Monday, 24 July 2017

SF 'New Worlds' and 'Savoy Books': MICHAEL BUTTERWORTH


Michael Butterworth was an integral part of the ‘New Worlds’ 
SF New Wave, just as he was perpetrator of the sensationally 
iconoclastic ‘Savoy Books’ revolution in Manchester, 
and his fiction is never less than challenging. 
Andrew Darlington charts his evolution as a literary activist…

We are sprawled within the ornate ‘The Briton’s Protection’ pub which has served drinkers here on the corner of Great Bridgewater Street and Moseley Street since 1806. And looking up, there are black-and-white photos and framed memorabilia from decades of Manchester music, from Herman’s Hermits, Freddie and the Dreamers, through to The Smiths, Oasis and New Order. Michael Butterworth wrote a book about sitting in on New Order’s recording sessions for their ‘Power, Corruption And Lies’ album.

Mike – with or without long-term ‘Savoy’ business partner Dave Britton, began in SF – and more specifically in Michael Moorcock’s sensationally iconoclastic phase of ‘New Worlds’. They even produced a special ‘Manchester’ edition of the magazine together. We’ve just strolled across from ‘The International Anthony Burgess Foundation’, where the Reading Room has been rebranded into ‘The Use And Abuse Of Books’, for an exhibition telling this convoluted tale in all its garish and visually-arresting detail. As though Manchester is finally coming to terms with its outlaw literary heritage, grudgingly acknowledging Savoy’s unique contribution to the city’s vibrant culture. The exhibition is an amazing flip-back through time-space crammed with incandescent playfully insurrectionary publishing, literary experiment and artwork.

‘I like transgression’ Mike explains. ‘I like intelligent shock. It’s part of the way I operate. It wasn’t gratuitous shock. I was harnessing whatever it was within me that liked explosions and fire, in an intelligent way into what I was writing. I was harnessing this, like I harness my emotions and feelings to channel them into writing.’ Adding ruefully, ‘although my work has often been mistaken for gratuitous…’ (in an interview with Bob Dickinson).

‘Time, and memory play tricks’ concedes Mike, who is inextricably tied in with Manchester. Although born in Yorkshire 24 April 1947, he grew up and ‘misspent’ his youth in the kind of ‘middle-class conformity’ of Altrincham, the suburb of south Manchester. Although it might not always have been that way. There’s a story – “The Islands” (in ‘Emanations: I Am Not A Number’, 2017), which he describes as ‘a memoir about an ‘almost’ emigration to a Caribbean island my father almost took my mother to, pregnant with me. Our paths may never have crossed had I grown up there, about thirty miles off the Mosquito Coast where Theroux based his novel of the same name. Like the novel’s Allie Fox, Dad was an idealist who wanted to escape the modern world. There was a vegetarian colony being formed on the island, and he wanted to raise his family there. Fortunately for me, it didn’t get off the ground. Two of the people who were trying to make the island habitable — health fundamentalists like my father — died of malaria clearing a swamp, and two more died of diet-related illnesses.’

Instead, at his vegan father’s instigation, Mike attended ‘St Christopher’s School’ in Letchworth Garden City, a liberal Progressive Co-Educational boarding establishment in which a falling-out with a teacher led to his first poem – “Authority”, written ‘through anger’. Two stories followed, picked up for the School Magazine, which happened to be edited by Charles Platt. By now his compelling fuelling anger was aimed ‘at humanity’.

‘Many of the stories I wrote for ‘New Worlds’ and ‘Ambit’ are saturated with images from specific areas of Manchester’ he says. His 2016 book ‘The Blue Monday Diaries: In The Studio With New Order’ provides further sideways autobiographical glimpses of the city. ‘Industrial decay and badly-developed modernist housing estates existed side by side. If you lived in this environment, as I did, and also experienced a vastly different life in the South, as I also did, then the North really did seem like an alternative future land, and was legitimate subject matter for upcoming science-fiction authors.’ Well, for those with the perception to interpret it, maybe. To Mike, Manchester was ‘an alternative Earth floating at the very edges of civilisation. Another planet…’, which his fiction fractures and transfigures into a surreal post-apocalypse wasteland.

But first, he was working as a lab technician in the quality-control department of ‘Halls Mentholyptus Sweets’ in Radcliffe. ‘I’d go on the production line wearing my white lab coat to take samples, return to the laboratory, analyse them to make sure they had the right levels of menthol and eucalyptus oils in them, then phone back my results to the line managers. If the samples were ‘out’ then whoever was in charge on the line would make the necessary adjustments.’ ‘I GET UP. I GO TO WORK. THE CLOCK GOES ROUND. I GET UP. I GO TO WORK. THE CLOCK GOES ROUND.’ Until he encountered William S Burroughs’ interview with Conrad Knickerbocker – ‘a seminal source for Burroughs and for me also’ (‘The Art Of Fiction’ in the ‘Paris Review no.35’, Fall 1965, ).

Mike has ‘never written a word of conventional narrative in his life’ according to Michael Moorcock, instead, he ‘sprang full-grown from the head of (William) Burroughs, whose work first inspired him to write’ (in his introduction to ‘The New SF’ anthology). To this end his first story – “Girl” in ‘New Worlds’ no.162 (May 1966), opens ‘against the square walls of the barn, two marble trees grew up. I suppose they aimed to reach the moon. But whenever the moon was hidden (which was often) they stopped growing.’

Once Britain’s leading SF magazine under the previous John Carnell editorial regime, this was SF in no way familiar to its erstwhile 1950s wonks. No faster-than-light galactic alien encounters, bug-eyed extraterrestrial entities or star-spanning evil empires. Instead, its circular narrative is more attuned to the literary experimental practices of art journals and Lit-theorists. Heavy with symbolism there’s little obvious plot-structure or revelatory punch-line, it’s more concerned with startlingly poetic surreal imagery – tormented horses trodden in blood, a skeleton of horse and rider fused into one entity, twisted steel sticking out of trees.

Post-apocalypse? To Mike, it’s ‘using irony and metaphor to express my anger at the state of humanity, y’know, it’s warmongering.’ The Cuban Missile Crisis was a generational firebreak, bringing the world to the brink of ‘Dr Strangelove’ annihilation. That awareness permeates everything. The moonlit barn with its dead compelling powers which he encounters on a road pitted with holes, is ‘the last outpost of man’. He ‘hadn’t seen a building for years.’ Although it’s never explained further, we know.

“Girl” – published when Mike was a tall blonde nineteen, was the first of a stream of unquantifiable fiction that is well worth hunting down. In “Postatomic” Moorcock again detects Burroughs’ influence, while seeing him adapting ‘Burroughs’ techniques to suit his own particular vision.’ Although set in 2030, inhabiting the fragmented thought-processes of three survivors in a depopulated world, again there’s no scene-setting explanation, beyond the title-clue. With King Trash and Mr Zero, ‘he would fly through the open windows of skyscrapers, and haunt the long corridors, mournfully playing the part of the wind and decrying the sad silence sounds of the city.’ Less direct narrative as impressionistic insightful explorations of the mental inner-landscapes of these ‘lunatic rejects from a lunatic past.’

Michael Butterworth’s work is included in some twelve ‘New Worlds’ issues, making him one of the unacknowledged innovators of the SF ‘New Wave’. Mike says that for “Baked Bean Factory” (in ‘New Worlds’ no.176), ‘the story uses a condensed style to describe scenes from a post-atomic Earth, a beautiful girl dying from radiation poisoning, a night-watchman at an automated factory falling victim to image warfare as he attempts to ward off invading adverts from rival companies.’ The story was selected by Judith Merrill for her groundbreaking ‘England Swings’ anthology.

