NOVAE TERRAE #4 (June 1936)


Copytyping this issue by Rob Hansen, from scans provided by Alistair Durie.

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JULY 1936

NOVAE TERRAE...................(NEW WORLDS)

VOLUME 1 .............NUMBER 4

The last two issues of "Novae Terrae" contained reference to the subject of a suggested science fiction magazine to be published within these shores. As you will see from another page of this issue the plans for this project have now been indefinitely shelved. Deplorable as this is, it is nevertheless characteristic of thc state of science fiction in this country.

It will soon be two years since the tiny flame that represented organized science fiction over here, namely "SCOOPS" was extinguished. Then as now, the habitual scientifiction reader had to return entirely to the comparatively well-developed American s-f fields. There is a difference, though, in the return today to this sphere.

At the moment one of the three main mags has changed publishers, and the first issue under its new publishers has yet to appear. In 1934 "Astounding" was well on the way to its peak of good stories, while "Amazing" was at least appearing every month, but today both of those magazines are in somewhat different circumstances.

What is the inference to be drawn? That science fiction is, even if only temporarily, on the down grade? Even if this is so, there is consolation in the fact that when (though it happens in years ahead) an English science fiction periodical appears, it surely must be an improvement on "SCOOPS", for however praiseworthy that journal was, the attempt to put science fiction in a sensational and purely blood and thunder class was a big mistake


Maurice K. Hanson, 95, Mere Road, Leicester, England,
Dennis A. Jacques, 89, Long Shoot, Nuneaton, Warks, Eng.

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A Critical Examination of Space Flight by Means Of Rockets
by J.E.Barnes

Before I start this article proper I should like to point out that it is written not in an attempt to debunk rocketry generally, but to show that interplanetary rocket flight is not possible with present-day methods and materials.

Firstly, let us consider the mechanics of the problem of shooting a body off the earth. The energy required to do this is readily shown to be 6,375,000 kilogram-metres per kilogram of fuel. The most powerful fuel yet produced gives 1,600,000 kilogram-metres per kilogram, i.e. far less than the actual amount required to raise the, fuel itself. Furthermore, the bulk of the energy produced by the fuel combustion will be in the form of heat, (i.e. waste) and the remainder as mechanical energy, the process perhaps having an efficiency of ten per cent.(I should be interested to hear of any rocket yet constructed having a greater efficiency.) Also, all the mechanical energy is not used in driving the rocket, some is used in imparting energy to issuing gas molecules.

Thus the most powerful fuel is probably less than one fortieth as strong as it should be. The rocketers' reply to this common complaint is the fact that all the fuel is not being carried all the time. Quite. But it is carrying a necessarily substantially built metal structure, a pilot, and extra fuel for stopping the rocket when it is approaching the planet it is destined for, and the return journey (if any?) And so the rocket must necessarily be carrying far more dead weight than the weight of fuel which it loses during the first part of the journey, and is therefore by the above reasoning, incapable of getting outside the earth's sphere of influence.

If on the other hand we scrap pilot and hence the fuel for the return journey and also the fuel for retarding the speeding rocket when it approaches its destination, all practical purpose in rocket flight disappears, there being little point in sending a metallic rocket up into the Martian atmosphere to have it burnt out like our well-known meteorites.

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Thus unless we get a much stronger explosive than our present best interplanetary rocket flight is impossible. If stronger explosives are obtained, stronger, lighter, and heat-resisting materials than those we have today will be required. (Even today, with our comparatively mild fuels we note in rocket journals photographs of members of the societies crouching behind their barricade while watching a rocket.)

This, however, leads me right on to the next point, which is the difficulties of experimenting with a rocket in flight. Many of those in experiments abroad seem to be obediently tied down, perhaps in deference to the doubtles old-fashioned objections of the population near experimental grounds to having lumps of metal dropping aimlessly about. Any experimental flight, however well planned must inevitably involve a large amount of risk, especially considering the monotonous regularity with which rocket inventors blow themselves to bits. Another big difficulty lies in the control of a rocket in flight, the task of bringing a hurtling rocket to rest at any given spot is not one for which I, for one, would volunteer. Indeed one can picture the first rocket pilot feverishly working out how much fuel to explode in one particular direction as his machine hurtles outwards at thousands of miles an hour. The clumsiness of such control is apparent.

