Elric

After ten thousand years, the Bright Empire of Melnibone is in decline, its fall hastened by the return of its former ruler, Elric, a feeble albino who wields the all-powerful Stormbringer, a sword capable of sucking the souls of its victims and imparting its owner with superhuman abilities. Elric exacts his revenge on his opportunistic cousin, the tyrant Yyrkoon, and in so doing, damns his own people to a nomadic struggle for survival. A pariah as a result of his treachery, Elric wanders a world caught in the cosmic clash between the forces or Law and Chaos, discovering sweet victories, bitter defeats, love, and loss along the way.
Growing up, I counted the Elric series among my very favorites (alongside Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series) because it was the antithesis to the straightforward good vs. evil fantasy tradition cemented by Tolkien. Unlike the genre’s traditional protagonists, Elric is an anti-hero who, quite frankly, skirts dangerously close to outright villain territory. In the first installment of The Stealer of Souls, “The Dreaming City”, he gains entry to Yyrkoon’s palace only to come across his loyal servant Tanglebones lying near death, struck down while attempting to secretly follow through on his orders. “Master – I’m sorry…”apologizes a dying Tanglebones. “So you should be,”is Elric’s response – although he immediately tempers this by thanking the old man and vowing to avenge him. Then, later, in attempting to flee the forces of Dyvim Tvar and his fellow dragon-riders, Elric abandons his former allies to a fiery fate while he makes good his escape: “He deserted the man who had trusted him, Count Smiorgan, and watched as venom poured from the sky and engulfed him in a glazing green and scarlet flame.”

And yet, he is a man conflicted, cursed with a conscience that will never let him forget those he sacrificed to Stormbringer, unwillingly or not. His inner turmoil is in marked contrast to the joyful violence he metes out in battle, and his frosty demeanor belies an ultimately lonely soul who, at one point, risks all for love. Despite a brooding, morose, and brutal nature, there are flashes of vulnerability in this dangerous warrior, particularly as evidenced through his friendship with his sidekick Moonglum. It’s the exchanges between these two, the spirited sense camaraderie and respect, that really grounds Elric, making his journey and ultimate end that much more tragic.

This new edition collects the author’s early works in the series, presenting them in the order in which they were first published though nevertheless offering a satisfying beginning, middle, and end to Elric’s epic tale. It also includes cover art by our friend John Picacio, James Cawthorn’s original artwork from those early publications, a foreword by Alan Moore, an early review, some essays and, most interestingly of all, an introduction by Michael Moorcock in which he sheds some light on his work, Elric, and the fantasy genre as a whole. It’s a great addition to any fan’s library (of which I am one) but I, of course, had the benefit of familiarity. I wonder how first-timers found this edition. Was it satisfying? Did the finality of the last story preclude the possibility of purchasing the second volume or did it, instead, instill a desire to “fill in the gaps”?

It’s been a while since I’ve read these stories, but I found them as engaging and fiercely imaginative as I did the first time around.  An incredibly charismatic anti-hero, plenty of action, and a grand storyline  – all set against a thrilling  metaphysical backdrop.  What more could you ask for?   

So, those are my preliminary thoughts. What did everyone else think? Start weighing in with your opinion. I’ll be gathering questions for author Michael Moorcock until Wednesday, so start posting.

 

 

31 thoughts on “June 8, 2009: Elric: The Stealer of Souls, by Michael Moorcock

  1. I, um, can’t say I adored Elric: The Stealer of Souls this second time round.

    The first time I read the Elric stories, as a kid, I was enthralled. Here was sword and sorcery fantasy as I’d never read it before, with a hero who wasn’t terribly likeable, and, better yet, the books weren’t huge bricks, so I could lug them with me to school with relative ease, to be read later in class, half hidden under my desk.

    This time…I don’t know. Certain things hit a nerve, and by the end of the third short story, I was contemplating giving up the re-read. Look, one of the huge problems I have with a lot of fantasy novels is that, all too often, women characters become objects — there to be rescued by the brave knight; there for the brave knight to cry over when he fails to get there in time; there to manipulate the brave knight into doing the wrong thing because they (women) are just that nasty; there as a reward for a job bravely done. The women don’t DO anything except act as a plot device to spur the hero onto his heroic path, or to reward the hero for his brave endeavors.

    As a kid, this didn’t bother me as much, because I identified with the anti-heroes, like Raistlin and Elric and Tarod, who do the right thing, but for their own reasons (which often did not include a great love or appreciation for humanity in general). As characters, they’re very interesting to read about because they are so human — they express all the darker base urges we all like to pretend we don’t have — cowardice, betrayal, arrogance, indifference to the troubles of the people around them. All the things that Hollywood movies and TV shows tell us heroes don’t do/think.

    But, I’m not a kid any more, and I want to read stories where women are more than seventeen-year-old prizes for a hero with an evil soul-sucking blade.

