Moorcock, Michael

Tagged: Author | Editor | Fan

(1939-    ) UK author and editor, married to Hilary Bailey 1962-1978; London-based until around 1980, and London-obsessed from his first vivid memories of the bombing in World War Two of its southern suburbs, an experience constantly reflected in his fiction – wartime London underlies many of its characteristic landscapes and Icons and its images of Entropy – and central to what may be his finest single novel, Mother London (1988), a work of singular complexity whose comprehensive grasp makes generic pigeonholing impossible, despite touches of Telepathy and other psi phenomena in the text (see ESP; Psi Powers). In general, it is difficult to pigeonhole Moorcock's work; as a whole his many titles comprise a far-reaching array of Equipoisal strategies available for the writing of Fantastika, though a high proportion of them do default in the end to fantasy, and are not treated here in detail (vts and omnis of fantasy works are selective).

During his desultory schooling Moorcock wrote and published Outlaw's Own (about 1950), a hand-done magazine, continuing with several other similar Fanzine titles until 1962. In the meantime, having left school, he became a teenage professional, contributing to Tarzan Adventures, which he edited 1957-1958, producing for it his first Heroic-Fantasy series, later assembled as Sojan (coll of linked stories with independent material 1977). The Golden Barge (written 1958; excerpt 1965 New Worlds as by William Barclay; 1979) also demonstrated the precocity common to many generic writers, plus an already characteristic questioning of the violence and morality of commercial heroic fantasy, a genre he was all the same to exploit extensively for the next fifteen years. After working on the Sexton Blake Library (a long series of thrillers) – publishing one non-sf novella for it, Caribbean Crisis (1962 chap) with James Cawthorn, writing together as Desmond Reid – and after doing some night-club work as a blues singer, Moorcock, inspired by John Carnell, began to contribute sf and fantasy stories to Science Fiction Adventures and Science Fantasy.

Moorcock's pseudonymous output was, despite 1960s rumour, not large. Beyond Desmond Reid and James ColvinHouse Names of, respectively, the Sexton Blake Library and New Worlds – he used only: Bill/William Barclay for one story (see The Golden Barge below), two non-sf novels [see Checklist] and a spoof obituary of Colvin; the collaborative pseudonym Michael Barrington with Barrington J Bayley for one story, "Peace on Earth" (December 1959 New Worlds); Edward P Bradbury for the Kane of Old Mars trilogy of Planetary Romances set on Mars and pastiching Edgar Rice Burroughs; and, much later, Warwick Colvin Jr, for "Corsairs of the Second Ether" (in New Worlds 2, anth 1992, ed David Garnett). Most of his significant work appeared first and always under his own name, including his first sf novel, The Sundered Worlds (November 1962, May 1963 Science Fiction Adventures as "The Sundered Worlds" and "The Blood Red Game"; fixup 1965; vt The Blood Red Game 1970), a metaphysical Space Opera which introduced the concept of the Multiverse, a term perhaps derived from the works of John Cowper Powys.

The word describes a meta-universe in which multiple Parallel Worlds co-exist, constantly (but never permanently) intersecting with one another. In Moorcock's use of a theoretically endless nesting (or palimpsesting) of intersecting arenas, similar cosmic dramas are played and replayed by numerous characters who inhabit the various worlds, but who reduce to a relatively small cast of core identities, each playing his or her underlying self under various names throughout the cardsharp labyrinth of worlds [for more detailed comments on his fantasy work in general, and also for Underliers, see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. Of these recurring characters, the most central to the heroic-fantasy novels is the figure of the Eternal Champion, the protagonist of various series including the Eternal Champion or Erekosë, Elric of Melniboné, Kane of Old Mars, Hawkmoon, Corum and Von Bek. These series are given in the Checklist under the umbrella Eternal Champion surtitle. In the fantasies, the Champion's fundamental task is to combat Chaos on behalf of Order. In the sf novels, the Fabulations and the non-genre works, the motives and tasks of those figures closest in nature to the Champion (see comment on Jerry Cornelius below) are much more ambiguous. Throughout, Moorcock has consistently used the Multiverse and the Eternal Champion as devices by which it becomes possible to construe all his very sizable oeuvre as comprising one enormous series.