Then the dazzling “6B 4C DD1 22” (in ‘New Worlds’ no.198) is ‘an experimental assembly of texts about an internal world lying just below the everyday one, where post-atomic landscapes and nine-to-five workaday lie side-by-side, a hairsbreadth away from each other.’ His most fully-realised work so far, using the terrors and mind-opening potential of LSD to access and collage the red desert, Keele Services on the M6, Edgar Allen Poe, ruptured dialogue and text-games. Every line contains an image like every fossil-stone contains a trilobite, ‘my name is Hot Plate. My bones are wood. My breath is dust. I race across the desert. I look into the furnace’.

When confused and bewildered devotees of traditional SF complain that New Wave writing is incomprehensible cerebral exercises lacking plot or narrative, his “Circularisation Of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures” (‘New Worlds’ no.192) with its diagrams and theoretical structures is exactly what they mean. And yes, as with all revolutionary movements, babies get thrown away with bathwater. But without such intriguing intellectual word-games, how can genres evolve? Michael Butterworth rarely makes easy or comfortable reading, there’s seldom anything as reassuringly predictable as straightforward plot or narrative structure. They’re there, but ruptured into poetic fragments of extreme concentrated intensity.

There’s also “Concentrate” (in ‘New Worlds’ no.174) – followed by “Concentrate 2” (in ‘New Worlds’ no.181), which were completed through input from JG Ballard. The two writers met at one of the crazy ‘New Worlds’ parties which Mike had hitchhiked down to London to attend. ‘I was twenty, with two published stories to my name, when he took me under his wing’ recounts Mike. Ballard praised his ‘imaginative phrasing’ in a detailed analysis. Then ‘he demonstrated how William Burroughs ‘subbed-down’ work to arrive at condensed texts, and he offered to edit these two stories from much longer works of mine.’ Wasn’t it a painful process, watching your artfully-conceived prose being gutted in this way? Apparently not. It provided the catalyst that slimmed the text down, making it a revelation.

At the time ‘Ballard, as I addressed him, for he addressed me as Butterworth’ was part-way through his ‘The Atrocity Exhibition’ (1970) which uses the same ‘subbing’ technique. It led to Ballard publishing a Butterworth piece in ‘Ambit no.36’ – for which he was Prose Editor. ‘Jim Ballard got the story past editor Martin Bax, who didn’t really like my stuff. Other material Jim accepted from me – and collaborated with me on, “Concentrate 1” and “Concentrate 2”, Martin also rejected, so it appeared in ‘New Worlds’ instead. Looking back, I would much rather everything had appeared in ‘New Worlds’, as it was by far the better magazine, but Mike M could only take so much of my work.’

“Concentrate 2”, reprinted as two linked pieces in ‘The Savoy Book’ (1978), is furnished with contorted SF imagery in ways that William Burroughs requisitions genre elements for playfully satiric purposes, yet with an escalating explicitness. A character named ‘Stick’ schemes to create a super-race of emotionless nerveless plantmen, declaring botany to be ‘the science of human vegetation’, while reference to the Sigma Riots recalls Burroughs even more directly. Elsewhere there are ‘ruined cities on skylines’ and the ‘last bickering inhabitants of a dying globe…’

Mike’s short experimental fiction continued in fusillades of grotesque shock. There was also the brief “Concentrate 3” in ‘New Worlds: An Anthology’, which wrenches future-elements from the crumbling sanity of an astronaut with ‘oceans of scrambled knowledge’ in his head, by gutting the hardware of SF that was already shocked into news headlines. The second half of this excerpt from NASA’s secret history is in poem-form. ‘Charles Platt published me more frequently when he took over the ‘New Worlds’ editorship later on…’

But soon Mike was editing and producing his own ‘Concentrate’, which became ‘Corridor’ – ‘a journal with a licence to roam’, which became ‘Wordworks’ – a series of glossy showcases for new writing. While he was also producing novelisations for the ‘Space 1999’ TV series (six titles including ‘Planets Of Peril’, ‘The Mind-Breaks Of Space’ with J Jeff Jones, and ‘The Edge Of The Infinite’ all in 1977). He also co-wrote (with Moorcock) books fictionalising Sonic Space-Rockers Hawkwind into Sci-Fi characters (‘The Time Of The Hawklords’ in 1976 and ‘Queens Of Deliria’ in 1977), the consensus of opinion being that Moorcock – who becomes ‘Moorlock, the Acid Sorcerer’ in the tale, supplied the title and the marketable cover-name, Butterworth the creative mind-juice. Demonstrating – if demonstration is required, his ability to write something approximating conventional narrative fiction, if of a heightened Rock-mythologising form. A credit-listing clarifies the roles as M Moorcock: Producer/Director, and M Butterworth: Writer, helpfully adding ‘Ethnic Habits and Characteristics: Altrincham Town Library, J Jeff Jones: Acupuncture Idea, and Dave Britton: Musical and Magical Names plus Precise Alignment Of Silver Machines’! Yet if the conceptual leap from style-over-plot concentrates, to purely plot-driven if imaginatively entertaining media spin-offery seems strange, there are links.

The short story – “The Harme-Oats Effect” (in ‘Science Fiction Monthly’), is co-written with J Jeff Jones, and has the conventional story-structure of a near-future astronaut, Harme, on a one-man rescue-mission to a Salvage-Operator trapped in an orbiting scrap-yard of ‘capsules, satellites and general debris that a few decades of Space Corps Engineers had booted off into the void… plastic bags, metal tubing, frozen excrement or fractured tubing.’ The opening sequence is even built around a regular launch-countdown format. As in all collaborations, it’s difficult to tease out which elements are Jones, and which Butterworth. But Harme is mind-linked to ‘Harmoniser’ Oats in Earth, who picks up on Harme’s psychic stresses and his persistent subconscious terror of premature-burial in an enigmatic wooden cabinet. It turns out the submerged memories are PSI-resonances imprinted on computer-tape from a US Space Force Captain dead for decades, his corpse in a nearby orbiting hulk. It’s an effective narrative in traditional SF style, with a sharply macabre hook.

Although sporadically reprinted, and some of it anthologised, these stories – unfortunately, were never collected into a single volume. ‘Yes, I think it’s a pity I wasn’t able to push a collection to one of the main publishing houses when the interest was riding high’ he admits. ‘Because it wasn’t collected, the effect of my early – and best, work has been dissipated whereas, say, the work of Langdon Jones – another writer who did his best work for ‘New Worlds’ about the same time, and who had a collection, has been acknowledged. Perhaps – as you say, what I wrote for ‘New Worlds’, ‘Ambit’ and a few other mags at that time is worthy of better recognition than it’s received?’

There’s a dismissive shrug, ‘I went on to have a wildly varied career, which hasn't helped my early reputation...’

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Dave Britton was initially an illustrator, an Aubrey Beardsley-on-‘E’ artist. ‘When I was doing magazine artwork no-one gave a toss about it. And then I stopped to concentrate on writing. Now they all say ‘why don’t you do artwork anymore, you really should’.’

I’ve known, admired, and been slightly in awe of Mike and Dave for longer than probably any of us would care to remember. We corresponded and contributed to each other’s magazines through the early-1970s. I met and interviewed them for underground newspaper ‘It (International Times)’ using the strap-line excuse of their first run-in with the Manchester Constabulary over the sale of bootleg albums on their shop premises. And later we conspired through the first of their long ‘Lord Horror’ (1989) debacles. I’m obsessive enough about their contentious creativity to know that throughout their work together and separately there’s been a continuity of calculated affront. Initially in the form of sophisticated literary experiment. SF New Wave shocked via William Burroughs through Butterworth’s cool intellect, and through Britton’s more explosive energies. But to claim that they court gratuitous confrontation is to miss the point. Over the years, fermented by their Northern-based isolation, they’ve merely focused and targeted that element more nakedly. Into the novels, the comics, and the furiously extremist records.