    I blogged about my disenchantment about this matter elsewhere — one of the conversations early on in the book between Elric and Dyvim Tvar has them discussing the fall of Imrryr, with Elric trying to defend his betrayal of his homeland and his people (If I hadn’t have done it, someone else would have come along and launched the attack, so really you ought to be thanking me as I was just making sure you all got nearly wiped out while you were still strong enough to recover and rebuild yourselves) and Dyvim Tvar goes on to say:

    “That is one point of view, Elric–and it has truth in it, I’ll grant you. But tell it to the men who lost their kin and their homes because of you. Tell it to the warriors who had to tend maimed comrades, to brothers, fathers and husbands whose wives, daughters and sisters–proud Melnibonean women–were used to pleasure the barbarian pillagers.”

    And, you know, that quote right there really pushed a button for me. I mean, God forbid that those poor men should have to stand and watch as their womenfolk were despoiled. How awful! Such tragedy. Who cares about the women, who were only raped, after all — it’s all about the men and their poor, poor feelings.

    Someone much smarter than me pointed out in comments to my frothing and ranting that the Melniboneans are kind of like Tolkien’s Elves, only they’re the total bastards such a long-lived and magically powerful race would likely be. And in such a world it is not entirely surprising that their views are kind of backward when it comes to things like gender equality. And also that Dyvim Tvar is a soldier, and, as such, is likely to feel more the shame of his failure to protect those under his care than to sympathize with the hurt those women experienced. And, yes, I can certainly see and sympathize with this reading. Nonetheless, it was at this point in the book where I started to feel the story was not for me.

    I did finish the book, and was mildly amused to see Zorazinia arrive (hello, reward for job well done), get rescued (every man’s dream is to rescue his princess, I guess), and depart (oh, yay, more angst for Elric). I would not say that Zorazinia is my favourite ever female character, as is probably readily apparent.

    I did like the bigger themes in the books — with the battle between chaos and order, and Elric choosing to end his world to restore the balance. One thing that struck me throughout the stories was how human Elric seemed. Not evil, or wicked, but human. I mean, aside from the first story in which Elric betrays his people’s trust by showing the raiders how to get into Imrryr so they can lay waste to it, and then betraying the raiders to make good on his own escape, Elric never really does anything I’d consider evil, per se. When Cymoril is killed by Elric’s sword, it is because she is pulled onto that sword by her brother, not because Elric sought to kill her — not so much murder as manslaughter. When he kills his friends, it’s because his hand is guided by the sword — unless…is that just Elric’s excuse?

    And I loved the style of the stories — the flow of the language, the imagery, and the world-building. The stories felt epic, if that makes sense? And for all that I did not care for the way the women in these stories were portrayed, there is no denying that the stories themselves are entertaining to read. They’re well plotted, and the adventures of Moonglum and Elric are certainly never boring or predictable. And I liked the way the inanimate Stormbringer came to develop a personality of her own through the stories. The ending was pretty much the only way it could have ended, I think.

    Will I read the next book? I…don’t know. I don’t think I am the target audience for epic fantasy any more.

  2. This was my first time reading Elric and I did enjoy it very much. Elric is complex in a way that most people in reality are complex. As a teenager, I met thieves, drug dealers, and a couple of convicted murderers (yes, I had an interesting childhood). All of the criminals I have met COULD be very nice and charming. So it is refreshing to read a book that doesn’t have the character be completely sinner or a saint. Mr. Moorcock’s imagination seems to have no bounds! Every detail was so rich. Yes, I will read more of Elric’s adventures but I did think the ending with Stormbringer was appropriate.

    My questions for Mr. Moorcock are:

    Elric’s world was so detailed with layers upon layers of stories/myths. These stories were written over a period of time. How did you keep all of these details straight? Are there any details that you goofed on, that you can share with us? 😀 The back book cover mentioned a movie deal. Any word on that?

    Thank you,
    Tam

  3. I’ll probably post comments throughout the night – or as they come to me. I’m still trying to absorb it all…

    I have only skimmed over the supplimental bits – gleaned only a little from them because I didn’t want it affecting my view of the character until after I was finished reading.

    Not really sure where to start. I love unpredictable heroes…the guy you’re not quite sure will save you, or kill you. I also love a conflicted hero, the one who fights the darkness while struggling for the light…the guy with more inner struggles than Imelda Marcos has shoes. This is what draws me to characters such as Wolverine. However, even Wolverine doesn’t have everything.

    See, I also love the character who – despite being strong in battle, is weak in constitution. That weakness can be anything, from fatigue to illness to just being racked by fear and apprehension. And sometimes, it’s just the burden of responsibility. It is that burden that leads to alienation, that makes him the man alone, that makes him the Eternal Champion. This is what draws me to characters such as Horatio Hornblower. However, even Hornblower doesn’t have everything.

