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The Eternal Champion
February 5, 2011 3:02 PM   Subscribe

When Hari Kunzru met Michael Moorcock
posted by Artw (25 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I bet everyone my age who posts in this thread has a "How I found Moorcock" story to tell like the one in the article.

Mine involves a dollar-store set of comic books that my dad got me on a road trip over twenty years ago. One was a forgettable issue of Shatter, but the others were adaptations of The Vanishing Tower and The King of the Swords, the last one lushly illustrated by Jill Thompson. When we reached our destination, I found a used bookstore nearby and cleaned out their frickin' huge Moorcock inventory.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:43 PM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I expect I checked his books out from the library. I've read rather more SF than I sometimes like to admit (how many of you have read every Lensmen volume?) but just never got into 'fandom'.
posted by sammyo at 3:50 PM on February 5, 2011


For people who want to know more about Moorcock.
posted by Splunge at 3:51 PM on February 5, 2011


Oh, and I might as well add. Jerry Cornelius changed my fucking life. Reading the Cornelius books allowed me to come out as a bisexual male in the 1970s. For some it's the Rocky Horror Show.

For me it was Moorcock.

I love this man. And Sam Delaney as well.

Rock on Sci-Fi writers. Keep doing what you do.
posted by Splunge at 3:55 PM on February 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


He just had surgery on a foot, partial or complete amputation, I believe, as a complication of diabetic neuropathy. That Multiverse link upthread is a great place to learn more about the guy. He regularly participates in online interactions with the community, and is an outstandingly accessible author. I hope the surgery works out for the best for him.
posted by mwhybark at 4:17 PM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's pretty simple for me -- by the time I was in sixth/seventh grade, I was making Saturday trips to Cosmic Comics in downtown Cleveland, where I saw the Elric adaptations of the time. I paged through the comics version of The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, though I don't think I actually bought it; I'm pretty sure this was a graphic novel, probably priced a good six bucks, and therefore well beyond my meager allowance. Not much later, I saw the Elric books in the science fiction section of the book-bookstore across the street, and...you know, really, Ted Chiang made the right call when they wanted to stick a lousy cover on his book, because there is just no way any kid with an interest in stuff like this could pass these up. Don't get me wrong: I love these books for their stories, but that is hands-down the best paperback fantasy art that I still -- more than two decades later -- have ever seen.

In any case: That was summertime, and my parents' house in Cleveland is right by Lake Erie, and I remember lying in bed reading Elric of Melnibone with the windows open at night, the smell of the lake drifting over me as Elric fought his nautical battle, plunged into the sea, and came back up with Stormbringer. It's difficult to unwind nostalgia from real experience, but I can bring that back clear as day. Good times, good times.

Anyway, so that's my "how I found Moorcock" story.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:19 PM on February 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I heard about him through Neil Gaiman's essay 'One Life In Early Moorcock'. Read the Corum books, the Elric books, Jerry Cornelius, Mother London... anything I could get my hands on. A library booksale had massive hardcover anthologies of his biggest characters, which were great.
He might be a bit inconsistent but I love the freedom and surrealism of Moorcock. His crew are my favorite era of sci-fi/fantasy, though I grew up on Clarke and Asimov. Give me M John Harrison or Norman Spinrad any day
Anyone seen The Final Programme film? It's not very good
Underrated Moorcock includes 'The Great Rock and Roll Swindle', his adaptation of the Sex Pistols film where they mingle with his usual characters and attack London. There's also 'Behold the Man', a realitivly straightforward story about a time traveller in the time of Jesus.
I'm seeing Hawkwind and Motörhead next month
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:39 PM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


My hippy parents would frequently bring me along when visiting friends houses that smelled of pot and patchouli. They were probably buying dope and hanging out to smoke a few joints, but I'd always be checking out the bookshelves and Moorcock was always a big feature I hoovered that stuff up.
posted by Artw at 4:51 PM on February 5, 2011


I guess I'm second-generation; when I think of Moorcock and immediately go to Gideon Stargrave and King Mob.

That would've been when my college D&D group was trying to play Everway and Amber Diceless and getting hung up on our fondness for tasteless penis jokes, and I'd just figured out Grendel and Mage. Everyone wanted to be some kind of chaos magick badass back then.

I should get back to Moorcock someday. Morrison kind of filled that spot for me, but it was Wagner who really got the death grip on my outlook.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:07 PM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


My "How I found Moorcock" story: I found his "Best from New Worlds" paperback anthologies (remaindered for 25¢) at my local discount department store at the very end of the '60s. I had already encountered some of the 'New Wave' SF - and probably Moorcock's ownBehold the Man slight before, but the NW books were the first I can recall buying.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 5:23 PM on February 5, 2011


I simply don't remember how I discovered Moorcock's work thirty-something years ago, but I remember enjoying it when I read it. However, I do remember doing piece in art class depicting Elric's final confrontation with Stormbringer, one that I really liked and my art teacher really hated, and one which mysteriously disappeared from my cubical one day.
posted by moonbiter at 5:28 PM on February 5, 2011


my own "How I found Moorcock" story: my old man had the Elric mass paperbacks (the ones that look like this). kinda boring, but there it is.

one day I'm eventually going to find an artist I trust to draw me a fuckin' awesome Stormbringer to get tattooed on my right arm.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:03 PM on February 5, 2011


Yeah, I have old Elric paperbacks as well. The glue on the spines are bad. If I was to open one to read it, the book would just fall apart. I mean that opening the book, even the just the paperback cover would make a snap sound and then dust from the spine. It's sad. I'd really like to read them again, now.
posted by Splunge at 6:41 PM on February 5, 2011


When I started High School I found 'Jewel in The Skull' and 'Ice Warriors' in the HS library paperback rack. I recall reading them in a quiet almost empty library, with an occasional distant roar echoing through the window from the big home football game outside.

