MOORCOCK, Michael (John)


MOORCOCK, Michael (John)
(1939-)
   UK writer and editor, London-based and London-obsessed from his first vivid memories of WWII bombing of its southern suburbs, experiences constantly reflected in his fiction - wartime London providing many of its characteristic landscapes 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 (ESP; PSI POWERS).During MM's desultory schooling he began to write, starting with Outlaw's Own (about 1950), a hand-done magazine, and continuing with several other similar FANZINE titles until 1962. After leaving school he began to contribute professionally to Tarzan Adventures, which he ed 1957-8, 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; except 1965 NW as by WilliamBarclay; 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 15 years. After working on the Sexton Blake Library (a long series of thrillers)-publishing one non-sf novellafor it, Caribbean Crisis (1962 chap) with James CAWTHORN, together writing as Desmond Reid - and after doing some night-club work as a blues singer, MM, inspired by John CARNELL, began to contribute sf and fantasy storiesto SF ADVENTURES and SCIENCE FANTASY. His first sf novel was The Sundered Worlds (1962-3 SF Adventures; fixup 1965; vt The Blood Red Game 1970), ametaphysical SPACE OPERA which introduced the concept of the "multiverse", a term probably derived from the works of John Cowper POWYS. The word describes a Universe in which multiple PARALLEL WORLDS co-exist, constantly (but never permanently) intersecting with one another; in this infinite nesting 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 himself or herself under various names throughout the nest of worlds. 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 Erekose sequence, Elric of Melnibone, the Warrior of Mars, Hawkmoon, Corum and Von Bek. In the fantasies, the Champion's fundamental task is to combat Chaos on behalf of Order. In thesf novels, the FABULATIONS and the non-genre works, the motives and tasks of those figures closest in nature to the Champion are much more ambiguous. Throughout, MM has consistently used the multiverse and the Eternal Champion as devices by which it becomes possible to construe allhis very sizable oeuvre as comprising one enormous series.The Elric stories, published intermittently for over 30 years, constitute MM's first consequential work. At their heart is the albino melancholic Elric of Melnibone, a treacherous figure who is in a sense the minion of his ownsupernatural Chaos-inducing sword. They comprise a sustained critique and parody of the SWORD-AND-SORCERY brand of heroic fantasy. A sense that the target of this parody was trivial clearly motivated MM's next significant move, the creation of a figure parodic of 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 with James Bond gear, and 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, ever melancholy, randy and evanescent. This early version of Jerry dominates the first two novels of the Jerry Cornelius sequence: The Final Programme (excerpts 1965-6 NW; 1968 US; rev 1969 UK; rev 1977 US; rev 1979 UK),later filmed as The FINAL PROGRAMME (1973; cut vt The Last Days of Man on Earth 1975 US), and A Cure for Cancer (1969 NW; 1971; rev 1977 US; rev1979 UK). In the third and fourth volumes of the sequence - The English Assassin (1972; rev 1977 US; rev 1979 UK) and The Condition of Muzak (1977; rev 1977 US; further rev 1978 UK), which won the 1977 Guardian Fiction Prize - the portrait of Pierrot-like Jerry and his enduring family and associates deepens, as the various Londons they inhabit become less and less open to their sf/fantasy manipulations. Caught between the forces of Law and Chaos, they gradually come to represent the dubious success of any late-20th-century strategy for survival "in the deep cities of this world, in the years of their dying", as claimed by John CLUTE in an introduction to the omnibus which first assembled all 4 vols: THE CORNELIUS CHRONICLES (omni 1977 US; using 1979 revs of individual titles,rev vt in 2 vols as The Cornelius Chronicles: Book One 1988 UK and Book Two 1988 UK). In The Cornelius Chronicles, Volume II (omni 1986 US) wereassembled The Lives and Times of Jerry Cornelius (coll 1976; exp 1987) and The Entropy Tango: A Comic Romance (fixup 1981). In The CorneliusChronicles, Volume III (omni 1987 US) were assembled The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in the Twentieth Century (1976; cut vt The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in omni 1980 US with The Black Corridor (see below) and "The Alchemist's Question" (1984) from The Opium General and Other Stories (coll 1984). The titles assembled in the second and third omnibuses served as modulations upon the thematic material of the central quartet, but lacked its cumulative intensity or Commedia dell'Arte pathos. Further associated material appeared in TheNature of the Catastrophe (anth 1971) ed MM and Langdon JONES, which contained stories and material by MM and other NW writers who were allowed to use the