Birthday Reviews: Michael Moorcock’s “The Frozen Cardinal”

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Jim Burns

Cover by Jim Burns

Michael Moorcock was born on December 18, 1939.

Moorcock’s novella “Behold the Man” won the Nebula Award in 1968. He has won the British Fantasy Award six times, for the novels The Knight of the Swords, The King of the Swords, The Sword and the Stallion, and The Hollow Lands, as well as for the short story “The Jade Man’s Eyes.” He won a special committee award from them in 1993. In 1979 he won the World Fantasy Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for his novel Gloriana. His Elric saga won the Seiun Award in 1986. Moorcock received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the World Fantasy Con in 2000, the Prix Utopia in 2004, and the Bram Stoker Awards in 2005. In 2002 he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and was named a Grand Master by SFWA in 2008. Moorcock was guest of honor at the 2nd World Fantasy Con, held in New York in 1976 and at LoneStarCon 2, the 55th Worldcon, held in San Antonio, Texas in 1997.

“The Frozen Cardinal” originally appeared in the anthology Other Edens, edited by Robert Holdstock and Christopher Evans, in 1987.  Moorcock included it in his collection Casablanca in 1989 and in 1993, it was included in the Moorcock collection Earl Aubec and Other Stories. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer selected the story for The Big Book of Science Fiction: The Ultimate Collection in 2016. In 1990 the story was translated into French to appear in the anthology Universe 1990, edited by Pierre K. Rey.

While Moorcock may be best known for his epic fantasy about the Eternal Champion or his Jerry Cornelius novels, he has also written a significant amount of straight science fiction. “The Frozen Cardinal” is set in the polar regions of the distant planet Moldavia and takes the form of several private communiques sent back to Earth by a member of the first exploration team to the area of the planet, which is just beginning to come out of an ice age.

Moorcock manages to present his trip to a distant world as a tedious expedition. His narrator, as well as the entire crew, is just focused on the next tasks they must accomplish, most of which are the repetitive crossing of vast chasms, a dangerous activity, but one that has become routine as they use the same process at each crevice. Their monotony is broken when they discover a figure embedded in the ice on the side of one of the crevices and determine that it is a Roman Catholic Cardinal.

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A Cherished Contributor, and Hard to be Friends With: Michael Moorcock on Thomas M. Disch

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

New Worlds August 1967 Camp Concentration-small New Worlds October 1967 Camp Concentration-small

Last month I wrote a brief feature on Thomas M. Disch and his 1968 dystopian SF novel Camp Concentration. Michael Moorcock, who serialized the novel in four issues of his magazine New Worlds (July -October, 1967), contacted me to share his own memories, and challenge my portrayal of Tom as “a tragic figure.”

Tom was a close friend. Sometimes hard to be friends with. He was given to depression and to taking offence over imagined insults. In spite of this, I and his other close friends loved him and I still wonder if I could have done more for him, as does Linda. She says that she loved being with us and never laughed so much as when we were together, so I don’t see him as a tragic figure. After Charlie died he became lonely and bitter on occasions but several substantial friends did all they could for him.

I serialised Camp Concentration in New Worlds and was flattered when he said he would not have aspired to make it as good as it was if he hadn’t known it was appearing there. He brought each episode in every month and I was increasingly grateful to have such a fine novel to run in the first of our large size issues. With Ballard, he was my most valued contributor. Camp Concentration was illustrated by our mutual friend, the fine artist Pamela Zoline. He brought John Clute and John Sladek into our circle and the 60s and 70s were wonderful thanks in considerable part to our mutual friendships. Politically, we rarely agreed, but we had so much fun together. I miss him terribly.

“Charlie” was Disch’s partner of three decades, poet Charles Naylor, who died in 2005. I asked Michael for permission to reprint his comments here, and he graciously granted it, and shared some additional memories of Disch.

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Future Treasures: Gloriana: Or, The Unfulfill’d Queen by Michael Moorcock

Saturday, November 26th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

gloriana-or-the-unfulfilld-queen-smallMichael Moorcock is best known today for his ambitious Eternal Champion story arc, which includes the sword & sorcery classic Elric of Melnibone, the Hawkmoon novels, the Chronicles of Corum, the Von Bek novels… and man, a whole lot more. Seriously, if you want to dive in, there’s a whole lot of reading ahead of you. The Wikipedia page, which lists roughly a billion novels and short stories in the seres, will get you started.

But some of Moorcock’s most acclaimed fantasies were standalone works — including the World Fantasy Award and John W. Campbell Award winner Gloriana: Or, The Unfulfill’d Queen, which first appeared nearly 40 years ago. The tale of a beautiful but sexually frustrated queen who finds herself drawn into deadly court intrigue, Gloriana has been reprinted over a dozen times, and at the end of the month Saga Press returns it to print again in a handsome new hardcover description. Here’s the description.

In this “spellbinding” (The Sunday Times) award-winning fantasy, the vast empire of Albion is ruled by the beautiful and forlorn queen, Gloriana who must battle against a nefarious scoundrel, Captain Quire, and a court soured by debauchery with her wits.

