Moorcock was born in 1939, and began writing in the 1950s and is still at it. Indefatigable,
prolific and influential.
Gardiner’s comprehensive appraisal of Moorcock’s writing, The Law of Chaos is one
of those ‘must read’ books for any fan of Moorcock, fantasy or science fiction,
and even mainstream/literary fiction.
new book, the latest Moorcockian meteorite to flash across the heavens, is a
timely reminder of the scope, depth, heart and magnificence of an author with
numerous readers, bright-eyed fans, global correspondents, but far less
mainstream acknowledgement than he deserves. The glory of the work, in its
astonishing reach and range, is that it can be freshly excavated by every
rising generation” - Iain Sinclair
Jerry Cornelius and the Eternal Champion fantasies to Pyat and more recent
novels, The Law of Chaos is an
entertaining and accessible reader’s guide that explores the life and
achievements of Michael Moorcock, one of modern literature's most influential
figures. All Moorcock’s works are examined and discussed in detail from early
fantasies to his later philosophical novels. With an introduction and other
material by Moorcock himself, The Law of
Chaos travels the moonbeam roads through the enigmatic multiverse of a
celebrated literary icon.
is an extract from Jeff’s introduction to The
Law of Chaos:
writer Angela Carter called Michael Moorcock ‘the master Storyteller of our
time’ — a well-deserved title for an author who has influenced the literary
world for well over fifty years. Carter, herself an avid reader of Moorcock,
was keen to celebrate the importance of Moorcock’s work. In her enthusiastic
review of Mother London in the
Guardian, she concludes that: ‘Posterity will certainly give him that due place
in the English literature of the late twentieth century which his more anaemic
contemporaries grudge; indeed, he is so prolific it will probably look as
though he has written most of it anyway’.
Moorcock is one of Britain’s greatest writers and he is possibly the most
consistently experimental author in the world of fantasy literature. Not only
did he practically invent modern British fantasy and reshape science fiction as
an editor, but he is also an exponent of mainstream literature. While he,
ironically, rejects the notion of being a genre writer, he is probably most
famous for his fantasy hero Elric the albino, and for the science fiction icon
of 1960s psychedelia, Jerry Cornelius.
The Encyclopaedia of Fantasy, John
Clute calls Moorcock, ‘the most important UK fantasy author of the 1960s and
1970s’. This is misleading, as he continues to write prolifically into the
twenty-first century and it could be argued that his later novels are amongst
his best work. Clute does, however, suggest that Moorcock is ‘altogether the
most significant UK author of sword and sorcery’ and it is probably for his
interlinking Eternal Champion novels that he will be most widely remembered.
extent of Moorcock’s popularity is demonstrated by his worldwide following, led
by an active international appreciation society, The Nomads of the Time
Streams, and by the fact that his work is translated into many languages. Type
his name into any search engine on the internet and you will encounter
innumerable web sites that pay homage to him. What is most impressive about
Michael Moorcock is that he has continued to produce novels, stories and
non-fiction to such a high standard.
Moorcock has won two World Fantasy Awards, including one in 2000 for Lifetime
Achievement; a Nebula award; the Guardian Fiction Prize; a John W. Campbell
Memorial Award and even a nomination for the Whitbread Prize. He also has a
collection of six British Fantasy Awards: four August Derleth Awards, one for
the short story category and, of course, the 1992 Special Award for his
Lifetime Achievement. In 2002 he was inducted into the Science Fiction and
Fantasy Hall of Fame.
has about 100 books to his name, some of which are republished and retitled
editions of earlier works, and this can prove bewildering to the uninitiated.