Cornelius world as an OPEN UNIVERSE, and as The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle (1980 chap in the format of a tabloid newspaper; revvt "Gold Diggers of 1977" in Casablanca 1979). The Distant Suns (1969 The Illustrated Weekly of India; 1975 chap) with Philip James (Cawthorn) hasas its protagonist a Jerry Cornelius who bears no relation to the Jerry Cornelius of the other books.In the 1960s MM also became editor of NEWWORLDS, 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 (Mar 1971). For some time he had been arguing that GENRE SF and FANTASY sadly 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 and Norman SPINRAD which - he argued in its pages - proved that literate and humane sf and fantasy could be written. Works from these authors, and by MM himself, were soon identified as comprising a NEW WAVE (a term first used in 1961 in a book review by P. Schuyler MILLER, andlater transformed by Christopher PRIEST into a tag for NW's new-style fiction). For several years after 1965, NW and the New Wave were virtually synonymous in the UK. MM 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, NW continued as a series of anthologies until 1976, under the editorship (variously and in combination) of MM, Hilary BAILEY (MM's wife 1962-78)and Platt; another brief NW series in magazine format ran for several issues in 1978-9; a further anthology series, with MM's authorization, began in the 1990s with New Worlds 1 (anth 1991) ed David S. GARNETT.Though MM was never prolific as an author of pure sf, the 1960ssaw several works of interest, notably: The Black Corridor (1969 US) with Hilary Bailey (uncredited); The Ice Schooner (1966-7 SF Impulse; 1969; rev1977 US; rev 1985 UK), 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 (1966 NW; exp 1969), themagazine 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), and Breakfast in the Ruins (1972). In the earlier book Glogauer iscast back by a TIME MACHINE; he becomes Christ and is crucified. In the second, 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 (an NW house name) and The Time Dweller (coll 1969). MM's pseudonymousoutput was, despite 1960s rumour, not large. Beyond Desmond Reid and Colvin, he used only Bill Barclay (1 story; 2 non-sf novels), thecollaborative pseudonym Michael BARRINGTON (with Barrington J. BAYLEY; 1 story) and Edward P. Bradbury (3 fantasies).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 US), subsequent textsbeing 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 (STEAMPUNK); all 3 were assembled as The Nomad of Time (omni 1982 US). More important wasthe far-future Dancers at the End of Time sequence, comprising a central trilogy - An Alien Heat (1972), The Hollow Lands (1974 US) and The End of All Songs (1976 US), assembled as The Dancers at the End of Time (omni1981) - plus a collection, Legends from the End of Time (coll 1976 US), and a further novel, The Transformation of Miss Mavis Ming (1976 NW as "Constant Fire";1977; vt A Messiah at the End of Time 1978 US), bothassembled as Tales from the End of Time (omni 1989 US). The protagonist of the sequence, Jherek Carnelian, although his name echoes that of Jerry Cornelius, nevertheless remains an independent character, inhabiting afar-future Earth in which infinitely available power makes everything and everyone constantly malleable; Carnelian himself, however, transported into the 19th 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), a rare singleton, presents anambiguous sexual fable in a world which could be defined as an alternate Elizabethan England.In the 1980s MM increasingly concentrated either onfantasies which continued (and at times alarmingly amplified) earlier work, or on tales in which little or no generic content could be found. He also published: a political pamphlet, The Retreat from Liberty: The Erosion of Democracy in Today's Britain (1983 chap); an autobiographicalsequence, Letters from Hollywood (1986); a patchy study, Wizardry and Wild Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy (1987), a chapter of which was based onEpic Pooh (1978 chap); and Fantasy: The 100 Best Books (1988) with (but in fact written almost entirely by) James Cawthorn. After the singletons Mother London and The Brothel in Rosenstrasse (1982), a fantasy of sexualtorment, the most interesting later novels are the Colonel Pyat sequence, comprising Byzantium Endures (1981; cut 1981 US), The Laughter of Carthage (1984), and Jerusalem Commands (1992), with one further novel projected,The Vengeance of Rome (the 4 titles read together, appropriately punctuated, as one sentence). These novels, which feature many characters from the Jerry Cornelius books, are non-generic, being an ambitious attempt to convey some sense of the 20th century through the unreliable memoirs of one man. They represent MM's slow but inexorable evolution from PULP to POSTMODERNISM, a transition made all the more interesting becauseof 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. MM 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.
