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Science Fantasy magazine - the original Elric stories

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  • Science Fantasy magazine - the original Elric stories

    I just found a rather good set of pages on Science Fantasy magazine at this French site:

    http://www.noosfere.com/showcase/sci...asy_page_2.htm

    They also have pages on Science Fiction Adventures. Nothing on New Worlds that I could find. The pages are about "Pulps et Magazines Amأ©ricains" apparently. Hmmm….

    Having just got my first ever copy of Science Fanstasy 64 (with Doomed Lord’s Passing, the last segment of Stormbringer) I was going to bring up this magazine anyway.

    Issue 64 (1964) the last Nova Publications issue, is a very Moorcock-dominated issue. As well as the Elric tale, it has the first appearance of James Colvin’s The Deep Fix, and Part 4 of MM’s series of articles, Aspects Of Fantasy. Only pages 100 to 115 of this 124-page magazine are non-Moorcock material (two short stories).

    The cover refers to “the celebrated Elric series� - I’m wondering what kinds of reaction the Elric stories actually got at the time they were published.

    Science Fantasy didn’t run any readers’ letters, so there’s nothing to go on there. Editor E J Carnell presumably got pretty positive reactions, as he commissioned more after the initial ones appeared.

    The first book collection, Stealer of Souls, had already been published (1963) by the time Doomed Lord’s Passing appeared, so at least one publisher of hardback books had faith in the stories too.

    Mike, can you remember any particular feedback or reviews? Anyone know if there are any contemporary reviews or memoirs around on the web?

  • #2
    I planned to write three stories, but the series was incredibly popular. A sign of that is that I was featured on the cover with every story, as far as I recall. Far more successful than Carnell or I had guessed. So Carnell asked me to extend the series and then write what was essentially a serial. You can pretty much see where the original series ended, as I recall. SF did sometimes run a letter column, I thought, but only occasionally. Carnell chose the James Colvin name, as was his habit, from the ABC Railway Guide. A very good method of finding names (since so many come from somewhere originally). I'd suggested James Mendoza, but he didn't like the sound of it. Mendoza was one of our legendary family ancestors -- the boxer. Anyway, I've used his Railway Guide idea ever since for finding names for characters. At least when I ran out of likely ones in Brompton Cemetery...

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
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    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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    • #3
      Thanks very much, Mike. Just what I wanted to know, but even more gratifying than I might have expected.

      Someday I will look at the first batch of stories in light of what you have just said.

      Parenthetically: re: JC initials, James Colvin clearly wasn’t a reference to either Jerry Cornelius or Jesus Christ, then. I know you have stated before that a lot of the JC stuff is coincidence. (Though as I’ve said before, I think John Constantine was a deliberate addition to the list, and of course Janus Carpenter certainly was!)

      I’d still like to see some of the contemporary reviews of Elric, letters in response etc. Anyone know of a Carnell / Science Fantasy / New Worlds archive, for example?

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      • #4
        I enjoyed looking at that site, even though I speak no French and some of the details I could discern were inaccurate (such a SF being American, that's not true is it?)
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        • #5
          I think Dave B and Mike B have copies of early letters and fanzine reviews of the Elric series while they were still appearing. I DO have a file of Science Fantasy somewhere, in the general pile with the file of all New Worlds and SF Adventures, but I don't have them in any particular order. Maybe when I'm fit enough to hobble over to the Shed of Shame I'll have a look through my stuff and see if I can find some copies with letters of comment. SF was Carnell's personal favourite of the three magazines and he put all the stories he liked best into that -- he regarded it as the most 'literary' of the three. You'll find a fair number of the best Ballard stories there, for instance, also some of Brunner's best.
          I notice from that site that Brunner, Bulmer and Rackham (Phillifent) tended to dominate the novellas until Elric turned up. Amazing how much stuff I started turning out. I don't remember any of the other guys being resentful. I suspect they all had plenty of markets at the time.
          I do know that I wrote The Greater Conqueror for a Quinn cover and then Carnell put the cover on a different issue! Again, this wasn't untypical of what went on in those days -- Printer's Devil was written for a cover Compact had had done for The Devil Rides Out! Somewhere in the Night was an existing title they had -- I think Jim H had let them down so they simply asked me to write a novel to fit the cover -- that's really the first Allard story (later Cornell). Yes, it's coincidence about JC.
          Others have read more into that than I did. I point out that I didn't create Jim Cawthorn, John Carnell or John Carter of Mars!

          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


          • #6
            Re: Science Fantasy magazine - the original Elric stories

            Originally posted by GuyLawley
            The cover refers to “the celebrated Elric series� - I’m wondering what kinds of reaction the Elric stories actually got at the time they were published.