First published in 1978, Gloriana is the award-winning story set in the alternate English kingdom of Albion that reimagines Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

Bawdy, cruel, and brilliant, Gloriana has been awarded the World Fantasy Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction, and is often cited as one of the great works of speculative fiction and fantasy along the lines of J.G. Ballard, Thomas Pynchon, and Philip K. Dick.

Gloriana has previously been published in the US by Avon Books, Questar, Warner Aspect, and the Science Fiction Book Club, and in the UK by Fontana, Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks, Gateway/Orion, and others. I’ve collected half a dozen examples below, with a gorgeous sampling of cover art — including the 1986 Flamingo edition, one of the rare examples of full frontal nudity I’ve ever seen on a mass market fantasy cover.

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A Long-Overdue Retrospective: The Best of Michael Moorcock

Friday, September 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

the-best-of-michael-moorcock-small the-best-of-michael-moorcock-back-small

Tachyon Publications released The Best of Michael Moorcock, edited by John Davey and Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, back in 2009, and I finally bought a copy last month. I don’t know what took me so long.

Moorcock has an enormous back catalog of fantasy; so vast I’ll never be able to read even a fraction of it. But this book finally gives me the opportunity I’ve wanted for years: to sample the full range of Moorcock’s storytelling craft in one compact volume, with some of his most famous stories — including his famous 1968 Nebula Award winning novella “Behold the Man,” the Elric tale “A Portrait in Ivory,” and the Jerry Cornelius story “The Visible Men.”

The book received rave notices when it first appeared. Bookgasm says it “Serves as a superb introduction to the boundless imagination of this unique and fascinating author,” and The Guardian calls it “A long-overdue retrospective.” And Booklist says it’s “A wild, fascinating batch of stories fairly balancing the fantastic and the nearly ordinary, and showcasing Moorcock’s talent very well.”

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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New Treasures: A Cure For Cancer by Michael Moorcock

Thursday, March 17th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

A Cure for Cancer Moorcock-small A Cure for Cancer Moorcock-back-small

Titan Books has been doing a marvelous service for modern fantasy fans, as they gradually reprint Michael Moorcock’s back catalog — including some of the most fondly remembered fantasy of the 20th Century. They began with his early steampunk trilogy Nomad of the Time Streams (starting with The Warlord of the Air), and continued with the complete Chronicles of Corum. This year they’ve turned their attention to the Cornelius Quartet, starring the hippest adventurer in fantasy, scientist and rock star Jerry Cornelius.

The first volume, The Final Programme (which we gave away three copies of last month) was published on February 2. Volume Two, A Cure For Cancer, arrived earlier this month. A mirror-image of his former self, Jerry Cornelius returns to a parallel London, armed with a vibragun and his infamous charisma and charm, and hot on the trail of the grotesque Bishop Beesley. Click on the cover above for the complete book description (or just to gawk at the trippin’ cover art).

A Cure For Cancer was published by Titan Books on March 1, 2016. It is 340 pages, priced at $9.95 in paperback and $7.99 for the digital version. The cover was designed by Julia Lloyd.

Announcing the Winners of The Final Programme by Michael Moorcock

Saturday, February 20th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Final Programme-smallWoo hoo! We have three winners!

Last week we invited you to enter a contest to win one of three copies of The Final Programme, the opening volume in Michael Moorcock’s classic Cornelius Quartet, available again in a brand new edition from Titan Books. To enter, all you had to do was send us an e-mail with a one-sentence review of your favorite Michael Moorcock tale.

We don’t have room to present all the entries here, but we can offer up a half-dozen of the best. The very first one we received was from Stu White, who gets extra points for using our word of the week, ‘reconceptualization,’ in a grammatically correct sentence:

Elric of Melnibone is a stellar reconceptualization of the fantasy genre, and was perhaps the first time I read a book that focused on an antihero.

Meanwhile, Stephen Milligan gets points for taking the pulp angle.

The Jewel in the Skull is a masterclass in pulp, introducing exquisitely-named hero Dorian Hawkmoon and his battle against the inspired evil empire that mixes history and horror equally well, all in a swift little volume that sates the need for sword and sorcery while whetting the appetite for the next volume.

While Rob Baseel sounds just like a 1970s Marvel supervillian villain, by making terrific use of the phrase ‘musclebound do-gooder.’

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Win a Copy of The Final Programme, the First Volume in Michael Moorcock’s Cornelius Quartet

Friday, February 12th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Final Programme-smallTitan Books has been doing something pretty marvelous for modern fantasy fans: they’ve been gradually reprinting Michael Moorcock’s fabulous back catalog, which includes some of the most fondly remembered fantasy of the 20th Century.

They began with his early steampunk trilogy Nomad of the Time Streams (which opened with The Warlord of the Air), and continued with the complete Chronicles of Corum (see our cover gallery from last May). In 2016, they’ve turned their attention to the Cornelius Quartet, starring the hippest adventurer in fantasy, scientist and rock star Jerry Cornelius.

Black Gate has copies of The Final Programme to give away to three lucky readers, compliments of Titan Books. How do you make one of them yours? Just send an e-mail to with the subject “The Final Programme,” and a one-sentence review of your favorite Michael Moorcock tale.

