The Best of Arthur C. Clarke 1937-71

Here’s another book of excellent short fiction, this time it’s a single-author collection, THE BEST OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE 1937-71.

TITLE: THE BEST OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE 1937-71
AUTHOR: Arthur C. Clarke
EDITED BY: Angus Wells
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Collection
FORMAT: Hardback – Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1973, ISBN: 0 283 97979 8); Paperback – Sphere Books, London, 1973, ISBN: 0 7221 2426 0)

I have both the above hardback and paperback editions. The paperback was initially released as one volume, but later reissues were split into two volumes. Here is a listing of the contents:

  • 1937: Travel by Wire
  • 1938: Retreat from Earth
  • 1942: The Awakening
  • 1942: Whacky
  • 1947: Castaway
  • 1949: History Lesson
  • 1949: Hide and Seek
  • 1951: Second Dawn
  • 1954: The Sentinel*
  • 1955: The Star
  • 1955: Refugee
  • 1956: Venture to the Moon
  • 1960: Into the Comet
  • 1960: Summertime on Icarus
  • 1961: Death and the Senator
  • 1961: Hate
  • 1965: Sunjammer
  • 1972: A Meeting with Medusa**

This is an interesting one, although there are certainly some stories missing from it that you might expect to appear in any self-respecting Arthur C. Clarke Best of…. To name but a few: The Nine Billion Names of God, “If I Forget Thee, O Earth…”, The Wind from the Sun, Transit of Earth, I Remember Babylon, and Expedition to Earth, among others.

And there are also quite a few personal favourites that I thought should’ve definitely been in there – Rescue Party, All the Time in the World, The Forgotten Enemy, The Fires Within, Time’s Arrow, Out of the Sun, and a few others.

But that’s the problem with all Best of… collections, isn’t it? There’s never enough room for every story that the readers (or editors) think should definitely be in there. And, in the end, it’s totally up to the personal choice of the editor. Still, even with the omissions, this is still a nice collection of Clarke’s short fiction.

This was the very first collection of Arthur C. Clarke short stories that I ever read, way back when I was a kid (we’re talking forty years ago here), so it holds significant sentimental value for me, even though it isn’t by any means the most comprehensive collection of Clarke’s best short fiction. For that, read instead the later collection MORE THAN ONE UNIVERSE: THE COLLECTED STORIES OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE (US, 1991), which would be much more deserving of the title THE BEST OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE.

* The Sentinel is erroneously dated in the contents listing as being published in 1954. The correct publication date is 1951.

** The collection is dated 1937-1971, but one story in the collection, A Meeting with Medusa, was published in 1972.

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 4)

In my last post, I discussed the Doctor Who contents of the 50th Anniversary editions of both the Radio Times and the TV Times, and both magazines have pulled out all the stops for the 50th Anniversary. But when it comes to the magazines, nothing beats Doctor Who Magazine.

The November 50th Anniversary edition of Doctor Who Magazine is an extra-special bumper 116-page souvenir special issue, and comes inside a lovely hard-card “envelope”, with lots of nice stuff both on back and front. The magazine itself is full of tasty anniversary articles and interviews, including:

  • A massive preview of the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor
  • Ghosts in the Machine, a behind the scenes feature on the prestigious An Adventure in Space and Time drama
  • An Unearthly Beginning, featuring never-before-seen drafts of An Unearthly Child
  • The Wonder of Who – what is the secret of Doctor Who’s appeal?
  • Who Was Anthony Coburn? Part 1
  • The Fact of Fiction – The Five Doctors a detailed examination of the 20th Anniversary adventure
  • The Watcher’s Guide to Anniversaries
  • The Watcher’s 50th Anniversary Quiz
  • Interviews with Matt Smith and David Tennant, Jenna-Louise Coleman (on how Clara coped with three Doctors) and Mary Peach (Enemy of the World)
  • Reviews of Enemy of the World, The Web of Fear, The Complete Seventh Series, and various new releases on the books and audio drama front
  • A nice comic strip John Smith and the Common Men
  • Plus all the usual regular stuff that DWM gives us each and every month.

