tiens: "Merril, in one of her 1966 articles in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, located that island as a group of British writers who published regularly in Michael Moorcock’s London-based SF magazine New Worlds. The writers designated by Merril as most important to the group were J. G. Ballard (thirty-six years old at the time of her article), Brian Aldiss (then forty-one), and John Brunner (then thirty-two). A number of American writers living in London at the time also contributed to the New Worlds enterprise, including Harry Harrison (then forty-one), John Sladek (then twenty-nine), Thomas M. Disch (then twenty-six), and Pamela A. Zoline (then twenty-five). A year or so later, James Sallis (then twenty-two) was invited over from the U.S. to co-edit the magazine. What gave the island its coherence, though, was the daring and exciting editorial policy of its energetic editor, Michael Moorcock (then twenty-six). Moorcock was blessed with a wide and generous sympathy for the range of experimental postmodern writing, in its Continental manifestations in general and its English manifestations in particular, and he felt that the conventions characterizing the bulk of far-future science fiction—spaceships, superweapons, interplanetary and interstellar conflicts—were better suited to comic books than to serious writing. At a London meeting of SF writers in 1966, I first heard Langdon Jones, then New Worlds’ associate editor, outline a number of other SF conventions I had never before realized were conventions: (1) that a single man, unaided, can change the course of history; (2) that the universe is basically a hospitable place (e.g., the spaceship that happens to crash—softly enough for survival—on a planet with abundant air, water, and food …); (3) that intelligence is a perfectly linear human attribute (e.g., the mathematical genius who can of course negotiate any social situation gracefully and effortlessly because he is a mathematical genius). These were three more SF conventions Moorcock was specifically not interested in having his magazine dramatize. By the end of 1966 almost all working SF writers were more or less aware of Moorcock’s program. Many were highly sympathetic to it, although they had little or nothing to do with it directly. (Roger Zelazny and Norman Spinrad did publish in New Worlds, whereas Ursula Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Joanna Russ, and I were also sympathetic to, but not connected with, it in any extended way.)
There is simply no way to remap this island onto a set of oppositions, either of age, aesthetics, or politics. The island’s structure was supportive, accepting, complex. It was only a very narrow range of writing that Moorcock excluded—but a range whose oceanic acceptance elsewhere Moorcock felt had swamped, if not drowned, the field.
Nevertheless, the oppositional model that came with the term New Wave had, almost within two years of its first use, loosened the term itself from any fixed referent, whether an aesthetic program, a publishing reality, specific writers, or specific writerly concerns. Once that happened, complex concerts of these four factors—which is what the history of writing in general and science fiction in particular consists of—became indiscernible. With only the term itself loose in the discourse of the time, oppositions were suddenly located at every turn. By 1969 any SF writer under thirty, or with talent, or with apparently liberal political leanings (indeed, any SF writer who was at all interesting), had been called “New Wave.” The term had been generalized beyond almost all usefulness. With the SF subculture of writers, editors, and hard-core fans, the response to this overgeneralization was, by 1971, all but to drop it as anything other than a historical referent to that island, now largely dispersed, which it had originally indicated.
Texts, however, endure. Less-involved fans and many academics took up the term with its model but without much firsthand experience of the phenomenon itself; they have been using the term and the accompanying model to organize the “history” of SF production in the ’60s and ’70s and ever since. Thus Harlan Ellison’s 1967 anthology Dangerous Visions, for example, though an island of an entirely different density and structure and with an entirely different fallout, has been hopelessly confused with the New Wave because the two were roughly contemporaneous. The same is true of Damon Knight’s Orbit anthology series.
There are valid questions to be asked about the island of production initially designated “the New Wave.” What caused the island to form? What allowed it to remain coherent? What caused it to disperse? What reefs remain from it? Were there any similar islands? What were its effects on the currents in that sea? Can any of these currents be felt today in science fiction?
Other questions can be asked about the progress of the term New Wave and the conceptual model it carried with it. Were any of the oppositions the term was used to locate deeply significant for the development of science fiction? Does the work of any SF writer spotlighted however briefly under the term New Wave manifest significant oppositions to some field tendency? Are there such oppositions in the works of any writers who never happened to snag the term as it progressed across the sea of SF production? Was the progression of the term across that sea, from 1966 on, random, or did it show a certain logic?" @XavCC