BEFORE NOVA PUBLICATIONS

In the wake of the abortive attempt to launch NEW WORLDS as a professional SF magazine in 1940, Ted Carnell issued the following press release. It was mimeographed on four single-sided quarto sheets. Undated, but internal evidence suggests April/May 1940.

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THE MAGAZINE THAT NEARLY WAS

Explained by Ted Carnell

The following anecdote really has no official position in the annals of science-fiction, except to point out yet a further example of Britain's unsuccessful attempts at launching magazine science fiction. It was never meant to be told, even if the magazine in particular had been a success or a failure -- after official publication. "Why's and wherefores" are but stepping stones, it is the results that count. Yet recent events seem to indicate that some kind of official statement is necessary, now that the news has been "jumped" in a variety of quarters. Especially as conflicting reports seem to be at cross purposes.

Therefore, because Los Angeles was on the "inside" of the news from its inception, more so than any other American quarter, a complete explanation is due to them first. The publication of this will also serve as an official statement as far as I am concerned.

By a series of "pass-on's", the news was recently jumped that a first-class science-fiction magazine was expected to appear in Britain, and that I was scheduled to edit it. This statement was perfectly correct, although I had taken special care to keep the news "hush-hush" until there was really something official to report. It was inevitable that particulars would leak out, and, quite probably, released all unwittingly. Bearing this in mind, I had attempted to keep complete details within as small a circle as possible, for as long as I could, just in case something untoward caused total collapse of the projected magazine or postponed scheduled publication. Time enough to release details after the initial issue had gone to press.

When a new magazine goes on the stocks, a host of people automatically are in the know. Authors, agents, printers, artists, distributors, and a galaxy of lesser individuals dependent upon the publishing business for their livelihood. From the office which was eventually assigned to me, details began to reach out in ever widening circles along with the eternal search for the right materials. From these contacts it is only one jump to fandom -- hence the leak.

On January 5th of this year I was approached by Independent people in the publishing business and invited to attend a discussion concerning the possibility of producing a science-fiction magazine. An "unknown" business house was toying with the idea and required further information. At that meeting, a very good friend of mine was also in attendance. In fact, on nearly every occassion where Britain has attempted to launch magazine science-fiction, Walter Gillings has been behind the scenes with timely advice, His prominence as one of the foremost promoters of science-fiction in this country, made it quite natural that he should be there.

At a later meeting, I was asked to proffer my personal ideas, and was subsequently offered the editorship. I was given carte blanche as to the actual policy to be defined, providing that I attained a high literary standard from the first issue, and maintained it thereafter. While the policy was left to my judgment, the literary standard would come directly under the Managerial Board of the Company, which was composed of other editorial members of the staff.

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First issue was tentatively scheduled for mid-April. My official capacity was to commence from March 1st, and, during February, I was to prepare the groundwork. For this purpose I had an office in the Company where I spent an hour or two each day, or whenever it was necessary for me to meet people.

Everything seemed to be clear for the commencement, and I started the necessary contacts with authors and agents. While waiting results from this initial effort, I devoted considerable time to the technical side of the publication -- in particular to the title. I spent nearly two days trying to hit upon a suitable sounding name for the new effort, one that would not be too similar to anything yet used, yet, at the same time, would sum up in a pithy phrase the contents of the magazine -bearing in mind that it was primarily a British publication, and not particularly to be considered even for American consumption.

I went right through Bob Swisher's FAPA "Check List" and evolved at least ten new titles fused from known fan mag titles! Any one of which might have been suitable, yet somehow did not quite fit into the ideas beginning to take shape as to the type of magazine I wanted. When I found one right under my nose -- NEW WORLDS -- my own particular pet which had been issued at one time under the auspices of the Science Fiction Association. As I owned the title copyright (and still do, by the way), there did not appear to be any reason why the copyright people should refuse the name -- even though it is a trifle irregular for an amateur magazine to suddenly jump into professional status. Incidentally, there was some trouble, because the title was too similar to one of our weekly news-sheets-- NEWS OF THE WORLD! This was eventually overcome.

Authors began to gather round in increasing numbers. The whole idea, while still seeming to be an impossible dream, was yet getting under way! The quoted rates for material was on a par with the best rates offered in America. Invaluable assistance was rendered by Jack Fearn, John Beynon Harris, Thornton Ayre, Will Passingham, Maurice Hugi, Will Temple, and, in fact, practically all the well-known authors who have graced American pulps from time to time. Not only did they turn in material from the outset, but also advice and ideas, all of which were tabulated for future possible use. A still larger number of science-fiction enthusiasts who had made more than one attempt at professional authorship also came under my "special request" for material. C.S.Youd, Johnny Burke, Dave Miclwain ((sic)), Les Johnson, and a host of others whose names are not chronicled anywhere upon the roll of fandom, yet who are well-known to me as readers of many years standing. Many new authors who rank high upon the professional tree in this country were introduced to the plans, and it surprised me greatly to learn that all of them were quite conversant with science-fiction as we know it -- both British and American varieties.

