The Cornelius Chronicles Critical Essays

Michael Moorcock


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Called one of the best fantasy writers in the English language, Michael Moorcock has been compared to J. R. R. Tolkien, Hieronymus Bosch, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. His enormous output includes approximately fifty novels, innumerable short stories, and a rock album. He became editor of Tarzan Adventures at the age of sixteen and has earned his living as a writer/editor ever since. In April, 1963, he contributed a guest editorial to John Carnell’s New Worlds, Britain’s leading science-fiction magazine, effectively announcing the onset of the New Wave renewal movement in science fiction. In 1964, Carnell recommended that Moorcock become editor of New Worlds, a position he would hold until 1969.

Under Moorcock, the magazine became the cutting edge of Anglo-American science fiction. He gathered around himself a group of talented British writers and also recruited a new generation of American writers including Harlan Ellison, Samuel Delany, Thomas Disch, and Norman Spinrad. He had his own rock group, Deep Fix, and was also known for his association with the band Hawkwind, whose lyrics were drawn from science-fiction stories.

Believing that H. G. Wells had had a disastrous influence on science fiction by centering it on matters of outer space, Moorcock urged a return to exploration of the immediate future and “inner space.” He offered the Jerry Cornelius novels as paradigmatic models to this end.

Moorcock’s rock aesthetic and entropic view of the near future eventually influenced cyberpunk writers of the 1980’s. His experiments with narrative and pastiche link him to other postmodern writers as well. His works rarely appear in science-fiction anthologies, perhaps because they so often verge on self-indulgent parody. His end of the world turns out to be England’s fin de siecle...

(The entire section is 756 words.)