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six degrees of separation?

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  • six degrees of separation?

    Hi Mr. Moorcock! A year ago, my dad's cousin and her husband came to stay with us in Brisbane. their names are Janet and David Harper (though David recently passed away), and seeing some fantasy books in my room, they mentioned that they knew you, and had lived in a flat below yours in London. I had never heard of you (though in hindsight I have no idea how - half my favourite authors are semi-disciples of yours) but I was intrigued by their stories so I sought out some of your novels. I won't heap slavish praise on you, but let me just say that it's amazing that so much of what I had been reading built on your ideas. You inspired much of what I love in fiction.

  • #2
    Thanks, Clive.
    I really liked David a lot and was shocked to hear he had died so suddenly, even though he'd had several things wrong with him. We got on very well and he greatly enjoyed my Pyat series and other non-fantasy. A very civilised gentleman. I'll miss him a lot. They were neighbours in Mallorca, not London, though we saw quite a bit of them in London and we stayed at their place in London several times.
    All very best, M

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

    Comment


    • #3
      David was indeed a lovely man and I am ever grateful to have met him, if only a few times, before he passed away.

      I've been reading the posts here with great interest. they give a lot of incite into the fascinating aspects of culture that appear to whirl around you. This forum makes me want to read the writings of Peake and Jung and of course more of yours, and chortle at Tolkien's stuffiness.

      There are two things that still plague me, about which I just have to ask. the first is the speed with which you wrote your early novels (3 day apiece and with little editing?) . trying my hand at writing as I am (and what a terrifying statement that is for the young writer), I'd love to know how you did it. With the little experience I've had, I understand that you'd need a very strong awareness of your novel's structure to write it so quickly and without rewriting. I probably wouldn't have to ask you this if I could get my hands on your book on writing (forgot what it's called), but that's proven nigh on impossible. the second thing I'd like to know about is your opinion of Gene Wolfe. He's another of my favourite authors and his work shares certain elements with yours.

      I hope I'm not asking idiotic questions, but I'm sure you realise how amazing it is to be able to communicate with you like this.

      yours,
      C

      Comment


      • #4
        I'm proud to have published Gene's first story (The Green Wall Said) in New Worlds and continue to have enormous respect for him. The new
        edition of Wizardry and Wild Romance singles him out as one of the few fantasy writers whom I think is doing original, idiosyncratic work in the epic fantasy form.
        Unfortunately it's not possible to teach how to write a novel in three days! Part of it was my background as a journalist, writing articles and stories to order with often no more than a day's notice -- sometimes hours notice. I turned out a huge amount of anonymous work for companies like IPC (then Amalgamated Press) from the ages of 16 to 23.
        I then more or less transferred this ability to doing novels, which I would plan in my head, making a few notes, usually in bed for a few days,
        then get up and write in three days, then fall backwards like a spent rabbit. That is, I couldn't do them all the time, though I once wrote ten books in a year, one of which won a literary prize. I certainly can't write at that speed now. The trick was, as I've said (see a Guardian interview with me that's still archieved at guardian.co.uk) is to have a natural sense of the form you're using, like Mozart. If you have that instinctive sense of structure, you've pretty much solved all the problems which most other writers run up against. I say in Death Is No Obstacle (the book on writing you mention) that structure is the main thing which slows a writer down. If you have the structure (not the plot,but the elements needed to MAKE the plot) inyour head, you're already winning. But that can't be taught. It was something I still have instinctively. I can generally produce, even in my ambitious books, a pretty good page-turner. There ARE things you can bring into consideration, of course.
        It's usually a good idea to have a carrot and a stick involved -- that is if your protagonist, however complex a person, is looking for something AND has something behind them pricking them in the bum, it tends to keep them and the reader interested in the outcome. These things can be abstracted and turned into social concerns, of course. But some books just can't be written that way and be the best books they can be.
        It's at that point you have to create a structure (as I did in the Cornelius books and in, say, Mother London) which best suits what you're trying to do. That takes much, much longer. Even in the current Elric books, where I've deliberately set the post high, in order to maintain the kind of tensions I offered in the original stories, giving myself various technical problems (currently I'm writing in the voice of a young girl, for instance, which I've never done before), I take much longer to write the books.
        This produced what some readers thought were longeurs in titles like The Dreamthief's Daughter or The Skrayling Tree, but which I thought were worth risking. That said, I woul prefer that some readers didn't see those episodes as longeurs, so I work to find a different way of doing what I'm trying to do. If I kept to the formula I developed in the Hawkmoon books, for instance, I think I'd be boring readers to bits, even though those techniques have become currency for most of the fantasy books now out there. I feel it's short-changing my kind of reader, at least, if I give them the mixture as before. I try to maintain the story values of the books as well as offering something which I hope is a bit different. This has become much harder than when I first started when there was, as it were, just me and Tolkien generally available on the shelves, with occasional visits by Robert E. Howard and also Fritz Leiber, who is one of my own heroes. One of the reasons I have so much respect for Gene Wolfe is that he has made the forms his own, as I have tried to do. I have a similar respect for Terry Pratchett, though he's doing something a bit different, of course. I must admit I don't read most epic fantasy series, preferring quirkier writers like M. John Harrison (Viriconium), China Mieville, Jeff VanderMeer, Jeffrey Ford, K.L.Bishop and some of the newer writers who have begun to emerge. Bishop is an Australian writer I can recommend enthusiastically (see my review of her first book, again in The Guardian). I'm hoping Death Is No Obstacle will be reprinted soon. Unfortunately Colin Greenland's agent seems unwilling to let those who have offered to reprint it the chance and this is becoming a bit frustrating. Colin is another good writer, by the way, and he did the interviewing for Death.
        David Harper is one of the people I intend to mention in the final Pyat novel. He was a great supporter during the time I was writing it and his experience as a Foreign Office man (British Council) meant that he knew much of what I was writing about and this made his support especially valuable. He and another man John Blackwell (who was my editor at Secker and Warburg and then Cape) are both dead and had similar dispositions and experience and I miss them terribly.