The Elric stories, published intermittently throughout his career, were Moorcock's first consequential work. At their heart lies the albino melancholic Elric of Melniboné, a treacherous figure who is in a sense the minion of his own supernatural Chaos-inducing sword. The tales comprise a sustained critique and Parody of the Sword-and-Sorcery brand of heroic fantasy. A sense that the object of this sarcasm was in fact himself ultimately trivial clearly motivated Moorcock's next significant move, the creation of a figure who Parodied the pretentious Weltschmerz of the antiheroic Elric: Jerry Cornelius, a portmanteau Antihero painted initially in the Pop colours of 1960s "Swinging London", was Elric turned inside out, an anarchic streetwise urban ragamuffin in James Bond gear, amorally deft at manipulating everything from women to the Multiverse itself. In his early adventures – during which the planet suffers various catastrophes – Jerry ranges from the present through the Far Future, melancholy, randy and evanescent.

This early version of Jerry dominates the first two novels of the Jerry Cornelius sequence: The Final Programme (excerpts August and December 1965, March 1966 New Worlds; 1968; rev 1969; rev 1977; rev 1979), later filmed as The Final Programme (1973; cut vt The Last Days of Man on Earth 1975 US), and A Cure for Cancer (March-June 1969 New Worlds; 1971; rev 1977; rev 1979). In the third and fourth volumes of the sequence – The English Assassin: A Romance of Entropy (1972; rev 1977; rev 1979) and The Condition of Muzak: A Jerry Cornelius Novel (1977; rev 1977; further rev 1978), which won the 1977 Guardian Fiction Prize – the portrait of the Pierrot-like Jerry and his pantomimic enduring family and associates deepens [for Commedia dell'Arte see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], as the various Londons they inhabit become less and less open to their sf/fantasy manipulations. Caught between the forces of Law and Chaos, the Cornelius troupe gradually comes to represent the dubious success of any late-twentieth-century strategy for survival "in the deep cities of this world, in the years of their dying", as suggested by John Clute in his introduction to the omnibus which first assembled all four volumes: The Cornelius Chronicles (omni 1977; rev vt The Cornelius Quartet 1993; rev 2013) [for further details on this omnibus and its successors, see Checklist]. Later Jerry Cornelius volumes include The Lives and Times of Jerry Cornelius (coll 1976; exp 1987), The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in the Twentieth Century (1976; cut vt The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius 1980) (see Temporal Adventuress), The Entropy Tango: A Comic Romance (fixup 1981) and Firing the Cathedral (2002). These later titles serve as modulations upon the thematic material of the central quartet, but lack its cumulative intensity and its strict formal control over pathos. A main failing in Moorcock's treatment of his huge cast – augmented by the multiversal sleight-of-hand that allows his favourite characters to escape again and again their just deserts (see Temporal Adventuress) – is a sometimes overweening sentimental attachment to his Underliers.

Further associated material appears in The Nature of the Catastrophe (anth 1971; exp vt The New Nature of the Catastrophe 1993) edited by Moorcock and Langdon Jones, which contains stories and material by Moorcock and other New Worlds writers who were allowed to use the Cornelius world as an Open Universe, and in The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle (1980 chap in the format of a tabloid newspaper; rev vt "Gold Diggers of 1977" in Casablanca 1979). The Distant Suns (29 June-2 November 1969 The Illustrated Weekly of India; 1975 chap) with Philip James (James Cawthorn) has as its protagonist a Jerry Cornelius who bears no relation to the Jerry Cornelius of the other books. The Jerry Cornell sequence [see Checklist] comprises early material retrofitted into the Cornelius ambit.

In the 1960s Moorcock also became editor of New Worlds, a position he held, with a few voluntary breaks, from #142 (May/June 1964) to its effective demise (but see below) as a magazine with #201 (March 1971). For some time he had been arguing that Genre SF and Fantasy damagingly lacked human values and literacy of texture, and he now began to accept for the journal stories from authors like Brian W Aldiss, J G Ballard, Samuel R Delany, Thomas M Disch, M John Harrison, John T Sladek, Norman Spinrad and Pamela Zoline which – he argued in its pages – proved that literate, relevant and humane sf and fantasy could be written. Works from these authors, and by Moorcock himself, were soon identified as comprising a New Wave (a term first used in 1961 in a book review by P Schuyler Miller, and later transformed by Christopher Priest into a tag for New Worlds's new-style fiction). For several years after 1965, New Worlds and the New Wave were virtually synonymous in the UK. Initially under the influence of the somewhat older and deeply focused Ballard, Moorcock published – and himself wrote – stories experimental in form and content, influenced by French Surrealism and by the early work of William S Burroughs. After ceasing as a magazine, New Worlds continued as a series of anthologies – generally known as New Worlds Quarterly though with some title variations – until 1976, under the editorship (variously and in combination) of Moorcock, Hilary Bailey and Platt; another brief New Worlds series in magazine format ran for several issues in 1978-1979; a further anthology series, with Moorcock's authorization, began in the 1990s with New Worlds 1 (anth 1991) edited by David S Garnett; it lasted four annual issues.

