Moorcock's science fiction?

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It seems a little strange to me that the man who was the leading light in the development of new science fiction with New Worlds magazine,yet he is mostly known for his fantasy. But what SF has he written and whats it like?
 
I'm sure j.d. will be able to point you in the general direction of the best, Geoff...:p
 
I'm sure j.d. will be able to point you in the general direction of the best, Geoff...:p

Nothing quite like putting your fellow moderator on the spot, is there....?:rolleyes:

Okay... well... it's not actually a question allowing of an easy answer, because New Wave sf and traditional sf often were vastly different. Traditional sf is something Moorcock has done very little of, and most of that was in his early career -- he has even made the statement (in his preface to The Fantasies of Harlan Ellison, iirc) that he considers his "straight" sf to be among the weakest of his work, and in general I'm inclined to agree. These would include such things as The Winds of Limbo (a.k.a. The Fireclown), The Blood Red Game (a.k.a. The Sundered Worlds), The Shores of Death (a.k.a. The Twilight Man), or The Rituals of Infinity (a.k.a. The Wrecks of Time)... this last somewhat Ballardian in various ways, though still very distinctly Moorcock. And, of course, The Ice Schooner, which is another matter....

Then there are his Burroughsian tributes, such as the Michael Kane trilogy; or novels written in the style of much older sf, such as the Oswald Bastable stories (collected together as Nomad of the Time Streams), and the like. These are certainly worth reading, and the latter are often quite polished and, in fact, good novels (the former, while very enjoyable, are somewhat lower on the scale, being obvious tributes to ERB, with both the strengths and faults of both writers).

The sf he did that is more recognizably "New Wave" is probably best represented by Behold the Man and Breakfast in the Ruins, The Black Corridor (which he did with his then-wife, Hillary Bailey), and, of course, the Cornelius stories (which, again, are another matter, requiring a great deal more space than I'd have here....).

And then there are the books which land somewhere in the middle: the Dancers at the End of Time tales (which are wonderful books indeed: witty, pithy, hilarious, somber, quirky, and just a hoot to read); or his more recent tales of the Second Ether: Blood, Fabulous Harbours, The War Amongst the Angels, and the like.

Or such post-apocalyptic tales as "Crossing into Cambodia", "Leaving Pasadena", "Going to Canada", and so on. Or the contemporary "sf", such as "Lunching with the Antichrist", "A Winter Admiral", Mother London, and the like. (By the way, Mother London is among my very favorite of his novels -- one of the warmest, most generous novels I've ever read.) Or the "alternative history" sort of novels, such as Gloriana; or, the Unfulfill'd Queen....

And this is only a very brief sketch of what you're looking at.

So it all depends on what you're looking for, really. The trouble with Moorcock is, not coincidentally, also what amounts to his greatest strengths: he doesn't stay still, doesn't write the same sort of story in any vein (even his heroic fantasy often varies considerably in tone, style, manner, structure, and quality of writing), and -- without it being necessary to be familiar with the various things he has written -- all of his work is interrelated in various ways, which allows him to build an enormous universe in which to explore the themes he wants to address from different perspectives....
 
Moorcock is something of the proverbial moving feast but in the best possible way. See how much typing I could have saved you J.D?...... :p;):D

Moorcock is a genuis and a major driving force in SFF IMHO. What more needs to be said?....:cool:

Off-Topic: Currently trying to source a copy of his Jeremy Cornelius series. Anyone know where I can get a copy?
 
j.d. said:
Nothing quite like putting your fellow moderator on the spot, is there....?

Go straight to an expert, I say...

I'm afraid my views on Moorcock are not really going to help any "best of" queries...


Gollum said:
Currently trying to source a copy of his Jeremy Cornelius series. Anyone know where I can get a copy?

Amazon have both the Quartet and the Life and Times available...

http://www.amazon.com/Lives-Times-Jerry-Cornelius-Apocalypse/dp/1568582730/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b
http://www.amazon.com/Cornelius-Quartet-Program-Assassin-Condition/dp/1568581831/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b
 
I've read and loved "The Black Corridor"; a story about a crew on a long journey to another star but one person has to remain awake to look after the basic systems but the lonelyness and isolation of deep space starts to erode his sanity...

I've also read both "The Fire Clown" and "Blood Red Game", both I recall enjoying although they didn't stick in my mind as much as the above. "Behold the Man" was an excellent piece of SF however "Breakfast in the Ruins" I did not like attall (indeed, I could not even finish it).