In conclusion, after a study of many rocketry journals I am convinced that the majority of rocket devotees are people who have very little idea of the immensity of the problems confronting, interplanetary rocket flight; they are drawn to it simply because it is a unique kind of fantasy.

Rocketry is trying to forge ahead of the rest of science for it is without sufficiently powerful explosives, without suitable constructional materials, and without adequate designs. What a contrast this is to the true scientific method as characterised by

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Hymn Of Hate No. 1 by D.R.Smith


A scientific fiction enthusiast frequently has to put up with very poor writing, but there is no reason why we should suffer such atrocities against the art of story-telling as are committed by the above author. At one time he seemed to show definite promise, but his stories took the downward path until now they are the lowest of the low.

The degeneration is best shown in his infamous Posi and Nega series. The first one was pleasantly novel, the second one was poor, and the sequels terrible. He starts them off with a prologue of sheer offensive bilge, whinings about his "impotent pen", that turn the stomach of the most hardened, capped with a several page precis of the previous stories which is entirely unnecesary. When the story finally commences, it is almost entirely obliterated under a shower of exclamation marks, used correctly perhaps once in fifty times. As soon as the story begins to come to life it is killed by a lengthy, pointless, discussion on elementary.

When the story appears again atoms are shattered to enable Posi to give a simple description of a new atom, the whole disfigured by ridiculously-placed exclamation marks. In a couple of pages the electrons "scream pulse, swish, twang, blink, rip, purr, beam, strumm, crackle, whine, twitch, blister, zipp, gleam, project" their information to each other, but never do they say anything conversationally. Here and there appears a quotation from some classic, hammered in apparently to impress the reader with the height of the author 's brow. Finally, to make sure that he has committed every possible blunder the author inserts more sickening apologies for himself.

The other stories by this author are quite as badly written. All his scientist heroes are `Donalds', all possessed of so many virtues that a right-minded parent would have strangled them in their childhood,

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all in love with equally marvellous (mis-spelt) 'Joan's. Occasionally the author has to describe a scientific invention resulting in a ghastly massacre of scientific terms. As for dramatic incidents, in "The World Unseen" he has a villain take three quarters of a column and several minutes of time (to enable his heroine to think up the most fat-headed thing she can do) to press the trigger of a revolver. Shades of Seaton and DuQuesne.

How we can hope to tempt intelligent people scientific fiction when at any time they may start to read a Skidmore story? No wonder we have our friends pick up a magazine, glance through it, see a Skidmore mishap, and toss it down saying, "I cannot understand what you see in such tripe". Yet these same people probably like Wells, and Wells must stand down before such writers as Smith, Campbell, and Weinbaum. Perhaps some day we shall have editors who can distinguish between good and bad stories and have the power and courage not to publish poor stories even if the size of the magazine suffers.

Utopian dreams!

One of the leading activities of the Nuneaton, England, Science Fiction League is the regular production of "Novae Terrae", the first British fan-magazine in the science fiction field. But yet in its fourth issue "Novae Terrae" can well do with the active support of yet more science fiction enthusiasts. Though its existence is hardly jeopardised, without the every available British fan, the ambitious plans we have in mind for impressive developments cannot yet mature.

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by Denny Jacques.

Although many prominent synthetic organic medicinal chemicals have no connection with coal-tar nevertheless, owing to the expansion of the coal-tar industry certain natural medicinal remedies have been supplemented by the synthetic production of a large number of antiseptics, anaesthetics, antipyrotics, and various disease-treatment requisites. An examination of those substances again shows the remarkable interdependence of the different classes of chemicals produced from coal-tar. Picric acid, mentionod in my first account as an explosive also figures as an antiseptic for burns, and certain of its synthetic yellow-dye derivatives are useful in the treatment of wounds. Similarly, chloramine T is made from a by-product in the manufacture of the already discussed saccharin. Cloramine T is widely used as an antiseptic.

