Mary Sticks to the Alleyways, Where the Light and Noise of the City is Screened Out A Little (The Last War in Albion Part 2: Near Myths, J.G. Ballard, William S. Burroughs)

(38 comments)

“Mary sticks to the alleyways, where the light and noise of the city is screened out a little”
-Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan #8, 1998

Figure 12: "The Checkmate Man" features more marital
strife than high-concept assassination antics - Near
Myths
 #5, 1980 (Click to enlarge)
[previously] It is in some ways very much like the Gideon Stargrave stories and “Time is a Four Letter Word” - full of jumps across time and space and an ever-shifting universe. But where those stories focus on the action, “The Checkmate Man” takes an entirely different approach. The only part of it that could be described as an action scene takes place on the first page, and the remaining nine pages consist of Conrad, the eponymous assassin, reflecting on the stress and horror of his job. It’s a surprisingly intimate character piece, miles from Morrison’s other Near Myths work. There’s also a degree of thought that’s been put into the setting that isn’t present in Morrison’s other Near Myths work - a throwaway bit about attempting to prevent the Lincoln assassination only to have him die in an accident the next day speaks volumes about the world of “The Checkmate Man” and the way in which the CIA program he’s a part of only changes the world through death and destruction. The result is that the closing page, where Conrad realizes that all the George Orwell books have vanished from his bookshelf before forgetting that he even cares about it, is haunting in its scope, revealing the real effects of Conrad’s CIA-backed sanitization of history. 

While “The Checkmate Man,” which is, in fact, quite good, better foreshadows Morrison’s future career, it is also, oddly, the Near Myths story that Morrison has not meaningfully brought up in interviews. While he points to “Time is a Four Letter Word” as being “based around the simultaneity of time concept Alan Moore himself is so fond of these days” and returns to Stargrave in a number of ways, “The Checkmate Man” is, despite being the best of his Near Myths stories and the one that actually presents a credible case for the idea that Morrison was, in 1979/80, out ahead of the field, the one piece Morrison seems content to relegate to the status of juvenilia and trivia. It is, by all appearances, Gideon Stargrave who best captures the spirit of what Morrison was doing in Near Myths. And thus it is Gideon Stargrave that it is most important to contextualize in the larger comics scene of 1979. The Near Myths stories are, after all, a small rock in a larger formation, and it is at this point more helpful to establish some of the underlying conceptual strata. 

Figure 13: Gideon Stargrave makes a
surprise return in The Invisibles #17, 1996
Morrison has, in interviews, gone back and forth on what his inspirations for Gideon Stargrave. His most common claim is Michael Moorcock. In a 1997 interview he said, of his reuse of the character in The Invisibles, that “King Mob's 'Gideon Stargrave' stories are direct quotes from the Michael Moorcock-inspired short stories I wrote obsessively when I was 17,” which is to say, his Near Myths contributions. He was blunter in the letter column to The Invisibles #17, the first issue featuring Stargrave, describing him as “a thinly-veiled ripoff of Moorcock’s ‘Jerry Cornelius’ character.” 

Moorcock, while usually generous about the use of Jerry Cornelius, took particular exception to this, memorably  proclaiming that his “image of Grant Morrison is of someone wearing a mask, a flat hat and a striped jersey and carrying a bag marked SWAG.” This, however, was in reference to the later use of Gideon Stargrave in The Invisibles, and not to the Near Myths material, which it would be unlikely that Moorcock read, at least in that form. Unsurprisingly, then, came to resist that claim, later specifying that the Near Myths stories were “heavily but not entirely influenced by Moorcock and J.G Ballard.” In this case his earlier declarations concur - in a 1988 interview he proclaimed that the stories’ style was “more akin to William Burroughs than Michael Moorcock” and that “Stargrave was originally based on the lead character in J. G. Ballard's 'The Day of Forever'; everyone thought he was ripped off from Jerry Cornelius, but it was Ballard.”

The Ballard story in question was written in 1966, four years into Ballard’s writing career, and begins with the memorable sentence, “at Columbine Sept Heures it was always dusk.” The story’s central conceit is that the Earth has stopped rotating, thus fixing every point in the world at a particular time of day forever, such that cities are renamed with their times: London 6 p.m. and Saigon Midnight. Its main character, Halliday, “found himself obsessed by his broken dreams” of an ancient town on the Mediterranean, and a woman there. Halliday thus moves from Norway to North Africa to seek this woman. The plot is existent but oblique - Halliday lives with a couple for three months, but they move because the dusk line is slowly shifting and they wish to avoid night. He meets a woman who he decides is the one from his dreams, they have a series of cryptic conversations, and finally gets shot at a bit as he flees in a car. 