 ‘Ever since World War Two, technological development, such as spaceflight and the growth of the media landscape, had been rapid and ever-accelerating’ he observes. ‘The future was arriving at the same pace and if you knew how to look for it, it was there for the taking. In the 1970s it was arriving from a past of grime and smoke, science fiction conjuring industrial Manchester as ‘The Twilight Zone’, the experimental and the outré.’ 

And more personally, ‘growing up as children and teenagers in the late 1950s and sixties, the formative experiences of David and I were seminal Rock ‘n’ Roll, the literary experimentalism of the Beats, the music of Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, and the UK underground magazines ‘Oz’ and ‘Ink’. By the seventies, instead of conforming, as many of our peers were doing, we blithely carried on.’ Their shops, Bookchain, Orbit Books and House On The Borderland once ‘formed a kind of occult triangle about Manchester’s respectable, mercantile heartland, it was an area staked out as Savoyland, an alternative and now undocumented Manchester.’ M John Harrison typed his novel ‘A Storm Of Wings’ in Bookchain on Peter Street, between customers.

‘With ‘Lord Horror’, first there was a novelette of mine’ explains Mike, ‘which I could never quite satisfactorily complete. It centred on the fact that Hitler was still alive and living in South America.’ I remember reading a marked-up manuscript-copy typescript of the novelette, it was excellent, I wish to hell I’d published it. Titled “Das Neue Leben” – ‘my attempt to understand the Holocaust’, it was eventually reworked and published in full in ‘Emanations no.1’ (edited by Carter Kaplan, 2011). But meanwhile ‘Dave took the idea, made it increasingly outlandish, while switching the central character from Hitler to – initially the traitor-propagandist broadcaster Lord Haw-Haw, who transmuted into the phantasmagorical Lord Horror.’ It’s an exquisitely written shocker of awe-inspiring imagination crossing an interlocking multiverse of hard surreal (im)possibilities. ‘I moved straight from writing “Das Neue Leben” to helping Dave write ‘Lord Horror’’ Mike elaborates. ‘Mike also helped draw the final chapters together’ adds Dave, ‘and brought the thing to its completion.’

The novel’s publication was delayed by Dave’s first prison sentence, twenty-eight days in riot-torn Strangeways. Then in 1993, for writing and publishing ‘Lord Horror’, he was sentenced to four further months there, and other prisons. But the second novel, developing and extending the themes even further, was equally uncompromisingly called ‘Motherfucker’ (1996). And subtitled ‘The Auschwitz Of Oz’ it’s another extravagantly lavish psycho-fantasia. ‘Auschwitz, and the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, were separated by only nine years’ Dave points out, ‘there’s got to be a connection...’

By the turn of the century, after the galactic war of litigation, the Lit-fires and fictional explosions, Mike was telling me ‘and now, after twenty-five years of Savoy, there’s a new buzz in the air. We’re very happy. Dave’s putting the finishing touches to his third novel, and we’re planning a series of limited edition reprints of Savoy’s all-time fantasy greats.’ The Savoy catalogue already furthers the long-standing Michael Moorcock and Charles Platt link, adding titles by Jack Trevor Story, Langdon Jones, Harlan Ellison and Samuel Delany – plus ‘new editions of the Henry Treece Celtic books (four 1956 titles including ‘The Golden Strangers’, reprinted in 1980), all fully illustrated and given the Savoy treatment...’ An archive of history, augmented with film, recapitulated in ‘The Use And Abuse Of Books’ exhibition at ‘The International Anthony Burgess Foundation’.

‘This recent late attention is indeed very strange’ commentates Mike, ‘but it is something I’ve noticed happens, that creatives who’ve had some early success and then languished suddenly seem to come in vogue again!’ While there’s new twenty-first century fiction in new guises, the ‘Corridor8’ relaunch and the transatlantic ‘Emanations’ hook-up. ‘Some of the material that I couldn’t get published in ‘New Worlds’ – or anywhere else, is now all slowly appearing in ‘Emanations’.’ Change, rather than mutate.

‘I like the past, but I wouldn’t want to go back to it’ he tells me. ‘I’ve always been happy to be in the present, with all its unpredictability and discomfort and strangeness. I want to look at what is happening now that is good. Which isn’t to say the past doesn’t have its place. I enjoy experiments like the White Stripes have done, recording with early sound-generating technology. Dave is very keen on the past, and promotes it, as you know, but he also mixes it with what’s about now and has a taste for the new.’

A contemplative pause. ‘I can’t remember the past sufficiently clearly, so the present is always more vivid to me, and takes my attention more or less exclusively. The acceleration of technology, the promise of possibilities, are exciting rather than annoying. Even though I no longer have the time or cognitive function to master technology successfully – someone else can! It always has been that way with me. I still want to know what’s happening now.’

We are sitting within the ornate ‘The Briton’s Protection’ pub on the corner of Great Bridgewater Street and Moseley Street beneath black-and-white photos and framed memorabilia of decades of Manchester music, from Herman’s Hermits, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Smiths, Oasis and New Order. I’m here because of the exhibition commemorating the great ‘Savoy’ adventure. Manchester is at last recognising it, and Mike’s outlaw contribution to the city’s cultural history.



NEW WORLDS no.158’ (January 1966) letter requesting less novel-length stories, and greater diversity of content, ‘if a writer has the ability to set his SF down in black and white but in the guise of a poem or a sketch, the his ability must be recognised’

Girl” (‘New Worlds no.162’, May 1966), see text for details. ‘Tired of life I lay down for the night. I looked up at the stars. I was a microscope for an infinite resolving power. Something was using me to observe the universe.’

The Steel Corkscrew” (‘New Worlds no.167’, October 1966) Entrance: after twenty-one years in space-exile, eight men return to find an Earth of ‘peopleless desert-dust’. Team-leader Krau, chief engineer Tevern, simpleminded electrician Smetherill, Morple, Ankle, dumb semi-intelligent suspected telepath Antwill, Snaff the gunarm and Fingletor ‘expert at driving people round the bend’. There are solar-flares and a huge solitary enigmatic structure resembling a shiny-blade revolving corkscrew. ‘Searing heat. Pain. Terror. Death. Closure’

SF IMPULSE no.9’ (November 1966) a letter published ‘that’s almost bound to start a war’ says editor Harry Harrison. Butterworth responds to a ‘Has Burroughs Failed’ editorial by Harrison in no.4. Butterworth points out that ‘remember he’s experimenting with our nervous systems, and therefore apt to try to use a language completely alien to us’ and presciently ‘perhaps the moderns will take more notice of him than the present society will ever’

SF IMPULSE no.12’ (February 1967) further dialogue with editor Harry Harrison who opens the letter column with ‘a word from our newly-formed Department of Social Injustices. Mr Michael Butterworth of 10 Charter Road, Altrincham, Cheshire’ concerning William S Burroughs and ‘experimental prose’, Butterworth states – in caps ‘WSB is one of the few writers living today who have any great insight into what the future of the WORD holds’

Concentrate ” (‘New Worlds no.174’, August 1967), ‘Jim Ballard condensed this fiction from longer works of mine’, in the second large-format issue of ‘New Worlds’. ‘It has an anarchistic hero who works constantly to create beauty through destruction, successive slices of space-time show how the destructive process is taking effect. ‘Destroy the universe. Up with Stick. Down with urbanism. Down with God. Down with everything’

Breakthru’ (1967), poetry magazine edited by Ken Geering, includes Mike’s poetry in no.39 and no.41

The Baked Bean Factory” (‘New Worlds no.176’ October 1967) ‘Outside, on the sunny side, bomber spheres fly incessantly over the dead landscape of earth. Fused glasses layer the freshly-created deserts – fossilized tree-scapes flower away for ever’, Locklar Ford is the ‘only remaining human Nightwatchman’, reprinted in ‘England Swings’ edited by Judith Merril, August 1968

