Tangent Online

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Interzone, July 2007, Special Michael Moorcock Section

E-mail Print
Image


"March of the Whiteshirts" by Michael Moorcock
"Staring Down the Witches" by Andrew Hedgecock
"Lovers" by Michael Moorcock
"London, My Life!  Or The Sedentary Jew" by Michael Moorcock
"The Affair of the Bassin Les Hivers" by Michael Moorcock

Time has not been especially kind to the prestige of the "New Wave" writers of the 1960s, any more than it has been to the brand of radicalism that emerged as a force in that decade.  Despite exceptions like Harlan Ellison and Ursula K. Le Guin, there is a sense that their time has passed, while the Asimovs and Heinleins remain household names.  They certainly escape the notice of a science fiction reader more easily than those Golden Age writers, or more recent authors.  (As Moorcock himself notes in this issue, "P.D. James's Children of Men creaked with generic conventions of the most boring kind, whereas Brian Aldiss's Greybeard, written on the same theme some forty years ago and avoiding all the conventions, isn't even in the shops.")  Indeed, reading Aldiss's Trillion Year Spree, some protested that he was too harsh on the Golden Age writers and too generous toward the New Wavers.

Once, I was inclined to agree with such assessments, but reading a good deal more of the output of the writers associated with that movement has cured me of that notion, and one of the main reasons is the work of Michael Moorcock himself, to which the July issue of Interzone devotes a special section.  The five pieces here include a guest editorial by Moorcock, an interview of Moorcock by Andrew Hedgecock, a short extract from Moorcock's upcoming memoir of Mervyn and Maeve Peake, the introduction to an unpublished novel that Moorcock classifies as still a "work in progress," and an original short story.

The typically vibrant editorial, "March of the Whiteshirts," looks back at the start of his career, the state of modernism and postmodernism (dominant but dead), and the significance of it all.  In his view, these are very dangerous times indeed, though not necessarily for the reasons you might think—and language cannot be considered a sideshow in this conflict.

In a similar vein, the in-depth interview with Hedgecock, "Staring Down the Witches," tackles a wide range of issues, from his personal literary influences, the "science fiction ghetto," Jerry Cornelius and Colonel Pyat to the corruption of "the language of liberal-humanism" by Margaret Thatcher and her counterparts, the return of the "language of fascism" from the fringes, and Monetarist totalitarianism in the age of Thatcher and Reagan, Bush and Blair—all of which are, of course, closely connected in his work, since as "a typical autodidact," Moorcock tends to bring all of his interests together.

The extract from Lovers about Mervyn Peake (who is best known for writing the Gormenghast series) and his wife is almost novelistic in feel, and makes quite clear his affection for the subject, as well as how he copes with the problem of memory that had both inhibited and inspired him in the past.

The novel extract which follows, three pages from chapter one of London, My Life! Or The Sedentary Jew, is his spin on the old myth of the Wandering Jew cursed to roam the Earth until the Second Coming.  Instead, the "sedentary Jew" was cursed by Joseph Arimathea to live in London "until it shall cease to exist save as ash blowing across a barren wasteland"—laying an interesting foundation for his project, a mythological history of the city.  The extract, which relates exactly how this happened, is entertaining, and where the planned book is concerned, very promising.

Last but not least is the Parisian-set "The Affair of the Bassin Les Hivers," also appearing in volume three of the anthology Tales of the Shadowmen.  As one might expect, this Metatemporal Detective mystery is a multiverse tale heavy on crossovers, including one by an old favorite of Moorcock's fans.  These provide a good deal of its considerable entertainment value, though by no means all of it (which is important given that many readers might find these references obscure).  The murder mystery itself is quite elegantly developed, and its depiction of a Paris not precisely like our own is a reminder that Moorcock is justly renowned for telling stories of the world's great cities.

Taken together, readers unfamiliar with Moorcock will find these pieces an excellent introduction to his work, and those who already know it well will find it well worth their time.  "The March of the Whiteshirts" is vintage Moorcock, and, along with his interview, perhaps the quickest way to get a good sense of what his work is about.  The last three pieces demonstrate Moorcock's sheer skill as a wordsmith, the vividness and exuberance of his imagination, and his sense of history and humor.  His sharp eye for detail comes through, and of course, his penchant for "massive, complex and interlinked series of story cycles that cut across fictional universes, styles, forms and thematic concerns."  Besides providing a sense of his vast range (they cannot possibly exhaust it in this space), they are also a powerful reminder that the New Wave's relevance did not lapse as so many maintain, and if anything, it may only be growing stronger today.