Moorcock and Tolkien

The scales of justice, photo by James Cridland.I can’t get worked up about a lot of things, and certainly not about what books people like to read, so it is always with some amusement when I see someone or other trash someone else’s writing. It is even more amusing (or perhaps confusing) when I find out one of my writer heroes, Michael Moorcock, despised another of my writer heroes, J.R.R. Tolkien.

I’ll spoil the ending of this post right now: I like both of them and I’m cool with that. But I think it’s interesting to look at their different styles, as I experienced them, and see what I can make of Moorcock’s attitude and what effect each writer has had on my own style.

In a recent piece in the New Yorker, “The Anti-Tolkien,” Peter Bebergal writes: “Moorcock, one of the most prolific living fantasists, sees Tolkien’s creation as little more than a conservative vision of the status quo, an adventure that brings its hero “There and Back Again,” rather than into a world where experience means you can’t go home again.”

Moorcock’s work, especially the Elric series, is presented as a rebellion against Tolkien’s traditional fantasy.

Bebergal again: “In the nineteen-seventies, swimming in the shadows like a remora alongside Tolkien’s legacy, was a hero of sorts with a slightly darker nature than that of Bilbo or Gandalf. His name is Elric, a frail, drug-addicted albino and the reluctant ruler of the kingdom of Melniboné, where revenge and hedonism are abiding characteristics, and human beings are enslaved. The inhabitants of Melniboné are not the spiritual, almost angelic elves of Lothlórien, but a race of decadent autocrats whose magical gifts are bestowed by demons.”

I had never really thought of Moorcock’s work this way, probably because I read Moorcock before I read Tolkien (the Lord of the Rings trilogy seemed dense and overwhelming to me in my teens, when I devoured dozens of books each month and formed some of my strongest reader/author bonds).

Granted, I always found something cooler about Moorcock’s worlds and heroes. They were tragic, usually barely hanging on to their lives, and even when they succeeded, it wasn’t long before a cruel world swept the rug out from under them once more. Perhaps Moorcock’s writing better agreed with the way the world felt to teenaged me (and, I’ll admit it) adult me.

I rarely participate in epic quests and ultimately conquer evil. Life is a series of small battles and the outcome is usually questionable, so I can relate more to Moorcock’s heroes in this way. As Bebergal writes, “Elric is not about abstract ideas of good and evil, with faceless powers looking to strip the world of its trees and its hobbit holes. Elric is about law and chaos, and how, sometimes, choosing one over the other is no more or less just.”

All that being said, epic fantasy, with the forces of good eventually winning a hard-fought victory over the nameless evil, definitely has its time and place. I love the scope, the world-building, the mix of characters and personalities. I love that Tolkien’s world feels like a real place, a piece of our own history, with a sense that around any corner of the world, something else awaits, some adventure or hero or villain or ruin with a story all its own.

Even though I tend more toward stories about individual heroes trying to balance law and chaos within themselves, often with bittersweet victories at the end, I don’t feel the need to dismiss one type of story over another.

As a writer I tend toward one side of the balance, but as a reader I enjoy both equally, at least until the next book I read tips me more toward one side or the other.

(Speaking of which, Michael Moorcock’s new book, The Whispering Swarm, is out on January 13!)


Photo credit: The scales of justice, James Cridland.

Michael Moorcock E-Book Master List

This is my master list of e-book availability for Michael Moorcock’s works as of November 2013, as seen as a customer in the United States. Due to different publishing rights by territory, books available inside the U.S. may not be available to customers from other parts of the world, and vice versa. In fact, many more e-books are available in the UK, released recently by Gollancz. It’s enough to make a US fan pull out their hair, because the pickings are rather slim here in the United States.

Moorcock’s works have been reprinted many times with different titles, different edits, and different story order, so even when there is an e-book available (for Elric, say), it might be a different version than the volume on your shelf.

I’ll try to keep this list updated periodically, but if you notice anything that needs to be updated, please let me know.

I used Michael Moorcock’s bibliography from Wikipedia in compiling this list. You can find out more about Michael Moorcock at Moorcock’s Miscellany.

Elric of Melniboné

Elric of Melniboné
The Sailor on the Seas of Fate
The Weird of the White Wolf
The Sleeping Sorceress/The Vanishing Tower
The Bane of the Black Sword
Elric at the End of Time

Later novels featuring Elric include:
The Fortress of the Pearl
The Revenge of the Rose

An additional trilogy, featuring Oona von Bek as well as Elric, was published from 2001–2005:
The Dreamthief’s Daughter (later titled Daughter of Dreams)
The Skrayling Tree (later titled Destiny’s Brother)
The White Wolf’s Son (later titled Son of the Wolf)

Del Rey reprinted the series as Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné from 2008–2010. Elric: To Rescue Tanelorn included a reprint of Moorcock’s British Fantasy Award-winner “The Jade Man’s Eyes” while Elric: Swords and Roses included the first book publication of “Black Petals”, a story originally published in the March–April 2008 issue of Weird Tales.

Del Rey reprints

Elric: The Stealer of Souls
Elric: To Rescue Tanelorn
Elric: The Sleeping Sorceress
Duke Elric
Elric in the Dream Realms
Elric: Swords and Roses

A new Elric story, “Red Pearls”, was featured in the 2010 anthology Swords and Dark Magic.

