Dec 28, 2019

Shorts from NEW WORLDS and Others (1959-65)

Mayflower 1975, Art: Bob Haberfield
One of the objectives of this reading project is that I get a chance to experience the development of Moorcock's multiverse in "real time" (publication order). During the period in which Moorcock had been writing the 'Science Fantasy' adventures of Elric, Earl Aubec and John Daker, he had also been publishing short stories (novellas) in 'New Worlds Science Fiction' and a few other magazines. A couple of these early features introduce themes which resurface more prominently in later Moorcock books, most notably the idea of the megaflow and the metatemporal adventurer. These concepts are actually extensions of the multiverse concept presented in "The Sundered Worlds" - it's always nice to read "from the beginning", although the books are intended to be enjoyed without any prior knowledge of Moorcock's lore.

Going through Moorcock's writing in roughly chronological order has also been a good opportunity to read his many non-fantasy works which, frankly, I am much less familiar with. This chapter will provide thoughts and synopses of a few stories published between 1959 and 1965:
  • "Peace On Earth" (1959)
  • "Going Home" (1962)
  • "Flux" (1963)
  • "Not By Mind Alone" (1963)
  • "Good-bye, Miranda" (1964)
  • "The Deep Fix" (1964)
  • "The Time Dweller" (1964)
  • "Escape From Evening" (1965)
  • "The Pleasure Garden of Felipe Sagittarius" (1965)
  • "The Mountain" (1965)

"Peace on Earth" (1959, as "Michael Barrington", i.e., with Barrington J. Bayley)
This collaboration with friend Barry Bayley was Moorcock's first story published in an adult magazine (i.e. - not a juvenile or children's periodical). It was featured in New Worlds #89 (Dec 1959, collected in The Deep Fix (1966), and more recently in Earl Aubec and Other Stories (1999)). Uncommonly literate and philosophical for a writer in his teens, it takes a more existential view of humanity's future development than that found in most American space operas of the time.

Synopsis: 2,000,000 years in the future, humans have attained a state of immortality. Two explorers study a book written by the inventor of the technology to attain immortality. The book warns that Mankind has lost something which can only be found on Earth. The two explorers return to Earth and find only an abandoned spaceship buried in the dust. The two men walk out into the wilderness and find the skeleton of the man who had abandoned his ship. They then realize that they do not have enough oxygen to return to their own ship. They realize that the thing missing from an immortal life is death itself (life without death has no value) and that they had subconsciously neglected to prepare their air supply in order to find such a death. They die satisfied that they have found meaning in their lives.

"Going Home" (1962)
Published in SF Adventures #25 (Mar 1962, more recently collected in Earl Aubec and Other Stories (1999)), this story also has a somewhat cynical view of future humanity, although the protagonists do end up with a sense of closure, as they embrace their own identities rather than pursue solutions from the past (a theme later revisited in "Escape From Evening"). Despite the dystopic premise of both this and "Peace On Earth", both end up with relatively "happy" endings.

Synopsis: Three centuries after emigrating off Earth, astronauts from Veildo return to their mother planet to determine why their ancestors had left in the first place (their own records had been destroyed). When they arrive they learn that Earth has been stripped of all forms of art and is completely desolate as far as culture or variety. They are eventually asked to leave the planet. On the journey back to Veildo, they examine records obtained from the Earth government (under threat of violence) and learn that their ancestors had been exiled from Earth due to their “neurotic/paranoiac” tendencies, and that since then all such damaging inclinations towards creativity are eliminated from people at a young age (maintaining a continued peace of 300 years). The crewmen realize that Veildo is now their true home.