    Why? Because I love a ‘hero’ who doesn’t feel a need to apologize – who is what he is because it is his nature. Afterall, it is that nature that defines him. And I am particularly drawn to ‘heroes’ who eventually must give in and sate their deepest desires to survive – no matter how dark they must become in order to do so. This is what draws me to characters such as Todd.

    However, even ‘Todd’ doesn’t have everything, but – combined with ‘Wolverine’, and ‘Hornblower’ – in Elric I have found that perfect anti-hero I have long searched for, ever since conflicted souls first caught my attention.

    It is really hard for me to know where to start. I’ll start near the end, as it is fresh in my mind. I have three favorite moments, each touching on that which I mentioned above.

    First, Elric’s relationship with Moonglum. I knew what was coming, only I had no idea how it would unfold. Honestly, I expected Stormbringer to suddenly take Moonglum’s soul, as it had done to so many others. I was not ready for Moonglum’s sacrifice. I think this was the most poignant moment in the entire series, both in showing the depth of their affection for one another, and in what each – at that moment – had to sacrifice in order to usher in a new world and save the earth for men who would never even know they had ever existed. In this, I was reminded of Wolverine who – on more than one occasion – had to slay a friend for the greater good.

    Second, I felt so much pity for Elric as he struggled to saddle Flamefang, as he fought his physical weakness, pushing himself to the point of near-death. I’m not sure if what I feel is what the average ‘whumper’ feels, because for me it is about defining what a man is made of. Though Elric is physically weak, his will is astonishingly strong, driven by a fledgling conscience and all the emotions an ordinary Melnibonéan would be loath to entertain.

    But it’s also about how his comrades react to his weakness, to the burdens he carried in both his duty, and in his physical body. I was particularly touched at the way Moonglum and Dyvim Slorm avoided looking at their friend and kinsman to save him any unnecessary embarrassment. I think more than the man’s weakness that appeals to me, is how those closest to him react…how they feel for one surrounded by friends, and yet so utterly alone. This was very much like a page out of Hornblower, distanced in so many ways from those who cared as he struggled with his weaknesses and burdens alone.

    But the thing that truly sealed it for me was when Elric reminded me of what he truly was. He was not human, but a proud Melnibonéan – a cruel and vengeful race born to serve Chaos. He showed his true, unapologetic nature, and I loved it. Loved how he took Moonglum’s sword and – with a ‘half-aware smile’ – tortured and mutilated Jagreen Lern for an hour before the man finally gave way to death. Now – for any who have not read Elric of Melniboné – this moment was far from graphic. But having read that book first, I am well-aware of what unremorseful Melnibonéan torture is like…the slow hacking away of flesh and appendages to spite the screams and moans of the dying. To Elric it was nothing – it was his nature – that which he was since before he was ever born. And you all know who THAT reminds me of! 😉

    These are my first thoughts (if the week goes well, hopefully not my last). I am very impressed with what Moorcock created here, especially at such a young age. Elric has become an iconic fantasy [anti]hero, but it goes far beyond that, since the stories can be read on two levels – for the adventure, and for the deeper musings of cosmic balance and the Champion Eternal. But I’ll leave that for another post.

    I just want to leave this post on a more…amusing…note. As this book is written in the gothic style, full of symbolism and erotic suggestion, I couldn’t help get a little chuckle out of this passage from Kings in Darkness:

    ”He seized her, kissing her with a deeper need than that of passion. For the first time Cymoril of Imrryr was forgotten as [Elric and Zarozinia] lay down, together on the soft turf, oblivious of Moonglum who polished away at his curved sword with wry jealousy.” 😆

    A bit obvious, wouldn’t you say?? Wasn’t Moonglum your favorite, Joe? 😉 And yeah…I’m a perv. You don’t have to tell me again. 😛

    das

  4. @ iamza – That’s funny…the way women were treated didn’t bother me at all, but perhaps that’s because I went into this story knowing it was written in the gothic style, which often featured the terrorized heroine in need of rescue (I also grew up loving those old Vincent Price E. A. Poe movies and…so…yeah. Guess I don’t have much of a problem with misogyny in fiction). Also, having been to Moorcock’s forum, I am well-aware of his feminist activism, so perhaps I read nothing into his portrayal of women in the book, since I have come to learn his views are quite the opposite in real life.

    Anyway, I forget which book it was in (in this one, or another of the Del Rey series), but I was particularly moved by the reaction of Moonglum, and Elric, to the suggested rape of the young girl in the city of…Nadsokor, I believe (again, forget which book it was in). Moonglum is sickened by what is about to happen, and wants to intervene, but Elric tells him to ignore it, and stick to the mission. I had the feeling that Elric wasn’t as cold as he pretended to be at that moment – perhaps based on the hint of doubt in Moonglum’s reaction.