After Galactic War – From A Road On Earth” poem (‘New Worlds no.177’, November 1967), ‘i rolled over the pitted road pickpocketing the night, i rode the night like a baby stalk lost in heaven’, rich collision of imagery

Concentrate 2” (‘New Worlds no.181’, April 1968), a further surreal compression from no.177, the novelette ‘Stick’, with subheads (1) An Empire of natural beauty, (2) Meanwhile, in a distant corner of the Galaxy, (3) Interview in Control Office, (4) The schizophrenic theory of mind, (5) Concerning the intelligence, (6) Tour round the Stick laboratories, (7) The pretakeoff nightmares Twig had, (8) Speech in cold space, (9) The sounds of space, (10) Finale, plus ‘The Pub That Exploded’

A Marijuana Smoker’s Lament” as ‘Edward Poe’ (in ‘Concentrate’, part-distributed with ‘New Worlds no.185’)

Sergeant Pepper’s Postatomic Skull” (‘Ambit no.36’) a hybrid fiction-poem accepted by JG Ballard as prose editor of ‘Ambit’ arts magazine. Mike says that ‘I’ve always been very pleased with the poetry in that issue.’ Also with work by Ivor Cutler and others

Postatomic” (‘The New SF’ anthology edited by Langdon Jones, November 1969), virtuoso prose exercise under subheads ‘King Trash’ (‘I am quite safe from robot attack. I’m King of England in the year 2030. And nobody’s going to stop me’), ‘Mr Zero’ (‘The deserts are very cold now. Which is not surprising, considering there are no clouds, no sun. And earth has been depopulated. Overnight. You might say that people of all nationalities decided to become passengers, and took the overnight express, which arrived punctually at Platform Zero’), and ‘Baby’ (‘baby sat and played with the missiles on its own under the gigantic skies. Sometimes he would be as high as a skyscraper’)

Circularisation Of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures” (‘New Worlds no.192’, July 1969), subtitled ‘Radial-Planographic Condensed Word-Image Structures, Rotation About A Point’, Lit-theory with ‘TV word-dial’ diagrams to illustrate cut-up prose-condensation ‘I crossed the channel, Dover to Calais, in a motorboat. I had a drink of tea on the way’ becomes ‘Dover sea motortea – drink Calais’. Reprinted in ‘The New Tomorrow’ edited by Norman Spinrad, October 1971)

Concentrate 3” (‘New Worlds no.197’, January 1970), if SF is the mythology of the twentieth-century, this short prose-verse feature internalises it, ‘I experienced the stars crawling over me… really I was struggling. My head became hot and buzzed. It really buzzed. There was nothing… I felt there was nothing but the stars crawling over my face suddenly drowning in water/space’. Reprinted in ‘New Worlds: An Anthology’ edited by Michael Moorcock’ September 1983

6B 4C DDI 22” (‘New Worlds no.198’, February 1970), with Alan Stephanson art, to Butterworth ‘it is a fusion of factual reality and factual symbolism. It is not a ‘story’, it is an account of myself and what I perceive… the writing represents my thoughts, my remembrances and my present.’ Acid (LSD) loosens the connection between overlapping realities, ‘Alice The Acid Child’ (Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Ask Alice’?),’at my request there are planes circling overhead, eggs fill up their bellies, i rise to fertilise them, my legs grow from the city floor… trees and buildings shrink’

The Terminal” (‘New Worlds no.199’, March 1970), with Alan Stephanson art, short eleven-line prose vignette, ‘an avenue of space. I cornered at 78 miles per hour… turning the car over at Mowall’s corner… without life’

Disintegration” (‘New Worlds no.207/ NWQ 6’, September 1973), structured in offset blocks of text, the narrator and his psychologically unstable wife volunteer for a ‘strange encounter of minds’ conducted by Dr ‘Thom’ Brown’s Lockwood Psychic Research Foundation, an amplified telepathic merging of minds, that leads to her death

The Harme-Oats Effect” written with J Jeff Jones (‘Science Fiction Monthly Vol.2 No.2’, February 1975) illustrated by Tony Schofield

The Room” (‘Wordworks no.6’), ‘my mind was foggy and I had sat infront of my typewriter unable to strike a key, depressed and suicidal’, intense stream-of-consciousness mood tone-poem, in which his claustrophobic room has become a cube-craft, ‘I remember once, we ventured out of the room…’

Christmas Story” (‘New Worlds no.211/NW 10’, August 1976), an intense, dark, staccato account of an ‘inner geographical awareness’. The Contributor Biog Notes state that Butterworth is twenty-eight and a single parent with two young children in Manchester, as the narrative ranges into memory, a three-year daughter in the next room and a son in his cot, a dead budgie, a sense of pursuit along a primal beach, ‘past present and future separated by biological existence’ into a cosmic near-spiritual dénouement

Butterworth’s Treaty On Light” prose (‘New Worlds no.214’, Autumn 1978), cleverly-argued spoof pseudo-science of ‘The States of Shining, the Degrees of Shining, and the Ability to shine’ of humans envying and stealing status celebrity light to enhance their own glow, illustrated with anatomical diagrams. ‘Imagination is the Light Drive’

The Pub That Exploded” & “Stick” (‘The Savoy Book’, 1978), the original texts of ‘Concentrate 2’

A New Frog: The Origin Of Frivolity & The Shape Of The New Literature” (‘New Worlds no.215’, Winter 1978/9 issue edited in Manchester by Dave Britton and Mike Butterworth), essay on the decline of social literature in an increasingly frivolous age – ‘the great traditions of literature have been caused to meander. Today they are like beautiful but unwieldy brontosauri, they can no longer reproduce’, and the corresponding evolving tradition of imaginative fiction

Outline One” (‘New Worlds no.216’, September 1979), art by David Britton, a lurid concentrated novel in one-and-a-half-page plot outline, Jules Ulrik Vliet crosses a Time Fault from end-of-time alternate-Earth Sorum where he learns to love Helen Lone. She is murdered by pursuing Atavars, and he prepares to return to Sorum to seek revenge. A stand-alone, despite being announced as Part One of a trilogy, although Vliet – the real-name of Captain Beefheart, will reappear

Under The Influence Of Bush” poem (‘Ludds Mill no.18’, October 1982), ‘Reality is wonderful, I long for that glorious reality again, this high is hell’

A Hurricane In A Night Jar” (‘Savoy Dreams’, June 1984) with art by David Britton, long image-rich ambitious fragmented fiction with return of Jules Ulrik Vliet and ‘The Blood’ as kind of ‘Eternal Champion’ universal essences, from ‘the time you ground one stick against another’ into ‘the postatomic deserts’ of a future End of Time, featuring poem-form, slanting text-columns, Mr Zero and Butterworth himself in autobiographical fragments, with Burroughs-style Ether Girls and the Cola People. Plus essay “Savoy Under Siege” dated June 1982, recording details of the Savoy Books trial, with transcripts, ‘we are not approaching the Dark Age – in Manchester we are in the Dark Age’

A Memoir Of William Burroughs” interview by Michael Butterworth and David Britton, authored by Sarajane Inkster (in ‘The Edge no.6’, December 1997)

Das Neue Leben” fiction in ‘Emanations’ edited by Carter Kaplan (2011), plus poems “The Bomb Explodes”, “A Slut In Bed”, “Brass Life”, “The Cracks In The Neighbourhood”, “Girl In Bath”, “Hoover And Writer”, “Icicle The Tricyle And The Letter Box”, “Illusion”, “Long Legs”, “Mouselow”, “On Broken Hill”, “The Nose”, “The Snammer Man”, “Me A Society Visitor”, “Untitled”, “Untitled”

Sequences” fiction in ‘Emanations: Second Sight’ edited by Carter Kaplan (2012), also credited on Board Of Editorial Advisors, plus poems “Trinity Temple, Thelma’s Thought-Triggered”, “THC Trip”, “Breakdown 3”, “Premature”, “The Builders Of The Transpennine Motorway Pt.1 and Pt.2”, “The Chemical Genesis Of The Known Universe”, “Space Radio”

