Recently, we’ve been featuring some posts celebrating Michael Moorcock and his legacy. And though I lack the status of a Neil Gaiman or a Tad Williams or any of the other people who posted about him, I thought I would make my own tribute to a living legend.
I was a fan of Michael Moorcock before I even knew who he was. Even before hearing the older kids who were into D&D speak about Elric, the bad-ass albino, I was an eager devotee of the multiverse, of the ongoing interconnected tapestry woven by Moorcock into a resonant whole. However, rather than getting it from the source, from Moorcock’s numerous novels and stories of the Eternal Champions, I was getting this third or perhaps fourth hand, filtered down through the minds of numerous others who took his ideas and gleefully seeded them into other books and comics and movies.
Still, I knew it was magic when I saw it and I knew that I liked it. The multiverse in particular won me over, different worlds where different versions of characters could exist, characters that were both unique and archetype at the same time. Worlds that encompassed a variety of genres from medieval sword and sorcery settings to post-apocalyptic icy wastelands.
It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I actually read my first Moorcock novel, and yet it was like discovering the architect of many of the ideas and approaches that I enjoyed. Alongside Roger Zelazny and Fritz Lieber, Moorcock had an immense influence on the fiction I read, as well as the fiction I write. What resonated most with me, perhaps, was his move away from the typical, and often artificial, absolutes of Good and Evil, toward the more understandable dynamic between Chaos/Entropy and Order/Law. These seemed to me to be more interesting poles to create struggles around. For who really thinks of themselves as Evil and serving Evil? Whereas the fight between Order and Chaos is one that plays out even in the realm of physics. Both extremes are harmful, yet each has its place allowing for more nuanced conflict.
I’ll be honest—while I am a fan of Elric, he is not my favorite of the Eternal Champions. I don’t know that I even have a favorite, but I am fond of Dorian Hawkmoon, Corum, Konrad Arflane, and the various Von Beks. Moorcock’s heroes are all so wonderfully flawed. Whereas Conan was a mighty-thewed warrior who could overcome anything with his strength, Moorcock’s sword and sorcery hero was Elric, the pathetically weak albino sorcerer who has to rely first on herbs to sustain his failing body and later on the vampiric soul-sucking qualities of his runesword, Stormbringer.
And then there’s just the sheer volume of Moorcock’s output, which runs the gamut from psychedelic head trippy adventure to the aforementioned sword and sorcery to far future science fiction to straight up literary stories. He’s the grandfather of steampunk through his Oswald Bastable books and created a whole slew of psychedelic metaphysical secret agents following his Jerry Cornelius stories.
I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Moorcock years ago in a now-disappeared New York bookstore. He talked a bit about his books, answered questions, and signed for me the first Moorcock book I read. I was impressed with his intelligence and thoughtfulness and responded to Moorcock the writer as much as I did to his written word.
In the years since, I made it something of a quest to acquire as much of his catalog as I could. There were omnibuses being released from White Wolf at the time which collected much of his output. But there were still stories that remained elusive, either because they were out print or from smaller publishers. I spent a lot of time in those years visiting family in the UK, and second-hand bookstores furnished me many a Moorcock novel, each one filling in a piece in the larger metafictional nature of his universe. Now my Moorcock books fill more than two full shelves, taking up more space than any other single author in my collection. And yet, a multiverse is contained there, an interconnected collection of universes for me to visit any time I please.
To say that I appreciate Michael Moorcock seems too watery a term. He is a giant in the fiction world for me, a pillar upon which much of the genre foundation has been based and an individual who has had a strong personal affect on me. So thank you, Mr. Moorcock, for all that you’ve done. And may you do much more.
Rajan Khanna is a graduate of the 2008 Clarion West Writers Workshop and his fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Shimmer, GUD, and Steampunk Tales. He lives in Brooklyn with his two cats, Chloe and Muppet.