            Science Fantasy didn’t run any readers’ letters, so there’s nothing to go on there. Editor E J Carnell presumably got pretty positive reactions, as he commissioned more after the initial ones appeared.

            The first book collection, Stealer of Souls, had already been published (1963) by the time Doomed Lord’s Passing appeared, so at least one publisher of hardback books had faith in the stories too.
            Don't know if you've seen the dustjacket of the Spearman Stealer Of Souls Guy, but the blurb inside says that the five stories 'evoked considerable interest and correspondence from readers' [of Science Fantasy] when they were first published. Unfortunately I only have three of the Nova SF's that I can find and only one of those has a letters page, containing one long letter that doesn't mention Mike's work. Whether the letters appeared in the magazine or not it appears Carnell got quite a bit of feedback on the first Elric stories. It'd be interesting to know the circumstances of the how the Stealer hardback edition came about, considering it didn't get a paperback edition until four years later (from Lancer in the States). The hardback must have sold fairly well as it went through two printings - I have the later printing with green boards.
            'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

            Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

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            • #7
              You have to remember that heroic fantasy was something publishers weren't too sure what to do with at that time, which is why the Elric books weren't automatically picked up for paperback. They were still trying to describe Tolkien and Peake as a kind of post-holocaust fiction.
              (See the interview with Tolkien in New Worlds: An Anthology available in all good bookshops... :) ) It's interesting to read this discussion, because it reflects the enormous change that took place during the sixties. Lancer bought the Edward P. Bradbury Mars books before they bought anything else. They'd done The Dying Earth. As far as I recall the Conan books were still published (if in print) by a small publishing house (was it Gnome Press ?). Leiber began to publish the bulk of the Gray Mouser stories in Fantastic magazine during the 60s -- Cele Lalle, the editor, had a taste for heroic fantasy (she commissioned the John Jakes Brak the Barbarian stories, too). There were very few places which published heroic fantasy. Once Kyril Bonfiglioli took over Science Fantasy he stopped running work of that kind -- he shared a common distaste for it. It was Keith Roberts, for instance, who commissioned The Ice Schooner. Bon wouldn't have liked even that. Heroic fantasy was regarded by most sf people at that time as a sort of flash in the pan.
              The Elric and Hawkmoon stories were published by Mayflower because
              the company had just been bought by Granada and they wanted to start an sf line. The old boss of Mayflower, who never read anything, bought them on instinct, pretty much as a job lot ('How many you got ?' was
              what he asked me). Joe (his name's gone out of my head) and I rejected the standard covers being proposed and picked Bob Haberfield as illustrator for both the Elrics and the Hawkmoons (which hadn't had
              hardbacks in the UK or US -- Lancer had commissioned them after their success with Kane and Elric). Hardbacks came later! It wasn't until the 70s, really, that people began publishing heroic fiction regularly in hardback. The Corum books were the first series which appeared in hardback in the UK and I don't think any of them had hardback publication in the US. The same was true, for instance, of all Ballard's early fiction, including The Drowned World and other novels. Most of these were published by Berkeley Books thanks to Damon Knight who was the editor there. The same was true of Tom Disch and quite a few others. We were still very much considered downmarket paperback
              (pulp) sort of writers. By the 80s, as this kind of fiction gradually developed a larger market and also became easily classifiable as genre (thanks to Tolkien and other clones) all that changed in the eyes of publishers. However, much of the stigma remains, as we know, in spite of so many fantasy and sf books topping the major best-seller lists.
              To be honest, I used to prefer my fantasy novels going straight to paperback and my literary novels being done in hardback. I felt they found their readerships more directly. As you know, I'm no snob about this, but it did seem that literary novels needed reviews and that kind of attention while fantasy novels already had their readership established.
              I wasn't happy when they started routinely publishing my heroic fantasy in hardback editions, even though I'd started out in hardback! In fact I was a little shocked and dismayed.

              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
                Originally posted by Dead-Air
                I enjoyed looking at that site, even though I speak no French and some of the details I could discern were inaccurate (such as SF being American, that's not true is it?)
                No, it isn't, as I teasingly alluded to above. It was published from London, England.

                To be fair to the French site, they do have GB in big letters at the top of the page. That means Great Britain, I suspect.

                The French have, historically, tended to lump together all things "Anglo-Americain." Many of them fear our combined (?) cultural imperialism*.

                Perhaps they have a point. Are we ("GB") not, after all, the "fifty-first state?"

                Or, as our Esteemed Patron refers to the joint venture, "USUK".
                (Ho ho ho.)

