Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

The Stealer of Souls Link Roundup

Discussion on this one has been pretty good. A lot of people have something to say about Elric! Cirsova has won the thread in my mind with this assessment: “If Conan was for nerds who wished they were cool manly men, Elric was for nerds who wished they could be cool without being manly.” In the “things Jeffro and Mordicai Knode agree on” department, we have a new entry: we both think that Hawkmoon is superior to Elric! So if you haven’t read something from Moorcock and don’t want to be disappointed, you might consider checking out the Hawkmoon series instead.

I have to say, though… the idea that that the Melnibonéans were so advanced that they were somehow beyond and above basic concepts of morality is ludicrous. Elric’s effectiveness as an anti-hero hinges on that assumption… and it simply doesn’t hold even with readers that find plenty else to like in the stories. You can be a nonconformist and try to subvert every accepted aspect of heroism you can think of with your writing… but that doesn’t change reality. Moorcock’s inability to grasp this and his palpable desire for things to be otherwise are what make him an overrated hack in comparison to Tolkien who was declared to be “the author of the century” with good reason.

Here’s this week’s post:

RETROSPECTIVE: The Stealer of Souls by Michael Moorcock — “So we’ve been starting these reads off with your confessions lately, so here is a confession of mine: I don’t really like Elric! I get that Elric sort of defined the reaction against Tolkien, and that the grim anti-hero trope was really crystallized for fantasy as a genre by Elric—but because of that he just reads so…juvenile to me. Like what is being done with the New 52 in comics, it just seems like the Grim n’ Gritty comics of the 80s and 90s. I know that Elric predates that, but I’m still unable to separate the concepts, in my head. Other, later works have retroactively tainted it. No, for my money the best Eternal Champion is Hawkmoon.”

Grognardia — “I don’t always agree with everything Moorcock has said, least of all about Tolkien, but the man definitely knows the history of fantasy, so he’s earned my respect. I still have very mixed feelings about the Elric stories, but it’s impossible to deny their importance. D&D owes a lot to them, so anyone interested in the history of the hobby ought to read at least a couple of them to see what all the fuss is about.”

Revolution Science Fiction — “Elric is a bad person. He’s not an anti-hero: he’s a villain. He’s the protagonist, but he does not have the heart of gold that other James Bond, Wolverine, or other bad sci-fi -ish dudes have. Usually the way you get people to cheer a jerk or a bad guy is for them to fight villains worse than themselves. But in most Elric stories, Elric is the worst one.”


5 responses to “The Stealer of Souls Link Roundup

  1. Cirsova August 18, 2015 at 8:31 am

    Thanks for the shout out! Biggest travesty of fantasy fiction: even though Raistlin is a just poor-man’s knockoff of Elric, he’s the much more interesting and better written of the two.

    Elric is the Jhonny the Homicidal Maniac of fantasy ‘literature’. It was the edgy thing that the edgy kids wanted to like because they thought it made them edgy. No one likes to have it pointed out that it’s actually not very good, but really it’s just pretentious mush and rambling pretending to have weight and significance in a way that best resonates with angry teenagers.

    Now Kull is a dude with man problems. Deep deep man problems that all who are a part of “the natural aristocracy of true manhood” must face.

  2. jlv61560 August 18, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Moorcock’s opinions on other writers, and frankly, much of his writing, leave me cold. As for declaring Tolkien a “crypto-fascist,” I note two things; first, that he waited until Tolkien was safely dead to say it; and second, considering he’s both a full-blown communist AND an amoral scoundrel, what else would you EXPECT him to say?

    But I have no strong feelings here…. ;-)

  3. PeterD August 18, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Is this where I get in trouble for saying I like Elric, and I think the stories are excellent?


    • jeffro August 18, 2015 at 6:16 pm

      Nah, you’re not in trouble. The flaws I’m calling out here are muted in Stormbringer… and that novel is responsible for a very significant swath of AD&D that is not very well understood. As with Jack of Shadows, it’s a significant work regardless of whatever criticisms I deal it.

      And of course you know that if I don’t criticize the mediocrities, people will complain about me “worshiping” Gygax’s random book list. And yep… a lot of people read right past the stuff that bugs me. But if what I’m saying more or less matches up with the take on… you know it’s not just me being a crank. Because I disagree with them on practically everything else!

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