By mid-February the initial issue was beginning to round out. Harry Turner had turned in some magnificent cover lettering, after a number of attempts -- artist Chester had been contacted for the cover work, and three other London artists had been lined up for interiors. Turner was also scheduled to do some work. The entire printing angle had been settled, and paper -- a most serious problem during war-time -had been successfully fixed up. Complete distribution had been virtually handed over to the Atlas Publishing Company, who have distributed ASTOUNDING throughout the country for years,

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American contacts for certain material were beginning to culminate in satisfactory results.

I began to feel somewhat easier after the necessary high-pressure work put into the initial stages. Especially as material coming in at that time was along the lines that I had requested. Throughout this period, however, no slightest hint as to details of publisher, title, possible contents, or anything appertaining to the magazine apart from requirements had been released, even to authors.

On February 13th, the Directors gave a luncheon in celebration of the successful initial work accomplished, and to round out the final details. This was held at "The Savage Club," in the West End of London, probably one of the most elite of 'art' clubs, Guests included authors Bruce Woodhouse and Bill Passingham; Sir Frederick O'Connor, president of the Company; Professor A.M.Low; myself. Here, for the first time, I outlined my policy.

I stated that I wanted to see a British. magazine evolve to the standing that ASTOUNDING held in America. In fact, throughout the entire preparations for the magazine, I constantly had in mind the literary quality and smartness of Campbell's magazine. It was because of this that I had originally announced a mature policy -- we did not want to start ten years behind the times with "the first-trip-off-the Earth" brand. I diagnosed that the public in Britain had been more than spoon fed on that type of story, and should be ready for more advanced stuff. In any case, Wells had done all the necessary groundwork many years ago.

Obviously there would be no clashes with American publications of a similar type, because sales of those magazines in this country were extremely small, and we did not expect to sell more than a corresponding small quantity in the States. On the other hand, there was to be no direct copying of any one American periodical -- the magazine had to be built up distinctly with an individual style of its own; one which would appeal directly to a British reading public. Stories had to be put over by literary skill and not merely by stupendous ideas, and it was for this reason that I practically ruled out super-cosmic themes entirely at the outset.

As a guide for American agents and authors, I made a list of stories published in ASTOUNDING, which, with very little alteration of plot, were the type and themes required. I did not expect to obtain stories by those particular authors, because, naturally, I had chosen the best men writing for Campbell and their time would naturally be taken by him. Mentioning names, I required themes as produced by de Camp, Lester del Rey, Stuart, Heinlein, Simak, Casey, Williamson, and many others now writing the new literary type of science-fiction.

I was going to rely upon the known British authors, to a certain extent, but also intended "discovering" new men and building them up to write along the lines I required, In three weeks I had “found" five, totally unknown to science-fiction, but knowing of the literature. Synopses were immediately collaborated between us.

At that luncheon, too, first references were made to possibly collaborating the Science-Fiction Association under the auspices of the new magazine. Subsequently, the plans were put to the remaining London Committee members. The suggested aim for rejuvenating the Association was to offer two separate kinds of membership. One including a year's

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subscription to NEW WORLDS, the other at the normal subscription rate of 5/- which would entitle members to all privileges. These were to take the form of close collaboration with the Cinema Clubs in Britain at which scientifilms would be shown and lectures given by prominent scientists. A gift to each member of the best stf book published during each year. A circulating library that was to be second to none, and would have every worthwhile book in stock. A monthly printed fan-mag embracing news from every contemporary professional magazine whether British or American -- providing those publishers would so-operate.

These were only suggestions, admitted, but I am sure that they would have materialised, because they were enthusiastically received by most of the London Committee. I should state all the Committee.

A few days prior to March 1st, when I was due to take official residence, I was only one story short for the first issue, and had drafted out the skeletons of the second and third numbers. Events had gone so satisfactorily that I had released many of the details, although still retaining a certain amount of caution and information. Then the dry-rot set in, and within two weeks the entire foundation of the Company was swept away. Briefly, a minor dissention broke out in the offices over another publication. The entire situation was mis-handled by the General Manager, and a split in the Directorate ensued. What followed that is not my story to tell, although the publication of details might make interesting reading in a fiction magazine.

I temporarily suspended operations and deferred taking over in an official capacity until April 1st. Long before then, however, the Company had decided the only possible solution for their troubles was voluntary liquidation, which took effect from March 11th. And I was left holding the baby! Admitted that I had been offered the chance to continue the magazine under a new Company which was to be formed, but the offer appeared to be just a little too rosy, especially in view of the increasing war situation.

I therefore submitted the complete plans for NEW WORLDS to another publishing company, who had become interested -- for the news had been Well and truly displayed in all the trade papers. Here too, success would have been achieved -- if there hadn't been a war on, and paper was becoming increasingly scarce. There was nothing left to do but to cancel all preparations, and write a thousand letters of regret and apology to all the many helpers. If the news had been given officially to fandom there would have been another pile of regrets to write.

Perhaps one of these days, when Peace returns to Europe, another attempt will be made, and I sincerely hope that it will be more successful.

Ted Carnell received his military call-up papers in October/November 1940. In December 1941, he started the fanzine SANDS OF TIME, the first to be published by a fan on active service. It ran for 11 issues through 1944 and was never longer than 4 pages. The later issues in particular give a fascinating glimpse of his wartime experiences.

SANDS OF TIME


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