For your consideration: a collection of mindbenders from the groundbreaking speculative fiction magazine of the 1960s and ’70s. Psychotropic drugs not necessary but recommended.
There probably wasn’t a genre or style out there in the 1960s that needed a swift kick in the rear more than the often terminally adolescent fields of SF and fantasy, and the British New Worlds was there to provide it. Since Moorcock has now consigned himself to his gnomic pursuit of all the things in his Multiverse novels, it’s interesting to get a feisty and engaged introduction here from the magazine’s stalwart leader. In it, Moorcock revisits fights with the censors and the old-line straight literary and SF establishments as the magazine pushed boundaries, broke with convention, and was treated with churlish scorn for it. It would be wonderful to report that the works here hadn’t dated, that they are as stunning and eye-opening as when they first appeared. But, alas, not so. Barrington Bailey’s “The Four-Color Problem” is symptomatic: a lengthy dissection of said problem that involves much invoking of vectors and pseudoscientific principles but ends up sounding like nothing so much as the compiled ramblings of stoned philosophy and physics majors, dashed with surrealism. The specter of William S. Burroughs runs rife through the book, from Bailey and Moorcock’s invocations to Langdon Jones’s cinematic experiment, The Eye of the Lens, as do the general themes of violence, paranoia, and the surreal. There are a few successful items, like J.G. Ballard’s skittish and malevolent “The Assassination Weapon,” with heavy nods to Dada, and Thomas M. Disch’s mildly dystopic future cityscape “Angouleme.” Mostly, though, once you’ve stripped away what might once have been shocking, it’s hard not to be distracted by the self-indulgence and overreliance on unconventional acid-trip narrative, at the expense of true vision.
Top-notch for its time and still spiked with the occasional stunner, but overly dense and unfriendly to an extreme.