The similarities to the Stargrave material are limited at best. Ballard’s story is sparse character piece, where Gideon Stargrave spends much of the story in fast-paced action set pieces. Halliday is written as a cipher with few overt similarities the dandy action hero Gideon Stargrave, who is described in the recap page from Near Myths #4 as a “art time anarchist, raconteur, and wit.” To say that Stargrave is based on the lead character of “The Day of Forever” is thus puzzling. More might be said for the premise, which is based on a collapse of reality that bears at least some similarity to the idea of a world where time has become a geographic feature instead of an internal one. But even given that it’s difficult to justify Morrison’s claim of having ripped the story off. The most plausible explanation is that Morrison confused the short story “The Day of Forever” with some other story in the anthology by the same title, although were this the case it is difficult to see how such a hazily remembered book could be such an active influence.

Figure 14 - The Atrocity Exhibition, published in 1969
Nevertheless, Morrison’s larger debt to Ballard is obvious - just not his debt to that particular story (although a case could be made for “The Checkmate Man,” a story that feels altogether more Ballardian). A more probable source is Ballard’s 1969 book The Atrocity Exhibition, republished in 1990 with illustrations by San Francisco-based underground comix artist Phoebe Gloeckner. This book shares “The Day of Forever”’s fascination with the idea of a reality that has in some sense collapsed. In “The Day of Forever” it is that time has effectively ceased, whereas in The Atrocity Exhibition it is that a number of ghoulish concepts have become conflated - in particular the precise machinery of cars and weapons and the extremes of human bodily experience. The book contains such memorable sections as “The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race,” which does precisely what its title suggests. “The course,” it explains, “ran downhill from the Book Depository, below an overpass, then on to the Parkland Hospital and from there to Love Air Field. It is one of the most hazardous courses in downhill motor racing, second only to the Sarajevo track discontinued in 1914.” It then pauses for a paragraph break before noting, sardonically, that “Kennedy went downhill rapidly.” 

Figure 15 - Gloeckner's precise, clinical illustrations
highlight The Atrocity Exhibition's disturbing
equation of sex and violence within the visual image
What is crucial about the collapsed world of The Atrocity Exhibition is that it is conceptually collapsed. Where Halliday is living through a collapsed psychic life, the main character of The Atrocity Exhibition, whose name shifts from chapter to chapter, lives a life where his outside references have collapsed. “‘Sixties iconography,” the book commences in one of its characteristic lists or inventories of objects in its strange exhibition, “the nasal prepuce of LBJ, crashed helicopters, the pudenda of Ralph Nader, Eichmann in drag, the climax of a New York happening: a dead child. In the patio at the center of the maze a young woman in a flowered white dress sat behind a desk covered with catalogues,” the paragraph continues, seamlessly altering its style, “her blanched skin exposed the hollow planes of her face. Like the Pilot, Talbot recognized her as a student at his seminar. Her nervous smile revealed the wound that disfigured the inside of her mouth.” 

This aggressively experimental prose style, very much unlike “The Day of Forever,” which feels more like the lyrically magical realist tales of Jorge Luis Borges than like the harsh cuts of The Atrocity Exhibition, resembles nothing so much as the clever dialogue trick on page one of “Time is a Four Letter Word.” This, then, is at least a plausible influence on Grant Morrison’s mash-up of pop culture detritus into a violent action conspiracy story in which the structure of time has spilled chaotically out over the world. And it’s miles from Halliday’s plight of a completely static world. “The Day of Forever” is a vast, silent structure of a world that’s come to a halt. Its outbreak of violence at the end stands as a blurry smear on an otherwise completely still textual landscape. The Atrocity Exhibition is brash, loud, and over-saturated in the way that Grant Morrison’s world and style clearly is.