    As far as his own people were concerned – well…this is where I see Elric as being very much a Melnibonéan. He was driven by revenge and hate to destroy his entire culture to spite just one man. Or was he spiting just one? Did he, perhaps, feel rejected by the whole? I’m not sure…but I think it was a fine example of how cold Elric’s blood could run when he was hellbent on getting his way. (He also did it for love, but that is not an emotion embraced by Melnibonéans.)

    I keep in mind, too, what ‘Stormbringer’ said over his dead body at the end – “Farewell, friend. I was a thousand times more evil than thou!” Ah, yes…that sword knew the hand that wielded it often did so with restraint, with moral questionings, and even with remorse when he couldn’t stop it from taking a friend.

    More later…

    das

  5. @iamaza Loved your comment, it really resonated.

    But, I’m not a kid any more, and I want to read stories where women are more than seventeen-year-old prizes for a hero with an evil soul-sucking blade.

    So true! When I think about the movies that I used to love as a kid, James Bond, Terence Hill and Bud Spencer etc, etc, it was all very much A Man’s World, which was fine until I hit puberty and suddenly noticed the women on screen and realised that they weren’t remotely identifable to myself or any of the females that I knew. It’s called getting caught in the crossfire between entertainment shaped by blokes for blokes and that women are pretty much a non-issue except to offer a bit of cleverage or a plate of cookies depending on where they fall on the scale of sex object to mother figure. (But then again that’s another reason why I loathed romance novels in High School because of the one-dimensional gender stereotyping – they were good for sending up though). I still love a bit of Boys Own Adventure Tales but not so much any more at the expense of having to wade through a whole lot of misogyny to get to it, or to settle on it being about the only option out there.

    It’s getting better though: Six Feet Under, 30 Rock, Sarah Connor Chronicles etc, etc, and the same definitely goes for the books section, though I have to agree I’m not sure that I’m prepared to re-dip my toes back into epic fantasy any time soon, which may be a bit unfair being dismissive of an entire genre, but it saves me becoming frustrated and throwing books across the room.

    (This is a sidenote and in reply to Iamaza, not a comment on the book in question as I haven’t read it.)

  6. @ iamza – That’s funny…the way women were treated didn’t bother me at all,

    @ das: You’ve already mentioned in previous comments though that you don’t particularly identify with women in real life and that you would never see a female doctor etc, so you may be coming at this from a different starting viewpoint. 🙂

  7. Phooey–I still need to pick it up at the library. Focused on treating my month-long, enervating symptoms last week. Putting task on my cell phone reminders for tomorrow.

  8. @ dovil – Yes. I probably am. Female characters have always been ‘background noise’ for me, with a few exceptions. There ARE some I like (Nora Charles! Miss Marple! The Vicar of Dibley!! ), but usually I see them as expendable fluff (in fiction, not in real life, of course). Men, however…intrigue the heck out of me, and I can watch them forever.

    And I DO have many female friends – I am just not a typical ‘female friend’ – I don’t want to gossip for hours on the phone, or go shopping for shoes, or talk about babies. But if you wanna go to the Civil War re-enactment and watch ’em fire the cannons, THEN we’re talking! 😀

    das

  9. @ das: I am very glad to hear that Michael Moorcock’s views are more enlightened than those of the average Melnibonean. I did not intend to insinuate that Moorcock himself is sexist — I know that fictional characters often espouse viewpoints and opinions that are not those of the author.

    I will admit that in my original posting on the matter, in my blog, I did question whether the vintage of the stories might suggest why the women characters in Elric’s world seemed so…gothically passive. It was brought home to me by a commenter that that was possibly not a fair assessment, and that, in a world in which Melniboneans walk the Earth, it is entirely plausible that attitudes towards women might be less enlightened.

    Nevertheless, I cannot help but think it would be a good thing if there were a few more fantasy novels which featured characters as well rounded and developed as Elric, but where those characters also happened to be female.

    I don’t know that I necessarily regard a need for vengeance as evil so much as human. I mean, it is such a natural reaction to want to inflict pain on someone who has hurt you. Elric just takes it about three steps too far. Which, well, as you say, he is Melnibonean. More than that, he is Melnibonean royalty, and a sorcerer to boot. I think that’s part of why I so liked the scenes between him and Moonglum — because Moonglum does offer such a contrast, being not only human, witout magical powers or swords, but also not of noble birth. Moonglum is the new world to Elric’s ancient one.

  10. I think why male characters might hit a note more maybe because they tend to be the protagonist that drives the story forward while female characters tend to be in the background either bandaging wounds or unbandaging pants(?) Plus male characters are allowed to have a sense of humour and fun and apparently female characters either are designated the no-fun zone if their clothing is to remain on. Also the POV is most often always a male one. Though saying all this I don’t think it’s true if you want to get fussy and search the good stuff out – it is there. Female characters can get to be people too!

    am just not a typical ‘female friend’ – I don’t want to gossip for hours on the phone, or go shopping for shoes, or talk about babies.

