[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]
by Mark Yon
Hello, all: greetings from Britain, again.
The October issue of New Worlds has arrived, so I guess that must mean that it is time to send my thoughts across the teletype.
Here things are turning Autumnal. We’ve had one of the coldest August Bank Holidays on record. The Meteorological Office tells us that it was the coldest in Kew (London) on record since 1888. Here it was just wet and rainy, which is how most Bank Holidays tend to go if I’m honest. It is perhaps ironic that we’ve got a tune by Carole King in the pop charts here called It Might As Well Rain Until September.
In pop music it seems that that catchy instrumental record, Telstar, by the Tornados is quite popular. It certainly sounds different, with that electronic sound giving it a real Space Age appeal to me. I was very pleased to see it reach Number 1 in the UK charts. I suspect it may do well with you across the Atlantic as well.
Film-wise, here’s a little heads-up. Earlier this week, I learned of a movie coming out which I guess will go down a storm in the US when it gets to you next year. I suspect queues will be quite long when it opens in early October.
It is the story of a secret agent called James Bond and the movie is called Dr. No. The movie looks great, especially the parts in the sunny Caribbean – miles away from rainy England! – and, as anticipated, there’s lots of fast paced action. The lead, a young actor named Sean Connery, is very charismatic. There is, of course, a foreign bad-guy with access to nuclear weapons threatening the world – guess what happens? However the pace is so fast and the setting so good I suspect we will see more of Mr. Bond in the future. The books, by Mr. Ian Fleming, are very popular here too. There are ten of those, so there’s plenty for the movies to have a go at!
On television I was sorry to see the end of the ITV s-f series that started at the end of August. Miss Pollard has mentioned this one as well, I think. Called Out of this World, it’s been essential viewing on Saturday nights for those of us with a television set. I guess that it is our British equivalent of your Twilight Zone. There’s been a good selection of s-f stories by Mr. Isaac Asimov (Little Lost Robot), Mr. Philip K. Dick (Impostor) and Mr. Clifford D. Simak (Immigrant and Target Generation) and, perhaps unsurprisingly to those of us who know of these writers, they have been very well received. I look forward to a second series, should it happen.
Enough preliminaries. Now for this month’s look at New Worlds. Many thanks for your comments about the September issue: they were much appreciated.
The October issue continues the trend in covers mentioned last time. This month it is a fluorescent orange. Rather pumpkin-like, if truth be told, but perhaps more Autumnal than last month’s day-glo pink cover.
The October issue also continues another recent trend at New Worlds – that of using Guest Editors, although I’m sure Mr. Carnell is still involved in there somewhere. After the enthusiastic essay by fan Mr. John Baxter last month, we’re back to the use of s-f writers this time. Stepping up to the plate is Mr. Edward Mackin, from Blackpool, Lancashire. According to Mr. Carnell’s introductory profile, he is perhaps best known for his Hek Belov satirical stories, usually found in New Worlds’s sister publications, Authentic Science Fiction (now sadly defunct) and Science Fantasy.
His Editorial essay, Anything is Possible, is a little more serious than his stories would suggest. He does make the point that s-f reflects a broad spectrum of tastes and values which, despite what was said last month by the then-editor, means that there may still be a case for older-style s-f stories that have that sense of enthusiasm and wonder that the stories he first read years ago. He argues that if you wish to encourage new readers, then catching their initial interest at an early age is important, but you must also take into account the market you are selling to. He bemoans the lack of good quality female characters and suggests a need for less over-heated sex scenes, but not to the point of ignoring it, as has happened in the past. Instead Mr. Mackin points out that a balance in all things in s-f is needed, if it is to be credible. Things have got better in s-f writing but there is a need for tales that evoke a sense of wonder – alongside the deeper, more cynical and more stylistically cutting-edge stories, of course!
This is a view not as extreme as Mr. Baxter’s last month and seems perhaps a more sensible way of carrying both present readers, who are accepting change without breaking the ties to older stories from the past, and the new readers, who are expecting the old rules to be ripped up. I guess we’ll see how this transformation evolves over the next few years – watch this space!