There are also some nice extras inside, in addition to the magazine. There’s a very nice twelve-card series of collectable art cards featuring all twelve Doctors (Peter Capaldi is in there as well). And we’ve also got a special mini-magazine, a gorgeous little A5 1960s-themed “mini issue” of Doctor Who Magazine (dated November 1964. Only 2d!), with a really nice “Dalek on Westminster Bridge” cover.

This November 50th Anniversary issue of DWM is a real cracker, one of the best, ever. I’d advise all Doctor Who fans to snap up a copy while they still can.

To Be Continued…

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 3)

With the Radio Times celebrating Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary, with no less than TWELVE variant covers, the TV Times also got in on the act with their own 50 Years of Doctor Who Anniversary edition for the week of 23rd-29th November, with four variant Doctor Who covers. I have the 1963-1969 Cover #1, featuring Hartnell and Troughton, plus companions Jamie, Zoe, Steven and Dodo, and a selection of the favourite b&w era monsters. A very nice cover, although it’s strange that all the background companions and monsters are Troughton-era. There’s nothing from the Hartnell era, except the First Doctor himself, and maybe the Daleks, as they were from both eras.

Inside the magazine, we have:

  • A mini-review of The Day of the Doctor
  • A five-page 50 Years of Doctor Who Special celebration, A Very Special Birthday. This is a nice one, and includes an interview with David Tennant and Matt Smith, and interviews with Tom Baker (the 1970s) and Peter Davison (the 1980s)
  • There’s also a Classic Companions piece, featuring interviews with Peter Purves (Steven) and Frazer Hines (Jamie)
  • And to crown it all, there’s A Brief History of Time (Lords), a very nice timeline running along the bottom of the entire five-page feature, starting with An Unearthly Child in 1963, and taking us right up to the 2012 Christmas TV Special, in which the Matt Smith Doctor faces off against the Great Intelligence, in the shape of Richard E. Grant

Overall, a pretty good Doctor Who 50th Anniversary edition. It’s well worth grabbing at least one copy of this one.

To Be Continued…

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 2)

Last time out, I talked about what TV has been dishing up for us to celebrate our favourite Time Lord’s 50th birthday. This time, I’m having a look at what’s been happening on the magazine front. In this first part, I’ll be looking at the Radio Times.

The November 23rd-29th edition of the Radio Times is a Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special, with no less than twelve variant covers, each one featuring a different Doctor (including the “War Doctor” John Hurt, which is why there are twelve covers, not eleven). So far, I’ve got the Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee and Tom Baker covers, and to be honest, that’s enough.

I honestly think it’s going a bit overboard trying to collect all twelve covers, unless you’re a reseller wanting to make a big profit, or a hardcore, dedicated fan or collector, who simply has to have every cover. I’ve always been a huge fan of the first four Doctors, so I’ve decided just to collect only the magazines with the covers of those four Doctors.

Inside the magazine itself, we’ve got:

  • A golden celebration of Radio Times Doctor Who covers, with fifty covers for all fifty years
  • A Steven Moffat article You Can’t Destroy the Doctor
  • On set with the Three Doctors (Smith, Tennant and Hurt)
  • A detailed overview of all eleven Doctors
  • And, finally, a competition to win the Doctor’s bow tie

Oh, yeah, and don’t forget that this issue is also interactive, if you happen to have an Apple or Android smartphone. Which I don’t. Life is so unfair! 🙁

This one is worth grabbing at least one copy of.

To Be Continued…

The Best of Arthur C. Clarke 1937-71

Here’s another book of excellent short fiction, this time a single-author collection, THE BEST OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE 1937-71.

TITLE: THE BEST OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE 1937-71
AUTHOR: Arthur C. Clarke
EDITED BY: Angus Wells
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Collection
PUBLISHER: Hardback – Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1973, ISBN: 0 283 97979 8); Paperback – Sphere Books, London, 1973, ISBN: 0 7221 2426 0)

I have both the above hardback and paperback editions. The paperback was initially released as one volume, but later reissues were split into two volumes. Here is a listing of the contents:

  • 1937: Travel by Wire
  • 1938: Retreat from Earth
  • 1942: The Awakening
  • 1942: Whacky
  • 1947: Castaway
  • 1949: History Lesson
  • 1949: Hide and Seek
  • 1951: Second Dawn
  • 1954: The Sentinel*
  • 1955: The Star
  • 1955: Refugee
  • 1956: Venture to the Moon
  • 1960: Into the Comet
  • 1960: Summertime on Icarus
  • 1961: Death and the Senator
  • 1961: Hate
  • 1965: Sunjammer
  • 1972: A Meeting with Medusa**

This is an interesting one, although there are certainly some stories missing from it that you might expect to appear in any self-respecting Arthur C. Clarke Best of…. To name but a few: The Nine Billion Names of God, “If I Forget Thee, O Earth…”, The Wind from the Sun, Transit of Earth, I Remember Babylon, and Expedition to Earth, among others.

