Michael Moorcock (born December 18, 1939, London) is a british Speculative Fiction author of roughly 80 novels and short stories collections. Combines a graphic and powerful imagination with an often frustrating inability to resolve a plot except by Deus ex Machina.
In the 1960s he became editor of New Worlds magazine, evolving its format from a fairly conservative science fiction magazine into an anarchic counter-cultural outlet, bringing a much-needed waft of swinging-London "hipness" and progressive sensibility to fantastic and fantasy fiction and touching off the New Wave Science Fiction movement.
Most of his work revolves around the concept of the "Eternal Champion"; a being who undergoes repeated incarnations throughout time, and is destined to maintain the balance between Law and Chaos— whether he wants to or not. Many of his earlier works were written as stand-alone works; but have been retroactively added to the Eternal Champion mythology, mainly through later crossovers.
The Eternal Champion commonly has a sidekick of some sort, if only briefly. Just as the Champion has many incarnations, so does the sidekick, and is commonly referred to as the Eternal Companion. The nature of the Companion varies, from Hypercompetent Sidekick, to The Watson, to Distressed Damsel, to almost pure comic relief. The various sidekicks are also commonly more down-to-earth than the Champion; and frequently Genre Savvy, being aware of the nature of The Multiverse, the Champion, and themselves.
The Eternal Champion also has a (typically doomed) love-interest: the Eternal Consort. Their love affair is often doomed because of the interference of the Eternal Enemy, who has manifested in many forms: quite often with dark desires for the Consort. the Enemy has been Yyrkoon, evil cousin of Elric; Frank Cornelius, the evil brother/cousin of Jerry Cornelius; Johannes Klosterheim, who usually appears in more "modern" stories and generally represents a corrupt and depraved figure of apparent order, and sometimes appears as The Dragon or The Starscream to Gaynor; and reaches his epitome as Gaynor, Prince of the Damned. (There is a suggestion that Gaynor is a manifestation of the Eternal Champion who went "wrong" in some way, becoming the Champion's evil counterpart. When Corum tears the helmet from Gaynor's face, it mutates through untold changes and faces - including, briefly, Corum's - before he dies, leaving his Chaos-armour empty).
He strongly dislikes J. R. R. Tolkien's works despite having met him personally and finding him sympathetic on a personal level (although he has also stated that certain accounts have overstated his dislike of Tolkien's works; notably, he did use The Lord of the Rings as a favourable reference point for the inventiveness of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. However, there is also the essay "Epic Pooh", which spells out what he does dislike about Tolkien's works). He also loathes Robert Heinlein and his ilk. These people's opinions on him are unreported. On the other hand he greatly admires Mervyn Peake and considered the Gormenghast trilogy an injustly-overlooked masterpiece.
He has also written songs for Blue Öyster Cult and Hawkwind and occasionally performed with the latter band. During his brush with Hawkwind he seems to have befriended Lemmy Kilmister, who later went on to found hard rock/heavy metal seminal ensemble Motörhead. He has dedicated a recently-released Hawkmoon omnibus to "his friend Lemmy".
Some members of Hawkwind helped him record a music album under the name of "Michael Moorcock and the Deep Fix" (in the mid-70s). When, with the advent of Internet, enough fans began pestering him for a reissue he made his own personal copy downloadable from his website (the masters apparently having been forever lost). A CD (Dojo Limited DOJOCD88) was released in 1995, audio source unknown (although the sound quality isn't bad).
He is one of a number of writers that Games Workshop and TSR ripped off shamelessly. But Games Workshop had the courage to at least credit him in a backhanded way (and thanks to Michael Moorcock, whose fault all this is).
A longtime fan of Doctor Who, Moorcock was commissioned by the BBC to write a Who novel, The Coming of the Terraphiles, or Pirates of the Second Aether!! (2010).
A highly prolific writer, most of his works fit into collections revolving around a particular incarnation of the Eternal Champion; although there are a few stand-alone works. Many of his earlier works were later incorporated into the Eternal Champion mythology.
Some examples of the Eternal Champion works below:
- The Elric Saga (Elric of Melnibone)
- The Eternal Champion Saga (Erekosë / John Daker)
- The History of the Runestaff (Dorian Hawkmoon)
- Count Brass (Earl Aubec)
- The Cornelius Chronicles (Jerry Cornelius)
- The Dancers at the End of Time (Jherek Carnelian)
- The Chronicles Of Corum (Corum Jhaelen Irsei)
- A Nomad of the Time Streams (Oswald Bastable)
- Von Bek (various members of the von Bek family)
- The Second Ether (Jack Karaquazian)
- Behold the Man (Karl Glogauer)
- Kane of Old Mars (Michael Kane)
Notable works not part of the Eternal Champion mythology:
- Behold the Man (Not originally an Eternal Champion novel, it was later retconned in).
- Gloriana, or, The Unfulfill'd Queen
- Mother London
- The Pyat Quartet (a.k.a. Between the Wars)
Michael Moorcock's works provide examples of:
- Anorgasmia: In Gloriana the titular queen is forever bemoaning the fact that she can't have orgasms, and because of the palace's peculiar acoustics the entire court can hear her. Of course, when she finally does the entire court gets to hear that as well.
- Anti-Hero: Nearly every one of his main characters pretty much defines a type of anti-hero; covering all variations.
- Balance Between Order And Chaos: The Eternal Champion exists to maintain the Balance.