Though Moorcock was never prolific as an author of pure sf, the 1960s saw several works of interest, notably: The Black Corridor (1969) with Hilary Bailey (uncredited); The Ice Schooner (first version November 1966-January 1967 SF Impulse; 1969; rev 1977; rev 1985), a homage to and recasting of Joseph Conrad's The Rescue (1920) which convincingly portrays the cultures of a new Ice Age at the moment when the temperature begins to rise again; and the Karl Glogauer sequence, comprising Behold the Man (September 1966 New Worlds; exp 1969), the magazine version of which won a 1967 Nebula for Best Novella, and the full version of which later appeared in Behold the Man and Other Stories (coll 1994), plus Breakfast in the Ruins: A Novel of Inhumanity (1972), both assembled as Behold the Man (omni 1994). In the earlier book Glogauer is cast back by a Time Machine; he assumes the Identity of Christ and is duly crucified. In the second, which is structured as a series of vignettes, he is exposed to a series of moral crises exemplary of our modern world, and to which he is forced to respond. Collections included The Deep Fix (coll 1966) as by James Colvin, and The Time Dweller (coll 1969).

This intermittent production of sf did not increase in the 1970s, though two sequences appeared. The Oswald Bastable books – The Warlord of the Air (1971), subsequent texts being edited by other hands, The Land Leviathan (1974) and The Steel Tsar (1981) – expressed a nostalgia, evident also in The Condition of Muzak, for the kind of future an Edwardian might have hoped for (see Airships; Steampunk); all three were assembled as The Nomad of Time (omni 1982). The Oswald Bastable character is borrowed from E Nesbit's The Story of the Treasure Seekers (coll of linked stories; 1899) and its sequels. More important was the Far Future Dancers at the End of Time sequence, comprising a central trilogy – An Alien Heat (1972), The Hollow Lands (1974) and The End of All Songs (1976), assembled as The Dancers at the End of Time (omni 1981; rev 2013) – plus a collection, Legends from the End of Time (coll 1976), and a further novel, The Transformation of Miss Mavis Ming (in New Worlds 10, anth 1976, ed Hilary Bailey, as "Constant Fire"; 1977; vt A Messiah at the End of Time 1978), both assembled as Tales from the End of Time (omni 1989). The protagonist of the sequence, Jherek Carnelian, although his name echoes that of Jerry Cornelius, nevertheless remains an independent character, inhabiting a Dying Earth in which infinitely available power makes everything and everyone constantly malleable; Carnelian himself, however, transported into the nineteenth century, becomes obsessed with humanity's moral and physical trammels, even to the point of falling in love. Gloriana, or The Unfulfill'd Queen: Being a Romance (1978; rev with cuts 1993; text restored 2004; further rev 2013), a rare singleton, winner of the 1979 John W Campbell Memorial Award, presents an ambiguous sexual fable in a world which could be defined as an Alternate-World version of Elizabethan England.

Also in the 1970s, Moorcock – in collaboration with James Cawthorn – scripted the film The Land that Time Forgot (1975), based on The Land that Time Forgot (stories September-November 1918 Blue Book; fixup 1924) by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

In the 1980s and after, Moorcock increasingly concentrated either on fantasies which continued (and at times alarmingly amplified) earlier work, or on tales in which little or no generic content could be found, though the Second Ether sequence of metaphysical fantasies – Blood: A Southern Fantasy (1995), Fabulous Harbours (coll of linked stories 1995) and The War Amongst the Angels: An Autobiographical Story (1996) – evokes at point a frisson of contemporary terror (see Horror in SF) perhaps more genuinely disturbing even than the disruptions of Cornelius; and the Metatemporal Investigator tales, assembled as The Metatemporal Detective (coll 2007), play contemporary games with Steampunk. During these years he also published considerable nonfiction: a political pamphlet, The Retreat from Liberty: The Erosion of Democracy in Today's Britain (1983 chap); an autobiographical sequence, Letters from Hollywood (1986); a patchy but impassioned study, Wizardry and Wild Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy (1987; rev 2004), a version of one chapter of which had appeared as Epic Pooh (1978 chap); Fantasy: The 100 Best Books (1988) with (but in fact written almost entirely by) James Cawthorn; and Into the Media Web: Selected Short Non-Fiction, 1956-2006 (coll 2010).

