Michael Moorcock

From Wikiverse
Jump to: navigation, search

The Author who developed the Multiverse, to which Wikiverse is dedicated to chronicling.

For the fictional version refer to Michael Moorcock (character)

Michael Moorcock is a British writer, editor, musician and publisher.

Professional Career

Born 18th December, 1939 in Mitcham, Surrey to Arthur and June, Michael Moorcock began self-publishing his own fanzines - mostly on Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard and Jazz - from the age of ten. At seventeen he joined Westworld Publications to edit Tarzan Adventures in 1956, where he wrote his 'Sojan the Swordsman' stories. Purportedly sacked from TA for featuring too many prose stories and not enough comic strips, Moorcock moved to Fleetway to become Assistant Editor on Sexton Blake Library, for which he co-wrote his first 'novel' Caribbean Crisis (1962) with long-time friend and collaborator James Cawthorn.

In 1959 Moorcock had his first professional SF story, 'Peace on Earth' (co-written with Barrington Bayley) published in John Carnell's New Worlds Science Fiction magazine, which would be the start of a long association with the magazine. Having left Fleetway - legend has it he threw his typewriter out of the window before leaving - Moorcock spent a year living in Sweden (a country that would feature in many of his subsequent novels) before pawning his guitar and making his way down to Paris, where broke and starving he had to be repatriated back to the UK by the British embassy.

Back in London, and with the encouragement of Carnell, Moorcock created his most famous creation, Elric of Melniboné, who débuted in the short story 'The Dreaming City' (Science Fantasy #47, June 1961). More fantasy and sf stories followed over the next three years, including 'The Eternal Champion' and 'The Sundered Worlds', which culminated in Moorcock cementing his fantasy legacy with the four-part Elric epic, Stormbringer.

In 1962, Moorcock worked for the Liberal Party as an editor and pamphleteer, and briefly considered standing as a candidate for Parliament.

In 1964 Moorcock succeeded Carnell as editor of New Worlds and for the rest of the decade would spearhead the New Wave of British Science Fiction, publishing writers like J.G. Ballard, Brian Aldiss, Norman Spinrad, Tom Disch, Philip K Dick, Hilary Bailey, John Brunner, Langdon Jones, M. John Harrison and James Sallis as well as championing authors such as William Burroughs and Mervyn Peake.

During the '60s, to help to finance New Worlds, Moorcock continued writing articles and comic strips for various Amalgamated Press/Fleetway titles such as Thriller Picture Library, Cowboy Picture Library, Bible Story Weekly, Look & Learn, Boys' World, Lion and Tiger. He also wrote as 'pulp' novels for Compact Books (publishers of New Worlds from 1964-67) both under his own name and pseudonyms such as Edward P. Bradbury, Roger Harris and Bill Barclay. For nine months in 1966 Moorcock also edited a 'soft-porn' magazine called Golden Nugget under the pseudonym 'Ken MacBeth'.

Throughout his time editing/publishing New Worlds, Moorcock would also contribute stories and reviews to the magazine as 'James Colvin' whose initials were shared with Moorcock's second-best known character, Jerry Cornelius, who first appeared in print in 1965. The following year, Moorcock won the prestigious Nebula Award for Best Novella with his SF story 'Behold the Man' (NW #166, Sept 1966), in which a man from the present travels back in time to find Jesus Christ.

With the collapse of Compact Books, Moorcock became the publisher and owner of New Worlds in 1967 and was finally able to change its format from paperback to magazine as part of his belief that SF shouldn't be ghettoised but reach out to the literary mainstream. Even with a grant from the Arts Council, Moorcock still needed to finance New Worlds by writing 'science fantasy' novels such as the Hawkmoon tetralogy, famously written in three days apiece, which marked a move away from his 'pure' SF novels of the '60s to the more fantasy-themed novels that would dominate Moorcock's output in the first half of the '70s. However, in 1968 New Worlds was hit by a distribution boycott over the serialization of Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron novel from which it never really recovered and the magazine folded in 1970 although it quickly re-emerged as a quarterly paperback series in 1971.

In 1970 Moorcock expanded his 1962 'The Eternal Champion' novella to a full-size novel of the same name (followed by a sequel, Phoenix in Obsidian the same year) and wrote the first of the Cornish-inspired Corum Jhaelen Irsei novels as well as the proto-Steampunk Oswald Bastable novel, The Warlord of the Air, throughout 1971-2. Further Elric, Hawkmoon, Corum and Bastable novels followed in 1973-5.

At the same time, Moorcock was also collaborating with space-rock group Hawkwind, contributing songs/lyrics, including 'Sonic Attack', 'The Black Corridor' and 'A Wizard Blew His Horn', to albums such as Space Ritual (1973) and Warrior On The Edge Of Time (1975). Moorcock would make occasional appearances at Hawkwind concerts where he contributed 'declamatory rhetoric'. In 1975, United Artists offered Moorcock his own three-album deal, with his band The Deep Fix, although ultimately only one album, The New Worlds Fair, was ever released under this contract.

As well as writing and performing, Moorcock also agreed to the making of a film adaptation of the first Jerry Cornelius novel, The Final Programme. Produced, directed and (against Moorcock's advice) written by Robert Fuest the experience proved to be less than satisfactory as Moorcock and the cast, including Jon Finch as Jerry and Jenny Runacre as Miss Brunner, found themselves in conflict with Fuest's vision for the film. Moorcock wanted Hawkwind to score the film but the space-rockers were too outré for Fuest and both the band and Moorcock's scenes from the film were cut. (Allegedly they can still be glimpsed together briefly in the film's trailer.) In 1973/4 Moorcock and Cawthorn collaborated on the screenplay for Amicus Films's production of Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot, starring Doug McClure. Having told the studio not to end the film with a volcano erupting, the director went ahead and ended the film exactly like that!