    None of my female friends are like that. I’m not like that. And I don’t think that’s necessarily atypical, no matter what popular culture might say.

  11. Okay, last comment/question for tonight, I promise (especially after the TL:DR first comment — um, sorry about that), but I couldn’t help noticing you’d recently read DMZ vol 1, and the first volume of Krueger/Ross’s Justice. What did you think of them?

    (I have read the latter — though in floppy rather than TPB collected format. It was odd because every second issue, I thought Justice was the greatest thing ever, but then the next month’s issue would arrive, and I’d be thinking it was kind of meh. I’m curious if reading the story in almost one sitting makes for a more enjoyable reading experience. As for the former, I haven’t read it, but I keep picking it up and putting it back in the comic store. Would you recommend it?).

  12. Sorry for a fairly generic review, but i don’t have my book at hand to affirm specifics. Been quite a few years since I’ve read any of the Elric stories(or played a Melnibonean in a rpg). I rather enjoyed the jaunt through memory lane, with some of the stories seeming to be ones I’ve never seen. I enjoyed the chronological layout of the tales, letting us see the development of this anti-hero.
    On the plus side to the stories. How the lines of evil and good blur. Elric, as a product of a Chaos-born race, is the distilled essense of what we should consider evil. Yet repeatedly he shows little stomach for what we expect to be natural for his race. His actions always leave us wondering. He’s capable of destroying his own kingdom, yet risks his life to save human lives, cities, and ultimately civilizations. He is a brooder not so far removed from emotions that he cannot love, or laugh, or enjoy friendship. And his relationship with Stormbringer underpin the entire set of stories. When Stormbringer is locked away gathering cobwebs Elric is most unrecognisable. Only when he draws on the blade’s power, and struggles to master it(and sometimes being mastered) do we see Elric laid at his barest.
    Next to his relationship with Stormbringer, Moonglum’s role in Elric’s life is the most pivotal relationship. I believe you used the term grounded. And it fits very well. Some relationships are just meant to be. Punch and Judy, Abbot and Costello, Mallozzi and Mullie, Elric and Moonglum. Moonglum’s final moments are among the most heartrending of the entire series. And that brings to mind the final aspect of the series that draws my admiration. That’s the sheer scope of Moorcock’s vision. Law and Chaos, rise and fall of entire worlds, and how events focuse on the incarnations of the Eternal Champion.
    The only downticks that come to mind, and they are VERY minor, include Elric’s sometimes obsessive breastbeating. Yes, we understand he is locked into a symbiotic rlationship he does not desire, but every so often his constant moaning just rubs the wrong way. the other thing that bothered me, especially in the earlier stories, is how Elric and the Melniboneans seem too human. Later, we get a better sense of their inhumanness, but in the early stories there is little to mark them apart from greater humanity other than the longevity of their Empire and their dragon riding.
    As for Aimza’s complaint. Well, I tend to make allowances for certain genres, and to when they are written. in this case at least I didn’t find it distracting from the overall stories.
    So, glad to see this as a BotM club selection. I’ll try to come up with some questions by tomorrow night, if I can get over the starstruck aspect of questiong Mr. Moorcock. Thanks Mr. M. for choosing this book.

  13. @ iamza – I just assumed that the reason for his portrayal of women in this fashion was the gothic style of the writing – it was an influence, and also popular at the time (my sister used to read all those gothic romances – you know the ones…American girl inherits castle in England, is wooed by rich Lord, is in constant danger and fears for her life, poor stable boy is suspected, rich Lord is discovered to be the bad guy, poor stable boy comes to the rescue, and first kiss in the book is on the last page, in the last sentence on the page).

    Onto other things…

    I do think the Melnibonéan attitude towards women was less enlightened. In Elric of Melniboné (I think) he reflects how the marriage festivities would involve the rape of the women of the city (or something to that effect). They were a race without conscience, without moral, and so such brutalities were mere entertainments and rituals to them.

    I just read a short story about Elric (which takes place immediately after The Dreaming City) called A Portrait In Ivory – it sheds much light on Elric’s inner struggles – not so much in word, but in expression and body language. He is such a wonderfully conflicted character – cold and cruel like the rest of his kind, and yet full of remorse and emotion, so unlike his kind and more like humans. It is only a few pages long, and will probably be included in an upcoming Del Rey book…but it was very touching and well worth the read.