No Postscripts letters section this month. I’m still interested to read what other readers thought of Mr. John Baxter’s mission statement editorial – perhaps next month.
Instead, we have the return of Mr. Leslie Flood’s reviews, and welcome they are too. There are four books reviewed by Mr. Flood: Hothouse by Brian W. Aldiss, Pilgrimage by Zenna Henderson, The Best from Fantasy & Science Fiction – 9th Series, edited by Robert P Mills and lastly Who? by Algis Budrys. All, with the exception of Mr. Aldiss, are given generally favourable comments. In comparison, Mr. Aldiss’s novel is “tedious in its repetitious violence, casual wonder and the contrived terminology….”.
Remould, by Mr. Robert Presslie
Mr. Presslie is a New Worlds stalwart, last in the magazine a mere two issues ago. This is a big trek for survival novelette, which tells of humans forced to travel out of an alien-imposed Sterile Zone between 20 -60 degrees North of the Equator. This is about as far from the typical adventure stories where heroes made sacrifices for the benefit of the many as you can get. There is no real heroism here as thousands die, are drowned, trampled or left for dead. It isn’t pretty. I guess in some ways it shows us how far s-f stories have developed less romantic ideas of chivalry and thus become more realistic. My main issue with the story was that the main reason for the migration seemed weak. There’s a nice little twist when the survivors meet the alien invaders but the ending happens all too quickly, giving the tale a somewhat unbalanced tone at the end. Nevertheless I suspect that this one will be popular with regular readers because it tries to be different. 2 out of 5 from me.
Schizophrenic by Mr. Richard Graham
The second novelette this month is thankfully a much lighter comedy of manners that deals with that old chestnut, time travel. Much of the humour derives from the consequences of a 24th century holidaymaker who swaps places with John in the 20th century for a week. Unsurprisingly the traveller causes chaos by disregarding the rules of the 20th century, like going to work, paying for things in shops and bringing girlfriends home to meet the wife. This is clearly good advice for any time traveller! For all that it has been done before, I preferred this novelette to Remould, so 3 out of 5.
A Question of Drive by H. B. Caston
I liked this one. A tale of a dodgy interstellar trade deal done between a human and an alien thief to get a revolutionary new space drive. Reminded me a little of Poul Anderson’s Nicholas van Rijn stories published in Astounding Magazine. 3 out of 5.
Jogi by Mr. David Rome
I did say that Mr. Rome’s story last month, Moonbeam, was satisfactory, though not his best. I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed this one more. Jogi is a tale told from the viewpoint of a lost alien who feeds on something unusual. There’s a nice sense of ‘alienness’ here – it is cute, yet actually creepy – though the overall tale is slight. My favourite of the month, I think, though still 3 out of 5.
The Crack of Doom (part 2) by Mr. Keith Woodcott
Although I thought that the first part of this was nothing particularly special last month, I must admit that I have been looking forward to read how this story finishes. Last time we left the story on a cliff-hanger, with our cosmoarchaeologist Philip Gascon on his way to investigate goings on and the ancient artefacts of the Old Race on Regnier’s Planet, and a group of Psions trying to escape a potential pogrom from the cruel Starfolk. I did say that I thought I knew where this one was going and I’m a little disappointed that I was right. The story remains a well-told tale but with little new to offer – a novel which does not seem to fit the magazine’s determination to push the envelope. Nevertheless I enjoyed it, in that way that I enjoyed Mr. Graham’s Schizophrenic – you can enjoy old tropes reheated. Overall, 3 out of 5, the same as last month.
So, overall was the magazine as glowing as its orange cover? Not quite, although I’m giving it a score of 3 out of 5 overall. I actually enjoyed this issue more than last month’s if I’m honest, but there’s a lot of familiar ground being trodden here, albeit done reasonably well. It was good to read a David Rome story back on form, though Jogi is no Streets of Ashkalon.
And that’s it for this month. I wish you well as the nights draw in here, and things grow a little foggy – hoping that such things give you more time for great reading!