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New Worlds: An Anthology
edited by Michael Moorcock
Thunder's Mouth Press, 386 pages

Michael Moorcock
Michael Moorcock has published over 70 novels in all genres. These include several series that share, to different extents, a common multiverse: the Cornelius Chronicles, The Dancers at the End of Time, Erekose, The Books of Corum, Hawkmoon: The Chronicles of Castle Brass, Hawkmoon: The History of the Runestaff and the classic Elric of Melnibone Saga. He has also edited an anthology of late Victorian science fiction, Before Armageddon. Under the pen name E.P. Bradbury, he published a series of novel-length pastiches of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels.

Moorcock was born in London in 1939 and began writing, illustrating, editing and printing fanzines under the MJM Publications imprint at a young age. He became the editor of Tarzan Adventures at 16 (some sources say 17), and later the Sexton Blake Library. In 1964 he became the radical editor of the experimental and frequently controversial British SF magazine New Worlds.

A multiple winner of the British Fantasy Award, Moorcock is also a World Fantasy Award and John W. Campbell Memorial Award winner for his novel Gloriana. He won the 1967 Nebula Award for his novella "Behold the Man." He has twice won the Derleth Award for Fantasy (for The Sword and the Stallion, and The Hollow Lands), and the Guardian Fiction Prize (1977) for The Condition of Muzak. He has been shortlisted for both the Booker and Whitbread prizes, Britain's most prestigious literary awards. Moorcock currently lives in London, Spain and Texas. Moorcock has also recorded music, both solo and with the progressive rock group, Hawkwind.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Dreamthief's Daughter
SF Site Review: Gloriana or the Unfulfilled Queen
SF Site Review: Behold the Man
SF Site Review: Michael Moorcock's Multiverse
SF Site Review: The War Amongst the Angels
SF Site Review: The Dancers at the End of Time
SF Site Review: Kane of Old Mars
SF Site Review: Sailing to Utopia
Michael Moorcock Interview
Michael Moorcock's Musical Contributions
Bio-bibliography: Michael Moorcock
Bibliography: Michael Moorcock
Vote for your favourite Moorcock novel
Michael Moorcock Tribute Site
Michael Moorcock Tribute Site
Elric of Melnibone site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Matthew Cheney

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New Worlds: An Anthology Originally published in the U.K. in 1983, but released in the U.S. now for the first time, New Worlds: An Anthology "does not seek to be a 'best of' collection," editor Michael Moorcock says. "It is intended as a sampling of the kind of short material we ran when [New Worlds] magazine was on a regularly monthly schedule." This goal makes the book a valuable one to historians of science fiction and literature, but certainly reduces the pleasures available to the average reader, because the stories and articles collected here have not survived the years equally well.

Some of the best science fiction stories of the 60s and early 70s are collected here, among them "Running Down" by M. John Harrison, "Angouleme" by Thomas M. Disch, and "Traveler's Rest" by David I. Masson. For a reader seeking high-quality writing, there's not much else between these covers, though tastes vary, and certainly some readers will be more impressed by a handful of the other pieces than I was.

Read in its entirety, the book seems like a shared-world anthology, one scripted by J.G. Ballard at his most portentous and with a soundtrack by the early Pink Floyd. Vague wars obliterate the edges of these stories, cities are oppressive and monolithic and grey, characters trudge through anomie, reality bends under the weight of the promise of drugs, automobiles carry more symbols than passengers, narratives snub their fragmentary noses at the very hint of "entertainment," and one author after another tries terribly hard to be a medium for the ghost of Marshall McLuhan's messages. Read from the first page to the last, the book is numbing and soporific.

Many of the writers whose work is collected here went on to do great things later. J.G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock, Brian Aldiss, Barrington Bayley, James Sallis, John T. Sladek, John Clute, and others all produced work immensely better than what represents them in this anthology.

Which is exactly why the book does hold some interest. It's like peering into the sketchbook of a great painter to see what got left behind in the wake of masterpieces, or searching through dusty archives to see why certain people got sucked into the black hole of history. There is value, too, in negative results from experiments, value in seeing what doesn't work. Any young writer who desires to bust open the gates and locks of SF should pay close attention to this book, because much of the preliminary work has been done here. There is a reason many of these writers later did excellent work: they had to do what was here first. They had to see what would happen.

An essay toward the end of the anthology is illuminating. James Colvin argues against "A Literature of Acceptance" and guesses that "just as a mood of pragmatism followed the mood of paranoia in the nineteenth century... so we are entering a more pragmatic mood, and just as the Gothic literature of fear and reaction developed techniques and subject matter that were used to great effect by serious writers... so science fiction has developed -- or is developing -- techniques and subject matter that are beginning to be used to great effect by serious writers." It was a good guess, although the reality turned out to be more complex than Colvin's schema could have predicted, with literature and life both twisting through permutations rather than dichotomies, ultimately arriving at the point we're at now, where writing is better categorized by styles and inclinations than by strict genre values, and fiction is less a field of monoliths than a tapestry of literatures woven by magpies.

The SF world needed New Worlds and mined riches from its soil. Some of those riches have tarnished over the years, or proved to be fool's gold, but the legacy still glitters, though it is likely that only the most adventurous and curious readers will want to journey back into the mines.

Copyright © 2005 Matthew Cheney

Matthew Cheney teaches at the New Hampton School and has published in English Journal, Failbetter.com, Ideomancer, and Locus, among other places. He writes regularly about science fiction on his weblog, The Mumpsimus.


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