Friday, 8 June 2018

Book Review: 'NIGHT LIGHT' edited by Trevor Denyer



A SPECTRUM OF DARKNESS 

Book Review of: 
‘NIGHT LIGHT: MIDNIGHT 
STREET ANTHOLOGY 3’ 
edited by TREVOR DENYER 
(Midnight Street Press, May 2018, ISBN-9781980699651, 264pp) 

Darkness has a spectrum of colours. Since, say – Stephen King took the horror genre overground, it has diversified into all manner of unexpected contortions. This is a book in point. There’s horror here, and each page is dripping in darkness. But it’s more than just that. Stephen Laws opening story “The Greek Widow” is a pursuit thriller with a shock dénouement, totally unexpected despite all of the clues and hints artfully strewn in advance. Tracking down the six Pygmet brothers, a dwarf acrobat team who once appeared on ‘The Billy Cotton Band Show’, ‘The Good Old Days’ and the ‘London Palladium Royal Command Performance’… lurking just around the corner of our collective memory. Tony Richards “Shadow Town” comes in from another angle entirely, seemingly by taking the pre-existing ‘Underworld’ movie mythology of an eternal war between vampires and were-beasts, but giving it new Nazi twists in a downbeat atmospheric cleverly-contrived post-war setting – Rita Hayworth divorcing Orson Welles is in the news, to where a new supernatural alliance is set to reshape the future in ways we almost recognise from today’s telecasts.

Just as David Turnbull’s “Scaffold With Green Tarpaulin” uses kitchen-sink 1950s settings and tele-jingles to suggest the origins of today’s rampant consumerism. Until Rhys Hughes “The Ostracons Of Inclusion” takes it off the scale entirely, into a series of magical realist vignettes of immaculate strangeness. Not even generic Horror any more, but taking skewed literary structures into new definitions, word games that juggle off the edge of space-time into spacey timelessness. Allen Ashley’s “Under” constructs another parallel troglodyte mythology that fundamentally shifts concepts of reality.


Simon Clark never writes the same tale twice. He knows his way around the destabilising concepts that unsettle the genre. This time round he mines his love of Rock music and recording technology to activate “240 Volts Past Midnight”, as scratchy as big spools of turning demo-tape. Mat Joiner adds “Other Voices”, a viral earworm tune that was ‘all the bedtime songs your mother had never crooned to you, the fairy tales you’d wanted to hear but never had,’ mixing it with the phonoghasts who feed on music. Andrew Hook’s “Shipwrecked In The Heart Of The City” is as beautifully tragic as a stillborn child. Terry Grimwood’s “He Didn’t Want To Go Home That Night” takes minutely observed ordinariness into a purely psychotic nightmare, while Ralph Robert Moore ignites a ‘Hunger Games’ variant into original terrain with “How I Beat The System”.

It’s impossible to comment on every story here, and it would be unethical to mention my own alien-monster First World War Sci-Fi grotesquery… so I won’t. But instead there’s the heart-shredding poignancy of Jiya, Susan York’s first-ever published tale, about the abused exploited “Little Lighter Girl” of Mumbai, Maria VA Johnson and Yvonne Chamberlain’s quicksilver poems, Robert D Richards triggering school-shooting aftermath trauma, Alexander Zelenyj’s psycho-brother versus demon-possessed Julie in “Sister-Biter”, Stephen Faulkner’s dazzling phantom phase-shifting “The Thinned Veil” ‘in random patterns of wonder and perplexity’, Gary Couzens, Ian Steadman’s taxidermy, and much more. 

The Midnight Street Press, energetically curated by Trevor Denyer through various but always valuable incarnations, is the premier Indie publisher taking darkness through new spectrums of colour.


Thursday, 31 May 2018

Poems From 'Tweak Vision': "FORGET"



FORGET 


maybe it’s time for the great forgetting
no more remembrance
no more commemoration
no more victory parades and poppy days
no more heroic war movies
no more cenotaphs and memorials
no more dignified patriotic speeches
no more histories of empire and genocide
forget those wars to end wars
which only ensured more wars
forget liberal interventionism
and cultural imperialism
forget kings, forget war lords
holy wars, jihad and papal crusades
aint going to study war no more
let’s blitz the world in peace bombs
hurt can only bring more hurt
no more stirring anthems that
legitimize centuries of blood feuds
no more medals for PTSD amputees
at the going down of the sun and
in the morning, let us forget them
it’s time for forgetting
it’s time to start all over again…




From my book...
TWEAK VISION: THE WORD-PLAY 
SOLUTION TO MODERN-ANGST CONFUSION 

 What is Tweak Vision? Snatch visions from the starry dynamo of the cosmos. Words are supernatural. In times of gathering modern-angst confusion, words defy temporal gravity, rearrange space-time, choreograph new constellations. Word-play is all I have to take your heart away. Now tweak them this way and that, shake them out into new configurations to your device of choice. This is Tweak Vision!
www.amazon.co.uk/Tweak-Vision-Word-Play-Modern-Angst-Confusion/dp/1986415260/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1527781884&sr=8-1&keywords=Tweak+Vision

From the deepest inner psyche, to the farthest Hubble-glimpsed proto-galaxy.
ENJOY THIS TRIP! BECAUSE IT IS A TRIP! IT IS A TRIP!

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Interview: Dave Davies, The Man Who Would Be Kink



DAVE DAVIES: 
THE MAN WHO 
WOULD BE KINK 

 Kinks guitarist Dave Davies has forgotten he ever played the 
Bridlington Spa Theatre. But he DOES remember the smell 
of his first ever vinyl. He doesn’t like CDs, Dire Straits, or 
repressive drug legislation, but he DOES approve of the 
Breeders, Jarvis Cocker and the coming 1990s revolution! 
And does he have any advice for the Oasis brothers…? 
Andrew Darlington finds out 



In Rock ‘n’ Roll chronology they’re slotted in midway between Everly Brothers Don and Phil, and Oasis brothers Liam and Noel.

Ray and Dave Davies that is. The brothers Kink, the longest running double-act in Rock ‘n’ Roll history. On ‘Phobia’ (1993) they sing ‘hatred, the only thing that keeps us together.’ That’s as maybe, but something has not only kept the Kinks intact, but remarkably creative too over thirty-plus years. ‘While other songwriters were metaphorically tearing up the ‘old’ in favour of the ‘new’’ writes Dave, ‘the Kinks were trying to point a way to a future where the good from the past could be interwoven with the new and radical.’

Perhaps that’s it?

The first hit – “You Really Got Me”, entered the chart at no.34, 13 August 1964. Dave heard it on the radio and ‘I was momentarily stunned with excitement and awe… as if its earthiness could cut through walls.’ Me too. It was the day the last UK executions took place. Peter Anthony Allen and John Robson Welby were hung by the neck until dead – at Walton and Strangeways, for the murder of a van driver. Simultaneously ‘The Mods Monthly’ featured interviews with Cathy McGowan and Vicki Wickham, BBC2 launched ‘Match Of The Day’ – Liverpool beating Arsenal 3-2, and Manfred Mann were no.1 with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”. And I was sixteen. Watching the Kinks on ‘Top Of The Pops’ as they took a mere four weeks climb to reach no.1.

A different world. But now, three decades, twenty-three hits and three chart-toppers later, I’m sat in the boardroom of Boxtree Books opposite Dave Davies. We’re here to promo his book ‘Kink: An Autobiography’* which opens with a poem summing it all up. ‘Brandy, cocaine, beer and laughter, curly-haired Groupies with big tits, angels and whores, the innocent and lost, the users, the used…’ We talk about all that, and more.


But to begin, let’s get personal…

ANDREW DARLINGTON: I first saw the Kinks in 1966, a misty Yorkshire night when you played the Bridlington Spa Theatre. So we go back quite a way together, if at a slight distance.

DAVE DAVIES: No, really? I can hardly remember. Bridlington Spa?

AD: Do you still get a buzz from playing live?

DD: Yeh. I do. But sometimes you just don’t feel so good. Erm, I’m trying to think where else we went on that tour!

AD: Other than forgetting Bridlington Spa you exhibit a total recall of details in ‘Kink’, despite the obvious chaos that must have surrounded the band throughout that period.

DD: Actually, it’s strange that in’ it? ‘Cos… when they first asked me to write it, I sat down and thought ‘I can’t handle this.’ Apart from thinking that I couldn’t remember stuff, I was scared of stirring up all the emotions that it takes to do something like that. But as I started I found I was quite enjoying it. And it was… (long pause), a cleansing experience too. Getting rid of a lot of the emotional garbage that you carry around with you. It’s kinda good to get it off your chest. I was also spurred on by the fact that there hasn’t really been a very good Kinks book out. There’s been biographies (an official one by Jon Savage, an unofficial one by Johnny Rogan, and a cut-and-paste ‘Kinks: Well Respected Men’ by Neville Marten and Jeffrey Hudson, Castle 1996), but they’ve sort-of only just skimmed around it. In and out, you know? Hearsay. Here and there. A few interviews with Ray, and a few with myself. So that was my reason why I wanted to do it in the style that I did. Conversational, and yet factual – trying to get the facts across. Not only that, but I think Ray’s book (‘X-Ray’, Viking, 1994) was… er, interesting, but it didn’t really cover a lot of areas that I thought he could have. It was written in the third person…

AD: Ray’s book is a little more devious and convoluted.

DD: It was sort-of like, in a maze. So it was important for me to get my book out the way I did. And I enjoyed writing it. Y’know, ‘cos once I’d got a third of the way through I was really starting to get into it. It was a very enjoyable experience.

AD: Throughout the years you write about I was buying your records, watching you on ‘Top Of The Pops’, following the progress of each single as it climbed the chart. I wondered how conscious you were of the same process, caught up in it as it happened.


DD: I was very aware. Obviously it was just a whole part of the total momentum of the time. But I found what helped me remember things was actually the music. Although I had a sketched-out kind-of diary that I’d kept. It was really the music itself which is sort-of redolent of memory, isn’t it? Of certain things that happened. But that first two or three years (1964-1967) was, like, unbelievable, it was a roller-coaster ride. The amount of work that we did! And the recordings. The record companies expected us to churn out singles every other week, virtually. Which we did, y’know. It was… I don’t think times will ever come like that again (laughs), I mean, it was an AMAZING time. You can understand why there’s so much romanticism about that period now, can’t you. When we’re talking about bands like Oasis, Blur, and people like that. They’re obviously inspired by a lot of sixties music, our music, and a lot of the other music that was going on then, the Beatles and stuff. ‘Cos it was a very energising time. It was great. It was spontaneity as well. At the time, wasn’t it? Which was quite incredible. I mean, they’re trying to do it now. Oasis recorded their first album in three weeks. Which is good. That’s hard going in this day and age.

AD: The Kinks recorded albums in a fortnight during the sixties.

DD: The first album we had less than a week to record it.

AD: Whereas the Stone Roses took five years to create their ‘Second Coming’ (1994) album!

DD: Yeah. But we were under so much pressure then. Because we were on a roll. You get on a roll, don’t you? And it was just coming out. New music was pouring out of us. Almost as if it was on automatic. There was no real kind-of structure or method to it. It just happened. It was only later, when it got to round about 1968, 1969, when we WEREN’T achieving the same levels of success, and we were having problems in America (the Kinks were banned from performing in the USA 1965-1969), that we kinda started to realise what we were actually doing. Well, I did. I started to realise that we were actually doing this for a living. That it was an occupation. Or a vocation, or whatever you call it. Other than just being one long party.

AD: The Kinks have been active over a period of remarkable technological advances in studio techniques and hardware.

DD: Yeah, I mean, that was a big problem in the years that followed. In the seventies particularly. That barren period at the beginning of the 1970s. People were really getting into those things then. When you think of the stories you’d head about Mick Fleetwood taking five days to just record a tom-tom beat. People were really getting into all that stuff.

AD: Do you enjoy taking full advantage of that studio technology now?

DD: I think what’s happening is that it’s kind-of evening out a bit. There was digital stuff. And people who liked digital recording weren’t particularly… erm, I’m not a great fan of CD technology at all. I don’t think it gives us all the information. I know everybody tells us that it does, and unfortunately I don’t know enough about it technically to offer a strong argument against that. But from what I can gather, and from what my senses tell me, I don’t think a sixteen-bit technology is advanced enough. There’s all kinds of things that happen in music. But CD is cold. It’s not a warm sound. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the harmonic distortion, or something else that happens.

AD: In a ‘Mondo 2000’ interview Neil Young describes the vinyl/CD difference as ‘analogue is a mist spraying your face, digital is tiny ice-cubes all the same size.’ Whereas in ‘Kink’ you argue that you can SMELL vinyl, but you can’t smell CD!


DD: (Laughs) Yeah well, you see, that was the big thing with me as a kid. When I was growing up. The first record I ever bought I paid 4s9d for it (25p). It was “Ballad Of A Teenage Queen” by Johnny Cash. And the first thing I did was smell it. It’s weird. And the same with Buddy Holly records. I loved that smell of vinyl. It was great. But Johnny Cash had such a cool track on the ‘B’-side of that first record too. It was called “Big River”, and it was SO cool – ding-ding-da-ding-ding ding-ding-da-ding-ding. It’s a GREAT riff. ‘Cos it’s always riffs with me. I was looking out for riffs all the time.

AD: You’ve frequently been accused of adapting the Rock ‘ n’ Roll riff – on records like “You Really Got Me” (‘G, F, Bb’), in ways that inspired the entire Heavy Metal genre which grew out of it.

DD: Yeh-he-he-he. I suppose so. In a way. There wasn’t a guitar sound like that before us. I remember the Who – when they were still called the High Numbers. They played with us early on. And their sound wasn’t THAT heavy. It was a ‘chingier’ guitar sound. But I noticed that when they started to get in the studio – and Shel (Talmy, Kinks producer) got involved with them as their producer as well, then their guitar sound started to get heavier. So obviously that was Shel borrowing a bit from me and then passing it on to them. They obviously drew a lot of ideas from us. But then it gave them their own identity. (Pete) Townshend found his own way of doing stuff, and they became their own force. We all have to borrow things from other people don’t we? To find our own sort-of way.