Night” fiction in ‘Emanations: Third Eye’ (2013), edited by Carter Kaplan with Mike also credited on Board Of Editorial Advisors, irritable Donald – on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and Karen, on a long bickering country journey home from Cornwall in a white Cortina, caught in ‘a trap in time… a manifestation of Einstein’s theory of the infinite yet bounded universe’, interfering with his perception of time, throwing up childhood beach memories – as illustrated with original photos, plus poem “Until Now (Summer 1974)” about the resurgence of nature, ‘Her’

Scatterhead” fiction in ‘Emanations: Foray Into Forever’ edited by Carter Kaplan (2014), also credited on Board Of Editorial Advisors, plus poem “Untitled”

Hey, Mr Pressman” fiction in ‘Emanations: 2+2=5’ (2015), what Mike describes as ‘a satire on ‘red top’/tabloid journalism I wrote in 1972 for Michael Moorcock’s magazine ‘New Worlds’, but which was never published there’,‘outside, the houses are falling’, hard, compressed prose, no back-story, cerebral retro-future, he reports on ‘deviant’ sexuality, ‘I pine for the real world’ until he’s caught out in illicit sex himself. Plus two poems with commentary, “Untitled” on ‘the rise of nationalism in Europe’, “Untitled (October 2014) on gender-basis for war, and prose-piece “The Cosmic Diary (Entry For 28 May 1981)” on the racial metaphor of his friend’s picaresque escapades

The Islands” semi-autobiographical fiction in ‘Emanations: I Am Not A Number’ (2017), researching his father’s attempts to join an idealistic vegan cooperative community on Morat, an island off Honduras. ‘Not fiction. He actually lived through that!’ comments editor Sanford Blackburn. Also ‘Where Am I? Here I Am!’, two poems, “Summer Poems” and “Buddhafield” 


Time Of The Hawklords’ (1976) with Michael Moorcock. Rocking on the Edge of Time. Deep in the Earth’s core lies the Death Generator, buried there since ancient time by a long-extinct alien race, now triggered. In amongst the ruins of London, surrounded by the disaster-survivors, Hawkwind rock – their music catalysing the Death Ray in an apocalyptic battle between forces of good and evil.

Queens Of Deliria’ (1977) second ‘Hawklords’ novel, based on an idea by Michael Moorcock (Star Books, August 1977) with the devastated Earth stalked by decaying ghouls and satanic Bulls, the Red Queen meddles with the laws of Time to advance her evil ambitions. The Hawklords only ally is Elric the Indecisive

Space 1999: Planets Of Peril’ (Star Books, January, 1977) novelisation of Year 2 episodes ‘The Metamorph’, ‘The A-B Chrysalis’, ‘The Rules Of Luton’ and ‘New Adam, New Eve’

Space 1999: Mind-Breaks Of Space’ (Star Books, February, 1977) with J Jeff Jones, novelisation of ‘Brian The Brain’, ‘The Mark Of Achanon’, ‘Catacombs Of The Moon’ and ‘One Moment Of Humanity’

Space 1999: The Space-Jackers’ (Star Books, March 1977) novelisation of ‘Seed Of Destruction’, ‘A Matter Of Balance’, ‘The Exiles’ and ‘The Beta Cloud’

Space 1999: The Psychomorph’ (Star Books, June 1977) novelisation ‘The Lambda Factor’ and ‘The Bringers Of Wonder Parts 1 and 2’

Space 1999: The Time Fighters’ (Star Books, August 1977) novelisation of ‘Space Warp’, ‘Dorzac’, ‘Devil’s Planet’ and ‘The Séance Spectre’

Space 1999: The Edge Of The Infinite’ (Warner Books, August 1977) ‘Escape Into Worlds Beyond Belief’, novelisation of ‘All That Glisters’, ‘Journey To Where’, ‘The Immunity Syndrome’ and ‘The Dorcons’

Space 1999: Year Two’ (Powys Media, 2006) revised and re-ordered anthology of earlier episodes, plus new novelisation of ‘The Taybor’ episode, and new foreword

Goodbye Pussy’ (Collins Crime Club, 1979) novel published under pseudonym ‘Sarah Kemp’

Ledge Of Darkness’ (1995) Hawklords graphic novel, illustrated by Bob Walker


Crucified Toad no.1’ (April 1971) 28pp, editors John Muir and David Britton, 28pp, with Eddy C Bertin (‘Filmic Fantasy’), SJ Sackett (on Clark Ashton Smith), David Britton art portfolio

Crucified Toad no.2’ (Winter 1971)

Crucified Toad no.3’ (Winter 1972)

Crucified Toad no.4’ (Winter 1974, 25p) 32pp, editor and artwork David Britton, Jim Cawthorn cover, David H Keller on Mervyn Peake, Brian Aldiss interview by Charles Partington, ‘Elric’ letter by Michael Moorcock, Kathryn Brooks (‘Black Soul’ Fantasy fiction)

Concentrate First Issue’ (1968, part-distributed as an insert of ‘New Worlds no.185’, Mwangaza Enterprises) Price 1/3d. 4pp of ‘condensed writing’, featuring John Sladek (‘In The Distance’), Alex Kernaghan (‘A Phial Of Darkness’), Charles Platt (‘Undream’), ‘Edward Poe’ aka Butterworth (‘A Marijuana Smoker’s Lament’), Anselm Hollo (‘Rooms’), Tina Morris (excerpt from ‘The Trap’) see

Corridor no.1’ (1971) with Michael Moorcock (‘Pride Of Empire’), Giles Gordon (‘Pictures From An Exhibition’). Michael Ginley (‘The Day I Came Back From The Dead’), Alex Kernaghan (‘Vaginal Tract’)

Corridor no.2’ (1971) with Alex Kernaghan (‘War Games’), John Sladek (‘Comedo’), James Sallis (‘Jane Crying’), Paul Buck (‘A Cunt Not Fit For The Queen’), Bob Jenkins, Terry Gregory, Gordon Abbott, Giles Gordon, with poetry by Thomas M Disch, Gina Butterworth, Neil Spratling

Corridor no.3’ (May-June 1972, 15p) 20pp, with Charles Platt (‘Jo’), Barry Edgar Pilcher, Paul Buck, Glenda George, Andrew Darlington (‘Stairs And Steps’), Michael Butterworth (‘Absurd And Phantastic’ reviews)

Corridor no.4’ (Winter 1972) with Michael Moorcock (Jerry Cornelius ‘The Swastika Set-Up’), Chris Naylor (‘Per Valium Ad Astra’), review of William S Burroughs ‘The Wild Boys’ by J Jeff Jones, David Britton art

Corridor no.5’ (August 1974, 20p) editor/published: Michael Butterworth Art/design: David Britton, with Hilary Bailey (‘On Board The Good Ship Venus’), Peter Finch (‘Desk’), JG Ballard interview by Peter Linnett

Wordworks no.6’ incorporating ‘Corridor’ (1975/76, 40p) features Michael Moorcock “The Hollow Land” with David Britton art, also Michael Butterworth (‘The Room’, plus ‘The Guts To Read’ reviews), Heathcote Williams (‘Cosmic Whore Batter’ etc) Dr Christopher Evans interview by Peter Linnett, Simon Ounsley, Paul Buck, Alex Kernaghan, Paul Abeleman (‘Nick’)

Wordworks no.7’ (1976, 75p) features ‘Sinclair Beiles’ Michael Butterworth interview, Trevor Hoyle (‘Conversations In A Darkened Room’), Jim Burns (Lord Buckley ‘The Hip Messiah’), Jim Leon art ‘Retrospective’, ‘The Abdication Of Queen Elizabeth II’, plus Book Reviews