I think that the Dancers and the End of Time series could well be classifyable as SF, perhaps even in the Dying Earth sub-genre? It is an excellent trilogy nonetheless.
 
Thats interesting that New Wave is a genre of SF, i just thought it simply referred to what was then new SF in britain! So would Aldiss,Ballard etc fall into that genre heading?
 
Well, according to wiki:
New Wave is a term applied to science fiction writing characterized by a high degree of experimentation, both in form and in content, and a highbrow and self-consciously "literary" or artistic sensibility. The term "New Wave" is borrowed from film criticism's nouvelle vague: films characterized by the work of Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and others. The New Wave writers saw themselves as part of the general literary tradition and often openly mocked the traditions of pulp science fiction, which they regarded as stodgy, irrelevant and unambitious.
It lists the following authors:

  • Brian Aldiss
  • J. G. Ballard
  • John Brunner
  • David R. Bunch
  • Samuel R. Delany
  • Philip K. Dick
  • Thomas M. Disch
  • Harlan Ellison
  • Philip José Farmer
  • Harry Harrison
  • M. John Harrison
  • R. A. Lafferty
  • Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Michael Moorcock
  • Keith Roberts
  • Joanna Russ
  • Robert Silverberg
  • Norman Spinrad
  • James Tiptree, Jr.
  • Roger Zelazny
 
Ah yes,one way I look at it is philosophy over science.
Those writers are less scientific than the likes of Arthur C Clarke and Asimov. Not sure how to put it but I hope I get the message across. Another way may be soft science versus hard science. I tend to read the latter but like a splash of the former. Just a splash mind!
Looking on fantastic fiction I see moorcock wrote an awful lot of early SF then he seemed to abandon it and look more inward.
 
Well, for one thing, they didn't use the term "New Wave" that often themselves; that was more a label that was put on it elsewhere. But it was a conscious movement, nonetheless.

And I wouldn't make too much of that distinction between the hard and soft sciences -- that applies to a great deal of classic, Campbellian sf as well... and the New Wave movement had its fair share of the harder sciences included, too.

As for Behold the Man and Breakfast in the Ruins... that's interesting. I'd put the latter a bit higher than the former, myself. It's more complex, richer in layers of meaning, and allows of a number of rereadings without simply recovering old ground. It's a difficult book in some ways, and certainly bleak (though with optimism of a sort to it), but it remains one of my favorites of Moorcock's work. Not, however, one I'd suggest tackling right away....

And the Jerry Cornelius stories... I'll address that later, Mr. G....
 
j. d. worthington
As for Behold the Man and Breakfast in the Ruins... that's interesting. I'd put the latter a bit higher than the former, myself. It's more complex, richer in layers of meaning, and allows of a number of rereadings without simply recovering old ground. It's a difficult book in some ways, and certainly bleak (though with optimism of a sort to it), but it remains one of my favorites of Moorcock's work. Not, however, one I'd suggest tackling right away....
It's strange; I've reada fair bit of Moorcock but "Breakfast in the Ruins" was the last book of his I read and since then I haven't gone back to him (must be several years now).

I must admit that I've read mainly his earlier writing. I don't think I've read anything post 1970's. I'm a bit reluctant; I'm not sure why. I'm worried that I won't like his later writing but I've never really given it a try.
 
Jerry Cornelius is like high fantasy,and the Elric books are like dark fantasy. Thats kind of the impression I got from FF.

Um, no... Jerry Cornelius is in no way, shape, or form high fantasy -- those stories are about as far from high fantasy as you can get. They are very much New Wave sf -- set in the contemporary world (or varying versions of it), dealing with contemporary (albeit often perennial) human issues, and taking a humorous but sharp view at our foibles, faults, and fatuities.

Though the article itself may have some problems, the definition of the term "high fantasy" provided by Wiki is rather a good one:

High fantasy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Cornelius tales, on the other hand, are described by Moorcock (very aptly) as "ironic comedies" -- a bit more subtle than is usual with outright satire or lampoon, and a bit more serious in underlying theme and intent, while nonetheless maintaining a sparkling, rapidly-moving humorous surface.

The Wiki article on Cornelius has some flaws in it, as well (such as not including the revised The Lives and Times volume, or the collaborative volume(s) The Nature of the Catastrophe and its revised, expanded version, The New Nature of the Catastrophe. Nonetheless, it may prove helpful in understanding the difference between the two types of fiction here.

