New Worlds (magazine)

New Worlds
First issue cover, 1946
CategoriesScience fiction magazine
First issue1936; 83 years ago (1936)
CountryUnited Kingdom

New Worlds was a British science fiction magazine that began in 1936 as a fanzine called Novae Terrae. John Carnell, who became Novae Terrae's editor in 1939, renamed it New Worlds that year. He was instrumental in turning it into a professional publication in 1946 and was the first editor of the new incarnation. It became the leading UK science fiction magazine; the period to 1960 has been described by science fiction historian Mike Ashley as the magazine's "Golden Age".[1]

Carnell joined the British Army in 1940 following the outbreak of the Second World War, and returned to civilian life in 1946. He negotiated a publishing agreement for the magazine with Pendulum Publications, but only three issues of New Worlds were subsequently produced before Pendulum's bankruptcy in late 1947. A group of science fiction fans formed a company called Nova Publications to revive the magazine; the first issue under their management appeared in mid-1949. New Worlds continued to appear on a regular basis until issue 20, published in early 1953, following which a change of printers led to a hiatus in publication. In early 1954, when Maclaren & Sons acquired control of Nova Publications, the magazine returned to a stable monthly schedule.

New Worlds was acquired by Roberts & Vinter in 1964, when Michael Moorcock became editor. By the end of 1966 financial problems with their distributor led Roberts & Vinter to abandon New Worlds, but with the aid of an Arts Council grant obtained by Brian Aldiss, Moorcock was able to publish the magazine independently. He featured a good deal of experimental and avant-garde material, and New Worlds became the focus of the "New Wave" of science fiction. Reaction among the science fiction community was mixed, with partisans and opponents of the New Wave debating the merits of New Worlds in the columns of fanzines such as Zenith-Speculation. Several of the regular contributors during this period, including Brian Aldiss, J. G. Ballard, Thomas M. Disch and Moorcock himself became major names in the field. By 1970 Moorcock was too deeply in debt to be able to continue with the magazine, and it became a paperback quarterly after issue 201. The title has been revived multiple times, with Moorcock's direct involvement or approval; by 2012, 21 additional issues had appeared in various formats, including several anthologies.

Publishing history

Early years

In 1926, Hugo Gernsback launched Amazing Stories, the first science fiction (sf) magazine.[2] It was soon followed by other US titles also specialising in sf, such as Astounding Stories and Wonder Stories.[3] These were distributed in the UK, and British fan organisations began to appear. In 1936, Maurice K. Hanson, a science fiction fan living in Nuneaton, founded a fanzine called Novae Terrae (Latin for "new lands" or "new worlds") for the local branch of the Science Fiction League. Hanson moved to London and his fanzine became the official publication of the Science Fiction Association, founded in 1937.[4]

Arthur C. Clarke, John Carnell and William F. Temple became involved in Novae Terrae's production. In 1939 Hanson gave up the editorship to Carnell, who retitled the fanzine New Worlds and restarted the numbering at volume 1 number 1; the first issue under Carnell's control was dated March 1939. Carnell wanted to turn New Worlds into a professional magazine, and through W.J. Passingham, a writer, had begun discussions with a publisher named The Worlds Says Ltd.[4] In January 1940 Carnell was asked to put together three issues,[4] and Carnell and Passingham each put up £50 towards costs.[5] Carnell solicited material from British authors including John F. Burke, C.S. Youd, and David McIlwain, and acquired Robert A. Heinlein's "Lost Legion", but in March internal strife led to the collapse of The World Says.[4] Alfred Greig, the director, returned to his native Canada without repaying Carnell and Passingham, and no issues were ever printed.[5]

Spring Summer Autumn Winter
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1946 1/1 1/2
1947 1/3
1949 2/4 2/5
1950 2/6 3/7 3/8
1951 3/9 3/10 4/11 12
1952 13 14 15 16 17 18
1953 19 20 21
1954 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
1955 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
1956 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54
Issues of New Worlds from the beginning to 1956, showing volume/issue
number. John Carnell was editor throughout this period. Four of the first five
issues were dated only with the year; the exception was issue 3, which
bore no date. Underlining indicates that the magazine was titled with the
season (e.g. "Spring 1951") for that issue.[4][6]

