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New Worlds
preview by David Garnett

The latest (last?) New Worlds has been published in the USA by White Wolf, and David Garnett has said he's quitting as editor. Is there any connection? "No comment," said Garnett. What about the spineless, brainless, gutless behaviour of British publishers in refusing a British edition? "No fucking comment."

Garnett adds: "It's ten years since I started working on the first Zenith. I've published a lot of good stories, some of which would never have been written if Zenith/NW had not existed. It's been great, I've enjoyed most of it, but but but etc etc etc..."

This is Garnett's last editorial.

Farther down, you'll find details of the contents and a selection of quotes from the reviews.

The New World's New Worlds
by David Garnett

A true story: London, England, 1946. The year after the end of the Second World War. First publication of a new science fiction magazine. New Worlds. Edited by E J Carnell.

Since its original appearance, New Worlds has been through a number of incarnations. John Carnell edited the magazine for 18 years, and for a short time there was even an American reprint edition. (A very short time, five issues in 1960.) In 1964, at the age of 23, Michael Moorcock took over editorship of New Worlds -- and shook up the whole multiverse of science fiction.

New Worlds was published as a monthly paperback for a few more years, before moving on to a larger format, and a gradually more erratic schedule. Ten volumes of New Worlds came out as paperback originals during the seventies, five of which also appeared in the USA as New Worlds Quarterly. There were a few more issues of the magazine. Then nothing. Until...

Meanwhile, I had edited two original anthologies, Zenith and Zenith 2. This was to have been an annual series, but the publisher was taken over by another and the series cancelled. Which was when Michael Moorcock asked if I would like to edit a new series of New Worlds. I would and I did, a four book series being commissioned by the late Richard Evans of Gollancz. Richard knew the importance of new short fiction to the future of science fiction. He was an excellent editor, a good man, and he died far, far too young.

The series was published and met with an excellent critical response. Then nothing. Until...

White Wolf, who are reprinting all of Michael Moorcock's books in America, asked if I wanted to edit another series of New Worlds.

Which is what you are reading right now.

As it enters its second half century, this is the first time New Worlds has seen initial publication in the USA.

From almost the very beginning, New Worlds has published stories by American authors. In a similar way, British writers might sell their stories to American magazines and their books may be published in America. (My first novel, for example, appeared in the USA before it found a British publisher.) This volume is being edited in Britain, and most of the contributors are British. Of the three American authors, Pat Cadigan recently moved to Britain, William Gibson lives in Canada -- and Howard Waldrop's story is set in England. Michael Moorcock, however, now spends much of his time in the USA.

What British and American authors have in common, more or less, is the English language. It's an accident of history that Americans speak English. English is the language of Shakespeare -- and of Hollywood. British films can be nominated for the Oscar (and even occasionally win). Because of the shared language, they are not considered "foreign".

America is the world's most powerful economy, and American media culture dominates the globe. English is the language of movies and television, music and advertising, comics and computer games, and so the world wants to speak English. English is the language of international trade, finance, commerce, diplomacy, and so the world has to speak English.

Despite the number of countries in which English is the mother tongue, it is not the world's most common first language. China is the most populous nation on Earth, and there are far more people who speak Chinese than English. But as a second language, the one people choose to learn, English has become the international lingua franca.

An apocryphal story: London, England, 1995. A young foreign visitor sees the 50th anniversary commemorations for the end of the Second World War, and he asks the tour guide who was fighting who. "Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States were fighting against Germany and Japan," he is told. "Who won?" he asks, and the tour guide replies, "It's too early to tell."

Fifty years ago, New Worlds was not at all unusual. The majority of science fiction consisted of short stories published in genre magazines. There were very few SF novels, very few anthologies, the word "sci-fi" had not been invented; but there were a lot of magazines, most of them in the USA.

Now, New Worlds is very unusual. There are only a handful of American SF magazines still being published, while Interzone is the only one in Britain. But New Worlds has become an original anthology -- which is even rarer than a science fiction magazine.

