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Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock

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  • Review: Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock

    One of the earliest novels that can be considered Steampunk is its proper sense was Michael Moorcock's 1971 novel Warlord of the Air. The story is considered Alternate History, but has many of the same concepts that constantly appear in First-World Steampunk.
    Source: http://freetheprincess.blogspot.com/...-moorcock.html
    Infinite complexity according to simple rules.

  • #2
    Nice spot Mr Fox. I assume the Question is that at the end of the blog:
    Another point I agree with Mike on -- if this story is proto-Steampunk, there where has the political subtext and commentary gone in contemporary First-World Steampunk?

    Comment


    • #3
      I think that the Warlord and the Land Leviathan did lay the ground for the genre that became Steam Punk. Both books made me question British Imperialism as well as my views on the States.

      The point is missed of Bastable's link to Nesbit's work and a certain H G Wells with his own future SF (?). I wonder if certain authors are drawn to airships e.g. Philip Jose Farmer both in the Greatheart Silver series and of course Riverworld. I did pick up a copy of a book called the Secret Sea, about Captain Nemo, which I think was written in the early 70's. Unfortunately, I don't have the book now, but again a precursor of steampunk.

      Interestingly, I read the early part of The Steel Tsar in a New worlds mag (?), again its look at the behavior of the 'victorious allies' of the WW2. I like the way that history does cross pollulate e.g. Perceval who surrendered Singapore was in Ireland during the troubles with Montgomery in Cork. He appears as commander in Northern Russia during the Allied intervention.
      Papa was a Rolling Stone......

      Comment


      • #4
        I was always disappointed that later books of this kind just went for the 'big airships' idea and missed the point of the books which was to examine the imperialism of people of the left who were essentially apologists -- Fabians like Wells and Nesbit -- and to question the nostalgia of people who seemed to want to restore the British Empire in some form. Most of that attitude has disappeared, I think. I also wanted to show that horrible events in history aren't necessarily avoided by embracing 'slow change'. A good piece on the Steampunk site examines this to a degree as did Brian Hinton in his essay published in Fantastic Metropolis a while back. I agree with Mike Perschon, by the way, about the cover which was picked by Don Wollheim, though Terry Carr was actually the Ace Special editor who commissoned it.
        I enjoyed MP's analysis and agree with him. Best illustrations include Cawthorn's in NW and the very nice White Wolf edition which had 'sketches from Bastable's journals' inside and a cover ripped entirely from Mark Reeves's original Orion cover!
        Last edited by Michael Moorcock; 06-03-2010, 12:00 PM.

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        Comment


        • #5
          Alright, stupid question time. I've never heard conceit used that way. (The conciet of the novel is that it was dictated by Bastable to the author's grandfather). Is it a good thing? I mean, I like it...
          Kevin McCabe
          The future is there, looking back at us. Trying to make sense of the fiction we will have become. William Gibson

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Kevin McCabe View Post
            Is it a good thing?
            Most definitely. To quote from Wikipedia:

            In literature, a conceit is an extended metaphor with a complex logic that governs a poetic passage or entire poem. By juxtaposing, usurping and manipulating images and ideas in surprising ways, a conceit invites the reader into a more sophisticated understanding of an object of comparison.
            _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
            _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
            _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
            _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

            Comment


            • #7
              At last, someone's said it - steampunk is totally vacuous! It seems to be a genre totally driven by a cod-Victoriana aesthetic and seems devoid of socio-political concerns. Even genuine Victorian literature seems more transgressive. I'm not saying that every steampunk novel should be a French Lieutenant's Woman or Crimson Petal and the White with air-ships, but surely some of it should have something more to say than it does. This has always struck me as a particular failing of steampunk, as its origins definitely had something more to say. Don't get me wrong, I like air-ships, but as a genre, I see no difference between it and space opera or whatever - alas...
              forum

              1. a meeting or assembly for the open discussion of subjects of public interest
              2. a medium for open discussion, such as a magazine
              3. a public meeting place for open discussion

              Comment


              • #8
                I think that some writers get carried away with the process of the story e.g. airships and forget the underlying themes of what they are writing about. At the time, that every one was writing cyber punk stories in the 80s, the steam genre was a freshing change.
                Papa was a Rolling Stone......

                Comment


                • #9
                  A failure of content rather than genre surely?
                  No reason why a romantic comedy can't do more than elecit the odd chuckle but most don't. That's not romcom's fault though - just by-the-numbers-writers getting more publicity/support than those that don't. By-the-numbers-anything is typically dull, but that's what publishers believe the public want.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks David! As to the rest, I can think of one book that is usually categorized as steampunk that is loaded with political content. Reason and Necessity by Stephen Brust and Emma Bull. Cool structure, too. Epistolary - written as series of correspondence (letters) like Stoker's
                    Dracula.
                    Kevin McCabe
                    The future is there, looking back at us. Trying to make sense of the fiction we will have become. William Gibson

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      One paragraph, of several that I like from The Warlord of the Air, fits into this book review's discussion of colonial domination:



                      The theme comes up often in our government policy and war forum discussions, I have noticed.

                      Very interesting ideas in this book! (as well as other fun stuff)

                      "With a deep, not-unhappy sigh, Elric prepared to do battle with an army." (Red Pearls)
                      - Michael Moorcock

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I've never been much of a steampunk fan. The only steampunk-esque show/book that I enjoy is Fullmetal Alchemist. The airships and "alternate history" of Warlord of the Air were interesting to me but I was far more interested in Oswald Bastable's predicament and his character in general. Mike is fully capable of writing epic fantasy worlds but he is far more skilled at writing characters and Bastable is one of his best.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by lemec View Post
                          One paragraph, of several that I like from The Warlord of the Air, fits into this book review's discussion of colonial domination:



                          The theme comes up often in our government policy and war forum discussions, I have noticed.

                          Very interesting ideas in this book! (as well as other fun stuff)

                          I notice that the same ironic use of the term appears in "A Cure For Cancer" as well.

                          Comment

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