   JC
   Other works:
   Sf: The Fireclown (1965; vt The Winds of Limbo 1969 US); The Twilight Man (1964 NW; rev1966; vt The Shores of Death 1970); The LSD Dossier (1966) as by Roger Harris (i.e., as heavily ed MM) and its sequels Somewhere in the Night (1966 as by Bill Barclay; rev vt The Chinese Agent 1970 US as by MM) and Printer's Devil (1966 as by BillBarclay; rev vt The Russian Intelligence 1980 as by MM), the revisions of the latter books taking them out of the original sequence and recreating them as tales of Jerry Cornell; The Wrecks of Time (1965-6 NW as by James Colvin; edited 1967 dos US; text restored vt The Rituals of Infinity 1971UK); Moorcock's Book of Martyrs (coll 1976; vt Dying for Tomorrow 1978 US); The Time of the Hawklords (1976) and Queens of Deliria (1977), the first as by MM and Michael BUTTERWORTH, the second by Butterworth alone, only the general idea (for the first title alone) being supplied by MM; The Real Life Mr Newman (1966 in The Deep Fix; 1979 chap); My Experiencesin the Third World War (coll 1980); Casablanca (coll 1989).Eternal Champion titles:The bibliographic description of the 2 1990s omnibussequences, each given the overall title of The Tale of the Eternal Champion, is immensely complex, and as most of the 14 UK (or 15+ US)volumes contain mostly fantasy, 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 toUtopia (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 Melnibone (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:Erekose: The Eternal Champion (1962 Science Fantasy; exp 1970US; rev 1978 US); Phoenixin Obsidian (1970; vt The Silver Warriors 1973 US); The Swords of Heaven, the Flowers of Hell (graph 1979 US) with Howard V. CHAYKIN; The Dragon in the Sword (1986 US; exp 1987 UK), all but the 3rd being assembled in The Eternal Champion (rev omni 1992).Elric of Melnibone: (by internalchronology) Elric of Melnibone (1972; cut vt The Dreaming City 1972 US); The Fortress of the Pearl (1989); The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (fixup1976), incorporating rev of The Jade Man's Eyes (1973 chap); The Weird of the White Wolf (coll 1977 US), incorporating stories from The Stealer of Souls (1961-62 Science Fantasy; coll 1963) and from The Singing Citadel(coll 1970); The Sleeping Sorceress (1971; vt The Vanishing Tower 1977 US); The Revenge of the Rose: A Tale of the Albino Prince in the Years of his Wandering (1991); The Bane of the Black Sword (1962Science Fantasy; coll 1977 US), incorporating the remaining stories (see above) from The Stealer of Souls and The Singing Citadel; Stormbringer (1963-4 ScienceFantasy; cut 1965; text restored and rev 1977 US). Omnibuses of this material are The Elric Saga Part I (omni 1984 US) containing Elric of Melnibone, The Sailor on the Seas of Fate and The Weird of the White Wolf;and The Elric Saga Part II (omni 1984 US) containing The Vanishing Tower, The Bane of the Black Sword and Stormbringer. Elric at the End of Time(coll 1984) assembles mostly earlier stories, including some from Sojan.Warrior of Mars: Warriors of Mars (1965; vt The City of the Beast 1970 US), Blades of Mars 1965; vt The Lord of the Spiders 1971 US) and Barbarians of Mars (1965; vt Masters of the Pit 1971), all assembled as Warrior of Mars (omni 1981 UK). The original versions of all 3 were published as by Edward P. Bradbury.Hawkmoon: 2 series. The Runestaff books are The Jewel in the Skull (1967 US; rev 1977 US), Sorcerer's Amulet (1968 US; vt The Mad God's Amulet 1969 UK), Sword of the Dawn (1968 US; rev 1977US) and The Secret of the Runestaff (1969 US; vt The Runestaff 1969 UK; rev 1977 US), all assembled as The History of the Runestaff (omni 1979 UK; rev vt Hawkmoon 1992). The Count Brass books are Count Brass (1973), The Champion of Garathorm (1973) and The Quest for Tanelorn (1975), allassembled as The Chronicles of Castle Brass (omni 1985 UK).Corum: 2 series. The Swords books are The Knight of the Swords (1971), The Queen of the Swords (1971 US) and The King of the Swords (1971 US), all assembled as The Swords Trilogy (omni 1977 US; vt The Swords of Corum 1986 UK; rev vt Corum 1992 UK). A second trilogy comprises The Bull and the Spear (1973), The Oak and the Ram (1973) and The Sword and the Stallion (1974),all assembled as The Chronicles of Corum (omni 1978 US).Von Bek: The War Hound and the World's Pain (1981 US) and The City in the Autumn Stars(1986), assembled with an added story as Von Bek (rev omni 1992).As Editor: The Best of New Worlds (anth 1965); Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds (anth 1967); Best Stories from New Worlds 2 (anth 1968; vt Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 21969 US); Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 3 (anth 1968); The Traps of Time (anth 1968); Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 4 (anth 1969); The Inner Landscape (anth 1969), ed anon; Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 5 (anth 1969); Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 6 (anth 1970); Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 7 (anth 1971); New Worlds 1 (anth 1971; vt New Worlds Quarterly 1 1971 US); New Worlds 2 (anth 1971; vt New Worlds Quarterly 2 1971 US); New Worlds 3 (anth 1972; vt New Worlds Quarterly 3 1972 US); New Worlds 4 (anth 1972; vt New Worlds Quarterly 41972 US); New Worlds 5 (anth 1973); New Worlds 6 (anth 1973; vt New Worlds Quarterly 5 1974 US) with Charles PLATT; Best S.F. Stories from New Worlds 8 (anth 1974); Before Armageddon (anth 1975); England Invaded (anth 1977); New Worlds: An Anthology (anth 1983).Film: The LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975), script by MM and James Cawthorn.
   About the author: The Tanelorn Archives: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography of the Works of Michael Moorcock, 1949-1979 (1981) by Richard Bilyeu; The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British "New Wave" in Science Fiction (1983) by Colin GREENLAND; Michael Moorcock: A Reader's Guide (1991 chap; rev 1992 chap) by John Davey (1962-); Death is No Obstacle (1992), a book-length interview conducted by Greenland with MM about his work.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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