The science fiction short story itself is becoming a rarity. There are probably more SF novels published every year than short stories, although this stretches the word "novel" to extremes. A novel should be something new, original, unexpected; but there are very few of these any more.

It sometimes seems that the majority of new SF books are sequels (often to books by authors who have gone to the great remainder house in the sky) or the latest episode in an interminable series or novelisations.

Just as life imitates art, so literature imitates media. There are books based on films, on television, on adverts (yes, really), on comics, on computer games, on board games, on gaming cards. Thanks to its re-release, the biggest-grossing film of all time is Star Wars. (Although an American movie, it was made in Britain.) There was, of course, a book-of-the-film; and the two sequels were also "novelised".

More recently, new Star Wars novels have begun to appear with increasing frequency. This is an obvious attempt to follow the publishing success of Star Trek, and some authors write for both franchised series. There have been countless "original" Star Trek novels, producing sales figures which make the imprint the seventh largest publisher in the USA.

Several years ago, I spent a month touring the USA, and I checked out the television stations in a dozen States. The shows which were screened most frequently were Star Trek and Cheers. But there don't seem to have been any Cheers books. Is there no demand for titles such as Cliff Loses a Letter or Woody's Vacation? Why not an Early Years series, with books such as Young Norm and Carla's First Date?

As part of their marketing strategy, tie-in books are often issued to generate publicity for new films. The book-of-the-film is little more than a padded-out version of the script. (I know because I've "written" some myself.) But the phenomenon of a whole series of books based on a film or television show seems almost entirely restricted to science fiction.

Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, for example, was filmed as Blade Runner. Now there are more Blade Runner novels. These are not written by Dick, however, who died in 1982. One of his short stories was filmed as Total Recall, and there was inevitably a novelisation of the screenplay. It must be time for a sequel. When will Total Recall: the Forgotten Bits be published..?

It's easy to understand why such books are published: because they sell. In the case of Star Trek and Star Wars, each volume sells hundreds of thousands of copies. It's less easy to understand why they do sell. A few of them, maybe. But a hundred Star Trek novels? Twenty, thirty, forty Star Wars novels?

And it's also understandable why "authors" write such things, because they get paid. Some of them get paid very well. Despite receiving a low percentage, they are producing a high-grossing product, which means they can often earn more than they would from writing a book of their own.

Star Trek novels have become assembly line fiction, mass produced output from the fiction factory.

So, isn't everyone happy? Publishers make money, they pay their writers, and the readers get what they want: easy to read books.

In the short term, maybe everyone wins. But when it comes to the long march...

1946, the first year of New Worlds: Winston Churchill made his famous "iron curtain" speech about the division of Europe into communist and non-communist countries. (He was in the United States at the time.) The Second World War was over, but the Cold War had begun.

Fiction can be divided into two categories: novels and short stories.

There are still some books of short stories being published. These will be either single-author collections, which are usually reprints of stories which first appeared in the magazines, or else multi-author anthologies -- which are also usually reprints of stories which first appeared elsewhere.

Reprint anthologies will always have a theme. Best of the Year, for example, in which the editor will make his or her choice of the "best" stories published the previous year. Or, say, Robot Serial Killers, in which the editor will choose from robot serial killer stories published in previous reprint anthologies. (The same stories tend to be recycled, on the basis that if they have appeared before they must be good enough to appear again. The editor thinks of a theme, checks out his computerised database, then up come the story titles. And there's another anthology.)

Nearly all original anthologies, books of new stories, also have a theme. A collection of lesbian cat vampire stories for example, all set in an alternate world where Abraham Lincoln married Queen Victoria. (If I'm exaggerating, it's not by much!) Theme anthologies are the only ones most publishers will produce. It's as if the reader wants to know what to expect before they even start a story: it must be something very like the previous one.

And perhaps this is what people really do want. What other reason is there for the success of Star Trek books, of trilogies, of sequels, of series? People like what they know, are reassured by the familiar.