By the mid-'70s, Moorcock had branched into SF comedies with The Dancers at the End of Time sequence (1972-6), but in 1977 his career moved into a new phase with the publication of the fourth Jerry Cornelius novel, The Condition of Muzak, which won the Guardian Fiction Prize. This was followed in 1978 by the 'Peakeanesque' fantasy novel Gloriana; or, The Unfulfill’d Queen which was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. A Gloriana concept album (again by 'Michael Moorcock & The Deep Fix') was planned and some demos recorded but failed to come to fruition at the time. (What work was done was eventually released on the The Entropy Tango & Gloriana Demo Sessions CD by Noh Records in 2008.)

In the late '70s, as Moorcock's second marriage was disintegrating, he moved to Los Angeles to work as a screen-writer for Irvin Kershner. His adventures in the screen trade, which he chronicled in a series of letters to J.G. Ballard, would form the basis of his 1986 book, Letters from Hollywood. It was during this period that he met Linda Steele, who was working at the time as Harlan Ellison's PA.

Returning to the UK, Moorcock dabbled in freelance television presenting, including a documentary on the Post-Punk music scene, but the 1980s mostly saw Moorcock focussing on more Literary endeavours with novels such as The War Hound and the World's Pain (1981), The Brothel in Rosenstrasse (1982), the first two Pyat novels, Byzantium Endures (1981) and The Laughter of Carthage (1984), The City in the Autumn Stars (1985) and the novel that many consider to be his literary masterpiece, Mother London, which was short-listed for the 1988 Whitbread Best Novel Award.

A third Deep Fix album was planned to accompany the 1982 Jerry Cornelius novel The Entropy Tango but the multi-media project was cancelled when the original publisher, Pierrot Press, collapsed and a second, Virgin, proved unable to finance it. The novel was eventually published in a more conventional format (sans music) and the album demo tracks were finally released on the 2008 CD The Entropy Tango & Gloriana Demo Sessions.

At the end of the '80s, Moorcock returned to his first and greatest creation with two new Elric novels, The Fortress of the Pearl (1989) and The Revenge of the Rose (1991). A third Pyat novel, Jerusalem Commands, appeared in 1992 (alongside a collection of interviews with Colin Greenland, Death Is No Obstacle, that explored Moorcock's writing techniques) but the '90s were largely spent in the preparation of an epic omnibus series of his fantasy/SF novels called The Tale of the Eternal Champion (published as The Eternal Champion series in the US), with many stories and novels being revised to help strengthen the existing connections between Mike's fictions.

In 1994, the Moorcocks moved from London to Austin, Texas, the change in location inspiring a new trilogy, the Second Ether novels - Blood: A Southern Fantasy (1994), Fabulous Harbours (1995) and The War Amongst the Angels (1996) - with their focus on the Deep South, the Mississippi, zydeco music and paddle-steamers. The Second Ether would also form the backbone for an original graphic novel, Michael Moorcock's Multiverse, which was published by DC Comics in 1997-8.

Moorcock had always enjoyed corresponding with his readers, but the development of the Wide World Web in the 1990s provided him with a new arena in which to interact with them, and in 1997 he began answering readers' questions online at the Tanelorn web-site. Over time this evolved first into Moorcock's Weekly Miscellany and then simply just Moorcock's Miscellany, in which he continues to participate some fourteen years later. Moorcock rounded off the millennium with two new novels, King of the City, described as 'a male companion piece' to Mother London and Silverheart, a collaboration with author Storm Constantine based on an abortive video game that Moorcock had agreed to write.

In 2001 Moorcock returned once again to Elric with the first of the Dream Quest trilogy novels, The Dreamthief's Daughter followed by The Skrayling Tree (2003) and his 'final fantasy novel', The White Wolf's Son (2005), which provided a new conclusion to the Eternal Champion saga. 2006 saw the publication of the long-awaited final volume of the memoirs of Colonel Pyat, The Vengeance of Rome and in 2005-6 Moorcock collaborated with Walter Simonson to create the full-length Elric graphic novel, Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer, once again published by DC Comics.

In 2008 Moorcock was awarded the prestigious Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master award in recognition of his lifetime of contributions to the genres of science fiction and fantasy. In the same year Moorcock was selected as one of the 50 greatest post-war authors by The Times newspaper of London.

Between 2008-10, Moorcock oversaw the reissuing of all the Elric stories and novels (excluding the Dream Quest trilogy) in a new six-part set entitled Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné published by Del Rey. In 2010 two major projects come to fruition; the most high-profile was a full-length Doctor Who novel for BBC Books, called The Coming of the Terraphiles, which tied the universe of the Doctor in with Moorcock's own Multiverse, particularly the Second Ether series, but the more significant was a 720 page, 2kg collection of selected non-fiction including essays, editorials, introductions, reviews, letters, criticism and personal memoirs called Into the Media Web. Published by Savoy Books the entire print run sold out within three months.

As of 2011, Moorcock has commenced on a new semi-autobiographical fantasy trilogy with the series title Sanctuary of the White Friars, the first volume of which - The Whispering Swarm - is due to be published by Tor Books in 2012.

Personal Life

Mike Moorcock has been married three times:

  • Hilary Bailey (1962-1978)
  • Jill Riches (1978-1983)
  • Linda Steele (1983- )

He has three children from his first marriage:

  • Sophie
  • Katherine (Kate)
  • Max