Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXI (Cowper + Aldiss + McKenna + New Worlds Anthology)

While in Scotland a few weeks ago I could not help but peek into a few used book stores! As an American, I am intimately acquainted with the common US publishers (Ballantine + Signet + Avon + et al) but do not own very many 70s/80s UK editions (Pan + Grenada + Panther, etc).  Thus, there was something special about snatching a copy of Best SF Stories from New Worlds 8  (1974) as it was one of the few in the series never published in the US…

Enjoy the cover art!

[I am not sure what to make of the Jim Burns’ cover…  I have the feeling that it appeared on Good Show Sir a while back]


[If you are in Edinburgh and want new SF/F stop by Transreal Fiction—and talk to the owner Mike!]

1. The Moment of Eclipse, Brian W. Aldiss (1970)


(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1985 edition)

From the back cover: “There’s no time like the future… …and here Brian Aldiss proves it brilliantly in fourteen stories of devastating power.  From outrageous satire to haunting fantasy, the renowned author of such science fiction classics as GREYBEARD, HOTHOUSE, and the epic HELLICONIA TRILOGY displays his unmatched talent for creating tales that illuminate times-to-come with the disconcerting intensity of a cobalt bomb’s head flash…”

2. The Custodians and Other Stories, Richard Cowper (1976)


(Geoff Taylor’s cover for the 1976 edition)

From the back cover: “The Custodians: A room in a French monastery, constructed at the intersection of mysterious force fields, so that anyone entering can foresee the future…

Paradise Beach: A wall-screen decorated with an image of the sea that attunes itself to the individual perceptions of the onlooker…

Piper at the Gates of Dawn: The magical tale of an old storyteller, an enchanted piper and a mysterious white bird of kinship…

The Hertford Manuscript: The remarkable discovery of a seventeenth-century book containing pages that purport to be the journal of a nineteenth-century traveler…”

3. Best SF Stries from New Worlds 8, ed. Michael Moorcock (1974)


(Jim Burns’ cover for the 1974 edition)

From the back cover: “Ten mind-wrenching tales to carry you into the deep space of imagination, to future worlds of ferocity and fear, through warps of time, across frontiers of undreamed-of-scientific discover.  In this collection, eighth in the series, SF Master Michael Moorcock has selected and prefaced the cream of through-provoking and entertaining science fiction from New Words magazine.  J. G. Ballard, John Brunner, Harlan Ellison, M. John Harrison, Hilary Bailey, Barrington Bayley, Graham Charnock are your pilots for ten voyages beyond the far reaches of speculation.

4. Casey Agonistes & Other SF & Fantasy Stories, Richard McKenna (1973) (MY REVIEW)


(Agnus McKie’s cover for the 1976 edition)

From the back cover: “These stories, as varied in background as they are in theme and mood, move from galactic adventure to ecological crisis and a fascinating exploration of time and reality, delineating human beings with whom we can instantly identify.”

34 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXI (Cowper + Aldiss + McKenna + New Worlds Anthology)

  1. You had to go remind me about Good Show, Sir, now i’ll be wasting time there for hours when I should be working…. Looking forward to your comments on the McKenna, “Casey Agonisties” is a ‘minor classic’ of the field. Have to admit my only reading did not leave me thinking it was a lost classic, but have thought about it often over the years.

    • Good Show, Sir is great fun. I read McKenna’s Nebula-winning short story “The Secret Place” (1966) in the Orbit 1 anthology I reviewed recently — it was solid. Hence why I snatched up the cover.

  2. McKie has always seemed like a lazy Chris Foss. I never much cared for Foss to begin with but over time–as in decades–I admit there is at least an original eye there. The disconnect between art and novel has always irritated me. I was not surprised to read this: “…he became notorious for not reading the books he was producing the cover art for. ‘One of my art directors would phone me up with a job and say, ‘Chris, we need another Asimov,’ so I’d ask, ‘What do you need?’ He’d say ‘The last one was blue, so give me a green one.’…the senior editor (threw) the book across the room, saying ‘Bloody Chris, he’s not read the book again.'” (Hardware:The Definitive Works of Chris Foss, page 10)

    • I’m somewhat torn on disconnect between art + collection/novel. Because, I’m not going to lie, all my fav SF artists are guilty of it — Richard Powers, Brian Lewis, Paul Lehr…. i.e. the more surreal ones. Yes, they often manage to convey some of the “feel” — like when Powers does SF horror — but (most often) little of the sense of the novel. They are some exceptions of course…

      But yes, from the covers Foss produced that seems about right!

      • I am very open to a variety of styles/approaches to cover art, and don’t expect an illustration IF the artist isn’t aiming for a representational style. I like Powers etc. because their work (in my experience, yours may be different) definitely catches the feel/tone of the book. That works for me because I’m most interested in that when it comes to a SF/fantasy book. I can’t recall the artist off hand but one of the copies of Rogue Moon I own has a cover that’s abstract, and it’s the only cover I’ve seen that tells me the artist really understood the book…. I like DiFate, but that’s a pretty bad cover. It looks like a giant dental drill stuffed into a space shuttle.

