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Mike, the ‘Anti-Baggins’

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  • EverKing
    EverKing
    Eternal Companion
    EverKing
    Eternal Companion
    • Jan 2004
    • 959

    Mike, the ‘Anti-Baggins’

    Just ran across this: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/ant...spell-witcher/
    "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
    --Thomas a Kempis
  • Rothgo
    Rothgo
    Champion of the Unbalanced
    Rothgo
    Champion of the Unbalanced
    • Aug 2006
    • 6680

    #2
    I noticed it a while back, but due to the Telegraph's access process, I didn't link to it here. Or indeed read it. Was it interesting?

    Comment

    • Heresiologist
      Heresiologist
      Mothra Worshipper
      Heresiologist
      Mothra Worshipper
      • Jan 2012
      • 1018

      #3
      Seconding Rothgo as none of my usual "nope to subscription or sign-up" methods are working.

      Not sure I like the anti-Baggins framing, seems like he's getting set up as a Sackville-Baggins.

      Comment

      • Pietro_Mercurios
        Pietro_Mercurios
        Only Slightly Unbalanced
        Pietro_Mercurios
        Only Slightly Unbalanced
        • Oct 2004
        • 5823

        #4
        Originally posted by Heresiologist View Post
        ...

        Not sure I like the anti-Baggins framing, seems like he's getting set up as a Sackville-Baggins.
        Don't worry, it's the Telegraph. The paper that launched 'BloJo,' to stardom, by encouraging & publishing his florid BS. I was actually a bit worried that the Torygraph might, belatedly, be acknowledging Mike's contribution to Culture & ushering him in to acceptance by the 'Establishment.' Doesn't appear to be the case.

        Comment

        • EverKing
          EverKing
          Eternal Companion
          EverKing
          Eternal Companion
          • Jan 2004
          • 959

          #5
          Originally posted by Rothgo View Post
          I noticed it a while back, but due to the Telegraph's access process, I didn't link to it here. Or indeed read it. Was it interesting?
          Truth be told, I click on the link, started reading the first paragraph and decided to drop it here. It was only when I went I back to finish reading it that I realized it required subscription so I was unable to finish it.

          What bothered me about the intro and framing of the article is that it relies on Tolkien and Witcher to attract--the first has nothing to do with Mike's work outside a mention in "Epic Pooh" and the second, well, the problems with it have been well discussed here in the past.
          "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
          --Thomas a Kempis

          Comment

          • Heresiologist
            Heresiologist
            Mothra Worshipper
            Heresiologist
            Mothra Worshipper
            • Jan 2012
            • 1018

            #6
            Originally posted by EverKing View Post
            ...

            What bothered me about the intro and framing of the article is that it relies on Tolkien and Witcher to attract--the first has nothing to do with Mike's work outside a mention in "Epic Pooh" and the second, well, the problems with it have been well discussed here in the past.
            Mentioning The Witcher is highly topical clickbait, while the anti-Baggins angle is the outrage-bait variant of clickbait. Two tasty looking hooks just dangling there in the internet's ebb and flow...

            Also, to be fair, MM's quite often asked about his dislike of Tolkien and, besides Epic Pooh, has written about it in Starships Stormtroopers and Wizardry and Wild Romance.

            Comment

            • dcbooks
              dcbooks
              Wanderer of the Mittel March
              dcbooks
              Wanderer of the Mittel March
              • Jan 2012
              • 11

              #7

              You didn't hear it from me....

              "Toss a coin to fantasy’s ultimate anti-hero, who is about to make a comeback after too long away. With his albino hair, translucent skin and glowing eyes, that character is – well who else? – Elric of Melniboné, the celebrated “White Wolf” of the sword and sorcery genre.

              Elric has been unveiled as the star of a new video game, from Swedish developer Runatyr which promises to build on a colourful history going back to 1961. That was the year aspiring anarchist, occasional rock musician and full-time JRR Tolkien skeptic, Michael Moorcock published his first Elric tale, the Dreaming City.

              Elric is fantasy’s ultimate bad-boy. Sickly pale, wielder of a sword, Stormbringer, with a mind of its own, and reliant on drugs to maintain his strength, he is the genre’s original rock star.