AD: There are lots of myths and stories that have built up around the Kinks over the years. For example, there’s a persistent rumour that Jimmy Page was a session musician on those early Kinks records. Is that true?

DD: UUURGH! This thing about Jimmy Page playing on “You Really Got Me”, it drives me INSANE! I can’t imagine why he said that. But you see, at the time, he was – like, the in-house session guy. A lot of people used him on different sessions. And he was always there, in the background. I don’t know whether it was the record company who were nervous that we couldn’t make a record properly. But we wanted to make it ourselves, virtually. And in the end that’s just what we did. There’s NO way that Jimmy Page played on “You Really Got Me”. I mean – that solo!, that crazy kid playing guitar! It doesn’t make sense at all. I think it’s more likely that in the early seventies when Zeppelin were going over big and they were doing a lot of drugs and everything, that he probably thought he’d INVENTED the guitar!

AD: Jimmy did play that eerie ‘bent’ guitar sound on Dave Berry’s single version of “This Strange Effect” – which is a Kinks song (no.37 on 22 July 1965, Decca F 12188).

DD: I think so, yes. It’s a lovely record that. Evidently it was one of the biggest-selling records of all time in Holland. Beautiful song. Dave Berry had an interesting voice, didn’t he? A haunting kind-of dry and clinical voice.



AD: Around the same time there was a single version of Ray’s song “I Go To Sleep” recorded by the Applejacks (1965, Decca F 12216).

DD: Did the Applejacks do it? Do you know, I don’t remember that version. Gawd!

AD: It says in ‘The Encyclopedia Of Rock’ by Phil Hardy and Dave Laing (Panther Books) that the Applejacks bassist, Megan Davies, was your sister.

DD: No. Never ‘eard of ‘er. Peggy Lee did record “I Go To Sleep” though, didn’t she? She did a great version of it. It was released on one of her albums, wasn’t it? (it’s on her 1965 LP ‘Then Was Then – Now Is Now!’, Capitol T2388). A great record that. ‘Cos Ray and I grew up with Peggy Lee as well. There were so many different influences and oh, so much music in our house. Like Anita O’Day, she was a big influence. She sounded so cool then. So in control. Perry Como too, everything. Each sister had their own favourite (Ray and Dave had six older sisters). My sister Dolly liked Fats Domino. She was a big fan of Fats Domino and all that sort-of shuffley kind-of Blues. But there were sentimental things as well, like that “Indian Love Call” by Slim Whitman. I always used to find that a little bit creepy when I was a kid, but she always used to have tears in her eyes listening to it. It’d make her cry. So there’s so many different elements that you absorb, and it comes out in some other form when you regurgitate it.

AD: I can see Fats Domino and Buddy Holly, but I can’t see Slim Whitman and Anita O’Day in the music of the Kinks.


DD: No, but I mean, it goes into the kinda computer, don’t it? Where it gets all sorta meshed around. You can see Peggy Lee coming out in something like “I Go To Sleep”. It’s perfect. In the same way that there’s a lot of things about Cole Porter too, amazing melodies, amazing chord shifts and stuff. Although it’s now incredible to think that you or anyone could write a song even vaguely on a par with any of the work he did. I don’t know where he got his art from. The gods probably. I don’t know.

AD: Talking of Kinks myths, I was interviewing Kim Deal of the Breeders. She told me she’d seen the Kinks on tour in the USA, and during the show a fist-fight broke out between you and Ray. She was really excited to witness what she thought was Rock ‘n’ Roll history in the making. But she went to a further show on the same tour, and at exactly the same point in the set, exactly the same fight broke out!

DD: And she thought it was a set-up (laughs). When was this? Mid-eighties? That’s funny that is. It’s quite possible. We used to play around a lot. We used to play around for our audiences a lot. I remember we did… erm, we were doing a lot of tours in the early seventies when we were sorta getting back into America, and we used to get bored playing some nights. So sometimes Ray and I might deliberately wind each other up just to get a bit of energy happening. You know what I mean? I remember one night which was really fun. We started the show with “Victoria”, and we actually played it BACKWARDS!, you know – going Shee-ooo-ooo She-ooo-ooo slurp slurp nya nya. We were all, like, walking round and playing backwards. And the stunned audience were just sitting there going… (blank expression). They must have thought we were… (he dissolves in laughter). It’s all a bit daft. But sometimes you have to do things like that to keep the spirits up. Y’know. It can be quite miserable sitting in a shitty Hotel when everybody really just wants to go home. You’re depressed and you’re looking at cold pizza from last night, with only a bottle of Heineken for company. Then you think that all the things that surround you come together when you get on that stage. But you know, when things are great it’s worth the effort.

AD: The Breeders line-up features two sisters (Kim and Kelly Deal).

DD: I like that record they made. What was that hit they had last year – ‘Last Splash’ (1993)? I loved that record. Yes. I wonder how they get on.

AD: And Oasis are going through the same problems. Do you have any advice for the Gallagher brothers?

DD: I don’t know to what degree… how do THEY get on? What’s the general thing with them?

AD: Similar to you and Ray. A loving contradiction. A loyal rivalry.

DD: That’s really strange (wonderingly). I mean… the thing is, over those first three or four years with the Kinks, Ray and I didn’t really have any problems. Personally, I think things started to go wrong with me and Ray after his first marriage ended. When he sort-of felt the world had caved in on him, and he felt the world had let him down, kind-of. In a way (Ray’s marriage to Rasa effectively ended 21 June 1973), I think he realised then how much he’d actually relied on Rasa for emotional support. Which you do. You do. When you’re in a highly charged creative environment with creative people there’s a lot of interchange that goes on. And you need somebody there, particularly. When you’ve got somebody like that – then all of a sudden that support is taken away it’s kind-of like ‘What the fuckin’ ‘ell? What am I doing here?’ I think that was a much bigger hole in the Kinks career than people realise. I felt it was. This, really is also what my idea of a perfect record producer is, somebody who is a rock of help, nurturing, providing encouragement and emotional support. I also think (cough) Ray changed a lot when he felt we were being ripped off by Music Publishers. Which we were. But Ray probably felt it more because he wrote most of the songs. And it makes you a bit bitter. I understood. But I think that I was always a little bit too optimistic for me own good. I used to think that if it’s done, it’s done. What can you do? But it really made Ray more thoughtful. Less trusting. More paranoid. A bit bitter da-da-da-da-da. But maybe that helped his writing as well? So you just don’t know. You can’t… it’s like, I was talking to someone the other day and they were commenting on this thing that I say in the book about Ray, about how… how he abused me. But it’s a relationship BUILT on abuse! Really. Maybe it’s because of it that the work that we’ve done is so good. Y’know – if it had been all sort-of Lovey-Dovey and darn the pub together, then the music would have been different. Not as good. Maybe.


AD: They said the same thing about the Who. It was the creative tension within the group that gave it it’s edge.

DD: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, when Keith Moon died, old Pete Townshend didn’t know what to do. I bet you that’s where he used to get his – whatever it is, you have to get that energy from somewhere. Even if it’s ugly. You know what I mean? It’s like, I can understand that totally. I was talking to someone else the other day on the radio, about the Knopfler brothers, about the way they first started. The stories that I heard about David Knopfler, and why he left Dire Straits (he quit in July 1980 after disagreements with brother Mark). I’ve met David Knopfler. We talked. And like, he’d really gone downhill in their relationship. I felt like I was trying to pull him back.

AD: You’re not very complimentary about Dire Straits in your book (‘someone invited me to a Dire Straits concert at Wembley. I put on a brave face, but when we drove into the car park I just couldn’t go through with it. When I saw all those BMW’s and Golf GTi’s it was more than I could bear. I made my excuses…’).

DD: I guess it’s all related to the same thing we were talking about earlier (he’d applauded Jarvis Cocker’s stage invasion during Michael Jackson’s performance at the Brit Awards). It’s so over-glamourised. It’s totally unnecessary. I don’t mind the Kinks being called a Garage Band. Because when we started that’s probably all we were anyway. It’s probably like that even now, if we set up in here, that’s probably what we’d sound like today. The whole thing about Dire Straits is, he’s a good guitar player with a good sound. But it’s the kind of band you’d expect to see in a Pub. Notice the connection? – the mention of ‘Pub’ was deliberate! But all this kind of amazing glamour, and the glamour situations that we put around ‘Stars’, what they do doesn’t warrant it. I don’t know if that sounds a little bitter? Do you know what I’m saying? Am I making any sense?

AD: It makes perfect sense to me. You write openly about drug use too, in ‘Kink’. From necking Mod pills (‘heroin was considered very old-fashioned, the drug of choice for an older generation – Bums and Jazzers who had serious drug problems’) through to your traumatic use of LSD. Psychedelic writer Timothy Leary claimed that acid should be taken as a sacrament, as a tool to achieve the kind of spiritual insight you claim to have later experienced. Whereas in practise, as your book implies, it became just another I-can-do-more-acid-than-you thing.


DD: Just a fad, or fashion, or one-upmanship. Yes. But the thing is… we are living in the 1990s. And we’ve got so much at our fingertips to actually help create real change in the world. We have everything from metaphysics, to yoga, to religion, to technology – in particular. And yes – drugs, if you like. We’ve got so many tools that we can use to actually create real change in the world. But there are people in control who don’t want to LOSE control. It’s really boring if you’re not interested in it. But I find it really significant. And I’ll try and be as brief as possible. Astrologically, what happened last year was that the outer planets were moving, and Saturn has moved into the sign of Sagittarius. What that means, to cut a long story short, is that it’s influencing people to do things. It’s like, people are going to HAVE to change some way or the other. We all change differently, ‘cos we’re all at different states or stages of emotional, mental, spiritual da-de-da-de-da growth and everything – that’s probably why I’m communicating it to you so badly! But, to bore you further, we’ve somehow got to try and communicate with each other quite quickly. Because something is gonna happen. And I think that all the ideas about revolution in the sixties that everyone was talking about, all those things are actually going to happen in the nineties. Because it makes more sense now. There are still people around that were a part of that culture, like you and I. There’s people in corporations that were taking acid when they were sixteen and seventeen. And now they work in Big Business Corporations. So it’s all there. There’s certain elements that are out there that need to be pulled together now. The whole element of competition becomes anti-productive in the end. It’s like Margaret Thatcher thinking ‘I’ll make everyone a millionaire and everyone will be happy.’ That’s the way a child would think.


AD: In later sections of your book you talk about your new-found Gaia-consciousness, your contact with alien ‘intelligences’, and people’s scepticism about these insights (‘the media thought I was crazy. Perfect. I was dumbfounded. Every time I talked to anyone about, you know, um, things… well… ah, I felt like a fucking Klingon, and I was SO angry that I probably looked like one as well’).

DD: I think we have to take a big step into the unknown now, before the door is closed on us completely. So experimenting with knowledge, even with drugs, has its place. You were talking about Timothy Leary, OK, so it’s not the be-all and end-all, but it does have its place. What I found really encouraging was a programme on TV the other night, about a group of young people who had gone through the beginnings of the ‘E’-culture, subculture, or whatever. And through the experiences they’d gained from using those things they’d decided to set up their own little group in which they were trying to manifest the feelings of love that they had transmitted between each other, but this time through just working at relationships. Now, in that sense, a positive good had come about by the use of drugs. And I applaud that. Because that’s learning something from experience, then trying to utilise it in everyday situations. There are things around us that offer us tools to get out of this prison, and the confines of theology. I think that’s much more productive than going and saying three ‘Hail Mary’s’ because you beat your Missus up when you came home drunk on Friday night. It’s much more constructive. Yet kids are getting arrested for it. You hear some horrendous stories from America about this whole area of drugs and the way that the Police are involved. There was that poor kid who got arrested for selling a tab of acid. He was on tour with the Grateful Dead – he was a Deadhead. And he sold a tab of acid to another kid so that he could pay to stay in a Hotel room. They arrested him, and the guy got put away for twenty years! I mean, it’s FEAR that does that. I mean, why are Governments in such a terrible confusion about it? Why can’t they just see what that guy was doing? But no, they have this terrible fear of drugs. A fear of losing control of people. All this ‘I’ve got control, and I don’t want to lose it.’ I don’t know if I’m expressing myself very clearly. But it’s a major area of frustration for me. I have some friends who are part of UFO groups, and people say ‘Oh yeah, but they sound like a cult to me.’ I mean – the Roman Catholic Church is a cult. Just because there’s more of them than there are of me. I’m a country of one. I’m a universe of one. How many millions of Catholics are there around the world? Let’s say there’s ten-million… is that about right? OK – so there’s ten-million of them and only one of me, does that make me wrong? Y’know, might isn’t always right. An individual’s point of view is just as important. Particularly nowadays when there’s so much misery, suffering and shit happening. But they can’t see it. It’s because of all this misinformation. Not giving people enough information. It keeps people ignorant. And if you’re ignorant you can’t get out of bad situations. If you don’t have the information or the tools to get out of that situation, you’re trapped by it. Do you know what I’m saying…?

AD: To conclude, I saw the Kinks in 1966 when – according to the Rock history books, you were at your peak. Then I saw you again more recently at the Leeds ‘Town And Country’ (1994), when your set was not only tighter and stronger, but you even seemed to be enjoying it more too.

DD: Oh, that’s good. That’s nice to hear. That’s encouraging in me old age, ha-ha-ha. It WAS quite a good little tour, that tour. I remember, that’s the night we’d played the ‘Empire’ the night before. No, we’d come across from Ireland. That’s right. A good little tour. It was fun. But I hope I’ve learned… no, I hope WE’VE learned a bit since then. Since 1966. So – do you live in Leeds…?

