|Michael John Moorcock|
Michael Moorcock in 2006.
|Born||Michael John Moorcock
18 December 1939
London, United Kingdom
|Pen name||Bill Barclay
William Ewert Barclay
Michael Barrington (with Barrington J. Bayley)
Edward P. Bradbury
Warwick Colvin, Jr.
|Occupation||Novelist, Comics writer, Musician, Editor|
Moorcock has mentioned The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Apple Cart by George Bernard Shaw and The Constable of St. Nicholas by Edward Lester Arnold as the first three books which captured his imagination. He became editor of Tarzan Adventures in 1956, at the age of sixteen, and later moved on to edit Sexton Blake Library. As editor of the controversial British science fiction magazine New Worlds, from May 1964 until March 1971 and then again from 1976 to 1996, Moorcock fostered the development of the science fiction "New Wave" in the UK and indirectly in the United States. His serialization of Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron was notorious for causing British MPs to condemn in Parliament the Arts Council's funding of the magazine.
During this time, he occasionally wrote under the pseudonym of "James Colvin," a "house pseudonym" used by other critics on New Worlds. A spoof obituary of Colvin appeared in New Worlds #197 (January 1970), written by "William Barclay" (another Moorcock pseudonym). Moorcock, indeed, makes much use of the initials "JC", and not entirely coincidentally these are also the initials of Jesus Christ (as well as that of John Carter, Edgar Rice Burroughs' main character in The Gods of Mars), the subject of his 1967 Nebula award-winning novella Behold the Man, which tells the story of Karl Glogauer, a time-traveller who takes on the role of Christ. They are also the initials of various "Eternal Champion" Moorcock characters such as Jerry Cornelius, Jerry Cornell and Jherek Carnelian. In more recent years, Moorcock has taken to using "Warwick Colvin, Jr." as yet another pseudonym, particularly in his "Second Ether" fiction.
Moorcock's introduction to his experimental novel Breakfast in the Ruins referring to the fiction as the text of a manuscript found after the "late" author's death was a literary device taken literally by some readers.
Michael Moorcock was born in London in 1939 and the landscape of London, particularly the area of Notting Hill Gate and Ladbroke Grove, is an important influence in many of his novels (cf. the Cornelius novels).
Moorcock is the former husband of Hilary Bailey.
He is also the former husband of Jill Riches, the illustrator, who later become Robert Calvert's wife. Riches did cover illustrations for some of Moorcock's books.
Moorcock was a member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America (SAGA), a loose-knit group of Heroic Fantasy authors founded in the 1960s, some of whose works were anthologized in Lin Carter's Flashing Swords! anthologies.
In the 1990s, Moorcock moved to Texas in the United States. In 2004, he announced plans to spend half the year in Europe, probably eventually settling in France.
Moorcock was the subject of two book length works, a monograph and an interview, by Colin Greenland. In 1983, Greenland published The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British 'New Wave' in Science Fiction. He followed this with Michael Moorcock: Death is No Obstacle, a book length interview in 1992.
At sixteen in 1957 Moorcock became editor of the Tarzan Adventures. He later edited the Sexton Blake Library and has returned to this era for some of his recent books. He has been writing ever since and has not surprisingly produced a huge volume of work. His first novel was published in 1961. Under his editorship the New Worlds magazine became central to the movement that was to be called the New Wave of Science Fiction. This movement brought a returned emphasis on the effects of technological change on society and the individual, in contrast to “hard science fiction” which concentrates on technological change itself. Many of the stories in this sub-genre may not be immediately recognisable as science fiction.
Moorcock’s books are generally linked into a super-cycle by the device of the Eternal Champion. This has all of the heroes being linked by the possession of the same spirit, a kind of meta-hero, whether they know it or not. This heroic spirit is eternally atoning for some vast sin and seeking peace which is embodied by the city of Tanelorn. In the sword and sorcery novels this relationship is stated directly whereas it is only implied in the other novels. Further linking themes are the struggles of humanity to be freed from unthinking superstition and brutality which are personified by various gods and the spirit of the Black Sword (which is fear).
