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June 18, 2009 10:16 AM   Subscribe

The Readers of Boing Boing interview Michael Moorcock
posted by Artw (42 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Celebrity Jeopardy Sean Connery appearance in 5 ... 4 ...
posted by zippy at 10:18 AM on June 18, 2009


Michael Moorcock is awesome, but I wish he'd let me buy a new edition of the Elric series I read as a teenager -- the one without all the latter-day additions and weird miscellaneous stuff and the stories apparently all out of order. Preferably with the same sweet covers (the ones with the rune-y silver matting behind the illustrations). I fear George Lucas has set a dire precedent.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:20 AM on June 18, 2009


Great interview.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:33 AM on June 18, 2009


Given that it's a Boing Boing interview, or at least questiosn from Boing Boing readers, I took a kind of vindictive joy in the slapdown he gives to Steampunk-as-it-is-practiced-now.
posted by Artw at 10:40 AM on June 18, 2009


out of curiosity:

is it possible to get into moorcock's f/sf writing as an adult even if you think the whole angsty elric thing (from what you've heard of it) is pretty uncomfortably lame in a sort of emo way?

by the time I'd really heard enough about it to consider reading it, I had reached a point where I simply wasn't interested in reading something about a brooding lonely prince. sounded, frankly, too livejournal-ey. obviously, moorcock is a better author than livejournal fic writers, but still - the impression has kept me away.

thoughts? should I just suck it up and read it anyway? is there other stuff of his I should read instead? is it less moody and angsty than I've been lead to believe?
posted by shmegegge at 10:41 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


kittens, he mentions that with the latest Del Ray Elric books, he's "republished them in their original order."
posted by JaredSeth at 10:44 AM on June 18, 2009


thoughts? should I just suck it up and read it anyway? is there other stuff of his I should read instead? is it less moody and angsty than I've been lead to believe?

Yes and no. It's pretty moody and angsty, but it's also apocalyptically violent and deeply cynical in a downright existential way. It's unlikely that an Elric movie would be made for Twilight fans, I'll put it that way.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:46 AM on June 18, 2009


kittens, he mentions that with the latest Del Ray Elric books, he's "republished them in their original order."

Hmmmm...
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:47 AM on June 18, 2009


It's not Emo, it's Prog! And proto-Metal Prog at that.
posted by Artw at 10:48 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I never thought of the Elric stories as being angsty. I enjoyed them because I thought they had the feel of a very old, tragic epic, a dark version of Beowulf. Elric isn't really a brooding lonely prince except for the beginning of the first book, he's a wanderer that has no place in the world. You could try the Corum books instead, which are a little more cohesive.
posted by demiurge at 10:49 AM on June 18, 2009


That was a great interview. Has BoingBoing done others like this?
posted by zippy at 10:50 AM on June 18, 2009


The Del Ray book i picked up, with Sailor on The Seas of Fate (which is awesome) also had Duke Elric in it, which is some later spin-offy transcript of a comic thing that I didn't really read, so though there's some intent to keep them in order it's a very rough intent and they will fuck about with it at times.

/wonders idly if Stormbringer would be as awesome to read again as it was when I was 14. Not entirely sure anything can really be that awesome again.
posted by Artw at 10:51 AM on June 18, 2009


Elric was the 'me' I was as a late teenager -- like many teenagers -- angsty, self-blaming, feeling I was doing harm to others around me and so on.

Sigh, and here I thought I was special.
posted by Nelson at 10:52 AM on June 18, 2009


London bone, a great Moorcock short that's nothing to do at all with Elric or Jerry Cornelius or anything like that, is on a podcast here with a great reading.
posted by Artw at 10:55 AM on June 18, 2009


shmegge, you may be too old for Elric now, but "Behold the Man" is a novella all science fiction fans should know, and I loved Gloriana when I read it (which was decades ago, so it might just be a book for young guys who've outgrown Elric).
posted by shetterly at 10:59 AM on June 18, 2009


is it possible to get into moorcock's f/sf writing as an adult even if you think the whole angsty elric thing (from what you've heard of it) is pretty uncomfortably lame in a sort of emo way?

