My Eternal Champion

I remember the books which first began my fascination with writing and reading, and these were the Elric novels of Michael Moorcock. These books, dark and melodic and strangely romantic, opened up a vast world to me when I was still in Junior High, and remained with me from then on, to the point that I spent years enduring the slings and arrows of high school with “Blood and Souls for my Lord Arioch!!” scrawled across my binders. From the adventures of the albino kinslayer, his tragic love, his demon sword and his loyal companion Moonglum, I soon found my way to Corum, and Hawkmoon, and Cornelius, and all the other embodiments of the Eternal Champion, a concept which still excites my imagination like few others.

Certain authors have the power to forever influence your voice, your dreams, your pen. For me, Michael Moorcock was one of those literary giants. I am forever in debt to his imagination and amazing prolificness, and therefore, I am pleased to report the fact he was recently named the 25th Grandmaster appointed by the SFWA at this year’s Nebula awards.

The following is the speech presenting the Grandmaster Award to Mr. Moorcock at the Nebulas, as delivered by the incredible cover illustrator and artist Mr. John Picacio.

“When I first heard that I’d be here celebrating Mike’s Grandmaster Award, I was thrilled. And then came the horror…the realization that in the span of a few minutes, I’d have to do justice to one of the greatest writing careers we’ve ever known. Daunting, to say the least.

We can talk about Elric, one of the most popular creations in the history of fantasy, first published when Mike was barely 22 years old. We can talk about the Multiverse…Jerry Cornelius…the Eternal Champion…MOTHER LONDON…Hawkmoon…BEHOLD THE MAN…GLORIANA…THE CONDITION OF MUZAK…THE METATEMPORAL DETECTIVE. What about Mike’s legendary ability to craft classic novels in a mere weekend so he could pay his NEW WORLDS printing bills? How about a lifetime of awards heavy enough to crack a house foundation…a 1967 Nebula Award for BEHOLD THE MAN; his shelf full of British Fantasy Awards; the John W. Campbell Memorial Award; the World Fantasy Award; the Guardian Fiction Award; the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award; the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award; his 2002 induction into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame…we can do this all night long, can’t we? Michael Moorcock is, quite simply, a living legend. Period. And one who despises being called such, because he’s still vital, still rebellious, still questioning…still writing. He keeps going, which brings us to the present.

We’re here to celebrate Mike’s recognition amongst the Grandmasters of the Science Fiction Writers of America. Heinlein, Leiber, Clarke, Bradbury, Del Rey, Pohl, Knight…a few of the names inscribed up on SFWA’s Mount Olympus. Here’s the part that’ll make you dizzy though — many great writers are measured by what came before them, but Mike’s greatness continues to be measured by what has come after him. I’m not talking about his legendary Multiverse of characters and stories, but a multiverse of writers, artists, and creators worldwide that have either had their careers single-handedly launched by Mike, or been directly influenced by him at a primal level. That goes for many of you in this room, including myself, and I daresay, that includes some of tonight’s nominees and winners.

So here’s what we’re gonna do…in recent days, I contacted a few friends and a few heroes. I asked them for their brief thoughts on tonight’s occasion and I’m going to share a few of them with you right now.

Our first message is from the author of AMERICAN GODS, the 2002 Nebula Award Winner for Best Novel — Neil Gaiman.

Neil — “Mike Moorcock changed the inside of my head. I read STORMBRINGER when I was nine, and that was pretty much that. My pocket money went on Moorcock books — which were gloriously being issued and reissued back then — and I read them and took what I could from them. It’s not long until you have a multiverse in your twelve-year-old mind, and you learn that every hero is the Eternal Champion, and suddenly you’re puzzling over Jerry Cornelius stories, with your head going places it hasn’t gone before.

When people ask me about my influences, I tend to forget Mike, much in the way that people listing the things that were important to them growing up, fail to list the earth, the air, and sunlight. He taught me that high culture and low culture were simply points of view, and that what mattered was the writing. His influence as an editor still reverberates today. We’re lucky to have him.”