A particularly successful linking device in the Jerry Cornelius novels and other later novels is the idea of characters time travelling by an act of will. The nature of time requires that they act within personas appropriate to their current environment to avoid being ejected at random into the time stream. The characters can also travel into alternative worlds that they find/create for themselves (and may be wandering hopelessly in many alternative realities).
Moorcock talks about much of his writing in Death is No Obstacle by Colin Greenland, which is basically a book length transcription of interviews with Moorcock about the structures in his writing.
Moorcock's most popular works by far have been the "Elric of Melniboné" stories. In these books, Elric is an anti-hero written as a deliberate reversal of what Moorcock saw as clichés commonly found in fantasy adventure novels inspired by the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, and a direct antithesis of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian.
Moorcock has also published a number of pastiches of writers for whom he felt affection as a boy, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, and Howard himself. All his fantasy adventures have elements of satire and parody while respecting what he considers the essentials of the form. While these are perhaps his best known works in the United States, he came to prominence in the UK as a literary author, (with the Guardian Fiction Award in 1977 for the final book in the original Jerry Cornelius Quartet, Condition of Muzak; and Mother London, shortlisted for the Whitbread prize) with books like Behold the Man and The Final Programme being received as non-genre work.
Novels and series like the Cornelius Quartet, Mother London, King of the City, the Pyat Quartet and the short story collection London Bone have established him in the eyes of critics such as Iain Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd and Alan Massie in publications such as the [London] Times Literary Supplement and The London Review of Books as a major contemporary literary novelist. In 2008 he was named by as critics panel in The Times as one of the fifty best British novelists since 1945. Also in 2008 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named him as a Grandmaster of SF. Virtually all of his stories are part of his overarching "Eternal Champion" theme or oeuvre, with characters (including Elric) moving from one storyline and fictional universe to another, all of them interconnected (though often only in dreams or visions).
Moorcock‘s work is frequently praised as being complex and multilayered. Central to many of his fantasy novels is the concept of an "Eternal Champion," who has potentially multiple identities across multiple dimensions of reality and alternative universes. This cosmology is called the "Multiverse" within his novels and is based on the concept which arose in particle physics in the 1960s and is still a current theory in high energy physics.
The "Eternal Champion" is engaged in a constant struggle with not only conventional notions of good and evil, but also in the struggle for balance between Law and Chaos. In a sense this reflects the idea of the "golden mean" as the ideal condition of being (Marcus Aurelius, etc). Many of Moorcock's most successful books follow this theme of promoting a dynamic stability which frees humanity (or thinking beings) from the burdens of superstition, hate and fear. The "black sword", which appears as the eternal champion's ally and/or nemesis in many of the fantasy novels, is explicitly identified as representing fear.
The popularity of Elric has overshadowed his many other works, though he has worked a number of the themes of the Elric stories into his other works (the "Hawkmoon" and "Corum" novels, for example) and Elric appears in the Jerry Cornelius and Dancers at the End of Time cycles. His Eternal Champion sequence has been collected in two different editions of omnibus volumes comprising fifteen books containing several books per volume, by Victor Gollancz in the UK and by White Wolf Publishing in the US. In 2003, Universal optioned the rights to the Elric series to be produced by the Weitz brothers.
Another of Moorcock's popular creations is Jerry Cornelius (another JC), a kind of hip secret agent of ambiguous sexuality; the same characters featured in each of several Cornelius books. These books were most obviously satirical of modern times, including the Vietnam War, and continue to feature as another variation of the Multiverse theme. The first Jerry Cornelius book, The Final Programme (1968) was made into a feature film. Its story line is essentially identical to two of the Elric stories: The Dreaming City and The Dead Gods' Book. Since 1998, Moorcock has returned to Cornelius in a series of new stories: The Spencer Inheritance, The Camus Connection, Cheering for the Rockets, and Firing the Cathedral, which was concerned with 9/11. All four novellas were included in the 2003 edition of The Lives and Times of Jerry Cornelius. Moorcock's most recent Cornelius story 'Modem Times' appeared in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction: Volume 2, published in 2008.