It's definitely possible, though some of his stuff holds up much better than others. The Elric material isn't so much "emo" as it is perpetually grim. As demiurge mentions above, it's very much in the vein of old epic tragedies, particularly the Norse ones wherein there's lots of violence and the hero ultimately can't escape his fate. The Corum novels are similar, but with much more of a Celtic influence, and even a bit of science fiction. The Von Bek novels are great. The "steampunk" material is fantastic, too.

One thing I've found that really helps me to enjoy Moorcock's work is to have read his nonfiction, and in particular his critical essays on fantasy. Epic Pooh hit the nail on the head with me, really putting in concrete terms some of the things that had bothered me about Tolkien and Lewis (though I respectfully disagree with his assessment of Richard Adams) but which I hadn't quite entirely been able to put into words. Having read that, I had a much better idea of Moorcock's overall approach to fantasy and could appreciate what he was doing even in his lesser fantasy works, like the Hawkmoon novels.

I'd also point out that his non-fantastic stuff is absolutely brilliant, ranging from subtle satire (The Brothel in Rosenstrasse) to batshit crazy psychedelic adventure like the Cornelius stories, the first of which I've described to people as being something like "Austin Powers only ruthlessly serious instead of slapstick."
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:06 AM on June 18, 2009


When I was a teenager I loved Hawkmoon, Corum and Elric. I reread one of the Hawkmoon books relatively recently and, sadly, wished I hadn't - he says he wrote most of those in three days flat each and it kind of shows. I'd recommend the Dancers At The End Of Time or the Jerry Cornelius quartet if you're just starting with Moorcock and are past the age of 18.
posted by motty at 11:09 AM on June 18, 2009


is it possible to get into moorcock's f/sf writing as an adult even if you think the whole angsty elric thing (from what you've heard of it) is pretty uncomfortably lame in a sort of emo way?

Yes. He's written lots of other stuff. I don't like the Elric books or the Eternal Champion books at all, but I enjoyed Gloriana and the "Nomad of the Time Streams" books and the "Metatemporal Detective" stories.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:27 AM on June 18, 2009


I'd also point out that his non-fantastic stuff is absolutely brilliant

Add Mother London and Between The Wars (Byzantium Endures, etc.) to that list.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 11:30 AM on June 18, 2009


Ah, I remember meeting Moorcock at a book signing and asking him if he had plans for any more Elric books. He said no, the character was pretty much over and done with. This was sixteen years ago.

is it possible to get into moorcock's f/sf writing as an adult even if you think the whole angsty elric thing (from what you've heard of it) is pretty uncomfortably lame in a sort of emo way?

Elric was created largely as a reaction to the traditional fantasy tropes seen in Conan and Lord of the Rings. He may seem emo now, but back in the 60s and 70s, a fantasy hero with actual moral dilemmas and a tendency to side with the dark gods instead of just robbing their temples or dunking their magic items in volcanoes was pretty innovative, I think.
posted by permafrost at 11:43 AM on June 18, 2009


Hmm... I dunno, is he really *that* different from the characters of Fritz Leiber or Clark Ashton Smith?
posted by Artw at 11:44 AM on June 18, 2009


The deal with the in-order/out-of-order thing is that he didn't write the stories in internal chronological order.

The books that kittensforbreakfast read had all the stories rearranged in internal chronological order. The new series has them in the order he wrote them, which is different.
posted by dfan at 11:46 AM on June 18, 2009


/wonders idly if Stormbringer would be as awesome to read again as it was when I was 14. Not entirely sure anything can really be that awesome again.

Rereading beloved books from Heinlein, Asimov, etc., as an adult, proved a serious disappointment. Surprisingly, The Lord of the Rings was still OK for me. Not shockingly, life-changingly great or anything, but not bad. So, what the heck, give it a try. Let me know how it goes.

