Thursday 31 January 2019

Poem: 'Shakespeare Never Meant Shit To Me'


 ‘Elvis was a hero to most, 
but he never meant shit to me’ 
– Chuck D 

when Elvis recites ‘someone said the world’s a stage’
that’s sacred black vinyl back then, not this Bard,
not this Shakespeare dude, I only found that out later,
and yes, when I think Mark Anthony, it’s Sid James
his face as crumpled as an old leather glove
ogling sweetly naked bath-time Amanda Barrie,
the only Cleopatra I can ever truly love,
in the infamy of poetry that carries on forever,
Shakespeare might be a hero to most
but he never meant shit to me,
Forbidden Planet’s got Robby the Robot
who pisses booze from a chest cavity, battles
invisible monsters on Altair’s 4th planet and watches
Altaira, coy by the swimming-hole in that short tunic,
after that, I got no time for Prospero and Caliban,
it’s me that got thrashed for giggling at comicbooks
at the back of the English class when we’re
supposed to be lit-critiquing Merchants of Venice,
still feeling the pain when we get to Verona
where the tour-guide shows us this balcony,
I mean, that Bard never left creaky old England
how can they say this is the one in his rom-com
where those doomy teen-twink kids get it on?
next we’re in Stratford and I’m expecting thatch,
I mean, you’d expect thatch at the very least,
but they got Costa and they got Dominoes,
and a statue down by the lake where
bored pigeons crap and peck at pizza,
and the stage is bare, I’m standing there
with emptiness all around, thinking
Shakespeare might be a hero to most
but he never meant shit to me…

From my book:
Alien Buddha Press (USA – March 2018)

How I Wrote "In The The Time Of The Breaking"


A falling moon. A hidden city. 
And one of you is under attack, an attack 
 that must lead to terminal personality disintegration. 
In your deep subconscious are a thousand predecessor implants, 
 and implants within those implants. Only one of them 
knows the reason for the attack... and how it 
can be stopped...


Thomas Hardy wrote the poem “In The Time Of The Breaking Of Nations” about the First World War. I adapted and abbreviated the title for my novel. When it was accepted for publication by Alien Buddha Press I switched the copyright date over to 2019. Had it emerged in December, it would already be last year’s book. As it is, it will be shiny new for all twelve months of the year.

I’ve always loved tales of lost cities, hidden valleys and secret civilisations, all the way from Conan Doyle’s ‘The Lost World’ (1912) through Edgar Rice Burroughs’ penchant for stumbling across forgotten realms everywhere from the dead Martian sea-bottoms to the African rainforest. When I made my first professional fiction sale to the New English Library ‘Stopwatch’ anthology in 1974 (with “When The Music’s Over”), editor George Hay pointed out that ‘Andrew Darlington takes one of the oldest themes in the SF canon – the lost city, and uses it to hit out at the stale and the dead: a nice juxtaposition.’ So I guess there’s some unconscious continuity at work there. The ‘Phantom City’ which holds out the hope of refuge to fugitive Culak is sometimes there, and sometimes not. So it qualifies.

My early - and subsequently abandoned, cover design

Some people have already been confused – and attracted, in about equal measure, by the use of the word ‘Scientifiction’ on the cover strapline. Even suggesting that it’s a misprint. But when Jules Verne and HG Wells were writing their groundbreaking speculations, there was no such genre as Science Fiction. At the time of publication, their books were described as ‘Scientific Romances’. It was not until April 1926 that Luxembourg-born naturalised-American Hugo Gernsback launched ‘Amazing Stories’, what is now recognised as the Big Bang genesis-moment for magazine SF, and it was he who devised the term Scientifiction as a neat contraction of the words Scientific and Fiction, to describe the type of material he intended to specialise in. It was not until later that his inspired invention was adapted into Science Fiction, SF or Sci-Fi. But I always retained an affection, not only for his term, but for the mind-stretching wide-open sense-of-wonder that those early decades of weird tales gleefully rampage through. I love that unpredictable strangeness. 

The name I use for my protagonist – Culak, goes all the way back to an adolescent schoolboy novel I wrote. I was caned for tearing pages out of my exercise books to write it on. It also involved a quest for a lost city, but there the resemblance ends. By the time I got to writing ‘In The Time Of Breaking’ in came in spurts and spasms across a number of years, abandoned as each new more urgent project reared to consume my time. More recently, motivated by positive responses to my short-story collection ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ (Parallel Universe Publications, 2016), I began gathering the various aborted sections together, editing it down drastically and sharpening the text, lopping off pages of purple prose and detailed description. But the wandering world with its dangerous companion-moon, and the resource-scarce tribes who eternally travel its aridity is a constant. Is it far-future Earth? Possibly. But I suspect not.

As an adolescent, it was some years after the publication of ‘The ‘Space’ Kingley Annual’ (1952, Sampson Low, Marston & Co Ltd), that I became aware of its existence, when I serendipitously excavated the glossy large-format book from amongst the disorganised mounds of a local jumble sale. Priced at just five shillings and written by Ernest A Player, ‘The Twenty-Second Century comes vividly alive in these amazing stories’ it announced, and I was convinced. There was war across the lava-seas of Venus, fought by ordered flotillas of giant walking fortresses. The six-legged battle-craft advance like some futuristic vision of HG Wells’ war-machines, their crews visible in illuminated galleries, while A-Jet flying discs cut vivid beams through the volcanic skies above them. The scene, captured in one of Jobson’s most impressive art-spreads, seared itself into my prepubertal mind, to the extent that – I admit, I’ve drawn on it myself in my own fiction. The Qulan Cars in which my characters spend their lives are a direct descendent of this image.

Declining population pressures have forced a further plot element. The feuding and antagonistic Qulan can’t afford to lose technical knowledge and experience when deaths occur. So the minds of the dead are implanted into the subconscious of the living. Three deceased souls into each person. But each of those three deceased also have three implants. And they have three more. Hence the pyramid structure of memories going back generations and centuries, which can be accessed through drugged Deep-Com. The trauma that Culak experienced through the death of his brother and resulting unresolved issues with his Father, causes this cerebral structure to go into meltdown, in a nightmare of regurgitated memories leaving a trail of hints and clue drawing him to the ‘Phantom City’ that just might lead to his salvation. I also lost my brother, who fell to his death. I also had unresolved denial issues with my mother as a result. The pain is authentic. This is part of the novel too.

What Culak really aspires to is mastery of Phonetobardics, an art of vocal inflections. A kind of deconstructionist performance poetry. If you want to hear how I imagine it, listen to Karlheinz Stockhausen’s stunning ‘Stimmung’. It’s all in there. Will Culak succeed in his ambition? Steve Sneyd was fond of telling me the outline of ‘Galactic Pot-Healer’ by Philip K Dick. The answer may just lie in there.


Review by Trevor R Fairbanks
5.0 out of 5 stars

A totally new direction in scientifiction
‘A really great book and fun read. I’ve never encountered anything like this before, and I’ve read a LOT of science fiction. Darlington doesn’t just tell you a story. He inserts YOU into the story. The story doesn't unravel – it pulls YOU along. This isn’t just some clever style of writing. It suits the characters in the story who are always climbing or crawling or stumbling to survive a very dangerous planet – and you are right there with them. ‘In The Time Of The Breaking’ is a true achievement in the field of scientifiction (and I dig that he’s trying to bring that word back – old school cool)’ 


Fourteen Stories of Fantasy, Warped Sci-Fi and Perverse Horror



EP Review of: 
(The Emmet Presents – No Webb-link, 
 very limited edition from: 
Knill Cross House, Higher Anderton Road, 
Millbrook, Nr Torpoint, Cornwall PL10 1DX) 

Album Review of: 
by JOHN LYLE (John Lyle, 2018) 
 John Lyle, 6488 Gale Ave, N Sechelt, BC, Canada VON3A5

Shhhhh! There’s nothing connecting these CDs, beyond a song apiece about Trump. And the fact that there was music long before there was a monolithic music industry, but there’s grassroots music here operating outside the mainframe. Independent and self-sustaining, yet digitally tweaked. Yes, you know Colin David Webb. He published ‘Sepia’ magazine, and then wrote ‘Captain Beefheart: The Man And His Music’ through his Kawabata imprint. He doesn’t even operate through a website, but knows his way around a provocative lyric and a catchy hook. His “Hush, Be Quiet” tells of the in-comers who quit the city to colonise Cornwall, then pine for the roar of 747s overhead and the tube-trains beneath their beds. His “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” samples George and Ira Gershwin to witty satiric effect word-switching privatise/nationalise, Brexit/Remain, in a perfect That Was The Week That Was knock-off.

