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New Worlds

Entry updated 3 June 2024. Tagged: Publication.


Long the leading UK sf magazine (and an Original-Anthology series for two sections of its chequered career), publishing 222 issues during a span of 51 years ([July] 1946-August 1997), but including a 12-year hiatus. New Worlds, though it had volume numbers up to #177, has always been numbered consecutively (in its magazine incarnations); the first five were undated.

New Worlds was a development from a pre-World War Two Fanzine [1936-1939] called first Novae Terrae and then New Worlds, the last four issues of which were edited by science-fiction fan John Carnell. The writer W J Passingham talked the firm The World Says into publishing New Worlds professionally in 1939, just weeks before the Second World War began; but with the subsequent financial collapse of the company, plans were dropped. As a consequence it was not until after the War that New Worlds appeared, this time thanks to Stephen Frances, who introduced Carnell to Pendulum Publications. Three small-Pulp-size issues were published irregularly by Pendulum during 1946 and 1947 under Carnell's editorship. Of these issues, the first was issued twice with different covers; #1 with the original cover had not sold well, but it did better the second time round (the second version used the same cover as #2).

Pendulum Publications then went bust, and a group of UK sf fans and professionals (including Carnell himself, Frank Edward Arnold, Walter Gillings, Eric C Williams and John Wyndham), who used to meet at the White Horse pub in London, formed their own company, Nova Publications, in order to revive this somewhat tentative magazine in 1949 in large-Digest format. Carnell remained in charge until #141 (April 1964), after which the title was taken over by Roberts & Vinter, publishers of Compact Books, who issued it in a pocketbook-size edition edited by Michael Moorcock, the first of these being #142 (May/June 1964). After #172 (March 1967) it was published by Moorcock under the auspices of the Arts Council in a stapled quarto-size format, rising to A4-size with #179. In this incarnation New Worlds suffered financial difficulties, compounded when the leading UK retail-newsagent chain, W H Smith & Sons Ltd, refused to carry copies for various reasons, in particular the use of "obscene" language in Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron (December 1967-October 1968; exp 1969). The last issue to be properly released was #200 (April 1970), though in 1971 #201, a special final, "Good-Taste" issue with a retrospective index went out to subscribers. During this period Moorcock relaxed his control over the editorship, various members of his coterie taking a hand in the issues released in 1969 including Graham Charnock, Graham Hall (1947-1980), Langdon Jones and James Sallis; Charles Platt was editor #197 (August 1969) to #200 (April 1970). For the greater part of the period from #22 to #200 the magazine maintained a monthly schedule with only occasional lapses.

In 1971 the title was revived again, this time as the New Worlds Quarterly series of original anthologies (numbered from #1 again, although the original numeration was tacitly maintained) published in paperback by Sphere Books (#1-#8) and Corgi Books (#9 and #10). These were New Worlds Quarterly (anth 1971; vt New Worlds Quarterly #1 1971) edited by Moorcock; New Worlds Quarterly 2 (anth 1971) edited by Moorcock; New Worlds Quarterly 3 (anth 1972) edited by Moorcock; New Worlds Quarterly 4 (anth 1972) edited by Moorcock; New Worlds Quarterly 5 (anth 1973) edited by Moorcock; New Worlds 6: The Science Fiction Quarterly (anth 1973; vt New Worlds #5 1974) edited by Moorcock with Charles Platt; New Worlds 7 (anth 1974; vt New Worlds #6 1975) edited by Hilary Bailey with Platt; New Worlds 8: The Science Fiction Quarterly (anth 1975) edited by Bailey; New Worlds 9 (anth 1975) edited by Bailey; and New Worlds 10 (anth 1976) edited by Bailey.

When the book series was cancelled, New Worlds was defunct, but the fervour of its supporters brought about yet another resuscitation in 1978, with #212 edited by Moorcock in a Fanzine-style format, and #213-#216 (Summer 1978-September 1979) edited by various supporters, professionally published, the last two being in 1979. This incarnation, published by Charles Partington in Manchester, was more a generalized underground magazine than an sf magazine; it contained many satirical graphics. #214 was titled in Russian. #215 (Spring 1979), edited by David Britton was marked "limited edition of one thousand copies".

In 1991 David S Garnett, with Moorcock's approval and with Moorcock as Consulting Editor, initiated yet another incarnation of New Worlds, this time in Anthology book form, as New Worlds (anth 1991), New Worlds 2 (anth 1992), New Worlds 3 (anth 1993) and New Worlds 4 (anth 1994) all edited by Garnett, published by Gollancz. These volumes were numbered #217, #218, #219 and #220 according to the original sequence, which was again explicitly acknowledged. The financial results were disappointing, and Gollancz cancelled after the fourth, leaving Garnett looking for a new publisher. Meanwhile Moorcock put out a special fiftieth anniversary issue, dated Winter 1996 (#221), again in A4 magazine format before Garnett found a new publisher, White Wolf in the USA, to release a further issue (#222) in trade paperback format as New Worlds (anth 1997).

The magazine, now almost as legendary in the UK as Weird Tales is in the USA, refused to remain buried and it was resurrected again, this time as Michael Moorcock's New Worlds – initially intended to appear in both print format and online [for the website, see links below] but in the event online only, including video material. Two poorly promoted and largely ignored issues appeared; the publishing collective announced in October 2014 that owing to "massive lack of interest" this incarnation – allowed by though never in fact seen by Moorcock himself – had ceased. A further one-off anthology is currently in preparation for publication in 2024 to mark the sixtieth anniversary of Moorcock's takeover of the magazine with #142 (May/June 1964).

