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Michael Moorcock stands, as an opposite pole, with J.R.R. Tolkien as one of the two most influential writers of fantasy of the last half of the twentieth century. He dominated British fantasy during the 1960’s and 70’s, and continues to be regarded as the most influential writer of sword and sorcery in the UK. He was a central figure in the development of urban fantasy, as well as such tertiary genres as steampunk and gaslight romance. Yet Moorcock’s accomplishments as a writer defy such easy or convenient labels, as has his life. A prolific writer whose work has spanned or blurred most genres, including crime, romance, western, science fiction and mainstream, he is the author of an at times bewildering array of fiction which to date include over eighty novels, not considering varying titles or omnibuses; approximately one hundred and fifty short stories; a play and screenplay; poetry; several graphic novels; comics; and at least one computer game. He was editor of New Worlds, which under his stewardship became the preeminent magazine of science fiction for its day (1964-67), promoting new authors at the time that have since, along with Moorcock himself, come to be identified with the New Wave, including Brian Aldiss, J.G. Ballard, Samuel R. Delaney, Thomas M. Disch, M. John Harrison, Charles Platt, John Sladek, Norman Spinrad, Gene Wolfe and Roger Zelazny. In addition to his fiction and other editorial activities, Moorcock has written innumerable articles, essays, interviews, letters and reviews throughout his long career, as well as several works of non-fiction, including such critical surveys as Letters From Hollywood and Wizardry and Wild Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy. He has also been actively involved in politics, serving as editor and writer for the Liberal Party from 1962-63, and has long been involved as an advocate of feminism and opponent of pornography. In addition to his writing career, he was a musician and songwriter for several rock bands, including Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Fix, The Greenhorns and Hawkwind.
Michael John Moorcock was born December 18, 1939, in Mitcham, Surrey, to Arthur and June (Taylor) Moorcock. He has been married three times, to author Hilary Bailey in 1962, Jill Riches in 1978, and his current wife, Linda Steele, in 1983. He is the father of three children, two daughters and a son, by his first marriage. After living most of his life in London, where much of his fiction is set, Moorcock moved with his wife, Linda, to Bastrop, Texas in 1994, which has been their primary residence ever since.
Moorcock began his writing career in early adolescence, his first work, Outlaw’s Own, written in 1950. At sixteen, he was briefly editor of Tarzan’s Adventures (1956-57), followed by the Sexton Blake Library (1958-61), and his early fiction, such as the Sojan stories, were heavily influenced by pulp fiction from the earlier half of the twentieth century. His first Elric tales appeared in 1961 and ’62, as well as the first direct mention of the Eternal Champion (1962), concepts and characters that, along with the multiverse—a realm of parallel if not infinite existences where a constant struggle exists between Order and Chaos—were to define most of his fiction during the ‘60’s and 70’s, and continue to inform his fantasy work to the present day. It is the character of Elric that first gained Moorcock an large audience, an often dark parody of Robert E. Howard’s Conan that solidified Moorcock’s identification with sword and sorcery, and that has continued, despite Elric’s many and evolving avatars—Corum, Erekosë, Hawkmoon, Kane of Mars, Von Bek or the commedia dell’ arte masquerade of Elric itself, Jerry Cornelius—or Moorcock’s increasing forays into other areas of fiction, and has influenced, in varying degrees, every author of fantasy that has followed. As John Clute observes in his Encyclopedia of Fantasy, Moorcock “remains the 20th century’s central fantasist about fantasy.”
In addition to his various story cycles revolving around the concepts of the multiverse and the eternal champion, Moorcock has written several other books that have secured his legacy as an author. Behold the Man (1967), a novella and one of his few works that is singularly science fiction, received the Nebula Award in 1968. Gloriana, or the Unfulfill’d Queen: Being a Romance (1978) is a sexual parable set in Elizabethan England, parodying Spenser’s The Faerie Queene as well as heavily acknowledging Meryvn Peake’s Gormenghast. Mother London (1988) is more a mainstream fabulation, a biography of the city presented as masque for which he received considerable critical acclaim. Along with the Jerry Cornelius novel The Condition of Muzak (1977), many feel these four books represent the best of a large and outstanding body of work.
In addition to the Nebula Award for Behold the Man, Michael Moorcock has also been the recipient of the British Fantasy Award on five occasions: in 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, and 1976. The Condition of Muzak received the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1977. Both the World Fantasy Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award were given to Gloriana in 1979. In 1993 Moorcock won the British Fantasy Committee Award and an additional World Fantasy Award in 2000 for lifetime achievement.
1 Clute, John, and John Grant, eds., The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997), p. 660
Michael John Moorcock is one of the 20th century's most preeminent science fiction and fantasy authors. Born in London, England on December 18, 1939, he now divides his time between Bastrop, Texas and France.
Moorcock first entered the professional literary scene in 1957 at the age of 17, when he became the editor of Tarzan Adventures. During his editing tenure he published a number of stories devoted to Sorjan the Swordsman, which formed the first of Moorcock's heroic fantasy oeuvre. In these early years he also edited the Sexton Blake Library, a collection of stories based around the popular British literary character once described as "the poor man's Sherlock Holmes". (Moorcock would later use Blake as the basis for his own 'metatemporal detective' Sexton Begg.) In 1958 Moorcock produced his first of many works for the magazine New Worlds, "Going Home". His first published novel was The Sundered Worlds, originally published in November 1962 as a novella in _Science Fiction Adventures_and expanded into a full-fledged novel in 1965. In 1964 Moorcock became the editor of New Worlds. His editorship marked _New Worlds_as one of the major forces in the development of so-called "New Wave" science fiction, a literary movement that redefined science fiction with a more modernist and experimental style, and that focused less on technological change and development (as does traditional 'hard' science fiction). Although the level of true rupture and opposition between the New Wave and previous generations of SF literature is debatable (as is the degree to which the New Wave actually constitued a "movement"), the New Wave (of which Moorcock and J.G. Ballard are often considered core founders) did produce a number of authors with lasting reputations, including John Brunner, Samuel Delaney, and Harlan Ellison.