The John Lyle sleeve is a sepia nostalgia photo. He has a broken voice that catches fire, a sighing Americana pedal-steel, sleeping beat-up eyes-wide-shut on the counter with Rockabilly echo, or the swamp-funk crawl of “Cinnamon Wells”, uncontrived, but touching epic with “Altar Of The Rain”. ‘The tide was high, and so was I’ with bluegrass picking for “All Is Forbidden”. For Colin David Webb’s “The Trump Song” there’s Twitter-feed, cunnilingus and ‘You’re sacked’ – seemingly spontaneous, despite writing, rewriting, recording and re-recording, before dropping the final edit here. John Lyle takes his strutting “Heil To The Cheat!” from KKK to 666 with a socking backbeat, he’s gonna make it grate again, I just blew another fuse.

There’s nothing more to connect these CDs. But here are authentic voices, this is where the story goes… Shhhhh!

Album Review of: 

 Ch-ch-ch-changes. The Movers and the Shakers do it this way. The marketing model for the best new music. You write your songs. You make your CD. Then you get people to listen. John is based in British Columbia, but he’s on your ‘Facebook’ page too. His are heart-shiveringly cracked songs in sparse settings, done as intimate as a session in your front-room. Some critics draw comparisons with Leonard Cohen, but no, John’s more human that Laughing Len. More accessible. There’s joy and there’s lived-in experience in each bruised quiver of vocals. A languorous resigned mischief at the way of things. Dextrous guitars interplay playfully, with rag-timey picking, a raspy keening harmonica and a knowing Blues edge to “Nothin’ Nobody Can Do”. He’s a natural storyteller, engaged with the word – to the extent his lyrics are in his ‘The Kindest Lies’ book from Leaky Boot Press, such as the weary Western lament “There’s A Hole In My Lariat”, laced with wry irony. “Sweet Little Sister” has that antique simple catchiness of an old-timey John Sebastian song. This is the latest in a straight-A series of highly individual albums. ‘Joy And Mischief’ is well worth your attention.

Published in:
‘R2: ROCK ‘N’ REEL Vol.2 No.46’
(July/Aug) (UK – July 2014)

Album Review of: 
(John Lyle, 2016) 

This is a fascinating bouquet of new songs to lull you in, running from some as simple as early Americana field-recordings, into more complex humour and wistful moods, “You Know It Won’t Kill You To Die” and “The Happenstance Of Evening”, fifteen songs easy-spaced across 46-minutes, seldom taken at a faster pace than a jigging run, as close and intimate as new conversations with a particularly lyrical friend, whisper-fine settings from dulcimer and pedal steel as well as subtle drums and guitar, with family inputs from Penny and son Pax (who also adds the Sasquatch cover-art). John is a hand-crafted troubadour, new and eternal – but beware the cautiously-signposted ‘B’-word on “Shades Of Grey” and the colloquial ‘F’-word on the play-out “Wings Beyond Rio”.

(from John Lyle, 6488 Gale Ave,
N Sechelt, BC, Canada VON3A5)

Wednesday 30 January 2019

Science Fiction: Two Magazines Called 'Fantasy'


‘Fantasy’ was the title of two short-lived pioneering UK SF 
magazines. Both survived for only three issues. 
 The first just pre-war. The second coming soon after the war years. 
They are now collectable, and quite beautiful souvenirs 
of the very founding years of the genre... 

‘The future had grasped me like a vicious drug’ 
‘Seeker Of Tomorrow’ 
by Eric Frank Russell and Leslie J Johnson 

Sometimes it seems the future was so much more futuristic in the past. All those years ago, tomorrows were wide open to the most extravagant imaginings. ‘Fantasy’ was the title of two short-lived UK SF magazines. The first just pre-war. The second following in the bleak austerity years soon after the war. Now they are collectable, and quite beautiful souvenirs of the very founding years of the genre, a time when ‘the wizardry of science has transformed the once tenuous fancy into hard fact,’ as Walter Gillings declared. And ‘only dreams have a future’ in the soaring new worlds of 1938. Yet he cautiously adds the reminder that ‘history is full of visionaries, and sceptics,’ both of which were conspicuously present across the two lifetimes of ‘Fantasy’.

In both its incarnations, ‘Fantasy’ was a victim of its time. Both pre and post-war titles survived for no more than three issues apiece. But what beautifully lurid issues they are! What shocks of grotesque terror rear from those six covers, what horrors of perverted sciences – what nostalgic pleasure. For ‘Fantasy no.1’, dated July 1938, the white-haired bespectacled scientist pulls the activating toggle on the machine-panel, and an arc of electrical energy shocks the metal-man on the laboratory-bench into malevolent quasi-life in ‘The Latest and Most Thrilling ‘Frankenstein’ Story’. In much the same way, these magazines were sending shocks of innovation through UK Science Fiction.

Within that issue, there are thick pulp pages, resilient enough to retain the long half-life afterglow of cosmic radiations, the death-rays of malevolent aggressors, the most mind-stretching excesses of interplanetary conmen and visitors from unseen dimensions. Full-page black-and-white illustrations provoke Earth-bound imaginations into possibilities of endless tomorrows. And just maybe, in visualising the “Menace Of The Metal-Men”, don’t the rampaging automatons bear more than a passing resemblance to the Cybermen of ‘Dr Who’, still decades away?

Some people claim that to collect remnants of the past – photographs, cigarette cards, juvenilia… magazines, is to arrest time, so that no experience is lost. That to gather and preserve things, is an attempt to fight the transience of the world. Yet it’s easy to mistrust those false premises. The social context of that collected memorabilia dissolves even as you seek to preserve it. A carefully-hoarded issue of ‘Fantasy no.1’ now is not the same phenomenon, and can never mean the same thing as when it first nudged its way into select newsagent displays. Those issues are objects of a time-past that can never truly be regained. Yet we collect and we attempt to preserve them. For there are continuities.

In truth, 1938 was not an auspicious time to launch a new magazine. ‘War is silly and futile anyway, but it keeps on’ argues a weary John Wyndham (through the guise of John Beynon in “Beyond The Screen”). Martin, his character, ‘had heard of too many things which were to make war impossible – economic necessity, the League of Nations, even the war to end war, and here was all Europe on the brink of another.’ His long involved story catches the helpless inevitability of that dread slide into war, with editorial comment enquiring ‘is John Beynon’s fantasy nearer the truth and does the future hold another Dark Age for mankind when civilisation will have been laid in ruins by fearful weapons of destruction whose forerunners we are now so busily producing?’ Beynon follows it in no.2 with “The Trojan Beam”, in which a future-1965 Sino-Japanese war is fought by magnetic-beam weapons, as explained to double-agent George Saltry, until the ‘biggest magnetic disturbance ever known’ draws a lethal storm of Leonid meteorites down to completely obliterate Japan. Surely there’s a thrill of terrible foreboding there, at a time when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still just obscure names on a map.

Many stories of this strange lost period of fiction involve eccentric inventors working out highly involved experiments in their own private laboratory workshops. A direct descendent, perhaps of HG Wells ‘Time Traveller’, or his Moon-bound Cavor. Wyndham/Beynon’s fictional ‘Judson’ falls into this category. As does the protagonist in JE Gurdon’s contribution to that same launch issue of ‘Fantasy’. According to the Contributors Notes, Captain John Everard Gurdon DFC was not only an aviation authority, but a real-life air-ace, a noted and decorated fighter pilot who flew missions with the Royal Flying Corp over the Western Front (and later in the second World War too). He’s ‘a writer of flying stories, usually with plots hinging upon some new scientific device or discovery,’ well-known through his contributions of aviation-themed fiction to ‘The Strand’, ‘The Modern Boy’ and ‘Argosy’ as well as two tales in ‘Fantasy’.

For this writer’s “Leashed Lightning”, the blurb screams ‘You are Playing with Fire – most Damnable and Deadly Fire, warned the Great Scientist – but to Three Men no Peril could be too great to dare when the Prize beyond might be the Most Startling Discovery since the time of Faraday’ (the capital letters are as they appear on the page!). Great inventor Peddar is involved in a flight sixty-thousand feet above the Earth, using linked balloons to tap ‘atmospheric electricity.’ He’s a mathematical genius, so eccentric that ‘the hermit habit has grown on him,’ his weak eyesight and ‘an almost morbid shyness condemned him to the life of a recluse.’ Yet in a final mad vindictive act, Peddar is burnt to a crisp. Gurdon’s convoluted and indecisive contribution to the third issue – “The Man Outside”, involves greedy businessman Vulpman Victor’s plan to multiply his profits as financial backer to equally-eccentric inventor Lionel Dodd, who resembles ‘a nervous llama wearing spectacles’. Dodd’s basement Space Transformer utilises ‘geodesic gravitational components’ to ‘warp the continuum’, but rather than gifting Vulpman glimpses of future stock markets as he’d hoped, it casts him into an inter-dimensional null-space. Rather than this serving as a fittingly ironic fate, the condition proves to be temporary, and he’s instead snatched back into the predatory female wiles of his ‘singularly lovely secretary’ Miss Dupless.