              He’s proved hugely influential too. There are echoes of him in the Bloodraven character in George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones novels: “ an albino…. milk-white skin, long white hair, and red eyes”. Traces Elric can also obviously be seen in The Witcher, which returns to Netflix for a second season this week. As with Elric, monster hunter Geralt of Rivia has colourless tresses and glowing eyes. Geralt is even referred to as “the White Wolf”.

              However coincidental, this perceived similarity has long been a source of contention. Moorcock himself notoriously weighed in when a reader brought up the subject on his website.
              Placeholder image for youtube video: TJFVV2L8GKs

              “Bastards. You try to create something original and a bunch of people rip it off and make millions,” he wrote in 2008. “I’m glad Tolkien never lived to see what HE spawned. I've contacted my lawyer, but haven't heard back yet. It's a 'passing off' situation rather than a copyright one. “

              Nothing ever came of the outburst and Moorcock was not particularly keen on taking up the issue again when asked about it. “There never was a lawsuit,” he wrote in 2014. “Those narratives waste time…To me an elf is a kind of pixie”

              Witcher creator Andrzej Sapkowski has always acknowledged his debt Moorcock, while pointing out he was just one among many authors who shaped Geralt. “I remember reading Tolkien for the first time, in the Sixties,” the Polish author told an interviewer in 2015. “I was utterly enchanted. Then Ursula Le Guin with Earthsea, Roger Zelazny with Amber, Michael Moorcock with Elric of Melniboné, Jack Vance with Lyonnesse, Stephen R. Donaldson with Thomas Covenant, Marion Zimmer Bradley with The Mists of Avalon.”

              Geralt is an entirely original creation and his resemblance to Elric is at best superficial. Yet there is no doubt that Elric is iconic in the milieu and that he represents an archetype familiar even to non-fantasy fans: an elegantly-wasted outsider, with rock star hair and a drugged-out glare. David Bowie, deep into his early Seventies cocaine blizzard, would have been the perfect candidate to play him on screen.

              “Moorcock’s Elric is hugely influential on modern fantasy,” says Jonathan Thornton of website the Fantasy Hive. “Through Elric, Moorcock showed that there was a way of approaching fantasy distinct from the straightforward heroics of Tolkien and more intelligent than Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. Elric is the ultimate anti-hero, a traitorous doomed weakling sorcerer in place of the genre’s previously strong righteous and virtuous protagonists.
              Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné books
              Eternal champion: Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné books

              "His books opened up a space for modern fantasy’s morally ambiguous characters and stories that cynically deconstruct heroic archetypes such as George R. R. Martin’s A Game Of Thrones. Martin’s cruel, inbred and pale Targaryens owe much to Elric and the Melnibonéans, and the appeal of his gruesome and violent strain of sword and sorcery is echoed in Sapkowski’s The Witcher.”

              The Dreaming City begins with Elric, Emperor of Melniboné, returning home at the head a mercenary fleet hoping to defeat his cousin Yyrkoon, in an attempt to reclaim his love Cymoril. Harsh words are exchanged, dragons are summoned and Melniboné destroyed. As the tale ends, Elric has forged a psychological bond with the blade Stormbringer. “Men will have cause to tremble and flee when they hear the names of Elric of Melniboné and Stormbringer, his sword,” says Elric in a line that could have come from the sleeve notes to an early Led Zeppelin LP.

              “Elric of Melniboné is an interesting and prescient character in fantasy,” says Doctor Allen Stroud, chair of the British Science Fiction Association in an email.

              “Moorcock’s characterisation and story of Elric is one that succeeds without truly overcoming his flaws and physical issues, which makes him an important prototype for modern writers. The depiction is not perfect, and still of its time, but it is something we can draw from. Readers need to see something of themselves in contemporary heroes and heroines. Often, in life we live with our damage, our illness, our flaws. These are part of who we are. We succeed with these flaws, not in spite of them or by solving them.”
              Michael Moorcock in 1978
              Michael Moorcock in 1978 Credit: Getty

              Elric is also a sort of anti-Bilbo Baggins. Where Tolkien’s Hobbits were essentially a heroic fantasy Mumford and Sons, merrily tugging their waist-coats as they blundered their way to Mordor, Elric was a psychedelic guitar solo in (quasi) human form. He was tortured and perpetually angsty. And his adventures conveyed him through time and space as he battled not the forces of evil but of chaos.