    As far as going after his cousin, I didn’t mean to suggest that Elric’s desire for vengeance was ‘evil’ – no, not at all. Vengeance can be quite just. But in Elric it was a self-serving, and self-destructive, need, don’t you think? He would have his vengeance, at any cost. There are other stories in the saga that suggest this. My husband has just finished The Dreaming City, and he keeps calling Elric ‘stupid’. 😆 In a way, Elric is. He sometimes allows his determination to ‘win’ blind him to dangers of the course he’s taking. Is that being an idealist, thinking only good can come because that’s what you expect to happen? Or is it being stupid and foolhardy?

    My favorite scene between Elric and Mooglum (besides the ending) is in The Sleeping Sorceress – in fact, I think that book is my favorite of all. But that wasn’t part of this book, so I don’t want to drag too much of it in here. Still, I will just share this bit (it is after the two have struggled for days in the snow, and Elric is physically exhausted…Moonglum helps him take some wine):

    “You are – a good friend – I wonder why…”

    Moonglum turned away with an embarrassed grunt. He began to prepare the meat which he intended to roast over the fire.

    He had never understood his friendship with the albino. It had always been a peculiar mixture of reserve and affection, a fine balance which both men were careful to maintain, even in situations of this kind.

    Elric, since his passion for Cymoril had resulted in her death and the destruction of the city he loved, had at all times feared bestowing any tender emotion on those he fell in with.

    …He disdained most company save Moonglum’s, and Moonglum, too, became quickly bored by anyone other than the crimson-eyed prince of Imrryr. Moonglum would die for Elric and he knew that Elric would risk any danger to save his friend.

    There is a little more – more that suggests they are part of each other – the Champion Eternal and his Companion – parts of the whole.

    It really helped me understand their relationship – they are opposites who compliment each other – much like a man and his wife. Different, opposites, even…yet together they are whole.

    das

  14. @ dovil – Unfortunately, many of my female friends are interested in girly things. There are exceptions, but most are more interested in family life and friends, whereas I want to talk about…oh, I dunno…pale, life-sucking bugmen with extra nostrils on their face! You see the problem? I am the mandatory ‘eccentric friend’ – every group needs one, and I’ve got the job! 😀

    As far as male v female characters go – I relate better to male characters, and I fall in love with them very easily, which helps a movie/show/book to hold my attention. If I’m bored with the characters, if I can’t emotionally connect to them, I’m not sticking with the story.

    In fact – this is the first series of books that I have read since Horatio Hornblower, back in 2001/2002. I’ve tried to read a few books since, never finished them, then switched to comic books (fell for Wolverine)…but have not read a ‘real’ book since 2002. I think I did pretty good! 😀 Amazing what an flowing-locked albino and his soul-stealing sword can do to a gal! 😉

    [/thunk]

    das

  15. @ Thornyrose – If I wasn’t falling asleep at my keyboard, I’d make a comment or two about…oh, what the heck, I’m here! Why not…

    Mr. Moorcock said that Elric reflected the person he was as he was writing the stories – so, perhaps, Elric’s self-pummelling was a mere reflection of doubts and remorse and disappointments that Moorcock himself felt during that time.

    Personally, I liked it. But I think I liked it because there was such contrast between the his self-crititcal nature and his lamenting over that blasted sword, and his actions. Over on GW, Starry Waters compared the sword to a drug, and Elric as addicted to that drug (I hope she joins in here!). I think that a most fitting comparision, for no matter how hard he tries to give it up, he keeps coming back for more, and more.

    I also find it interesting that Moorcock first wrote Stormbringer as ‘female’ (now there’s a strong woman for ya!) – a ‘lover’ – and it is quite noticable in these stories. Later that gender was played down, but there was still much sexual suggestion in Elric’s swordplay, especially in those stories which, chronologically, are first (and not in this particular book), and in The Stealer of Souls, which Moorcock (according to the supplimental information) said is one of the most pornographic stories he had ever written.

    Hmmm…I just might have to read that one again! 😀

    Gotta sleep!

    das

  16. @Das: I live in the middle of civil war country. anytime you wanna go to a reenactment, just drop on in! As for Stormbringer, there is definitely the addictive quality there, and in the case of Elric it’s a physical addiction. And there are definitely tantalizing hints throughout about how Stormbringer “thinks”, but they are never really brought to the fore. Which is a shame. I could only imagine an entire Elric story told from Stormbringer’s sentient viewpoint. Now, that thing about sleep sounds like a good idea….

  17. In all deference for the previous posts, the objectivity of women in this time period didn’t faze me. Being female, I’m quite familiar with roles of women through history. Women weren’t allowed to own property or vote in America a few generations ago. In the middle ages, being forced into marriage was the norm. If a woman were lucky, a convent entry could be bought for them. Even today, in some countries, women are forced to have circumcisions. I could go on and on with the atrocities that women endure today. This book just mirrors roles of women for a dark ages time period.