Other coal-tar antiseptics include such organic chemicals as carbolic acid, lysol, salycylic acid and other derivatives. Most of the lower chloramines, and, as mentioned above, cloramine T in particular are used in disinfecting and washing wounds. They possess the beneficial properties of the commonly used hypochlorites without being at the same time toxic and corrosive.

Most anaesthetics are aliphatic compounds, consisting largely of ether and chloroform and hence are not derived from coal-tar. Hypnotics, nowadays increasingly frequently used centre around acetophenene, known otherwise as hypnone.

The best known natural antipyrotic is quinine, which besides lowering the body temperature is specifically useful against malaria. There are, however, certain synthetic compounds of this class such as antipyrin (phenazene) which only produces the first of these effects. The simplest and cheapest,

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To those of you, especially in this country, who took heart at my remarks last month of the possibilities of a professional science fiction magazine in this section of the globe, I deeply regret to inform you that all negotiations are at a standstill and that the whole idea has been shelved indefinitely. Whether it will be re-opened at some future date rests in the lap of the gods, who we pray to be kind to us.

We in England, follow the activities of our American friends with the greatest of interest, but we deplore the many differences of opinion which they have among themselves. As enthusiasts far removed from the sphere of their movements, we can only view these arguments with impartial indifference as they mean little or nothing to us. It is for this reason that I apologise to both the readers of this and Messrs Wollheim and friends for a distortion of facts which was published in "Novae Terrae" No.2 (April) . To go into all the details again would fill a copy of "Novae Terrae", and as the incident referred to has long been forgotten, I think it wise not to re-open it.

If Science Fiction in this country was on the same scale as it is in America, the same thing would, no doubt, happen here. Fans would form into various groups and it would be impossible to avoid arguments owing to different factions thinking along different lines.

An interesting fan mag has just reached me from New Zealand entitled "Science Fiction Bulletin", first issue February 16. In it are laid out ideas for forming the N.Z. Science Fiction Association, the aims and hopes of making a first class Colonial League and above all, a totally unique treatise upon "Science Fiction, What it is", which sums up briefly for non s-f readers the whole ideas of both the

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fiction and scientific sides of Science Fiction. The mag throughout strikes a genuinely serious note, and it is gratifying to know that science fiction is being considered so thoroughly in New Zealand. I hope to be able to give many more details of this Association in the near future.

Concentrated digest of an interview with Leo Margulies, new editor of Wonder, by kind permission of the publishers of ARCTURUS, New York. Of the SFL he knows little, and wasn't absolutely sure that the SFL would continue. The Readers' Department will be cut to the bone, while the stories will be back to the the blood and thunder days. In short, the science fiction stories will be secondary and the science fiction fan will not be catered for. "They are a small minority and they make a lot of noise" was his remark.

An apology - it was erroneously stated in the May issue of "Novae Terrae" that the Flash Gordon film was a cartoon. Actually it is a genuine movie.


INITIAL INFORMATION (a five-second featurette)

Many big names in science fiction and allied spheres are prefaced by an initial or initials the names for which these stand more often than not remaining unknown. This feature is nothing but a curio-article for the curious- minded.

P.E.CLEATOR is extremely well known for his work for the British Interplanetary Society.

J.M.WALSH has written several stories for Wonder, including "Vandals Of The Void".