        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
        The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
        Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
        The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
        Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks very much for the extensive response! I'm glad to hear you approve of Mr. Wolfe as I didn't want split allegiances (though it shouldn't work like that anyway right?). I'll take into account all you've said about your own methods, and I'll be sure to tell you if I ever finish what I'm working on. thanks again!

          yours,
          Clive.

          Comment


          • #6
            erm.. P.S. I had a really good response written up and was about to submit it when the site went down. forgot most of what was in it but above is the general gist of it. sorry and thanks!

            Comment


            • #7
              I wish there were more like Wolfe, with literary ambitions and something to say through the medium of epic fantasy. Steve Erikson, Philip Pullman and a few others manage it, but sadly most of the genre is variations on the work of a few writers like myself and Tolkien and that stuff I really have no time for. Not that I object to anyone reading it. We all have tastes formed by what we've read first. I happen to like Westerns written before the Western genre had fully established itself but I'll also watch old Republic and Lone Star Westerns which are pretty dreadful and umpteenth generation xeroxes of what the likes of Owen Lister and even Clarence E. Mulford (my own favourite) were originally doing. Everything is new if you aren't familiar with their originals and sometimes the 'imitations' can improve on the originals, but most of the energy in them, I suspect, is supplied by the reader rather than the writer! Wolfe is interesting because he brings Catholic obsessions to his work and this makes him in some ways a much more genuine heir to Tolkien than all those who are simply replicating the pleasure they got from reading Lord of the Rings.

              Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
              The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
              Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


              Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
              The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
              Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

              Comment


              • #8
                I very much agree about the vast majority of contemporary fantasy, as long as one takes into account the difference between work that's inspired by older stuff but uses and injects new ideas and work that simply rehashes the old ideas. David Gemmell, for instance, who is one of my favourite fantasy writers, freely admits that is work is inspired by yours. He uses elements of your multiverse concept, and his high 'moral conflicts' remind me of your books too. It's true that his work doesn't add quite enough ideas to elevate it to the sort of originality boasted by China Mieville but they're excellent and emotional reads. perhaps not such a good example after all. I like the idea of writing a novel around an idea, building characters and situations around it then fleshing it out, rather than using the old genre/sub-genre conventions. I'd have to admit it would be easier and probably more fun using conventions but nothing would really be gained except a decent read.

                When it comes to writing I'm really quite anxious at present. I want to prove myself to myself so to speak, but university isn't affording me the time. I've more than once considered dropping out and just writing and writing but I'm just too uncertain of myself. still, once assignments are over I'll have time again. but I'm rambling-