    Unlike Das, I don’t like male doctors and most of my friends are women. I have a core group of female friends that love Science fiction and fantasy. We are always exchanging books.

    I ‘m NOT into the “bad boys”. I’ve seen the damage they have done to their kids/families to last a lifetime! So Elric didn’t appeal to me in a romantic sense. His monogamy did surprise me, though.

    If anyone is interested in a strong female heroin, try reading Elizabeth Haydon’s Rhapsody.

    Tam

  18. At the risk of being called lazy, I can’t sum it up better than this:
    Joe: It’s been a while since I’ve read these stories, but I found them as engaging and fiercely imaginative as I did the first time around. An incredibly charismatic anti-hero, plenty of action, and a grand storyline – all set against a thrilling metaphysical backdrop. What more could you ask for?

    I was about 10 when I’d gotten through the Tolkien, ERB, Brackett, Lin Carter, Howard, Leiber etc and found Moorcock. Anti-hero? I absolutely LOVED it!!!! Maybe it’s just my nature, but the “imperfect” hero was far more attractive than the kind of guys you found in Conan, Rings, etc. The only exception in my mind, that has held over influencing me all these years, is ERB’s John Carter. But even he made a ton of mistakes.

    I’m still tongue tied, hope to be back with some questions for MM but I’ll bet other people beat me to asking those I think up.
    DD

  19. @ pg15 I think you raised some good questions in your comment two nights ago.

    @ das and a Thornyrose: I agree that both the style and the vintage of the Elric stories mean that there is less of a role for women to play in this world. Absolutely — this is a story about Elric and Moonglum and their adventures. I do not think that this precludes the possibility of female characters being more fully fleshed out; for Zorazinia to be given more to do than gently wrap Elric in her loving embrace and sooth his sulky worried brow.

    The second novella featured a character called Shaarilla — a wingless woman of a winged race, who comes to Elric to ask for his aid in finding the Book of Truth. What really hit home for me while reading this story was how Shaarilla ended up side-lined — she instigated the quest, and then about half way through Moonglum showed up, and boom, that was it for Shaarilla’s role. All she did from then on was moan about how maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, and maybe they should turn back and then passively follow along for the ride. This on a quest which was every bit as much hers as it was Elric’s, and certainly a good deal more than it was Moonglum’s!

    Shaarilla ends up a flat, and kind of negligible character ina quest she instigated, where — in half the number of pages — Moonglum is developed into a kick-ass sidekick.

    Not so much directed at anyone, as a general comment: I don’t think “that’s just the way it’s always been done” is an entirely valid excuse when it comes to the field of speculative fiction — be it TV shows or books or comics or whatever.

    Speculative fiction is a genre which often ruminates about the human condition — exploring what it means to be human, what makes us tick, what we’re capable of when subjected to the most unusual circumstances. How we interact with the universe — what is good and/or evil, is there an afterlife with gods and angels and if so, what’s it like? How do we get there? Can we come back? Is death the end of life, or the start of something new, like ascension?

    That’s why I love the genre so much. It’s an exploration of the world we live in, but through a different lens.

    But when half the population is constantly downsized in stories, reduced to supporting roles in skimpy costumes, or, worse, rewards for a job well done, well, then, I think that’s pretty telling about the world we live in — especially when it comes from the genre which prides itself on creative imagination and forward thinking.

  20. coucou =) ça va Joseph!!

    Moi oui, ma journée c’est trés bien passer. Et je pense deja avoir trouver votre futur cadeaux d’anniversaire =D (..oui je sais c’est dans 4 mois -_-‘)

    Bisou, je vous adore!

  21. Hey Joe, is it safe to say that Carson had been weaned off his dependency on the Wraith enzyme by the end of season 5, or is he still addicted to it until they find a more permanent treatment?

  22. I was one of those Elric first-timers and even though, as you say, the stories were assembled by publication date, I thought they held together well. At no point was I confused (well, there was one story, I can’t remember which one, when Moonglum was absent at first and I was wondering why but it’s later explained that he was visiting his home town) and it all flowed together nicely.

    I have some questions for Michael Moorcock –

    How do you think fantasty literature has developed since Elric was first published? At the beginning, it was all Tolkien derivatives but today, you have books like Rothfuss’s lyrical Name of the Wind, Abercrombie’s anti-fantasy First Blade series, and Erikson’s dark Malazan novels to name just a few. How do you think Elric influenced the development of fantasy? How do you view fantasy being written now? And are there any contemporary fantasy authors you enjoy reading?

  23. Wow,
    All of the books look so good but I never read them… Darn, I should make a catch up list….

    And the next questions for the next mailbag..

    1. What average neilsen rating do you think it will take to renew Universe. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3………?

