Moorcock work: common threads?

Discussion in 'Michael Moorcock' started by Brian Turner, Jun 10, 2004.

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    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    My understanding is that Moorcock covers a variety of worlds and themes, but that there is a common thread between them? Or is Elric of Melnibone completely separate in terms of character universe to the other stories and characters?
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    littlemissattitude

    littlemissattitude Super Moderator

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    Apparently there is some connection between worlds in Moorcock's work. I've just picked up a novel of his at the library a couple of days ago, "The Dreamtheif's Daughter". I haven't started reading it yet, but I've gotten from the dust sleeve that it takes place partly in our world, more or less, in a story that has some connection with Rudolf Hess and the Nazis, and partly in Elric's world (or universe or whatever). I've only read a couple of the Elric novels, quite a long time ago, but this book sounds like it could be interesting. If it is, there is at least one sequel also on the shelves at the library. Oh, dear. Another series.:eek:
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    dwndrgn

    dwndrgn Fierce Vowelless One Staff Member

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    I was never able to get into his works. I don't remember much other than I thought that the writing was very dry and colorless. It didn't make me curious to continue on. Of course, I attempted this probably as a 12 year old so I could have been bored by stuff I didn't really understand.

    Was his writing very political?
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    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

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    It is all connected. This world of ours is just one facet of the Multiverse, where immense powers wage an ongoing battle between order and chaos for ultimate control. There is one Eternal Champion who opposes all extremes and strives to preserve and balance. You may know him as Elric, as Prince Corum, as Hawkmoon, as Jerry Cornelius or any one of a multitude of reincarnations, but it is the same person.

    At least, that's the central conception that links most of Moorcock's work.

    I am a big Moorcock fan myself. I think Elric may well be the single most brilliantly concieved character in all fantasy, and the Elric tales posess a dark melancholy that is rivetting. The Corum tales are far more ordinary, but have moments of great beauty. The Jerry Cornelius novels are closer to what you'd call science fiction, and are most subversive and witty. His mainstream novels are big, breezy affairs full of believable characters, brilliantly depicted real-life settings and many hidden links to the Multiverse.

    Are his works political? Yes, in that he has a distinct stand against tyranny and fascism, and has used Nazi Germany as a symbol of this at times.

    I think The Dreamthief's Daughter is a pretty good read - and a good introduction to many of the details of the Multiverse mythos as well. It works well enough as a standalone, by the way.
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    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    Thanks for that knivesout - I thought they might be, but that's cleared it all all immensely. :)
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    nemogbr

    nemogbr Worlds Walker

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    Thanks for the info, I haven't read this one as of yet. Hope to have the free time in the not too distant future.
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    littlemissattitude

    littlemissattitude Super Moderator

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    Thank you, knivesout. "The Dreamtheif's Daughter" was one of those books I just happened to find on the shelf when I was browsing at the library the other day. I picked it up on the strength of the fact that Moorcock wrote it and I haven't read anything of his in a long time, and also because the blurb on the dust jacket made it sound intriguing. Your information makes me even more anxious to read it.:)
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    dwndrgn

    dwndrgn Fierce Vowelless One Staff Member

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    Well I was just perusing the shelves of the library (virtually) and thought I might pick up one of his books and came back here to ask which of the three available I should get. Since one of them is The Dreamthief's Daughter, I think I'll start with that one. Thanks!
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    a|one

    a|one another brick in the wall

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    Hi I picked Corum off the shelf at the library today. Wasnt refered to Moorcock by anyone, Corum just looked really cool on the cover pic and I couldnt resist. :D

    After 98 pages im enjoying it immensly, I dont know if id say its my favorite style of writing, but its definitly different in that im used to writers like Gemmel, Feist, JV Jones and GRRM. I dont know if I'd call it dry, though certain parts do seem to lack personality. But the characters are very distinct and different. I remember thinking it was almost cliche'd at the start, but the further I get the more diverse the storyline becomes.
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    Tsujigiri

    Tsujigiri Waiting at the Crossroads

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    I read my way through most of Moorcocks work when I was in my late teens, in fact the books are sat on a shelf behind me peering over my shoulder as I type ;)

    I found the complexity of his universe and characters very intriguing and I don't think I have ever been bored by his work. I haven't read 'The Dreamthiefs Daughter'...although it's sat there...mainly because I forgot about it.

    Time to do a little reading methinks....
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    a|one

    a|one another brick in the wall

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    Yes, I hear that. I've now finished the stories of Corum and Elric and am begining Hawkmoon. So far the favorite is of course Elric, though im looking forward to Jerry Cornelius as he seems to be the most popular. Elric seemed to be possessed of much more character depth than Corum, though I really liked the ending to Corum's books. Hawkmoon is quite different than the other two so far, the start is very captivating. I just hope he is as interesting a character as Elric.
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    Amber

    Amber Oh mighty Gackt

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    I read all the Elric books when I was about ten, as they were my dad's current reading material. When I read others, I could clearly see themes running through him, often very humanist themes that seemed to be repeated.


    Btw, does anyone know if Michael Moorcock wrote 'The Warlord of their' an Oswald Bastable adventure. And if he did, was the name an intended parody of Edith Nesbit? I remember reading it before my 11 + and going into the exam and writing an almost exact replica complete with hallucigenic drugs.
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    Thadlerian

    Thadlerian Riftsound resident

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    Reading King of the City, he doesn't seem to be overtly focused on politics, but whenever the matter comes into attention he has some sharp and apt observations. Especially about Margaret Thatcher, or Maggie Moneyeyes, as I recall he said :D
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    chrisp

    chrisp New Member

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    I suppose that the common thread, if there is one, is that the moral compass in Moorcock's world sways not between Good and Evil but between order (Law) and Chaos. Many of the characters in his fantasy novels (This includes Elric, Hawkmoon, Corum and Jerry Cornelius at the very least)are merely separate incarnations of 'the enternal champion' whose ultimate destiny it is to restore the balance between law and chaos should one side dominate. Arguably Jerry Cornelius doesn't qualify as 'fantasy' being set in the 20th centuty, but he was definitely supposed to be yet another incarnation of said champion

    This mythos is much more explicit in his fantasy novels, but I once read a non-fantasy novel of his called Mother London which was quite interesting. very episodic with a multitude of characters, but set predominantly in the modern era there were no references to law, chaos balance etc, nevertheless it did seem to be infused with a similar philosophical perspective.

