A foolish impulse: Impulse magazine Vol 1 No 1
Anyway, this ‘sort of first issue’ of Impulse makes for above average reading, though not far above, despite the big names (for the time) on the cover. (Indeed, it is a measure of ‘the time’ that of the significant contributors only Aldiss and cover artist Judith Ann Lawrence remain with us.) The Aldiss is more melodrama than anything else, the Anderson is a vignette about a man who has to betray Earth to save it, the Blish (‘A Hero’s Life’) is a rather nifty if overcrowded story on a similar theme, set in a ‘sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic’ mileau that would not have embarrassed Iain M. Banks; it later was reworked as ‘A Style in Treason‘.
The stories by Richard Wilson and Jack Vance are quite minor (though apparently the Vance was thought lost and even Vance was surprised when he found out — years later! — that it had ever been published [see Strange Highways by Boston and Broderick]), and the last piece is the first instalment of Pavane by Keith Roberts, a minor classic. It’s very atmospheric but probably does not deserve the number of pages dedicated to it.
Interesting is the Ballard, ‘You and Me and the Continuum’. It is the first published section of what would become another classic of its kind — The Atrocity Exhibition. This is the ‘New Wave’ in all its interesting, obtuse, experimental and pretentious glory. In 8 pages he whips through 27 alphabetically arranged sections, ticking off a checklist of Ballardy images (lists of 20th century objects, quasars, someone called ‘Dr Nathan’, etc). It seems to be about something — apparently a second coming that never quite came off. There’s an extensive critical literature on this sort of thing. I liked his slightly earlier work that was just a little more coherent, if just as fixated (‘Terminal Beach’ for example).
So we have here a volume that does one of the wonderful things that a periodical can do so much better than an anthology; we have a snapshot of the times. The volume is poised between the new world of Ballard and the space opera of Anderson. The Aldiss is minor but nevertheless is pushing SF away from outer space and towards inner (it is called ‘The Circulation of the Blood’), while the Harrison is a hard-nosed version of ‘The Cold Equations’ and the Roberts is lyrical alternate history, both well-established forms by the time of writing. There is no agenda here. Yes, Bonfiglioli did commission some of these works around a theme of ‘sacrifice’, apparently, although interestingly more of the stories would fit more snugly under ‘betrayal’. But he had no preferred mode or style or world view. Apparently if you want a copy it’s worth around 10 squid on Amazon, or was when I searched just now.
What can I say? If I saw an issue of Impulse/Science Fantasy/SF Impulse/New Worlds at a car boot sale/trash & treasure/flea market/thrift store/opp shop for a dollar or two, I would probably pick it up — exactly because I would not know what to expect.
PS: Yes, I know there is little or no point ‘reviewing’ a book that nobody is going to be able to buy.