It is also closer to the work that Ballard is remembered for. At least as a sci-fi writer, Ballard is remembered for 70s work like High Rise, a novel in which a luxury apartment community reduces to brutal and animalistic savagery. Its style is altogether more collected than The Atrocity Exhibition, but the same sense of strange hybridizations persists. Consider the odd fusing of action hero and domesticity in the passage, “Wilder watched her with respect. He had tangled with these crones more than once, and was well aware that they were capable of a surprising turn of speed. Without moving, he waited as she leaned over the landing rail and emptied the slops from the champagne bucket. The cold grease spattered Wilder and the dog, but neither made any response.” This is Ballard to a tee - a cracked mirror of our own material culture used to show us the cultural practices of another culture. 

Ballard is part of the so-called new wave of science fiction that arose in the 1960s and 70s in both the US and UK. In the US major figures included Alfred Bester, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Harlan Ellison, but in the UK the major names were J.G. Ballard and Michael Moorcock, about whom shortly. Like almost any literary movement new wave science fiction was diffuse and leaderless, although in the UK Moorcock, editor of its New Worlds, the magazine most associated with the approach, at least came close. Still, Ballard was a leading light, and his views on what science fiction are for are as reasonable to quote as anyone. 

For Ballard, at least, the goal of science fiction was to abandon outer space in favor of “inner space," which he defined in 1968, saying it’s “an imaginary realm in which on the one hand the outer world of reality, and on the other the inner world of the mind meet and merge. Now,” he continued, “in the landscapes of the surrealist painters, for example, one sees the regions of Inner Space; and increasingly I believe that we will encounter in film and literature scenes which are neither solely realistic nor fantastic. In a sense, it will be a movement in the interzone between both spheres.” This sense of eccentric spaces in the margins of things again evokes the odd fused worlds of Morrison’s initial stories. 

Another way to approach understand Ballard and the new wave is through William S. Burroughs, an American writer who provided a preface for The Atrocity Exhibition, declaring, much in line with Morrison and Ballard, “the line between inner and outer landscapes is breaking down. Earthquakes can result from seismic upheavals within the human mind. The whole random universe of the industrial age is breaking down into cryptic fragments,” though it’s unclear whether he’s talking about the book or the world around it. William S. Burroughs was the craggy end of the Beat Generation in America. People picking only two Beat writers select Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, but when the list gets extended to three the third name is William S. Burroughs. 

Figure 16 - Howl was released as a small,
affordable volume in 1956 and, like
The Atrocity Exhibition, found itself the
subject of an obscenity trial.
The Beats marked the first wave of postwar counterculture in America, self-identified by Kerouac in 1948. Somewhere between brilliant and screwed out of their heads with drugs, the Beats were joyfully narcissistic middle class rebels. Ginsberg self-identified as seeing “the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high up sat smoking in the supernatural darkness,” and continued in a similar vein for long enough to make “Howl” a mainstay of Intro to Poetry syllabi from English teachers looking for a work that “connects” to their late teenage students.

Burroughs provides no such easy access route, and is beloved less by the academic consensus than by generations of committed counterculture figures who, like Ballard and Moorcock, “weren’t so much influenced by him as inspired by him.” At times not so much a writer than a stunningly competent criminal, Burroughs effectively hit on the brilliant scheme of supporting a drug habit by writing about it. [continued]

Comments

Darren K. 3 years, 11 months ago

My Ballard is pretty much non-existent as I am fairly confident I will not like his writing, but I've had a smattering of Moorcock and don't really know where exactly to jump in with him, as I don't expect I am going to want to read all or even most of his work. Does he have an urtext? With Ballard it keeps coming back to The Atrocity Exhibition, it seems.

Any chance of a suggested reading list to keep up with entries to come?

Structurally, I think we've been spoiled by the Eruditorum. With the Morrison story using the metaphor of the record to show past and present happening simultaneously, it was actually surprising to see time falling away in this entry as we kept moving further back in time away from Near Myths.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

I understand that The Crystal World and The Drowned World are more critically acclaimed and more accessible. The Drowned World I've read as it used to be available in Gollancz's SF Masterworks series. If what puts you off Ballard is the descriptions of injured bodies, The Drowned World is as I remember it fairly free from them.

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

It would be as difficult to recommend a Moorcock 'ur-text' as it would be to suggest one for Doctor Who. Moorcock is not only frighteningly prolific but also a capricious genre-hopper. In the context of where I believe Doctor Sandifer is coming from and in particular in regard to both Morrison and Doctor Who I suppose the Jerry Cornelius novels and short stories are as good a place as any to dive in. They are available in various editions and, to quote the author, 'may be read in any order'. Ballard is not to everyone's taste. He is a minimalist detached observer where Moorcock is more the anarchic psychedelic magpie. Again the already mentioned 'The Atrocity Exhibition' is pure Ballard in experimental mode but I would perhaps reccomend his 'Vermillion Sands' short stories as a more accessible entre.