    The idea that it is more fruitful to strive for a healthy balance between order and chaos than it is to constantly strive to be good is an interesting moral perspective, and definitely seems to be to be a more enlightened, sophistcated, human and practical one.

    I read huge amounts of his fantasy books as a teenager but didn't stumble accross mother london untill I was into my thirties, so it was an interesting find given the changes in my tastes over the years.

    Having said all that, Moorcock is certainly one of the more prolific writers in the SF milleu,so I wouldn't even being to try to suggest that i have a handle on the full variety of his works....
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Well summed, Knivesout! Yes, virtually all of Moorcock's work is interrelated (even his polemics such as "The Retreat from Liberty"). He's a writer very much out of the 1960s sf "New Wave" school, concerned about social issues and the human condition, but even with the "cautionary tale" nature of much of his work, I'd say from both his writing and various talks he's given, that he's generally optimistic about humanity, and finds the complexities fascinating, even when frustrating. (That last is my own take on some of his comments rather than a direct quote.)

    I haven't yet had a chance to read "The Skrayling Tree" or "The White Wolf's Son" or "The Vengeance of Rome" (basically, what he's published in the last 2-3 years), but I think I've read just about everything else that's been published except for some very early things he did (such as "Caribbean Crisis", written -- I think -- with James Cawthorn). Yes, he's a very prolific writer, and much of his work repays going back through occasionally. Some don't hold up all that well (the Corum books, I find, are among that number, though I still have a fondness for them), but many (like "Mother London") improve with each reading.

    Hope I'm not overdoing it -- I've had a good bit to say about H. P. Lovecraft as well, now I'm nattering on about Moorcock -- but, as I said elsewhere, it's just such a relief to find some intelligent discussion and open minds on these topics.
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    Urlik

    Urlik Noise Warrior

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    a|one,
    the books of Hawkmoon are great and there are a couple of throwaway bits of information in them that bring up interesting concepts about how legends and religions start and how time changes the pronounciation of words and names and may also point towards his political affiliations
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    Rahl Windsong

    Rahl Windsong Last of the Windsong Clan

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    I am currently reading book 7 of the Elric series and my local library has book 8 and The Dreamthief's daughter so I will be reading Moorcock for a while yet. I have found the Elric story very interesting because here is a "hero", but his patron gods are evil or of chaos.

    I like the way Elric constantly stuggles with each situation because of the pull of Chaos and Law seem to effect him equally. I like the way the sword controls the man, leaving the man to pick up the pieces after, always providing him with "vitality" but at what cost?

    Really enjoying this series, but they (writers) obviously wrote much shorter novels back then! :)
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    Urlik

    Urlik Noise Warrior

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    I think a lot of the writer then wrote short stories because most of them got published in magazines and genre collections.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    That was indeed a part of it; and with the early (published, not series-chronological) Elric tales, it was certainly a factor. But if you'll look at the majority of books in general, and especially genre publishing ... there simply weren't any of the huge tomes we see today -- at least, not unless they were anthologies gathered from many sources, as with some of Groff Conklin's, or Anthony Boucher's Treasury of Great Science Fiction (2 vols. -- just over 1000 pages), etc.

    For one thing, there wasn't much of an audience for long, drawn-out stories at the time. Most genres were considered just relaxation reading, and not to be looked at as literature; so they had to be more brisk in pace to hold the reader's interest. Also, a lot of writers wrote both short stories and novels, and knew how to keep a story to its essentials, instead of the often bloated works we see today (and have seen before in other fields -- the Gothics of the early 19th century come to mind here). "Less is more" was still a good way to work... it whetted the appetite without satiating -- or surfeiting -- it.

    They didn't get big advances, so they had to turn out lots of material to put bread on the table. Also, Moorcock has always worked incredibly fast (with rare exceptions such as the Pyat books), sometimes turning out several novels within a handful of months. (The Michael Kane books, as I recall Justin Leiber remarking, he turned out in one week -- all three in one week, that is.)

    Sf, especially, was still predominately an adventure-story genre; the meatier, thought-pieces, such as Earth Abides, being the exception, rather than the rule. That sort of book can seldom really be maintained over a long stretch without becoming very attenuated or repetitious.

    And, frankly, the majority of his fantasy, Moorcock wrote as a way to support what he considered his more serious work with New Worlds, the New Wave movement, etc., as the magazine was always teetering on the brink of dissolution financially, and he did most of the supporting of it through his own writing -- which meant a lot done at a fast pace (hence some of the awkward wonkiness and serious slips now and again). This didn't prevent him from addressing his more serious concerns in the fantasy, and still producing some very good fantasy along the way... but it was written hastily and with little revision, hence is sometimes rather jumbled -- and always short (until well into the 1980s, at least, for the fantasy).
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    Urlik

    Urlik Noise Warrior

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    I'm reminded of Heinlein's short stories and collections and how brief 4 page stories get picked up on later to be included in lengthier works and inter-related stories (Andrew "Libby" Jackson Long's first appearance in a short story added at the end of Revolt in 2010, Methusela's Children, Time Enough For Love and Number of the Beast for example)

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