A belated happy birthday to Michael Moorcock. The giant of British sci-fi and fantasy turned 75 yesterday, Dec. 18.
Moorcock rose to prominence in the swinging ’60s as one of the leaders of the British “New Wave” of science fiction. As editor of New Worlds magazine he gave exposure to such masters as J.G. Ballard and Brian Aldiss. He also used New Worlds as a sounding board for his own work and radical politics, from the Jerry Cornelius stories to the Nebula Award-winning novella, Behold the Man, which follows a time-traveler who journeys to Jerusalem in 28 AD in order to meet Christ.
But for me, Moorcock is the creator of Elric. I first encountered the albino antihero with his fateful sword Stormbringer in my Dungeons & Dragons days— Elric is included in early editions of the Deities & Demigods supplement. I still remember picking up the silver-covered editions during the summer of 1984 and devouring them while watching the Summer Olympics during a vacation at a cabin in Northern Arizona.
From there it was other entries in Moorcock’s “Eternal Champion” multiverse, his deconstruction of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces” — Corum, Moorcock’s twisted take on Celtic mythology, and Dorian Hawkmoon, his fantasy satire of British government. Of course as a teen I didn’t pick up on any of those themes or subtexts, I just enjoyed the cool stories.
I devoured everything I could get my hands on, including, to my surprise, an erotic take on Queen Elizabeth, Gloriana, which offended my ex-wife.
And as a hard rock listener, I was pleasantly surprised to see Moorcock’s name popping up in song credits — like Blue Oyster Cult’s Veteran of the Psychic Wars. Turns out that in addition to his role as a pioneering sci-fi writer and editor, Moorcock was heavily involved in the anarchic rock underground of early ’70s London.
This led to discovery of the immortal space rock band Hawkwind. First from their Elric-inspired album Chronicles of the Black Sword and then to their older work like Warrior on the Edge of Time. His poem Sonic Attack is still a Hawkwind favorite. Here’s actor Brian Blessed doing a thunderous performance of it from a recent Hawkwind show:
So happy birthday Mr. Moorcock! And thank you for 30 years of entertainment.