And there are also quite a few personal favourites that I thought should’ve definitely been in there – Rescue Party, All the Time in the World, The Forgotten Enemy, The Fires Within, Time’s Arrow, Out of the Sun, and a few others.

But that’s the problem with all Best of… collections, isn’t it? There’s never enough room for every story that the readers (or editors) think should definitely be in there. And, in the end, it’s totally up to the personal choice of the editor. Still, even with the omissions, this is still a nice collection of Clarke’s short fiction.

This was the very first collection of Arthur C. Clarke short stories that I ever read, way back when I was a kid (we’re talking forty years ago here), so it holds significant sentimental value for me, even though it isn’t by any means the most comprehensive collection of Clarke’s best short fiction. For that, read instead the later collection MORE THAN ONE UNIVERSE: THE COLLECTED STORIES OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE (US, 1991), which would be much more deserving of the title THE BEST OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE.

* The Sentinel is erroneously dated in the contents listing as being published in 1954. The correct publication date is 1951.

** The collection is dated 1937-1971, but one story in the collection, A Meeting with Medusa, was published in 1972.

VOYAGERS IN TIME edited by Robert Silverberg

In my last post I commented that I’d recently bought a couple of nice old SF anthologies from Amazon UK. I made a few comments about one of the anthologies, TRIPS IN TIME and gave a contents listing for it. Here’s the same routine for the other anthology, which was published ten years earlier, but can be considered a “companion” anthology, from a thematic viewpoint, since both books contain short stories about time travel. The second of the two anthologies is:

TITLE: VOYAGERS IN TIME – Twelve Stories of Science Fiction
EDITED BY: Robert Silverberg
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Anthology
PUBLISHER: Meredith Press, New York, 1967
FORMAT: Hardcover, 243 pages.

This anthology is a collection of more traditional (but still fun) time travel stories than those in TRIPS IN TIME. The stories in this one span a thirty year period, the earliest originally published in 1937, and the last in 1967. Here’s a listing of the contents:

  • The Sands of Time by P. Schuyler Miller (1937)
  • …And It Comes Out Here by Lester del Rey (1950)
  • Brooklyn Project by William Tenn (1948)
  • The Men Who Murdered Mohammed by Alfred Bester (1964)
  • Time Heals by Poul Anderson (1949)
  • Wrong-Way Street by Larry Niven (1965)
  • Flux by Michael Moorcock (1963)
  • Dominoes by C. M. Kornbluth (1953)
  • A Bulletin from the Trustees by Wilma Shore (1964)
  • Traveler’s Rest by David I. Masson (1965)
  • Absolutely Inflexible by Robert Silverberg (1956, revised version 1967)
  • THE TIME MACHINE [Chapter XI, XII – part] by H. G. Wells (1895)

This looks like another very interesting anthology of short fiction. Silverbob certainly does know how to put together a good anthology of stories. Again, some of them I remember well (Wells, Bester, Tenn, and Moorcock), others I vaguely remember (Miller, del Rey, Anderson, Niven, Kornbluth and Silverberg), and the last two I’m not familiar with at all (Shore, Masson).

As I’ve already said, this is a kinda/sorta “sister” anthology to the later TRIPS IN TIME (1977), which is a more unusual and quirky collection of time travel tales. I’ve already read several of the stories in TRIPS IN TIME, but now I’ve started reading some of the stories in VOYAGERS IN TIME as well. I’m dipping in and out of both books, and it will be nice to compare the two anthologies when I’ve finished both of them.

