New Worlds

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New Worlds, a literary periodical specialising in science fiction stories and articles originally edited by John Carnell, then later by Michael Moorcock and others between 1939-1997. Under Moorcock’s tenure, the magazine spearheaded what was became known as the ‘New Wave of British SF’, featuring fiction by authors such as: J.G. Ballard, Brian W. Aldiss, Norman Spinrod, M. John Harrison, Thomas M. Disch and others. Its long-term future as a regular monthly magazine suffered when the two major UK distributors refused to distribute the magazine on the grounds it was 'obscene'. Although New Worlds appeared in a variety of different guises thereafter it arguably never regained the mainstream profile that it had acquired prior to 1970.

Publication History

New Worlds grew out of the ashes of an earlier fanzine, Novae Terrae, which had been edited by Maurice K. Hansen and ran for 29 issues from March 1936 to February 1939, when Hansen handed editorial control of the fanzine over to E. John Carnell.

Carnell renamed and renumbered the fanzine New Worlds and published his first edition in March 1939. Only three further issues were produced before the Second World War brought the fanzine to a premature hiatus; however, after the war, Carnell recommenced publication in July 1946 with issue 5. Carnell remained as editor until April 1964 when he relinquished the editorial reins to Michael Moorcock, whose first issue as editor (#142) appeared in May 1964 in a paperback format initially as a bi-monthly publication.

In March 1967, the then-publisher of New Worlds (Roberts & Vinter) went into receivership and publication ceased with issue #172 for a few months until Brian W. Aldiss was able to secure a grant from the Arts Council of Great Britain that enabled Moorcock to recommence publication in September 1967 as an A4-sized magazine. Publication continued for another four years – during which time the magazine was 'banned' by W.H. Smiths and John Menzies - until March 1971 when the final magazine-format issue (#201) was released on a subscriber-only basis. By the end of this period, Moorcock had moved from day-to-day editorship of the title to being its publisher, supporting the magazine financially by writing fantasy novels, leaving Langdon Jones, Charles Platt and others to edit the magazine.

Thereafter, New Worlds changed from a magazine format back to paperback appearing under the new title New Worlds Quarterly and published by Sphere Books. It continued in this form for 10 issues, dropping the 'Quarterly' from its title with the sixth issue (when the publication schedule became impossible to keep to) under the various editorships of Moorcock, Platt and Hilary Bailey,(Moorcock’s then wife) until 1976.

Between 1978-9 - issues #212-#216 - New Worlds appeared only as a ‘semi-prozine’, after which the magazine finally seemed to come to an end.

In 1991, David S. Garnett re-launched New Worlds as a annual paperback publication, titled New Worlds 1–4, although the indicia continued the numbering as vol.62, no. #217-#220. Moorcock assumed the position of 'Consulting Editor', a role he said required him to "make a few irrelevant observations about how things were when they were still able to read without glasses, murmur a few suggestions about general production and then sit back and enjoy the show."[1] In 1996, a 50th anniversary edition of the legendary magazine (edited by Moorcock) was published by Jayde Design, with the final appearance (to date) of New Worlds being 1997 when White Wolf released a 222nd issue in the US.


Between 1967 and 1974, Panther Books in the UK released 8 volumes of the Best SF Stories from New Worlds, which collected 82 stories from some of the most prominent contributors to New Worlds. All 8 anthologies were edited by Moorcock, who also contributed Introductions to all but the last volume.

In 1983, Moorcock edited New Worlds An Anthology, which featured 29 stories/essays, as well as an overview (by Moorcock) and an Index for all 216 issues that had appeared to date, and published by Flamingo. It was revised and republished in 2004 by Four Walls Eight Windows, this time featuring 30 stories (omitting three from the original UK publication and substituting four new stories).