His best later fiction is barely fantastic at all. After The Brothel in Rosenstrasse (1982), a fantasy of sexual torment, and Mother London (see first paragraph of this entry) – which was augmented by a fine collection, London Bone (coll 2001) along with many of the essays in London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction (coll 2012) – Moorcock's most ambitious later project has been the Colonel Pyat sequence, essentially one enormously elongated novel, comprising Byzantium Endures (1981; cut 1981), The Laughter of Carthage (1984; rev 1984), whose depiction of Hollywood (see California) is richly fantasticated, Jerusalem Commands (1992), and The Vengeance of Rome (2006). The four titles, when read together – Byzantium endures the laughter of Carthage; Jerusalem commands the vengeance of Rome – apophthegmatize Colonel Pyat's grotesquely twisted vision of the true shape of the twentieth century. His saga, which features many characters from the Jerry Cornelius books, is non-generic (unless one believes a word he says), being an ambitious attempt to convey some sense of our times through the unreliable memoirs of one despicable and desperate anti-Semitic Jew, whose dreams of revenge and Pax Aeronautica mix poisonously as he nears the climax of his life in Nazi Germany. The Sanctuary of the White Friars sequence beginning with The Whispering Swarm (2015) is a complexly sustained attempt to combine memoir with fictional sequences set deep into a Multiverse rendering of London, the first volume recasting material similar to some autobiography-tinged sections of King of the City (2000), but couched within a more sophisticated frame.

These late works reveal Moorcock's slow but inexorable evolution from Pulp to Postmodernism, a transition made all the more interesting because of the large number of books through which it can be traced, and because he has so frequently returned to early sequences (Elric in particular), transforming them in the process. Moorcock has therefore become less and less easy to pigeonhole as a writer, and has come to be recognized as a major figure at the edge of – but materially helping to define – all his chosen worlds. He is so pervasive that he seems, at times, invisible; but his influence is nevertheless clearly fingerprinted in much contemporary work, including (as a notable example of his reach) Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day (2006). In 2000 Moorcock received the World Fantasy Award for life achievement; he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2002; and in 2008 was given the SFWA Grand Master Award. [JC]

see also: Absurdist SF; Asimov's Science Fiction; Boys' Papers; British Fantasy Award; Cities; Comics; DAW Books; Future War; Gothic SF; History of SF; Humour; Immortality; Interzone; Leisure; Music; Mythology; Optimism and Pessimism; Religion; Role Playing Game; Satire; SF Music; SF Reprise; Suspended Animation; Time Travel; Transportation.

Michael John Moorcock

born Mitcham, Surrey: 18 December 1939

died

works (not all omnis are here listed)

Beginning publication in 2013, the ongoing Michael Moorcock Collection series has been designed to present virtually the whole of the author's works in critically edited and revised form. Each volume is integrated into the Checklist below, and tagged as belonging to the "collection".

series

Eternal Champion

The bibliographic description of the two 1990s omnibus sequences, each given the overall title of The Tale of the Eternal Champion, is immensely complex, and as most of the fourteen UK (or fifteen US) volumes contain mostly fantasy, and although the UK titles are included below, the sequence is not here described in any detail. The UK sequence comprises Von Bek (omni 1992), The Eternal Champion (omni 1992), Hawkmoon (omni 1992), Corum (omni 1992), Sailing to Utopia (omni 1993), A Nomad of the Time Streams (omni 1993), The Dancers at the End of Time (omni 1981; rev 1991; not rev for this sequence), Elric of Melniboné (omni 1993), The New Nature of the Catastrophe (coll 1993), which contains much of sf interest, The Prince with the Silver Hand (omni 1993), Legends from the End of Time (omni 1993), Stormbringer (omni 1993), Earl Aubec (coll 1993), containing some new material, and Count Brass (omni 1993). The US sequence begins with The Eternal Champion (omni 1994), which differs – as will almost all subsequent US titles – from the UK release bearing the same title. The various Eternal Champion series are listed below according to their original titles and dates.

Eternal Champion: Elric of Melniboné

Eternal Champion: Elric: Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné (a sequence of colls and omnis variously sorting Elric of Melniboné above)

  • Elric: The Stealer of Souls (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 2008) [coll: assembling stories and essays variously published: Elric: Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné: pb/John Picacio]
  • Elric: To Rescue Tanelorn (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 2008) [omni from the above series: Elric: Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné: pb/Michael W Kaluta]
  • Elric: The Sleeping Sorceresssfgateway.com (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 2008) [omni from the above series: Elric: Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné: pb/Steve Ellis]
  • Elric: Duke Elric (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 2009) [omni from the above series: Elric: Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné: pb/Justin Sweet]
  • Elric in the Dream Realms (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 2009) [omni from the above series: Elric: Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné: pb/Justin Sweet]
  • Elric: Swords and Roses (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 2010) [omni from the above series: Elric: Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné: illus/pb/John Picacio]