* ‘KINK: AUTOBIOGRAPHY’ 
 by DAVE DAVIES 
Boxtree Books Ltd ISBN 0-7522-1695-3
 £16.99 Pan Paperback, 1997

My other Kinks features:
http://andrewdarlington.blogspot.com/2017/07/music-interview-kink-dave-davies.html
http://andrewdarlington.blogspot.com/2017/07/live-kinks-in-leeds.html
http://andrewdarlington.blogspot.com/2017/07/dvd-review-kinks.html
http://andrewdarlington.blogspot.com/2017/07/cd-review-dave-davies-rippin-up-time.html


Saturday, 26 May 2018

New CD: JOE WILKES 'Japanese Elvis'



JOE WILKES: 
BACK ON THIS FRONTLINE 

 Album Review of: 
‘JAPANESE ELVIS’ 
by JOE WILKES 
(Frontline Records FLR009, 2018) 



What is the Japanese for ‘All Shook Up’?

The piano intro to “Ironstone Sky” has a stately classicism, scattering the kind of Bob Seger wide-open skies little white-note keyboard figures. The sound of the cosmos may be loud, the water may appear tranquil, but sometimes that’s all you need. You ask where all the poets and short-story fictioneers have gone? Don’t worry, they’re here. Joe has an infectious way with four chords and a vocal hook. Across eleven new tracks and forty-five minutes playing time, his groove settles in resonant diversity through a range of themes, essentially upbeat despite occasional moments of existential angst. ‘We used to look at children’s smiles, now we just talk about paedophiles’ is the wry quality of line no amount of creative writing courses could ever come up with.

Following three strong defining albums – ‘Spotlight’ (2006), ‘Here On This Frontline’ (2009) and ‘Looking For The Grave of Garcia Lorca’ (2012), Coventry-born troubadour Joe mangled his left hand, the injury disabling him from finger-picking guitar. So instead, he found an old mould-damp piano and taught himself how to play that, while getting recuperative physio and surgery. Part-recorded in Paris and London, then dubbed demo-style in his rainy south London flat on mostly borrowed instruments, this is an uncluttered album that’s beautifully sparse, careening around alternating dextrous guitar figures and piano. While the lyrics bark and bite.

The actual ‘Japanese Elvis’ does his thing in “After The Sorrow Has Passed”, a fractured warm embrace of a romance-narrative with only the facts replaced… even when he rhymes ‘city’ with ‘pretty’. The urgent classical gas of “Down In The Alley” is snatched from a ‘Boy In The Bubble’ news-feed, direct from the frontline, armed with a scheme and the element of surprise, yet retaining a sense of mystery. Then, for the stand-out “If The Angels Don’t Welcome You They Can Go To Hell” fake skinny writers masquerade with rhymes that would make god jealous. Into an Americana-style duet with Charlotte Something – of Madonnatron, which tells both sides of the tale about “Sleeping On The Floor”, taking a verse dialogue each, building their shared break-up history.


So many lines to quote. ‘Je suis Charlie Manson’ occurs in a drive-by attack in a burnt-out car, “We Believe In Nothing” – ‘I wanna kill the President, and I wanna kill the Queen, the war with North Korea is gonna be the best one we’ve ever seen.’ Joe as the guitar merchant feeding subversive misfit glimpses of what it takes to survive in a fake-news world, delivered with the kind of melodic attitude that wears Kerouac’s battered leather jacket and sees the world through a lip-curled chewing gum sneer. But there’s more to come. Closing track “The High Life” is an intricately-wrought ‘a star is born’ short movie, thoughtfully fashioned, meticulously punctuated, with a narrative that carries you along its flow. Taking a taste – maybe, of nights at the Peckham ‘Easy Come’ acoustic club, he meets her one night when he’s the singer who ‘sat upon the performer’s stool’ playing to a drunken audience that talks through his songs. But when she comes out to take her spot, they listen well. The two of them gel, and work together, until they get signed. She has a voice like heaven. They say he wasn’t too bad. Forward to now, while he’s still scuffing, and he catches a glimpse of her on TV ‘one part memory, one part dream’.

All shook up? You will be. There’s blood on these tracks. On any normal planet ‘Japanese Elvis’ would be a landmark album.


Friday, 25 May 2018

Poetry: PAUL BROOKES 'She Needs That Edge'



Book Review of: 
‘SHE NEEDS THAT EDGE’ 
by PAUL BROOKES 
(Nixes Mate Books, 2018, ISBN-978-0-9993971-0-7, 68pp)


Paul Brookes has that edge.

There’s a poem he tells about working a supermart checkout, and an ancient customer who wordlessly processes through, who turns around with parting shot to say his wife just died in the Care Home, no-one else to confide it to, other than the checkout operator.

A world of isolation in that poem’s briefness. Sometimes, words can be so huge that they crush us. Sometimes words are so small they slip through the space between the molecules of being and vanish unheard.

Now, here, there’s more ‘life defined by what is missing.’ These five sequences inhabit the same crawl-way between words. Five vignettes of raging calm. In the first salvo, the absence of dead children aches behind the semblance of normality. He sups and dilly dallies, eyes-up the waitress, ‘rare bloody meat on his plate.’ A life counted out in fridge-magnets. Risqué banter masks needs unsaid, as lives submerge in a slow silt, ‘sometimes a ripple, then a wave.’ Kitchen-sink dramas where dull men ‘need to be chivvied and mithered.’ She might be searching, but she’s not lost. Each line a scar of damage with stories attached. Tales that either play with your feelings, or try to make sense of their own. These are not grotesque warp-spasm poems – although Paul does that too, these are slow tick poems, that worry away at the gnaw of unease, a cancer of grudges that fester, cell to cell, with silence in the creep-space between words.

Sharpened and honed, Paul Brookes has that edge.


Thursday, 24 May 2018

SF Novel: Stephen Baxter 'THE MASSACRE OF MANKIND'



MARS ATTACKS – AGAIN: 
STEPHEN BAXTER’S 
‘THE MASSACRE OF MANKIND’

Book Review of: 
‘THE MASSACRE OF MANKIND’ 
by STEPHEN BAXTER 
(Gollancz, 2017, ISBN 978-1-473-20511-6) 


 ‘But who shall dwell in these worlds if they 
 be inhabited?... Are we or they Lords of the World? 
... And how are all things made for man?” 
(Kepler, quoted in the preface to ‘The War Of The Worlds’) 


The original HG Wells ‘War Of The Worlds’ of 1897 has a cliff-hanger ending. It’s very much a first season closer. The invading Martians are thwarted, not by any human agency, but by terrestrial bacteria. The equation remains unresolved. The Martians are still there on dying Mars, driven by the same imperative to escape the slow extinction of their world. The Earth still their only viable target, at each close opposition orbital pass. To Wells, ‘to carry warfare sunward is indeed their only escape.’ It invites a sequel.

Following Wells’ pioneering example the human race has been regularly inundated by fictional alien invasions, not only from Mars, but from all points of the galaxy, and beyond. There have been two major movie versions of the seminal tale, first from George Pal in 1953, enhanced by Chesley Bonestell’s evocatively atmospheric matte paintings. As a schoolboy already familiar with Wells, I was sufficiently mesmerised by the movie to overlook its location-switch to America, and even the condescending religious platitudes inserted as a sweetener to mid-West sensitivities, in direct contradiction to Wells atheistic Darwinian intentions. The second film, in 2005, from Steven Spielberg’s digitally-tweaked DreamWorks, with Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning, reinstates Wells tripod war-machines and red weed, while further switching location from America’s west to east coasts.


Although neither of them bears much resemblance to the novel, both extract sufficient fragments to vindicate their apocalyptical vision. The only previous attempt at an actual sequel was a two-season 1988 US/Canadian TV-series, based around the premise that the aliens from the 1953 movie were not dead, but simply comatose, to be accidentally reactivated by unwitting terrorists in time to create new global mayhem. Meanwhile, there’s been a plethora of related media elaboration projects, one of the most intriguing being ‘The Space Machine’ (1976), a Scientific Romance conjured by Christopher Priest, which cunningly links predatory Martians with a nod at Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’ (1895) which now logically shifts across the solar system through space as well as time. Baxter himself devotes a chapter to listing other inputs he used as precedents for his work, both fictional, and academic. There’s a lot there for him to draw from. 


Today, at a time of overkill prequels, sequels, remakes, pastiches and re-boots, a follow-up novel – authorised by the HG Wells estate, is an obvious option. With no-one more qualified to do it than Stephen Baxter. He’d already performed conceptual magic in his authorised sequel to ‘The Time Machine’, with ‘The Time Ships’ (1995) expanding and complexifying the original novella into realms of astonishing wonder. Born 13 November 1957 in Liverpool, he’d purportedly applied to be an astronaut, hoping for a jaunt to the MIR space-station, but got turned down. Instead, he turned his hand to early try-out fiction, which would be subsequently published, until his “Something For Nothing” launched him into the ‘Interzone’ continuum (no.23, Spring 1988) as a significant new talent. Unlike much contemporary Sci-Fi which merely uses Space Opera settings and accoutrements for entertaining action adventure and dynastic epics, he retains the mind-wrenching ability of stretching ideas, which was once the characteristic motivator for speculative fiction, while convincingly exploiting the new relativistic possibilities of the quantum multiverse.


He’d made other forays into Wells’ terrain too, by including Cavor and the Selenites in “The Ant-Men Of Tibet” (‘Interzone’ no.95, May 1995), then through the beautifully retro pages of “Columbiad” (collected from 1996 ‘Science Fiction Age’ into his 1998 short-story collection ‘Traces’). To Baxter himself the latter represents ‘a collision between my meditations on the fate of the modern space programme’ with ‘my work on Wells and Verne’, by melding elements from Jules Verne’s ‘From The Earth To The Moon’ (1865) with Wells himself, who visits the Florida Space Canon launch-site just as a second projectile is approaching a very-contemporary arid Mars. Until his taster “The Martian In The Wood” appeared on the webzine ‘Tor.com’ (August 2017).

But, back to origins, Wells’ astoundingly vivid writing first resonantly captures his ‘Remarkable Story From Woking’, with the abrupt intrusion of unearthly horror into the touchably familiar lost Home Counties realm of paperboys, publicans, tobacconists and the horse-drawn traffic on Horsell Common, Chobham Road, Weybridge, and Amersham. The full realisation of the enormity of what’s happening dawns only slowly. There are only sceptical newspapers, no social media to link cosy gas-lit communities. So that outside the immediately affected disaster area, life goes on blissfully unaware, apart from casual gossip and speculation. Even as panic spreads it’s rife with rumour and misinformation, although ‘it was the beginning of the rout of civilisation, of the massacre of mankind.’


Attempting to reach his wife evacuated to Leatherhead, travelling through zones of stark devastation, the narrator encounters an artilleryman and a timorous curate, as his brother rescues two Elphinstone sisters-in-law, when their pony-chaise comes under thuggish attack. Then he meets the fatalistic artilleryman again, on Putney Hill who claims ‘I went for the Martians like a sparrow goes for man.’ He’s the cunning realist who more clearly that anyone else sees ‘cities, nations, civilisation, progress – it’s all over. The game’s up. We’re beat.’ Until the Deus ex Machina that ends the invasion. In his ‘Epilogue’ Wells speculates on the likelihood of further attacks. Maybe the opening lines about ‘intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic’ who ‘regarded the Earth with envious eyes’ are familiar only from Jeff Wayne’s unlikely musical, but Stephen Baxter takes things beyond that cliff-hanger ending. Into second season events.

As he explains in his ‘Afterword And Acknowledgements’ chapter, ‘The Massacre Of Mankind’ is very much a alternate history, one in which Wells’ Martian invasion of 1907 is a recent memory. By brisk mid-March 1920 there are convincing newly-diverged timelines. The Titanic survived its destined iceberg collision through being reinforced with retro-engineered high-grade Martian aluminium. And the narrator travels from isolationist New York to Liverpool as part of a convoy on the Lusitania. Baxter’s writing is a little more knowingly self-aware. His steam-punk world avoided the mass-slaughter of Mons and the Somme, but with its Martian-devastated ‘Surrey corridor’ Britain is knocked out of international politics. ‘Never before in the history of warfare had destruction been so indiscriminate and so universal’ – excepting the Blitz, of course. 


Instead, a ‘rather shabby non-aggression’ pact with the Kaiser has allowed Imperial Germany to become ascendant in Europe, already facing-off Russia in the Schlieffen War, and increasingly influential in the UK. While a right-wing coup – following the assassination of PM Campbell-Bannerman and a quasi-legal 1911 election, is predicated on a state of martial law preparatory to new incursions from our red planet neighbour. Oswald Mosley-style PM Brian Marvin has his biography authored by Arthur Conan Doyle, he has ‘Secretary Of State For War’ Winston Churchill and Lloyd George in his cabinet, and bans suffragettes as proscribed agitators. While Baden-Powell organises Junior Sappers to cleanse ‘the national moral character.’

That this is a parallel continuum – another ‘Long Earth’?, sprung not from our world, but the worlds as they were perceived to be at Wells’ time, is further evidenced, not only by the Martian ecology, but by the Cythereans of Venus, and the distant Jovians. As in the nebular hypothesis of solar system origins, the outer planets cooled and solidified first, hence are progressively older the further they are from the sun. So their inhabitants are more evolved. Except Pluto of course, which had yet to be discovered and given its erroneous planetary status!


HG Wells appears in the Baxter novel as the author of ‘The Man Of The Year Million’, the utopian ‘Great Narrator’ who dreams of ‘golden cities of the future.’ While the Wells novel – which first appeared as a ‘Pearson’s Magazine’ serial (April to December 1897) bears a dedication to ‘My Brother Frank Wells, This Rendering Of His Idea’. Now, that great first-person chronicler of the Martian War, ‘the man who first wrote the history, with some degree of eloquence’ – unnamed as a ‘literary affectation’ in the book itself, is newly named as Walter Jenkins. And the First Martian War has left psychological effects that go beyond the devastation of London, in trauma and broken relationships unanticipated by Wells himself. Jenkins, divorced from (previously unnamed) Carolyn, is in Vienna undergoing treatment from a therapist called Freud. Baxter’s new narrative takes a number of contributing voices drawn together from observers around the world, but is female-centric, focused around Julie Elphinstone, the thirty-two-year-old divorced wife of Walter Jenkins’ younger brother, Frank, first encountered in Wells’ pony-chaise attack. ‘None of us are story-book heroes’ she counters. Yet it all ties in like Lego.