Most of Moorcock's earlier work consisted of short stories and relatively brief novels: he has mentioned that "I could write 15,000 words a day and gave myself three days a volume. That's how, for instance, the Hawkmoon books were written." . Over the period of the New Worlds editorship and his publishing of the original fantasy novels Moorcock has maintained an interest in the craft of writing and a continuing interest in the semi-journalistic craft of "pulp" authorship. This is reflected in his development of interlocking cycles which hark back to the origins of fantasy in myth and medieval cycles (see "Wizardry and Wild Romance - Moorcock" & "Death is No Obstacle - Colin Greenland" for more commentary). This also provides an implicit link with the episodic origins of literature in newspaper/magazine serials from Trollop and Dickens onwards. None of this should be surprising given Moorcock's background in magazine publishing.
Since the 1980s, Moorcock has tended to write longer, more literary 'mainstream' novels, such as Mother London and Byzantium Endures, which have had positive reviews, but he continues to revisit characters from his earlier works, such as Elric, with books like The Dreamthief's Daughter or The Skrayling Tree. With the publication of the third and last book in this series, The White Wolf's Son, he announced that he was 'retiring' from writing heroic fantasy fiction, though he continues to write Elric's adventures as graphic novels with his long-time collaborators Walter Simonson and the late James Cawthorn. Together, they produced the graphic novel, Elric: the Making of a Sorcerer, published by DC Comics in 2007. He has also completed his Colonel Pyat sequence, dealing with the Nazi Holocaust, which began in 1981 with Byzantium Endures, continued through The Laughter of Carthage (1984) and Jerusalem Commands (1992), and now culminates with The Vengeance of Rome (2006).
Although Moorcock is mostly known for the books mentioned above, he also wrote several novels and novellas that are set on Earth millions of years in the future; the best known in The Dancers at the End of Time. His award-winning Gloriana, or The Unfulfill'd Queen, is set in an alternate Earth history.
Moorcock is prone to revising his existing work, with the result that different editions of a given book may contain significant variations. The changes range from simple retitlings (e.g., the Elric story The Flame Bringers becoming The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams in the 1990s Gollancz/White Wolf omnibus editions) to character name changes (e.g., scout leader "Egan" becoming "Reagan" in the omnibus edition of The War Lord of the Air), major textual alterations (e.g., the addition of several new chapters to The Steel Tsar in the omnibus editions), and even complete restructurings (e.g., the seminal 1966 novella Behold the Man being expanded to full novel length for republication in 1969).
Moorcock collaborated with the British rock band Hawkwind on many occasions: The Hawkwind track "The Black Corridor," for example, included verbatim quotes from Moorcock's novel of the same name, and he worked with the band on their album Warrior on the Edge of Time. Moorcock also penned the lyrics to "Sonic Attack," a Sci-Fi send-up of the public information broadcast, that was part of Hawkwind's Space Ritual set. Hawkwind's album The Chronicle of the Black Sword was largely based on the Elric novels. Moorcock appeared on stage with the band occasionally during the Black Sword tour. His contributions were removed from the original release of the Live Chronicles album, recorded on this tour, due to legal reasons, but has subsequently appeared on some double CD versions. He can also be seen performing on the DVD version of Chronicle of the Black Sword.
Moorcock also collaborated with former Hawkwind frontman and resident poet, Robert Calvert (who gave the chilling declamation of "Sonic Attack"), on Calvert's albums Lucky Leif and the Longships and Hype.
Moorcock has his own music project, which records under the name Michael Moorcock & The Deep Fix. The first album New Worlds Fair was released in 1975. The album included a number of Hawkwind regulars in the credits. A second version of the album Roller Coaster Holiday was issued in 2004. In 2008, The Entropy Tango & Gloriana Demo Sessions was released. These were sessions for planned albums based on two of his novels: Glorianna and The Entropy Tango. The albums were never completed. (The Deep Fix was the title story of an obscure collection of short stories by James Colvin published in the 1960s. The Deep Fix was also the fictional band fronted by Moorcock's character Jerry Cornelius.)
Moorcock wrote the lyrics to three album tracks by the American band Blue Öyster Cult: "Black Blade," referring to the sword Stormbringer in the Elric books, "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" showing us Elric's emotions at a critical point of his story (this song may also refer to the "Warriors at the Edge of Time," which figure heavily in Moorcock's novels about John Daker; at one point his novel The Dragon in the Sword they call themselves the "veterans of a thousand psychic wars"), and "The Great Sun Jester," about his friend, the poet Bill Butler, who died of a drug overdose. Moorcock has performed live with BÖC (in 1987 at the Atlanta, GA Dragon Con Convention) and Hawkwind.