Re-reading Fox in Socks, though, was an eye-opener and a life-changer for sure! Thanks little kids, for letting me read Fox in Socks, again!
posted by Mister_A at 12:32 PM on June 18, 2009


Always read in publication order. Always, always, always! All right-thinking people agree on this.
posted by Justinian at 12:34 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


My first reaction was "really?! Michael Moorcock is still alive?" For some reason I had it as a fixed idea that the Elric stuff came from the 1920's-1930's, same as Conan so I'd always assumed he was long dead.

I never tried reading anything but the Elric saga, got through the first three books of insanely purple prose and over the top "will Elric be able to X" descriptive pseudo-drama (those chapter introductions were torturous) before I gave up. Drama is fine, but the combination of beginning/end of chapter narrative attempts at epic descriptions, purple prose, etc just got wearing after a while. Is his other stuff basically the same style?
posted by sotonohito at 12:35 PM on June 18, 2009


Always read in publication order. Always, always, always! All right-thinking people agree on this.

For whatever reason, I have no problem with this vis a vis the latest publication of Robert Howard's Conan stories, but it bothers me a lot with Elric. (I should note, before any conclusions are drawn about my reading tastes, that REH, Moorcock, Tolkien and George R.R. Martin are about the only sword-and-sorcery writers I read at all.) I think it's as simple as an early attachment to those stories, in that order...anything else makes me twitchy!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:44 PM on June 18, 2009


I'm so confused... Who's Elric? I don't see him in the movie...

The House of Morecock [NSFW]
posted by PigAlien at 12:45 PM on June 18, 2009


Always read in publication order. Always, always, always! All right-thinking people agree on this.

I agree! But this case is a litle complicated because they were published in magazines in one order, then collected into novels in a different order, and most people's encounters with Elric are via the novels.
posted by dfan at 1:25 PM on June 18, 2009


The Damned were huge Harlan Ellison fans, but the one time I tried to introduce them, Harlan was very nervous and uncomfortable and took exception to one of them asking him when he was going to write a novel and left. Later he described us as battling our way out of a den of 'punks' (it was at Blitz, about the most middle class club for New Romantics I knew)

Ellison always struck me as someone who talked a big game, but would turn into an utter flustered pussy in a real life situation.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:26 PM on June 18, 2009


Ellison always struck me as someone who talked a big game, but would turn into an utter flustered pussy in a real life situation.

Uh, whatever his faults, I think that how wrong you are (for better or worse) is pretty well-documented, actually.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:35 PM on June 18, 2009


He totally does, if my experience of having dinner with him several years ago is any indication. Can dish it out but can't take it.
posted by vilthuril at 1:39 PM on June 18, 2009


My Michael Moorcock story:

Down the street from where I used to work was a little franchise sandwich shop in a strip mall that was apparently owned and run by a very nice south asian couple who were the only ones I ever saw working there. They made really good tuna salad sandwiches, so when I was writing, i would often go there to get one and take it back to eat at my desk. In one corner of the shop there was a little cluster of couches around a coffee table that held a couple of board games and a totally half-assed collection of books, one of which was The Eternal Champion. I hadn't read any Moorcock since I was a D&D crazed pre-teen, so I decided I would read that book a little bit at a time while I was waiting on my sandwiches. The shop was never very busy, so I rarely got to read more than a page or two while I was waiting. It took me about a year to finish it.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:40 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Re-reading Fox in Socks, though, was an eye-opener and a life-changer for sure!

Fox in Socks is awesome! Let's have a little talk about tweetle beetles.

(Incidentally Fox in Socks also features the first literary appearance of a young Don Gately, then still known as "Bim," who would, like so many child stars, later have serious drug problems, until his rehabilitation and triumphant return in Infinite Jest, which role so overwhelms his youthful work that few today even know where he got his start.)
posted by rusty at 1:42 PM on June 18, 2009


FatherDagon, whatever you think of Ellison's positions, I assure you, you do not want to assume that. He walks the walk--do some googling if you doubt me.
posted by shetterly at 1:42 PM on June 18, 2009


Reading that Epic Pooh article linked above, I find this as one of Moorecock's objections to Tolkein:

The little hills and woods of that Surrey of the mind, the Shire, are "safe", but the wild landscapes everywhere beyond the Shire are "dangerous". Experience of life itself is dangerous..

