Moorcock's Top 10 SF novels by other authors (selected in 2001)

Bick

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I found this online, and thought Moorcock fans might be interested.

Michael Moorcock said:
I would guess that, Wells, Ballard and Aldiss aside, I only have about 10 SF novels I really like. Most SF is fundamentally retrospective, like modern politics. Big spaceships have an immediate soporific effect (the first time I fell asleep in 2001 I was with an amiable Arthur Clarke!) So, if you haven't read any SF, this list might suit you. Few of these books make any mention of spaceships, but they're all by substantial writers and most have a characteristic elegaic note inherited from the likes of Shelley and Wells.

1. Greybeard Brian W Aldiss
PD James used a similar plot which she corrupted with bad prose and poor thinking. An early eco-freak, Aldiss gives us a world fundamentally destroyed by consumerism. This is the original Grumpy-Old-People-in-a-childless-world parable. Humane, clever, lyrical, it's far and away the best.

2. The Drowned World JG Ballard
An early 60s vision of global warming! It's the more humanist writers who predict the future best. This novel first told me Ballard was more than just a superior writer of Bradburyesque SF stories. Ballard, like Aldiss and like me, was raised in an essentially post-modernist world and found in SF a way of describing specific experience. Another Earth elegaically returned to the womb. Alone at last.

3. The Knights of the Limits Barrington Bayley
Bayley, with myself and Ballard, was one of the original plotters who met a couple of times a week to talk about New Worlds magazine, our forum for what became 'post-modernism'. A fine intellectual writer, Bayley is here sharper and more substantial than Borges.

4. 334 Thomas M Disch
Camp Concentration is the other Disch I would recommend but 334 has richer characters and more humanity. 2021. All the characters live at No. 334 E 11th, NY. Mostly young, very engaging, the vivid characters are dealing with problems all our children will face. Wonderful stuff.

5. The Female Man Joanna Russ
This is one of the first and best of the hardcore feminist SF writers who found in science fiction a fine means of dealing with their concerns. Smarter and grittier than Ursula LeGuin, angrier than Octavia Butler, it is a spirited look at the female condition.

6. Tiger! Tiger! Alfred Bester
This also has a touch of space opera, but baroque rather than techno. This corporation-run Earth was done in 1955. Nestle, Heinz and IBM families rule. Byzantine future politics. Characters you fall in love with. I read this on a rainy day in Paris at the old Mistral, 1957, and it made me think SF might be worth a go. The opening's a Dickens quote, much of the plot is Jacobean Dumas. Revenge, redemption, social analysis in the context of McCarthyism. All the best American SF is from lefties encountering the madness of the 50s.

7. The Man in the High Castle Philip K Dick
In considering the madness of 50s and 60s US when presidents were prepared to risk destroying the world in order to get re-elected, Dick wondered what would be different if the Germans and Japanese had conquered America.

8. The Space Merchants Frederich Pohl
Judith Merrill reveals in her recent memoir how most New York SF writers of the 40s and 50s were divided between Trots and Stalinists. The best American SF remains rooted in these angry originals. Consumerism carried to the planets, a la Star Wars. There is, friends, an American left tradition...

9. Roderick at Random John Sladek
Sladek was the subtlest and cleverest of all SF humorists. Like Bayley he wrote profoundly about the problems which an artifical intelligence might encounter for itself. He, too, was way ahead of his time in understanding the nature of the corporate beast. He died recently and most of his work is being reissued a little belatedly.

10. The Exploits of Engelbrecht Maurice Richardson
While not actually SF, this was such an enthusiasm of mine, Ballard's and several others that it deserves inclusion. Richardson certainly knew his science, his literature and his surrealism. If you do not know the Surrealist Sporting Club, The Day We Played Mars and the Night of the Great Witch Shoot (illustrated by Searle, Hoffnung and Boswell in a superior edition) you do not know English literature.
 

MWagner

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Shame he seems to be recounting titles from his childhood, rather than making an observation on the genre since then.

