JG Ballard in Vogue Magazine 1962

A rather unique early 1960s photo of JG from the February 1, 1962 edition of the British edition of Vogue magazine. Photographer unknown.

J.G. Ballard in Vogue.

New Worlds no. 116, published in March 1962, notes that, "Peter Laurie, writing about 'People' in the February issue of Vogue, has a double-page spread on 'The Space Merchants' -- 'the nucleus of British SF atomy' [sic] as he describes Wyndham, Aldiss, Ballard, Brunner, book reviewer Flood and editor Carnell (with photographs)." I've been able to track down this edition of Vogue (pp. 92-93), and here's what Peter Laurie says about these astronauts of Inner Space....

The Space Merchants

By Peter Laurie

Not speculative astronomers, not advertising salesmen, but the professional nucleus of good English science-fiction writing. The field is messy, commercial, rubbishy, its history is murky, its future dubious. But from this handful of people might come something fine.

In the last few years science fiction -- SF to adherents -- has had a tinge of respectability blown on along one edge. The Sundays carry more or less serious reviews of new books; Amis publishes his study New Maps of Hell; learned professors script the stuff, with varying success, for television. But there's a long way to go before something worthwhile grows out of the pulp.

Without doubt, there is the germ of something good there, but to the inquiring eye, bedazzled with the bug-eyed monsters and space-helmeted nymphs of the uniformly apalling covers, it may be difficult to see what. The thing that matters about SF is that here at last is a body of writing which is as much concerned with things as with people. The tradition of the novel here has been more and more towards an exclusive preoccupation with personal relationships. Physical backgrounds in contemporary fiction are important, if at all, solely for their implications of a corresponding social background. John Wyndham sees this as a tradition of female thinking, concerned with individuals for their intrinsic interest, and their intimate relations with each other. On the other hand SF offers a masculine approach: talking about man alone with the mysterious forces of nature, his own societies, the universe itself.

As usual, the Americans lead. Pohl and Kornbluth's The Space Merchants is a superb satire on the advertising society gone mad. Ray Bradbury, who is perhaps the nearest thing to an SF genius, evokes horribly the loneliness of man alone with strange things in space and time. Here he is much admired by the younger writers: John Ballard, Brian Aldiss who edited the Penguin Science Fiction. John Wyndham is probably the best and best known of English writers. John Brunner is the group's social conscience -- he sees SF mainly as a way of social comment -- using the "scientific" apparatus of the story to suspend disbelief as Swift did, so that a social problem can be discussed in logical isolation.

If in the end anything comes of all this it will be as much due to Ted Carnell as anyone else. He is editor of New World's Science Fiction, and two other magazines; editorially he has a monopoly. But he has managed to resolve the intractable facts of his business to produce a slow, but definitely upward spiral. Faced with hack writers and fanatic, ill-educated readers, he has managed to introduce and train up better writers, and at the same time to get his readers to appreciate them. Already he sees, with a mixture of pleasure and alarm, that writers are beginning to write for themselves rather than the editor -- this is an essential step but a risky one. He suffers the apprehensions of any parent -- one hopes his infant will turn out well.

Practically all the home runners left in England: John Brunner, socially conscious; bottom, Brian Aldiss, literary; below, right, John Ballard, fantastical.

The nucleus of SF atomy: John Wyndham, orating, and Ted Carnell (centre), editor of New World's Science Fiction, the leading magazine, in the tiny office of Leslie Flood's Fantasy Bookshop in Sicilian Avenue -- the only one in London, he claims, to be devoted entirely to SF.