Carnell joined the army in 1940, serving with the Royal Artillery, Combined Operations, and Naval Bombardment.[5] After his return to civilian life in January 1946 he met writer Frank Edward Arnold, who had been working with Pendulum Publications on a new science fiction line. Arnold introduced Carnell to Stephen D. Frances, Pendulum's director.[5] Frances believed in the commercial possibilities of science fiction, and since Carnell still had the portfolio of stories he had put together in 1940, Pendulum agreed to make New Worlds into a professional magazine.[4][5] The first issue appeared in July 1946, although there was no date on the magazine. The initial print run was 15,000, but only 3,000 copies were sold—a very disappointing return. Carnell felt that the cover artwork, which he considered to be weak, was partly responsible for the poor sales. He put together a new design, based on covers from two US science fiction magazines, and gave it to artist Victor Caesari to complete. The resulting space scene was the cover for the second issue, which appeared in October 1946;[5] in combination with Pendulum's investment in promoting the magazine this led to much better sales, and the second issue sold out completely.[4] Pendulum rebound the remaining copies of the first issue with the second cover design,[5] and repriced them at 1/6 (7.5p); the first two issues had been priced at 2/- (10p).[6] The new cover and price were much more popular and the repackaged first issue, like the second, soon sold out.[5]

Pendulum Publications produced one more issue in October 1947, shortly before going bankrupt and thus leaving New Worlds without a publisher. The magazine was saved by a group of sf fans who since 1946 had been meeting regularly on Thursday nights at the White Horse public house on New Fetter Lane, near Fleet Street.[4][note 1] At one of those meetings it was suggested that they form a company to revive New Worlds; one of those present, Frank Cooper, recently retired from the Royal Air Force, agreed to look into what would be necessary to start a new company.[7]

Nova Publications

In May 1948 Carnell announced at a science fiction convention in London that plans were well underway to form a new company, to be called Nova Publications Ltd.[4][note 2] Nova raised £600 in capital and was launched in early 1949. There were initially six directors: the chairman was John Wyndham, and the remaining board members were G. Ken Chapman, Frank Cooper, Walter Gillings, Eric C. Williams, and John Carnell.[7] A printer was found near Stoke Newington, where Frank Cooper was based, and the first issue (numbered 4, to follow on from the three Pendulum issues) appeared in June. It was planned to move to regular quarterly publication,[7] and subsequently to a bimonthly schedule.[8] To keep costs down Nova decided to handle the distribution themselves; this was not easy but Cooper and his assistant, Les Flood, were sufficiently successful that in July the decision was taken to go ahead with the planned quarterly schedule. A fifth issue appeared in September, and the sixth issue early the following year, dated Spring 1950.[7]

