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New Worlds: An Anthology by Michael Moorcock

New Worlds: An Anthology

by Michael Moorcock

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You know how hundreds of bands in the 60s sounded like the Beatles? Well, this anthology is the equivalent for JG Ballard. ( )
  giovannigf | Sep 4, 2011 |
Maybe it is the false memory of old age, but I do not believe that science fiction is taking the risks it did during the 60’s and 70’s – during the time that was dubbed “the New Wave”. To determine if it is just false memory, I try my best (in my infinitely spare time) to see if the problem is me – if the issue is that I am not looking in the right places. In my Diogenian search for writing on the edge, I have come up short. Therefore, I also take occasional opportunities to revisit that past and look again at what was experimental and daring. Toward that end, I dive back into such collections as Carr’s Universe and Knight’s Orbit series (and, of course, Ellison’s Dangerous Visions collections) in search for that “dangerous” writing that pushed the limits. Thus, the attraction this book had for me. One of the keys to British New Wave was the magazine/book New Worlds and this anthology promised to contain interesting examples of that time

With great expectations I began reading this collection of stories published in New Worlds from 1964 to 1975. I immediately ran into a small problem. I like reading all parts of a book – the introduction, the preface, anything the author thinks is important enough to include. Within the first couple of pages of the introduction (of the 20 pages Moorcock felt necessary to include) I became bored and suspect. The introduction does a decent job of outlining the history of New Worlds, but wanders and goes in too many directions, in some cases circling back historically. (I know this only because I read the introduction later.) Sidetracked, it was another month before I got back to the book.

Okay – this time I decided to dive straight into the stories. Excitement again was the word for the day. And the first story brought back some of the feeling I remember from that time – some confusion, a story that isn’t necessarily easy, but a somewhat compelling story that makes me glad I read it. (Although, as a foreshadowing, I look back on this story now and cannot, for the life of me, remember what it was about.) So, a decent start. Then the train wreck began.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Any experiment, particularly in the arts, has its failures. And those failures far outnumber the successes. What disappoints me is that this collection seems to be almost exclusively failures. In the introduction to the U.S. edition, Moorcock warns (my choice of words) that this does not purport to be a “best of” collection, but rather a sampling of the short material run in the magazine when it was published monthly. (He justifies this stating the quality was high enough that the majority of the short stories were reprinted.) So, does this mean we got the leftovers? I would like to think that is the excuse, but I fear that this instead reveals that most of the magazine was made up of similar material.

There are a very few good stories in here. In particular, I found a personal favorite (one I had forgotten the name of) in David I. Masson’s “Traveler’s Rest” in which a war is fought in a place where time moves faster as you get closer to the front. A soldier is sent back home where he builds his life. As he goes back, he recognizes that difference in time (a year in his new life is mere minutes in his old) in a difficult way when he is forced to return. The story has stuck with me for over 25 years. There is also Norman Spinrad’s take on where the drug culture might turn in “No Direction Home.” This seems particularly prescient with today’s designer drugs and medicated health for all approaches. One or two others were also decent – but none of these are worth wading through the entire collection.

And, just when it seems that things have bottomed out, a new basement is discovered. By now, we have forgotten that, in the introduction, Moorcock promised us a collection of short material. So, the last few selections are reviews and essays on the state of things. Some are of mild interest, others are of no interest. None are worth reading.

Ultimately, I suspect it is Moorcock’s taste not matching mine that is at the root of this evil. In the introduction he states “We also ran – reluctantly as far as I was concerned – Samuel R. Delany’s ‘Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones.’” His current dismissal of one of the classics of the time may say all that need be said about how he gathered this collection

Reading this, I am reminded that I am looking back at the past through rose-colored memories. But there are those one or two that remind me how good it can be, and it has not swayed me from the path of finding if such still exists. ( )
  figre | Nov 10, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0006540031, Paperback)

From its beginnings as a fanzine before World War II, New Worlds struck out on a different path. In the postwar years, under the editorial direction of Michael Moorcock, the magazine published more award-winning stories than any other science fiction publication; it achieved a unique cross-fertilization between sci-fi and mainstream literature and became the vanguard of the "New Wave" writing that stood sci-fi on its head in the 1960s. It was banned, it received grants, and it became the subject of debate in the Houses of Parliament. Moorcock introduced a broad readership to writers whose names would endure, such as Samuel Delany, M. John Harrison, J. G. Ballard, D. M. Thomas, Harlan Ellison, Brian Aldiss, Fritz Leiber, John Brunner, Norman Spinrad and many others.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:20 -0400)

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