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2017-09-20 05:17 pm

[Sep. 20, 1962] Out of this World (the British Summer SF hit!)


By Ashley R. Pollard

The end of summer has come, and autumn is upon us. The result of the Earth’s journey around the sun, and as my esteemed colleague Mr. Mark Yon said, the weather here has been wet. Sometimes we get good summers, but this year was not one of those, the icing on the cake being a miserable August Bank Holiday weekend after the weekend before’s promising sunny day. But, Whether the weather be fine, Or whether the weather be not, here on Galactic Journey we will weather the weather to bring you the latest Sci-Fi news from soggy Britain.



This coming Saturday will see the last episode of Out of this World, which has made staying in on a Saturday night something to look forward to, rather than something that indicates one has no friends or better things to do...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-08-20 09:16 am

[August 20, 1962] A Galaxy of Choices (British TV: The Andromeda Breakthrough)


By Ashley R. Pollard

Science fiction on British television used to be one of those once-in-a-blue-moon events. When it happened, what we got could often be very good. Certainly Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass series was compelling viewing, which drew in a large audience from the general population with millions tuning in each week to find out the fate of the infected astronauts.

The impact of Quatermass cannot be over stated, the name having taken root in the British public's imagination. And, now we have a sequel to A for Andromeda, which I reported on last year, to carry the torch for science fiction on British TV, which also looks like it will enter public’s lexicon. With the additional transmission of the anthology show, Out of this World, we seem to be entering a golden age of science fiction on television.

For those unfamiliar with A for Andromeda, let me do a recap. The first series, a story set in the future circa 1972, was about a group of scientists building a super computer for the military made from plans decoded from a signal sent from the Andromeda galaxy. This signal is a Trojan horse designed to take over our planet by creating an artificial human called Andromeda that the computer can control. It’s all very clever how this is revealed, and when the hero, Dr. Fleming, discovers that Andromeda is a slave of the computer he saves her by destroying the computer with an axe. Andromeda then burns the plans for the computer, and together they try to make their escape. Unfortunately, she falls into a pool and apparently dies, while Dr. Fleming is captured by Army personnel.

The Andromeda Breakthrough therefore has to square the circle of how to carry on the story without undermining the climax of the first series.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-07-16 10:51 am

[July 16, 1962] Vegetating at the Movies (Day of the Triffids)


By Ashley R. Pollard

I’m just back from watching the film adaptation of the Day of the Triffids, which brings John Wyndham’s popular novel to the big screen. You may remember I wrote about Wyndham’s work for the Galactic Journey last year, now I get the chance to discuss the film adaptation too. As I said in my previous article, Wyndham is widely known over here because of the success of his novel The Day of the Triffids, which was first published in 1951.



But first let me mention that this is not the first time his story has been adapted for another medium. While I missed the broadcast, it completely escaped me for reasons outside of my control, the British Broadcasting Corporation transmitted in 1957 a six-part radio dramatization of Wyndham’s story, presented by the BBC’s Light programme. I was able to find out that it had Patrick Barr voicing the roll of Bill Masen, and I really wish I had been able to listen to the production.

Also, while I was compiling my notes for this article, I discovered that in 1953 the BBC Home Service transmitted Frank Duncan reading the novel that was serialized in fifteen parts, each episode being fifteen minutes long. I mention this in part to emphasize both the importance of the story, and the impact it has had on the British public’s imagination. It cannot be stressed too highly that Wyndham’s standing is on par with H. G. Wells.



A brief reminder that the story centres on how people survive in a world where most have been blinded and who now have to deal with triffids, which were originally bred to produce oil using genetically modified seeds that may have come from space. These plants can move, and have stingers to attack prey. Yes, they’re alien vegetables from space that eat meat. From this premise Wyndham weaves a very British disaster story set in our green and pleasant land that grips one from beginning to end.

So how does this latest film adaptation fare?



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-06-28 10:22 am

[June 28, 1962] A is for Armchair Theatre (Out of this World – UK's new sff anthology)


By Ashley R. Pollard

It seems that television science fiction serials on British TV are like waiting at the bus stop for a London bus to arrive. You don’t see one for ages, and when you do, three turn up at once.