    • I think you’re right really about the Foss cover,but there seems a better attempt at background design compared to the boring McKie one.

      The excellent Jim Burns one is quite acceptable.He did the one for the book I’ve just read,”Dying of the Light” by George Martin,published by Millenium in 2000.It’s a dense,rather long novel at nearly 350 pages.The plot is vague and could have been a much better novel if it had been more compactly put together.There’s some quite good writing here,but it’s flawed by an over complicated structure and language.I’d advise against it,but you sometimes like different books to me.

    • Thanks. I must confess, I am not really a fan of these covers (the books, yes!) — no idea why UK presses adored Foss and his clones…. I do enjoy Vincent Di Fate’s earlier work — not so much this 80s example.

  3. An exact copy of a Chris Foss work by an artist named Glen Brown was sold last year for $5.7 million. Foss was not amused, he was paid only a few hundred dollars for his original work. Seems that Brown is known for his copies of several artists, and collectors will pay for them.

  4. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of the British book cover styles used by Pan, Panther, Granada, etc., but I do feel jealous of them given that they’re impossible to find on this side of the Atlantic. And if I ever get to Edinburgh, Transreal Fiction is on my to-do list.

    Nice haul, though — excellent collection of authors. Aldiss! Cowper! The New Worlds collection is a fantastic find as a UK-exclusive. And I didn’t even know McKenna wrote SF, though I’ve read and seen The Sand Pebbles which he is most famous for…

    • If I were back in the States I’d take a peek at my shelves. I know I have Harrison’s collection The Machine in Shaft Ten — but other than that I’m not sure I have more than one other UK edition (other than the easier to find Gollancz editions).

    • One place to get these editions on this side of the Atlantic is Canada. I was in Toronto the other year and found a great used store, & picked up a bunch of UK editions from Pan, Penguin, and I think one Panther (can’t find it right now).

  5. I searched Good Show Sir and found that the New Worlds 8 cover has never been mocked by them. Someone should submit it, because a giant pink Pegasus piñata that contains no candy is a terribly sad thing. (By the way, have you noticed the similarity to the Welcome Chaos cover in the sidebar? I think you have the beginnings of themed cover art post. Maybe “Weird Wings and Worlds.”)

  6. I’m very curious about the Cowper collection. Though I thought it was good not great at the time, the title story has stuck in my head in a positive way. Be interested to see what you think of it and the other stories.

    • Unfortunately, I don’t enjoy it so far. I’ve only read the first two stories. The first one was better but I am not sure why all the “magical powers of stone circles” stuff was needed…. I enjoy the idea of an oculus, and the limited way of seeing, but it was disappointing in the end.

      • I saw “The Custodians” as a brief examination of the classic free will vs. determinism debate, and in order to develop the precog/deterministic side of the story, some ‘mystery’ element was needed, which the monastery, stone circles, etc. supplied. Not the greatest novelette ever written, but certainly more ambitious than the majority of sf out there, a fact helped by Cowper’s prose.

        • Yes, I was about to point that out — I have found Cowper has a knack for really really solid prose and story telling (his novel Profundis for example). But, the “free will vs. determinism” elements felt so standard.

      • You are a blessed man, Mr. Boaz, if free will vs. determinism is standard material in your reading. 😉 It seems that for every quality philosophical quandary I encounter in my fiction, I can’t help but avoid finding ideas… less quality and more… commercially oriented. Perhaps this is the benefit of reading only sf from the 50s, 60s, and 70s? 😉

      • But is that not an incredibly standard set of themes for anything regarding time travel? I have found that time travel short stories/novels tend to tackle it in some fashion — even if in a rather ham-fisted commercial fashion. That said, I tend to think that Cowper’s vision ended up being rather commercial — i.e. all the paganism power of stone circles stuff… He really did not have to bring in Stonehenge etc.

        (Note: I currently only read SF from the 50s/60s/70s. As you know, this is a recent shift in the past four years. haha. My wife is trying to get me to read Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven which she said was near perfect)

      • Funny enough, I literally finished reading Station Eleven yesterday. Perfect is a strong word, but if the novel isn’t, then it’s damn close. Great book worthy of the hype, and while I was not surprised to see it ignored by the American awards, was happy to see the Brits recognize it. If only more modern sf had such real characters and humanitarian drive. Sigh…

  7. Moorcock edited-bys are the kipple of the sci-fi collector’s world, at least in my experience. I don’t know where I get them, but it seems like any neglected corner of my apartment will eventually occupy itself with a Moorcock.

  8. Joachim – if you are ever in London in the future, get in touch with me – thankfully there are a few secondhand bookshops which still sell classic old SF paperbacks, though they are few and far between, nowadays!

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