Sailing to Utopia interior, Art: Rick Berry
"Flux" (w. Barrington J. Bayley, 1963)
Published in New Worlds #132 (July 1963, collected in Moorcock's Book of Martyrs (1976), and more recently Sailing to Utopia (1993)), this tale, another collaborative effort with Barry Bayley, introduces a novel conception of time, one which, as far as I know is unique. The protagonist (initially "Max File", but later renamed "Max von Bek" in the 90s') discovers that time is not a logical progression of events, but something closer to a sequence of random moments (time slices), with each moment having its own identity and an artificial past (kind of a sequence of different multiverse realities). Von Bek also learns how to shape realities out of chaos, a technique later featured more prominently in 1964's "Master of Chaos". It all ends on a kind of ironic note, one which would fit in a 'Twilight Zone' episode.
     "Time had no sequence! It was not a continuous flowing. It had no positive direction. It went neither forwards, backwards, nor in a circle; neither did it stay still. It was totally random.
     The universe was bereft of logic. It was nothing but chaos."
Synopsis: Max File is selected to test out a time machine in order to solve the problems of today by visiting the world of the future. 10 years into the future he finds a dystopia in which social wars have driven Europe into a repressed state. He tries to go back to his own time but lands in a strange world populated by evolved lizards named the Yulk. The Yulk use their advanced technology to give him the ability to speak their language. Max has his time machine fixed and continues hopping through time, but is surprised to find that there is no logical progression to the timeline – the barren Earth of the Yulk actually precedes the Earth battered by social wars. After passing through various bizarre environments, he realizes that the timestream is completely in flux, that realities coalesce and dissipate one after another without consequence to each other and people’s memories of history are conjured up spontaneously. He realizes that his own time may in fact only be 1 half second out of an eternal procession of realities. Eventually his being disintegrates and is then somehow reformed, after which he gains the ability to form realities purely by force of will. He decides to form the Earth of his memories and to have it continue on into the future as a stable bulwark against the chaotic flux of time. He finds himself back in the time machine laboratory where he had started from – the only difference being that everyone now speaks the reptilian language of the Yulk (due to a holdover from the effects of his "education" with the Yulk) .

Wikiverse Entry

“Not by Mind Alone” (1963, later retitled "Islands")
Published in New Worlds #134 (Sept 1963, collected in Moorcock's Book of Martyrs (1976), and more recently in Earl Aubec and Other Stories (1999)), this story's concept of an infinite number of parallel time-space continuums is similar in many respects to the multiverse established in "The Sundered Worlds" (1962). It proposes some interesting philosophical questions related to what a navigable multiverse could really mean to society as a whole.
Synopsis: Dr. Schmeling discovers a man who claims to be living in his own space-time continuum – moving through time but seemingly in the same space. Schmeling takes him to a research center where the scientists are able to duplicate his ability to un-anchor himself from his current time-space. Schmeling tells the narrator that large devices have been built which will un-anchor the rest of humanity from their shared time space continuum, since shared continuums naturally cause individual realities to be perceived as “abnormal”. The narrator is skeptical of Schmeling's incredible tale, but his last words are written out of sequential (time) order.

Wikiverse Entry

"Good-bye, Miranda" (1964)
This short fable-like tale was published in New Worlds #143 (Jul/Aug 1964, collected in Moorcock's Book of Martyrs (1976), and more recently in Earl Aubec and Other Stories (1999)). Its fanciful gestures may remind one of an ethnic folk tale out of the past.

Synopsis: A man named Nicholas has learned how to fly and constantly flies around Miranda’s house telling her “Good-bye”. For three days he does this, driving her and her father mad. Miranda eventually kills her father and herself out of frustration. Nicholas discovers their corpses and flies away, somewhat unworried.

Wikiverse Entry

Compact 1966
"The Deep Fix" (1964)
Published in the same issue of Science Fantasy as the last installment of the Elric Stormbringer series (#64, April 1964, later collected in The Deep Fix (1966), and more recently The Best of Michael Moorcock (2009)), "The Deep Fix" was credited to "James Colvin", a name which John Carnell had selected "from the railway guide (I had preferred 'Mendoza')". Moorcock would reuse the nom de plume of James Colvin several times in the ensuing years, for both fiction and non-fiction features, usually to indicate something more "experimental" than what one could find in his fantasy stories. A name also later used for Moorcock's rock band, "The Deep Fix" is the portrayal of (spoiler alert) a 3-levels deep drug-induced fantasy-adventure, in which the protagonist uses as a drug trip as a method to unearth solutions to technical problems buried in his subconscious.
     "It was my first attempt to use the machinery of the sf story to explore perceptions of reality, something of an obsession with English writers to this day as well as Americans like Philip K. Dick and Thomas M. Disch, who knowingly used sophisticated symbolism in their work and who tended to be published in the more accepting British magazines."
Earl Aubec, Omnibus Introduction, 1993
Dedicated to William Burroughs ("for obvious reasons"), it was "intended as a kind of bridge for a reader between the fantasy they were reading in the magazine (Science Fantasy) and what I was enjoying in the Olympia Press Burroughs books." (LA Times 2009).