In 1950, with New Worlds on a stable quarterly schedule, Nova Publications decided to launch a companion, Science Fantasy.[4] They chose Walter Gillings as the editor; but he was replaced by Carnell after two issues, partly because Nova could not afford to pay two editorial salaries,[9] and partly because of "fundamental differences of opinion".[8] At the end of 1951 New Worlds went bimonthly, and by the middle of the year had reached a circulation of 18,000. The price had been reduced to 1/6 with the third issue, but with paper costs rising Nova looked for a cheaper printer. The new printer, The Carlton Press, was supposed to take over production with the May 1953 issue (number 21), but the issue was late, and had to be dated June 1953 instead.[8] The issue was shoddily produced, which dismayed Nova's board, and printers' strikes caused further delays.[8][9] Nova discovered that The Carlton Press was an agent with no printing facilities; they farmed out work to other printers, but were only able to get their commissions executed when they paid off any prior debts to those printers. Issue 22 was repeatedly delayed; proofs appeared in August, and the issue was promised for November. Even this schedule was not adhered to, and Carnell received a copy of the print run in January 1954. The copy was dated 1953 (with no month), and since this made it useless for distribution in 1954, Carnell refused to accept the print run.[10] While the dispute with the printers was going on, Carnell and Maurice Goldsmith, a journalist acquaintance of Carnell's, put together a small conference of well-known science fiction authors, including Arthur C. Clarke and John Wyndham. Goldsmith covered the conference for Illustrated, a weekly magazine, and the article caught the attention of Maclaren & Sons Ltd, a technical trade publisher interested in launching a new sf magazine. Carnell turned down the offer because of his loyalty to Nova Publications, but subsequent discussions ultimately led to Maclaren taking control of Nova, with a commitment to produce New Worlds on a monthly basis and Science Fantasy on a bimonthly schedule. By January 1954, when The Carlton Press delivered the incorrectly dated issue 22, the acquisition by Maclaren was complete, and Maclaren's legal department was helpful in resolving the dispute. The printing press which had printed the issue was not paid by The Carlton Press, so an injunction was obtained that sequestered the issues to avoid them being sold to recover the printing costs. Carnell retained the copy he had been sent in January, and it is thought that this is the only copy that exists of The Carlton Press's version of this issue, as the remainder of the printing run was destroyed after the court case. The cover painting, by Gerard Quinn, was subsequently used on issue 13 of Science Fantasy, and all the stories and editorial material eventually appeared in later issues of New Worlds over the next year.[10]

The financial support that Maclaren provided meant that once issue 22 appeared in April 1954, it was the start of a regular monthly schedule that lasted until 1964 with just one hiccup: a printing dispute in 1959 delayed the August issue and it was combined with the September issue.[4] Despite this stability, New Worlds's circulation began to decline in the early 1960s. Nova Publications had launched a third magazine, Science Fiction Adventures, in 1958, but both it and Science Fantasy were also losing readers, and in May 1963 Science Fiction Adventures was cancelled.[4][11] In September of that year Nova's board decided to close down both New Worlds and Science Fantasy,[4] and in preparation for the change Carnell signed a contract in December 1963 to edit an original anthology series, New Writings in SF, for publisher Dennis Dobson.[12]

Roberts & Vinter

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1957 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66
1958 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78
1959 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89
1960 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101
1961 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113
1962 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125
1963 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137
1964 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145
1965 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157
1966 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169
1967 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178
Issues of New Worlds from 1957 to 1967, showing issue number. The
colours identify the editors for each issue:[4][6]

     John Carnell      Michael Moorcock

The magazines were unexpectedly saved by David Warburton of Roberts & Vinter, a London publishing house. The printer who had been printing both New Worlds and Science Fantasy happened to meet Warburton in a pub, and mentioned that he was looking for additional work to fill the gaps in his schedule left by the demise of the magazines. Roberts & Vinter were having difficulty getting good distribution for their existing titles, which were violent thrillers, and were interested in acquiring more respectable titles that would help them penetrate the British distribution network, which was heavily dependent on W.H. Smith and John Menzies, the two main British newsagent chains. Warburton's partner, Godfrey Gold, ran a company that was connected to Roberts & Vinter and published pin-up magazines; like Warburton, Gold needed to improve his ability to distribute his titles.[4][12]

When Michael Moorcock, who by this time had begun selling stories to Carnell, heard of the plans to cease publication of New Worlds and Science Fantasy, he wrote a letter that appeared in issue 141 lamenting the loss to the British science fiction field of both the magazines and Carnell himself. Carnell did not want to continue to edit the magazines in addition to New Writings in SF, and recommended Moorcock to Warburton. Kyril Bonfiglioli, an Oxford art dealer who was a friend of Brian Aldiss, also expressed an interest. Warburton gave Moorcock the choice of which magazine to edit; Moorcock chose New Worlds, and Bonfiglioli became the new editor of Science Fantasy.[12] Moorcock wanted to switch to a large format, and showed Warburton a dummy issue he had made up, but Warburton insisted on a paperback format in order to fit in with the other titles they were producing, though he agreed to revisit the format in the future if sales improved.[13] The first issue under Moorcock's control was number 142, dated May/June 1964. The schedule was initially bimonthly, but at the start of 1965 it returned to a stable monthly schedule.[4]