First, a message conveyed by crackling trans-Atlantic cable from Walter brings the various characters together, taking the opportunity to complain to each other about how their roles were misinterpreted in the original ‘Narrative’. As he prepares for an American lecture-tour with Prof Schiaparelli, the artilleryman Albert Cook accuses Jenkins – and by implication, HG Wells, of being a ‘pompous over-educated toff’. There are also accusations of his misogyny, although Wells regarded himself as a fellow-traveller with the liberated ‘New Woman’ (as in his ‘Ann Veronica’ 1909) – within the limits of his own social frame of reference, even if that meant little more than taking advantage of guilt-free Free Love. Stephen Baxter scrutinises the text for hints and slight suggestions to weave and develop into logical new configurations. The artilleryman’s curious evolution is all anticipated by Wells’ ruminations when he meets ‘The Man On Putney Hill’. He then extracts a single phrase – ‘one, Major Eden, was reported to be missing’ from ‘War Of The Worlds’ Book 1 Chapter 8, and expands it into the character Eric Eden (a name ‘Eagle’ fans will also associate with ‘Dan Dare’!). The cast later reconvene in the private Ottershaw observatory where Wells describes his narrator first glimpsing the ominous flashes on the surface of distant Mars.

With the continuity links meticulously established, what follows, despite the militarisation instigated by Marvin’s regime, despite massive troop-mobilisation and near-totalitarian civil defences, the Martian’s return turns out to be less a war and more as the title suggests – a massacre, as fifty-two Martian cylinders impact in central England, within the Chiltern cordon, and instantly commence their mechanised slaughter. Eric Eden is on the defensive King’s Line. ‘Under a lurid, smoke-laden sky’ there are support waves of German bombers – Gothas and Giants, with multiple engines fixed to their biplane wings to resemble the ‘Wings Over The World’ spectacle from the visionary HG Wells/Alexander Korda movie ‘Things To Come’ (1936). But they fall as much victim to Martian heat-rays as the Fyrd, the unit taking its name from the Anglo-Saxon militia that Frank joins, and with whom he becomes stranded behind Martian lines. 

As Horror-writer Simon Clark discovered when writing his excellent sequel to ‘The Day Of The Triffids’ authorised by the John Wyndham estate, it is not enough simply to replicate the events of the original novel. In order to maintain the shock-effect, the threat-level must escalate. Hence ‘The Night Of The Triffids’ (2001) has giant sixty-foot-tall Triffids inundate Manhattan. So too for Stephen Baxter. Despite their more ancient civilisation the Martian technology seems not much more advanced than its human counterpart. George Pal’s war-machines hover on contra-grav rays, and have force-field shielding capable of withstanding H-bomb blasts. Yet Baxter’s armoured fighting-machines can be brought down by concentrated artillery, or by a lucky shot, by German incendiaries or the New York Edison Flux-bomb… and they have only their lethal heat-beams and Black Smoke. Wells’ battery brings a war-machine down in Shepperton, with early twentieth-century weaponry. His narrator’s brother watches the ironclad ‘Thunder Child’ smash two Martian tripods off the Tillingham coast. So how would the Martians fare against the Shock And Awe of twenty-first-century drone-surgical laser-guided strikes?


Yet ‘the Martians have tweaked the design.’ They have obviously devised biohazard shielding, for the novel’s second section is ‘England Under The Martians’, a very English affair, with life going on in a semblance of normality within the occupied cordon, as the rest of the world continues nervously unaffected. Julie undertakes a covert mission to carry an ‘archaic killer’ into ‘the Martians dark empire on the earth’. The setting details seem authentically of the period, with immense trench-works – no Maginot Line across France, but gouged into the English countryside in a vain attempt at containment. With Ironclad ‘Land Leviathan’ secret weapons.

And the text is immaculately genre literate. The strangely flooded Misbourne landscape is tilted into surreality by infestations of red Martian weed and basking Venusians, as in ‘a romance of some distant future when our civilisation had decayed and its remnants were slowly subsiding into a weed-choked marsh.’ And Bert who embraces the apocalypse, is also JG Ballardian in that he rationalises that ‘it’s not a phase, it’s not a destination. It’s an end.’ While Olaf Stapledon’s fictional fantasia of ‘happy flyers’ in Venus’ dense steamy clouds seems an obvious reference to the doomed winged humans of his ‘Last And First Men’ (1930), albeit through the lens of Svante Arrhenius speculations in his ‘The Destinies Of The Stars’ (1918).


It remains so English a disaster – until a second wave of Martian cylinders makes the war global. From a lavish Long Island ‘Great Gatsby’ end-of-the-world party. Then to Los Angeles, as in the George Pal movie. To Melbourne through aboriginal eyes – ramming home Wells’ colonial metaphor ever more nakedly. And a Peking that is not yet Beijing.

At over twice the length of its progenitor, Stephen Baxter’s ‘The Massacre Of Mankind’ is an immensely inventive, relentlessly innovative, consistently entertaining novel that never once fails to fulfil its remit. Written as a history of the Second Martian War, ending – as in the ‘Things To Come’ movie, with a new global federation based in Basra, Iraq, the reader is aware from the outset that the invader’s nefarious schemes will not succeed, and that the Deus ex Machina in some way involves the sigils branded into planetary surfaces. Yet the Martians are not entirely vanquished either. So, just as the original HG Wells ‘War Of The Worlds’ has a cliff-hanger ending, so does its sequel, emphasising as Wells does not, that invasion from Mars is more than interplanetary conflict, it’s an irreversible evolutionary watershed. Awareness of other life-forms within the solar system compels a fundamental shift in human perception. Nothing will literally ever be the same again. In our own continuum robotic probes crawl the arid Martian surface hunting microscopic inhabitants, or even fossil evidence that such microbial life may once have existed, seeking exactly that kind of knowing.


Sunday, 29 April 2018

Poems: 'AND WHEN I DIE'



AND WHEN I DIE 


he said, when I’m old and losing my mind
drooling nonsense and dribbling in my pants
I want you to put me down like a rabid dog,
she said, I’ll go get the gun now,
he said, when I’m dying, laid on my deathbed
I want both of our children sitting close by my side,
she said, actually you’re not their biological father,
remember when your friend used to come around?
Danny was such a pleasingly hung gentleman,
he selects five song to be played at his funeral,
she deletes three of them and inserts two of her own,
he said, when I’m dead, burn my body
in a funeral pyre in the desert just like Gram Parsons,
she said, we live in Wakefield, there are no deserts here,
he said, roll my ashes into a huge joint
and smoke me like Jimi Hendrix once suggested,
she said, I’ll sprinkle your ashes on the garden,
they’ll bring the roses up a treat,
he said, long after I’ve gone,
if you finally meet someone new and marry again,
will you let him wear my favourite leather jacket?
she said, he’s bigger than you are, it would never fit him,
he said, in that case you may as well just shoot me now,
so she shot him…


From my book
'TWEAK VISION: 
THE WORD-PLAY SOLUTION TO MODERN-ANGST CONFUSION' 
www.amazon.co.uk/Tweak-Vision-Word-Play-Modern-Angst-Confusion/dp/1986415260/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1522494861&sr=8-1&keywords=Tweak+Vision

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Science Fiction: THE HISTORY OF 'THE VARGO STATTEN SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE'



THE 
VARGO STATTEN 
MAGAZINE: 
 ‘NEW WORLDS TO CONQUER’ 

 The ‘Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine’ 
lasted for nineteen issues from January 1954 to February 1956, 
it was an odd eccentric publication filled with dubious pseudonyms 
and dodgy plotlines… but it included first stories by a young 
Barrington J Bayley, and fiction by EC Tubb
Andrew Darlington remembers it issue-by-issue


‘Imagination sucks’ says Beavis to Butthead. ‘It hurts when I use my imagination.’

The first three issues of ‘Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine’ were large-format so they reach out across the newsagent’s display to grab your attention. The vivid Ron Turner launch-issue cover is artfully quartered, bottom right a streamlined green spaceship rockets past a formation of three dark worlds, bottom left a spacesuited figure fires his blaster at two giant menacing killer-bots, top left – violet wash, a tentacled plant-monster coils towards another defiant spacer, while the most commanding top-right image is a dramatic hero, squinting down the sights of his hydro-blaster which noses out across the page, disrupting the other images, he’s protecting the swooning blonde slave-girl, manacles still encircling her soft white-skinned throat. He wears a yellow-spacesuit, she wears… very little. Cold stars glint behind them. Together, the images form a collage of all the elements that conspire to adolescent pulse-pounding fantasy. Two-fisted tales of cosmic adventuring, daring deeds on hostile worlds pitted against monstrous adversaries. ‘Aided and abetted by a girl too beautiful to be true.’


It is January 1954. Eddie Calvert – the Man With The Golden Trumpet, is no.1 in the Pop charts with “Oh Mein Papa” out-selling records by Frankie Laine, Guy Mitchell and honky-tonk piano-playing Winifred Atwell. An aging Winston Churchill is Prime Minister. Pope Pius XII warns that television is a potential threat to family life. On the cover of ‘Eagle’ Dan Dare is adventuring on the moons of Saturn.

Elsewhere ‘Authentic SF Monthly’ is already up to no.41. ‘Nebula’ – which takes out a full-page ad in that launch issue, had published its sixth issue. While ‘New Worlds’ was between issues, the most recent being no.21. Fan activist Captain KF Slater gives the new magazine venture a wary welcome, admitting ‘it would be hypocritical of me to say that the name ‘Vargo Statten’ fills me with unalloyed joy.’ While ‘Nebula’ ‘bids this new magazine welcome and hopes that it will become a powerful force in introducing many new readers to British science-fiction’, with the qualifying proviso that it ‘is devoted to rather less advanced types of stories than ‘Nebula’, being designed to appeal to younger readers of the field’ (‘Nebula’ no.7, February 1954). Yet, boasting ‘All New Stories: No Reprints’, and ‘An All-British Production’, the next editorial claims that first issue of ‘Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine’ quickly ‘sold-out’. It would go on to last for eighteen more issues published on the third week of each month until February 1956 when – supposedly, it was a printing strike that brought an end to the magazine’s life. An odd eccentric publication filled with dubious pseudonyms and dodgy plotlines. But if it’s not always fondly remembered, it nevertheless found space to include first stories by a young Barrington J Bayley, and startling fiction by EC Tubb.


There is no Vargo Statten. There never was. He’s the equivalent of Tharg, alien editor of ‘2000AD’. ‘Vargo Statten’ was a house name owned by Scion Books – which was a Mills & Boons for the 1950s, churning out formula novels for an undemanding audience, with the ‘house name’ as a device used by low-end publishers to generate a false continuity calculated to ensure reader-loyalty, while paying their writers as little as possible (magazine rates were cut from twenty-five shillings to twelve shillings and sixpence per thousand words). It was not an unusual practice at the time, causing genre-academics to invest much subsequent time and energy in researching who-wrote-what, and under which guise. Vargo Statten was usually – but not exclusively, John Russell Fearn, who contributes two ‘short novels’ for that first issue.

In “Beyond Zero”, after the Atomic War, demobbed Nick Farrish falls in with scientific engineer Clayton Brook who tricks him into an Absolute Zero chamber he’s assembled. Yet, instead of dying, Nick finds himself frozen within a sub-plane that ‘vibrates to a different resonance,’ and in which time runs at an accelerated pace. With the connivance of the sub-world’s master-scientist he eventually re-emerges in a far future Earth which is in the process of being abandoned, to confront Clayton, who has discovered immortality and become the despised Eternal despot. The characters are scientific ciphers, the dialogue consists entirely of pseudo-scientific techno-babble. The story defies all the normal rules of literary criticism.


1987 is also a Post-Atomic Period in “March Of The Robots” – a ‘short novel’ by Volsted Gridban, also Fearn, in which a scientist creates two synthetic humans named Colin and Helda to compensate for population loss. The Eugenical Council provides a moral twist by allowing them to marry, but before the project can continue, the Earth is overwhelmed by an army of alien robots. Colin stows aboard a spaceship and tracks the robots to Mars from where they’re being controlled by Helda’s vengeful bio-twin. He uses mental powers to override hers, and she’s crushed as their ‘leaden feet stamped down upon her face and vitals.’ Again, the usual critiques of fiction simply do not apply.

Of the short stories, “The Pendulum Of Power” by Armstrong Alexander is announced as part of the editor’s policy of printing first efforts by hitherto unpublished authors. The Venutian Great Power has invaded Earth, but developed an unhealthy taste for whisky, cream buns and beefsteaks. Anticipating stolen treasure they find only a crucifix and a Bible. In “Breathing Space” by D Richard Hughes, a renegade starship intent on decimating Earth mistakes a helium-filled dirigible for an anti-grav weapon, so calls off their nefarious plans. Both stories would have been summarily rejected by the ‘Eagle Annual’ as too silly by far.

There are three more fiction pieces. In Simpson Stokes’ “The Super Disintegrator” a newsman reports on experiments into IT – not information technology but instantaneous transmission, which again inevitably malfunctions leaving inventor ‘Julius Frant’s molecular being spread out to infinity.’ And John Wernheim’s “The Copper Bullet” resurrecting the discredited idea that sub-atomic particles are miniature solar systems and that – threatened by nuclear fission, they retaliate by killing the physicist responsible. At least there’s an attempt at character-humour with the introduction of intolerably smug detective Mortimer Quinn.


But best of the sorry bunch is the first part of EC Tubb’s “The Inevitable Conflict” – opening vividly with a suicide plummeting to death on the sidewalk narrowly missing Curt Harris. And an infallible cybernetic computer that predicts the death of every surviving member of the returned Venus expedition, of which Harris is now the last. Tubb is never less than a solidly reliable fictioneer who knows how to structure a narrative to maximum effect. And as the episodes develop, the six-hour probability of Curt’s death imposes a tight time-frame to add tension, similar to the ‘24’ plot-device used by the Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) TV franchise. With the dilemma resolved as the malign influence of Venusian tri-polaroid crystals, Tubb embarks on a second three-part serial. With automation creating mass unemployment, John Hanson in “Forbidden Fruit” is driven to a punishing economic ‘mantrap’ contract in the Venus uranium mines. He achieves resolution by eating succulent local fruit which means he can never leave Venus, staying to create a newer more free pioneer society there. Not to overrate it too highly, this is an almost JG Ballardian solution – don’t fight change, flow with it!

