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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" 
Subject: (urth) Moorcock
Date: Fri, 18 Apr 2003 09:19:35 -0700

>I would agree with much of what Blattid said about Moorcock, and plead
>guilty to oversimplifying with that "serious non-Elric" tag. But I
>disagree concerning Moorcock's "moral vacuity".

Clarification: I refer to the books, not the man. The Cornelius books,
the S'n'S megaseries, the Pyat books, the Dancers ... all Moorcock's
work seems to me to breathe the thick atmosphere of a rather facile
moral nihilism (his fascination with real nihilists is especially clear
in the Cornelius books) that I can't even find offensive, it's so ...
empty. That's what I meant by vacuity.

>He has admitted that if he wrote "Gloriana" again he would not
>have included the rape scene

And what would that leave? A book with no climax -- no pun intended
-- whatsoever. Plus, if it were only GLORIANA, I could accept that,
but there's also ... Oh, I've forgotten it, the one where the Fireclown
rapes Miss Mavis Ming and solves all her troubles. Once is a mistake,
twice is something else entirely.

>and has written extensively on Feminism, against pornography,

Oh. So now he's in favor of censorship too? That can't be right,
not if he's still

>... in favour of his own brand of radical anarchy.

After all, anarchy and censorship simply don't work well together.

H'mmm. It occurs to me that I'm being awfully harsh on Moorcock.
After all, I've read dozens of his books and will doubtless read
more of them in the future ... So what's my point here? Wish I
knew ...

>In fact, as
>Blattid mentions, he has written extensively on just about everything.
>He holds a discussion forum at www.multiverse.org where he shares his
>views on almost any subject you care to bring up, and his deep moral
>concerns, especially with world politics, are expounded with passion.

I'll have to check this out.

>These views are embedded in his books to varying degrees, but I
>would again recommend "King of the City" as showing his deepest
>moral sense.

Based on your recommendation I will definitely check it out.

>Moorcock's multiverse can be infuriating, but is mostly a game that
>he plays.

There is no such thing as an innocent game.

By playing this game, Moorcock puts all his work into a specific
dialectical relationship with all his other work; "Mother London" is
in dialog with "The Black Corridor," both are in dialog with "The
Warhound and the World's Pain" (my personal favorite Moorcock, btw);
all three are in dialog with "The Stealer of Souls"; etc. The
mechanism of the "Eternal Champion" provides a specific framework to
that dialectic -- each text contributes something to the master-concept,
which in turn reads itself into the text.

(The only possible exception is "Postcards from Hollywood," which
-- as a naturalized Californian -- I enjoyed immensely.)

>Most of his various series can be read alone, with the recurring
>characters playing very different roles.

Well, yes; but the fact that the "same" characters are playing
"different" roles is vital to finding meaning in those characters,
in those roles. This is nowhere more explicit than in the Cornelius
books, where the characters dance from one set of roles to another
in a way that brings the entire concept of "character" into question.

>Mike would be deeply insulted to be compared in any way to Heinlein,

That's a pity, because to refuse such comparison is essentially to
insist on situating himself outside the SF/F genre entirely; RAH is,
so to speak, the elephant in the room. Like every SF/F writer from
the 1950s on, Moorcock uses (consciously or not) rhetorical techniques
and moves invented or improved by Heinlein to establish the nature of
his discursive pseudo-realities.

>whose politics are anathema to him.

... nor are their politics actually that far off. Heinlein was a
rightist anarchist*, Moorcock a leftist anarchist: but anarchism
is a place where the political spectrum bends around and meets
itself. What is anathematic to Moorcock is the received version of
Heinlein's politics, a version based on a highly-motivated and
colored reading of his various fictional positions into a unified
model of "the conservative enemy."

* Though adopted by the minarchist and libertarian movements, RAH
  clearly regarded government of any sort as never anything better
  than a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless. I do not derive
  my understanding of Heinlein's politics, by the way, from his
  fictional writings -- which are far more polyvocal on the subject
  than most critics are willing to recognize -- but on published
  nonfiction statements, including a book-length interview by Neil
  Shulman (sp?).

  His attitude towards government was probably best summed up in
  his fiction by the Professor in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,"
  who said -- I paraphrase from memory -- "Make any laws you need
  to feel safe. I will either obey them or break them and accept
  the consequences."

>The motives of the two writers in bringing in repeated characters is
>very different, Heinlein seeming to do it just to say "Look, all
>these heroic guys with amazing sex-lives are really good old RAH".

You are, of course, talking about a guy who was monogamous -- with,
admittedly, his second wife -- for more decades than most of us on
this list have been alive. This is exactly the kind of thing I mean
by the received opinion: Somehow it got decided that "all" Heinlein's
protagonists were (a) identical and (b) projections of himself, and
it's heresy to question this.

>(As an aside, did anyone ever write worse about sex than Heinlein.

Yep. Asimov. But not _much_ worse.

>My wife still won't believe that anyone could call nipples "those
>twin spiggots of desire" or claim that one woman's "nipples went

These are classic, aren't they ... Up there with "five minutes of
squelching noise."

>But  you may be right about Moorcock not being suitable for
>recommendation to Wolfe fans.

That really wasn't what I was trying to say -- after all, of the two
people sampled so far, who have read substantial amounts of both
writers, 100% thought both were worthwhile writers.

My point, rather, is that Moorcock is not _necessarily_ suitable for
recommendation to _all_ Wolfe fans. As someone noted on here, Wolfe
"contains multitudes." Ditto for Moorcock, though his multitudes are
rather more like to one another than Wolfe's are. Depending on _what_
you like in Wolfe, you might find something ... not similar, but
similarly appealing ...  in some of Moorcock's work.

Fair 'nuff?


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