Corridor8’ (Annual 2010, £10.99) relaunched as a large format international ‘contemporary visual art and writing magazine’ Will Alsop, Jon Savage (‘Unknown Pleasure: The Hacienda’), Iain Sinclair. With free Rachel Goodyear ‘Hoofprints’ Art Print

Corridor8 no.2: The Borderlands Edition’ (Annual 2011), free Chris Watson CD, Carol Huston (‘Does The Angle Between Two Walls Have A Happy Ending?: New Worlds 1967-1970’), Ian Sinclair, Derek Horton

Corridor8 no.3: Four-part edition’ (2012), Robert Clark, Richard Kostelanetz, Jan Harman, art by Stephen Iles, Pavel Buchler, Eoin Shea


The Savoy Book’ (1978) co-edited with David Britton, anthology with Harlan Ellison, M John Harrison, Lester Bangs (fictional Jimi Hendrix interview), Paul Buck

Savoy Dreams’ (1984) co-edited with David Britton, anthology of fiction with nonfiction, with Michael Moorcock, Heathcote Williams, Charles Partington, M John Harrison

Lord Horror’ (1989) by David Britton

Motherfucker: The Auschwitz Of Oz’ (1996) by David Britton

Baptised In The Blood Of Millions’ (2001) by David Britton

La Squab: The Black Rose Of Auschwitz’ (2012) by David Britton ‘Horror Panegyric’ (Savoy, March 2008) overview of

Lord Horror’ cycle by Keith Seward and David Britton

The Blue Monday Diaries: In The Studio With New Order’ by Michael Butterworth (Plexus Publishing, 2016) ISBN-13:978-0-85965-546-0. 190pp

FUCK OFF AND DIE’ by David Britton & Kris Guido (Savoy Books, 2005, ISBN 0-86130-113-7) An acerbic brain-storming kick-to-the-head, a ‘Caustic Cutie’, ‘Fuck Off & Die’ is a bumper-bundle ‘Beano Annual’ of delicious outrage, as spikily awkwardly indigestible and gratuitously contentious as I’ve come to expect from Savoy. A beautifully extravagant through-the-blender of innocence and experience, with some of the finest most lavishly grotesque art they’ve yet committed to high-gloss paper. Alan Moore writes the introduction. And if there’s meant to be a return to Dave’s prurient mega-scamp ‘La Squab’ I look forward to Mike’s new autobiogs too – but, isn’t it all autobiographical? Or am I guilty of misreading it?

SAVOY WARS’ (CD) follows a series of audacious 12” singles often unfairly dismissed as either stunts or plain Northern weirdness, and it finally places their project into perspective. The closest analogy you’re likely to get is KLF’s cunning mismatch of style and artist. Because here “Blue Monday” motorvates all the way from Elvis’ “Crawfish” to A Guy Called Gerald’s “Voodoo Ray” with Peter Hook himself donating the bass-lines. Their “Sign O The Times” has PJ Proby versus Prince patenting a cure for the big disease with a little name. “Garbageman” is a cut-and-slash rerun of The Cramps’ original with D’nise Johnson (occasional Primal Scream vox) and Melanie (Sub-Sub) Williams coming in on an S*Express transmutation. “Shoot Yer Load” blends a tasty LaVern Baker sample around Rowetta of Happy Mondays. Best of all is “Reverbstorm” – Spector and Tamla Manchester supernaturally reanimated with Wagnerian Northern Soul’ (review in ‘Hot Press’ by Andrew Darlington )

With thanks to Bob Dickinson’s interview with Michael Butterworth, a Clara Casian film

Friday, 30 June 2017

Poem: 'The Truth About How Gravity Really Works'

(or ‘does it feel good 
when I do this to you…?’) 
 …with acknowledgement to ‘Touch’ 

so we sit here, watching incense smoke-rings, 
hearing dark insects scratch behind the walls, 
& as you think, a drift of truth seeps in 
something that seems to feed you 

‘there is no gravity, worlds inhale, 
that’s all they do...’ 
‘so what happens when they exhale…?’ 

we begin trading lines, 
gravity is the geometry of ghosts, 
the moon and the dogs, the hills 
and the last train for home, 
gravity is days of dissolution 
in the black mind of the sun, 
gravity is sparks of being 
only borrowed, that keep on betraying, 
a blind vulture sinking its head 
into the stinking guts of light, 
air-raid sirens and a male-voice choir 
of 1,000 soldiers and a woman bawling 
through an electronic loudhailer, it is 
raw wounds, bouquets of teeth, &
people who dematerialise as night falls… 

so you wander off to the bathroom 
while I wonder where exactly you’ve been, 
soon you’re insisting ‘no, you’re wrong, 
gravity is what inhales me to you, 
while you only exhale…’ 

when you fix into my eyes 
I see futures, moss growing from my arms, 
my legs as witch-hazels rooting me underground 
my blood has become razors, the woman I love 
is fast asleep in our bed, all four of us must have died, 
now you’re saying I must stay, but I think no, 
it’s time I better… goooooo… 

Published in:
‘KRAX no.45’ (UK – November 2008)

And in my book
‘The Poet’s Deliberation On The State Of The Nation’ 
(Penniless Press)…

Thursday, 29 June 2017



‘The Twilight Man’ (Compact SF, 1966) started out as a 
two-part serial in ‘New Worlds’ as “The Shores Of Death”. 
Then it became Michael Moorcock’s third novel – under 
his own name. And the literary cross-overs are revealing… 

There’s no such thing as a ‘regular’ Michael Moorcock novel. Even so, ‘The Twilight Man’ is untypical of what we think of as a Michael Moorcock novel. There are spaceships, strange alien species, and the Bleak Worlds of space.

At the age of just twenty-six he famously became editor of ‘New Worlds’, despite other more obvious and predictable potential replacements for John Carnell’s chair, reliable and safe pairs of hands such as EC ‘Ted’ Tubb who had piloted ‘Authentic SF’ magazine, or Kenneth Bulmer who would assume Carnell’s mantle at ‘New Writings In SF’. So why was it Moorcock? He was a wild card, known largely for a series of cult tales in ‘Science Fantasy’, and as the teenage protégée who’d edited the juvenile ‘Tarzan Adventures’ comic. Under its new Roberts & Vinter publishing imprint the first ‘New Worlds’ issue to carry his editorial by-line was no.142 (May-June 1964), declaring itself ‘A New Literature For The Space Age’, with a JG Ballard essay proclaiming William S Burroughs as ‘Myth-Maker Of The Twentieth Century’, acting as a manifesto for the rebel regime.

 Michael Moorcock’s unique qualification was this new slant on the genre, he was an editor around whom a satellite constellation of young writers orbit, impatient with old conventions and hungry for innovations in style and subject-matter. This insurrection itself has subsequently been unreasonably exaggerated. Check out the contents pages, to find that New Wavers such as Barrington J Bayley had already been championed by Carnell, while there’s a reassuring continuity of established favourites in Sydney J Bounds and EC Tubb himself. In a letter to the magazine, ‘New Worlds’ regular Arthur Sellings concedes that ‘you’re certainly putting out a literate magazine. You’ll have the old hacks like me scratching their heads and wondering if they can make the grade.’