William Burroughs is most famous for his book Naked Lunch (1959), probably the most phantasmagorical book I ever read, featuring a cornucopia of bizarre and comically-grotesque imagery on every page, often delivered with a bit of noir-ish humor. It was essentially collected from scraps of text written while under the influence of drugs (if there's any truth to the movie adaptation). As Moorcock hints above, "The Deep Fix" is much more conventional than Burroughs' densely-packed psychedelic trip, as its chase/quest scenario allows for a more structured canvas to mount its surreal imagery on.

Artificial devices designed to understand and cure mental disease around the world backfire, resulting in a global apocalypse of depression, suicide and blood-frenzy. A scientist named Seward desperately searches for a way to cure humanity, while at the same time fighting off roaming mobs of madmen. In order to stay awake to continue his work, he injects himself with the experimental drug M-A 19 to act as a stimulant. Seward suddenly finds himself in a strange hallucinatory world where he encounters a diabolical Blue Man Without a Navel, grotesque torturers, attractive mother-daughter allies, a vampire, and a seductress. Eventually he wakes up in the midst of his “real” laboratory where he realizes that everything he had experienced from the beginning of the story had been an induced hallucination. The purpose of this “mental journey” had been to simulate an apocalyptic reality in order to increase Seward’s drive to find a solution to his design problems. When the apocalypse scenario had been insufficient to force his subconscious to come up with an answer, his dream-self had then induced a “secondary” dream world (through the use of the fictional M-A 19 drug) in which he had been forced to overcome symbolic enemies in order to finally find the answers he had been looking for. Now returned from both levels of dreamworlds, he tells his fellow scientists that he now has the answers to save the world before the collapse described in his dream state occurs. He also hints that his ardor for one of his coworkers had been substantiated in his dream state as one of the objects of desire he had met there.

"The Time Dweller" (1964)
Hart Davis 1969
Published in New Worlds #139 (Feb 1964, later collected in The Time Dweller (1969), more recently in Breakfast in the Ruins and Other Stories (2014)), this tale describes a far future in which the sun is burning itself out and the Earth has become a much less hospitable place to live. However it presents an interesting scenario by which the method for time travel is discovered (essentially through a semantic misunderstanding).

Synopsis: Sometime far in the future the Earth has become nearly uninhabitable. A man named Scar-faced Brooder leaves his home city of Lanjis Liho, which is ruled by the Chronarch of Time. He has no concept of time as a measured quantity, only its division into past, present and future. He eventually arrives at the city of Barbart, whose inhabitants live their lives strictly according to the city’s central clock. A villager tries to explain the concept of measured time to the mystified Brooder, and characterizes time as a series of durations marked by “recycled” clock hand revolutions. Brooder misunderstands this as meaning that they can control and redistribute time at will. Later, the city clock begins to malfunction and Brooder can see that it will soon explode and kill everyone. He embraces the Barbartians’ concept of recycling time literally and somehow manages to relive the preceding “time-area” over and over again until he has been able to find a way to freeze the clock and prevent its explosion. Later, his friend the Hooknosed Wanderer tells him that he has successfully pioneered the ability to manipulate time, the final result of all of his training at Lanjis Liho. With the Earth finally becoming uninhabitable in its old age, Man will now be able to escape its deteriorating environment by exploring time itself. Brooder has become the first Time Dweller.
     “Time and Matter are both ideas. Matter makes a more immediate impression on Man, but Time's effects are longer lasting. Therefore the Chronarchy, down the ages, has sought to educate its people into thinking of Time in a similar way as they think of Matter. In this way it has been possible to produce a science of time, like the science of physics. But it has only been possible to study time until now - not manipulate it… Your descendants, Scar-faced Brooder, shall be heir to continents of time as we have continents of space. They shall travel about in time, the old view of Past, Present and Future abolished.”

"Escape from Evening" (1965)
This story, published in New Worlds #148 (Mar 1965, collected in The Time Dweller (1969), and more recently in Breakfast in the Ruins and Other Stories (2014)) is a sequel to "The Time Dweller", but has a new protagonist, the Moon-based hunchback Pepin. This story introduces the term "megaflow", later used to describe the flow of time in books related to the Dancers at the End of Time sequence.