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

'For Ballard, at least, the goal of science fiction was to abandon outer space in favor of “inner space," which he defined in 1968, saying it’s “an imaginary realm in which on the one hand the outer world of reality, and on the other the inner world of the mind meet and merge. Now,” he continued, “in the landscapes of the surrealist painters, for example, one sees the regions of Inner Space; and increasingly I believe that we will encounter in film and literature scenes which are neither solely realistic nor fantastic. In a sense, it will be a movement in the interzone between both spheres.” '

It's quite startling how prescient this statement was when one considers the subsequent development of magic realism, post-modernism and the experimentation of movie makers like David Lynch. I also wonder how much of the the almost purely symbolic id-monsters like the Silence and the Whisper Men, the fairy-tale tropes, symbolism and pop-culture historicals of current Doctor Who owe to these SF New Wave attitudes. I think 'Lets Kill Hitler' and 'The Wedding of River Song' were pure Moorcock style romps.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

My memory of growing up in the UK in the 80s is that everyone who was interested in fantasy or sf read Moorcock. Even if you didn't like surrealism or inner space, and preferred Str Trek or Star Wars, you read Moorcock.
That being so, I'd suppose that anything in Doctor Who that looks like it could have been even remotely influenced by Moorcock almost certainly is influenced by Moorcock. And I'd say the vast majority of Doctor Who that's any good from the Williams-era onwards falls into that category.

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Spoilers Below 3 years, 11 months ago

The best short, self-contained novel is probably "Behold the Man," which introduces most of his various ideas and idiosyncrasies while simultaneously being a completely brilliant subversion of the life and death of Christ. It won a Nebula in 1967. It's a pretty good litmus test of which Moorcock stories you're going to enjoy, based on which parts you liked and hated.

You could also do worse than to pick up the first volume of the White Wolf reprints of his books, "The Eternal Champion," and reading those in order. The first is terribly easy to find, the later less so, but it's also a good introduction to the man and his works.

The best route into his fantasy stylings are probably the Elric stories, containing the seeds of the Eternal Champion stories, the conflict between Law and Chaos, the various gods which inhabit his world, etc. They are definitely early works, however, and written in conscious reaction to the Conan archetype of the strong and willing hero. No less greedy, mind you. More of a mirror image than a true inversion. These are the ones up there with Leiber's "Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" and Peake's "Gormenghast" in terms of "stories you ought to read if you like fantasy." The Corum and Hawkmoon stories are similarly imaginative fantasy, and you could start with those with no prior knowledge and still have a good time.

If you didn't like Ballard, I'd recommend holding off on Jerry Cornelius. They're very good stories, but also very much in the "As things fell apart, nobody paid much attention" school of eschatological writing. The first novel is a pretty straightforward spy romp (which also rewrites the first Elric story in its first half, if you like connecting things), but the later novels get a bit experimental. I love them, but I can see how others would find the style irritating.

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Spacewarp 3 years, 11 months ago

I avidly devoured every Moorcock book I could get in the 70s, more for the meta-story of the Eternal Champion than for the individual books. About 4 years ago I began picking them up again in second-hand bookshops and although I enjoyed revisiting my childhood, I found a lot of them absolutely reeked of the 70s.

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IG 3 years, 11 months ago

They do. But I still find them a lot of fun. And at least they're short :-)

I second the recommendation for 'Behold the Man', too. Terrific novel (arguably even better in its original novella form, which is, or was, in one of his collections.)

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Dave 3 years, 11 months ago

Blog readers were asked to devise the optimum sex-death of Grant Morrison.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 11 months ago

The Atrocity Exhibition is one style of Ballard, and the most aggressive, but he's done plenty else. "The Day of Forever," as I said, feels more like Borges than Burroughs. Empire of the Sun is probably quite canonical as well, though I've actually not gotten around to it.

Moorcock fans will enjoy the next two weeks.

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

I replied earlier but my post vanished. (?)