That’s all it takes. Three winners will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries, and we’ll reprint some of the best reviews when we announce the winners.

All entries become the property of New Epoch Press. No purchase necessary. Must be 12 or older. Decisions of the judges (capricious as they may be) are final. Not valid where prohibited by law, or anywhere postage for a trade paperback is more than, like, 10 bucks (practically, that means US and Canada).

The Final Programme was published by Titan Books on February 2, 2016. It is 255 pages, priced at $9.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 for the digital edition.

Vintage Treasures: The Black Corridor by Michael Moorcock

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Black Corridor Michael Moorcock-smallLast week I purchased a small collection of vintage paperbacks (something I do a lot). I bought it chiefly because it was inexpensive, all the books were in terrific shape… and it had a Michael Moorcock paperback I’d never seen before.

The Moorcock was The Black Corridor, an Ace Science Fiction Special, written in collaboration with Moorcock’s then-wife, Hilary Bailey (author of Frankenstein’s Bride and Fifty-First State.) The Ace Science Fiction Specials are highly prized by readers and collectors alike. They were edited by Terry Carr, and included first editions of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, Alexei Panshin’s Rite of Passage, John Brunner’s The Jagged Orbit and The Traveler in Black, and William Gibson’s Neuromancer, among many others.

The Black Corridor is something of an odd bird. It wasn’t as successful or acclaimed as many of the other Ace Specials, and in fact it has never been reprinted in paperback in the US. But it does have its admirers. It was cited by Karl Edward Wagner as one of the thirteen best science-fiction horror novels, and Harlan Ellison said “Saying I enjoyed this book would be damning with faint praise… I was surprised by this book, at least eleven times.” Although it was never reprinted in paperback in the US, it was included as part of the omnibus collection Sailing to Utopia, The Tale of the Eternal Champion #5, published by Millennium (UK) and White Wolf (US), alongside The Ice Schooner, The Distant Suns, and the novelette “Flux.”

The Black Corridor is based on an incomplete fragment of a thriller written by Bailey, which Moorcock called “a straight future disaster story – collapse of society stuff.” Moorcock substantially re-drafted it, setting the bulk of the book in interstellar space, to tell a tale of an Earth collapsing into anarchy and war, and the starship and crew that flee into space. The book is fairly experimental, even for Moorcock. It contains sequences of typographical art where, as Moorcock put it, “words create a pattern of other letters forming other words,” and the narrative is enhanced with entries for the spaceship’s log, dream sequences, and computer printouts straight out of the 1960s.

The Black Corridor was published by Ace Books in 1969. It is 187 pages, priced at 75 cents. The cover is by Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon. There is no digital edition.

New Treasures: Michael Moorcock’s The Chronicles of Corum from Titan Books

Friday, May 29th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Chronicles of Corum Titan Books-small

I was talking about The Chronicles of Corum, which Fletcher Vredenburgh calls “the most intense and beautiful books” in Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion series, in a Vintage Treasures post recently. I was unaware at the time that Titan Books was planning to reprint the entire series in high quality trade paperback editions. If I was, I wouldn’t have spent all that time and money tracking down the 1987 Grafton paperback.

The first, The Knight of the Swords, was published on May 5th. The other five will be released over the next five months, as follows.

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Vintage Treasures: The Chronicles of Corum by Michael Moorcock

Monday, March 9th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Chronicles of Corum-smallI need to read more Michael Moorcock.

I discovered Moorcock in the late 70s with An Alien Heat, the first novel in a trilogy featuring Jherek Carnelian and the Dancers at the End of Time. I discovered Elric shortly thereafter. But the other incarnations of his famous Eternal Champion — including Jerry Cornelius, Dorian Hawkmoon, and Corum — managed to escape me. Lately, however, I’ve been growing increasingly intrigued by The Chronicles of Corum, partly triggered by Fletcher Vredenburgh’s comments in his review of the entire series, “The Shout of a Young Man Who Finds the World a Complicated Place: The Eternal Champion by Michael Moorcock.”

Most preferred the morose albino, Elric, of doomed Melniboné. Dressed in black armor, wielding the evil soul-drinking sword Stormbringer, and riding a dragon — I totally get it. A few liked Dorian Hawkmoon von Koln and his adventures across post-apocalyptic Europe and America better. Personally, I did and still do enjoy the two trilogies about Corum Jhaelen Irsei, last of the Vadhagh. Steeped in Irish myth and a gloomy Celtic miasma, I think they’re the most intense and beautiful books in the series.

The two trilogies Fletcher’s talking about are The Swords Trilogy, which gathered the first three Corum novels, and The Chronicles of Corum, which collects the last three. I frequently find these books referred to as perhaps Moorock’s most enduring works. Here’s writer Tim Callahan, quoted from as part of our Appendix N series, in “Andre Norton, Michael Moorcock and Appendix N: Advanced Readings in D&D“:

I read The Swords Trilogy and The Chronicles of Corum early, and they made an impact. They exploded inside my mind in a way I have never forgotten… I didn’t really feel like I tuned into Elric until halfway through the first reprint volume, when we get the four novellas of Stormbringer…

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