Elsewhere in the issue, in “Son Of Space” by Francis H Sibson, Jamieson is another ‘dauntless but misanthropic’ pioneer attempting to escape the intrusive attentions of what were then not yet called paparazzi, although the writer seems as taken by his idea of the luxury round-the-world three-hundred-foot fantail-ejector-jet monoplane, as he is by the doomed scientist who – like the name of his rocketship, becomes an ‘Asteroid’ lost in trackless space. For Eric Frank Russell – a ‘thirty-three years old, six-foot newcomer to the ranks of science-fiction authors’, small-time crook ‘Knuckles’ Spilla takes advantage of an invention created by Professor Dainton – who’s been conveniently run over and killed by a car, ‘to turn another scientific achievement to the practical use of crime.’ He drinks a chameleon-serum to achieve a kind of invisibility in order to steal a forty-thousand dollar payroll being paid into the bank. But, as the story-title “Shadow-Man” suggests, his presence is betrayed by his shadow. He is hunted down by an angry mob and killed.

The editor of this first ‘Fantasy’ incarnation, Theodore Stanhope Sprigg, was born in Peterborough, 12 May 1903, the son of a writer and brother of poet Christopher Caudwell, part of a family grounded in writing and publishing. He served as a Squadron Leader in the RAF, then founded and edited ‘Airways’ magazine, before joining George Newnes at Tower House in 1934 – the publisher of ‘Strand Magazine’ since 1891. Sprigg edited a book called ‘Marvels Of The Air’ for them (1936, George Newnes). He also conceived the idea of a quartet of specialist fiction magazines. Launching the first a year later. ‘Air Stories no.1’ (May 1935-April 1940) was announced as an ‘All-British Magazine’, it featured WE Johns – alongside the prolific aforementioned JE Gurdon (“The Loop Of Death”, May 1936) among its ‘Finest Flying Fiction’. In another link, it uses cover-art by SR Drigin, who would provide art for each issue of ‘Fantasy’.

The magazine was followed by ‘War Stories’ and ‘Western Stories’, as Sprigg set about gathering material in preparation for a SF-based companion – what would have been Britain’s first mature SF periodical. But as well as visionaries, there were sceptics. Despite the garish success of American pulp magazines, there was no British precedent for an exclusively SF title. There were general adventure-story titles which occasionally included fantasy fiction, but at the time there was no such beast as a British SF-magazine – and never had been. Those rocket-ships, ray-guns, and multi-tentacled aliens menacing voluptuous girls in skin-tight spacesuits might work on unsophisticated US newsstands, but surely its disreputable adolescent attractions would not find an audience here?

Newnes were dubious. They drew up a tight ‘Memorandum of Requirements’ concerning the type and standard of material they were prepared to publish. Sprigg explained this middle-of-the-road policy via the Science Fiction Association journal ‘Tomorrow’, calling for ‘a good story, well written, and an imaginative theme with a scientific interest that is something more than a peg upon which to hang an adventure.’ As Walter Gillings noted, it was considered that ‘a more restrained style was necessary for a public that knew only Wells, Verne and Burroughs’ (in “The Impatient Dreamers”) – although no-one else has ever described ER Burroughs as ‘restrained’! Even then the publishers prevaricated further, with ifs and buts, while ‘tentative plans’ for the venture were placed in abeyance.

Ironically, it was the apparent success of ‘Tales Of Wonder’ from rival publisher William Heinemann, that prompted Newnes to reconsider. Perhaps there was a viable market for weird fiction after all? And they finally green-lighted their own much-delayed title. To SF-historian Michael Ashley ‘had Newnes gone ahead with ‘Fantasy’ three years earlier, the British SF scene might have been very different’ (in ‘The History Of The Science Fiction Magazine Part Two 1936-1945’, New English Library, 1975). Yet almost overnight, it seemed, the UK SF-community had gone from having no magazines at all, to having two thick titles bulging with potential!

Rather than feeling threatened by the prospect of a rival genre title, ‘Tales Of Wonder’ editor Walter Gillings actively assisted Sprigg in sourcing writers for the project. ‘To me’ he writes, ‘the most obvious difference between the two magazines was the superior layout and illustration of ‘Fantasy’, which was attractive without being over-bright. I did not care for the style of staff artists SR Drigin and G Blow, who were manifestly more at home with airplanes than with spaceships, and whose work was too often reminiscent of ‘Scoops’; but at least they had room to manoeuvre, with double-page spreads and all.’ With the greater financial push provided by Newnes, Sprigg was able to offer the inducement of higher pay-rates than Gillings, with the result that Eric Frank Russell and John Beynon Harris would appear in all three issues of ‘Fantasy’. Yet, like Gillings, he took occasional forays into reprints too, lifting early British SF tales that had previously appeared in non-genre fiction periodicals ‘Pearson’s Magazine’ and ‘Argosy’. Introducing them to a new readership.

Despite handling his four magazines almost single-handed, Sprigg was never a crusading personality editor, his name never even appears in the magazine, his brief comment-box in the first issue announcing a magazine of ‘something more than fiction, yet less than fact,’ is simply by-lined ‘the Editor’. He explains in no.2 how ‘he sees no justification for wasting with his own effusions valuable space that can be better devoted to ‘Fantasy’ readers’ chief interest – science fiction.’

Staff artist SR Drigin – Serge, responsible for the lavish cover-art as well as detailed interior illustrations for all three issues, was a Russian émigré born in Moscow, 8 October 1894. An aeronautical artist whose study of American magazine artwork shows to good effect, with SF-illustrations that link back to his giant robot cover of the juvenile ‘Scoops no.1’ (10 February 1934). While PE Cleator, vice-president of the British Interplanetary Society which he’d co-founder in October 1933 with Leslie J Johnson, and boasting FRSA and AMIRE after his name, adds a speculative feature – “By Rocket-Ship To The Planets”, that continues themes he’d begun in ‘Scoops’. ‘In the Modern Rocket, Science has at last Discovered the Key that may Unlock the Door to Space and Interplanetary Travel’ he proclaims, at a time when the name Wernher von Braun had yet to register. Mike Ashley writes ‘of especial interest was a science-fact article, “By Rocket-Ship To The Planets”. Cleator had sold a story to Hornig’s ‘Wonder Stories’, and just had an article, “Spaceward”, published in the August 1937 ‘Thrilling Wonder’. Cleator had all the appearance of becoming an English Willy Ley, had not the War intervened.’ American rocketry authority Willy Ley himself was present with an article in the second issue – an essay that had been rejected and returned by Gillings for amendment! Illustrated by Manchester artist Harry Turner, Willy Ley contributes a second feature in the subsequent issue.

The clumsy stilted lead story in the first issue – “Menace Of The Metal Men” by ‘eminent Italian engineering expert’ A Prestigiacomo (supposedly written in English at the suggestion of respected Compton Mackenzie OBE), is a 1933 reprint from the UK ‘Argosy’ – originally titled ‘Zed Eight’. Making it the issue’s only non-original tale. Zed Eight itself – initially referred to as ‘the unknown’, is a robotic entity created by Narcisio Falqui. A clunky concept now, but not too far removed from the question posed by Skynet AI sentience, is ‘a machine capable of exercising will’. It may look back to Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ (1927), and certainly the passage in which the automata is activated has echoes of James Whale’s ‘Frankenstein’ (1931), a connection signalled by the strapline ‘The Latest And Most Thrilling ‘Frankenstein’ Story’, there are even Spartacus elements in the robot insurrection that follows. But in this future Rome – as well as quaint paper suits, radionewspapers, electroboats and phonosignallers, there are solar-powered sunstorers and ‘windmill generators of electricity’. There’s a sad eloquent dignity as Zed Eight, the new Caesar of the robot republic, questions his own authenticity, only to retreat into the ‘most hidden valley on the sea bottom’ of the Mediterranean – ‘the sea of heroes and gods,’ until the world is ready for his return. The story is spiced with a questionable attraction between cousins Donaldo and Viola Falqui to add romance.