Therefore I am quite excited by the announcement of a new SF anthology series called Out of this World. So excited in fact that when I heard the news, I had to sit down, and then have a nice cup of tea to calm down. While it’s always good to see SF stories on television, the announcement of a series is also a portent of more to come.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-05-21 06:28 pm

[May 21, 1962] Old AND New (UK's New Worlds Magazine)


By Ashley R. Pollard

Here, as I sit writing in May 1962, I’m contemplating change. The change that occurs when the old is phased out, and new things are built that replace the familiar. What spurred this moment of reflection was the news of the last trolley bus run in London which, as fate would have it, happened on the eighth of May in my manor—London slang for my local area. The irony is that the trolley buses were built to replace the old trams, but have now themselves fallen to the same fate of being old, and no longer appreciated for the modern convenience they once were.



Science fiction is arguably about change, hopefully not in the didactic way of, say, the classroom lecture, but rather through exploring the changes that comes from the introduction of the new. While I’m sure that some of the Galactic Journey’s readers may consider American SF stories to be the wellspring of all that the future holds, Britain does have magazines of its own to bring stories to aficionados of the genre on this side of the Atlantic.

One of them is called New Worlds.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-04-22 11:56 am

[April 22, 1962] "To ride on the curl'd clouds" ( ARIEL ONE)


By Ashley R. Pollard

Looking back to October the 4th 1957 when Sputnik was launched, it’s hard to believe that only five years have passed since that fateful day when Russia beat Britain and America into space (perhaps my American readers will say that Britain had no realistic chance of getting into space first, which I would agree with, but for the Western nations to be beaten by the Russians – now that’s the thing.)

With Sputnik, humanity transitioned from flying through the air to moving through the vacuum of space, where no living animal can survive without a pressure suit. The only other time that I can think of when a paradigm shift of this nature took place would be back when the first hot-air balloons were invented. This provoked the discussion, at the time, that this was the invention of travelling through the air.



As I read the history of hot-air balloons, the idea of travelling through air as an invention seems odd to me. But as language evolves over time, so do concepts like invention, which has moved from the original Latin meaning of discovery to the more modern meaning of a process or device. Though by modern I should clarify that I mean "from the fifteenth century," which is not surprising given the changes that arose from the Renaissance, and everything that came out of rediscovery of the knowledge of the ancient Greeks.

For those who look back on the past with rose-tinted glasses I will remind my readers that the times I’m writing about were surrounded by their own troubles. The Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453, for example, which led to a westward exodus of Greek scholars that fuelled the rediscovery of ancient thinking. One can argue that today’s troubles, with West and East facing off against each other, is just part of the story of humanity's struggle between its biological drives versus its intellectual aspirations.



Almost equidistant (physically, though not ideologically) from the Free and Communist worlds, Britain is about to become Earth's third nation to practice the "invention" of travelling through space.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-03-19 03:53 pm

[March 19, 1962] A convention of a different colour (Eastercon in the UK)


By Ashley R. Pollard

Last month I said I would talk about science fiction fan activity in Britain. I think it only fair to say that my involvement with British science fiction fandom is peripatetic, as in unsettled, as I lack the stamina to be fully involved with fannish behaviour. Not a bad thing per se, but not my cup of tea. As such, I’m all too aware that my account of British Eastercons is rather secondhand, as I haven’t been to one for several years.

Furthermore, I’m not a Big Name Fan, because I stand at a distance from the core of those who move and shake the mores of fandom. One could argue that I’m an old time fan who has gafiated from fandom, getting away from it all, since I rarely participate in fannish activities per se. Before you jump to the conclusion that I therefore must be a sercon fan, serious and constructive, I should add I’m not that either. For me the word FIJAGH says it all: fandom is just a goddam hobby. It sums up my position perfectly



With those caveats in place let me talk about the British national science fiction convention.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey)
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2017-02-19 12:22 pm

[February 19, 1962] February Thaw (tales from the British fan)


By Ashley R. Pollard

This month's theme is anticipation.