                Seriously, if I was a Frenchman of similar choler to my Brit self, I would be very unhappy at my native language being eaten away at by English the way theirs has been.

                Anyway, a nicely put together web site, mes braves. Glad to see sf fans can celebrate the best of each other's cultures. Comic fans too are very good at recognizing the excellence of French comics**.


                * Mostly 'cos they got no decent Rock'n'Roll. Even Plastic Bertrand was Belgian.

                ** Though Hergأ© for example was, of course, Belgian.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
                  I wasn't happy when they started routinely publishing my heroic fantasy in hardback editions, even though I'd started out in hardback! In fact I was a little shocked and dismayed.
                  Paradoxical, quite understandable, and not a little amusing!

                  A fascinating account all round, Mr M. Thanks for filling in so many details.

                  I remember mixed feelings when I started buying Moorcock fantasies in hardback (1980s). It didn’t seem right. Wasn’t this supposed to be a culty thing? An ephemeral “pop� thing? A cheap thing, goddamit! This is costing me too much (and no, I can’t wait for the paperback edition!)

                  On the other hand it was good to see my long-time favourite author getting published in smart DJ’d format. It meant the stuff was being “taken seriously,� I assumed (whatever the hell that meant!)

                  (That reminds me… remember that lovely DJ’d paperback of Una and Catherine In The 20th Century that Quartet did? I seem to recall a Bastable done the same way (?). I wish that format had lasted. Tasty.)

                  I feel slightly guilty harking back to days gone by so much, when we have work like the new Pyat to look forward to. But Elric and co are a part of my cultural life that I will never lose my love for, I’m sure (Alzheimer’s permitting).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
                    SF did sometimes run a letter column, I thought, but only occasionally.
                    Yup, you are right of course, Mike and Aral, Science Fantasy did run a reader’s letter occasionally. I just found one in no.62. One David Busby is full of praise for SF and New Worlds, especially Aldiss, Ballard and Brunner (and Lee Harding whom he predicts “has a future as great as� those three).

                    Here’s what he has to say about Elric & MM:

                    “Science Fantasy is publishing more straight fantasy, like Moorcock’s Elric stories, of which I have never been very enthusiastic, though the very first story “The Dreaming City� was very good indeed, and I would have had no complaints if all had been as good as that. He should also stay clear of science fiction, it doesn’t seem to be his literature.�

                    I expect Carnell published that just to keep you on your toes, Mike, while ensuring you didn’t get too big for your boots.

                    If the shoe had been on the other foot… really, I think Mr Busby should have walked a mile in your shoes. Still, if the shoe fits…

                    Yours (still waiting for the other shoe to drop)

                    Guy

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                    • #11
                      Enough about that other shoe, Lawley, you fiend. I just got ulcers on my sole and am back in the medical boot. The Stealer of Soles etc. etc.
                      I don't think Carnell had any motive in publishing the letter. Don't forget I published a fair number of anti-Moorcock letters in NW. That's the nature of a letter column. I got one five page letter tearing the whole of the first section of Stormbringer apart. Went on and on. You're just trying to give a cross-section of response OR get some kind of controversy going. You publish an anti-Brunner letter, for instance, and next issue there's a vehemently pro-Brunner letter in response...

                      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
                        As Elvis once sang (or if he didn’t, he shoulda done):

                        Well, bless my sole
                        Got egg on my face
                        Slander my name
                        All over the place

                        Believe it or not I was just riffing on my first metaphor there without intending any “witty� comment on current events...

                        Ay carumba, is my :oops: !!

                        I take your point about the letter. My point, if there was one, was that the only letter we have yet located in SF itself that mentions Elric is not wildly enthusiastic. This is not to say that I don't believe there was an enthusiastic response. Clearly there was, and a major one. Perhaps EJC should have been better at blowing his/your own trumpet. Was he a modest sort of cove?

                        Your own taste as editor was always for readers' letters and plenty of �em. As you’ve said, it helps to create the idea in every reader’s mind that he/she has a part to play in the magazine and a special connection to it. Always worked for me especially as a youngster. Stan Lee certainly knew what a powerful link it created.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I seem to remember that one of my first jobs on Sexton Blake was to write some readers' letters -- in order to get a letter column going. It was a pretty standard procedure in magazines of the time. You had to print some fake letters in order to get real letters coming in. Carnell told me that he had a lot of positive feedback from the first story and it tended to grow as the series grew. My guess is that it wasn't much more than 'Elric is good' or 'Elric is bad' and therefore not making very interesting letters. He only ran letters when there was a page or two spare at the back of the magazine when the copy was short, whereas I tended to incorporate a regular letter column, which came out of my roots in fanzines and pulps.

                          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

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