The intimidatingly prolific John Russell Fearn burns as the brightest star in this somewhat limited firmament, filled with what Walter Gillings terms his ‘boundless energy (and inborn egotism)’. He ‘wrote his first story, “The Planet Tracker”, at the age of ten and had been writing science-fiction practically ever since,’ with frequent sales to the American market since his “The Intelligence Gigantic” appeared in ‘Amazing’ June-July 1933 and Thought-Variant “The Man Who Stopped The Dust” to ‘Astounding Stories’ March 1934. Now, his humorous and exclusive “The Red Magician” is advertised in a red cover-band above the magazine title-logo. Dave Turner, reporter for ‘The London Arrow’ both competes and collaborates with Joan Wyngate of ‘The Clarion’ to unmask Solivus Vass who has seemingly arrived from Mars in a sphere, via the fourth dimension, to astound London with impossible feats – an Indian Rope Trick in Trafalgar Square ‘enough to open Nelson’s blind eye’, and extinguishing a Charing Cross blaze by pure mind-control. Is he Martian Magician or brilliant charlatan, and what of missing scientist Abel Karton whose inventions had been peremptorily rejected by the government? All is revealed within the electronic gadgetry of the Martian wizard’s Red Temple constructed in London, while Dave and Joan’s rivalry is satisfactorily resolved by marriage.

The second issue – no less than eight months later, brings more ‘inspired dreams of the future’. A schoolboy Brian Aldiss recalls seeing Drigin’s delightfully absurd cover, ‘an imaginative painting of fire engines drawn up in the centre of London, in Piccadilly, fighting off giant caterpillars with jets of plaster of Paris.’ Yet this tediously slow-paced cover-story, “Winged Terror” by ‘poet, dramatist and author’ George Reston Malloch, was also a reprint. Walter Gillings recalls how ‘the cover of the February 1931 ‘Pearson’s’ caught my eye. It showed a monstrous caterpillar knocking over a London bus and introducing a three-part serial by GR Malloch, the Scottish writer who died some years back, titled “Winged Terror”. ‘Not since Mr HG Wells wrote ‘The War Of The Worlds’ for ‘Pearson’s Magazine’ has there been so thrilling a story,’ the (Pearson’s) editor declaimed. There was an exaggeration, I decided when I’d read it’ (in “The Impatient Dreamers”). A subsequent letter-of-comment by Maurice Hugi points out that the multi-legged monster portrayed on the cover is also about four times the size the author specifies!

The story opens in an uneasy state of phony war with the European alliance of Extrania, when an unknown craft crashes in Epping Forest. Not an experimental plane, but a Genus Eupithecia, a giant moth! Air Commodore Langton and Colonel Butler discover its larvae loose at Wintram Hall. The army defeats the brood at the Battle of Chingford, but there are others. Some claim they are Loopers from the Moon, drawn by the ‘ceaseless glow’ of London, others say they were flung by ‘some convulsion in space caused by the explosion of a star beyond our knowledge’?... or perhaps they’re from an unexplored region of earth – ‘the forests of the Amazon or the barren deserts of Arabia’? The editor offers a half-guinea prize for the best solution submitted, while – as Aldiss notes, the fire-brigade spray plaster-of-Paris to block the invader’s breathing tubes and choke them. Aldiss perceptively adds that ‘in a year’s time, the brigades would be dealing with another kind of invasion from the sky’ (in ‘The Twinkling Of An Eye’, 1998, Little Brown).

Halliday Sutherland is profiled as a fifty-seven-year-old Scot who lives in London and had already tasted success with his autobiographical ‘The Arches Of The Years’ (1933). Yet his “Valley Of Doom” is appallingly poor. In the story, Mr Smith is designated H.99/Hampstead in a totalitarian eugenic Big Brother total-surveillance future London. His son, ‘undeveloped unit’ Henry reads proscribed Shakespeare Sonnets. Taken to the Lethal Institute for euthanasia H.99, in visions of the unpolluted natural world that prefigures Edward G Robinson’s poetic assisted suicide as ‘Solomon Sol Roth’ in ‘Soylent Green’ (1973), Smith swaps breathing-masks with guide Sympathiser Kind, and escapes with his family to Christian Ireland where King George XX figureheads an opposing regime.

AE Burton’s “Discovery Of Nil” is a neat little extraterrestrial tale. Scientist Varga in the city of Mat on planet Ut learns of a dead neighbouring planetary system called Chaos, unable to span the distances to travel there they instead employ the mighty Inverse Ray to draw one of its worlds – Nil, across space to the very rim of their own solar system, where the ice-covered planet becomes accessible to their space-cars. The final ‘Planet Of The Apes’ shock-reveal that the war-decimated city beneath Nil’s glaciers was called ‘LONDON’ is only blunted by our own more knowing time.

Since Captain Nemo located Atlantis on the ocean-floor, deep-sea adventure has been hardware for the SF canon. And the Bathysphere was a current innovation at the time. So, intent on discovering who, or what is responsible for snatching South Atlantic shipping off St Paul’s Rocks, Paul Hendred descends in a Subsphere invented by Sir Hugh Goring to discover the amphibious “People Of The Deep”. As an ‘endangered species’ the aquatics hope to replenish their diminishing race through experiments with human subjects. Goring and Lieutenant Rivers lead a revolt of the captured seamen, then use convenient depth charges to destroy the submarine city, presumably exterminating the aquatics, with scant regard for conservation. It’s intriguing to speculate that Hendred’s mention of the ‘Kraken’ might have tweaked another of the contributor’s imagination. Because there’s the same writer-trio at the core of the issue – Beynon (Wyndham), Fearn and Eric Frank Russell.

Russell had made his debut in ‘Astounding Stories’ (February 1937) with a Weinbaum-variant “The Saga Of Pelican West”. And his story here – “Vampire From The Void” is leagues ahead of the others, a playful well-written light-touch Horror story. Unlike many of his competitors who use American story-settings with second-hand detail lifted from hard-boiled detective fiction or noir movies, in the hope of selling to the American market, Russell’s microscopic alien energy-eating entity descends upon Liverpool. It settles on Doctor Lloyd as he hurries past the pier-head Cunard Building, until the dénouement plays out in Sefton Park. The good-natured bantering police dialogue is direct from ‘Dixon Of Dock Green’, while a monster that instantaneously obliterates its victims would not be out of place in contemporary horror-fiction. In the third issue, his near-future war-story “Mightier Yet”, envisages a massive Freedom Line fortification stretching across Europe, more massive than the Marginot Line. Yet the Nazi-like eastern forces penetrate the barrier using a telehypnosis-projector that implants defeatist pessimism in the defenders. It’s up to Captain Jim Lester to bluff his way into the enemy Professor’s laboratory complex, where he’s experimentally reanimating corpses to become an ultimate army of ‘The Marching Dead’. Fighting his way free, Lester redirects the telehypnosis to broadcast his location so the complex can be bombed into submission, lifting him free in the process.

With a similarly English preoccupation, Fearn’s “Climatica” is set in the far-off future of 1968, yet reels back to Elias Walmsley’s experiments to ‘fix’ the unpredictable future-1946 summer. The weather, he says, is not only changeable – but changeable. A little more predictably, things don’t go quite as planned! With tidal-energy-powered climate-control towers Britain lapses into tropical lethargy until – predicting the Chaos Theory Butterfly Effect, it sets off a meteorological ripple-effect around the world, with Atlantic ‘storms of frightful violence’ provoking Chinese and Russian military retaliation. Realising Climatica Company’s ‘Dream Of Utopia’ is a bid for World Power, narrator Paul Leyvan intervenes to destroy the tower, unleashing cataclysmic pent-up devastation that rivals those of Roland Emmerich’s ‘2012’ (2009) disaster movie. So chastened survivors emerge to rebuild a better world.

The third issue has impressive cover-art illuminating John Beynon’s “Derelict Of Space”, even if Drigin’s spacesuits more resemble deep-sea diving-suits. His inner art splashed across a two-page spread captures the period detail even more vividly. The second tale, JM Walsh’s “The Stick Men” is as enjoyably silly as the title suggests, with a glistening cigar-shaped ship hovering over London as its parks, squares and Tottenham Court Road Tube Station are overrun by miniature sticks armed with lethal death-rays. Fortunately, while tending his roses, enthusiastic gardener Harling notices that his weed-killer dissolves the malevolent alien twigs, enabling human fight-back. The solar-powered alien ship is disabled by blotting out the sun with a smoke-bomb cloud-layer.

Already a veteran poet and writer, born in 1874, S Fowler Wright’s weird far-future fantasy ‘The World Below’ (originally 1924) was a highly-regarded classic. He contributes the reflective “Whom The Rat Bites” to ‘Fantasy’ no.3. Dr Merson has devised a serum that rejuvenates a captive rodent, an ‘Elixir Of Youth’ that promises to defeat death itself, and he contemplates the various ethical issues and social repercussions that could result from this immortality. The murder of intrusive club-footed schoolboy Peter Corner, the subsequent disappearance of Merson and suspicious arrival of his supposed younger cousin ‘Reginald’ from distant Argentina blurs that former moral balance, but makes for a useful tale. Ralph Stranger is ‘the nom-de-plume of a forty-seven-year old scientist’, yet his “The Cold Comet” is little more than a vignette. When the shielding Kennelly-Heaviside layer is disrupted by a passing comet, colour-television images from space become briefly accessible, showing a strange world in which giant ants carry out experiments on tiny human subjects. And that’s it.