              Moorcock never much enjoyed Tolkien and could not attune himself to what he regarded as Lord of the Ring’s fuddy Christian worldview. Foreshadowing the moral ambivalence of Game of Thrones, he rejected the idea of a clean divide between heroes and villain.

              Instead, the universe was, as he saw it, locked in a perpetual struggle between chaos and law – between the instinct to destroy and the desire to impose order. And that was the conflict that drove his “Eternal Champion” character – a figure who recurred throughout his books in a variety of incarnations including Elric and also heroic figures such as Corum and Dorian Hawkmoon.

              “Winnie-the-Pooh, posing as an epic,” is how Moorcock described The Lord of the Rings in a celebrated and notorious 1978 essay, Epic Pooh. His problem with Tolkien started with the author’s retroactive Britishness and class obsession. Moorcock, born in London in 1939, contrasted the "petit bourgeois” hobbits with the evil “industrial-worker orcs”.

              “It's the British character sentimentalised, the illusion of decency, that whole nonsense of 'no British boy would do this sort of thing',” he wrote. “It was also the tone of the BBC when I was growing up. I hated it.”

              He also likened Sauron and his armies to football hooligans. “If the Shire is a suburban garden, Sauron and his henchmen are that old bourgeois bugaboo, the Mob: mindless football supporters throwing their beer-bottles over the fence.”
              The Targaryens, from Game of Thrones, were heavily influenced by Moorcock
              The Targaryens, from Game of Thrones, were heavily influenced by Moorcock Credit: HBO

              Whatever about Bilbo and Elric, Tolkien and Moorcock were from different universes. Tolkien was a gentleman don horrified by the onrushing technical advancements of the 21st century.

              Moorcock, who came of age in the Sixties, was a self-described anarchist who wrote lyrics for Hawkwind and was once condemned in the Houses of Parliament for publishing sexually explicit sci-fi novel Bug Jack Barron by Norman Spinrad. From 1964 to 1970, he also edited New Worlds, the progressive science fiction magazine that showcased “new wave” authors such as Brian Aldiss and JG Ballard.

              Moorcock exploded onto the scene in the Sixties with stories that
              were tributes to Edgar Rice Burroughs but he subverted the genre with his marvellous anti-hero Elric,” says Simon Gosden of Fantastic Literature, a company that sources rare and out-of-print fantasy, horror and science fiction books.


              “He’s a prolific writer who has mastered many genres. His place in popular culture is assured. I think he’s always been seen as something of an underground rebel and his association with New Worlds and the New Wave of science fiction confirmed that in many readers eyes.”


              He was never a careerist, says Gosden. Moorcock’s ambition was always to shake up the status quo rather than become a household name.


              “His brush with the law over the publication of Bug Jack Barron is a case in point. That may be why he’s never 'exploded'. He writes top quality fiction but he’s not interested in fame and fortune and everything that goes with it. As a genre bookseller I find his collectors and fans are numerous and wealthy. There’s no doubt he’s a genius.”
              Placeholder image for youtube video: 9X8Ovp_ZfoU


              A genius he may be. But Moorcock, who at 81 is still alive and living in Texas, has not always received his dues. Until the past 20 years or so, he was considered one of the essential fantasy authors. Once you’d read Tolkien, CS Lewis and Mervyn Peake, Moorcock and the Eternal Champion books were your next destination.


              But then Tolkien’s profile soared with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies while the fanbases around Game of Thrones and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time went supernova. Amid this Moorcock got left behind slightly, to the point where some of his Eternal Champion books– the wonderful Corum series, for instance – now languish out of print. The good news is that the Elric stories, written between 1961 and 2010, are still available whilst Saga Press is in the midst of publishing a three-volume omnibus of the 11 stand-alone Elric novels


              And with a new video game due in 2024, perhaps an Elric comeback is gathering pace. The tales are thrill-a-minute, pulsating with weird imagery, epic battles and mind-bending scenery. Having been eclipsed by those who built on what he achieved, it would be no more than Moorcock merits. In a world crazy for witchers and dragon mothers, Stormbringer deserves a chance to thunder its way back into the affections of fantasy fans. "




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