And Now For Something Completely Different: Continuum by Roger Elwood

The accolade of being called an anthologist is not easily obtained. One can only imagine at the effort spent splicing the different elements that comprise an anthology into a cohesive whole that sits well with a theme that will attract book buyers.

Roger Elwood 1943-2007 most definitely earned the title of anthologist, having put together 64 mostly science fiction anthologies between 1964 and 1980. Like many of his peers, he was also an author who published a small number of fiction novels and short stories.

UK Version – Cover art by Patrick Woodroffe

Mr. Elwood also performed editorial duties for the short-lived Odyssey Magazine (1976).

This article is not a celebration of Mr. Elwood’s career though. It is about a unique series he published called Continuum.

Is it an anthology? Is it a magazine specialising in serial stories? A bit of both perhaps while at the same time neither of each in the true sense. Continuum may perhaps best be described in Mr. Elwood’s own words:

Solid science fiction, eight outstanding authors, an unusual format – this is the tapestry of Continuum, a revolutionary concept in SF anthologies, where each book in the series, of which this is the first, stands as an entity on its own, at the same time forming an integral part of a continuing cycle.

PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER

POUL ANDERSON

CHAD OLIVER

THOMAS SCORTIA

ANNE McCAFFREY

GENE WOLFE

EDGAR PANGBORN

These are the authors who create their own strange and fascinating worlds to which they return in each successive volume, thus contributing to a unique experiment in SF. Also included is the totally original revolving authorship series conceived by DEAN R. KOONTZ and continued by three eminent authors in the field.

Front matter of Continuum volume 1.

The series copywrite is 1974 whereafter four books were published in hardback form by W.H. Allen & Co. Ltd of London UK between 1975 and 1977. I picked up the paperback version of books 2 and 3 some time back while browsing the shelves of a second-hand bookshop. Being a sucker for an anthology especially a series which allows me to hunt the rest down for completeness, add in the cool cover art and I had to have them.

The paperback versions I picked up were published by Wyndham Publications under their Star Books imprint. While no art expert, I was not too surprised to find the cover artist of all four of the UK versions (W.H. Allen, Star) were the illustrious Patrick Woodroffe. Small wonder was drawn to these books!

UK Version – Cover art by Patrick Woodroffe

Not knowing what I really had, I set about doing a little research followed by some eBaying to obtain volumes 1 and 4. I was initially was struck by the apparent serial nature of the content. Thereafter I declined to tackle them because I really wasn’t sure how. Does one read each book from cover to cover as intended, or read each story across the four volumes?

This was perhaps the issue which prevented such a concept expanding. Perhaps it was simply a little too different for the average reader to try to figure out. Yet to paraphrase Mr Elwood, each story should have stood alone in its own right. In the end the series amounted to the originally projected four books and was not followed by any further undertaking of precisely the same nature.

Regarding the books, I have not seen others in my varied shop browsing. I had to buy book 1 and 4 from a seller in the UK. I doubt they can be considered a rarity, but owning a complete series by the same publisher could be considered an achievement of sorts.

UK Version – Cover art by Patrick Woodroffe

In the US the hard cover versions were published by Putnam while the softback saw print under the Berkley medallion imprint. The cover artist there was Vincent Di Fate. The series does not appear to have been republished in any form since. While the artwork on the US and UK versions differed, the hard back and paperback copies used the same artwork per respective country albeit with some differences in cover lettering.

Continuum 1

The first volume in the series contains the following stories across its 190 pages of small print text:

  • Stations of the Nightmare – Part One by Philip José Farmer
  • My Own, My Native Land by Poul Anderson
  • Shaka! by Chad Oliver
  • The Armageddon Tapes- Tape 1 by Thomas Scortia
  • Prelude to a Crystal Song by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Dark of the June by Gene Wolfe
  • The Children’s Crusade by Edgar Pangborn
  • The Night of the Storm by Dean R. Koontz
US Version – Cover art by Vincent Di Fate

Continuum 2

This 191 page small print volume presents the continuation of what came before:

  • Stations of the Nightmare – Part Two by Philip José Farmer
  • Passing the Love of Woman by Poul Anderson
  • Caravans Unlimited: Stability by Chad Oliver
  • The Armageddon Tapes- Tape 2 by Thomas Scortia
  • Killasahndhra – Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Death of Hyle by Gene Wolfe
  • The Legend of Hombas by Edgar Pangborn The Fire Mountain by Gail Kimberly
US Version – Cover art by Vincent Di Fate

Continuum 3

The penultimate volume has numbers 182 pages, the typeface is slightly larger than the first two:

  • Stations of the Nightmare – Part Three: The Evolution of Paul Eyre by Philip José Farmer
  • A Fair Exchange by Poul Anderson
  • The Middle Man by Chad Oliver
  • The Armageddon Tapes- Tape 3 by Thomas Scortia
  • Milekey Mountain by Anne McCaffrey
  • From the Notebook of Doctor Stein by Gene Wolfe
  • The Witches of Nupal by Edgar Pangborn
  • Darkness of Day by Pamela Sargent and George Zebrowski
US Version – Cover art by Vincent Di Fate

Continuum 4

The final volume of 186 pages contains:

  • Stations of the Nightmare – Chapter Four by Philip José Farmer
  • To Promote the General Welfare by Poul Anderson
  • Caravans Unlimited: Monitor by Chad Oliver
  • The Armageddon Tapes- Tape 4 by Thomas Scortia
  • Killashandra: Coda and Finale by Anne McCaffrey
  • Thag by Gene Wolfe
  • Mam Sola’s House by Edgar Pangborn
  • Making the Connections by Barry N. Malzberg
US Version – Cover art by Vincent Di Fate

All but the last volume include a brief introduction by the editor. Sort stories, especially those of well published authors have a way of finding themselves reprinted. For the big names works published in Continuum have generally been collected and republished later. None appear to have been published before so each could be considered an original piece.

Of the works published in Continuum, those of Chad Oliver, Thomas Scortia, Gail Kimberly, Pamela Sargent and George Zebrowski have never been republished, although the pieces by Anne McCaffrey – strangely – only saw partial publication in in Croatia. The rest were subsequently collected in book form.

To use a contemporary term, was this attempt to disrupt the anthology market successful? I do not think it was, purely based on the fact that we do not see more anthologies like this. Surely it is unique and for the completist collector, it allows for a lovely encapsulated collection without loose ends or wondering if someone will tack on another follow up volume.

I am personally happy with what I now own and look forward to reading some authors whom I have not had the opportunity to encounter before.

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