Moorcock appeared on five tracks on the Spirits Burning CD Alien Injection, released in 2008. He is credited with singing lead vocals and playing guitar and mandolin. The performances used on the CD were from the The Entropy Tango & Gloriana Demo Sessions.
The first of an audio book series of unabridged Elric novels, with new work read by Moorcock, have recently begun appearing from AudioRealms. The second audiobook in the series - The Sailor on the Seas of Fate—was published in 2007.
The Spanish power metal band Dark Moor released their The Fall of Melnibone EP in 2001, which is heavily inspired by the works of Moorcock. Domine are another power metal band who base many of their lyrical concepts on Moorcock's work.
Moorcock is a fervent supporter of the works of Mervyn Peake, and somewhat dismissive of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. He met both Tolkien and C. S. Lewis in his teens, and claims to have liked them personally even though he does not admire them on artistic grounds. In Fantasy: The Hundred Best Books (July 1991), he and his coauthor James Cawthorn are generous to Tolkien's work.
He cites Fritz Leiber, an important sword and sorcery pioneer, as an author who writes fantasy that is not escapist and contains meaningful themes. These views can be found in his study of epic fantasy, Wizardry & Wild Romance, which was revised and reissued by MonkeyBrain Books in 2004.
Likewise, Moorcock has criticized writers for what he perceives as their political agendas. Among his targets are Robert A. Heinlein and H. P. Lovecraft, both of whom he attacked in a 1978 essay. In that essay, entitled "Starship Stormtroopers,"  he criticised a range of canonical authors for their production of "authoritarian" fiction, citing Lovecraft for having anti-semitic, misogynistic and extremely racist viewpoints, which he included in his short stories. Also, some of Moorcock's work has criticized Christianity, most notably, "Behold the Man".
Moorcock has allowed a number of other writers to create stories in his fictional Jerry Cornelius universe. Brian Aldiss, M. John Harrison, Norman Spinrad, and James Sallis, among others, have written such stories. In an interview published in The Internet Review of Science Fiction, Moorcock explains the reason for sharing his character:
|“||I came out of popular fiction and Jerry was always meant to be a sort of crystal ball for others to see their own visions in — the stories were designed to work like that — a diving board, to use another analogy, from which to jump into the river and be carried along by it. [...] All of these have tended to use Jerry the way I intended to use him — as a way of seeing modern life and sometimes as a way of commenting on it. Jerry, as Harrison said, was as much a technique as a character and I'm glad that others have taken to using that method.||”|
Two short stories by Keith Roberts, "Coranda" and "The Wreck of the Kissing Bitch", are set in the frozen Matto Grosso plateau of Moorcock's 1969 novel, The Ice Schooner.
He is a friend and fan of comic book writer Alan Moore, and allowed Moore the use of his own character, Michael Kane of Old Mars, mentioned in Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume II. The two men appeared to a capacity audience on stage at the Vanbrugh Theatre in London in January 2006 where they discussed Moorcock's work. The Green City from Warriors of Mars was also referenced in Larry Niven's Rainbow Mars. Moorcock's character Jerry Cornelius will also be appearing in Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century.
In 2000, Moorcock wrote a 50,000-word outline for a computer game, which was then improved upon and fleshed out by Storm Constantine, resulting in the novel, Silverheart. The story is set in Karadur-Shriltasi, a city at the heart of the Multiverse. A second novel, Dragonskin is currently in preparation, with Constantine as the main writer.
Moorcock is currently working on a memoir about his friends Mervyn and Maeve Peake and writing a text for first publication in French to accompany a set of unpublished Peake drawings. His book The Metatemporal Detective was published in 2007.
In November 2009 Moorcock announced that he will be writing a Doctor Who novel for BBC Books in 2010, making it one of the few occasions when he has written stories set in other people's 'shared universes'.
Michael Moorcock has won a number of awards both for individual books and 'lifetime achievement'.
The Elric Saga (US Publication)
He has also edited a number of other volumes, including two bringing together examples of invasion literature: