Here is the final part of my interview with Michael Moorcock. I’ll add a separate table of contents that presents the parts in order to overcome the awkward categorical ordering.
Readers will want to know of the author’s website, multiverse.org, which has a wide range of material available, including Mr. Moorcock’s online forum, in which he will happily respond to site visitor’s questions at length. However, the forum is somewhat hard to find on the site, and I’ve been told it’s by design, so I’ll provide you with a link to the root of the site and permit the intrepid their own pleasure of discovery.
I apologize again for breaking up the posts with other topics, but I’m afraid you’ll have to take that up with the President.
You are currently facing complications of neuropathy in your foot, I believe. If I understand correctly, you may have another operation coming up. Is there anything you’d like to say about your health in general or about the specific state of it at the present time?
I’ve enjoyed good health most of my life and been generally very active. Being less active in Texas and using marijuana to offset the pain of neuropathy helped, I believe, get me into the condition where the arteries in one leg hardened, compromising blood flow to the foot which is now in jeopardy. Moral – keep walking and go easy on the wacky backy. I long to be able to walk without pain again and with luck that will happen eventually.
I thought it was a very worthy job. It needed someone with Peake’s imagination to make the most of it. Sadly it’s rare to find such people, of course. Some of the actors were great. Some of the added lines were diabolically bad.
An inspiration, certainly. I just recently had an idea I couldn’t use because it’s too like one of his. I thought of offering it to him, but of course he has plenty of his own.
Moore wrote a prose novel, Voice of the Fire in which his – and your – themes of geography and history are beautifully addressed. Are you familiar with it?
Yes. I’m a great admirer of Alan’s fiction.
Have there been or are there plans afoot for the two of you to collaborate?
Two recluses? I wouldn’t mind doing it some time, if Alan wanted to, but it hasn’t come up.
You are probably the most persistent, thoughtful and idiosyncratic critic of Tolkien’s work that I’m aware of, carefully separating your thoughts on his work from your thoughts on the man himself. Do you see the success of the films as a triumph or a tragedy?
A triumph, though I find the films themselves deadly boring and the infelicities (potatoes, tobacco, gunpowder) irritating. But they set a bench-mark and it means it’s now possible to try to make an ambitious adult fantasy film, which I’m hoping Elric will be!
Your work, and particularly Elric, is widely understood as standing at the opposite pole from Tolkien’s in the realm of fantasy writing. Is that a fair characterization?
I describe this tradition in today’s (January 25, 2003) Guardian, reviewing the US author Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword, which preceded Tolkien’s first LOTR volume in 1954.
I think some of us are less interested in offering escape than Tolkien, less interested in stroking ourselves a la Gollum. Who, incidentally, is the only character I really like in the whole quasi-epic. Which probably says it all. That said, I was fond of Tolkien, who was a very nice, decent human being. He was, however, of his time and I am bound to react to his generation – soupy about self-sacrifice in war (because of Ypres and so on), suspicious of working classes and dark Easterners.
That said I think it’s foolish to depict him as a racist or, indeed, any sort of fascist. He was of his time. But his books don’t really rise to being a real epic simply because of that. What irritates me is not Tolkien but Tolkien-worship. I suspect those who think he’s the greatest writer in the world haven’t really read much really good fiction. I think the same of those who might say the same of me…
Did you write Elric with the conscious intent of developing a literary antidote to Tolkien?
Yes. And to Robert E. Howard, the other example in my day.
And to wind up: In a true wizard’s battle, who would prevail: Gandalf or Elric? 😉
Elric, I suspect. He’s a lot less self-important and a lot trickier.