In July 1966 Roberts & Vinter's distributor, Thorpe & Porter, went bankrupt, owing Roberts & Vinter a substantial sum. The resulting financial pressure led Roberts & Vinter to focus on their more profitable magazines, and they made plans to close down both Science Fantasy and New Worlds.[4] After hearing of these plans, Moorcock and Warburton began to consider forming a separate company to continue publishing New Worlds, and Brian Aldiss contacted well-known literary figures such as J.B. Priestley, Kingsley Amis, Marghanita Laski, and Angus Wilson to gain support for an application for a grant from the British Arts Council in late 1966. In early January 1967 Aldiss discovered that the grant application would be successful, and that New Worlds would be awarded £150 per issue, though in the event the grant certification was delayed until at least May.[4][14][15][note 3] The grant was enough to enable the magazine to continue, though it would not cover all costs.[16] A publisher still had to be found, and both Fontana and Panther Books expressed an interest, but the promise of the money and the prestige of an Arts Council grant convinced Warburton to stay involved personally.[15][16] While these negotiations were going on, two more issues were assembled from backfile material and donated stories.[16] Roberts & Vinter had ceased to exist by this time, so a sister company, Gold Star Publications, became the publisher for both these issues, with Warburton and Aldiss providing Gold Star with personal financial guarantees.[17][note 4] These two issues appeared in March and April 1967, but the latter was mistakenly also dated March in the indicia. Science Fantasy, which by this time had been retitled SF Impulse, was not continued but was merged with New Worlds as of the first Gold Star issue, though nothing of SF Impulse's design or content was visible in New Worlds.[17]

Arts Council

Spring Summer Autumn Winter
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1968 179 180 181 182 183 184 185
1969 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196
1970 197 198 199 200
1971 201 #1 #2
1972 #3 #4
1973 #5 #6
1974 #7
1975 #8 #9
1976 #10
1978 212 213 214
1979 215 216
Issues of New Worlds from 1968 to 1979, showing issue number. From
1971 to 1976 New Worlds was a paperback anthology titled New Worlds
, numbered from 1 to 10. Underlining indicates that the magazine
was titled with the season (e.g. "Spring 1978") for that issue. The colours
identify the editors for each issue:[4][6][18]

     Michael Moorcock      Langdon Jones      Charles Platt
     Charles Platt & R. Glyn Jones      Graham Hall & Graham Charnock
     Michael Moorcock & Charles Platt      Hilary Bailey & Charles Platt
     Hilary Bailey      David Britton

The partnership Warburton and Moorcock formed to continue New Worlds was named Magnelist Publications.[14] Moorcock and Warburton reviewed the dummy issue Moorcock had put together when he first became editor, and Warburton agreed to switch to the larger format.[15][16] The first issue from Magnelist appeared in July 1967, beginning a regular monthly schedule. Moorcock remained as editor with Langdon Jones as his assistant, and Charles Platt became the layout designer.[4][14] Warburton ceased his involvement after the November issue, but the magazine was again saved, this time by Sylvester Stein of Stonehart Publications.[16][note 5]