Veteran Nottinghamshire-born writer Geo C Wallis would become a regular contributor to ‘Tales Of Wonder’, but his “Invaders From The Void” – the closing story in ‘Fantasy no.3’, has the stately paced development of an HG Wells, as Mt Wilson Observatory detects a wandering world entering the solar system, slowing into a close pass with Ganymede. As it takes up Earth orbit, ‘a second moon’ casting a huge shadow, anticipating Arthur C Clarke’s 1973 ‘Rama’, it becomes apparent that it is no comet, but an artificial ‘celestial stranger’. A projectile impacts in Salisbury Plain, investigated by amateur astronomer Bryan Collingwood and inventor Henry Curzon, who see giant aliens emerge, protected by an ‘invisible barrier’. The mother-ship grazes the thick atmosphere of Venus, then heads off for Proxima Centauri, as the invulnerable invaders spread havoc and destruction across the Home Counties, until Curzon sacrifices his life to smuggle his etheric radiation device into the alien’s pyramid, disabling their protective barrier allowing an air-barrage to blast them into a ‘smoking crater of destruction’.

There’s no visible suggestion that this third issue is destined to be the last, indeed, there’s a self-congratulatory ‘The Future Of Fantasy’ editorial panel announcing a new quarterly schedule, with promises of new tales to come. None of which were to happen. Instead, with war on the horizon, as a member of the RAF reserves, Sprigg was mobilised. And with its guiding editor gone, Newnes decide to fold the magazines – making ‘Fantasy’ the first British casualty of the war. Only ‘Air Stories’ limps on for a few more issues. Sprigg subsequently specialised in works on aviation, signalled by an advert carried in ‘Fantasy no.2’ for his book ‘Civil Aviation As A Career’ – enthusing how ‘more than ever are young men to-day looking to the air for a career’. He subsequently faded from SF history… and died in 1977.

Meanwhile, the war years fulfil the worst dread and wildest hopes that SF had been predictively toying with. A mechanised global war fought in the air and beneath the ocean as well as across continents. Yet in the V2 missiles raining death upon London, Arthur C Clarke was able to envisage the future of rocketry. While ‘the Atomic Age had dawned,’ with the ghastly atrocity of Hiroshima balancing up limitless power-resources with the prospect of new wars of racial extinction. ‘Now our politicians paint horrific pictures of a world struggle, to be avoided at all costs, in which rockets will convey atom bombs halfway round the globe in a few seconds, with results that will make Hiroshima look like a minor earthquake’ (book review in the second ‘Fantasy no.1’). Those possibilities for endless tomorrows were both closing in, and opening up.

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The second periodical to use the ‘Fantasy’ name, subtitled ‘The Magazine Of Science Fiction’, was issued by Temple Bar Publishing Co, with former-‘Tales Of Wonder’ editor Walter Gillings at the helm. An activist and motivator with his fingers in multiple radioactive pies, Gillings must rate as one of the unacknowledged heroes of early UK SF. If, in a time of post-war austerity, this new ‘Fantasy’ seems in every way a more modest proposition than its predecessor, its circulation was ‘limited by the quantity of paper available for new publications.’ Instead of the thick lavish pulp format, it reduced to what we’d now term stapled A5 pocketbook size, shrunk to a slender ninety-six pagination, with colour narrowed to a different single cover-tint for each issue. Yet, with the use of a smaller typeface, and maximum use of available space, it was crammed to the seams with content, ‘not only in tune with the times but well ahead of them.’ Yet it also survived just three issues, with Eric Frank Russell and John Russell Fearn carried over from the previous incarnation. But there were new names who would make their mark across the coming decades, including twenty-nine-year-old Arthur C Clark who contributes under his own name, plus once as EG O’Brien and once as Charles Willis.

Science Fiction historians Philip Harbottle and Stephen Holland provide the project’s background story in their invaluable study ‘Vultures Of The Void’ (Borgo Press, 1992). They relate how Walter Gillings’ brief spell of army-service at Catterick Camp ended when he was invalided out, suffering from psychoneurosis. Once back on ‘civvy street’ he was promptly contacted by Benson Herbert MSc – who’d contributed garish fiction to ‘Tales Of Wonder’. He had the brainwave of setting up a joint project combining Gillings’ editorial experience with Herbert’s publishing background. First, they launch Utopian Publications together in September 1944, producing Western and Crime titles, plus a new SF booklet line, as well as dubiously un-utopian saucy ‘art’ Pin-up studies. After helming two reprint issues of a fantasy magazine called ‘Strange Tales’ (February and March 1946), Gillings quit Utopian Publ. But ever since war-time paper restrictions had forced ‘Tales Of Wonder’ into closure, he’d been gathering material in preparation for either re-launching his pre-war magazine, or editing a replacement. So, as early as 1944 he approached Temple Bar Publishing in the hope of getting them on board, although it was to be 1946, ‘after three years of waiting for its patient sponsors to give me the countdown’ – with a fledgling ‘New Worlds’ already making waves, that those plans finally came together, and the new ‘Fantasy’ made its debut.

With vaunting expectations he’d trailered his plans through a feature in ‘The Writer’ (February 1945) – ‘Science Fiction Wants YOU!’, a kind of manifesto of intentions targeted at potential contributors, offering more flexible fiction options than before. He felt that much of the pioneering work had been done. Science Fiction concepts were more assimilated. But he wanted to retain the human ‘down to earth’ element above vast cosmic machinations.

Yet Fearn’s shallow opening novelette is less than promising. In a 1980s London class-divided between Workers and Intellectuals, Lalia Hart is torn between wrong-side-of-the-tracks twins Melvin and Levison Read. Harking back to his earlier “Climatica” story, ruthless Melvin invents and seizes dictatorial power with his storm-generating Elements Controller, while good-guy Levison quotes astrophysicist James Jeans ‘Mysterious Universe’ as the theoretical source of his Thought Amplifier to save the world, and win the plucky Lalia. The prose is pedestrian and seldom rises above adequate. Fearn’s star shone as briefly as it was hyper-luminous, he died 18 September 1960 leaving much unfulfilled potential.

And LV Heald’s “The Pain Machine” electronically stimulates pain into pleasure, but fails when an excess of pleasure becomes just as intolerable, ignoring its masochistic potential! PE Cleator’s “Supernova” is a squib about three scientists drinking themselves ‘alcoholically saturated and completely oblivious’ because one of them – Garwood, has detected signs of the Sun’s imminent nova, only to discover he’d picked up an explosion at a Tennessee uranium extraction plant instead. His “The Barrier” in no.2 is better, a tale within a tale within a tale. Explorers hundreds of miles from civilisation encounter the dying Sanders, survivor of an attempted moon-shot. He tells how they were launched in Dr Steadfast’s spaceship ‘to step boldly into space’, but find the orbiting wreck of an earlier German moon-shot, with a wire-recording telling how Dr Klein’s ship was intercepted by an alien craft before reaching the Moon. The alien then tells the ancient history of how dying Mars was evacuated to Venus, although delinquent religious rebels were dumped on asylum Earth, hence Earth is still forcibly quarantined! Telescoping back to the story-opening, with Sanders dead the explorers are dubious, until they discover a Venusian atomic disintegrator pistol on his body.

The art, oddly, is not credited. Deliberately, ‘it was the policy of the publishers not to give artists credit lines.’ Although that omission has since been rectified, there was Powell, alias Fredric, who Gillings had run across in the Army. There was Smythe and there was Gaffron too.

Meanwhile, “A Matter Of Size” takes the reader into familiar ‘Land Of The Giants’-‘Incredible Shrinking Man’ terrain, although significantly Norman Lazenby’s curious tale actually predates them both. Two scientific antagonists feud and betray each other in the wilds of 2010 Northumberland. Ralph Craster seeks escape from the legal consequences of his human experiments. Adrian Calvin, while appearing to offer help, uses the fugitive in his own miniaturisation experiments. Reduced to a mere one-foot tall – 30.48cm, Craster schemes revenge. With murder and intrigue, there’s an ‘Alice In Wonderland’ quirk as his remedy exceeds expectations, and he becomes nine-foot tall! It’s entertainingly silly, and quite ignores any psychological aspects of their predicament.