For instance, the anticipation of the coming spring that will soon relieve the winter blues, signaled by the mornings and evenings getting lighter. I no longer get up in total darkness and leave work as darkness descends because now the winter sun sets around five. Instead, I now walk over Westminster Bridge in the gathering twilight. The gloam of the day brightened as Elizabeth Tower illuminates, and the sound of Big Ben asserts the official time with all its authority that its chimes can muster.


https://www.flickr.com/photos/trainsandstuff/31074517774

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-01-21 03:12 pm

[January 21, 1962] January Freeze (The Great Explosion, by Eric Frank Russell)


By Ashley R. Pollard

I mentioned last time I find December winter difficult. In January it snowed, which reminds me of the song Let it Snow! by Vaughn Monroe, though the cover version sung by Dean Martin may be more familiar to younger readers of Galactic Journey. So with the frightful weather outside I had a good reason to stay indoors and read, and thanks to the Traveller's influence I have laid hands on preview copy of Eric Frank Russell’s, The Great Explosion, soon to be available at the end of May / beginning of June in hardback from all good bookstores.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-12-17 02:16 pm

[December 17, 1961] XMAS COOL (UK report and Drake's Equation)


By Ashley R. Pollard

I find December, in fact all the winter months, a tad difficult because it’s dark in the morning when I get up to go to work, and dark when it’s time to come home. To add to the misery it’s cold too. However, a piece on the misery of Christmas is, I feel, not congruent with the general feeling of excitement and good cheer that emanates from seeing people shopping, and of course the switching on of the Oxford Street lights. A tradition that started in 1954 and seven years later is still going strong.



(Read the rest of Ashley's exciting report at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-11-10 02:25 pm

[November 10, 1961] EARTH ON FIRE (UK Sci-fi Report)


By Ashley R. Pollard

Last month, I wrote about the shocking explosion of the world’s largest atomic bomb. Now, I plan to entertain and delight you all with a review of the film The Day the Earth Caught Fire, which will be on general release in Great Britain from the 23rd of November. Its subject matter is serendipitous, if not unnaturally timely, cast in the light of recent events. This can’t hurt its chances of doing well at the box office, and if you'll pardon the levity, it’s surely guaranteed to become a blockbuster. This early review has been made possible by influence of the Traveller, who has gone to great lengths in assisting me with gaining the credentials to see a pre-release screening of the film.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-10-31 05:32 pm

[Oct. 31, 1961] A is for Atomic (UK TV Sci-fi... and the Tsar Bomba)


By Ashley R. Pollard

A is for atomic and apocalypse, and this month also for Andromeda. Of the three, the most entertaining is the new TV series on the BBC, called A for Andromeda, written by Frederick Hoyle and John Elliot. Hoyle is an astronomer and noted cosmologist who also wrote the science fiction novel The Black Cloud, while Elliot is novelist, screenwriter and television producer.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!!)
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2016-09-15 08:08 am

[September 15, 1961] DISASTER ON THE MOON (Arthur C. Clarke's A Fall of Moondust)



August may have started with cool weather but it ended with a bit of heat wave for the August Bank Holiday weekend. So I did get to sit on the beach eating ice-cream and reading a good book, and in this case having the pleasure of reading Arthur C. Clarke’s latest A Fall of Moondust, of which John Wyndham has said, “The best book that Arthur C. Clarke has written.” A high praise indeed.

I have been a fan of Arthur’s work after reading his novella, which first appeared in Startling Stories, called Against the Fall of Night. I’ve also been fortunate to have had the pleasure of meeting him. For those of you who follow my writing here I can also recommend, if you want a taste of the man’s humour, his short story collection Tales from the White Hart. The title of which is play on the name of the original pub that The London Circle used to frequent.

Arthur C. Clarke’s latest book probably cements his reputation as one of the key science fiction authors of our age; the others being Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein. His breakout novel, if you will indulge me in describing it as such, was arguably Childhood's End, which was released in 1953. It describes the arrival of the Overlords on Earth to guide humanity and ends with the transcendence of mankind into something more than human. This was followed by my favourite novel of his The Deep Range in 1957, which tells how a former astronaut becomes an aquanaut, and describes the adventures arising from farming the sea.