Jerry Cornelius - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For those first discovering Cornelius, some of the tales may prove a bit opaque at times (especially A Cure for Cancer and The English Assassin), but the really quite complex technique used here works well in the context as a whole, as it allows Moorcock to say, in much briefer space, enormous amounts about his subjects and themes without drawing the story toa grinding halt, and also serves to give the reader the experience of time and reality (including identities) in flux -- an important aspect not only of the Cornelius novels, but of Moorcock's work as a whole.

As for the titles in the series (I'm not going into all the short stories individually, merely collections, save where they haven't been so included as of yet -- and, of course, only including the ones I'm aware of there), it is as follows:

The Final Programme
A Cure for Cancer
The English Assassin
The Condition of Muzak
(These were all collected together into The Cornelius Chronicles, recently republished as The Cornelius Quartet)

The Distant Suns (a juvenile J.C. space-adventure novel; quite different from the rest of the series, though it can still be seen as canon due to the nature of Moorcock's multiverse; co-written with James Cawthorne)

The Nature of the Catastrophe (anthology of J.C. tales by Moorcock and various others; expanded and revised edition -- which includes the entire comic strip done by Moorcock and Dean, etc., as opposed to the partial reprpduction in the earlier version of the volume -- as The New Nature of the Catastrophe)

The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in the Twentieth Century
The Lives and Times of Jerry Cornelius (which has been revised a few years ago, dropping some tales and adding some newer ones)
The Entropy Tango
The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (published as a tabloid novel, later revised slightly as "Gold Diggers of 1977 (Ten Claims That Won Our Hearts)"
"The Alchemist's Question" (included in The Opium General and Other Stories and The Cornelius Chronicles, vol. III)
"Modem Times" (incl. in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, vol. 2)

This is not necessarily the order of the stories in sequence (which is a much, much more complex matter), but rather stated in a fashion which would allow someone interested to track them down most easily....
 
For a nice study in paranoia try 'The Black Corridor'. Warning; do not attempt this as a student on a black and near silent night when you are too tired to sleep!
 
j. d. worthington

It's strange; I've reada fair bit of Moorcock but "Breakfast in the Ruins" was the last book of his I read and since then I haven't gone back to him (must be several years now).

I must admit that I've read mainly his earlier writing. I don't think I've read anything post 1970's. I'm a bit reluctant; I'm not sure why. I'm worried that I won't like his later writing but I've never really given it a try.

Actually, Moorcock has grown tremendously as a writer since then. Whereas before, he varied considerably in quality of prose, the majority of his work since the mid-1970s on has been much more rich, allusive, often finely textured, and blends both his rather large ideas (which are present even in his earliest work) with a very controlled performance as a prose writer. (This isn't uniformly the case, but I'd say it applies to a good 85% or better of his work post-1973/74.)

Blood, for instance, is a stunning tour-de-force, and even took me by surprise with a few things. One (and this is one I warn just about everyone about when mentioning this book) is the change in style from the opening portion, which is very well written if requiring a bit for the reader to get their bearings, to the second, which frankly reads as a truly awful sort of sf-cum-penny dreadful... which is precisely what it is supposed to be... and it is in fact this very shift in style, and the way the two "worlds" begin to mingle which forms one of the major triumphs (as well as major themes) of the novel as a whole. This was perhaps the only time I'd read anything by Moorcock and thought "What the hell? Has Mike completely slipped his cogs? This is crap!"... and then ended up being amazed and absolutely loving the book in the end. I highly recommend this one, as well as Mother London and Lunching with the Antichrist....

reiver: Most definitely!
 
J.D.

I would appreciate it immensely if you would list about five books of Moorcock post 70's that you would say are a must read (if you can narrow it down to just five).
 
Will do (or attempt to). I'll try to both narrow it down and make it somewhat representative, if possible. However, I will most likely not include any part of the Pyat quartet... not because they're not good books -- they are, and in fact form a notable contribution to modern literature, I'd say -- but because they are difficult reads for the simple reason that Pyat himself is so unlikable a character so much of the time, that most readers would simply not find them to their taste, I'm afraid.

At any rate, I would imagine that Mother London and Blood will be on that list....
 
Pyat himself is so unlikable a character so much of the time, that most readers would simply not find them to their taste, I'm afraid.

Moorcock does like to experiment with the antihero but Pyat has few, if any, redeeming features
 
Since i have read too many fantasy for my taste in the last year and i find Moorcock to a very interesting writer i will order a couple of his SF books.

The Warlord of the Air is a given since its mentioned as early Steampunk book and i like those elements.

Behold the Man sound too interesting not to read next.
 

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