Meanwhile ‘Morley Carpenter’ is also a Tubb guise, in which he puts his pilot through a series of simulations in “Test Piece”, only to discover that the pilot himself is a test-android destined for the war against insectoid Martians. And then he’s Anthony Armstrong (in nos.4 and 6) and George Holt too (in nos.6, 8 and 11 and more). Although starting out as a prolific writer of pulps, Tubb was already showing evidence of abilities lifting him above his contemporaries. “Skin Deep” (in no.8) is agitational fiction that would slot easily into the finest magazines of the time. When Jud Glendis becomes the first human to orbit the moon, space radiation alters his skin pigmentation. To further ram home this racial metaphor Tubb then thrusts Jud into a hazardous journey home to the segregated American Deep South within the threatening shadow of lynching, only to be rejected on colour-grounds by his intended bride. The language is extreme, intentionally so, for the message is stark, remarkably and commendably so for the pre-civil rights 1950s. A similarly satiric slant is present in “The Answer”, in the magazine’s final issue, where two time travellers from the far future attempt to make sense of that 1950s present. As a meat-eating cigarette-smoker himself, Tubb has fun jibing at the absurdity of both, as well as tea, traffic pollution, war and cricket. Until the final reveal shows Clarice and John to be a post-human evolution, from a time when those same illogics have brought about violent human extinction.


While, positioned at the far extreme of the fiction pole, his “Kalgan The Golden” – as George Holt (in Vol.2 no.3), is Tubb at his most beguilingly entrancing, drawing on the Faustian archetype of the immortality quest. It not only boasts a character called Tharg, but seemingly casually spins swashbuckling yarns of an adventurer ‘slender as a tempered blade’ who fills his goblet with wine ‘black as night and as bitter as lost ambition’. This is florid storytelling, teeming with luring detail, playing future myths and legends in a galaxy of freebooters, thieves and slavers, anticipating the extravagances of his ‘Earl Doomarest’ sagas to come.

Then, very much in the Tubb style, Alfred Hind contributes “Hollister And Me” to no.3, introducing two likeable rogue ‘ragtimers’ smuggling Jovian silica moss aboard a Lunar-Earth flight, with disastrous results, as it begins to devour the tube lining and hull insulation. It’s rollickingly enjoyable, clear through to the turn-around poignant self-sacrifice resolution. Could this be an undiscovered Tubb alias? Apparently not. Also known as Thomas Rochdale, Hinds had made sales to the scurrilous ‘John Spencer’ titles and one to ‘Authentic SF’.


In subsequent issues, Fearn’s plots become even more ludicrously extravagant. In Volsted Gridban’s “A Saga Of 2270AD” an asteroidal high-density neutronium mass first devastates Earth then plunges into the Sun causing ‘the collapse of the orb of day into a white dwarf.’ By bizarre coincidence ‘ZX70 – a star existing between Pluto and Alpha Centauri’ is discovered, and with the assistance of Mercutian scientists, Captain Mark Senver sets out to physically shift this new orb into position to replace the dying sun. The inhabitants of a metal-clad artificial world orbiting ZX70 quite reasonably object to this solar grab. But when their sexually-predatory master-scientist Rad desires to marry special delegate Lucy Ainsworth, she learns that salt is poison to him, so literally administers the kiss of death by coating her lips with sodium chloride! Once the alien’s are safely exterminated, Lucy and Senver trek unprotected across the airless void of the world’s exterior to their space machine, and the theft of the sun successfully goes ahead.

While in his ‘Vargo Statten’ contribution, nuclear war disrupts the world’s protective ionic shell allowing cosmic rays to induce evolutionary mutations in animals, insects, and even metals. Despite his genius, Carson Rhodes, world-leader of the beautiful new post-war civilisation, is overwhelmed by cataclysmic events. The population shelter underground as weather-control machines collapse, leading to the dénouement that this is not the future but the distant past, something already clumsily signalled by the story-title – “Before Atlantis”. Elsewhere within his cast of grotesquerie there’s “The Master Mind”, a Man Who Fooled The World, as the result of a Fantasy Club wager. And the mysterious arrival of Onia, a blue-skinned girl from a molecularly interlocked parallel world, this plotline from “The Others” comes with a Positivist camouflage provided by Max Planck and a character named Eric Temple (a reference to John Taine’s writer alias).


And then there’s the shorts. SF academic David Kyle says ‘although dismissed by many as juvenile super-science, it had a wealth of SF ideas, if mostly unoriginal, and much escapist action’ (‘A Pictorial History Of Science Fiction’) Hamlyn, 1976). A case in point being a writer called Arthur Waterhouse who – in “Invisible Impact”, has a renegade Earth scientist in league with Martians firing ice-torpedoes from a lunar cave at the Interstellar Space Station using a set-up which ‘reminded him of the ramps he had seen in France, from which the Germans had once fired doodlebugs on London.’ A sloppy plot that would barely pass as a throwaway ‘Dan Dare’ escapade. F Dubrez Fawcett, born in Driffield, Yorkshire, more usually appeared as ‘Simpson Stokes’. His sole appearance under his own name – “The Law Of The Nebulae”, draws a clumsy analogy between meson-matter ejected from a nebula, causing an outbreak of sterility in January 2005, with future human destructive expansion into space. This coincides with the publication of his only novel – ‘Hole In Heaven’ (Sidgwick and Jackson), advertised in the following issue commending ‘this macabre and exciting story’.

Nottingham-born John S Glasby was another hugely prolific writer, known largely through pseudonym. Although he lurks behind the ‘JJ Hansby’ alias in no.3, readers may have been unaware that they’d already been reading him elsewhere in a number of even scuzzier magazine titles, as AJ Merak, Victor La Salle, Ray Cosmic, Max Chartair, Randall Conway and others. Set in a world of harsh post-atomic desolation “Ugly Duckling” is one of his stronger pieces, in which the despised and abused mutant Alvan Gregson awaits the first Martian ship to land… and recognises his misshapen identity in their alien forms. Glasby returns in no.9 with “A World Named Creation” in which two spacers are forced to crashland on an unknown world which seems to be fractured into contrasting time-zones. This intriguing concept, worthy of various New Wave interpretations, is only betrayed by the religious overtones of its dénouement.


Then there are other names, or pseudonyms that are lost forever. Who is, or was Max Elton? His “Chaos In Paradise” (in Vol.2 no.7) anticipates both John Carpenter’s 2001 movie ‘Ghosts Of Mars’ and the 15 November 2009 Dr Who episode ‘The Waters Of Mars’, in that intelligent dormant Martian bacilli are reactivated by human colonists, and take control of a Triumvirate of scientists. They then seek to alter Earth to their requirements. Yet somewhere along the narrative-path an element of inconsistency seeps in. The bacilli are logically first described as being of microscopic size, only visible ‘when vast numbers of them congregated together in a black, swirling mass,’ yet soon protagonist Sykes is hollowing the body of one of them and concealing himself inside it in order to travel back to Mars! In itself, a quite original idea, comparable to the vegetable-traversers of Brian Aldiss’s far-future ‘HotHouse’ (1962) which drift from dying Earth to Moon. But flip back a few pages just to check, yes, no mistake. Perhaps Earth conditions have caused a microbial growth-spurt? If so, there’s no real explanation for the giant germ, other than desperate plotting.

When all else is lost, there is Barrington J Bayley, who would become a more proficient writer than anyone else in this magazine’s sorry history. By the time of Michael Moorcock’s ‘New Worlds’ he would be contributing audacious tales of stunning originality. Born 9 April 1937 his first publication coincided with his seventeenth birthday. With precocious ambition that could be explained by reading Olaf Stapledon, “Combat’s End” in no.4 anticipates his broadscope aspirations with war between sentient galaxies, and an unfortunate spaceship caught up in the death throes of our own. Following a second tale –“Cold Death” in ‘Operation Fantast’ (no.17 March 1955), he returned to ‘VSSFM’ for “Last Post” in no.12 (April 1955). Yet it’s tempting to conjecture that an impressionable teenage Bayley was reading these issues, and stashing away ideas he’d later expand into realms of wonder. His “The Seed Of Evil” – in ‘New Writings In SF no.23’ (November 1973), has two adversaries pursuing each other through time beyond, not entirely dissimilar to Vargo Statten’s sad “Beyond Zero”. While Tubb’s use of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to govern the uneven distribution of probability seems to prefigure Bayley’s novel ‘The Grand Wheel’ (1977). The connection is tenuous, but not entirely impossible.

A more direct link takes the character from Bayley’s three-and-a-half-page short-short “Fugitive” (in Vol.2 no.2) intact all the way into his novel ‘Soul Of The Robot’ (Doubleday, 1974). ‘Jasperodus was on the run – but then, Jasperodus was a robot. He could withstand the horror which obliterated living tissue.’ That fumbled adolescent idea must have germinated across the years from the ‘British Space Fiction Magazine’ into those far more sophisticated realms to come. What began here, would grow int a novel of astounding imagination.


--- 0 --- 
All the miles and the years, the starshine and the moonfire: 
the deep blacknesses filled with the red and yellow and white, 
the ruby and gold and diamond; everything speeding past 
against the majestic silence of the galactic starblaze’ 
(“A World Named Creation” by J J Hansby, no.9) 

The drop to pocketbook digest size was compensated for by black-and-white photographic inserts – ‘our Art Supplement’ leading off with the ‘dramatic story, now re-told for our readers’ of the ‘It Came From Outer Space’ movie. In what is obviously an early example of targeted media cross-promotion the highly compressed plotline of the classic Sci-Fi movie, is followed in no.5 by stills from ‘Creature From The Black Lagoon’ and the plot of ‘Them’ retold in story-form, with the ludicrous proviso that Warner Bros Studio ‘has asked that we do not divulge the actual nature and description of the monster insects.’ Retaining the onscreen shock-value as a teaser to induce readers into the actual cinema.

Reading through the issues now it’s sometimes necessary to remind yourself that story-setting dates such as 1967, 1970 and 1990 still lie in the future. There’s been no Yuri Gagarin first-man-in-space moment, the Moon-landing is still a wild future away. Although Dr John Porter of the Royal Greenwich Observatory contentiously concedes that ‘there is no reason why men should not go to the moon.’ Instead, on the Science News pages, Dr H Percy Wilkins has observed what appears to be a twenty-mile natural bridge on the Moon. And Radioactive rain falls in the Birmingham area five weeks after US Pacific hydrogen-bomb tests. While Pluto is still considered a planet, newly discovered as recently as February 1930 – just twenty-four years previous. And Mercury is still thought to be gravitationally-locked, one hemisphere eternally facing the sun, the other eternally cold with ‘spacial frost’. There is lichen on Mars, and the classical clarity of the steady-state theory prevails over the tasteless convulsions of the Big Bang.

Everybody smokes cigarettes. Except scientists and Professors who clamp the stem of a briar pipe between their teeth, in order to denote gravitas. They are financially independent due to a stipend from wealthy family connections, have an extensive library of esoteric volumes and a man-servant as well as a private laboratory in which to conduct outlandish scientific investigations which predictably end in dire and terrifying results. In other tales, spaceship engineers sweat and have oil-stained faces, as though they’re crewing a Pacific tramp-steamer. They smoke cigarettes too, but use Jovian hempweed tobacco.


Issue No.7 proved another turning point, in that Alistair Paterson stepped down, ‘no longer being connected with the enterprise,’ allowing John Russell Fearn full editorial control. In much the same way that EC Tubb would assume the editorial guidance of ‘Authentic SF’ with its no.66 issue (February 1956). Yet the fiction balance remains strangely conflicted. “Dark Universe” by S Gordon could be said to prefigure the ‘Shifter System’ of Michael Moorcock’s “The Blood Red Game”, in that it features two colliding universes with an ancient solitary world trapped between them. Despite its abrupt conclusion, as though there should be more, it stands up well. While, despite its obvious debt to Stanley Weinbaum, “Saturnian Odyssey” by Francis Rose is a ludicrous concoction concerning an illegal opius plantation carved from the heat-steaming jungles and molten mud-volcanoes of Saturn, its feckless Minitor labour-force, and a female Law Officer called Lena. Saturn has just ten moons. Jupiter is a penal colony. Was it still possible to portray the gas giants that way? Was it ever possible? George is the mad ostrich-like bird who corresponds to Tweel in Weinbaum’s original.


Initially published by ‘Scion Press’, after Scion went bankrupt in early 1954 – with issue no.8, control was passed to a successor company, Scion Distributors. This was brought about by legal action over an allegedly pornographic Gangster novel, although definitions of censorship were more stringent then than they are now! Then, at the end of 1954, as part payment for a debt, Scion Distributors handed control of the magazine over to Dragon Press, who advertised themselves as ‘Low-Priced Publications Of High Standard’ boasting a strapline ‘Good English Literature Which Can Be Read By Any Member Of Any Family Of Discrimination’. Well, maybe. At least, they guided the magazine through another twelve issues.

‘We of the British Science Fiction Magazine are striving to produce science fiction in such a form that the fiction takes precedence over science’ it editorialises. ‘We want to have our offerings readable, and so help, with the many other magazines in this field, to establish science-fiction on the same ‘matter-of-course’ basis enjoyed by the mystery and romantic groups’ (in no.10). Although critical equivalence on par with romantic fiction seems a curious aspiration to set the control for.

John ‘Jonathan’ Burke was another prolific writer whose career has subsequently slipped beneath the astral-radar. Born in Rye in March 1922, and a former public relations executive, he wrote under a range of name-variations. His brief but fast-action “Free Treatment” in no.8 has a Luna-to-Earth beam-me-up matter-transmitter incident, resolved by benevolent extra-dimensional intervention, that inadvertently leads to a three-pronged war between Earth and its colony-worlds Mars and the predatory Venusians. Burke’s stories would continue to appear in a spread of magazines, including ‘Authentic SF’ and ‘Science Fantasy’ as well as producing novels, and the novelisation of the ‘Moon Zero Two’ (1969) movie.