As usual, I’m working my way through the stories in both books slowly, as and when I get free time to do so, and not in any kind of order. I’ll just pick stories at random, usually with favourite authors first and working my way to least favourite or least familiar. Once I’ve finished I’ll start posting comments on individual stories (with the exception of the excerpts from The Time Machine, as I’ll be reviewing the novel at some point), and comments on the two anthologies as a whole.

Classic Tunes: “Damaged Goods” by Gang of Four

I’m listening to this one right now on a various artists double-CD compilation of indie music, FEAR OF MUSIC.

Damaged Goods is one of my absolute favourite Gang of Four tracks, from their first classic 1979 album ENTERTAINMENT, although it had actually appeared previously as the A-side of their legendary first single, the 1978 Damaged Goods EP, which was released on the Fast Product record label. This EP also featured the equally legendary tracks Love Like Anthrax and Armalite Rifle.

Gang of Four incorporated various other genres such as funk, reggae and dub into their stylistic repertoire, which gave a lot of added “oomph!” to their music. Damaged Goods is like all good punk and post-punk – angry, short, and to the point – but it is also more sophisticated than many of its punk predecessors. This track is undoubtedly one of the pivotal post-punk anthems, and had a huge impact and influence on everything that came afterwards. The sheer simplicity of the best punk and post-punk classics like this reminds me so much of the great three chord/sub three minute garage tracks of the mid-to-late 1960s, albeit with large added dollops of anger and social awareness.

My tastes in music are pretty wide-ranging and eclectic, and on occasion I like some overproduced rock, disco and dance music as much of the next guy. But there are times that I just want to have it short, raw and punchy, like Damaged Goods, New Rose, Public Image, Ever Fallen In Love or Pretty Vacant. Heady company, that, and Damaged Goods is deservedly up there among these other classic tracks.

The version I’m listening to right now is the later re-recorded version of Damaged Goods, and the purists would undoubtedly groan and roll their eyes, and assert that the original version, and only the original version on the EP is the real Damaged Goods. And when it comes to music, I have to admit that I’m almost always a purist myself. So I invariably hate most cover versions of classic tunes. But not on this occasion.

I actually prefer this re-recorded version, which is faster and snappier than the slower original EP version. It just seems to be that bit more angry and aggressive, a searing indictment of love and lust. And angry and aggressive is how I feel a good punk or post-punk song should be. Both versions are classic, but the newer one just edges it for me.

Like I said, the purists will surely disagree with me strongly (most of them probably foaming at the mouth), but I don’t care! 🙂

Countdown to “Day of the Doctor” – Two Hours and Counting Down

I’m sitting here eagerly awaiting the start of the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Special, The Day of the Doctor, which airs on BBC1 in about one and a half hours, at 7.50pm. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Zygons again, after almost forty years. I’m also really looking forward to seeing the David Tennant Doctor and Rose again. And John Hurt. Oh yes, more John Hurt, please!

We’re all aware that Matt Smith is bowing out with the upcoming Christmas Special, The Time of the Doctor, after three really good years on the show. That’ll be sad, as I really liked him. But I’m sure the series will be in safe hands, as Matt gives over the reins to Peter Capaldi, who is a darned good actor. Steven Moffat, and Russell T. Davies before him, haven’t let us down yet with their choices of actors for the modern series. I trust their judgment. Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith have ALL been excellent in the role, and I’m certain that Peter Capaldi will be, too. I’m particularly interested in how the relationship between the new Doctor and companion Clara Oswald will pan out.

So here’s looking forward to The Day of the Doctor. I’m sure it will be a cracker, although it will have to be something really “special” to be better than the truly excellent An Adventure in Space and Time, which aired on BBC2 on Thursday night. If it’s even half as good as that one, I’ll be happy! 🙂

Doctor Who – Fifty Years in Time and Space

This month marks the 50th Anniversary of my all-time favourite sci-fi television series, Doctor Who. The very first episode of An Unearthly Child aired on BBC1 at 5.15pm on Saturday 23rd November, 1963, and the world of sci-fi television, and our lives, would never be the same again.

There has obviously been a lot of recent activity to celebrate the anniversary. The November issue of Doctor Who Magazine is of course a bumper 50th Anniversary special, with some truly excellent and detailed behind the scenes articles and a few other nice bits ‘n’ bobs. There have also been various television programs celebrating the lead-up to the anniversary. Last Thursday (14th November) gave us the excellent The Science of Doctor Who on BBC2, featuring the ever-brilliant and entertaining Professor Brian Cox, the Doctor himself (Matt Smith), and various other celebrities from the worlds of science and entertainment. Monday 18th also gave us the bumper two-hour The Ultimate Guide to Doctor Who on BBC3.

