Sunday 29 April 2018



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

Saturday 28 April 2018



 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.


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


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’)



 Book Review of: 
(The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box - $15.99 - ISBN 1-55246-553-5)

In ‘2000AD’, Judge Dredd’s Megacity One is linked by tunnel beneath the toxic Black Atlantic to Europe. A decade earlier, Harry Harrison had already engineered his own under-sea link between the continents when he wrote ‘A TransAtlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!’ in 1972. But John Russell Fearn beat them both to it. He charted the complex construction-problems of excavating his 2,500-mile trans-Atlantic tunnel from Cornwall to Newfoundland as early as 1959, in this short novel which only now achieves publication. Fearn was a pulp fictioneer of extraordinary invention, so what do his protagonists discover during their epic subterranean dig – lost Atlantis? a vast prehistoric realm of predatory dinosaurs? A hidden race of troglodyte cannibals at the very least, surely? But no, intended primarily for a non-genre readership they instead encounter a seam of pure neutronium, plus magma-streams from a ruptured volcano, while they are plagued by sabotage attempts from unnamed rival eastern European powers… but no supernatural fantasias. This is largely a ‘Slipstream’ novel of technological speculation based around the application of a new super-alloy, Steel-X, which enables both high-tensile drills capable of penetrating hyper-compressed rock, and structural rigidity to reinforce the tunnel that results.

However, as Philip Harbottle’s informed introduction explains, Fearn’s ambitious concept was itself predated by a 1913 German novel by Bernhard Kellermann. Subsequently filmed twice, the second time through a Curt Siodmak script for British Gaumont films – as ‘Transatlantic Tunnel’, in 1935, the film made a deep impression on the young Fearn, who must have filed the idea away for future use. One of the first generation of UK pulp writers to break through massively into the American market of ‘Amazing’s and ‘Astounding’s, working through a number of outlandish aliases, Manchester’s immensely prolific ‘Multi-Man’ told an Autumn 1939 ‘Tales of Wonder no.8’ that ‘I love writing; and the older I get, the more I like it, because there is so much to learn. Every day I have the feeling that there is a chance to go one better, in style and expression, than yesterday’. And Harbottle concurs, arguing convincingly that, following his initial burst of literary hyper-productivity, Fearn achieved the finest-crafted examples of his writing in his later work. Not necessarily in SF, but in his crime fiction and westerns too. Unfortunately he died of a heart attack in September 1960 aged just fifty-two, so that process of evolving skills was prematurely curtailed. ‘Land’s End – Labrador’ was initially targeted for publication in the Canadian ‘Toronto Star Weekly’, hence the tunnel’s unique geography! He’d been a popular contributor to its wide-circulation tabloid pages for some time, but was passed over by them just this once, and the manuscript was subsequently lost. Until now.

 At last available as a beautifully-packaged collector’s edition, Fearn’s novel retains all the retro-charm of fifties fiction. ‘Paper-thin’ characters. A cheerful disregard for environmental considerations when the Land’s End tip of Cornwall is ripped apart by the ‘huge crater a mile in diameter’ which forms the tunnel-entrance, matched to an ecological arrogance in their belief that ‘man has never failed yet in his conquest of nature, and he won’t this time’. There are brutal command-management staff relations as sweating miners toil beneath the ocean-floor, allied to romantically archaic gender attitudes, despite plucky little Judith Saunders becoming director of the Canadian operations when her father dies. With a quaint imperial regard for the greater glory of the Commonwealth, which the link is intended to reinforce (the first time it’s possible to walk to America since the Bering Straits was a land-bridge!). All of which now makes the novel something of an alternative history as construction progresses from Spring 1991 through the precise time-fix dates of this future decade. Completed 9 September 1994, the bore – 12,500ft beneath the surface, allows the transit of a Cannon-Ball express monorail, plus vehicle lanes and a pedestrian link with way-stations and rest-stops. It’s almost possible to believe that somewhere, out there in some other strange continuum, this vast construction actually exists, and even now passengers are accelerating through a tunnel of Steel-X far beneath the cold tides of the north Atlantic… 

For further details contact:
PO Box 204, Shelburne, Ontario Canada L0N 1S0
Or PO Box 122, Sauk City, Wisconsin, USA 53583-0122
or PHILIP HARBOTTLE, Cosmos Literary Agency,
32 Tynedale Avenue, Wallsend, Tyne & Wear NE28 9LS, England

Originally featured on Website:
‘THE ZONE/ WORD-WORKS’ (UK – June 2006)
Published in: ‘THIS WAY UP no.18’ (UK – September 2006)

Thursday 26 April 2018

CD: 'Down To Reverie' by Robin Adams


Album Review of: 
(2010, Eye Dog Records EDE0003) 

“Midnight I” is a haunting psychedelic blur of ‘backwards uke’, like it’s something torn loose and adrift in time where ‘echoes of eternity go by/ they pass within the flicker of an eye’. Personally, I’d have liked some more of that sonic oddness. His sleeve-shot shows Glaswegian Robin dwarfed by the loom of his own huge shadow. Maybe that’s a clue. His MySpace influences assemble a line-up of the usual suspects, Kerouac, Dylan, Elvis, Robert Johnson, Ginsberg, Neil Young. And he sings with the effectively ragged nasal slur such a genealogy would suggest. “Down To The Water” has a melancholy bleakness emphasised by sparse unaccompanied phrases, with the elemental forces of fire and water used as metaphors for cleansing. In fact, he’s unafraid to meet the grand metaphor head-on, and dialogues with a for-real angel on the title-track, then tackles the big issues of death, guilt, and Social Darwinism (“Hide Away”). “When Your Light Goes Out” is a Dylan (Thomas) ‘raging against the dying of the light’, harmonising, or maybe double-tracking, with a the kind of anthemic potential to fill stadiums. Sure, the accordion on “World Burns On” might be lacerated by sharp rasps of Dylan’s harmonica and ‘long-distance information’ lyric-reference, while “Days Of Easy” does that lyric-torrent cascade with tasteful violin, but it’s alright Ma. Like other strong recent CD’s by Billy Pryce or Joe Wilkes it’s less retro, more betraying elements of a timeless Beat continuum that’s forever new.

(‘Down To Reverie’ was Robin’s debut album, followed by ‘Be Gone’ (2011), then ‘The Garden’ (Backshop) in 2015, until Robin’s fifth album ‘The Beggar’ (own label) arrived in 2018 – hear all nine tracks at )

This review originally published in:
‘R2: ROCK ‘N’ REEL’ Vol.2 No.19 (Jan/Feb)
(UK – January 2010)