So the question is, does A Fall of Moondust live up to John Wyndham’s effusive praise?

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-08-15 06:33 pm

[August 15, 1961] SEVEN DAYS OF CHANGE (August's UK report)


by Ashley Pollard

The month of August started with cool weather after a warm spring, which is disappointing for those of us who love to get out in the summer sun and lie on the beach. It is the time when the British newspapers are full of light-weight, fun stories in what is known over here as the 'silly season.'

Such fripperies were ended quite suddenly with an array of news from behind the iron curtain, starting with the announcement of Russia’s second manned spaceflight on Monday the 7th of August.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-07-20 09:28 am

[July 20, 1961] A CULTURAL DIVIDE (A UK fandom report)


By Ashley R. Pollard

This month, our London correspondent looks upon the rifts in the British science fiction community and despairs for the world as a whole...



Fans gathered at The White Horse in the 1950s—before we moved to The Globe

I have previously mentioned that London science fiction fandom is engaged in a feud that started three years ago, but which hasn’t stopped us from all meeting up at the pub once or twice a month for a drink and a chat. The feud is rather boring and has become increasingly tedious with disputes and tempers flaring over trivial things like membership cards -- who needs membership cards anyway?

I mention this again apropos of this month’s title: A Cultural Divide.

For those who don’t know me, I’m a psychologist, and therefore people interest me, and understanding their behaviours is all part and parcel of my job. Still, I’m amazed at what I see happening within fandom when quarrels break out. Given science fiction fans have a lot in common with each other you might think that a sense of community would lessen divisions rather than stir them up.

Still, there’s always a Gin & Tonic with ice and a slice for when things get too hot and bothered in the pub. Besides, as a woman, my opinions are rarely sought by the men who are arguing away over the various trivialities that consume them.

Our perennial fannish tempest in a teapot proved a fine backdrop for the larger one described in C. P. Snow’s famous 1959 Rede Lecture The Two Cultures, which transcript I was able to recently secure, and which I read with great interest in a quieter corner of the pub.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-06-22 07:01 pm

[June 22, 1961] HOME COUNTIES SF (a report from the UK)




By Ashley R. Pollard

Let me explain my title to you. The British Home Counties surround London, where I live, and consists of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Surrey, and Sussex. I mention this apropos of probably the most well known of Britain’s science fiction novels: the apocalyptic War of the Worlds by Herbert George Wells.

The story is a veritable march through the Britain’s heartland, describing how the Martian tripods march from Woking in Surrey to Essex, wrecking all that’s nearest and dearest to the heart of the British people. Though I should point out that this was a very English-centred story (Scotland, Wales and Ireland are left out), and regarding the rest of the world or our former colonies, Wells has little to say.



War, arguably, was where British science fiction was born. I say "arguably" because Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein can probably lay claim to being the first British SF story; however, its roots seem to me to be more firmly in Gothic Horror. I believe that Wells set the scene for British SF in a way that Shelley’s story has so far not. Though perhaps now that we are in the swinging sixties, her influence will be felt more as women’s emancipation moves forward.

What is the point of all this? Why, to set the stage for the introduction of one of our latest SF writers: John Wyndham, pen name of John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris, also known as John Beynon and a host of other pseudonyms made through different combinations of his name.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-04-15 10:05 am

[April 15, 1961] London Calling (a peek at UK fandom)

Every once in a while, one comes across a supremely talented, like-minded person. Ashley R. Pollard is a gifted writer from England who is shopping around her first novel. I discovered her through her columns in a British 'zine; I was so impressed that I asked if she'd like to join the Journey as a contributor, writing on fandom in the UK. To my intense gratification, she agreed. Here is her first article...



Out of the blue I received a letter from across the pond asking me if I would have a mind to contribute to his journal and that is how I came to find myself writing this entry for the Galactic Journey. To say I was delighted to be known to an American writer would be an understatement, but to be able to write for the Journey in such exciting times as these, the Dawn of the Space Age, is quite frankly a privilege. When Sputnik took to the heavens on October the Fourth, 1957, my work colleagues could no longer pass off my taste for reading science fiction as some abnormal fancy but rather as a sign of prescience.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)