Celebrating Michael Moorcock

Can you do that in a fantasy novel?

I remember when found my first Moorcock sighting.  It was at the library, and I was fifteen.  Even at a distance, that copy of Elric stood out from the books around it.  It was the version with the white and red cover, put out by Ace, I believe.

I looked through it, and I remember thinking to myself “This isn’t like the others.  It’s different.”  I had no idea.  After just a few years reading fantasy, I already had in my head what a fantasy novel ‘should’ be.  Elric was to teach me that I still had a lot to learn.

One of the oddities of getting into the genre as I did—by way of pure accident, without friends or coaches to guide me toward the best books—was that I got to ‘discover’ many authors for myself that were already famous in the field.  I suspect this isn’t uncommon among those of my generation, who didn’t have Amazon suggesting similar books to us or internet forums extolling the best books of the year.  (Life got a lot easier for me when I discovered there was a sf/fantasy independent bookstore in town.)

And so, I feel a certain satisfaction for having pulled Moorcock out of the pile without any knowledge of how important his books had been to many of the other authors I’d been reading.  I actually remember reading the first one and being amazed.  “Can you do this in a fantasy novel?” Elric was unlike anyone else I’d read about, a character I both disliked and loved at the same time.

I’ll fully admit that the books (much like those by Donaldson, which I discovered around the same time) were way over my head.  But I knew it, and that excited me, thrilled me, and drove me to expand my understanding of the genre and writing itself.  I’ll admit to being a Moorcock fanboy—my friends and I even had a love of the old Stormbringer pen and paper RPG.

His Eternal Champion motif is part of what drove me to build a shadowed connection between the various worlds of my epic fantasy stories. Warbreaker includes a sentient black sword, an homage to Stormbringer that I’ve been waiting to work into one of my books for many years.  I owe a lot to Moorcock, as does fantasy at large.  If you haven’t read his books, you’re missing something grand.

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