Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Agony of Now

For ten thousand years did the Bright Empire of Melniboné flourish – ruling the world. Ten thousand years before history was recorded – or ten thousand years after history had ceased to be chronicled. For that span of time, reckon it how you will, the Bright Empire had thrived. Be hopeful, if you like, and think of the dreadful past the Earth has known, or brood upon the future. But if you would believe the unholy truth – then Time is an agony of Now, and so it will always be.

Ravaged, at last, by the formless terror called Time, Melniboné fell and newer nations succeeded her: Ilmiora, Sheegoth, Maidakh, S’aaleem. Then memory began: Ur, India, China, Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome – all these came after Melniboné. But none lasted ten thousand years.

And none dealt in the terrible mysteries, the secret sorceries of old Melniboné. None used such power or knew how. Only Melniboné ruled the Earth for one hundred centuries – and then she, shaken by the casting of frightful runes, attacked by powers greater than men, powers who decided that Melniboné’s span of ruling had been overlong —- then she crumbled and her sons were scattered. They became wanderers across an Earth which hated and feared them, siring few offspring, slowly dying, slowly forgetting the secrets of their mighty ancestors. Such a one was the cynical, laughing Elric, a man of bitter brooding and gusty humour, proud prince of ruins, lord of a lost and humbled people; last son of Melniboné’s sundered line of kings.

Elric, the moody-eyed wanderer – a lonely man who fought a world, living by his wits and his runesword Stormbringer. Elric, last lord of Melniboné, last worshipper of its grotesque and beautiful gods – reckless reaver and cynical slayer – torn by great griefs and with knowledge locked in his skull which would turn lesser men to babbling idiots. Elric, moulder of madnesses, dabbler in wild delights…
--Michael Moorcock, "The Dreaming City" (1961)


  1. And you say that you don't care for Moorcock? :)

  2. My relationship with Moorcock is complex. I never much counted myself a fan of him in my younger days, but I find, like Tolkien ironically, that, as I get older, I appreciate him ever more.

  3. What MM have you read, James, outside of the Eternal Champion books?


  4. I'm not sure I've read anything of Moorcock outside the EC books. If I have, it didn't make enough of an impression on me to have remember it.

  5. He wrote "War Hound And the World's End", right? I remember liking that a LOT when I got it via the Sci-Fi Book Club.

  6. Yeah, Warhound's my favorite fantasy novel of MM's, though Elric likely remains my favorite series.

    I also highly recommend Blood: A Southern Fantasy, Mother London, Gloriana, and Behold the Man among his non-fantasy novels. His critical pieces/essays are also quite good.

    I haven't read the Pyat novels yet (Byzantium Endures, The Laughter of Carthage, Jerusalem Commands, The Vengeance of Rome), but he ranks them among his best.


  7. Allan, did Pyat make any cameo appearances in the Jerry Cornelius books? The name sounds familiar, but I know I haven't read any of the titles you mentioned.

    The Corum novels, especially the "Swords Trilogy" are my personal favorites. Elric can be such a whiner sometimes, gets old after a while ;).

  8. War Hound is good indeed, and is my favourite Moorcock story.

    Elric was a disappointment - much of it is an adolescent wish fulfillment story (down to the they don't understand me and I suffer part), and the inventive ideas are overshadowed by the really, painfully bad ones, and a second rate writing style. I have heard good things about the early stories, but haven't tracked them down.

    And just like Elric, a lot of Moorcock's other novels are letdowns. They have a lot of good imagery (like the jewel in the skull in the Hawkmoon cycle), but then I am disappointed by something and put them down. With Hawkmoon, I just couldn't take the story seriously any longer after the point where the hero encounters a short guy in the mountains of Future Bulgaria, and he is described as having "soft leather boots". I immediately said to myself, "Aha, this one is going to be the Companion". And, well, he was. After this, I read through the rest of the first book, put it back on my shelf, and there it has been ever since. That's Moorcock.

    Do read War Hound, though. It's good.


  9. I read all of Moorcock's early Melniboné novels and LOVED them. But I will have to admit that it was at a time in my life when I was much younger and my tastes ran to J.R.R., C.S. Lewis, and Terry Brooks. This was 30 years ago.

    It's funny that I'm now reading original R.E. Howard, Burroughs, C.A. Smith and company at this "later" stage in my life. I'm getting to the roots of the game now...Which is nice.

    I'll have to look into reading War Hound, and maybe picking up some of my old Elric novels again as well.

  10. I remember enjoying War Hound, but it was a long time ago. My only complaint at the time was that the ending was rushed as if Moorcock just kind of got tired (or had a deadline) and decided to wrap up ASAP. I understand there's a sequel.

    More recently I read Stormbringer; hated the writing, and the plot (classic GM railroad!), but it had something to it, I'll admit. Probably not enough to get me to return to the series.

  11. More recently I read Stormbringer; hated the writing, and the plot (classic GM railroad!), but it had something to it, I'll admit.

    That's my feeling too. I agree that the Elric stories are often written in a way that just doesn't appeal to me and indeed the entire premise behind its creation -- to make an anti-Howard, anti-Tolkien fantasy -- is quite antithetical to my way of thinking. And yet, somehow, perhaps because it's so antithetical to my own mindset, there's something very compelling about it all. I recognize its many flaws and still feel as if it has something to offer.


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