But first, as Moorcock explains, ‘I had just started editing the magazine and long material was hard to come by,’ so he concocts a ‘romantic, extravagant piece of work’ called “The Shores Of Death” as a two-part serial with the desolate red-orange landscape of Jakubowicz’s cover-art for no.144 (September-October) and Robert Tilley’s stylised spaceship art for no.145 (November-December 1964). The ornate interior art by James Cawthorn, perfectly captures the fin de siècle decadence of the text, while constituting a collaborative link that goes all the way back to their work together in ‘Tarzan Adventures’. To place the issues within time-context, the period starts off with the Kinks first hit “You Really Got Me” at no.1, and ends with the Beatles “I Feel Fine” topping the ‘New Musical Express’ chart. Harpo Marx died, Nikita Krushchev was ousted in a Kremlin coup, and Harold Wilson became Labour Prime Minister ‘after thirteen years of Tory rule…’

It was a time of change and uncertainty. And in ‘New Worlds’, once the story had been serialised, Moorcock explains that ‘many readers asked ‘where’s the last instalment?’ Because the downbeat ending hadn’t made the clear point it was meant to make.’ Soon after, Robert and Vinter decide to maximise its genre investment with the ‘Compact’ series of spin-off novels. As well as the Moorcock-edited ‘The Best Of New Worlds’ collection – including the aforementioned self-proclaimed ‘old hack’ Arthur Sellings, they published Moorcock’s Martian Trilogy under his ‘Edward P Bradbury’ alias, as well as ‘The Fireclown’ (aka ‘The Winds Of Limbo’) and ‘The Sundered Worlds’ (fixed-up from ‘Science Fiction Adventures’). So it became a natural vehicle for the expanded “The Shores Of Death” rewrite, resolving the reader’s previously-unanswered expectations, and in doing so, forming Moorcock’s third own-name novel, re-titled ‘The Twilight Man’.

It’s an interesting exercise to compare and contrast the development of the story’s two earlier incarnations. According to Moorcock’s ‘Introduction’ (dated April 1966) ‘I have rewritten the novel entirely, with only a fraction of the original plot and material.’ Yet some sequences are virtually lifted intact – such as the lavish ‘Earth Wake’ which opens the first part of the serial and then follows the novel’s tacked-on ‘Prologue’, a party of masks, costumes, levitating gravstraps and air-carriages – ‘its golden body had been moulded to the shape of a fantastic bird with spreading wings’, controlled by sonar-key (or ultrasonics in the novel). Yet there are also the most fundamental plot-shifts, even reformulating the nature of catastrophe facing the doomed planet.

The ‘Story so far’ update for new readers in no.145 neatly condenses the imminent threat down to ‘our galaxy is about to be destroyed. Another galaxy is colliding with ours and is approaching the speed of light. When the speed of light is exceeded, it will convert to energy and we shall be engulfed by the same process. The human race prepares for death.’ Despite the cover strap-line boast announcing ‘Intelligent SF For To-Day’s Reader’ this galaxy-smashing inferno is almost an EE ‘Doc’ Smith scenario.

As Moorcock concedes, some readers ‘hinted – or stated bluntly, that the science wasn’t all it could be… they were right. I wasn’t convinced by the science either.’ So, instead of a rogue galaxy, for the novelisation there’s a race of space-dwelling creatures ‘seeking the edge of the universe’, who had ‘paused with casual ease to stop the world spinning’, a mischievous prank that creates a climatically divided Earth. Stilled on its axis, one hemisphere eternally facing the sun in everlasting day, leaving the other side facing away from the sun, perpetually frozen and inhospitable. Probably this science is equally unconvincing. However, although a degree of longevity is common – with life-spans extended up to three centuries, the race has also become barren, perhaps due to an overdose of omega radiation, and so will soon become extinct. A choice of catastrophe, in which this is again the world’s final generation, with the human race again preparing for death with costumed parties prescient of the ‘Dancers At The End Of Time’ stories to come.

The other central concept is the psychological impossibility of humans to travel in space, due to the nausea of the ‘Space Ache’. Drugs and extreme conditioning allow limited trips, and people born beyond Earth have a greater resistance, but there’s an effective passage in the first magazine episode where the last of the attempts to achieve intergalactic travel returns with the crew dead in various hideous ways from desperate violent madness brought on by the existential terrors caused by separation from the Mother world. Despite this there are tenacious colonies on Mars and Ganymede, with persistent tales of survivors of an expedition to Titan.

‘Yesterday’s conventions have no place in today’s magazine’ Moorcock editorialises, yet this idea itself has precedents. There’s a gently poetic short fiction in ‘The British Science Fiction Magazine (Vargo Statten)’ (January 1955) – the only documented work by Paul T Evers, in which expeditions to other solar system worlds are doomed to failure by the mind-scrambling “Music Of The Spheres”. But more particularly by Cordwainer Smith’s short story “Scanners Live In Vain” (‘Fantasy Book’ no.6, January 1950) where space travel is constrained by the ‘First Effect’. Here, the ‘Great Pain of Space’ induces a death-wish in all but the surgically-altered Scanners, ‘the enduring agony of space… the pain of space beating against every part of my body.’ When asked directly Moorcock admits that ‘Smith could have influenced me’.

Clovis Marca, the protagonist, is more of a regular Moorcock trope, in that he’s a charismatic loner, driven by an initially unspecified obsession. He’s pursued by lover Fastina Cahmin – at twenty-eight, the youngest person on Earth, and by a mysterious entity-in-black known as Mr Take, with a ‘rudimentary and primordial soul’. ‘Marca was the golden man’ who had abdicated his elected First Citizen council leadership when he deemed the very concept of government itself obsolete in this civilised saintly world, where debate is conducted in the Great Glade of the Flower Forest. The prologue added to the novel fills in detail, about how he’d been born from an incestuous union in a baroque ‘grotesque tower in the twilight region’ between hemispheres.

Narvo Velusi schemes a giant transmitter broadcasting ‘WE ARE HERE’ through the immensity of time and space as a final memorial to humankind, while an alien Shreelian ship from the extinction galaxy arrives, offering salvation by converting the energies of Pluto and Mercury into a preserving force-field. All of which provides little more than an irritating distraction for Clovis, who’s more intent on defying the Space-Ache by travelling to Klobax, a planet of the Antares Dark Worlds, to seek lost scientist Olono Sharvis, in a quest to achieve immortality. Klobax is a world of lurid colours, peopled only by ‘the unbalanced and the misfits’.

If the Dark Worlds are a metaphor, they become even more so in the form of the novel’s dark hemisphere of the world. It is the submerged parts of the mind where the fatalistic Jungian Thanatos instinct lurks, the morbid death-wish to the soft nullity of extinction. ‘The darkness mirrors the darkness in their minds’ as Clovis Marca observes. There are no Dark Worlds in the novel, and no Shreelians, unless they are transfigured into the ‘birdlike mammalian bipeds’ who had stilled the world. But Brand Calax is murdered when his Titan expedition is sabotaged on take-off. Narvo Velusi’s transmitter is destroyed. Clovis and Fastina attempt to distance themselves from the growing crisis when the nihilist Brotherhood of Guilt cult is opposed by Andros Almer’s equally fanatical vigilantes, who stage a virtual totalitarian coup. With Mr Take, Clovis and Fastina retreat to his isolated tower in the twilight realm – with a touch of humour, they are pursued by ‘Security Scout 008’! From this stronghold Clovis tracks Take deep into the desolation of the Earth’s night region. The Dark Side Of The Earth. To where a cavern within the fallen moon is refuge for Olono Sharvis’s continuing research.

Here, the narrative strands again come together, in extravagantly strange adventure. Retorsh is an artist of death who spends his time ‘working out the funniest ways of killing myself’. He’s committed suicide three times, only to be revived. Sharvis himself is a concoction of Mad Scientist… and Josef Mengele, the Angel Of Death familiar to anyone growing up in the immediate post-war years as responsible for Auschwitz experiments on human subjects. Sharvis had done – under the Krau-Sect regime, what Mengele had done for Nazism. The artist Alodios is gifted immortality by Sharvis, but in a cruel jest, he’s robbed of intelligence to rationalise it. In a consciously Faustian transaction Sharvis inflicts a similar immortality on Clovis (fusing him with Take’s body), ‘passionless, yet remembering passion, corrupt, yet with a memory of innocence’. In the ‘New Worlds’ serial, with Earth collapsing into feuding factions that frustrates even Shreelian generosity, Clovis is no longer capable of resolving the racial impasse. When readers asked ‘where’s the last instalment?’, there is no resolution, other than extinction.