But the best is yet to come. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, which is being aired on the evening of Saturday 23rd on BBC1. This one gives us not one, not two, but THREE Doctors (plus Clara, of course), and Rose, and Daleks, AND the long-awaited return of one of the best-ever Doctor Who monsters, the Zygons. I mean, what’s not to look forward to? Add to this the fact that the anniversary is actually falling on Saturday 23rd November, rather than, say, on a Wednesday, or one of the other days of the week. That alone is giving me a huge thrill. Hey, it doesn’t take much to get me excited, eh? Roll on Saturday evening! I’ll be like a young kid again. 🙂

However, as much as I might be looking forward to The Day of the Doctor, there’s something else that I’m looking forward to even more. Tonight, at 9pm, BBC2 is screening An Adventure in Space and Time, which promises to be an absolute gem. Sure, the 50th Anniversary Special is wildly anticipated by all Doctor Who fans, myself included. But Doctor Who specials come and go, and there have been quite a few of them over the years, some good, some not so good. There has never been a Doctor Who programme like An Adventure in Space and Time on television before. It is a “first”, and, as such, is, in my opinion, even more important than the 50th Anniversary Special itself. I consider it to be the most important Doctor Who production of recent years.

An Adventure in Space and Time is a prestigious television drama portraying the origins and earliest behind-the-scenes developments of Doctor Who and the Hartnell-era cast. It’s written by the irrepressible Mark Gatiss, and stars excellent character actor David Bradley as William Hartnell, major Hollywood star Brian Cox as Sydney Newman, and a cast of excellent young British actors including Sacha Dhawan as Waris Hussein, Jessica Raine as Verity Lambert, Jamie Glover as William Russell, Jemma Powell as Jacqueline Hill and Claudia Grant as Carole Ann Ford.

An Adventure in Space and Time promises to be something truly special, and is absolutely NOT to be missed by any Doctor Who fan. I’ll make sure that I have the phone off the hook, and all my friends and relatives will be informed that they will suffer the most horrible death imaginable if they come anywhere near my house between 9.00pm and 10.30pm tonight. They have been warned! 🙂

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 1)

As this month marks the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, my all-time favourite telefantasy series, I reckon that now is the perfect time to relaunch this blog as a dedicated Doctor Who thingie, rather than the more general telefantasy blog of its previous regeneration.

I now do all of the more general stuff over on my main Tales of Time & Space blog on wordpress.com, so I’ve cleared out all previous posts from this one (they can be reposted in some form on Tales of Time & Space at some point in the future), and I’m starting from scratch here with Doctor Who-only posts.

This coming Saturday (and I get a real thrill out of the fact that the 23rd November actually does fall on a Saturday this year) marks the 50th Anniversary of the very first episode of An Unearthly Child (aka The Tribe of Gum – I still refuse to refer to the overall story by that name), which first aired on BBC1 at 5.15pm on Saturday 23rd November, 1963. I’ll make sure to be sitting in front of the telly at 5.15pm on Saturday with my DVD box-set of The Beginning, plus a little drinkie or two, ready to mark the anniversary of the exact moment when the very first ever episode of Doctor Who exploded upon an unsuspecting world. Actually, it’s more like “sneaked by unnoticed”, due to the widespread furore surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy the day before, but “exploded upon” sounds much more dramatic, doesn’t it?

There has obviously been quite a bit of activity on television to celebrate the lead-up to the anniversary. Aside from the almost compulsory annual Children in Need silliness, we’ve had, most notably: the fun The Science of Doctor Who special on BBC2 (Thursday 14th November, at 9.00pm), hosted by the seemingly ever-present and absolutely brilliant Professor Brian Cox (with a guest appearance by the Doctor himself, Matt Smith); Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited (Watch, Saturday 16th November at 2pm); a three-part Doctor Who: Monsters and Villains Weekend documentary (BBC3, Friday/Saturday 15th/16th November at 8pm, and Sunday 17th November at 7.30pm); and the bumper two-hour The Ultimate Guide to Doctor Who (BBC3, Monday 18th November, 8pm-10pm).

