary.
Next up is Dinosaur Destruction Day, a short one-page story by Andrew J. Ellsmore. This one is even more opaque than the Aldiss and tells of a gathering at a ruined city (I think) to celebrate Eris:
“Blessed be the name of the fair Eris. She who ate the living livers, She who danced the dance of Yu-Mens Power, She who tossed the Dinosaurmen carcases back to their own world and challenged them to send more. All Hail Eris who did spew Her Living Self upon the Amercars and the Roo-Junz, upon all those who would threaten the Yu-Mens.” p.14
I wasn’t sure if those gathered are human or not but, as the story doesn’t develop much, I doubt this matters.
The next two items by M. John Harrison, The Sudden Embodiment of Benedict Paucemanly, and Michael Moorcock, The Russian Intelligence, are my least favourite thing in a magazine: an extract from a longer work. I’m sure editors love them (famous names on the cover) and writers too (paid adverts for upcoming books) but I can’t see what is in it for the reader, who presumably buys magazines for short fiction.
What is even worse is that the Harrison extract (from his Viriconium novel A Storm of Wings) takes up ten pages. For those who know the novel, it starts with the ghostly manifestation of Benedict Paucemanly in Viriconium city, and then tells of the travels of Cellur the Bird Lord, Galen Hornwrack, Tomb the dwarf, Alstath Fulthor, and Fay Glass to another city where they witness a ship on fire sinking in the misty port. Something unseen has caused this but no further explanation is forthcoming.
There is a paucity of incident in this extract and the vast majority of it is taken up with the journey, during which Harrison tells us very little at great length:
“It comes to me that each of us had suffered during this northern transit an emptying or bleaching of the identity in preparation for a future we could not describe. Viriconium was behind us; in the sense that it no longer filled our day-to-day thoughts, we had forgotten our purpose. We existed simply to slip through the rain, a handful of salt-lipped figures beneath the unending cliffs, speaking in low sepulchral voices. Before us went like a banner the raging glory of the Afternoon, with its great horse and scarlet armour; while a sniggering dwarf in a leather hat brought up the rear on a pony no bigger than a dog: and above us floated the balloon like form of the ancient airman, chivvied like a dying whale by gangs of raucous gulls. Cyphers, we pass beneath the hungry ironic eyes of the gannets and guillemots—the assassin resentful and disfigured; the woman who believes herself lost in time; and myself a thing, alive beyond its rightful years, far beyond its rightful place! The landscape though anticipates our release: this preparation or interlude is drawing to a close… p.20
That’s probably not a bad passage on its own, but there are thousands of words of this kind of thing and it is tedious beyond belief.5
The Moorcock extract isn’t much better. Taken from the eponymous novel it has Jerry Cornell finding a fellow secret agent called Thorpe who is dying after having been tortured. He then meets with his boss and goes home. The general feel of this is ‘amoral time server as secret agent’ and it didn’t really work for me. Also, the prose has a flat and dated feel:
Shirley was waiting for him in the living room. Her glossy black hair was styled in the short late-20’s look. She was wearing a green silk mini-dress that showed all of her wonderful legs and emphasised the rest of her admirable figure admirably. Her big, bright, brown eyes were warm and her oval face wore a lovely smile. p.31
Fortunately the fiction is saved by editor Charles Partington’s novelette at the end of the magazine. Nosferatu’s Ape is about an academic called Klyne and his obsession with the black and white film Nosferatu that begins after he is commissioned to write an essay for a book edited by Colin Wilson (and after visiting the SF writer, Langdon Jones! Mike Ashley the anthologist is also mentioned later on.) He travels to Belgium to interview the cameraman but discovers he is terminally ill in hospital. He visits him there, takes his keys and goes to the man’s rented rooms. After searching them he takes several photographic plates, film, and newspaper clippings back to England.
After examining the material he notices strange details about the vampire figure in the film and starts drawing a connection between it and David Lindsay’s (Voyage of Arcturus) theories about the ‘spark of life’. He also draws links between strange attacks that are mentioned in the camerman’s press clippings and an order called the Druids of Light—whose next meeting is being held soon, and nearby. Later, up on the hill near the Druid’s meeting place, he encounters the vampire figure.
This is an enjoyable and engrossing read for the most part, but the ending doesn’t entirely convince.
On the non-fiction side of things there is a short editorial, some book reviews and an essay about a trip to H. P. Lovecraft’s hometown, Providence.
The first review by Tony Williams is of Michael Moorcock’s The Golden Barge, and it is a fairly stilted and heavyweight affair with references to Jung, Brecht and Oedipus. His review of The Roots of Horror in the Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft by Barton Levi St Armand is better and has a couple of interesting snippets (to a non-Lovecraftian such as myself):
I was astonished to hear the suggestion that the cold weather would eventually have forced HPL away from his beloved Providence to live in California where he could have made a living as a Hollywood scriptwriter! He would have regarded the Hollywood industry process in the same light as his literary hack work if he’d looked on the question of artistic integrity in the Dream Machine realistically. But one wonders what might have been? Would HPL have subversively advanced the current renaissance of the American horror film by some decades? Certainly the Satanist genre, the family cycle of monster movies and the degenerate shadow families of Last House on the Left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre could have had some fascination for him. p.36
Yet it is doubtful if he ever regarded Sonia Greene in the way suggested. According to contemporary reports and photos she was an intelligent, beautiful woman and Lovecraft’s union with her seems to be the first stage in a development away from his family circumstance induced xenophobia into the more balanced individual of the later Selected Letters period. Lovecraft the person and Lovecraft the writer in this respect may be two opposite characters. Certainly his racial attitudes did change. p.37
There is also an enthusiastic review of David Britton and Michael Butterworth’s The Savoy Book by Robert Holland:
The Savoy Book is a strange and compelling mix, a tasteful self-indulgent exercise on the part of its editors/producers in which an attempt has been made to drag the flaccid bulk of science fiction paperbacks above the pulpy swamp of soul-sucking commercialism. p.35
This quote could be a manifesto for Something Else.
The final piece of non-fiction is another essay by Tony Williams. Providence is an account of an H. P. Lovecraft aficionado’s trip to Providence, RI, and discusses all the relevant buildings and landmarks. This article, although moderately interesting on its own, would have been massively improved by a map and some photos. I am tempted, when time permits, to use it as a guide on Google Street View.
To conclude, this is an interesting magazine even if the fiction content is variable. It is a shame that so much space—14pp., almost a quarter of the magazine—is given over to novel extracts.
- As well as all the imitators there were a handful of large-format editions of New Worlds too, according to ISFDB (#212 in Spring 1978 through to #216 in September 1979). I have a couple of these and their connection with the SF field is tenuous if it exists at all.
- One of Charles Partington’s stories was reviewed in New Writings in SF #23.
- From Partington’s editorial: Eddie Jones’ painting of a girl I’ve always believed to be a portrait of Dejah Thoris has followed me about from house to house now for over ten years. It is reproduced at about paperback size and mounted on a page of what looks like black and white woodgrain. I don’t know why this lovely piece wasn’t reproduced as a full-page image:
- Fiction text is normally set in the serif font like Times Roman so it doesn’t feel like you are running your eyes along a garden fence. This is written in a sans serif font: if I had had better mastery of WordPress when I started this blog it would probably have been in a serif font like Georgia.
- This matches my memory of the novel, quite a disappointment after the excellent The Pastel City.