I'd recommend Ballard's 'Vermillion Sands' set of short stories and of course 'Crash'. BBC Radio 4 recently did adaptations of ,'The Drowned World' and 'Concrete Island' which sounded pretty good. If you like audio-drama You might want to search those out. As to Moorcock - trying to suggest an 'ur-text' is as difficult as attempting the same for Doctor Who. Moorcock's genre-crashing is just as eclectic. Give me a clue as to what kind of literature you enjoy and I'll suggest an appropriate Moorcock book.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 11 months ago

Sorry - spamtrap got feisty. I've freed your comment from the abyss.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 11 months ago

Final Crisis, surely.

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Spacewarp 3 years, 11 months ago

Of course no discussion about Mike Moorcock would be complete without mention of the band Hawkwind. Between the years 1969 and 1975 they constantly mirrored one another, with Moorcock performing with the band while Hawkwind cameod in his novels, and with events in the band's history sometimes being used as plot points especially in Jerry Cornelius novels.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

From a Doctor Who point of view, I'd recommend the Dancers at the End of Time sequence as the Moorcock book most directly influential on the series.

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

Like most SF and Fantasy Moorcock's canon says more about the time it was created than anything else. Sometimes this is with deliberate satirical effect as in the earlier Cornelius novels, sometimes, as in the Eternal Champion's more Sword and Sorcery series it is a reflection or an echo of contemporary mores and attitudes; specifically the hippy rock n roll bohemia of west London in the sixties and seventies.

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

Thanks :)

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Spoilers Below 3 years, 11 months ago

And if not that, then Morrison-Con.

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Darren K. 3 years, 11 months ago

"Give me a clue as to what kind of literature you enjoy and I'll suggest an appropriate Moorcock book."

Thanks for the offer, Anton. I'm embarrassingly picky when it comes to literature, but I read some Elric when I was a kid, though I don't think I really got them. I also read Moorcock's Doctor Who novel, which I thought was a hilarious take on "What if GK Chesterton wrote Doctor Who"? Otherwise, I generally enjoy Gaiman and Angela Carter, I think Grapes of Wrath might be a perfect novel, and Alexander Dumas is still a much more enjoyable writer than most writers alive today. And, strangely, I will read pretty much any novel about stage magicians. So what bit of Moorcock should I read?

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 11 months ago

Hyenas.

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elvwood 3 years, 11 months ago

I was another reader of Moorcock in the 1970s who drifted away in the '80s.

Ironically I didn't get into Hawkwind until about the time I was getting out of Moorcock. Interesting band - when I went to see them the audience seemed to have decided there was a dress code, but couldn't agree on whether it was denim & leather or afghans. I still listen to them fairly regularly.

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elvwood 3 years, 11 months ago

Nibbled to death by an okapi.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 11 months ago

Cramming Moorcock in a short period for this piece was interesting - I ended up doing very, very fast readings of Dancers at the End of Time, two Elrics, and two Jerry Cornelius books along with a lot of interviews. I don't think I actually *like* his stuff very much, although I find it terribly easy to like him.

There's a project I have zero intention of ever writing about the evolution of fantasy as a genre starting with the death of Robert E Howard and continuing to the present day. It would be fantastic, really. I must find someone to trick into writing it for me like I did Josh with Vaka Rangi.

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Tim 3 years, 11 months ago

If you liked his Doctor Who novel, then you should definitely read The Dancers at the End of Time. It has much of the same kind of humour, although I found Dancers to be much funnier. "Blood: A Southern Fantasy" the first book in his Second Ether trilogy is also I think a very good place to start. (And it also has some links with a lot of the multiverse material in the Doctor Who novel).

I'm always wary of recommending the earlier fantasy stuff such as Elric, Corum etc. I understand much of those books written over the space of a few days to pay for New Worlds, and while they have a certain wild energy which is a refreshing alternative to modern fantasy, they're often wildly variable in quality.

I think, the Cornelius Quartet is probably the best thing he has ever written (or at least the last two books in particular). Its very experimental, but I'm not sure there's any real particular reason not to just start there.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 11 months ago

There's a systematic parallelism between the first few Elric stories (first published, not first in diegetic chronology) and the first few chapters of the first Jerry Cornelius novel.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 11 months ago

Elric seems intended to be the anti-Conan. Conan is physically strong and wary of magic; Elric is physically weak and reliant on magic, Conan is a wandering warrior who becomes a king; Elric is a king who becomes a wandering warrior.

He's also the anti-Frodo -- he tries to use the Evil Object for good (with mixed results).