That leaves the two biggies still to come. Every Doctor Who fan on Planet Earth is chomping at the bit, waiting for the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor (BBC1, Saturday 23rd November, 7.50pm). Obviously I’m as eager as anyone else to see The Day of the Doctor, but, as far as I’m concerned, the true highlight of the entire anniversary celebrations is An Adventure in Space and Time, which airs tonight on BBC2, from 9pm-10.30pm.

I’ve been waiting for months for this one, and I consider An Adventure in Space and Time to be potentially the most important Doctor Who production of recent years. It promises to be something truly special and unique, and I haven’t been this excited about any Doctor Who-related programme since the unsurpassed Philip Hinchcliffe era of Tom Baker’s run on the classic series.

And just for good measure, after An Adventure in Space and Time ends, you can hop channels over to BBC4 at 10.30pm, where they’re airing all four episodes of An Unearthly Child. This is gonna be the best Thursday night’s television viewing in years!

To Be Continued…

Nostalgia Collecting – Old UK Comics and Annuals

They say that nostalgia is the narcotic of the over-forties. I’m almost fifty-three, and I can definitely admit that it’s particularly true of me. I’ve always been a very nostalgic person, always fascinated by the past, even back when I was a kid. So pretty much my entire life, I’ve been on a quest to collect old stuff, particularly stuff that has some meaning for me, or which connects me to the “Golden Age” of my youth.

In recent years, I’ve spent a lot of time and money on Ebay, picking up many of the rare relics of my childhood and early-to-mid teenage years. One of the things that I like most is to grab the occasional old (and by old, I mean 1950s-1970s) British comic, as opposed to the US Marvel comics (which I also enjoy collecting) that I became a fan of from my mid-teens onwards. Way back in the day, before I ever encountered my first superhero comics, I was an obsessive collector of several of the traditional British weeklies. But that was before Marvel UK exploded onto the UK comics scene with The Mighty World of Marvel and its offspring from late 1972 onwards, and changed everything.

Over the years I’ve bought a lot of old issues of my favourite pre-Marvel UK British comics from the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, mainly Lion, Valiant, Eagle and Thunder. I would also dearly love to be able to buy a whole bunch of Countdown and TV21 (otherwise known as TV Century 21), but these seem to be harder to find on Ebay and when you can find them, they are invariably a heckuva lot more expensive than the likes of the Lion, Valiant and Thunder. Maybe someday, when I’m rich. 🙂

Another particular focus of my collecting has been those old UK annuals, the hardback, once-yearly collections of strips and other goodies from our favourite comics. I remember these annuals very fondly from when I was a kid. They were the “Holy Grail” for me back then, something that I eyed up enviously in the shops, and which I really, really wanted to get my hands on, but which were way, way out of my price bracket. We were from a poor family, and I didn’t have a lot of pocket money back in those days (the late 60s and early 70s). And annuals unfortunately did cost on average ten times the price of those weekly comics which were already stretching my meagre resources to the limit. Back then, annuals were simply far too expensive for me to buy on a regular basis, and so were usually only acquired when I got them as occasional Christmas presents from my Dad or other relatives.

So, in adult life, I’ve been trying to rectify things a bit by picking up a lot of these old annuals, and I’ve developed a real knack for snapping them up dirt cheap, or, at least, relatively cheaply. I’ve managed to get my hands on most of the Valiant, Lion, and Thunder annuals, and a whole bunch of assorted other UK comics-based annuals including Hotspur, Battle, 2000AD, Starlord, Eagle, Dan Dare, Countdown, The Trigan Empire and a few others. Add to those the various 1970s annuals put out by Marvel UK, and that’s a lot of annuals.

And just to add quite a few more to the already huge pile, I’ve also built up quite a collection of annuals based on various television sci-fi series, including pretty much all of the Doctor Who Annuals right from the very first one in 1964 up until the late-1970s, plus a bunch of Star Trek, Space: 1999, Blake’s 7, UFO and other assorted television-based annuals.