But the focus remains very firmly on Vargo Statten. His “Rim Of Eternity” (in no.5) carries a strong idea-kernel, with five random people ‘lost in the universe, through the unintentional meddling of an aged university professor’, suspended on a ripped fragment of the Earth orbiting a blue alien star. As a result of the Professor’s ‘disturbance-field’ Lucille is cured of consumption and Martin Senior of his murderous plans. Yet the story’s potential is frittered away by quasi-religious dialogue about the accelerated evolutionary effect of cosmic rays as spiritual beams from the ‘Artisan of the Universe’. 

Through to the magazine’s final issue. Spanning three-thousand-million years, smashing planets and wrenching suns from their course, “Second Genesis” is based around the now-discredited theory that planetary systems are formed from solar ejecta gravity-dragged by the close encounter of passing stars. Ixonian computators detect ‘a runaway high-temperatured star’ approaching their system. After thousands of years hibernation in the shattered shard of their world they face the devastating long-term return of this wandering sun, named Genesis, only to discover that new worlds – including Earth, have formed during their eternal sleep. Zios Valno shifts the other half of their world – Pluto, onto a collision course calculated to save them. But all will not go well. As for the magazine itself, there’s no future for the doomed Ixonians.


David Kyle calls John Russell Fearn a ‘fiction factory’ who ‘published about 120-novels in uncountable millions of copies,’ prior to his early death 18 September 1960. ‘The trouble with Fearn really was that he wrote too fast’ SF-writer Sydney J Bounds explained to me. ‘Straight-off, nothing was re-written, and – of course, you get a lot of careless writing that way. I liked the early stuff that he (Fearn) had in Tremaine’s ‘Astounding’ with what they called ‘thought variants’. I liked those. He certainly had lots of ideas and could write fast. He was one of the few professional writers in this country doing Science Fiction then. This – after all, was before the war. Then later, when he did his hard-cover crime stuff and he took the trouble to revise there was quite a marked difference. He could do it. But if you’re writing full-time, for a living – I mean, you’ve got to belt it out and leave it.’ As guest-speaker at the Whitsun SuperManCon, Fearn himself with dry humour admits ‘it does get monotonous destroying the universe twice a month!’

John Ashcroft, nostalgically writes a Guest Editorial for ‘New Worlds’ (no.131, June 1963), in which he affectionately recalls how Fearn’s ‘writing boosted my imagination into orbit… many wooden characters, often ludicrous ‘science’ and occasional self-contradictions didn’t entirely spoil the appeal of wild concepts described with occasional flickers of power or poetry.’ This younger version of Ashcroft was intoxicated by the ‘huge scope, vivid scenery, unforgettable characters, and a wealth of wonder!’ Some of which glows and sparkles like radioactive decay across each issue of the magazine that – almost, bears his name.

The final issue, taking the title over into February 1956, carries no clue that this is – in fact, the end. Instead, ‘Editorially Yours’ optimistically announces ‘our plans for the New Year are many and varied,’ and that ‘we certainly do not intend to take any retrograde steps.’ While the editor celebrates the magazine’s modest achievement. ‘Many ‘old-timers’ in the field were never shaken in their belief that the Space Age would come – amongst them being Walter Gillings, Leslie Johnson, John Carnell, and many others, with whom your Editor rejoices that so much has come to pass. Let us then look forward to 1956 and hope that even more Gargantuan strides will be taken in the twelve months which lie before us…’

Cosmic steps were indeed there to be taken. Even though this quaint little magazine would not be any part of it. The ‘Vargo Statten’ magazine had definite limitations, and could sometimes be laughably inept. Yet although imagination assumes many guises, it never sucks. It only hurts when you neglect to use that imagination to the full.


 VARGO STATTEN BRITISH SCIENCE/
 SPACE FICTION MAGAZINE: 
ISSUE BY ISSUE’ 

January 1954 – ‘VARGO STATTEN SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.1 no.1), pulp-format (crown 4to) 68-pages. Price 1:6d. Scion Ltd, 6 Avonmore Rd, London W14. Edited by Alistair Blair Johns Paterson as ‘Vargo Statten’. Cover art by Ron Turner. With two short novels by John Russell Fearn ‘Beyond Zero’ (as Vargo Statten) and ‘March Of The Robots’ (as Volsted Gridban), serial ‘The Inevitable Conflict Part 1’ by EC Tubb, plus ‘The Super Disintegrator’ by F Dubrez Fawcett (as by Simpson Stokes), ‘The Copper Bullet’ by John Wernheim, ‘Breathing Space’ by D Richard Hughes (possibly Denis Hughes who wrote under multiple alias including Gill Hunt and Marco Garon), ‘The Pendulum Of Power’ by Alistair Paterson (as Armstrong Alexander). ‘Editorially Yours’, ‘Science Facts And Speculations’ discusses George Adamski book ‘Flying Saucers Have Landed’, ‘Rocket Mail’ letters from KF ‘Ken’ Slater and Terry Jeeves, ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ by Inquisitor with ‘Who’s Who In Fandom: Kenneth F Slater’, movie review of ‘It Came From outer Space’, MEDCON

February 1954 – ‘VARGO STATTEN SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.1 no.2), with two by John Russell Fearn ‘A Saga Of 2270AD’ (as Volsted Gridban) and ‘Before Atlantis’ (as Vargo Statten), ‘The Inevitable Conflict Part 2’ by EC Tubb, ‘Invisible Impact’ by Arthur Waterhouse, ‘Test Piece’ by Morley Carpenter, ‘The Law Of The Nebulae’ by F Dubrez Fawcett. ‘Editorially Yours’, ‘Science Facts And Speculations’ discusses BBC radio serial ‘Journey Into Space’, ‘Rocket Mail’ letters from Stuart Mackenzie (editor of ‘Space Times’), ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ by Inquisitor with ‘Who’s Who In Fandom: Eric Bentcliffe’, fanzine reviews ‘Space Times’ with Arthur C Clarke and verse, ‘Fission no.1’ with FG Rayer and Bryan Berry, ‘Space Diversions’ with Bryan Berry and EC Tubb, ‘Zenith’ by Harry Turner and Derek Pickles, and ‘Hyphen’ by Walt Willis. Books, Charles Eric Maine (‘Spaceways’), Judith Merrill (‘Shadow On The Hearth’)


April 1954 – ‘VARGO STATTEN SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.1 no.3), inner art signed Mendoza, with two by John Russell Fearn, ‘The Master Mind’ (as Vargo Statten) and ‘The Others’ (as Volsted Gridban), ‘Inevitable Conflict Part 3’ by EC Tubb, ‘Ugly Duckling’ by John S Glasby (as JJ Hansby), ‘Hollister And Me’ by Alfred Hind, ‘Omega’ by first-timer Chuck Harris (satiric-humour, Cyril, the werewolf in Heaven at Judgement Day). ‘Editorially Yours’, ‘Science Facts And Speculations’ discusses Henry Kuttner (‘Ahead Of Time’) and P Schmyler Miller (‘The Titan’), ‘Rocket Mail’ letters, ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ by Inquisitor with ‘Who’s Who In Fandom: Walt Willis’, fanzine reviews ‘Orion’, ‘Hyphen’ and ‘Space Times’ correction to ‘Authentic SF’ error and feature ‘Fandom And The Future’ by editor Stuart Mackenzie, Supermancon. Books, AE Van Vogt (‘The Weapon Makers’), Clifford D Simak (‘City’) and Geoff Conklin, PE Cleator, William F Temple

May 1954 – ‘VARGO STATTEN BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.1 no.4), size-reduction to digest (demy 8vo) 128-pages, with three by John Russell Fearn, his ‘Art Supplement’ adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s ‘It Came From Outer Space’, ‘Reverse Action’ (as Vargo Statten, taking canthite to calm disorder on Pluto the ZM:10 exceeds light-speed, setting time in reverse, revealing Slade Jackson as the man who killed pilot Irwin Grant’s wife), and novelette ‘Alice, Where Art Thou?’ (as Volsted Gridban, an engagement ring with a Sunstone turns Alice into the Incredible Shrinking Woman, it’s the fault if robots on another microcosm world), ‘Forbidden Fruit Part 1’ by EC Tubb, ‘Combat’s End’ by Barrington J Bayley, ‘Illusion’ by Antony Armstrong (WIB assassin discovers his target has ESP mutations). With editorial and ‘Proposed Vargo Statten SF Fan League’, plus ‘Science Fact And Forecasts’ and ‘Supermancon’ essay, ‘Astronomical Telescopes’ essay by Lee Taylor, ‘Rocket Mail’, and ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ reviews ‘Hyphen’ and ‘Haemogobin’, Space Times’, plus two ‘Robot Cartoons’ by Harris


July 1954 – ‘VARGO STATTEN BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.1 no.5), 130-pages, with ‘Rim Of Eternity’ novelette by John Russell Fearn (as Vargo Statten), ‘Forbidden Fruit Part 2’ by EC Tubb, ‘The Void Looks Down’ by Ken Bulmer (as Chesman Scott, stranded on asteroid, Clem out-manoeuvres the thugs who murdered his father), ‘The Illusion Makers’ by John S Glasby (as JS Hansby, the vast Space Opera fleet of Hanellta pursuing rebel Valda to volcanic Karazhik III is a virtual game played by evolved nutrient-fed brains), ‘The Thing In The Jar’ by Edward Peal (is the organism growing in his flask an ammoniate life-form from Jupiter?). ‘Art Supplement’ stills from ‘Creature From The Black Lagoon’, stills and story of ‘Them’, plus Science Cameos 1: William G Penney, ‘Rocket Mail’, ‘Science Facts And Forecasts’ Who’s Who In Fandom: Tony Thorne, ‘Fanfare’ Arthur C Clarke’s ‘Childhood’s End’, Jack Williamson’s ‘Dragon’s Island’, fanzines ‘The Enchanted Duplicator’, ‘Orbit 3’, ‘Orion’, ‘BEM’, ‘SF Satellite’, ‘The Amateur’s Microscope’ by Lee Taylor, ‘Your Guide To Astronomy’. B Driscoll (Mrs) wins the ‘Deliberate Mistake’ prize


September 1954 – ‘THE BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.1 no.6), 130-pages, name-change, although the contents-page doesn’t seem to have noticed! with ‘Nuclear Fission Research’ Art Supplement. ‘Something From Mercury’ novelette by John Russell Fearn (as Vargo Statten, an energy-drinking snake fossilised by the ‘spacial frost of Mercury’s dark side’ wreaks havoc in Giles Ascroft’s home, until expedition-leader Harry Dagenham short-circuits it), ‘Forbidden Fruit Part 3’ by EC Tubb, ‘Emergency Exit’ by EC Tubb (as George Holt, post-apocalypse Ron Prentice betrays telepathic girl to mutant-hunting mob, to save himself), ‘Pharaoh Lives For Ever’ novelette by Nigel Aherne (‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ crossed with ‘Stargate’, marooned polymorphs from D Polaris V contrive power in 2778BC Egypt in order to construct a starship for home, but personal rivalry intervenes), ‘Timely Encounter’ by Tony C Thorne (tiny Alkarans find a body in space, an attempted time-travel victim), ‘Homeward Bound’ by Antony Armstrong (silly throwaway, marriage bureau introduction to Martian). ‘The Authors Know Their Onions’ feature by F Dubrey Fawcett on Tubb and Gridban. Science Cameos 2: Guglielmo Marconi. ‘Rocket Mail’, ‘Science Facts And Forecasts’ ‘They Made It Possible 1: Pioneers In Electricity’ by Geoffrey Grayson. ‘Fanfare’ on ‘i’, ‘BEM 2’, ‘Orion’, Femizine 1’ and SuperManCon. ‘Produce Your Own Fanzine’. Cartoons by Harris

November 1954 – ‘THE BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.1 no.7), 130-pages, first issue edited by John Russell Fearn (as Vargo Statten) and last from Scion’, with ‘Landing on The Moon 1977’ Art Supplement, ‘Dark Universe’ novelette by S Gordon, ‘Saturnian Odyssey’ novelette by Francis Rose, ‘The Conqueror’s Voice Part 1’ by John Russell Fearn (inoffensive henpecked Albert Simpkins constructs a Compulsion Machine, narrowcasting electrically-generated post-hypnotic orders) ‘One Good Turn’ by DA Morgan (arachnophobic Spider Stone crushes two alien bugs before realising they’ve saved his life), ‘The Deadly City’ by Ron T Deacon and Pete Baillie (the red Martians in their secret city are so scientifically advanced their wash-hand basin water is self-lathering and their green-tinted wine ‘tastes not unlike Chartreuse. Lak Nor intends creating android replica to infect and exterminate Earth intruders with Black Rot), plus ‘Science Facts And Forecasts’, Guglielmo Marconi, ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ by Inquisitor with Walt Willis, Ken Slater, ‘Hyphen 9’, ‘Phantasmagoria’, ‘Orion 5’, review of ‘Project Jupiter’ by Fredric Brown and Frederik Pohl’s ‘Star SF Stories’, Science Cameos 3: James Clerk Maxwell, Rocket Mail, Vargo Statten Fan League


December 1954 – ‘THE BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.1 no.8), same Richards cover-art as no.7, threatened price-increase to 2/- not implemented, 130-pages, first issue printed and published by ‘Dragon Publications Ltd’, with Harwell Atomic Research Station Art Supplement, ‘Operation Orbit’ by T Brissenden (hapless spaceship KP971 drawn into shockwave as Mars is shifted closer to the sun), ‘Skin Deep’ by EC Tubb (as George Holt), ‘No Place On Earth’ novelette by Ward Ross (Arid Mars was a defensive metal shell around an Earth-like interior world. Stratosphere Control Globe no.7 is drawn there magnetically, where President Vorjak has predictably hostile intentions, but luring Café singer turns out to be Princess Elfia), ‘Invisible Barrier’ by Leslie J Davies (bitter Henry Mason’s invisibility serum also blinds him), ‘The Conqueror’s Voice Part 2’ by John Russell Fearn (Simpkins delivers an ultimatum from his remote-controlled rocket, posing as a super-being from Andromeda), ‘Free Treatment’ by Jonathan Burke. Plus cartoons, Science Cameos 4: Sir JJ Thomson, ‘Fanfare’ review of Fredric Brown’s ‘What Mad Universe’, Jeffery Lloyd Castle ‘Satellite E One’, Isaac Asimov ‘Caves Of Steel’ and Wilmer Shiras ‘Children Of The Atom’, fanzines ‘Ploy’, ‘Femizine 2’ and ‘Triode’