Moorcock is responsible for a large and broad body of work. Notable individual works of his include the 1966 novella "Behold The Man", which won the Nebula Award and which tells the story of Karl Glogauer, a man who travels through time and ends up assuming the historical identity of Jesus Christ; Mother London(1988), a Whitbread Prize nominee that disjointedly and chaotically chronicles the history of the city of London and which spawned a partial sequel in 2000, King of the City; the Pyat Quartet, a series of 4 novels written between 1981 and 2006 that relates the life of Colonel Maxim Arturovitch Pyatnitski, a drug-addicted anti-Semitic (despite himself being Jewish) antihero who wanders from Tsarist Russia to the Western world over decades of history; and Gloriana, or The Unfulfill'd Queen(1978), a novel set in a re-imagined Elizabethan Britain. _Gloriana_won both the 1979 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and the 1979 World Fantasy Award (Best Novel).
However, Moorcock's most famous and important literary contribution is his creation of the so-called "Multiverse". _The Encyclopedia of Fantasy_defines the Multiverse as "a universe consisting of innumerable alternate worlds, all intersecting, laterally and (palimpsest-fashion) vertically. Some of these parallel worlds operate according to SF premises, some - like the worlds in which various avatars of Moorcock's Eternal Champion series play out their linked destinies - operate in fantasy terms. Worlds governed by incompatible premises are not, however, barred from each other and in this sense the overall concept belongs more properly to fantasy than to Sf. Moorcock himself treats his extremely large and varied oeuvre as though all its venues occupy niches in the one multiverse". Thus, all of Moorcock's fictional work can be seen to take place in the same intersecting and overlapping realm.
Key to an understanding of the Multiverse is Moorcock's invention of the "Eternal Champion". The Eternal Champion is an endlessly recurring figure whose destiny is to preserve the universal balance between Law and Chaos (the two forces that dominate Moorcock's cosmology). The Champion does not necessarily fight for good or evil per se, but instead works to right the cosmic order whenever the balance tips too much towards one side or the other. Moorock's Multiverse is a shared universe, in which he has frequently allowed other authors to write works in.
Moorcock first explicitly introduced The Eternal Champion in the 1970 novel of the same name, this incarnation being identified as John Dakar, a 20th-century human who is unique among Champions as actually being able to know his role, his destiny, and the identity of other incarnations. This novel marked the first of the _Eternal Champion_sequence, which eventually came to encompass numerous novels and stories that chronicle a number of different Champions, including (among others) Dorian Hawkmoon, Graf Ulrich Von Bek, Corum Jhaelen Irsei, Jherek Carnelian, Michael Kane, and Oswald Bastable.
Outside the main _Champion_sequence, Moorcock's most famous protagonists (themselves also incarnations of the Champion) are Elric of Melnibone and Jerry Cornelius. Elric, who first appeared in Moorcock''s story "The Dreaming City", published in Science Fantasy#47 (June 1961), is an antihero who both reflects and satirizes the conventions of heroic sword-and-sorcery fantasy. He is the last Emperor of Melnibone, an island civilization on an ancient alternate Earth. Elric has a notable physical appearance, being an albino, and he is also physically weak and must rely on drugs to retain health and strength. He wields the magical black sword Stormbringer, which brings Elric strength but which can only flourish by eating the souls of the people it destroys. Elric is probably Moorcock's best-known character, and he has appeared in novels, short stories, and comic books.
Jerry Cornelius is another major figure in the Multiverse. He first appeared in the novel The Final Programme(1969) and stars in 3 additional novels published between 1971 and 1977 as well as numerous additional short stories and novellas. Cornelius is a hip, ambigiously sexual secret agent and adventurer whose adventures are odd and highly nonstructured, and who is something of a clownish figure. He recurs in one form or another throughout many of Moorcock's works (note, for example, that two of Moorcock's other Champions are named Corum Jhaelen Irsei and Jherek Carnelian: the former is an anagram of Cornelius and the latter shares his initals and similar lettering).
In addition to his literary output, Moorcock has also enjoyed a musical career. He has collaborated on numerous occasions with the bands Hawkwind (whose album _The Chronicle of the Black Sword_is based on Elric's adventures) and Blue Oyster Cult. His own musical project, Michael Moorcock and the Deep Fix, released the album _New Worlds Fair_in 1975, and has subsequently released Roller Coaster Holiday(2004) and The Entropy Tango & Gloriana Demo Sessions(2008).
Moorcock has received numerous awards and accolades over the course of his career. In addition tothe awards previously mentioned, he has won the August Derleth Fantasy Award four times, the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story ("The Jade Man's Eyes", 1974), the 1977 _Guardian_Fiction Award (for The Condition of Muzak). He has also won the 1993 British Fantasy Ward, the 2000 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, the 2004 Prix Utopiales "Grandmaster" Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2004 Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the 2008 Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Moorcock was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2002.