But that isn't what happens with New Worlds, where "new" means exactly what it says. There is no theme. All the stories are completely different. They have no connection with each other or with any which have appeared in previous volumes.

Apart from the fact that some of the authors are the same, the only link between this book and the last series of New Worlds is what you are reading now, my introduction. This is where I continue my "miserably rancorous" and/or "keenly perceptive" (according to Locus and Asimov's SF Magazine) editorials about science fiction.

Since New Worlds first appeared, many other magazines and anthologies have come -- and most have gone, while all the other titles which preceded it have vanished.

New Worlds must be doing something right. By sticking to its policy of presenting the best new short stories, it has become the oldest continuing science fiction title in the world.

The first New Worlds was published after the end of the Second World War. Now, it's said, the Cold War is also over. Who won? It's too early to tell.

I'm writing this editorial on my personal computer, which was manufactured in the United States of America. The software for my word processor, however, is British.

Two weeks ago, I bought a new printer from an American company. On the back it says "Made in China".

China has the largest population in the world, and the Chinese People's Republic is still a communist dictatorship.

China also has the largest army in the world, but not everyone in the army marches and carries a gun. Factories are run on military lines, with recruits conscripted into industrial service. They live in barracks and produce consumer goods for export.

The United States gives China "most favored nation" trading status, and China has a huge and increasing balance of payments surplus with the USA.

And when they start producing Star Trek books, we'll really be in trouble.

David Garnett
April 1997

[ top of page | editorial | contents | reviews ]

New Worlds Vol 64, No 222

Published by White Wolf, Georgia, USA; imprint: Borealis. August 1997; 360 pp. ISBN 1-56504-190-9. $12.99. (Reviewed for infinity plus by Keith Brooke.)


  • David Garnett INTRODUCTION
  • Eric Brown FERRYMAN
  • Kim Newman GREAT WESTERN
  • Peter F Hamilton and Graham Joyce THE WHITE STUFF
  • Noel K Hannan A NIGHT ON THE TOWN
  • Andrew Stephenson THE PACT
  • Howard Waldrop HEART OF WHITENESSE
  • Ian Watson A DAY WITHOUT DAD
  • Christine Manby FOR LIFE
  • Graham Charnock A NIGHT ON BARE MOUNTAIN
  • Michael Moorcock LONDON BONE

[ top of page | editorial | contents | reviews ]

New Worlds: The Reviews

The avant-guardian of experiment in the Nineties... wonderful value -- The Times

The stories are powerful...Garnett has lost nothing of his touch as a perceptive editor...well worth buying -- Orson Scott Card, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

The best ever...the range of fiction is impressive...all that can be done within the wide realm of speculative fiction in the 1990s -- Norman Spinrad, Asimov's SF Magazine

This is as tasty a collection of vivid, exciting stories as any in recent memory -- Asimov's SF Magazine (another review)

The Real Thing...a non-stop literary meltdown of massive proportions...a spectacular trumpeting of the new wave of literary might crashing onto the shoreline of today -- New Pathways

Splendidly and provocatively designed -- New Pathways (another review)

Way out and auspicious start for the '90s new "new wave" -- Time Out

Cutting edge sf -- Vector

Intelligent and fun -- Vector (another review)

The hippest, coolest zine of all time is back! Fully lives up to its expectations...highly recommended -- Science Fiction Eye

A triumphant comeback...a brand name you can trust -- REM

An elegant, provocative package...full of life -- Locus

The stories are excellent -- Interzone

Very good indeed -- Interzone (another review)

David Garnett is Britain's leading anthologist -- Interzone (yet another review)

A mix of charm, humour and some of the most wildly imaginative sf you'll find anywhere...this series is one of the most exciting venues for contemporary sf there is -- Starburst

A welcome revival of the New Worlds title -- David Pringle, The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction

A fine anthology...consistent in quality from beginning to end...certainly worth your money...has the potential to become one of the most important anthology series in science fiction -- Gardner Dozois, Year's Best SF

[ top of page | editorial | contents | reviews ]

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© David Garnett 1997