January 1955 – ‘THE BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.1 no.9), still 1/6d, same cover-art as no.6 – Brian Aldiss says ‘no credit was given to the artist of his undistinguished cover; it is, in fact, by John Richards’ ‘Science Fiction Art’ NEL, 1975), 130-pages, ‘A World Named Creation’ novelette by John S Glasby (as JJ Hansby), ‘Music Of The Spheres’ by Paul T Evers (a ‘word picture’ and a ‘peculiarly beautiful pen picture’, inspired by Holst each world has its own music), ‘The Conqueror’s Voice Part 3’ by John Russell Fearn (rambles on as Grant Forsythe, wolfhound of Scotland Yard, is launched as first-man-in-space to link-up with Simpkins’ rocket), ‘Registered Client’ novelette by Frank Bassey (‘a clever use made of anatomical duplication’, the Cosmos Company offers renewal and rejuvenation), ‘Slip-Up’ by LJ Clarke (are the visitors from the third planet of Arcturus really descendents of Atlantis? no, they’re abducted alien dupes), ‘Out Of The Past’ novelette by Malcolm Hartley (quest to find Fay’s Professor father lost in Peruvian Sierras leads to hidden valley with ancient alien technology. Rebel Jovian Ralgo explains the Great Red Spot city plans to shrink the inner planets and hence move Jupiter closer to the sun, then sacrifices himself to destroy their plans) plus Personalities Of Fandom 1: Terry Jeeves, ‘Whither Fandom?’ feature, Science Facts And Forecasts, cartoons and review of Fletcher Pratt’s ‘Double In Space’ by Harry Cohn, Science Cameos 5: Isaac Newton, ‘Fanfare’ on Charles Fort, ‘Hyphen 10’, ‘Andromeda 5’, ‘Alpha 6’, ‘I no.2’ with Tubb and John Brunner, ‘BEM 3’, ‘SF Satellite 3’, ‘Operation Fantast 16’

February 1955 – ‘BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.1 no.10) a further drop to pocket-book size, with ‘Galactic Impersonisation’ by Ken Bulmer (as Chesman Scott, almost the novel it’s billed as, like Fredric Brown’s ‘Arena’ a war between Earth and post-nova Alpha Centauri is decided by John Rollins and repellent Redfeather, brought together in Cossimnagore, then returned home by transmatter in the form of Chancellor Gandersteg to work for peace), ‘A Cold In The Head’ by Kenneth Foster (launched in Woomera, first man in space flash-lands at Salisbury, his burns healed by new immersive treatment), serials ‘The Conqueror’s Voice Part 4’ by John Russell Fearn (Simpkins arrested for murder of daughter Vera) and ‘Only Death Brings Peace Part 1’ by Ralph Gaylen (after 1950 movie ‘Rocketship X-M’, here in March 2000AD Rocketship X-2 fails, but Mt Palomar discovery of life on Mars hastens international effort to reach Mars), ‘After Twenty Years’ by Frank Rose (the World War provoked by Maralok of Venus rages while they’re imprisoned on Atlantic Island, emerging to find the ruins inhabited by childlike adults mutated by radiation through the weakened Heaviside Layer), plus Personalities Of Fandom 2: Ethel Lindsay ‘Fanfare’ on ‘Peri’, ‘Hyphen 11’, ‘Dizzy’ and review of JT McIntosh and Robert Heinlein, Science Cameos 6: Marie Curie, The Solar System 1: The Sun by Dan F Seeson, ‘Science Facts And Forecasts’, Rocket Mail, Cartoons, ‘The Aim Of Science Fiction’ policy


March 1955 – ‘BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.1 no.11), with ‘Hide Out’ novelette by LJ Clarke (‘A Jerry Scott story with a difference’ – a sequel? aliens have attack-base on solid surface below the Sun’s corona), ‘Only Death Brings Peace Part 2’ by Ralph Gaylen (seems strange to describe this sixty-year-old story as dated, but even in 1955 a space-sphere first trip to Mars and pear-shaped telepathic Martians with eye-stalks must have seemed familiar), ‘Preview’ by Douglas B Cookson (in the same issue as ‘The Conqueror’s Voice’ Dr Emery also hoaxes the world into disarmament, with his time-scanner), ‘Oversight by EC Tubb (as George Holt, the colour-organ tuned by a colour-blind Toscatoski), ‘The Fishers’ by Ron T Deacon and Pete Baillie (anticipates Harry Harrison’s 1962 ‘Captain Honario Harplayer RN’ as ‘Marie Celeste’ mariners are alien-abducted), ‘Adrift’ by Arthur Waterhouse (the ‘Argonaut’ to be salvaged from Cassini’s Division of Saturn’s rings, to rescue Boyd’s ex-lover’s new fiancé), ‘The Conqueror’s Voice Part 5’ by John Russell Fearn (a genuine Andromedan turns up, and Simpkins is saved from the noose), plus ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ with Orwell’s 1984, ‘Hyphen Xmas’ with Bob Shaw and HK Bulmer, ‘Eye’ and Doc EE Smith ‘Triplanetary’, ‘The Solar System 2: The Moon’, ‘Personalities In Fandom 3: Pete Campbell’, ‘Science Cameos 7: Urbain Jean Leverrier’, Rocket Mail with Ken Slater, Cartoons. List of Vargo Statten-Volsted Griban novels

April 1955 –‘THE BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.1 no.12) Ron Turner art cover, with ‘The Black Occupier’ novelette by William E Bentley (‘danger was a woman’s shape, a finger on a trigger, a knife in the dark’ for Space chancers Murgo and Julian), ‘Maternal Nightmare’ by Maxwell M Commander (‘delightfully ironic’, radiation causes mutant births on Mars), ‘Last Post’ by Barrington J Bayley (the last survivor on Venus, under sonic attack, with only ‘Brainy’, his electronic companion), ‘A Matter Of Vibration’ novelette by John Russell Fearn (as Vargo Statten, an exploding experiment accidently thrusts Vera Morton into an unknown plane, invisible and with a freezing touch to returns to exact vengeance on the inventor’s son, Will Gregory), ‘Only Death Brings Peace Part 3’ by Ralph Gaylen (the Martians predictably intend to invade Earth, and destroy Phobos in a demonstration of power), ‘Murmuring Dust’ by John Russell Fearn (as Herbert Lloyd, previously published as ‘Microbes From Space’, 1939, cities collapse in dust, due to microscopic metal-eating creatures), plus ‘Editorially Yours’ reviewing ‘The Voices’ (BBC-TV 16 January 1955), ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ with ‘Femizene 3 and 4’, ‘Bem 4’ (Bulmer, Jeeves), ‘Science Fiction Satellite’, Review of ‘Best From New World’ (Tubb, Alan Barclay, James White, Peter Hawkins, JT McIntosh, A Bertram Chandler) by Harry Cohn, ‘The Solar System 3: Mercury’ – with hot side and dark side, ‘Science Cameos 8: Ernest Rutherford’, ‘Personalities In Fandom 4: Ron Bennett’, cartoons


June 1955 – ‘BRITISH SPACE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.2 no.1), introduction of template cover (yellow) with index, with ‘The Second Pyramid’ by Kenneth Bulmer (as Chesman Scott), ‘Three’s A Crowd’ as John Russell Fearn (as Vargo Statten), ‘Only Death Brings Peace Part 4’ by Ralph Gaylen (the Martians are susceptible to radio-waves), ‘Nemesis’ by Morton Boyce, plus ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ on SF slang of EE Smith, ‘Camber 3’ with Terry Jeeves cover ‘Alpha 8’ with Mal Ashworth and review of Patrick Moore’s ‘Guide To The Planets’, ‘Personalities In Fandom 5: Mal Ashworth’, ‘The Cytricon’ essay by Harry Cohn on the Kettering Convention with John Carnell and EC Tubb, ‘Science Cameos 9: Albert Einstein’, Science Facts And Forecasts, ‘The Solar System 4: Venus’

July 1955 – ‘BRITISH SPACE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.2 no.2) blue cover, with ‘And Worlds Live Too’ interplanetary novel by Harry Cohn (a sentient Mars welcomes human colonists, saves the crashing M3 and resolves a three-way romantic dilemma), ‘Nova’ atomic short by Ron T Deacon and Pete Baillie (facing defeat, and against advice, Gar Resna triggers the oxygen bomb ‘and a new star is born’), ‘Leander’s Oracle’ space novelette by Frank Bassey (in the shifting Hesperian Twilight Belt with turtle-like Porrigi guides the Earth expedition discover the crater-valley of the Jaff, an eternal silicon-based ‘slag-heap’ calculating organism), ‘The Grey Avenger’ novel of Spacial Vengeance by Marvin Kayne (executed by being fired into space, rebel Eward Hilto returns. There’s even a ‘you are my son’ moment), ‘Only Death Brings Peace Part 5’ by Ralph Gaylen (Martians bubble the Sphere’s controls), ‘Here And Now (Part 1 of 5)’ serial by John Russell Fearn (as Vargo Statten, a 1975 ham televisionist accidentally picks up transmission from Marvia during a thunderstorm. Of three geeky Lone Gunmen, cold-blooded Bruce sees commercial potential and Chris Danvers hears her sing. But where in the ether is she?), plus ‘Editorially Yours’ about JB Priestley TV ‘You Know What People Are’ series, ‘The Solar System 5: The Earth’, ‘Personalities Of Fandom 6: Dennis Cowan’, ‘Science Cameos 10: John Herschel’, Harry Cohn’s book review: John Taine’s ‘Seeds Of Life’, ‘Science Facts And Forecasts’, ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ (on Lucian of 120AD, ‘Femizine’, ‘Eye’, George Pal’s ‘Conquest Of Space’ and Tubb’s ‘Alien Dust’), Orion cartoon and Rocket Mail


August 1955 – ‘BRITISH SPACE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.2 no.3) green cover, with ‘Kalgan The Golden’ interplanetary novel by EC Tubb (as George Holt), ‘Customer’s Risk’ Space Novelette by Mark Trent, ‘The Tiger Man’ novelette by Leslie J Davies (when deaf Mark Selwin is implanted with a tiger’s eardrum, he acquires it’s speed, enabling him to become a champion boxer, until its enhanced senses make him prefer deafness again, one blow to the head will do it!), ‘Here And Now (part 2)’ by Vargo Statten (Marvia is on parallel Earth ‘Axtron’ in a sub-plane that ‘vibrates to a different resonance’ (as in no.1s ‘Beyond Zero’), Danvers sells rights to her to Garzel’s Topmost Movies to raise funds to reach her), ‘Only Death Brings Peace Final Part’ by Ralph Gaylen (return to Earth, where narrator George marries Ann), plus ‘Editorially Yours’, ‘Science Facts And Forecasts’, ‘Science Cameos 11: Archimedes’, Fanfare And Suchlike (Victor Mature ‘1,000,000 Years BC’, ‘Triode 3’ with Terry Jeeves and Mal Ashworth, ‘Satellite 6’ with Jim Cawthorn, ‘Alpha’ with Ron Bennet, ‘Personalities Of Fandom 7: Forrest J Ackerman, ‘Harry Cohn’s Book Review: Silas Water ‘The Man With Absolute Motion’, ‘Solar System 6: Mars’, Don Allen cartoon, Rocket Mail

September 1955 – ‘BRITISH SPACE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.2 no.4) white cover, with ‘The Space Age’ by John Russell Fearn (Vargo Statten essay), ‘Genius’ an absorbing novelette by John S Glasby (as JJ Hansby), ‘There’s Many A Star’ by AR Cunningham, ‘The Bargain’ a excellent short story by Barrington J Bayley, ‘Visitant’ by Leo Dane, ‘Bems In The House’ something delightfully different by Kenneth Foster, ‘Imperfect Crime’ by Sheridan Drew, ‘Here And Now (part 3)’ by Vargo Statten (Professor Adam Dexter, president of the Scientific Association intervenes, Bruce is killed by ‘energy streams’ when he attempts to break the hyperspace barrier to Marvia’s plane, and Dave is arrested for his murder), ‘The Solar System 7: The Minor Planets’, ‘Personalities Of Fandom 8: Joan W Carr, ‘Science Cameos 12: George G Stokes, ‘Science Facts And Forecasts’, ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ on Disney’s ‘Man In Space’, ‘Hyphen’ ‘Phantasmagoria 3’, ‘Camber 4’ with Terry Jeeves, ‘Andromeda 11’, ‘Jazz Parade’, review of Theodore Sturgeon’s ‘More Than Human’ and Fredric Brown’s ‘Angels And Spaceships’, Rocket Mail


October 1955 – ‘BRITISH SPACE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.2 no.5) pink cover, with ‘Mars For Sale’ by Douglas Dodd, ‘Martyrs Appointed’ by Barrington J Bayley, ‘The Day It Rained Worms’ by MM Commander, ‘Journey Without Return’ by HM Carstairs, ‘The Point Of No Return’ by Clifford Searle, ‘Here And Now (part 4)’ by Vargo Statten (when Danvers is jailed as a charlatan, Marvia’s science contrives his release), ‘Editorially Yours’, ‘The Solar System 8: Jupiter, ‘Personalities Of Fandom 9: Mike Wallace, ‘Science Cameos 13: Charles Babbage, ‘Science Facts And Forecasts’, ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ on HG Wells, review of L Sprague de Camp’s ‘Lest Darkness Fall’ Poul Anderson’s ‘Brain Wave’ and Pohl And Kornbluth’s ‘Space Merchants’ and fanzines ‘Gestalt 2’ and ‘Andromeda 13’, Rocket Mail

