The Dancers at the End of Time Series Critical Essays

Michael Moorcock


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Michael Moorcock was a leader of the British “New Wave” of science fiction in the 1960’s and 1970’s, both as editor of New Worlds and as a writer. This movement emphasized an allusive style, irony, pessimistic plots, and a casual attitude toward sex, all of which the Dancers at the End of Time series exemplifies. Moorcock’s “multiverse” (a word he coined in 1965) includes alternate realities for its worlds, which interconnect and adjust and shift in time. Jerry Cornelius is at the center of many of these worlds; Jherek Carnelian is a version of him, and other “Dancers” characters are found in other Moorcock works.

Also present is the British literary world of the late nineteenth century. Poetry by such authors as Ernest Dowson and Alfred Austin contributes titles or is recited by Mrs. Underwood. H. G. Wells and Frank Harris, both perfectly in character, aid the fugitive couple in flight from the police. More generally, twisted memories of the twentieth century and earlier times survive, especially for Jherek, who has specialized in the general period.

Despite their lightheartedness, the works in this series raise serious questions. The characters often seem parallel to real people (readers), enjoying luxuries through dissipating the remaining energy of the universe and not caring what, if anything, comes after themselves.

Introduced into this setting, Mrs. Underwood is both a caricature of Victorian...

(The entire section is 427 words.)