Tag Archives: robert presslie

[Oct. 29, 1962] Treading Water (the November 1962 New Worlds)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Mark Yon

As we enter November here in England, it’s clear that Winter is definitely on the way. The nights are longer and the weather is definitely colder. We’re getting a fair bit of fog too in my home town. It means that waiting for the bus to take me to and from work is definitely chilly.

Of course, the good news from this is that this means more time for reading, watching television or going to the pictures!

Since we last spoke, of course, the news has been full of the Cuban Crisis, which I’m sure you know more about than me. When the BBC mentioned the first signs of trouble brewing a few weeks ago I felt that the British public were not too concerned about events happening elsewhere. How different things are now! Personally, I am pleased that things seem to be calming down now, though there is always the risk that with US/USSR relations being decidedly chilly (like our weather!) things could suddenly change again rather quickly.

Here, one of the effects of these international events is that in London we have seen major marches and protests against nuclear weapons, I guess much like your recent protests for Black Rights in the Mississippi. We have had hundreds of people march — peacefully, mind you — in protest at the escalation of the willingness to use nuclear weapons. Men, women and children — even if you don’t agree with their views, it is still impressive to see democracy in action.

Pop music-wise, Telstar is still at the top of the UK charts, having been in the charts for over ten weeks as I type and having had five weeks at Number 1. I suspect that it will be a contender for one of the best-selling singles of the year at this rate. It’s appropriate — the satellite bridged the Atlantic Ocean, and its namesake song soared to the top of the charts on both sides of it.

OK: to this month’s New Worlds Magazine. In this edition, the November issue, the recent changes in the covers continue. This month it is less garish than the October edition, though still underwhelming to me: a white cover but with yellow boxes and one main photograph.

The big news this month is that it is guest-edited by perhaps our most famous advocate for science fiction today, Mr. Arthur C. Clarke. The main photograph shows Mr. Clarke meeting someone he is clearly pleased to encounter — a certain Mr. Yuri Gagarin, who is, I guess, currently putting our dreams into practice.

I was quite excited by this, as Mr. Clarke is one of my own personal favourite authors. I loved his novel A Fall of Moondust, published last year. However, sadly, the New Worlds editorship does not bring us more new fiction, but merely a transcript of the speech Mr. Clarke gave on his acceptance of the 1962 Kalinga Award for the popularisation of science. It is as we expect — erudite, humorous and emotive. Clarke says that science fiction is pre-eminently “the literature of change” and therefore has a place in the future. I can’t disagree with that.

Having enjoyed Mr. Clarke’s rallying call as an editorial, I must admit that I found the rest of the magazine a disappointment. There was nothing particularly bad, but a lot that wasn’t great. It did feel a little like the magazine is marking time a bit.

We did get a Postmortem letters section, which continued the ongoing debate between different factions of fandom. Lots of discussion on the “controversial” guest editorials. As I rather suspected, Mr. John Baxter’s editorial back in August bemoaning the state of s-f and attempting to suggest that s-f should be more literary and more mainstream seems to have had a mixed response. Most noticeable here was a letter from another previous guest editor of New Worlds, Mr. Arthur Sellings, who argued that Mr. Baxter’s viewpoint reflected a “Britishers’ approach” and what is needed instead is more of a middle-ground approach which caters for a broad range of interests.

We also have Book Reviews from Mr Leslie Flood this month as well. Ms. Naomi Mitchison’s Memoirs of a Spacewoman was “superbly original and alien”, if “at times positively distasteful.” The anthology Spectrum II by Messrs. Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest was crisp and varied. Most noticeable was the comment that s-f may now be reaching the mainstream as Messrs’s Wyndham and Parkes’s The Outward Urge which was in the top 10 bestsellers in Britain in August. This was the first time a science fiction book has been in this category — hopefully a sign of good things to come.

To the stories:

Lucky Dog by Mr. Robert Presslie
This is the big novelette for this month, written by a New Worlds regular. It’s one of those “Jekyll-and-Hyde” type stories about the results of taking psychomimetic drugs to study the effects of schizophrenia. It starts well but towards the end descends into such implausibility that it nearly undoes all the good work done at the beginning. The ending is weak, which, when combined with an uninspiring connection to the title, left me very disappointed. 2 out of 5.

Just in Time by Mr. Steve Hall
Another story from a relatively new writer for New Worlds. This one was a lighter and more fun story of a group of skilled thieves and their imaginative use of a time machine that arrives in their hotel room. 3 out of 5.

Life-Force by Mr. Joseph Green
An anthropologic short story reminiscent of those of Mr. Chad Oliver, though with much less panache. It’s a story centred around telling a story, where a visitor sees a re-enactment of a tribe’s life-story and heritage. Rather unpleasant, and clearly designed to shock with its matter-of-fact depiction of child rape and cannibalism. 2 out of 5.

The Method by Mr. Philip E. High
This is Mr. High’s first story since Dictator Bait in May 1962. I had high hopes (forgive the pun!) for this story, but like Lucky Dog it started well but sadly ends on a risible pun that made me rather begrudge the time lost spent reading it. Not one of Mr. High’s best efforts. 2 out of 5.

Who Went Where? by Mr. Ross Markham
A story of planetary discovery, about explorers finding a civilised city intact yet devoid of life. The story is therefore the mystery, which in the end isn’t really. Solid yet undemanding. 2 out of 5.

The Warriors by Mr. Archie Potts
I liked this one, a science experiment gone wrong tale, of experimentation with ants and the inevitable consequences on a retired scientist. A salutary lesson, enjoyable if brief. 3 out of 5.

All in all, this was an issue that felt as if it should have been better than it actually was. Perhaps it was the mention of Mr. Clarke that got me excited. There were parts that I enjoyed whilst other stories were rather annoying. Dare I say it, the November 1962 issue of New Worlds is an issue that appears to be treading water a little. I hope that it is better next time.
And that’s it for this month. Happy Halloween, all!




[September 1, 1962] Facing East (a view from the UK: October 1962 New Worlds)

[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!