Saturday, February 7, 2009

AUGURIES



AUGURIES was a science fiction and fantasy small press magazine I edited and published from 1983 to 1994, producing eighteen issues. The early issues were done in collaboration with the South Hants SF Group, who contributed work and, I think, modest finance towards the cost of the first two issues. As I recall, many No.1s were stored in their basement and ruined by water-leakage. The cover label was ‘South Hants SF Magazine’ until issue 7 when it became ‘South Hants Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazine’ and thereafter other variants occurred (see posts below).

When I started the project there were no home computers with wordprocessing and no publishing packages. I’d had some modest successes with commercial magazines so wanted to encourage new writers. The first issue’s editorial on the back page was na├»ve, but well intentioned: ‘Within the SF world, the general consensus seems to be that if amateur (that is, fan) writing is worth reading then it will sell to professional markets, thus leaving the stories in fanzines de facto not worth reading. Auguries has been launched to disprove that statement, by printing stories written by fans, stories which are worth reading and which do deserve publication, an outlet denied them for purely commercial reasons… inside… messages – auguries, if you like – yet none belabour the point: they are stories first, harbingers second.’

Payment for contributions was not made until announced in issue 9 and even then it was small; a token. I was pleased to receive and feature two stories by the late Sydney J Bounds – tales about a Mage private eye: he had written several in this series and I had hoped to put them together in a collection but time and funds didn’t allow.

Finding a printer was the biggest problem in those days. Stalwarts of the BSFA, John and Eve Harvey ran the BSFA Printing Service and for reasonable rates did Auguries proud. I sent fliers out in the BSFA mailing, asking for stories. Then I had to select what I liked. Editing is subjective, after all. I still remember the sheer joy when reading a piece that transported me to another world or created characters who moved me. Then the hard slog began: I had to retype every story, then cut and paste them to fit the planned pages, allowing for illustrations which in the early days I did myself. Finally, it went off to the printer.

The magazine title was taken from William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence:
‘To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand
And Eternity in an Hour.’

The Contents were in fact labelled The Doors of Perception – from Blake’s ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.’

Illustrations
Where space allowed, I tried to have each story (or poem) accompanied by an illustration. As can be seen, over time a number of gifted artists provided work; it’s doubtless invidious, by naming one artist, but I was very pleased to feature the artwork of the legendary Sydney Jordan on two occasions. Day of Truth (above) is my illo from issue No.1.

To be fair to the artists (since the copyright only pertained to the print version of Auguries), I have not featured their interior artwork here online but only some of my own work that accompanied stories. If any artist is happy for me to feature samples from their contributions to Auguries, please get in touch.

Back issues
You can order certain back issues from BBR at
http://www.bbr-online.com/catalogue/Items/Auguries.shtml

- Nik Morton

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