                there is one thing I wanted to mention. I've notices a great swathe of movies coming out based on fantasy, science fiction or comics, and people are gobbling them up! I foresee a golden age for genre fiction, as it insinuates itself further into mainstream culture and is better accepted through film! perhaps nothing that extreme but we can always hope... though the underground is always going to be more interesting I suppose.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I see this particular period as resembling the period of the noir detective story which lasted at its most vigorous for ten or fifteen years, beginning with the Hammett movies and ending, perhaps, with the movies starring the likes of Widmark and Mitchum. Attempts to recreate that mood, such as King of New York, do a pretty good job, but they lack, in a way, the excitement and commitment of the golden age of noir thrillers. In some ways the period's zenith came with Kiss Me Deadly, which also ended with the end of the world! I suspect this age has begun with the film version of The Lord of the Rings and we are yet to see other films which match it, though we'll probably see some which strive to imitate it. Of course, I'm feeling at the moment that the Weitz brothers version of Elric will work on that level, but differently -- it will be darker, for instance -- and will contribute to the genre. My problem with David Gemmell is not so much his admiration of me and use of my tool-box, as it were, but his titles, which echo mine too closely! He's a nice guy. My guess, to get back to movies, is that the personal vision of individual directors is going to contribute to the golden age and we can scarcely guess what they will produce because they are going to surprise us! I'm not sure that movies with children as protagonists, like Harry Potter, will come into the same category, by the way. They are and can be very entertaining, but ultimately, with the possible exception of Pullman, they lack the concerns which people like Wolfe bring to their fiction. I happen to believe that
                  one thing which the best popular fiction tells us is that there are no free lunches (the moral of the Pullman books for instance) which pretty much
                  says all I have to say about consciously Christian fantasy where it fails.
                  It doesn't always fail. Again, I point to that neglected Inkling, Charles
                  Williams. I would love to see one of his best books brought to the screen.

                  Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                  The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                  Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                  Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                  The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                  Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'm personally most excited about the idea that harry potter and his dark materials, be they in book or film form, are breeding a new generation of readers. Being, as I am, of a generation that has seen the increasing effect of games and the internet, I can safely say that they are slowly strangling the novel - though they do seem to have levelled out lately. the game players are growing up and they're still playing games in their spare time. I suppose the more intelligent ones will always go back to something deeper, though. but the phenomenon of Harry Potter is incredible - kids prefer to read it than watch cartoons or play games etc. It's a good sign.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Absolutely. Nothing against games or comics, but a fully literate denizen of the 21st century should also be familiar with literature. The more the merrier! What alarms me most, though, is the increased need for shorter books. As if attention spans are decreasing. I like the way the Potter books (which I haven't read, but which I've nothing against at all) get longer and longer!

                      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                      The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                      Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                      The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                      Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Having read the Potter books I find that they have a strange page turning quality that really does affect people of all ages. I'm not at all sure what causes it but it certainly sustains itself for the good seven hundred or so pages that the later books span. The films translate a little but by no means all of this quality. I think J.K. Rowling attained the popularity she has now with a combination of a good read, filling a niche that existed, impeccable timing and perfect luck. Lets hope her books' influence really gets kids reading, and that they keep reading. The intellectual integrity of the next few generations lies in the balance...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I agree. You get the feeling from the movies that some of her narrative values have been ignored, maybe because the film makers themselves have a poor grasp of those values and a stronger sense of how the film-going public feeds off marvels rather than story. I suspect, by the way, that this isn't going to last and that film-goers are increasingly demanding better story values. That could be the difference between the way Lord of the Rings was made and the way the Potter movies are made.

                          Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                          The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                          Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                          Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                          The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                          Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Speaking from my own personal experience, I just dont have time to read a book these days. If I start one I forget what I was reading by the time I get chance to pick it up again 3 weeks later. At the moment, I spend alot of my time taking care of my two sons - and unfortunately maintaining and occassionally using! 2 computers - damn microsof!. The rest of teh time is fixing the house, following up on world and science news, sleeping and meditating. I cant even watch the TV for more than 3 minutes, I get anxious and start thinking there was something else I was supposed to be doing, so I dont know how I will ever find time to read again like I did in my late teens. Well thats how seems to me at the moment...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Yeah Corum my parents are like that, no time to read. It's a shame really, contemporary society seems to see life as the faster the better. everyone's rushing to be somewhere or finish something before a deadline.

                              As for Harry Potter - the third movie will probably be better because the director isn't the "huge spectacle" type - unlike Chris Columbus seemed to be. I'm certainly looking forward to it.

                              But what I really wanted to talk about was writing! I'm extremely excited at the moment as I'm just starting to work out how to do it and finish things. How have you found a whole career of writing Mr M?

                              I read some of a little book I found at the library called "How Not To Write a Novel." It turned out to be a howling vortex of self-confidence and willpower (in that if a young writer reads it, he or she finds themself robbed of all self-confidence and willpower). The purpose of the book was to convince beginning writers not to write, as there were already too many books and writers and not enough money in the world, unless they really thought they had it. Having stared into this maw of doom and survived, I figure I can now handle rejection letters and whatever else they throw at me. I hope. any incite into the terrors of writing would be delightful.

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