A prolific writer of Westerns and Detective fiction who masqueraded as ‘Bengo Mistral’ for Gannet Press, there are two Lazenby offerings in issue two, the first – “Haunted House” as by ‘J Austin Jackson’, is a snippet, an ultra-modern house – ‘the other day I read that a man had invented a toothbrush that works by electricity’, and an experimental robot dishwasher ‘a criss-cross arrangement of arms and rods. Four saucer-shaped buffers of soft cloth lay at the ends of four arms… you couldn’t buy one, they’re not in production yet!’ All of which sets up ‘eddy currents’ causing ‘the phenomena of ceilings that change colour, clocks that speed up, writing on table tops, and moans that echo through the house.’ But “Survival” is a hugely enjoyable comicstrip adventure romp. John Sherard and eccentric scientist Justin Tancred use a revolving time-cylinder to reach the Jurassic, avoiding dinosaurs, only to find two moons in the sky and swarms of intelligent telepathic beetle-things who kidnap them in sticky nets and carry them off. They escape and return to his New Forest laboratory where Sherard is united with the lovely Erica, but Tancred – with six months to live and ‘all time to play with’, sets off back through to time to discover the why and wherefore of the second moon, and the beetle’s fate.

Far better is “The Worlds Of If” – a story that gifts its title to the 1952 Paul Fairman edited ‘Worlds Of If’ magazine, written by legendary Stanley G Weinbaum of ‘Martian Odyssey’ fame. It’s a humorous tale featuring his hugely egotistical Haskel van Manderpootz character, who explains the impossibility of travel into past or future-time, but has devised a Subjunctivisor through which the possible outcomes of past events can be seen. A kind of parallel worlds or alternate history visualisor. The narrator, Dixon Wells, is prone to lateness, and wants to know what would have happened if he hadn’t missed the Soviet trans-oceanic air liner ‘Baikal’ catapulted into collision on its flight to Moscow. Within the simulation he meets and falls in love with artist Joanna Caldwell. With a laugh-out-loud punchline his tendency to lateness persists, discovering she survived the crash, only to marry her heroic rescuer!

Twenty-nine-year-old Arthur C Clarke is one of what Gillings calls the ‘experts in this kind of fiction even if their names may not be too familiar’, and his “Technical Error” also comes to a decidedly downbeat close. Caught up in a massive superconductivity-generator power-surge, technician Richard Nelson, like School master Gottfried Plattner in HG Wells “The Plattner Story” (in ‘New Review’, April 1896) finds his internal organs have somehow become transposed. More than that, his molecular structure has been switched so his dietary needs are inadequate. There’s lots of technical dialogue and fifth-dimension theories, but, replicating the conditions of the original ‘error’ in an effort to reverse the effect, results in his being time-shifted too, directly into the heart of the fifty-million horse-power thousand-ton rotor, blowing the entire plant to ‘a vast column of debris’. This story earns Clarke top place in the follow-up ‘Reader’s Analysis’ column, above Weinbaum and Fearn. So there will be more.

In no.2 Clarke appears as Charles Willis with “Castaway”, a tenuous life-form living within the solar photosphere is storm-ejected into space, to lie dormant for eons on the Atlantic bed, until skiatron emissions from a stratoliner both detect, and destroy it. As a thought-variant, a sentience evolving within the Sun makes for a good ignition point, and – although a brief four pages long, the prose flows with a professional edge that others in the magazine conspicuously lack.

Appearing under a third guise – as EG O’Brien in no.3, “The Fires Within” is another off-the-wall stunner, going not into outer, but inner space, conceptually beyond where Jules Verne’s ‘Journey To The Centre Of The Earth’ (1864) had ventured. Professor Hancock pushes Dr Clayton’s project beyond its original intention of sending high-powered supersonic pulses down into the Earth to locate exploitable ore deposits, by penetrating fifteen-miles down towards the core where his cathode ray tube picks up images of an immense subterranean city-complex. ‘Only once before in my life had I received such an intellectual shock – fifteen years ago, when I had accidentally turned on the radio and heard of the fall of the first atomic bomb.’ However, the city of Callastheon built by ‘creatures who could make their way through the incandescent rock as a fish swims through water,’ also pick up Hancock’s pulses. With catastrophic results. Opening up a vent to what they term our ‘Shadow World’ their emergence unintentionally destroys the surface utterly. Leaving the creatures musing that, like the layers of an onion, the Earth may have even hotter denser domains existing beneath them, and ‘it may be our turn next’.

Unlike T Stanhope Sprigg, Water Gillings was happy to expound his opinions at length in the ‘Matters Of Fact’ editorial, angrily demanding to know why the visionary imagination of science fiction is considered ‘as only fit for children’. Posterity has yet to decide where this places O’Brien’s “The Fires Within” – later edited into ‘Eagle’ (vol.1 no.17, 4 August 1950), or John Russell Fearn’s “Climatica” which first appeared as “The Weather Machine” in the lavish juvenile ‘Modern Wonder’ (vol.3 no.77, 5 November 1938).

The ‘lean, lanky Liverpolital’ EF Russell wrote “Relic” – the opening novelette in issue two, while still in the RAF, writing this ‘perfect piece of penmanship’ in ‘beautiful longhand’ while ‘cooped up in camp overseas.’ Without straying too far from his regional base, Russell hops the Birkenhead ferry to the Isle Of Man where an enigmatic alien projectile has soft-landed on Douglas Head. Slow-paced and thoughtful with touches of gentle humour, two protagonists examine, theorise and explore this ‘Marie Celeste’ from space. The detail is meticulous, and whereas the dense wiring circuitry of the ship reflects less a cosmic and more a definite 1940s mindset, their cheerful dismantling of the technology shows scant regard for methodical procedures, taking no photographic or sketched records to provide a basis for future analysis. When they reactivate ‘George’ – a robot automatic pilot, it promptly runs amok through Douglas Town before submerging into the sea. Its subsequent submarine travels, taking it as far as Eastern Island, plus notched-tape records within the now-exploded ship prove it to be not alien, but a probe from lost Lemuria and a time before the disintegration of the planet that now forms the asteroid belt.

While the first sale by ER James, the frantic all-action “Prefabrication”, shows more enthusiasm than style for this writer who would appear regularly throughout the 1950s genre magazines. The multi-ray pace is never allowed to lapse as Dr Wesley Royce follows up a call to the green-domed laboratory where Professor Kavenagh constructs Replicant humans Alpha, Beta, Gamma and female Delta contrary to the World Council Police and the International Prefabrication Control. That the speed-growth and early termination of James’ Entities is a try-out for Philip K Dick’s ‘Blade Runner’ (1982) is a conceptual leap too far, but the comparison is striking. A sequel planned for no.4, “Advent Of The Entities” survived and was held over by Walter Gillings when he launched ‘Science Fantasy no.1’ in Summer 1950.

For ‘Fantasy no.3’ there’s a tale by FG Rayer – cousin of ER (Ernest Rayer) James, both of whom would go on to become prolific contributors to UK SF magazines across the coming decade, encouraging, collaborating and sometimes competing with each other. In his “Basic Fundamental” two antagonistic colleagues – the leonine ‘Cosmic Nocture’ Czech composer Leonovitch and his aide Kreman, work within classical music. There’s enough technical detail to prove Rayer fluent in its terminology, ‘the listener is charmed into a world of fantastic unreality. (Music) accomplishes by vibrations what opium accomplished as a drug.’ The text itself carries music references, the car motor ‘hummed a gentle melody’ to the ‘rhythm of the driving lights.’ But by the use of their Ultraudion ‘now man had found a way of playing directly upon the listener’s emotions, as if the human frame was a harp on which a musician with the rare gifts of Leonovitch could draw melodies of pain, passion and ecstasy as he wished.’ There was talk during the 1970s of certain sound-oscillations setting up physical reactions, and sonic frequencies on the nervous system. The effect of Rayer’s Ultraudion looks forward to these ‘perilous delight’ of theramin and moog synthesiser, ‘fraught with deadly possibilities’.

Stanton Arthur Coblentz, born in San Francisco 24 August 1896 – ‘one of his earliest recollections is of the earthquake of 1906’, was a poet and fantasist from the earliest days of ‘Amazing Stories’, whose fiction had already been reprinted by Gillings in ‘Tales Of Wonder’. But “Time Trap”, the lead novelette in no.3 is an original, mixing gentle humour with mild satire. When a Long Island City time-snatch experiment inadvertently pulls Amanerlink from 2205AD, two reporters, idealistic Stephen McCook and dour downbeat Lee Castleton follow the story. Drawn from his Age of Clarity through the time-dimension into what he calls this Fiery Age, it’s less than clear if this Master Mind is the benevolent teacher he claims to be. Or will industrialists steal his future-technology for their own nefarious purposes? Amanerlink conforms to standard evolutionary expectations, hairless, exaggerated cranium, a little patronisingly arrogant, yet he ‘took his impossible task of reforming our world very seriously,’ purposefully manipulating modifications to alter the time-line for the better. Before escaping back to his own world.