Significant Contributors & Selected Works

Over the 222 issues that New Worlds appeared, the list of authors it published looks like a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of SF literature. Some of the most significant authors and stories that were published in New Worlds under the editorship of Michael Moorcock were:

  • Brian W. Aldiss – An Age, Report on Probability A, 'Acid-Head War' series
  • Hilary Bailey – The Fall of Frenchy Steiner, Dr Gelabius
  • J.G. Ballard – The Assassination Weapon, The Atrocity Exhibition
  • Barrington Bayley – The Big Sound, All the King’s Men
  • John Brunner – Nobody Axed You, Stand on Zanzibar
  • Thomas M. Disch – 334, Camp Concentration
  • Harlan Ellison - A Boy and His Dog
  • M. John Harrison – Baa Baa Blocksheep, The Ash Circus
  • Langdon Jones – The Great Clock, The Eye of the Lens, Biographical Note on Ludwig van Beethoven II
  • James Sallis – Kazoo, Jeremiad
  • Norman Spinrad – Bug Jack Barron, The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde

Literary significance

It maybe hard to conceive so many years after the fact just how incisive New Worlds' impact on the English literary scene in the mid- to late-1960s was. Under Moorcock’s editorship the magazine pursued an 'anti-modernist'[2] line, where it was more interested in creating new literary conventions than re-visiting existing ones. ‘Demonstration rather than remonstration’ is one of the phrases Moorcock cites to explain what he was looking for in stories for publication in New Worlds. In other words, exploring ideas through action rather than having characters talking about those ideas.

"New Worlds (we never as I say called ourselves New Wave) looked more to French movies and existentialist fiction than it did to sf. We wanted our work to pack as much into it as possible, so our experiments tended to be more structural than stylistic (thus my Cornelius stories, Ballard's concentrated novels, Jones's very dense fictions) and we were especially interested in producing a fiction which could describe modern (post modern, if you like!) experience. We wanted our work to contain a constant dialogue with current experience. As I've said elsewhere, Ballard had the experience of the Japanese camps, Aldiss had fought in Malaya and I had gone through the most intense part of the V-bomb blitz. We pretty much literally emerged from the ruins of the old world!" - Michael Moorcock[3]

Although New Worlds is often thought of as a science fiction magazine that is not necessarily how it was regarded by those who worked on and wrote for the magazine; instead they viewed it more as a platform to present stories freed from any genre strictures at all. As Moorcock put it: "[the] whole policy of New Worlds was to present imaginative fiction to a broad general readership and to treat that fiction as well as the readership with respect".

"New Worlds had [what] you might call a specific post-modern policy and was addressing a broad readership, many of whom were not even aware of its earlier sf incarnation. We were more interested in changing the rules of the mainstream than making cosmetic changes to a genre. My interest was never actually to do with genre, more to do with individual writers, and to compare one good writer to another is a waste of time. I think we helped change the rules of the mainstream." - Michael Moorcock[4]

Modern successors

Allowing that New Worlds was probably unique in and of itself, there are some online sites that Moorcock sees as being “close to New Worlds in policy”; these are:

Mike Says

"Our reaction wasn't so much against science fiction as literary fiction. We turned to sf because we found litfic inadequate, in the main, for what we thought had to be done. Our stories -- Ballard's civilian prison camp, Aldiss's experience in Malaya, mine in blitzed London -- simply weren't adequately dealt with. By and large we weren't anti-Bomb, either. We saw the Bomb as a liberator, even though we didn't necessarily approve of dropping it on such a vast number of civilians. All these elements and more, including middle class suspicion of science, of computers and so forth, made us look to sf for a model. When we looked at Heinlein and the 'mechanistic' guys, however, as opposed to Bradbury and the humanists, what we found, if you like, was generally inadequate writing and conservative thinking. So we set about creating our own version, of what we had originally hoped to find. We disassociated ourselves from outer space, to put it simply, and that kind of fiction. There weren't that many of us. Later we were joined by Disch, Sladek, Spinrad, Delany and otheres from the US, but it was never an especially large group. It is, of course, much larger now, with much taken for granted which wasn't then taken for granted. I date the change from around 1970, when the likes of M.John Harrison, who already had existing models in Ballard, Aldiss and me, could begin working without any sense of having to explain themselves. They could look to literary models and find them both in the NW writers, in imaginative writers like Peake and in modernists like Bowen, Angus Wilson, Elizabeth Taylor and so on. I think NW created that amalgam, if you like. Or we built bridges between the different kinds of fiction. The likes of Leavis had turned Englit into a thing of exclusivity. I think we broke that down."[5]

See Also


  1. 'The Last Word', New Worlds 2, Vol.62 No. 218, 1992, VGSF
  2. The modern phrase would be 'post-modernist'
  3. Moorcock's Weekly Miscellany Q&A Archive Article #2859