Moorcock strikes me as a revolutionary political animal who writes pulpy genre fiction to pay the bills. I'd guess he hasn't read a SF novel written in the last 30 years. I've come across comments from a great many authors, especially older ones, who admit they no longer read in their genre, or no longer read fiction full-stop.

So different from today's writers, who tend to be deeply immersed in their genre, not only the works of other writers but the social media scenes, the fan culture, geek culture in general. They blog and repost and share and act as alpha-geek cheerleaders. I wonder what a Jack Vance would make of today's writing environment. He's another guy who wrote just to pay the bills, and took no note whatsoever of other writers or of fans. Could a writer with that stance even find an audience today?
 

Bick

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To be fair (regards the oldish nature of his picks), this selection was made 15 years ago. I don't know if it would change much if he updated it, but perhaps not. For what it's worth, my listing of 10 SF novels would probably look even older and less relevant than his! I like some of his picks - the Aldiss, Pohl, Bester and Dick are all perfectly fine choices. And Barrington Bailey tends to be over-looked and was a great writer I think, and I'm a Sladek fan from years back myself.
 

zlogdan

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Moorcock strikes me as a revolutionary political animal who writes pulpy genre fiction to pay the bills. I'd guess he hasn't read a SF novel written in the last 30 years. I've come across comments from a great many authors, especially older ones, who admit they no longer read in their genre, or no longer read fiction full-stop.

So different from today's writers, who tend to be deeply immersed in their genre, not only the works of other writers but the social media scenes, the fan culture, geek culture in general. They blog and repost and share and act as alpha-geek cheerleaders. I wonder what a Jack Vance would make of today's writing environment. He's another guy who wrote just to pay the bills, and took no note whatsoever of other writers or of fans. Could a writer with that stance even find an audience today?

I used to be very active at MM's forum - when it was active and I honestly miss it a lot but that is another story - and MM was a rather active member there who seemed to enjoy the diversity among his readers: the geeks - like me - and the literature fans. What I have honestly perceived from his always sincere opinions on fantasy and science fiction genre were that they were far more positive than his articles we see on internet seem to indicate. He has been putting more focus on writing non genre fiction but still seems to be proud of his genre work.

Although he usually cited non genre fiction as his habitual readings he was always very happy to talk about his science fiction works or the genre in general and was receptive and friendly to any kind of fan. He has even send me some signed bookplates and always sent them to fans around the world who requested it.
 

Bick

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Interesting perspective, zlogdan. There's always a good degree of myth around Moorcock I think, just from a few things I've read. I'm not sure he hasn't fostered some of the myth, but like most people, he doubtless has a rounder perspective than a few internet articles might hint at.
 

Brian G Turner

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Could a writer with that stance even find an audience today?

I would presume that any writer who immerses themselves in the genre, and outside of it, is already giving themselves an advantage. :)

However, while the recommendation remains to focus on more recently published novels, my observation is that personal taste is a key issue within the industry. And some editors appear very much influenced by 1970's fiction. :)
 

Cat's Cradle

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Thank you for the list! I've only read four of these, but I've gotten free samples for my Kindle on three of the others.
 

zlogdan

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Interesting perspective, zlogdan. There's always a good degree of myth around Moorcock I think, just from a few things I've read. I'm not sure he hasn't fostered some of the myth, but like most people, he doubtless has a rounder perspective than a few internet articles might hint at.

MM has expressed several times how much he enjoys Edgar Rice Burroughs works. He is a huge fan of the John Carter of Mars fan too at the point he bought it on DVD, Blu ray ( he said he only bought a Blu ray player to watch it ) and saw it on the theaters several times. He has more than often expressed how much he enjoys Fritz Lieber and Jack Vance works in fantasy. He is not just very polite and kind from what I had read from his comments: he is a very wise and intelligent person.
 

picklematrix

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Tiger! Tiger! sounds intriguing. It is the only one I have not heard of or read myself.
 

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