My own attempt to bring a semblance of order to this chaos can be found in my
Moorcock bibliography at the back of this book.
his books are still categorised under fantasy or SF, this doesn’t fully
represent his whole oeuvre, which is perhaps better labelled as slipstream or
fantastic realism. Moorcock has written about fantasy forms in literature in
his book, Wizardry and Wild Romance,
one of the best books about fantasy by a fantasist, and he both acknowledges
and proves through his own writing that fantasy is an important and often
under-valued art form.
creates a tension between what is real and unreal, and this echoes Moorcock’s
balance between law and chaos. While Moorcock acknowledges the part that
fantasy has played in his own success he does admit: ‘I have difficulty
defining “Fantasy” as a readily definable genre — or frequently even as an
element. I don’t believe that any technique or method is more or less useful
than another — everything depends upon individual human talent in the end.’
dislike for generic terms is expressed in the following way: ‘I don’t believe
there is such a thing as fantasy or science fiction or detective fiction and so
on. I think there are certain writers who in their field shine and in every one
of those fields you’ll get some good writers emerging. Sometimes the field
itself can limit the writer’s work and then frequently the writer does
something about it.’
is a protean writer, whose work transcends literary and generic boundaries;
like Charles Dickens, his novels are, paradoxically, both popular and literary.
His writing covers fields as far ranging as romance, heroic fantasy, science
fiction, fabulation, surrealism, popular fiction, satire, allegory, fantastic
realism, postmodernism, magic realism, non-fiction, rock’n’roll, comics and
even cinema. His novels defy categorisation because they are greater than the
limitations of the critic’s vocabulary. As a ‘literary’ writer Moorcock shows
artistic ability in his myth-making and story-telling; his creation of
intriguing characters; the subtle irony and ornate vocabulary; an exploitation
of metaphor and allegory; and his presentation of imaginary landscapes and
emotional relationships. However, his greatest desire is to be a popular
first came to prominence in 1964 as the editor of New Worlds magazine with his
radical editorial approach that alienated many science fiction fans, but also
won him great respect as a writer of vision whose vocabulary and ideas were
second to none. His own early stories best exemplify his desire to experiment
with structures, themes and language. It was in these early stories that he
began to develop the symbolism and subjects that continue to dominate his later
Moorcock is incredibly prolific and what causes the most confusion is the
interlinking nature of all his novels. Most of his books fit into a particular
mythos or are related to a series of novels, although which one or how is not
always immediately obvious. Beginning with a brief autobiographical sketch,
this book examines Moorcock’s early career as an editor for the avant-garde
literary magazine New Worlds, and then evaluates his early fantasy and the
famous world of Jerry Cornelius that arose from the magazine. Then each chapter
discusses a major work or series and attempts to do so in chronological order;
that is, by the date of the first book in each series. Any confusion might be
caused by the fact that Moorcock does not write his books in any seemingly
logical order, and so many of his novels and short stories are repackaged and
this book you will find biographical detail, because to appreciate Moorcock’s
work means understanding the writer. Moorcock’s influence on speculative
fiction is evaluated and the Eternal Champion — Elric, Corum, Hawkmoon, Ereköse
and von Bek — is assessed. Also examined are Jerry Cornelius, the spoof messiah
of swinging London; the alternate worlds of Oswald Bastable; the comic fantasy
of The Dancers at the End of Time; Gloriana; the crazed memoirs of Colonel
Pyat; the fantastic realism of Mother
London and its sequel, King of the
City; and finally some of Moorcock’s later works.
purpose of this book is to celebrate the achievements of one of literature’s
leading figures. Fans should find the work a useful tool to explore the
multiverse even further and those who are new to Moorcock’s work might catch a
glimpse of the inspiration behind his mercurial mind. Moorcock successfully
creates memorable characters and mystical landscapes using irrepressible wit
and exotic language, reminding us all just how fantasy continues to be one of
literature’s sharpest tools, as well as the key to developing the imagination.
Gardiner is a British author who was born in Jos, Nigeria, lived for many years
in West London but now lives in Sussex. He also has a great passion for rock
music and films.
reviewed Jeff’s excellent novel Igboland here
will be featuring Jeff in another blog shortly.
books at Amazon UK – here