He uses this as argument that this opposition set up by Tolkein is why LOTR fails as an epic romance. But, isn't this why Bilbo sells his place in the Shire and leaves? Because the safety of The Shire is boring and too safe? And isn't this exactly the lesson Frodo learns?
posted by spicynuts at 1:45 PM on June 18, 2009


FatherDagon, a P.S. I say that as someone who disagrees with many of his positions. You can start with his wikipedia page. (Which I checked while trying to remember if I was correct about him marching to Selma in '65.)
posted by shetterly at 1:47 PM on June 18, 2009


IMO Moorcock stuff is still totally badass and a blast to read, even as an adult. Also holding up well: the P. Craig Russell graphic adaptations.
posted by jbickers at 2:02 PM on June 18, 2009


FatherDagon: "Ellison always struck me as someone who talked a big game, but would turn into an utter flustered pussy in a real life situation."

by "turn into an utter flustered pussy" I assume you mean that, like women, he would either exhibit weakness and/or avoid direct personal confrontation?
posted by shmegegge at 2:08 PM on June 18, 2009


(from the OP)
"There is, of course, a correlation between the black sword and a dependency on drugs."

Always seemed to be the central point in those books to me.

"I'm not the first person, of course, to see that happen. Kipling, Conan Doyle or H.G.Wells must have felt a lot more stunned than I was to see the world of the early 20th century packed with jungle boys, consulting detectives and time/space machines."

Just last week I hit a jungle boy with my time/space machine while I was doing some detective consulting work. Damn kids with their vines everywhere. It wasn't like this 20 years from now ago.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:09 PM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I haven't gotten around to reading Moorcock yet, but I know that it's his work that Stormbringer in Nethack is drawn from, and that's particularly awesome in a yet-another-way-to-get-you-killed way. In Nethack, the artifact runesword named Stormbringer level-drains opponents, but the game disables checks when running into peaceful or tame monsters while it's wielded, so friendly monsters will get whacked by it instead of prompting "Are you sure you want to hit (monster)? (y/n)" This means one must be particularly careful when wielding it in, say, shops.

(Nethack is absolutely loaded with these kinds of references. It's even got Twoflower from Discworld!)
posted by JHarris at 5:45 PM on June 18, 2009


Gawsh. I love me some Moorcock. Um...I don't think that came out right. I adored his sword and sorcery in my early teens, and devoured his other works as well. An ideal Saturday afternoon involved a new Moorcock paperback and a stack of homemade cinammon sugar cookies.

Anyway, I have to put in a word for the Dancers at the End of Time books. Although some chapters remind me of those self-consciously wacky 60's movie scenes with lots of people running around in fast motion, by and large I still find them a lot of fun - more Wodehouse than Robert E. Howard.
posted by gamera at 6:50 PM on June 18, 2009


thank god this thread is still open.

for those who were wondering: you can download the first collection of elric stories (The Soul Stealer) to the kindle or iphone kindle app for free. I have done so.

in small text, because it's less important: I am, in what I hope is good faith, going to read the entire thing, but at this point I have to continually remind myself "he did it first, he did it first, he did it first." this is not a criticism of moorcock, but at this point in my reading career, it is VERY difficult for me to separate his work from the crappy TSR books or (god help me) other nearly fan-fiction-y terrible writing that emulates his work. I am laboring, at this point, to continually remind myself that nothing like it had existed at the time of his writing, and that he admits himself (in his preface to the collection and elsewhere) that the writing at this time was angsty, hastily done, and relatively immature. nevertheless, I'm sticking with it.
posted by shmegegge at 11:09 AM on June 30, 2009


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