Of course, later learning that he edited New Worlds and had worked on Double Live Space Ritual (wrote the lyrics for Sonic Attack!), well that was just too cool, dude.
posted by ovvl at 8:05 PM on February 5, 2011


Didn't much like Elric when I was 12 or so but I really loved Epic Pooh. Not only was it a very insightful piece of writing but it introduced me to Elisabeth Moon's Paksenarrion!
posted by rainy at 9:55 PM on February 5, 2011


Oh, I remember quite clearly how I found Michael Moorcock.

I was a weird kid who lived in a house packed to the rafters with books. Sometimes, I would just take them off the shelf and stare at them. I read a lot, too, but sometimes I just liked to look at them and hold them and smell them. I was fond of cover illustrations from the sixties and seventies in particular.

My mother had the hardcover editions of The Dancers at The End of Time trilogy. I was ... maybe twelve, and I was absolutely enthralled by the cover art:

An Alien Heat
The Hollow Lands (I found this image especially hypnotic for some reason)
The End of All Songs.

Eventually I broke out of my trance, and read the damn things.

And then I read them again.
And again.

I loved the surreal humor and the musicality of the writing (there's a melodic quality to Moorcock's voice, even when he's just cranking stuff out.)


I love them to this day. I use the screen name Everlasting Concubine elsewhere on the internet. When I was living in Austin, I actually got to meet him and tell him how much I loved them. He signed my copies of the first edition paperbacks, with the message "To Emily. These are amongst my own favorites. Michael Moorcock."
posted by louche mustachio at 11:02 PM on February 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: "'The Great Rock and Roll Swindle', his adaptation of the Sex Pistols film"

Hard to find, but yeah. Moorcock is one of the most central pop-culture vectors for anarchist thoght, politics, and philosophy. My recollection is that Malcom actually singled him out for the book, which, as noted, is hard to come by.
posted by mwhybark at 11:31 PM on February 5, 2011


louche mustachio: "My mother had the hardcover editions of The Dancers at The End of Time trilogy."

I read these when they were reissued as a part of the comprehensive While Wolf reissue series. I love them so much. I spent some time asking about them when I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Moorcock at length and he unequivocally echoed your inscription. They are terrific.
posted by mwhybark at 11:39 PM on February 5, 2011


I first read Elric back in middle school, it was weird shit to read coming straight off the Dragonlance books. The same guy who got me into DL also got me into Elric, so there's that. I re-read the Elric books in an epic blast running about a week straight (I think it was Spring Break FWIW) back in high school and found them fascinating. They'd gone a bit over my head in middle school but in high school Elric's angst really resonated with me.

More recently I found the reprints of the original short stories, and I have to say: I've become profoundly disappointed at Moorcock's revisionism. The paperbacks aren't the undiluted original Elric stories, which is the raw work of a talented young author doing full-scale deconstruction of the sword & sorcery tropes of his era. They're instead the later author going back and taming his work into a more cohesive epic piece. Even what was published as the novel Stormbringer is reflective of this self-revisionism. I'd really recommend that people who read the six novels (plus the other 3 or 4 books Moorcock put out afterward) go back and find the volumes that reprint the original version, it's a much different experience. Not that there's no merit in the refined form, just that there's something a little different, worthwhile on its own, in the original versions.
posted by graymouser at 2:42 AM on February 6, 2011


The township library in my rural, conservative town had a treasure trove in its SF section, including Elric and The Eternal Champion. That's where I got my introduction at around ten or eleven (as well as to Zelazny, Lovecraft and Delany), although Moorcock's stuff didn't really stick with me back then.

Once I found a bunch of fellow nerdy travelers a few years later in junior high, Moorcock was a definite part of our subculture, especially with Chaosium's RPG making the rounds and Marvel's EPIC line publishing Elric comics.
posted by ursus_comiter at 3:21 AM on February 6, 2011


John Coulthart's weekend links (among other things) covered several things related to the interview: Bob Haberfield book cover art, Kunzru's complete transcript of the interview, and an expansive collection of Moorcock covers.
posted by zamboni at 9:11 AM on February 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Found Elric at a suburban Waldenbooks in the 80s, never quite recovered, never wanted to.
posted by dragonplayer at 1:00 PM on February 6, 2011


You can't post about Elric of Melnibone without playing some "Chronicles of the Black Sword" man!
posted by longbaugh at 4:45 PM on February 6, 2011


(My intro to Moorcock was finding my dad's paperbacks with "Acid Magic Calculations" on the back of them - also found on his copy of The Hobbit. Turned out that stuff was awesome. Moorcock I mean, though LSD is also pretty fucking amazing).
posted by longbaugh at 4:48 PM on February 6, 2011


How I first encountered Moorcock:
- Got into Motörhead in high school (saw them last night, they were ace!)
- Met the guy who would be my boyfriend for the next five years at our college radio station, where we both had a death metal radio show
- We both became friends with a way-cooler-than-us DJ who introduced us to space and "kraut" rock: Can, Amon Duul, Gong, and "Hey, did you guys know that Lemmy was in this band called Hawkwind?"
- Purchased what would become my favorite album of all time, Space Ritual, at a record show in Lancaster, PA (where I was interning at a death metal record label)
- Proceeded to consume all things Lemmy-era Hawkwind
- Visited boyfriend in England, where he was studying, spent days combing the book shops for JG Ballard, Iain Banks, and Alan Warner. Came across Time of the Hawklords. Freaked out.
- Read it. Found it really quite awful.
posted by medeine at 7:24 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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