Delays led to a skipped month, with the December 1967 and January 1968 issues being combined into one, but a monthly schedule returned thereafter.[19] The March 1968 issue contained the third instalment of Norman Spinrad's novel Bug Jack Barron, which included some fairly explicit sex scenes. A member of parliament complained in the House of Commons that the Arts Council was "sponsoring filth";[4][note 6] and soon W.H. Smith and John Menzies, the two main retail outlets for magazines in the UK, withdrew the magazine from sale. The complaints came at the time when the Arts Council was considering renewing the grant for another year, and it appeared for a while that New Worlds would have to cease publication, but eventually the grant was renewed. With money from advertising, and a substantial contribution from Moorcock himself, the magazine was able to survive. The loss of revenue caused by the withdrawal from sale of the March 1968 issue was exacerbated by a temporary ban on the magazine in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, and by John Menzies' subsequent decision not to stock New Worlds. W.H. Smith left it to their individual branch managers to decide whether or not to carry the magazine.[4][note 7] Stonehart were unhappy with developments and refused to pay the printers, who in turn withheld the printed copies. The Arts Council money had been intended for the contributors, but a disagreement over the grant led to Stonehart<nowiki>'s refusal to pay them as well. Some negative coverage appeared in the press as a consequence of the distribution ban. The grant was eventually renewed, but by late that year Moorcock paid contributors and printing bills and severed relations with Stein and Stonehart after the July 1968 issue [15]and switched distributors to independent Moore Harness (Time Out, Private Eye).

Without reliable distribution at the leading newsagents, New Worlds had to rely on unconventional distribution and subscriptions. The magazine was not especially profitable, and since Moorcock had not formed a company to publish it, he was personally responsible for its costs. To bring in cash he had been writing fantasy novels at a very rapid rate since early 1968, and from early 1969 the editorial work was given to various others, primarily Charles Platt and Langdon Jones.[4][16] A regular monthly schedule was adhered to from January until July 1969, at which point came another financial blow when it was discovered that half of the print run of 20,000 was being held back by the distributors.[16][20] Moorcock attempted to regroup by reducing the number of pages in each issue, and because he was again forced to write as much as he could to earn enough to pay New Worlds's bills, he turned over almost all editorial duties to Charles Platt, though others involved with the magazine also took turns at the editorial work over the next few issues.[4][16] Moorcock was £3,000 in debt, and in combination with the Arts Council's decision not to renew their grant he found himself with no option but to cease publication on a monthly schedule and arrange a quarterly schedule in paperback format published by Sphere. The April 1970 issue, the 200th, was the last that went out to the distributors; one more issue was prepared and posted to subscribers as the 'Special Good Taste Issue' the following March.[4]

Later incarnations

When Moorcock realised that the magazine would have to fold, he made arrangements with Sphere Books to continue New Worlds as a quarterly paperback anthology series. Sphere produced eight issues, although the quarterly schedule was not adhered to after the fourth issue; the eighth issue appeared in 1975.[4] Six issues were reprinted in the US. The early issues did well financially, with about 25,000 copies sold, not counting US sales.[21] Moorcock turned over the editorship to Charles Platt with the sixth volume, and to Hilary Bailey thereafter, to give himself more time to devote to his own writing: he also commented that by this time "I no longer had my editorial touch (I couldn't read sf at all)".[16] Sphere cancelled the series after two more issues; it was briefly taken over by Corgi Books, but sales were weak and Corgi dropped the series with New Worlds 10 in 1976,[4] although according to Moorcock he and Bailey decided to end the series when they got into disagreements with Corgi.[16] In the US Berkley Books published volumes 1 through 4, and when they dropped the series Platt, who was a consulting editor at Avon Books, reprinted two further volumes, number 6 and 7 of the UK series.[21][note 8]

In 1978 the magazine was revived by Moorcock again, this time in a fanzine format. Four more issues appeared, professionally printed and with various editors, between Spring 1978 and September 1979.[4][22] There followed a gap until 1991, when New Worlds again reappeared as a paperback anthology series, this time edited by David S. Garnett. Four volumes appeared between 1991 and 1994, published by Victor Gollancz.[23] Moorcock edited a fiftieth anniversary issue in 1996, and Garnett subsequently edited one more issue of the anthology. Together with the earlier fanzine, magazine and anthology versions, these took the issue numbering from 212 through to 222.[22]

Other Languages
Deutsch: New Worlds
español: New Worlds
français: New Worlds
Bahasa Indonesia: New Worlds (majalah)
svenska: New Worlds