A Trip Through the Multiverse: Exploring the Worlds of Michael Moorcock
Welcome to the multiverse. It is a wondrous place, full of many delights and dangers. A place where countless worlds overlap one another, and the forces of Law and Chaos, Good and Evil, Order and Entropy, battle each other endlessly for dominance of everything reality has to offer.
Striding amidst these embattled forces is the Eternal Champion, the endless guardian of all that is. A hero with many faces, some familiar, some not so much, holds the fate of a million spheres of existence in his varied hands, and countless are his names throughout the worlds of all existence.
Only a handful of travellers on the moonbeam roads know of this eternal struggle, and fewer still are able to name the many incarnations of the champion. Indeed, only one of those very incarnations is truly aware of the role he must play over and over again, tormented by the knowledge of his many lives.
So please, come with me on a journey through the myriad realms, and maybe together we can unravel the many tales of the Eternal Champion.
A Little Bit of History
My first ever foray into the works and worlds of Michael Moorcock happened sometime in the middle of the 1980s, when I got my hands on the DAW edition of Stormbringer and devoured it in a single sitting. From there, I worked my way through both Corum trilogies, the John Daker/Erekosë trilogy, more Elric, the Dancers at the End of Time trilogy, and eventually, the many tales of Jerry Cornelius.
Since then, I’ve read more-or-less everything Moorcockian I could get my hands on, including many of his non-fiction essays, and yet I still cannot claim to have read everything he has ever written. Maybe I never will.
For a long time, my interest in Moorcock’s work was mostly casual. I mean, if I spotted an unfamiliar title by him I would pick it up and read it, but I wasn’t really paying attention to the various links between his works, and I only kept hold of the maybe dozen or so works that had impressed me the most; everything else ended up being gifted to friends or turned over to second hand book stores. Then, sometime in the early days of the twenty-first century, I started to pay more attention to what I was reading. And that’s when I began to notice the various threads weaving in and out of Moorcock’s entire body of work. In a sense, that’s when my real journey through the multiverse began.
Where the Road Leads
One of the biggest problems facing anybody coming to Moorcock’s work for the first time, is where to start. As I mentioned above, my start came in the form of Stormbringer, which was Moorcock’s first Elric novel, but conversely is also essentially the end of the Elric saga. Sort of. But I could have just as easily started with Corum, or Jerry Cornelius, or Hawkmoon, or any one of the other books that were in print by mid-eighties.
Now, nearly forty years later, a newcomer to the worlds of the multiverse has literally hundreds of titles to choose from, representing every novel, fix-up, novella, collection, and omnibus that has been released to date. There are even several different collections that, at the time of their publication, were cited as the definitive editions of the works. So where does one start reading such a massive body of work that is both interconnected and unconnected at one and the same time? The answer: wherever you feel most comfortable.
See, here’s the thing. The author himself has said on a number of occasions that there isn’t really a definitive reading order for his works. He did produce two recommended reading orders in the mid-nineties, when Millennium (UK) and White Wolf (USA) published their own respective Eternal Champion collections, but even then the two lists varied considerably. So you see, you can take whichever road you want through the multiverse without worrying too much about getting it right.
So What’s it All About?
So, given the sheer volume of work by Michael Moorcock, and the previously stated lack of a definitive reading order, what exactly is the multiverse, and who is the Eternal Champion?
There’s a good chance that you already know the answer to the first of those questions. The multiverse is made up of every alternative dimension and reality that exists, layered one on top of another, with each universe being only marginally different to those abutting it. In the real world, some physicists are beginning to speculate that this layered model of reality may actually be real, and do indeed use the term multiverse to describe their hypothesis. In terms of Moorcock’s work, almost every piece of fiction he has written fits somewhere in his own model of the multiverse, and in many cases is linked to the whole by the concept of the Eternal Champion.
The identity of the Eternal Champion varies from world to world, and in most cases is only peripherally aware of the truth of their existence, but taken as a whole they represent the guardian of the multiverse, the one whose role it is to protect reality from the encroaching forces of both chaos and law. The Eternal Champion is, ultimately, the agent of balance in a never-ending war between entropy and order, even when their individual journeys seem to favour one side or the other.
Now, not every protagonist is an incarnation of the Champion, and maybe not every single piece of Moorcock’s work has a clearly defined connection to the multiverse, but what about the hidden links, the tenebrous threads that pass by subtly while you’re reading. That’s what this series of articles is about.
Finding the Threads
The aim of this series is to examine as many of Moorcock’s works as possible and try to find the links that tie each work into the greater whole of the multiverse. Given the sheer volume of Moorcock’s back catalogue I won’t be focusing all that much on his shorter stories, though I will try and include as many of his novellas as I can, as well as all the fix-ups and novels. Yes, I do realise that’s still a lot of reading.
It’s fair to say this is going to be a very personal journey. I’m not an expert on Michael Moorcock or his writing, and can only bring my own understanding of his work to the table. I have no doubt that during the journey I’m going to find threads and connections that don’t actually exist outside my own reading of the source material, but hopefully I’ll also find a lot more that do exist. Who knows?
So stay tuned to this channel. I’ll be back soon with my first step on this journey, and I do hope you’ll come with me.