And the downbeat ending elaborated into the novel now makes clear the point it was meant to make. It’s to do with the irrational, the urge to chaos, even where there seems to be reason. But what is the rational reaction to death, to personal – never mind racial extinction? Can there even be a reasoned response? If that makes it a darkly morbid adolescent fantasy, if that makes it a ‘romantic, extravagant piece of work’, then it fully qualifies for the term. Distanced in time, this is still a powerful work of weird fiction, fully deserving cult status in its own right. If there’s no such thing as a ‘regular’ Michael Moorcock novel, this doomed destiny at least makes it contiguous with the fall of Melniboné, or the spread of the evil empire of Granbretanne. At Sharvis’s intervention, the world spins – once, reversing the hemispheres. Fastina and Clovis have children, although he is bleakly emotionally dead. ‘He wanted nothing, regretted nothing, feared nothing.’

Future editions revert to ‘The Shores Of Death’ title for a 1970 Sphere edition, and again in 1974 through Mayflower. And it stands as a unique part of Moorcock’s stylistic evolution into one of the most distinctive writers of his generation, on the way to defining his own genre. The texts were further revised for inclusion in the 2014 ‘Moorcock’s Multiverse’ anthology in the Gollancz ‘Michael Moorcock Collection’ omnibus series – alongside his two debut novels ‘The Sundered Worlds’ and ‘The Winds Of Limbo’ (aka ‘The Fireclown’). But these early editions remain, not only highly collectable, but highly readable.

Thanks to John Howard, Rhys Hughes and
‘Jeremiah Cornelius’ in researching this feature

Tuesday, 27 June 2017



Album Review of: 
‘KITES’ by 
 (See For Miles SEE CD 368)

There was a Spencer Davis in the Spencer Davis Group, a Manfred Mann in Manfred Mann, and even a Dave Dee in Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. But the first thing to realise about Simon Dupree & the Big Sound is that there was no Simon Dupree. The second is that the Big Sound were never even particularly Big. In fact – like the Bee Gees, they were essentially three brothers, Derek, Phil and Ray Shulman. Which is a lot of brothers, but not as many brothers as there were in the Jackson Five or the Osmonds, so that’s not exactly one for the Guiness Book of Records either. And worse, over the precipice of the Sixties into the ‘Progressive Seventies’ the Big Sound de-evolved into the unforgivably self-indulgent ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ stalwarts Gentle Giant. So why the hell should this shiny new CD package be worth your carefully hoarded pennies?

Well – there’s few art pretentions here. This is essentially the Big Sound’s one and only album ‘Without Reservations’ (August 1967) inflated from its original twelve tracks to twenty by the addition of their one-and-a-half chart singles – “Kites” (no.9 in November 1967) and “For Whom The Bell Tolls” (no.43 the following April), plus ‘B’-sides and early Blue-Eyed Scooter-Soul singles like their non-hit “I See The Light”. It’s all here. The complete blueprint Pop career from the Mod R&B covers – Homer Banks’ “Sixty Minutes Of Your Love” and Ben E King’s “What Is Soul” done like a Zoot Money or a Chris Farlowe might have done them, the perfect sweaty Club jive for every self-appointed In-Crowd at every mid-sixties Art School Dance, changing style and wardrobe into the mild psychedelia that then gave them their brief burst of ‘Top Of The Pops’ success.

And “Kites” is quite gently magnificent. Written by Lee Pockriss and Hal Hackady – the team responsible for Teen-trash like “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” and Bobby Vee’s “Rubber Ball”, it’s a track that floats a charming calligraphy of images on spiralling thermals of Chinese breeze – ‘I will float a silken silver moon near your window, /…I will scatter rice-paper stars in your heaven, / …all of these and seven wonders more will I fly, / when the wind is high’. With bit-part actress Jacqui Chan (she can be glimpsed in ‘Krakatoa: East Of Java’ in 1969, plus episodes of ‘Dixon Of Dock Green’ and ‘The Saint’) breathing oriental eroticism all over the instrumental break in a poetic Chinese voice-over that still packs more sensual charm than Sharon Stone’s entire movie-ography. “For Whom The Bell Tolls” follows (lifting its title from the John Donne poem “Meditations XVI”), drifting in on sound-bites of twittering birds and doomy Church-bells, before fandangoing into a perfect Pop of acoustic flamenco bursts and trumpet fanfares. Trivia buffs know already that beyond the confines of this album the group also recorded the highly collectible “We Are The Moles” (1968) under the Beatleseque guise of the Moles, and that after the demise of Gentle Giant Derek Shulman became the US-based A&R executive who first signed Bon Jovi, while Ray Shulman went on to do production knob-twiddling for the likes of Sugarcubes and A.R. Kane. But in their time Simon Dupree could occasionally be a class act, and the Big Sound – just once or twice, were able to live up to the boastful promise of their name.


WITHOUT RESERVATIONS (Parlophone PMC 7029) with ‘A Lot Of Love’, ‘What Is Soul’, ‘I See The Light’, ‘Sixty Minutes Of Your Love’, ‘Love’, ‘Get Off My Bach’, ‘There’s A Little Picture House’, ‘Day Time, Night Time’, ‘Teacher Teacher’, ‘Amen’, ‘Who Cares’, ‘Reservations’. ‘New Musical Express’ review says ‘here’s a group with a restless, driving instrumental sound, the lead singer shouting and bawling his songs over in great R-and-B style’

KITES(See For Miles CM109 - 1986, then See For Miles SEE CD368 - 1993) with ‘Amen’ (Sam Cooke song), ‘Who Cares’ (group composition), ‘Get Off My Bach’ (group composition), ‘Sixty Minutes Of Your Love/A Lot Of Love’ (Homer Banks medley), ‘Love’, ‘There’s A Little Picture Playhouse’, ‘What Is Soul’ + *singles. ‘Vox’ says ‘more than you ever needed to know about Portsmouth’s most famous group is contained within this twenty-track collection’

PART OF MY PAST(2CD expanded set 55-tracks, 2004)


December 1966 – ‘I See The Light’* c/w ‘It Is Finished’* (Parlophone R5542), group managed by John King, through Arthur Howes Agency 29-31 Regent Street, London SW1

February 1967 – ‘Reservations’* c/w ‘You Need A Man’* (Parlophone R5574)

May 1967 – ‘Day Time, Night Time’* c/w ‘I’ve Seen It All Before’* (Parlophone R5594), ‘A’-side written by Manfred Mann and Mike Hugg

October 1967 – ‘Kites’* c/w ‘Like The Sun, Like The Fire’* (Parlophone R5646), ‘Q’ recalls ‘the first to feature a mellotron, left at Abbey Road by the Beatles when they’d finished Sgt Pepper’

March 1968 – ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’* c/w ‘Sleep’* (Parlophone R5670), ‘NME’ says ‘starts off with birds twittering and bells tolling like ‘In A Monastery Garden’, then breaks into mid-tempo. The melody is constructed in descant, rather like a peal of bells’

May 1968 – ‘Part Of My Past’ c/w ‘This Story Never Ends’ (Parlophone R5697), follows their 5-28 April tour with Gene Pitney, Paul Jones and Don Partridge

September 1968 – ‘Thinking About My Life’* c/w ‘Velvet And Lace’ (Parlophone R5727)

February 1969 – ‘Broken Hearted Pirates’* c/w ‘She Gave Me The Sun’* (Parlophone R5757), ‘A’-side by Michael ‘Miki’ Anthony, ‘B’-side by Schulman brothers

November 1969 – ‘The Eagle Flies Tonight’ c/w ‘Give It All Back’ (Parlophone R5816), ‘A’-side written by Tony Hazzard

+ 1968 – ‘We Are The Moles Part 1 & Part 2’ (Parlophone R5743) as The Moles