    2. I watched the new SGU trailer and saw quite a bit of bsgish movement/mild shaking of the camera during the talking scenes that made it feel like I was watching bsg(minus the dark ship). This is just for that scene right, cause it was too bsgish and annoying.(I know you said you wouldn’t use shaky cam often but I just want to make sure)?

    Thanks so much,
    Major D. Davis

  24. I just have like…30 seconds….

    @ iamza – As I mentioned earlier, Stormbringer was originally written in the feminine sense, Elric’s lover, as it were (which may explain her ‘jealousy’ when others got too close). Though this was later downplayed, it seems that Moorcock originally gave the strongest role to a ‘woman’… 😉

    @ Tammy Dixon – Right now, I’m not liking any doctors – male or female. 😛

    @Thornyrose – Ooooo!!! Cannons! 😀 I love big guns…

    And I would LOVE an Elric story told entirely from Stormbringer’s viewpoint – what a great concept!

    @ drldeboer – Funny you should mention Conan. I didn’t know until I went to Moorcock’s site that Elric is the antithesis of Conan (thanks to David Mosley & J-Sun at Moorcock’s Miscellany for helping me with this!):

    Conan is a noble savage – a self-sufficient, muscle-hewn fighter distrustful of magic, who starts off as a mercenary and ends up a king.

    Elric is a savage noble – a physical weak scholar/sorcerer reliant (even addicted) to magic sword, who starts off as an emperor and ends up a mercenary.

    das

  25. Joe – quick question – are you taking questions for Moorcock through Wednesday’s entry (which will run into Thursday), or only up until you post tomorrow’s entry?

    Thankies!

    das

  26. @ das Good point on the sword. I don’t know that the feminine aspects came through really clearly in the first few stories — if anything, I thought that Stormbringer slowly evolved and developed a personality as Elric’s adventures unfolded.

    That was one of the things I really liked about Elric and Stormbringer — that their relationship did seem to change as the book went along. It’s like the ultimate dysfunctional relationship, with both parties forced to stay together so that they can each get what they need even if its not (and certainly in the case of Elric, it’s not!) what they want.

    The respite in the middle — where Elric makes use of the herbs that stabilize and maintain his health, enabling him to lock Stormbringer in the armoury — struck me as a neat kind of twist on the usual drug addict story. In a sense, Stormbringer kind of like Elric’s narcotic. When he doesn’t have to rely on her, he’s happier and kind of a better person (inasmuch as he can be, and still be himself). But add any kind of stressor, and suddenly he’s reliant on her strength again.

    I don’t know, I’m talking through my hat, here.

    But yes, good point. Stormbringer is distinctly feminine towards the end.

  27. Hello Joe,

    I ‘m not done reading the book yet since I have been very busy with my gazillions projects who seem to be multiplying (unfortunately) like ragweed.
    Despite all this bad karma (!), I was not able to find a good reason not to read this book, and although I’ve only read the first 165 pages, the picky girl I am is really enjoying this book.

    Here are my questions for Mr Moorcock

    1. How did Elric get Stormbringer?
    2 Why does Stormbringer take souls?
    3. Has Elric signed an evil pact that prevents him from getting rid of Stormbringer?
    4. Elrich so far seems to abandon every women he gets involved with, is there a particular reason? Is Stormbringer a jealous sword?
    5. What inspired you to create this character?
    6. How old were you when you wrote the first Elric story?

  28. I really enjoyed this book. I honestly didn’t think I would because I’ve always been more of a fan of what you referred to as more traditional fantasy, but I fell in with the Elric character. I’ve already picked up the next two volumes and look forward to reading them all eventually.

    If I could ask the author a question, I’d like to know the genesis of the Elric character. He makes mention of his inspiration for the albino character in the book’s introduction, but I’m wondering if there were parts of Elric’s character that were inspired by real individuals? Maybe a bit of himself?

  29. Question for Paul. Thank for doing this because I will probably be too nervous to ask it to you at Dragon*con.

    I saw your cameo in the new STAR TREK movie. It went by pretty fast but I knew to keep an eye out for you. What was it like to film your scenes? Personally I thought Simon Pegg played Scotty a little too slapstick/over the top for me. Other then that I love it. : ) Have you had the chance to see the whole movie?

    Only 85 more days to Dragon*con!!!!!!

  30. Just to say I’m looking forward to the questions. I’m particularly interested in the questions raised about the role of women in those early stories (I WAS only 20/21 when I wrote them…). I began to introduce stronger women in the later stories and my fledgling pro-feminism was given full voice by Kate Millett writing an essay in Evergreen Review, which I still have somewhere, called (Remember it ?) SEXUAL POLITICS. 1965 ?
    That essay — later book — made a vast difference to all my thinking. But I think I’d already begun to introduce strong female characters elsewhere in my fiction and there are also female avatars of the Eternal Champ. It’s an issue I’m curious about, though, to this day. So I’m interested in peoples’ comments.

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