Eternal Champion: Kane of Old Mars

Eternal Champion: Hawkmoon/The History of the Runestaff

Eternal Champion: Hawkmoon/Count Brass

Eternal Champion: The Eternal Champion

Eternal Champion: Corum/The Coming of Chaos

Eternal Champion: Corum/The Prince with the Silver Hand

Eternal Champion: Von Bek

Jerry Cornelius

Jerry Cornell

  • The LSD Dossier (London: Compact Books, 1966) by Roger Harris [original MS by Roger Harris, rewritten by Moorcock: Jerry Cornell: pb/uncredited]
  • Somewhere in the Night (London: Compact Books, 1966) as by Bill Barclay [Jerry Cornell: pb/uncredited]
    • The Chinese Agent (New York: Macmillan, 1970) as Michael Moorcock [rev vt of the above: Jerry Cornell: hb/Carl Titolo]
  • Printer's Devil (London: Compact Books, 1966) as by Bill Barclay [Jerry Cornell: pb/uncredited]
    • The Russian Intelligence (Manchester, England: Savoy Books, 1980) as Michael Moorcock [rev vt of the above: Jerry Cornell: illus/pb/Harry Douthwaite]
      • Jerry Cornell's Comic Capers (Stafford, Staffordshire: Immanion Press, 2005) [omni of the above plus The Chinese Agent: Jerry Cornell: pb/Ade Daniel]

Jerry Cornelius: Cornelius Quartet

Jerry Cornelius: Miscellaneous Titles

miscellaneous series

The Roads Between the Worlds

  • The Fireclown (London: Compact Books, 1965) [The Roads Between the Worlds: pb/uncredited]
    • The Winds of Limbo (New York: Paperback Library, 1969) [vt of the above: The Roads Between the Worlds: pb/Richard Powers]
  • The Twilight Man (London: Compact Books, 1966) [first appeared September-October/November-December 1964 New Worlds: The Roads Between the Worlds: pb/uncredited]
    • The Shores of Death (London: Sphere Book, 1970) [vt of the above: The Roads Between the Worlds: pb/Bill Botten]
      • Moorcock's Multiverse (London: Gollancz, 2014) [omni of the above two together with The Sundered Worlds: edited by John Davey: in the publisher's Michael Moorcock Collection series: The Roads Between the Worlds: pb/]
  • The Wrecks of Time (New York: Ace Books, 1967) [dos: Macrostructures: The Roads Between the Worlds: pb/Jack Gaughan]

Sailing to Utopia

  • The Ice Schooner (London: Sphere, 1969) [first version appeared November 1966-January 1967 SF Impulse: Sailing to Utopia: pb/uncredited]
    • The Ice Schooner (New York: Harper and Row, 1977) [rev of the above: Sailing to Utopia: hb/uncredited]
  • The Black Corridor (New York: Ace, 1969) [cut text: Sailing to Utopia: pb/Leo and Diane Dillon]
  • The Distant Suns (Llanfynydd, Carmarthen, Wales: Unicorn SF, 1975) with James Cawthorn as Philip James [Sailing to Utopia: Jerry Cornelius: Miscellaneous Titles: illus/pb/James Cawthorn]
    • Sailing to Utopia (London: Millennium, 1993) [omni of the above three titles plus short story: Sailing to Utopia: hb/Yoshitaka Amano]

Karl Glogauer

Nomad of the Time Streams

Dancers at the End of Time

Hawklords (only the title ascribed to Moorcock is listed)

Colonel Pyat/Between the Wars

  • Byzantium Endures (London: Secker and Warburg, 1981) [Colonel Pyat/Between the Wars: hb/uncredited]
    • Byzantium Endures (New York: Random House, 1981) [cut version of the above: Colonel Pyat/Between the Wars: hb/John Sposato]
  • The Laughter of Carthage (London: Secker and Warburg, 1984) [Colonel Pyat/Between the Wars: hb/uncredited]
    • The Laughter of Carthage (New York: Random House, 1984) [rev of the above: Colonel Pyat/Between the Wars: hb/John Sposato]
  • Jerusalem Commands (London: Jonathan Cape, 1992) [Colonel Pyat/Between the Wars: hb/Alexander Hirniak]
  • The Vengeance of Rome (London: Jonathan Cape, 2006) [Colonel Pyat/Between the Wars: hb/Stephen Parker]

The Second Ether

Metatemporal Investigator

The Sanctuary of the White Friars

individual titles

collections and stories

works as editor

series

New Worlds: Best of New Worlds

SF Reprise

See also SF Reprise.

New Worlds: New Worlds Quarterly

individual titles

nonfiction

about the author

links

Previous versions of this entry

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