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Primarily for the English science fiction enthusiast, but of value to all interested in science fiction, we trust is:


The second of the London Films H.G. Wells-supervised productions "THE MAN WHO COULD WORK MIRACLES" WAS completed early this year. It will have its London premiere in AUGUST, if things develop as now planned. The hold-up has been due to an inability to secure one of the bigger cinemas for its presentation. The actual HGW scenario has recently been published by the Cresset Press at 3/6, as a companion to the "Things To Come" script.................. Both these had already appeared in NASH'S MAGAZINE, which enthusiasts over here would be advised to watch. Like THE PASSING SHOW it publishes articles of a scientifictional nature (e.g. the conquest of space, future biology, etc.) regularly. J.B.Harris's serial in the latter continues to be quite creditable.................... The latest offering of the filmic arts and crafts to science fiction takes the form of "THE LOST CITY" with William Boyd and Claudia Doll, an extremely wild and woolly and particularly hectic affair. Of this Miss C.A. Lejeune the generally accepted newspaper film critic par excellence says in "THE OBSERVER". "Taken in the right spirit this jungle melodrama is the laugh of the year and I guarantee that you never saw anything more tonic to the diaphragm even in the days of the old serials. Treat yourself to this one on a sultry afternoon, and you'll come out feeling brighter and better." Though this production is rather calculated to turn discriminating people away from science fiction than the reverse, the management of the REGAL Cinema, Nuneaton, are to be complimented on making the special feature they have done of a film, anyway, slightly flavoured with science fiction, in spite of the fact that their motives are probably not wholly in the cause of science fiction ...........

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John Hamilton's have recently published "THE NINTH PLAGUE" by David Lindsay at 7/6. Strangely enough, it features a maniac whose sole aim in life is apparently to exterminate the human race by the event mentioned in the title. This procedure involves the construction of a platinum-lined retreat the source of the funds for this leading to Secret Service hounds remorselessly following the maniac's trail ....................In contrast to this is Kathleen Freeman's "ADVENTURE FROM THE GRAVE" published by Davies at 7/6. This novel, which had a favourable but not ecstatic reception, deals with how a person dead for six months comes to life again in the tomb and returns to the world of the living. It isn't strict science fiction, but it is interesting fantasy fiction, and is reputed to be noteworthy and cleverly written. ..................Some mention has been made lately of the possible formation of a science fiction organization in HULL, possibly as a Chapter of the Science Fiction League.............................

Most science fiction devotees are interested in the fascinating scientifically possible idea of interplanetary travel. In England, much valuable work is being done towards the eventual achievement of this ambitious ideal by the BRITISH INTERPLANETARY SOCIETY. Why not become a member of this organisation and co-operate in its extremely praiseworthy ideals?

For further information communicate with the Hon. Secretary,
L.J. Johnson, 46 Mill Lane, Liverpool, 13, England.

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Critcal Examination of Space Travel (Cont.)

Kammerlingh Onnes, for example, who spent part of a lifetime proving that the liquefaction of helium was possible before he successfully brought about its accomplishment, whereas attempting rocket flight today with the materials at our disposal is like attempting to split the atom with an accumulator.

Again we may note the 'progress' of rocketry. When we try and find any really scientific or technical books on the subject we find that very few such books exist, indeed if any such books did exist rocketry might succeed in creating greater interest in the more intelligent sections of the public, to say nothing of gaining the support of governments and aviation companes. In fact the only experimennts which seem to be carried out are a number of uncoordinated efforts often of a very trifling character including such illuminating observations as the colours of exhaust gases. One might wonder if the rocket societies were contemplating a display of pyrotechny!

After getting all this off my chest, I now wait to be convinced that space rocket flight is a scientific possibility, not a scientifictional one.

EDITORS' NOTE: We should like to point out that this article states the opinions of the writer alone, not of the Editors of "Novae Terrae", and as it raises a number of controversial points an article pointing out, conclusively we believe, exactly how and where J. E. Barnes is in error will appear in the July "Novae Terrae". The two articles should help to clear the air considerably on certain angles of astronautics at which many people at present look askance.

The Coal-Tar Cosmos (Part 2) (Continued)

antipyretic is antifebrin but this substance is liable to exert a toxic action owing to the liberation of aniline into the system, and for this reason has been extensively replaced by phenacetin.

(Part 3 of this article will appear in the July issue.)