My life in outer space

New Writings in SF 1 – John Carnell (Ed) (1964)

New Writings in SF-1

‘New Writings in SF’ was an experiment of sorts, in that the hardback/paperback would take over the role of SF magazines, publishing original short SF on a quarterly basis, but in book format. The aim of the series, as stated by original Editor John Carnell, was to be “a new departure in the science fiction field,”. The first volume was hardly that, featuring, with perhaps one exception, a fairly dated selection. Nevertheless, the series was fairly popular and kick-started a limited trend for anthology series of new work. This series ran until 1977 under three editors with an intermittent publishing schedule.

Contents

Key to Chaos – Edward Mackin
Two’s Company – John Rankine
Man on Bridge – Brian Aldiss
Haggard Honeymoon – Joseph Green & James Webbert
The Sea’s Furthest End – Damien Broderick

Key to Chaos – Edward Mackin

A low-key comic piece featuring a wise-cracking opportunist and a cowardly con-man who, in an attempt to fleece a wealthy businessman, unwittingly create a device which mass-produces portable rejuvenation machines. It reads rather more like an unstructured and rambling first draft than a polished final piece and in style is very traditional.

Two’s Company – John Rankine

A variation on the theme of Tom Godwin’s ‘The Cold Equations’ in that two scientists on a planet which is in the process of being terraformed find themselves stranded and have to use the male’s ingenuity and the female’s mathematical prowess in order to return to their base before their oxygen runs out. The romantic element comes over as stilted and unrealistic, leaving the story itself with little of interest other than the terraforming details.

Man on Bridge – Brian Aldiss

This tale, in comparison to its fellows in this collection, stands out like a sharp and polished gem. In a future totalitarian world, Cerebrals (ie, intellectuals or naturally intelligent humans) are segregated in concentration camps but allowed to engage in scientific research. It is a testament of Aldiss’ skill as a writer that this rather improbable scenario is made chillingly plausible. One of their experiments features Adam (a name chosen possibly for both its biblical connotations and its connection with Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’, a book which Aldiss was later to explore in more depth.)
Adam has had half his brain removed and has become the ultimate Cerebral, the future of Humanity, an intellect driven only by logic and devoid of emotion.

Haggard Honeymoon – Joseph Green & James Webbert

At the lowest end of the quality spectrum in this anthology we have this story of a Uranium mine on Canopus 37.
Miners sent to work here began having nightmares and became psychotic unless it was discovered that not only are women immune to this malady, but newly-wed men are far less susceptible. Subsequently only young newly married couples are sent to Canopus 37 for six month stints. It obviously begs the question why they didn’t employ only female miners. As it turns out, the devolved race of aliens living on the planet are beaming visions of their racial memory into the miner’s heads. The solution: Kill the aliens responsible for the broadcasting. Happy ending, apparently.
A story with no redeeming features whatsoever.

The Sea’s Furthest End – Damien Broderick

A competent but otherwise unremarkable Shaggy God Story (as Brian Aldiss might put it). The heir to the throne of a Feudal Galactic Empire challenges his father’s claim in order to usher in Galactic Federation & Democracy, although it’s not quite as simple as that and things are not what they might at first appear. An immortal figure is at work behind the scenes.
It’s too short a piece to do justice to the basic premise and Broderick does not explore (as many writers do not) the mechanics of running a Galactic Empire.
Of the six writers in this book, Aldiss and Broderick are the only ones whose names might be recognised by today’s readers, although John Rankine did go on to produce many novels.
As the first book of a series which ran to some twenty-odd volumes it’s a weak start, and apart from the Aldiss piece, of dubious quality.

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