Our next contributor is an author, an editor, and a publisher — all award-winning, sometimes all in the same day. He’s a Sidewise Award winner and one-half of MonkeyBrain Books — Chris Roberson.

Chris — “I was never quite the same after discovering the novels of Michael Moorcock in my suburban high school library. Elric, Cornelius, Bastable, and the rest of the multiversal gang expanded my brain into dimensions that I didn’t even know existed. I wasn’t the first to fall under his spell, and I won’t be the last. As writer and editor Moorcock has changed the nature of fantasy itself, expanding the definition of what fantastic literature is, and the uses to which it can be put. He is the brightest light in my own personal constellation of influences and inspirations, and I continue to labor in his shadow.”

Our next author has won two World Fantasy Awards and is the author of the brilliant CITY OF SAINTS AND MADMEN, as well as the proud co-editor of THE NEW WEIRD — Jeff Vandermeer.

Jeff — “Mike Moorcock is quite simply the most creative and most generous person I’ve ever met. It’s Mike I think of whenever I’m approached by a new writer for help with something, because he embodies the idea of ‘paying it forward’. He has also been an enormous influence in both the variety and the quality of his fiction, and his various editing projects. I admire his restless curiosity, his sense of humor, and his sense of perspective. It’s been one of the great pleasures and honors of my life to know him. If only he could break his addiction to squid…”

Three down, three to go. Our next author is a four-time World Fantasy Award winner; a 2004 Nebula Award winner for “The Empire of Ice Cream”; and his latest novel is called THE SHADOW YEAR — Jeffrey Ford.

Jeff — “Every time I read a new slice of Mike’s enormous fictional output, I’m inspired by the work’s variety of style and form; its unbounded freedom of expression; it’s ability to find the profound in pulp, and to dismantle the bureaucracy of literature with a capital L; its astute politics; and its cosmic sense of humor. His creative talent is truly a multi-verse. What’s impressed me even more than his fiction, though, is Mike himself — affable, generous, and an unerring failure to stand on ceremony. Right now, I can picture him rolling his eyes at my testimonial. Congratulations, Mike.”

Our next message is from an author who, much like Mike, is never shy about defending what he thinks is right. He’s a multiple Hugo Award nominee and the author of PERDIDO STREET STATION, a 2002 Nebula Award finalist — China Mieville.

China — “‘Grandmaster’ is inadequate. Moorcock is the monarchomach, the sensei of dissident fantasy. Mad skills, pirate prose, ninja critique. We deserve a lot, but we only just, on our best days, deserve him. Where there are rules he brings righteous chaos, for which all we can do is give our profound thanks, we who are fortunate enough to have our souls sucked out by his evil crooning typewriter forged from black metal, we who read sitting on the toppled idols he leaves behind, the rubble of genre left by his awesome paraliterary rampage, breakfasting gratefully among the ruins.”

And finally, we have a few words from an author beloved by every creator I know…as a fellow professional once said, ‘We all worship him as a god, but at the end of the day, he bows to Moorcock.’ The creator of WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA, and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN — Alan Moore.

Alan — “Michael Moorcock is a wonder of the world, a colossus of Brookgate straddling his ancient city in a sentence. He’s a literary zeppelin commander who has never lost his faith in, nor completely left, the underground; the ultimate outsider just by virtue of his altitude above the herd. He scattered universes, planted movements, sowed the seeds of all the authors who came after him, like dragon’s teeth. His intellect and his inventiveness are only equalled by his insight, by his great compassion. From the deadline-plagued pulp sweatshops of his origins to Mother London’s dizzy pinnacles, Moorcock is the Eternal Writer.”

Mike, you’ve more than earned this night. On behalf of myself and the legions of readers and creators that you’ve inspired, enlightened, and championed, we cheer you tonight and we cherish you forever. Our most rebellious, heart-felt thanks, and congratulations on becoming the 25th Grandmaster of the Science Fiction Writers of America.


1 Comment

  1. ah, I have good memories of surreptitiously stealing my sister’s Elric novels after she’d read them, now. Thank goodness she turned me onto Moorcock, love his work.

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