Under Carnell, New Worlds was the primary force in shaping a tradition in UK magazine sf, and under Moorcock its name became the banner of what was dubbed the New Wave. Carnell provided a stable domestic market, not only with New Worlds but with its companion magazines Science Fantasy and Science Fiction Adventures, for the leading UK writers and played a considerable role in the careers of Brian W Aldiss, J G Ballard, John Brunner, Kenneth Bulmer, Colin Kapp, E C Tubb and James White. He encouraged a species of sf more sober in tone than much US material, with the emphasis on problem-solving; an excellent example of the species is James White's Sector General series. In publishing ambitious work by Aldiss and most of Ballard's early work, Carnell began a shift in emphasis toward psychological and existential sf (see Fabulation; Psychology), which also showed in his choice of reprints from US authors: Philip K Dick's Time Out of Joint (December 1959-February 1960; 1959) and Theodore Sturgeon's Venus Plus X (January-April 1961; 1960). Most of the US magazines were also shifting their emphasis away from the "hardware" of sf, but retained a kind of brashness not evident in New Worlds save in the work of those authors most heavily influenced by pulp sf. New Worlds was available throughout the British Commonwealth and the magazine thus encouraged contributions from around the globe. These included John Baxter, Lee Harding and David Rome from Australia, Clifford C Reed from South Africa and H A Hargreaves from Canada. With falling sales in the magazine, and believing the future of publishing was in the paperback market, Carnell folded New Worlds and turned to New Writings in SF. At the last minute, however, Carnell was able to sell the magazine to Roberts & Vinter, thanks to the intervention of Michael Moorcock.

Moorcock's editorship was a good deal more flamboyant than Carnell's, and he was as polemical in the material which provided the environment for the fiction as John W Campbell Jr had been in Astounding Science-Fiction during the early 1940s, though to very different ends, juxtaposing fiction with factual social comment, visual collage, even concrete poetry, in a deliberate attempt to lose the Genre-SF image and to place speculative fiction in a context of rapid social change, and radical art generally. Apart from his own avant-garde material (often written as James Colvin), he promoted inventive UK writers like Barrington J Bayley, Langdon Jones, David I Masson and, later, Robert Holdstock and Ian Watson, and recruited some US writers – notably Thomas M Disch, John T Sladek, Norman Spinrad and Roger Zelazny. Moorcock's early Jerry Cornelius pieces appeared in New Worlds, as did his Nebula-winning "Behold, the Man" (September 1966; exp as Behold the Man 1969). The large-size version serialized, in addition to Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron (noted above), Camp Concentration by Disch (July-October 1967; 1968), and featured two more Nebula-winning short pieces: Samuel R Delany's "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones" (December 1968), which also won a Hugo, and Harlan Ellison's "A Boy and His Dog" (April 1969). Under Moorcock, New Worlds established in its review columns a particularly trenchant style of criticism which continued in the paperback anthologies, much of it written by John Clute and M John Harrison. It cannot be said that Moorcock's programme met with wide-ranging approval, especially among those readers attuned to the more modest and traditional aspects of Carnell's policy, and it certainly lacked Carnell's sense of balance, but its contribution to sf in the 1960s and early 1970s was considerable – the paths beaten by the New Worlds writers are now much more generally in use.

Garnett's annual New Worlds anthology of the 1990s could not find a secure market niche, though the contents were impressive, featuring good stories by, among others, Storm Constantine, Paul Di Filippo, Ian McDonald, Kim Newman and Moorcock himself, and also an annual round-up of the year's sf by John Clute. Although Garnett sensibly avoided nostalgia for the 1960s/1970s, the enterprise seems to have been doomed anyway.

A US edition of New Worlds, with Hans Stefan Santesson credited as editor, ran for five issues March to July 1960, selected mainly from the 1959 New Worlds with some stories from other sources. Some unsold issues of the Roberts & Vinter New Worlds were bound up in twos and threes and sold under the title SF Reprise, these being SF Reprise 1 (anth 1966) containing #144/#145; SF Reprise 2 (anth 1966) containing #149/#150; and SF Reprise 5 (anth 1967) containing #149-#151.

There were many New Worlds-derived anthologies. Carnell edited The Best From New Worlds Science Fiction (anth 1955), and his Lambda I and Other Stories (anth 1964; UK and US contents vary) was also selected from New Worlds. Moorcock edited The Best of New Worlds (anth 1965), Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds (anth 1967), Best Stories from New Worlds 2 (anth 1968; vt Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 2), Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 3 (anth 1968), Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 4 (anth 1969), Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 5 (anth 1969), Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 6 (anth 1970), Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 7 (anth 1971) and Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 8 (anth 1974), as well as the retrospective New Worlds: An Anthology (anth 1983). These series anthologies also sometimes used stories from Science Fantasy/Impulse. The first six of the eight Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds volumes were also published in the USA. [BS/PN/MA/DRL]

see also: Entropy; Longevity in Publications; Taboos.

further reading

New Worlds: Best of New Worlds

SF Reprise

See also SF Reprise.

  • Michael Moorcock, editor. SF Reprise 1 (London: Compact Books, 1966) [anth: comprising New Worlds 144-145: SF Reprise: pb/uncredited]
  • Michael Moorcock, editor. SF Reprise 2 (London: Compact Books, 1966) [anth: comprising New Worlds 146-147: SF Reprise: pb/uncredited]
  • Michael Moorcock, editor. SF Reprise 5 (London: Compact Books, 1966) [anth: comprising New Worlds 149-151: SF Reprise: pb/Keith Roberts]

New Worlds: New Worlds Quarterly


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