New Worlds (magazine) | new worlds and the "new wave"

New Worlds and the "New Wave"

New Worlds' greatest influence on science fiction came in the 1960s, with the "New Wave" that began with Moorcock's polemical editorials. Moorcock asserted in 1965 that a writer of good sf "can learn from his predecessors, but he should not imitate them";[49] and he was soon publishing stories that were quite different in technique and style from anything that had appeared before, not just in New Worlds itself, but in any of the sf magazines.[50][51] Moorcock's goal was to use the magazine to "define a new avant-garde role" for the genre.[52] New Worlds thus became the "ideological center of the [New Wave] movement to rejuvenate conjectural literature".[53]

The term "New Wave" did not always meet with approval among those who were regarded as part of it (this included Moorcock, who denied that he was creating a movement). Brian Aldiss, for example, wrote to Judith Merril in 1966 that he suspected the term was "a journalistic invention of yours and Mike Moorcock's", and added "I feel I am no part of the New Wave; I was here before 'em, and by God I mean to be here after they've gone (still writing bloody science fiction)!"[54] Merril was an important advocate for New Worlds[55] and the New Wave, and popularized the latter in her anthology England Swings SF, which appeared in 1968;[44] she spent almost a year in London, living near Moorcock, when researching the anthology in 1966–1967.[56] Merril and writer Christopher Priest were among those who used the term "New Wave" to describe the work being done in New Worlds, but Aldiss was not the only writer to object to the term, and it never received a generally accepted definition.[57] Critic Brian Attebery characterizes it as a "disruptive, existentially fraught and formally daring" style;[58] Peter Nicholls hesitates to define it but comments that "perhaps the fundamental element was the belief that sf could and should be taken seriously as literature".[44] In a 1967 interview, Ballard, one of the writers most closely associated with the New Wave, described modern US sf as extrovert and optimistic, and contrasted it with "the new science fiction, that other people apart from myself are now beginning to write", which he saw as "introverted, possibly pessimistic rather than optimistic, much less certain of its own territory."[21]

Whatever the exact definition of the term, between 1964 and 1966, New Worlds was at the forefront of the New Wave movement. Two guest editorials in 1962 and 1963 ("Which way to Inner Space?" by Ballard and "Play with Feeling" by Moorcock) were arguably the "first glimmerings" of New Wave ideas in sf magazines. Latham suggests that these were "the first volleys in the polemical offensive they would launch once [Moorcock] gained control of the magazine and installed [Ballard] as his resident visionary".[59] The response to the New Wave from critics and sf fans was varied. Christopher Priest called New Worlds a "New Wave prozine", but lauded the talents of its writers and its experimental stories (with the exception of Ballard's The Crystal World, which he deemed "tedious and wearying").[60] Ian McAuley suggested the magazine's editors were "plugging the 'inner-space' jazz for all its [sic] worth".[61] Mike Ashley argued that New Worlds was instrumental in promoting authors who would not otherwise have been published (a suggestion with which Bould and Butler concur).[62] Ballard was a particular focus of both praise and vehement criticism, and was vigorously defended by Moorcock. Peter Weston took an "even-handed approach" by praising New Worlds in Speculation editorials, in contrast with his largely negative columnists.[59] Beginning in 1966, US fanzines began responding to New Worlds and its detractors, and the debate spread to the professional US magazines as well. Merril praised Disch and Ballard's contributions to New Worlds in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; Algis Budrys in Galaxy rebutted her viewpoint and condemned both authors.[59] Frederik Pohl called New Worlds "damned dull", advocating a return to adventure stories.[63] American science fiction authors "were finding it increasingly difficult to avoid partisan alignments in the developing New Wave war" because of the preponderance of columns and letters in American magazines both for and against New Worlds and New Wave in general. Latham suggests that "the New Worlds editorial conclave was actively working within fandom to counteract the Old Guard assaults".[59]

By the end of the 1960s, New Worlds and the New Wave's connection to and influence on science fiction was becoming tenuous. In the August 1969 issue, Platt asserted that "New Worlds is not a science-fiction magazine", and Moorcock likened it to an avant-garde and experimental literary review. The sf world had lost interest in New Worlds, and it had become, in Ashley's words, "a revolution running out of energy".[14] In the longer term it proved influential, despite the lack of wide acceptance at the time: in the words of sf historian Brian Stableford, "the paths beaten by the New Worlds writers are now much more generally in use".[22][note 9]

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