AS EDITOR OF the magazine New Worlds from 1964 to 1978, Michael Moorcock helped to revolutionize the SF field by publishing experimental work by J.G. Ballard, Brian W. Aldiss, and others. From 1965 to 1976, Moorcock also wrote the Cornelius Quartet, which follows an antiestablishment urban adventurer-rock star in a madcap race against the concept of linear time itself. Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné series staged an irreverent intervention into epic fantasy, chronicling the brooding adventures of an albino king. By the early 1970s, Moorcock had begun to unite his dauntingly proliferating work into a rich “multiverse” of interconnected speculative-fantastic fiction. One sterling example of this vast fictive palimpsest was Gloriana (1978), dedicated to the phantasmagoric Mervyn Peake. In 1988, Moorcock published the celebrated novel Mother London (shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize) in which mundane realism merges with the fantastic in an encyclopedic encapsulation of a city. And King of the City (2000) returns to a sordid London scene to unleash a savage satire that spans the globe and the entire twentieth century. In 2013, Victor Gollancz will begin publishing a collected edition of all his work.
The metamorphosis of Blitzed London became the Chaotic landscapes of Elric the Albino. As in need of his soul-drinking sword as Chet Baker was in need of his junk, he witnessed the death of his Empire, even conspired in it. The adrenaline rushes of aerial bombardment and imminent death informed Jerry Cornelius stories where London’s ruins were recreated and disaster had a celebratory face. And the Holocaust became the background for the black comedies of my Colonel Pyat books. We tried to create a new literature which expressed our own experience … all the great writers who contributed to my journal New Worlds were rejecting modernism not from any academic attempt to discover novelty but in order to find forms which actually described what they had witnessed, what they had felt.
—from “A Child’s Christmas in the Blitz”
Michael Moorcock: As usual I find myself qualifying or quarreling with myself. Aldiss didn’t reject modernism. He was some years older than Ballard and me and wanted to bring SF in line with modernism. Ballard and I in particular argued against nostalgia as a form of sentimentality that distorts all experience. I thought all fiction of that time rotten with it! Ballard agreed. There were of course a number of reasons that brought so many individuals together at the same time. Some of those reasons would be the ones that later split us apart. Same as rock bands, really. Our common passion brought us together; our individual passions — our egos if you like — ultimately made us take pretty different paths.
So I’m disinclined to generalize too readily. Ballard and I were both bored by space fiction. Aldiss was highly literate but he loved generic SF and, like Harlan Ellison in the US, wanted to improve writing standards, characterization, and so on. Ellison wanted SF to be braver, to tackle the hard subjects. Spinrad did, too. Ballard wanted originally to emulate Ray Bradbury but his interest, like mine, was in addressing a general literary audience. The so-called ...read more