Author Philip Harbottle recently resumed his videos for his marvellous 1950s British Science Fiction YouTube Channel, again featuring some amazing rarities of vintage SF publishing in Episode 26 of this series of mini-documentaries.
This episode opens with a spotlight on the first and only issue of Worlds of the Universe, published in November 1953, by Fleet Street-based publisher “Gould-Light“, possibly edited by artist Norman Light, whose illustrations feature throughout, although credited as “Marcus”.
As ever, Philip pulls no punched when it comes to his critiques: “Spawn of the Void“, by John Sylvassey, is an insult to any true SF fan, a bonkers tale of a mission to Saturn (“It’s awful… a disgrace!” he observes). The Bear Men, invaders from Neptune, don’t help!
“Lilliput Minor” by Thomas A. Wade gets short shrift, too, dismissed as a “ludicrous” fantasy”, and it sounds like Mr. Wade’s other short stories and novels, such as those published by John Spencer and Co. (Spencer’s), are no better. Indeed, their only redeeming features of these are, arguably, their covers, by Gordon C. Davies and Norman Light.
You quickly begin to realise, from Philip’s critique, just why there was only one issue of Worlds of the Universe. But it’s part of his collection thanks to the novelette, “Waters of Eternity” by John Russell Fearn, writing as Mark Denholm, a byline he’d used just once before, in 1946, for “Solar Assignment“, featured in the first issue of New Worlds. What’s not appealing, for example, about story that features a creature made of living mathematics?
It was clearly the story that most impressed the uncredited editor, who hoped to print more stories by “Mark Denholm”, and Philip notes it has an exciting plot and is fast-moving, too… and full of a sense of wonder.
Although Worlds of the Universe abruptly ceased to be, all of Fearn’s unused short stories were sold to Scion, appearing in Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine from 1954 onwards, some issues with covers by the great comic artist Ron Turner.
There’s a kick in the teeth for those who have a copy of Worlds of the Universe and think they have a rarity. Two editions of this only issue were published – a second, more widely circulated release fixing an awkward typo, revealed in the mini-documentary – and Philip owns copies of both, the first, of course, being even harder to find than its replacement!
If you’re curious to read Waters of Eternity by John Russell Fearn, then you’ll be pleased to hear Philip published an new edition of the novelette in 2016, available from AmazonUK.
Philip Harbottle is a life-long science fiction fan, regarded as a world authority on the works of John Russell Fearn, whose credits encompass writing “Garth” for the Daily Mirror, and the “Golden Amazon” for Spaceship Away (adapting Fearn’s stories). He’s also very kindly contributed a number of synopses of early “Garth” stories to downthetubes, which we are adding as time permits.
Back in the 1950s, he adapted some of the Radio Luxembourg Dan Dare radio shows into comics at a young age – the only record of some of these tales known to exist, since very few recordings survive.
Our world has changed… It is no longer our own. Waters of Eternity is a gripping collection of three original novels from classic science fiction author, John Russell Fearn.
Never before available in collection, here are three thrillingly prophetic stories from a master of the genre. In “Waters of Eternity”, life on Mars takes a terrifying turn as Rad and his partner Invia realise that the resources of the planet have grown scarce. Forced into action, they turn to the only option they have left – a complex water compound of immense power and great danger…
Next, Fearn turns to a forewarning vision of the future in which the planet has become a “World Without Women”, set three years after a global pandemic that eradicated the entire female population of the Earth. That is, all but one…
Finally, in “The World In Wilderness”, a small group of pilots returning to Earth after observing the distant cosmic collision of two stars find something they never expected. Every human being on the planet has disappeared.
In this captivating collection of novellas, we find John Russell Fearn at his most imaginative, engaging, and far-sighted. The ideas we gain in Waters of Eternity may yet have the power to come true…