Tag Archives: moorcock

You know who else liked instinct?

What a surprise—Michael Moorcock didn’t like Star Wars either when it came out:

This sort of implicit paternalism is seen in high relief in the currently popular Star Wars series which also presents a somewhat disturbing anti-rationalism in its quasi-religious ‘Force’ which unites the Jedi Knights (are we back to Wellsian ‘samurai’ again?) and upon whose power they can draw, like some holy brotherhood, some band of Knights Templar. Star Wars is a pure example of the genre (in that it is a compendium of other people’s ideas) in its implicit structure — quasi-children, fighting for a paternalistic authority, win through in the end and stand bashfully before the princess while medals are placed around their necks.

Star Wars carries the paternalistic messages of almost all generic adventure fiction (may the Force never arrive on your doorstep at three o’clock in the morning) and has all the right characters. it raises ‘instinct’ above reason (a fundamental to Nazi doctrine) and promotes a kind of sentimental romanticism attractive to the young and idealistic while protective of existing institutions.

Look, buddy, if you’re going to bag on Star Wars, you have to be doing it for the right reason.

Star Wars, alongside Lord of the Rings, makes two genre-defining things that Moorcock hates (that is, considers “crypto-Stalinist”) which are are orders of magnitude more popular than Moorcock’s own writing. Oh, also “C. S. Lewis, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov and the rest.” I’m starting to detect a pattern.

Update: Moorcock (or the article transcriber) spells “Tolkien” incorrectly throughout his essay. So maybe he’s talking about a totally different Tolkien. Er, “Tolkein.”

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Stormbringer is mine!

Elric poses with his soul-draining sword Stormbringer.

I had the chance to catch lunch with Ed earlier this week, and he was kind enough to pass an item from his game library to me: Stormbringer, the roleplaying game based on Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibon√© novels. I’m really glad to get my hands on it; Stormbringer is one of those classic RPGs of which everyone speaks highly, but which I’ve never seen actually played. (But somebody must be playing it, as it’s in its sixth edition or thereabouts.)

In that sense, the RPG is not unlike Moorcock’s Elric novels: influential, well regarded, and yet strangely obscure. Although you might find a few Elric short story collections at the bookstore, the main Elric series that established the titular character as a pulp fantasy archetype seems to be weirdly out of print. If there’s any series screaming to be reprinted as an anthology, it’s the original Elric tales.

My own introduction to Moorcock and his angsty antihero came a few years ago when Elric of Melnibon√© turned up on my reading group’s list. I have since wondered how my youthful appreciation of the fantasy genre might have been different if I had gotten hooked on Moorcock instead of Tolkien 25 years ago. It’s too late now, of course; I was a Tolkien fanatic before I made it out of sixth grade.

And anyway, given my Tolkien partisanship, it’s probably just as well that I was blissfully unaware of Moorcock’s famous whinefest about Tolkien. (I like The Cimmerian’s rebuttal myself.)

But that aside, the first Elric novel is certainly worth tracking down and reading if you enjoy dark, morally edgy fantasy filled with strange and intriguing people, places, and gods. It’s sharply written and evocative, although angst-ridden Elric himself is probably one of those protagonists you either wholeheartedly love or hate from the moment you first meet him.

I hope to dig through the RPG in detail in the near future; but my initial take is that it’s an impressive piece of work.

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