There are still surprises in that third – and final issue. Including the first of a ‘Famous Fantasies’ series of condensed novels, although again, it’s destined to be the series’ only contribution! It begins with “Menace From The Moon” by Bohun Lynch. The 1925 oddity postulates an appeal from the beleaguered descendants of a 1654 lunar landing using a Moon-engine devised by Dutch genius Cornelius Drebbel. When the Moonfolk’s messages, projected onto clouds, remain unanswered, they determine to wreak a terrible vengeance using heat-beams. With the world brought to the edge of destruction, it seems that a Moon-Earth time-lag has intervened, and the Moonfolk have already been wiped out when their overloaded weapons explode in ‘a sudden bright flash in the neighbourhood of Tycho’.

Elsewhere there’s “The Lost Key”, in which an orbital document-archive softlands in the endless forests of 8120AD Earth, discovered by Dik of the Frad tribe, who is promptly devoured by wolves. No-one on Earth has been able to read for a thousand years anyway. The ‘Charles Alban Crouch’ responsible was an alias used by Norman C Pallant, whose “The Three Suns”, a few pages later, is soft-humour at the expense of Dr Arnold Joyce. He accidentally trips over a misplaced stool and falls into the massive voltage of his reanimation technology, casting him naked into an alternate-vibration plane alongside the spaniel he’s successfully brought back to life. On the endless desert beneath three fixed suns there is fruit that refuses to be eaten and shrubs that move to surround him. After various misadventures he’s pitched back naked into the street outside to be tittered at by passers-by. The dog fares marginally better.

Similarly for this second ‘Fantasy’ incarnation itself. Begun optimistically ‘against the day when the lifting of (the quota-based Paper Control Order) would permit us to launch the magazine on a monthly schedule,’ that eventuality proved ‘more distant than we imagined.’ By the time the magazine was ‘strangled at birth by prevailing conditions’ as an ‘uneconomic proposition for all concerned’ Gillings had stockpiled more than thirty stories, including several novelettes, which might have gone to make another half-dozen issues. Some were salvaged for the launch of Nova’s ‘Science Fantasy’, a couple of Fearn’s survived into ‘Vision Of Tomorrow’, others were ‘fated to remain unpublished.’

As Michael Ashley astutely observes ‘although each had been a sell-out it was discontinued because paper restrictions forced its publishers to concentrate on more lucrative publications.’ Gillings himself notes that ‘an unusually high value is now placed on copies of ‘Fantasy’ by collectors, and they seldom change hands… because they were so limited to begin with (the six-thousand buyers which paper restrictions dictated).’ Deservedly, Ashley dedicates the third volume of his definitive ‘The History Of The Science Fiction Magazine Part Three 1946-1955’, New English Library, 1976) to Walter Gillings ‘for his services to British science fiction’, and Gillings continued to be a driving force in SF. He was one of the directors of the ‘New Worlds’ co-operative, for which his wife – Madge, even came up with the ‘Nova Publications’ name.

Two magazines, both called ‘Fantasy’, both of three issues apiece. Straddling the war years. Both bulging to the radioactive seams with more off-trails weirdness than you can shake an anti-grav stick on. Largely forgotten tales by neglected writers. Yet of all this wealth of antique invention it’s only the Beynon stories – through the later John Wyndham celebrity, that continue to maintain much visibility, beyond the realm of SF-academics, cranks and enthusiasts, such as me.


FANTASY: THRILLING SCIENCE FICTION no.1 (July 1938), 132pp, priced 1/- (one shilling), ‘A Magazine Of Thrilling Science-Fiction’, Published by George Newnes, edited by T Stanhope Sprigg, cover-art by SR Drigin. Inner art by Serge R Drigin, G Blow, RH Evens and R Knott
Long Complete Stories Of Adventure:
Menace Of The Metal Men’ by A Prestigiacomo, ‘Amazing Scientific Romance’, Men like Machines and Machines like Men in Bitter Conflict. Is This the Future of Mankind?’
Beyond The Screen’ by John Beynon (John Wyndham), ‘One Civilisation’s Most Terrible Weapon served both to hasten its own Destruction and to promote the building of a New Order among the Forlorn Survivors of a Far-Distant Age’
The Red Magician’ by John Russell Fearn, ‘Solivus Vass might attribute his Amazing Powers to the Mental Science of the Martians, but to Those who witnessed his Miracles the Man from Mars was a Being Enshrined’
Thrilling Short Stories:
Leashed Lightning’ by JE Gurdon, ‘Ten Miles above the Earth, three Men faced Appalling Disaster – or the Greatest Discovery In the History of Electrical Science’
Shadow-Man’ by Eric Frank Russell, ‘‘Knuckles’ Spilla was not the First Crook to find Himself betrayed by Something he had left behind’
Son Of Space’ by Francis H Sibson, ‘Watched by all the World, a Lonely Son struggled in Space to Escape the Grave which had opened in the Black Infinitudes above Him’
Science Feature Article:
By Rocket-Ship To The Planets’ by PE Cleator, ‘The Last Barrier between Man and his Age-Old Dream of Interplanetary Travel may already be within Sight of Removal’
Special ‘Fantasy’ Features: Fantasy: Editorial, ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ magazine-snippets including the ‘Accelerator drug’ marihuana, evidence of Papuan Men with tails, and Hungarian invisibility experiments, Contributors to ‘Fantasy’

FANTASY: THRILLING SCIENCE FICTION no.2 (Spring, March 1939), 132pp, priced 1/- (one shilling), ‘Enthralling Scientific Adventure’, cover-art by SR Drigin, inner art by SR Drigin, G Blow and HE Turner.
Long Complete Stories Of Adventure:
Winged Terror’ by GR Malloch, ‘Out of the Sky Came a Monstrous Brood to Threaten the Human Race and Strike Terror into the Heart of England’. The story had originally appeared, as ‘Moth’ in ‘Pearsons’ (February 1931), and ‘Weird Tales’ (June-July 1931)
The Trojan Beam’ by John Beynon (John Wyndham), ‘A Story of Conflict in the East waged with Weapons which Scientists To-Day are still Grimly Seeking’
Climatica’ by John Russell Fearn, ‘Into the Hands of Three Men came a Secret of Nature and with it the Power to Change the Very face of the World’
Thrilling Short Stories:
Valley Of Doom’ by Halliday Sutherland, ‘Invasion Threatened the Ordered Existence of the Perfect Eugenic State – but the State had the Perfect Eugenic Defence’
Vampires From The Void’ by Eric Frank Russell, ‘A Spurt of Crimson that Came and Went with Eye-baffling speed – and the Liverpool Horror had Struck Again’
People Of The Deep’ by Paul Hendred, ‘One after Another Ships Vanished without Trace – Victims of a Strange Peril that Lurked in the Black Depths of the Atlantic’
The Discovery Of Nil’ by AE Burton, ‘A Desolate World Circled in Space, awaiting the Explorers from a Solar System beyond the Farthest Stars’
Science Feature Article:
Terminal In Space’ by Willy Ley, ‘An Artificial Satellite outside Earth’s Atmosphere would serve as a Port for Space-Ships and a Laboratory for Science’
Special Fantasy Features:
‘Critical Commentary’ with letters from Alan J Hunter, Eric C Williams, Eric Frank Russell, and John Russell Fearn, ‘Stranger Than Fiction’, ‘Contributors To Fantasy’

FANTASY: THRILLING SCIENCE FICTION no.3 (Summer, June 1939) 132pp, priced 1/- (one shilling), ‘And Other Thrilling Scientific Adventures’, cover by SR Drigin, inner art by Drigin, G Blow and Harry Turner.
Long Complete Stories Of Adventure:
Derelict Of Space’ by John Beynon (John Wyndham), ‘The Crew of the Rocket-Tug ‘Dido’ found the Grim Solution to an Interplanetary Mystery, only Themselves to Become a Legend of the Spaceways’
Child Of Power’ by Wyndham Parkes (John Wyndham), ‘Ted Filler seemed an Ordinary Child yet His was the Gift of Ages and the Promise of Contact with Life beyond the Earth’
The Man Outside’ by JE Gurdon, ‘A Trick upon Time and Space was turned upon its Perpetrators when the Terrible Genius of Lionel Dodd at last Bore Fruit’
Invaders From The Void’ by Geo C Wallis, ‘Merciless Beings from a Nomad World, they came with Powers from Space to Enslave the Peoples of Earth’
Thrilling Short Stories:
The Stick Men’ by JM Walsh, ‘The Strangest Fate that ever Threatened Humanity was the Alien Menace of the Little Stick Men’
Whom The Rat Bites’ by S Fowler Wright, ‘Here was a New Vitality – a Way in which Death Itself Might be Defeated’
The Cold Comet’ by Ralph Stranger, ‘From a Darkened Sky came the Glimpse of a Civilisation Greater than any Known upon Earth’
Mightier Yet’ by Eric Frank Russell, ‘Impregnable by Sword, yet Vulnerable to a Weapon Mightier than any Forged by the Hand of Man, stood the Freedom Line’
Science Feature Article:
Impossibilities’ by Willy Ley, ‘Science Marches on, but there Remain Problems Forever Incapable of Solution, Impossibilities Now and for All Time to Come’
Special Fantasy Features:
‘Critical Commentary’ with letters from Maurice G Hugi of Folkestone, HE Turner from Manchester, ‘Stranger Than Fiction’, ‘The Future Of Fantasy’ plus ‘Winged Terror’ results of reader competition