I often look at these ever-growing stacks of old annuals and comics in my spare room, and wonder “Am I going mental? Why am I collecting all of this old stuff? What the hell am I going to do with them?” Then I open one of them and feel the tidal wave of nostagia wash over me, all the old memories boring up from the depths of my moth-eaten excuse for a brain. And I feel good. Really good. Maybe nostalgia is the narcotic of the over-forties after all, and if it is, I hold up my hands and proudly proclaim that I’m a complete addict.

At least nostalgia is a much safer and more productive addiction than cigarettes, booze and drugs. And we all need our little hobbies to spend our money on, or life would be unbearable, all bills and shopping and crappy Real Life nonsense. The thought of that being all there is to life makes me shudder…

“Divine Madness” by Roger Zelazny (1966)

Okay, here’s my second random pick from TRIPS IN TIME, “Divine Madness” by Roger Zelazny.

TITLE: “Divine Madness” (1966)
AUTHOR: Roger Zelazny
CATEGORY: Short Story
SUB-CATEGORY: Time Travel, Temporal Paradox
SOURCE: TRIPS IN TIME edited by Robert Silverberg (Wildside Press, 1977)
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: Magazine of Horror (Summer 1966), published again in New Worlds (October 1966)

A tortured man is having seizures, during which he is seemingly being forced to relive a sequence of recent events in reverse. The doctors claim that this is all unreal, and that he is enduring a strange hallucination caused by a combination of epilepsy and grief from some unspecified recent trauma or loss. But we are led to believe otherwise, that he is actually trapped in some kind of temporal paradox, during which he really is reliving these recent events in reverse.

The seizures/time reversals are getting longer, starting off at a few minutes long, then hours, then seemingly days in length. And they are rushing inexorably backwards towards the point of origin, the mysterious unnamed trauma which seems to be the cause of everything. He can watch these events, but it seems he is helpless to change any of them. The laws of cause and effect have been turned upside down, and the actions which started the chain of events would not be revealed until the end of the story.

Things begin to become clear as actions continue to unfold backwards, through the funeral, the tragic phone call in which he is informed of his girlfriend’s death in an 80mph car crash, and finally onto the initial event which caused everything, that fateful final argument between them that led to her storming off in anger. Will he be able to say those all-important words to her once he actually reaches the crucial moment, or will he once again be unable to change anything, and be forced to watch helplessly as events unfold tragically, yet again?

“Divine Madness” is at heart a tragic love story with an ingenious SF twist at it’s core. There never is any explanation given for the strange time reversal paradox, why it was happening to this guy or what was causing it. Nor is there any need for an explanation. It just IS. I know that many SF authors and readers like to have the clever stuff revealed in every detail (I can be one of those people, at times), but sometimes I do think it’s nice to leave the occasional thing unexplained and mysterious.

Zelazny’s beautiful use of language always was a cut above many of his contemporaries, and I really liked the lucid descriptions of the reversal scenes – birds flying backwards, the cigarette growing longer and unlighting back into the lighter, the Martini being undrunk back into the glass, the fountain sucking the water back into itself, the birds replacing the bits of the candy bar that they were uneating, and various other everyday minutae unfolding in the opposite direction from the one they are supposed to occur. Some of these scenes are both beautiful and ingenious.

Over the years, the “time reversal” story has become a fairly familiar gimmick in SF literature, sci-fi movies and television series. I certainly remember an entire episode of the UK comedy sci-fi television series Red Dwarf built on the idea – I wonder if the creators, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, ever read “Divine Madness”, as I know they’re huge SF literature fans. But when Zelazny’s story was published in 1966, (twice, first in the Summer edition of Magazine of Horror, and again in the October edition of New Worlds magazine), “time reversal” was a much fresher and less clichéd SF device than it is today.

Whilst this may not be the only “time reversal” story in SF, I can only think of one other off the top of my head that tackled the subject in such an elaborate manner, the much more light-hearted and comedic “Round Trip to Esidarap”, written by Lloyd Biggle, Jr., which was published six years earlier than “Divine Madness”, as “Esidarap ot Pirt Dnuor” in the November 1960 edition of If magazine. Maybe there are other “time reversal” stories of this type out there, but I can’t think of any right now.

However one thing’s for sure. Few, if any, SF authors could write as fine an example of the form as Roger Zelazny has given us with “Divine Madness”.

Rated: 3.5 out of 5.0