When first published in 1983 The Entropy Exhibition was the first critical assessment of the literary movement known as ‘New Wave’ science fiction. It examines the history of the New Worlds magazine and its background in the popular imagination of the 1960s, traces the strange history of sex in science fiction and analyses developments in stylistic theory and practice.
Michael Moorcock edited and produced the magazine New Worlds from 1964 to 1973. Within its pages he encouraged the development of new kinds of popular writing out of the genre of science fiction, energetically reworking traditional themes, images and styles as a radical response to the crisis of modern fiction. The essential paradox of the writing lay in its fascination with the concept of ‘entropy’ – the universal and irreversible decline of energy into disorder. Entropy provides the key to both the anarchic vitality of the magazine and to its neglect by critics and academics, as well as its connection with other cultural experiments of the 1960s. The Fiction of the New Worlds writers was not concerned with far future and outer space, but with the ambiguous and unstable conditions of the modern world.
Detailed attention is given to each of the three main contributors to the New Worlds magazine – Michael Moorcock, Brian Aldiss and J.G. Ballard. Moorcock himself is more commonly judged by his commercial fantasy novels than by the magazine he supported with them, but here at last the balance is redressed: New Worlds emerges as nothing less than a focus and a metaphor for many of the transformations of English and American literature in the past two decades.