FANTASY: THRILLING SCIENCE FICTION no.4 (announced for 27 October, unpublished) ‘Bound For Ardos’ by JM Walsh, ‘A Stirring Story of Scientific Mystery and Adventure featuring the Author’s Famous Fictional Creation ‘The Interplanetary Guard’, specially written for ‘Fantasy’
The Marsupial People’ by WJ (William John) Passingham, born in 1897, a writer already familiar from ‘The Passing Show’ and serials in the juvenile ‘Modern Wonder’
The Man Without A Soul’ by Quentin Reynolds. Is this the same man who wrote ‘The Fiction Factory: Or From Pulp Row To Quality Street: The Street Of 100 Years Of Publishing At Street And Smith’ (1955)? T Stanhope Sprigg also initially accepted the Eric Frank Russell and Leslie J Johnson time-travel collaboration ‘Seekers Of Tomorrow’, but when Newnes delayed the launch of ‘Fantasy’ it was resubmitted and published in ‘Astounding Stories’ (July 1937)


FANTASY: THE MAGAZINE OF SCIENCE FICTION no.1 (December 1946) Blue cover, 96pp, price 1/- (one shilling), Temple Bar Pub co, editor Walter Gillings. Editorial ‘Matter Of Fact’ and ‘The Moon Men’ essay by Walter Gillings detailing the 1835 New York ‘Sun’ hoax, and ‘Lost Planet’ essay as by Geoffrey Giles exploring the theory that the asteroid belt is the remnants of ‘a world that blew itself up’, and ‘Going Down’ essay as by Thomas Sheridan, about the Earth’s core. ‘This Atomic Age’ science news. With:
Last Conflict’ by John Russell Fearn (art by Smythe), ‘To men of ruthless ambition, Science can be a very powerful ally. But too much power is dangerous for those who can’t control it…’
Supernova’ by PE Cleator (art by Gaffron), a writer who specialised more on science-based features, ‘All the evidence pointed to a sudden, catastrophic end for Man and his planet. But only one man knew, and denied the world the knowledge. Fortunately…’
The Worlds Of If’ by Stanley G Weinbaum (art by Powell), a Professor Manderpootz story reprint from ‘Wonder Stories’ (August 1935) ‘for the first time in this country’
Technical Error’ by Arthur C Clarke (art by Powell, who will do cover-art for ‘Science Fantasy no.1’) ‘the Chief physicist had a problem… how to keep a starving man alive when it would cost two million a year to feed him!’
The Pain Machine’ by Leslie V Heald (art by Gaffron), ‘turning pain into pleasure seemed a good idea – and the machine did just that. But sometimes machines can work too well’, a writer who appeared in ‘Tales Of Wonder’ as Charnock Walsby, and in the only issue of ‘Outlands’ (Winter 1946) twice under each name
A Matter Of Size’ by Norman Lazenby (art by Gaffron), debut fiction sale, ‘Bigness isn’t everything… and a man deprived of his sense of proportion is apt to overlook the compensation of smallness – even when he wants to hide’
Book review of ‘Dawn Of The Space Age’ by Harry Harper – ‘within a few years the US experimenters hope to send a rocket to the Moon which will send back ultra-short wave signals indicating temperature conditions on that little world’

FANTASY: THE MAGAZINE OF SCIENCE FICTION no.2 (April 1947) Green cover, 96pp, price 1/- (one shilling), Temple Bar Pub co, editor Walter Gillings. Editorial ‘Matter Of Fact’ and ‘Spaceship Ahoy!’ essay by Walter Gillings (‘Rocket-vessels voyaging to the Moon and the planets… A possibility of tomorrow – or just a dream? Here are some of the facts behind the fantasy’) and ‘Skylight’ essay as by Thomas Sheridan (‘Lights in the sky… the effect of solar radiations on atmospheric gases, which can be duplicated in the laboratory. And on a bigger scale, perhaps?’). With:
Relic’ by Eric Frank Russell (art by Powell), a variant of ‘The Cosmic Relic’ by the writer who was in all three issues of the earlier ‘Fantasy’. Voted most popular story in the issue
Survival’ by Norman Lazenby (art by Smythe), ‘In a sighing, metal cylinder whey whirred back through time to an era when life was monstrous and unreasoning. Though not entirely without exception…’
Haunted House’ by Norman Lazenby as by ‘J Austin Jackson’ (art by Smythe)
Prefabrication’ by ER James (art by Gaffron), debut fiction sale by subsequent UK SF regular author ‘The Barrier’ by PE Cleator (art by Powell), ‘They tried to reach the Moon in a space-ship… and found that the biggest obstacle in man’s path to the planets was of his own making’
Castaway’ by Arthur C Clarke as by Charles Willis, ‘A form of life that was the product of constant atomic disintegration would be outside the range of human vision. But we have instruments more sensitive than the eye’
‘This Atomic Age’ science snippets. Letters from Peter Hawkins (who will contribute a series of tales to ‘New Worlds’ from ‘Life Cycle’ in no.9). Ad for ‘The British Interplanetary Society’, and ‘Outlands’ Publications

FANTASY: THE MAGAZINE OF SCIENCE FICTION no.3 (August 1947) Mauve cover, 96pp, price 1/- (one shilling), Temple Bar Pub co, editor Walter Gillings. Editorial ‘Matter Of Fact’ and ‘Are You There, Mars?’ essay by Walter Gillings about signalling other planets. With:
Time Trap’ by Stanton A Coblentz (art by Powell)
The Lost Key’ by Charles Alban Crouch pseudonym of Norman C Pallant (art by Smythe)
The Three Suns’ by Norman C Pallant (art by Powell), ‘A world beyond this continuum would have its own peculiar set of laws… including those for Life’, first of four fiction sales, two through Gerald Swan, and one – ‘Martian Mandate’ in ‘Science Fantasy no.2’. Writing for Women’s magazines proved more lucrative!
Menace From The Moon’ by Bohun Lynch, credited as an ‘excerpt’ from the 1925 novel (Jarrolds) ‘The Fires Within’ by Arthur C Clarke as by EG O’Brien (art by Gaffron), an edited version published in ‘Eagle’
Basic Fundamental’ by Francis G Rayer (art by Powell), ‘The latest craze of a too-safe age – supersonic music! Thrilling, exhilarating, rapturous… and dangerous’, debut fiction sale under his own name, with one earlier story – ‘Realm Of The Alien’ as by Chester Delray in Grafton’s ‘Blue Star Adventure no.2’
‘This Atomic Age’ science snippets, Book reviews of John Russell Fearn ‘Liners Of Time’ and Harry Harper ‘Winged World’, letters from Nigel Lindsay, J White (Belfast), A Vincent Clarke ad for British Interplanetary Society

FANTASY: THE MAGAZINE OF SCIENCE FICTION no.4 (announced, but unpublished) to include
The Ideal’ by Stanley G Weinbaum, a reprint of the first Professor van Manderpootz story from ‘Wonder Stories’ September 1935, the ambitious ‘New Dawn’ by LV Heald, which remains unseen, although Leslie V Heald later sold to John Spencer magazines ‘Futuristic Science Stories no.6’ (‘Out Of The Past’) and ‘Wonders Of The Spaceways no.2’ (‘The Monument’) in 1951 and 1952,
E R James ‘Advent Of The Entities’ sequel to ‘Fabrication’ which appeared in ‘Science Fantasy no.1’ and ‘Black-Out’ by John Russell Fearn which eventually appeared in ‘Science Fantasy no.2’ (1950). Gillings writes that he’d retained John Russell Fearn’s ‘Rule Of The Brains’ which eventually appeared in ‘Vision Of Tomorrow no.11’, while ‘the last story I accepted for ‘Fantasy’, just before it expired, was ‘Monster’ by Christopher Youd (John Christopher) which saw print three tears later in ‘Science Fantasy’’

with thanks to ER James and to 
 ‘Vultures Of The Void’ (Borgo Press, 1992) 
by Philip Harbottle and Stephen Holland 
 and to Walter Gillings 
‘The Impatient Dreamers’ serialized across 
all twelve issues of ‘Vision Of Tomorrow’ 
(August 1969-September 1970)