Eccles Grammar School
TOWN AFTER DARK
A distant chiming clock hails the hour of eleven. The few cinemagoers disperse quickly or seek shelter from the rain until the last bus arrives. A flurry of wind scatters several fish and chip papers across the near-deserted road, as the traffic lights stand like sentinels, still repeating the crimson-amber-emerald code.
The early evening drizzle has now progressed to steady-falling rain, and the leaves of the boulevard trees are hung heavy with blobs of icy water; the cold, gushing spray of the fountain gleams gold on reflection by the sodium lighting and seems to whisper silence; a neon sign 'Undertakers: Night and Day Service,' flashes like splintered steel, heralding the darkness of death.
Yet from amongst this chill and desolation comes a certain warmth, accompanied by the gay chatter of young people in a cafe whose doors are open until the early hours. This is a place with character, where youths and their girl-friends sit idly at the small tables sipping hot coffee and listening to a guitar-playing folk-singer.
The singer adds his own brand of sincerity to the music. He asks whether war or persecution of the helpless is necessary, or tells of the injustices of present day society.
Outside, further down the street, large posters on the library wall are illuminated by bright mercury lights.
"The Army is the Career for You!"
"Christian Aid Week."
More pitiful still is the picture of a starving child who begs: "Give to Oxfam!"
The dying strains of the cafe folk-singer inspires hope and drowns the melancholy "We shall overcome some day."
S. Barlow, 6L.Sc.
C.E.M. CONFERENCE, 1966
Sixth formers from the North-West arrived at the Free Trade Hall on July 12th at 10-30 a.m. for the beginning of our conference, which was entitled "Who Cares?" Soon a uniformed official bade us stand while the chairman of the conference, Rev. Peter Hardman, the Lord Mayor of Manchester, and two of our three speakers, Miss White and Ald. Lever, M.P. entered. The third speaker, Rev. Don Van Voorhis had been seized with a violent attack of migraine during the night but, fortunately for us, he was able to join us later.
After the Lord Mayor had welcomed us, speaking about the need for young people to care about others, we were then addressed by Ald. Lever, who spoke about the welfare state. His speech was followed by that of Miss White, who holds a position as secretary in one of the branches of the Voluntary Service Unit and who spoke on the place of voluntary services in society.
Such was the interest in the last speech, which was that of Rev. Don Van Voorhis, who spoke on idealism, that it made us late for dinner.
For the afternoon session, which took the form of visits to state and voluntary organisations, people were divided into groups. We were shown round their premises, their work was explained and we were able to ask questions.
After this everyone once more converged on the Free Trade Hall for the final session which consisted of folk songs and readings.
Thanks must be expressed to Mr. Else for arranging for us to go to the conference, which we all enjoyed.
Susan A. Stuart, Rosalyn M. Tong, 6UA
INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE FICTION
Science Fiction is the modern magic-story. As we are now too sophisticated to believe in witches and wizards, we believe in telepaths, spacecraft, interplanetary travel, extraterrestrial beings, and time-machines instead. Science Fiction is so-called, as it is usually based on probable scientific developments in science parallel to some stories written long ago.
Jules Verne foresaw submarines, airships and diving suits. His stories, once extravagant fantasies, are now classic tales, quite acceptable to the modern generation. H. G. Wells prophesied atom bombs, gas turbines, vast improvements in medical sciences and man-made textiles. He also thought of Martian invaders and time-machines, now commonly employed to enmesh our imaginations. He wrote about moving pavements, helicopters, growth hormones, sky-scraper cities, advertising jargons (e.g. 'Beanz Meanz Heinz'), and germ warfare, all of which, though mere dreams in his era, are now accepted as facts. Arthur C. Clarke, the most famous modern Science Fiction writer, designed a communications satellite in detail, for a boys' paper twenty years ago. Because he did not patent it, he did not receive royalties from Early Bird!
There are several classes of science fiction:
The seven-headed purple monster and the damsel in distress model of story, is most widely recognised as Science Fiction among nonreaders; unfortunately, this is worth reading only for amusement. Clifford Simak is one of the leading writers of the completely incredible: e.g., he wrote a story about bowling-balls and sewing machines going for a walk, directed by a wonder dog and a pink blob of jelly.
More serious writers use one or two fantastic details and build a completely acceptable story of human reactions upon them. Given that the galaxies are so enormous that the possibility of other inhabited planets is undoubted, then the stories about them are no more incredible than the tales of exploration in darkest Africa, written by Rider Haggard.
A favourite theme is telepathy, portrayed excellently by Naomi Hitchison in "Stories of the people" — a book about a colony of telepaths and the difficulties they encounter trying to lead a normal life.
Another favourite is the aftermath of an atomic war, ranging from immediate survival stories to results of long term mutations.
A good example of the latter is John Wyndham's "The Chrysalids," a book which combines this theme with telepathy. Nevil Shute's "On the Beach" is probably the most thought-provoking of these stories.
Life on Mars, or any other planet, possibly gives most scope for detailed stories about social organisation on planets whose meteorological conditions may be extremely different from ours.
Something out of control on Earth poses more questions for the skilful Science Fiction writer to answer. John Wyndham has written three interesting books on the subject.
The best vehicle for Science Fiction is the short story, in which there is no need for a detailed background, leaving the intricate human behaviour patterns to be driven home. Short stories cover the whole field, and some more besides. Edmund Crispin's collections, "Best S.F. 1, 2, etc." are probably the best introduction to Science Fiction for a new reader. Ray Bradbury's fantasies, Arthur C. Clarke's more down-to-earth and often humorous collections ('Tales of Ten Worlds'), James Blish's lack of faith in humanity, Daphne du Maurier's "The Birds," recently filmed, Brian Aldiss, Bertram Chandler, Fred Hoyle, H. G. Wells and Clifford Simak all demonstrate their mastery of this form of writing.
Pleas for social reform can be disguised in Science Fiction, either as straightforward Utopias or satires, cunningly concealed in excellent stories. George Orwell's "1984," H. G. Wells' "Modern Utopia," Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451," James Blish's "A Case of Conscience," and many others point a finger at faults in our present society.
Science Fiction is a serious form of writing, the best exponents of the art undoubtedly ranking above writers in other fields. As in all classes of fiction, however, the wheat and the chaff need sorting. It can be an extremely rewarding field of reading, certainly not as escapism, as it is often made out to be, with plenty of wry human comment, satire and serious character-portrayal, to colour the many volumes, of which most are well worth reading..
A. J. Britton, 5 Science