November 1955 – ‘BRITISH SPACE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.2 no.6) wrap-around pink cover identical to no.7 with number and contents simply overprinted, with ‘The Inner Sphere’ Scientific Novel by T Brissenden (a ‘flaw in Planck’s Constant’ at Lunar Experimental Station One causes a matter-scrambling expanding energy-sphere, until the neutronium core is blasted into space), ‘Lost Property’ by EC Tubb (as George Holt, Fennal picks up a briefcase on the tube, which belongs to the 3546 Temporal Travel Division), ‘Three Against Carbon 14’ by Joy O I Spoczynska (appallingly poor, Pluto is a world devastated by nuclear war, ‘Spacetrotter’ brings three survivors back towards Earth), ‘Hero Worship’ by Max Elton (humour, Captain Mark Tyme returns from the Venus jungles in his own ship, but finds ‘the solitude of space’ preferable to his reception), ‘Here And Now pt5’ concluding part of Vargo Statten serial (Marvia is exiled to Mars, released following the trial Chris uses Dave’s experimental rocketship to join her there – Earths are on different planes, not so Mars), plus ‘Editorially Yours’ and ‘Inhuman’ essay about the ‘experts’ perception of SF (duplicated in no.7), ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ on Edward Everett Hale’s 1869 ‘The Brick Moon’, Bill Harry’s ‘Biped’, Terry Jeeves ‘Triode’, Alfred Bester ‘The Demolished Man’, Judith Merril, Science Cameos 14: James Dewar, Personalities Of Fandom 10: Don Allen, Solar System 9: Saturn and ‘A New Comet’, ‘Science Facts And Forecasts’ with Willy Ley, Gerald Reeman ‘Flying Teapot’ cartoon, and Rocket Mail

February 1956 – ‘BRITISH SPACE FICTION MAGAZINE’ (vol.2 no.7) pink cover, with ‘Second Genesis’ cosmic novel by Vargo Statten, ‘Temporal Fission’ Time Novelette by Walter D Hinde (Atomic Research Station accident throws friends into 2500AD Alabama, where, following the Great Catastrophe, blacks control white slaves and the church bans science), ‘Fugitive’ short-short by Barrington J Bayley (robot Jasperodus flees pursuers in 3368AD Birmingham), ‘The Day Of The Dogs’ novel of the future by Frank Bassey (exiled from his post-war tribe, ‘London had taken centuries to build, but only a single day to destroy’, Greg befriends Dog, finds an Ancient’s food-and-weapons store, then returns to defeat the Old Man), ‘The Answer’ short-short by EC Tubb (as George Holt), ‘Chaos In Paradise’ by Max Elton, ‘Time, Please!’ by Ron Deacon and Peter Baillie (a deadlocked East-West war, a super-computer diagnoses no solution, only extinction, calling Last Orders on the VSSFM itself!), plus ‘Editorially Yours’, ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ with Commercial TV seen as Shepherd Mead’s ‘The Big Ball Of Wax’, fanzines ‘Camber 5’ ‘Femizine 7’ with Pamela Bulmer and ‘BEM 5’, Harry Cohn’s Book Review of John Taine’s ‘GOG 666’ and Alfred Gordon Bennet’s ‘The Demigods’, Science Cameos 15: Wilhelm Konrad Röntgen, Personalities Of Fandom 11: Nigel Lindsay, The Solar System 10: Uranus, ‘Science Facts And Forecasts’ photographs Martian vegetation, Gerald Reeman Vargo Statten cartoon, and Rocket Mail


THE INQUISITOR: FAN COLUMNS FROM THE VARGO STATTEN SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE’ compiled by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer, Fishlifter Press/ Beccon Publications ISBN 1-870824-42-3 A handsomely fan-produced reproduction of all the ‘Fanfare And Suchlike’ columns ‘conducted by arch-fan A Vincent Clarke’, with Harry Cohn (Manchester fan Dave Cohen)’s ‘Personalities Of Fandom’ series, avoiding the fiction which it deems ‘almost universally dreadful’

THE MULTI-MAN: A BIOGRAPHIC AND BIBLIOGRAPHIC STUDY OF JOHN RUSSELL FEARN’ by Philip Harbottle (1968), meticulously researched and annotated study of Fearn by his greatest disciple, advocate and literary executor

VULTURES OF THE VOID’ by Philip Harbottle and Stephen Holland (1992, The Borgo Press) exhaustive history of British SF publishing 1946-1956 documenting the boom years of ‘mushroom’ publishing, including ‘Vargo Statten’ and the magazine that bears his name

SCION PUBLISHING, based on Kensington High Street, it also launched an early SF comicbook in 1951 – ‘Space Hero: Amazing Stories Of The Future’ featuring Brad Kane of the ‘Galactic Patrol’ and Space Commando ‘Commander Wade Kirkman, illustrated by Norman Light. Also ‘Sea Hero’ (1951), ‘Sea Devil’ (1952) with Terry Patrick artwork, ‘Electroman’ (six issues 1951-1952), and ‘Five Star Western’ comic (eight issues 1951-1952) with Norman Light and Ron Embleton art



ALL NEW STORIES: 
NO REPRINTS: AN 
ALL-BRITISH PRODUCTION 
THE FULL CAST 

Forrest J Ackerman – (2:3 (Profile)
George Adamski – 1:1 (review)
Nigel Aherne – 1:6
Poul Anderson – 2:5 (‘Brain Wave’ review)
Antony Armstrong – (see EC Tubb)
Isaac Asimov – 1:8 (‘Caves Of Steel’)
Pete Baillie – 1:7, 1:11, 2:2, 2:7 (with Ron T Deacon)
Frank Bassey – 1:9, 2:2, 2:7
Barrington J Bayley – 1:4, 1:12, 2:4, 2:5, 2:7


Alfred Gordon Bennet – 2:7 (‘The Demigods’ review)
Ron Bennett – 1:5 (‘Orbit’), 1:8 (‘Ploy’), 1:12 (fan profile), 2:3 (Fanfare)
William E Bentley – 1:12
Bryan Berry – 1:2 (review)
Alfred Bester – 2:6 (‘The Demolished Man’)
Robert Bloch – 1:7 (Hyphen), 1:9 (‘BEM’), 1:11 (‘Hyphen’)
Morton Boyce – 2:1
Ray Bradbury – 1:4 (photo-inserts and story of ‘It Came From Outer Space’)
T Brissendale – 1:8, 2:6
Fredric Brown – 1:7 (review of ‘Project Jupiter’), 1:8 (‘What Mad Universe’), 2:4 (‘Angels And Spaceships’)
John Brunner – 1:9 (fanzine ‘I’)
Ken Bulmer (as Chesman Scott) – 1:5, 1:10, 2:1 (in 1:7 as Off-Trail Magazines), 1:10 (wife in ‘Hyphen’), 1:11 (‘Hyphen’), 1:1 (‘Bem’), 2:2 (in Fanfare), 2:7 (Pamela Bulmer)
Jonathan Burke – 1:8 (as John Burke), 1:10 (review of ‘Alien Landscapes’)
HJ Campbell – 1:6 (‘Authentic’ editor, in Fanfare)
L Sprague de Camp – 2:5 (‘Lest Darkness Fall’ review)
John Carnell – 1:10 (review of ‘Gateway To The Start’), 2:1 (at Cytricon), 2:7 (Editorial)
Morley Carpenter – (see EC Tubb)
Joan W Carr – 2:4 (fandom)
HM Carstairs – 2:5
Jeffrey Lloyd Castle – (review of ‘Satellite E One’)
James ‘Jim’ Cawthorn – 2:3 (Fanfare)
Arthur C Clarke – 1:2 (fanzine), 1:5 (‘Childhood’s End’ review), 2:1 (vets Patrick Moore)
AV ‘Vincent’ Clarke – 1:2 (fanzine), 1:4, 1:5 (‘Space Times’), 1:9 (‘Hyphen’), 1:11, 1:12 (Aubrey Vincent Clarke as ‘Inquisitor’)
LJ Clarke – 1:9, 1:11
Harry Cohn – 2:2, (1:9-Personalities In Fandom series), (1:9-Book Review), (1:12-Review of ‘Best Of New Worlds’)
Maxwell M Commander – 1:12, 2:5 (as MM Commander)
‘Conquest Of Space’ – 2:2 (Fanfare review)
Douglas B Cookson – 1:11
‘Creature From The Black Lagoon’ – 1:5
AR Cunningham – 2:4
Leo Dane –2:4
Leslie J Davies – 1:8 (as Leslie Davies), 2:3
Ron T Deacon – 1:7, 1:11, 2:2, 2:7 (with Pete Baillie)
Douglas Dodd – 2:5
Sheridan Drew – 2:4
Max Elton – 2:6, 2:7
Paul T Evers – 1:9
F Dubrez Fawcett –1:2, (1:1, as Simpson Stokes), (1:3 Simpson Stokes Fanfare profile), 1:6 (feature on Tubb, Statten and Gridban)


John Russell Fearn – as editor 1:7 to 2:7,
1:4, 1:7, 1:8. 1:9, 1:10, 1:11, 1:12 (as John Russell Fearn) 
1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5, 1:6, 1:12, 2:1, 2:2-2:6 (serial), 2:7 (as Vargo Statten)
1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5 (as Volsted Gridban)
1:12 (as Herbert Lloyd)
Charles Fort – 1:9 (in ‘Fanfare’)
Kenneth Foster – 1:10, 2:4
Ralph Gaylen – 1:10, 1:11, 1:12, 2:1, 2:2, 2:3 (six-part serial)
Walter Gillings – 2:7 (Editorial)
John S Glasby – 1:3, 2:4 (as JJ Hansby), 1:5 (as JS Hansby), 1:9
S Gordon – 1:7
Geoffrey Grayson – 1:6 (science feature)
Edward Everett Hale – 2:6 (‘The Brick Moon’)
Chuck Harris – 1:3
Malcolm Hartley – 1:9
Alfred Hind – 1:3
Walter D Hinde – 2:7
D Richard Hughes – 1:1
‘It Came From Outer Space’ – 1:4
Terry Jeeves – 1:1 (letter), 1:5 (‘BEM’), 1:6 (SuperManCon), 1:9 (Fan Profile), 1:12 (‘Bem’), 2:1 (Fanfare), 2:3 (Fanfare), 2:4 (‘Camber’), 2:6 (‘Triode’)
Leslie Johnson – 2:7 (Editorial)
‘Journey Into Space’ – 1:2 (BBC review), 2:7 (Editorial)
Marvin Kayne – 2:2
Damon Knight – 1:10 (in ‘Hyphen 11’), 1:11 (‘Hyphen’)
Henry Kuttner – 1:3 (book review)
Willy Ley – 2:6 (‘Science Forecasts’)
Herbert Lloyd – see John Russell Fearn
Stuart Mackenzie – 1:3 (fandom feature), 2:2 (in Fanfare)
Charles Eric Maine – 1:2 (review)
JT McIntosh – 1:9 (in ‘Operation Fantast’), 1:10 (‘World Out Of Mind’ review)
Shepherd Mead – 2:7 (‘Big Ball Of Wax’ review)
Judith Merril – 1:2 (review), 2:6
P Schmyler Miller – 1:3 (book review)
Patrick Moore – 1:1 (review of ‘Guide To The Planets’)
George Orwell – 1:11 (1984 in Fanfare)
Alistair Paterson (Alistair Blair Johns Paterson) – as editor 1:1 to 1:6, 1:1 (as Armstrong Alexander) Edward Peal – 1:5
Alister Pearson– 1:4 (essay as by Alistair Pearson)
Frederik Pohl – 1:7 (review of ‘Star SF Stories’), 2:5 (and Kornbluth ‘Space Merchants’ review) Fletcher Pratt – 1:9 (two book-reviews, ‘Double In Space’) FG Rayer – 1:2 (review) Francis Rose – 1:7, Frank Rose – 1:10
Ward Ross – 1:8
Chesman Scott (see Ken Bulmer)
Clifford Searle – 2:5
Dan F Seeson – 1:10-2:7 (The Solar System series)
Bob Shaw – 1:7 (in ‘Orion’), 1:9 (in ‘BEM’), 1:11 (‘Hyphen’)
Wilmer Shiras – 1:8 (‘Children Of The Atom’)
Clifford Simak – 1:3 (City review)
Capt KF ‘Kenneth’ Slater – 1:1 (letter and Fan profile), 1:3 (letter), 1:7 (ManCon), 1:9 (‘Operation Fantast’), 1:11 (letter)
Doc EE Smith – 1:11 (in Fanfare), 2:1 (in Fanfare)
Joy O I Spoczynska – 2:6
Theodore Sturgeon – 2:4 (‘More Than Human’ review)
John Taine – 2:2 (review of ‘Seeds Of Time’), 2:7 (‘GOG 666’ review)
Lee Taylor – 1:4, 1:5 (essays)
‘Them’ (film) – 1:5
Tony C Thorne – 1:6 (as Tony Thorne)
Mark Trent – 2:3


EC Tubb – 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5 (also in ‘Space Times’), 1:6 (as EC Tubb, also in Fanfare), 1:9 (fanzine ‘I’), 2:1 (at Cytricon), 2:2 (review of ‘Alien Dust’ in Fanfare)
(as George Holt) 1:6, 1:8, 1:11, 2:3, 2:6, 2:7
(as Morley Carpenter) 1:2
(as Antony Armstrong) – 1:4, 1:6
AE Van Vogt – 1:3 (book review)
Werner von Braun – 1:7 (Moon Landing 1977)
Arthur Waterhouse – 1:2, 1:11
Silas Water – 2:3 (review of ‘The Man With Absolute Motion’)
HG Wells – 2:5 (Fanfare)
John Wernheim – 1:1
Jack Williamson – 1:5 (review of ‘Dragon’s Island’)
Walt Willis – 1:2 (review), 1:3 (profile), 1:5 (‘Enchanted Duplicator’), 1:6 (‘i’), 1:7 (ManCon and Hyphen), 1:9 (‘Hyphen 10’), 1:10 (‘Hyphen 11’), 1:11 (‘Hyphen Xmas’)