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Birthday Reviews: Tad Williams’s “Go Ask Elric”

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Elric Tales of the White Wolf-small Elric Tales of the White Wolf-back-small

Cover by Brom

Tad Williams was born on March 14, 1957. He published the Memory, Sorry & Thorn fantasy series beginning in 1988 and followed up with the Otherland series in 1996 and Shadowmarch in 2004. Williams has also published a handful of stand alone novels, including Tailchaser’s Song and Caliban’s Hour. He collaborated with Nina Kiriki Hoffman on Child of an Ancient City.

Williams was a nominee for the John W. Campbell, Jr. Award in 1986 and the next year Tailchaser’s Song was a nominee for the William L. Crawford Award. Two of his novels have been nominated for Germany’s Phantastik Preis.

“Go Ask Elric” was published in 1994 in Elric: Tales of the White Wolf, a Michael Moorcock Festschrift which allowed other authors to play with Moorcock’s settings, characters, and themes. The story was translated into French for inclusion in an abridged version of the anthology as a whole. Williams later included it in his collection Rite: Short Work, which also included an essay Williams wrote as an introduction to Moorcock’s novel Gloriana.

Williams manages a successful homage to Michael Moorcock in “Go Ask Elric,” pulling in elements from Moorcock’s stories “Elric at the End of Time” as well as “the Vanishing Tower” and “Sailing to the Future.” Rather than focusing on Elric, William’s main character is Pogo Chapman, a young kid who worships Jimi Hendrix in the mid-1970s. During an acid trip, Pogo is sucked into the multiverse where he meets up with an imprisoned Elric and helps him escape. As Moorcock did in “Elric at the End of Time,” Williams switches between Elric’s point of view and Pogo’s, allowing the reader to see just how much Elric misreads the situations he is in.

In their escape, Elric and Pogo find themselves sin another plane of the multiverse, facing off against a cosmic force known as the Chronophage, where they ally themselves with a man who is as dark as Elric is white, Shemei Uendrijj, who Pogo immediately recognizes as a version of his hero, Jimi Hendrix. On the verge of defeat, Pogo realizes the two heroes must combine, as Elric has done with other aspects of the Eternal Champion.

Williams also skillfully involves the song “White Rabbit,” by Jefferson Airplane, which not only provides the title for the story, but also offers Pogo the hints he needs to become Elric’s rescuer and partner. Williams incorporates the song in a clever manner that doesn’t put too much emphasis on the song.

Reviewed in  its original publication in the anthology Elric: Tales of the White Wolf, edited by Edward E. Kramer & Richard Gilliam, White Wold, 1994.


Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a fifteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Big White Men—Attack!” in Little Green Men—Attack! Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 5 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

7 Comments »

  1. I was pretty disappointed with this collection. I thought that only a few stories added to the Elric story (Williams’ was not one of them).

    As a whole book, I think I actually preferred White Wolf’s ‘Pawns of Chaos’ – another multi-author anthology. Though that had some forgettable stories as well.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - March 14, 2018 7:15 am

  2. I’ve found that most stories published in volumes like this and Pawns of Chaos fail to capture the character of the original writers work. See also After the King (Tolkien), Lord of the Fantastic (Zelazny), The Enchanter Completed (de Camp).

    Comment by Steven H Silver - March 14, 2018 7:32 am

  3. Steven, I don’t speak German. I do agree that the Anthology didn’t work, the best thing about it was the cover by Brom.

    Comment by Barsoomia - March 14, 2018 8:48 am

  4. Mostly that’s right. Every once in a while you strike gold. An example might be — and it’s not exactly the same thing — Orson Scott Card’s “The Originist”, which I think has an argument for being the best Foundation story of all time, which appeared in, I think it was called, FOUNDATION’S FRIENDS, something like that — an anthology of stories based on Asimov’s Foundation.

    Comment by Rich Horton - March 14, 2018 9:42 am

  5. Rich, I think you often can find a couple stories in each of these that work well.

    And Foundation’s Friends only has a few stories based on the Foundation series (Card, Turtledove, Zebrowski). Most of them were based on other Asimov’s properties. Effinger wrote a Nightfall Story, Ed Wellen wrote a Wendell Urth Story, Harrison and Finch wrote robot stories, etc.

    Comment by Steven H Silver - March 14, 2018 9:50 am

  6. Yeah, I used to buy a lot of these kinds of tribute anthologies, but these days I’m much more selective …

    Still, I remember liking this particular story well enough.

    Comment by Joe H. - March 14, 2018 10:09 am

  7. I did like a couple stories in After the King:

    Pratchett’s Troll Bridge

    The Conjure Man

    Comment by Bob Byrne - March 14, 2018 1:52 pm


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