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BerserkRL 3 years, 11 months ago

Moorcock's books are in multiple genres but all interconneceted. To get a sense of his work one should read a) an Elric story, b) a Cornelius story, c) a Karaquazian story, d) an End of Time story, e) a Colonel Pyat book, and f) The Brothel in Rosenstrasse.

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

Darren K

Yeah I pretty much agree with Tim's recommendations above. I reckon the 'Dancers at the End of Time' trilogy and the Cornelius novels are the ones for you. Jherek Carnelian (The protagonist of 'Dancers') is a version of Jerry Cornelius from the other books. Actually most of Moorcock's characters have counterparts or versions of themselves elsewhere in other books. Or as BerserkRL describes - a systematic parallelism. Main characters in one novel will have walk-on parts in others and so forth. Part of the fun of getting into Moorcock is spotting them. Enjoy!

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

Jerry Cornelius I believe was always envisaged by Moorcock as a kind of hipper James Bond. The same fetishisation of gadgets, designer clothes and cool modernity shot through with a cynical disregard for life and a satirical bitchiness all filtered through a druggy haze of psychedelic Rock and time travel. I understand he always wanted Mick Jagger to play Jerry in the movie of 'The Final Programme' but he turned the part down as 'Too weird' and then ironically went on to play Turner in 'Performance' who was very much written as the same kind of character.

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

Locked in the Tardis with Alan Moore.

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Jesse 3 years, 11 months ago

Burroughs provides no such easy access route

I think he's actually the most accessible of the Big Three Beats, because of his recordings. I remember hearing him on one of the old Dial-a-Poem Poets albums on a college radio station in my teens, and I was hooked immediately. Since then the Dead City Radio and Spare Ass Annie CDs have come out. Both are very inviting, if not to everyone than at least to listeners with a dark sense of humor. And once you've heard his voice, it's a lot easier to handle his prose, even when it's extremely experimental.

Burroughs had a much bigger impact on me in my teen and college years than either Ballard or Moorcock. (And Ballard had a bigger impact than Moorcock. I've actually read very little Moorcock. Or at least it feels that way, given how much he's written.)

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Josiah Rowe 3 years, 11 months ago

Apologies if this has already been mentioned, but the magical war between Moore and Morrison must be in the zeitgeist right now, as I just discovered this:

http://youtu.be/RE3wBUn-0p8

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Spacewarp 3 years, 11 months ago

When I first began reading Moorcock I was about 11 or 12, and took his work at face value as serious fantasy. Much later I realised I'd missed quite a lot of the irony in his work. Moorcock seems to be one of those writers who can spend years crafting a novel, or churn out a fantasy trilogy in months, and they will be equally readable. At this stage of his career he's got so much past material to draw on that it's almost second nature for him to drag one of his Eternal Champions through the wringer for yet another novel, and whatever else, it'll be enjoyable.

A lot of his fantasy work hovers continually on the borders of self-parody (and in some cases may even have crossed it).

"The Stone Thing" is arguably the most self-aware work he's ever written, and manages to condense his whole fantasy oeuvre into a few paragraphs.

It's only 3 pages long, but it's worth it:

http://goo.gl/4eYkA

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Darren K. 3 years, 11 months ago

Thanks for the recommendations - I have ordered Dancers at the End of Time Complete in One Volume and shall see how it goes. It started well as I Looked Inside on Amazon, so I await its delivery.

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Andrew McLean 3 years, 10 months ago

In relation to Moorcock's best-known fantasy characters, it's probably worth mentioning that Elric is the character he returned to most frequently and recently. He wrote two new novels around 1990 and a trilogy in the early 2000s. An Elric variant also turned up in the Second Ether series.

The Von Bek family is worth keeping an eye out for, with "The City in the Autumn Stars" being of particular interest to readers of this blog due to its strong alchemical element.

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Daru 2 years, 3 months ago

Great to hear the discussion (after the fact!) on Moorcock. As well as devouring his books, the work of Burroughs certainly was a massive influence on me as a student.

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John 1 year, 11 months ago

Your description of Burroughs is pretty shameful and reductionist. Burroughs was never a competent criminal, as the facts of his life and his writing attest to. And he wrote about more than just mere criminality.

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 9 months ago

I'd point out that on the other end of Book One of Last War in Albion I approvingly describe Alan Moore as a con man.

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