Corum Jhaelen Irsei

The first trilogy

The Knight of the Swords
The Queen of the Swords
The King of the Swords

The second trilogy

The Bull and the Spear
The Oak and the Ram
The Sword and the Stallion

Dorian Hawkmoon

The first quadrilology

The Jewel in the Skull
Sorcerer’s Amulet/The Mad God’s Amulet
The Sword of the Dawn
Secret of the Runestaff /The Runestaff

The Chronicles of Castle Brass

Count Brass
The Champion of Garathorm
The Quest for Tanelorn

Jerry Cornelius

The Final Programme
A Cure for Cancer
The English Assassin
The Condition of Muzak

The Lives and Times of Jerry Cornelius

The Entropy Tango
The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in the 20th Century
The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (a.k.a. Gold Diggers of ’77)
The Alchemist’s Question

Firing the Cathedral
Modern Times 2.0

Cornelius also appeared in The Distant Suns (with James Cawthorn)

The von Bek family

The War Hound and the World’s Pain
The Brothel in Rosenstrasse
The City in the Autumn Stars


The Eternal Champion
Phoenix in Obsidian
The Dragon in the Sword

Kane of Old Mars

Warriors of Mars (aka City of the Beast)
Blades of Mars (aka Lord of the Spiders)
Barbarians of Mars (aka Masters of the Pit)

Jherek Carnelian and the Dancers at the End of Time

The original trilogy

An Alien Heat (Harper and Row, 1972)
The Hollow Lands (Harper and Row, 1974)
The End of All Songs (Harper and Row, 1976)

Legends from the End of Time
The Transformation of Miss Mavis Ming (aka A Messiah at the End of Time)

The Multiverse trilogy

The Sundered Worlds (aka The Blood Red Game)
The Fireclown (aka The Winds of Limbo)
The Twilight Man (aka The Shores of Death)

Oswald Bastable

The Warlord of the Air
The Land Leviathan
The Steel Tsar

Travelling to Utopia

The Wrecks of Time (aka The Rituals of Infinity)
The Ice Schooner
The Black Corridor

Second Ether

Fabulous Harbours
The War Amongst the Angels

Karl Glogauer

Behold the Man
Breakfast in the Ruins

Jerry Cornell

A duology of comic spy adventures (revised from two Nick Allard books, see below):

The Chinese Agent (revised from Somewhere in the Night)
The Russian Intelligence (revised from Printer’s Devil)

Nick Allard

The first was as by Roger Harris (who had written the book, with some edits by Moorcock), the other two were by Moorcock writing as Bill Barclay:

The LSD Dossier
Somewhere in the Night (later revised as the Jerry Cornell novel, The Chinese Agent)
Printer’s Devil (later revised as the Jerry Cornell novel, The Russian Intelligence)

Colonel Pyat

Byzantium Endures
The Laughter of Carthage
Jerusalem Commands
The Vengeance of Rome

Doctor Who

The Coming of the Terraphiles

Sexton Blake and Monsieur Zenith

A Caribbean Crisis (Sexton Blake)
The Metatemporal Detective (Monsieur Zenith)
Another Moorcock Zenith story, Curare, appeared in the 2012 anthology Zenith Lives!

Other novels

The Time of the Hawklords (with Michael Butterworth)
The Golden Barge
Mother London
Silverheart (with Storm Constantine)
King of the City
The Sunday Books (with Mervyn Peake)
Sojan the Swordsman

Michael Moorcock E-Books

Michael Moorcock, his Eternal Champion books, and most specifically his Elric and Hawkmoon series, were a major influence on my early writing style. To this day, the concepts of the balance of Law and Chaos, the multiverse, and the doomed antihero still work their way into a lot of my ideas. So if I want to convert my physical collection of Eternal Champion books into e-books, am I in luck? Let’s see.

First up is Elric. The latest edition of the Elric stories, released by Del Rey, is available in e-book format on Amazon: Elric: The Stealer of Souls; Elric: To Rescue Tanelorn; Elric: The Sleeping Sorceress; Duke Elric; Elric in the Dream Realms; and Elric: Swords and Roses, all for $11.99 each. Amazon also has the more recent Elric/Oona Von Bek sequence: The Dreamthief’s Daughter, The Skrayling Tree, and The White Wolf’s Son, for $12.99, $10.99, and $6.99 respectively. (What’s up with the funky pricing, Hachette Book Group?)

Next up are the Hawkmoon books: The Jewel in the Skull, The Mad God’s Amulet, The Sword of the Dawn, and The Runestaff, which are $9.99 each.

Okay, so Elric and Hawkmoon are available, that’s pretty good, but what about Corum? No. Erekose/John Daker? Nope. Von Bek, Oswald Bastable, Jerry Cornelius, Count Brass? Nah. The fabulous Second Ether sequence? Forget it. Okay, you get my point: Where are all of these e-books?! Well, according to Mr. Moorcock in a 2/1/12 post on his website, Moorcock’s Miscellany, “I just signed the first of many contracts with Orion. This one will release minor works ONLY as e-books but the rest of my books (pretty much all of them apart from Mother London, King of the City, London Peculiar and the Pyat books) should be published in the UK from this year on and be available as e-books or paper.” In an earlier post, he stated that “The process might be slower in the US but Titan will publish Bastable as e-books.” So, not perfect news for US readers, but at least there appears to be some progress being made.