- Blessed with Suck / Cursed with Awesome: Depending on the particular protagonist, they will typically view their situation as one of these two, if not both. The most notable example is Elric's Empathic Weapon; which makes him nearly invincible, able to kill even gods, but also has a tendency to kill his nearest and dearest at every available opportunity.
- Blue and Orange Morality: When morality is not gray or black, many characters and settings tend to have this sort; especially if they're non-human.
- Canon Welding: Originally named "The Moorcock Effect". Key early examples in Moorcock's work are:
- Two of the sections of The Final Programme (the opening section and the third one dealing with the Newman diary) are obvious rewritings in a superspy environment of the early Elric stories "The Dreaming City" and "While the Gods Laugh".
- The first Erekose novel, The Eternal Champion, is the most explicit early statement of the Eternal Champion concept and names several of the other versions.
- The "Agak and Gagak" incident, in which four versions of the Champion are summoned to deal with a threat to the whole Multiverse, is depicted from Hawkmoon's point of view in the novel The Quest for Tanelorn and from Elric's in the novel The Sailor on the Seas of Fate.
- Later on, The Coming of the Terraphiles is an officially-licensed crossover between Doctor Who and Moorcock's "Second Ether" stories, and explicitly identifies the Doctor as an avatar of the Eternal Champion.
- Captain Ersatz: In Moorcock's more Steampunk/Dieselpunk-flavoured works, Sir Seaton Begg and Count Zodiac are Captains Ersatz of Sexton Blake and his recurring villain Zenith The Albino. This is partially a Homage acknowledging that Moorcock was originally inspired to make Elric an albino by his fandom for Zenith.
- Crapsack World: Many characters live here.
- Determinator: One of the defining characteristics of the Eternal Champion. Also applies to more than a few Sidekicks, enemies, and secondary characters.
- Deus Angst Machina: Mostly due to the actions of the Jerkass Gods mentioned below.
- Distressed Damsel: Several. Examples, Shaarilla of the Dancing Mists, and Cymoril of Melnibone.
- Divine Conflict: The "Eternal Champion" stories often feature an endless war between Law and Chaos, as personified by the deity-level Lords of Law and Lords of Chaos. The war includes conflicts between lesser creatures of Law and Chaos as well.
- Downer Ending: Moorcock is fond of these, especially the Kill 'em All and Shoot the Shaggy Dog variety.
- Everyone Is Related: Anybody with the name Bek, Beck or Begg in Moorcock's work is a member of the huge and sprawling Von Bek aristocratic lineage, which exists across multiple universes and many male members of which are alternate versions of Elric. This sometimes extended to renaming characters in 1990s and 2000s reissues of his early work as a form of Canon Welding.
- From Bad to Worse: Pretty much guaranteed, especially when characters look like they're headed for a good ending.
- Grey and Gray Morality: Often descending into Black and Gray Morality.
- It Sucks to Be the Chosen One
- Jerkass Gods: Regardless of which side of the Order-Chaos divide they're on, they don't really seem to care too much about what happens to their pawns, so long as they do as they're told. The few True Neutral gods that exist aren't much better.
- Law And Chaos Are Both Jerks: In several works, the best end for humanity is to Kill The Gods and be free of their meddling forevermore.
- Memetic Mutation: His chaos star symbol became the flag of the eurasian movement in Russia. Hell, the thing's got a Wikipedia page.
- Money, Dear Boy: He has admitted to writing some of his works (in particular, the first four books of The History of the Runestaff and the first Corum trilogy, each of which were dashed off in under a week per book) simply for quick cash."The Hawkmoon books were written for money and took three days each to do. But I still tried to make them the best I could do of their kind. In the end it's the public who pay me and I feel I owe readers the best value for their money I can produce, irrespective of genre or level of ambition."
- Omnicidal Neutral: Some Eternal Champions end up destroying both sides in order to maintain the Balance.
- Order Versus Chaos: His work is the Trope Codifier for this in popular culture. Notably, neither side is identified as inherently good or evil, with "good" often manifesting as a balance of the two.
- Rage Against the Heavens: A common reaction to the Jerkass Gods.
- Resolved Noodle Incident: What exactly Gaynor the Damned did to get horribly cursed was a mystery for decades, before finally being revealed in The Dreamthief's Daughter aka Daughter of Dreams, the first book of the early 2000s Elric trilogy.
- Shining City: Tanelorn.
- Sidekick: Some notable examples include Moonglum (Elric), Jhary-a-Conel (both Corum and Hawkmoon), and Rakhir (Elric), who also doubles as an incarnation of the Champion.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Tending strongly to the cynical side; although a few Champions manage to maintain a fairly strong Idealism despite living in a Crapsack World, most notably Jherek Carnelian, whose idealism actually increases as the situation gets worse.
- Sliding Scale of Libertarianism and Authoritarianism: As mentioned above, Moorcock is an anarchist, so...
- Space Isolation Horror: His novel about escaping from a lunatic dying Earth, The Black Corridor, uses this trope repeatedly, in the isolation felt by a crew-member on the escape ship who is doing his twenty-five year solo stint at flying the ship, attending to emergencies, and seeing nobody dies in suspended animation. This gives him time to brood and go quietly insane.
- Trapped in the Past: Or in the future. Or in the past of a different aspect of the Multiverse. Or in its future which also happens to be the past of our own phase on the Multiverse's. Or of somebody else's phase of the Multiverse. Gods optional, but Cosmic Balance still to be scrupulously maintained.
- Trauma Conga Line: Inflicted on multiple Eternal Champions; with varying effects, most commonly Result D, E, or F.