Synopsis: In the same far-future as that of Scar-faced Brooder, Pepin Hunchback, an inhabitant of humanity’s artificial settlement on the Moon, pines for what he believes are the “golden days” of Earth’s ancient past. He believes that humanity on the Moon is slowly becoming more machinelike, while humanity on Earth is slowly being wiped out by environmental change.
     “My race will not be human within a century - yours will not exist. Are we to perish? Are the values of humanity to perish - have the strivings of the last million years been pointless? Is there no escape from Earth's evening? I will not accept that!”
After journeying to Earth, he learns of Brooder’s ability as a “Time Dweller” from a chance meeting with Hooknosed Wanderer. Pepin journeys to Lanjis Liho hoping that the time dwellers there can show him how to travel into the past. Brooder tells him that his people have developed the ability to shift in time through self-development and that they cannot simply pass on this ability. Frustrated, Pepin nonetheless learns from Brooder’s attractive sister that the people of Lanjis Liho had once developed a machine to enable time travel. Pepin steals aboard the timeship and travels into the past, only to find a void. He then tries to travel to the future, where he encounters a colorful collision of chaotic light. Later Brooder explains that the universe travels along a “Megaflow”. The future is consumed as time marches forward along the Megaflow, leaving nothing but a void in its wake. There is no “past” to return to, as any travel along the Megaflow also leaves behind the physical universe. Brooder tells Pepin that his people plan to survive the increasingly hostile conditions of their present time and space by using the Megaflow to migrate to more hospitable “time-continents” (spheres of the multiverse). Pepin is forlorn that he will soon be left behind, but then sees Brooder’s sister approach him in the distance and is cheered up (it’s also possible that he has somehow obtained the ability to jump back in time to his first arrival at Lanjis Liho).

New Worlds 154, Art: James Cawthorn
"The Pleasure Garden of Felipe Sagittarius" (as James Colvin, 1965)

Published in New Worlds  #154 (Sept 1965, later included in The Deep Fix (1966), and more recently in My Experiences in the Third World War and Other Stories (2014)), this is the earliest "metatemporal" adventurer story (I think), as it uses the multiverse premise to allow Moorcock's protagonist to engage in a bit of Sexton Blake-like sleuthery in an alternate past reality. Here, famous 20th Century historical figures (both political and cultural) are recast in somewhat "diminished" roles. It's a fun story, but has even greater resonance after Moorcock revised the story in later reprints to connect the main characters to the Von Bek/Sir Seaton Begg mythology (established in The War Hound and the World's Pain (1981)). In the 2007 edition, Felipe Sagittarius is identified as Von Bek's nemesis Klosterheim, Sam Begg protects the Holy Grail from Hitler (who knows Kurt Weill as an acquaintance from Mirenburg (The City in the Autumn Stars (1986)), and a giant robot rampaging through Berlin is characterized as a "land leviathan" (The Land Leviathan (1974)). The collection The Metatemporal Detective (2007) features this and other "sleuth-iverse" stories.

Synopsis: Metatemporal Investigator Minos Aquilinas (updated to Minos Von Bek in 1992 and Sam Begg in 2007) visits the home of Berlin Police Chief Otto von Bismarck in order to investigate the mysterious murder of an intruder. The intruder, fitted with paper lungs (a modern trend to allow smokers to enjoy longer lives) had been found in Bismarck’s exotic garden, which is under the care of the furtive Felipe Sagittarius. In Bismarck’s love bungalow, Aquilinas finds a pendant with the initials E.B. Aquilinas soon crosses paths with Captain Adolph Hitler, Hitler’s tavern-singer lover Eva Braun, the bartender Kurt Weill, the tavern hanger-on Albert Einstein and a giant roaming robot. Eva is soon found dead, poisoned by a lethal gift – a fanged plant from Sagittarius’ garden. When confronted by Captain Hitler, Chief Bismarck admits that he had ordered Sagittarius to send Eva the plant because Aquilinas was getting too close to the truth – Bismarck and Eva (E.B.) were having an affair. Hitler confesses that he had earlier sent Eva’s ex-lover (Joseph Stalin) to follow her into Bismarck’s pleasure garden, with orders to kill Bismarck and Eva. He had hoped that Stalin would then be killed by Sagittarius’ killer vines on the way out - unfortunately, Stalin had been killed on the way in. Angry at Eva’s death, Hitler shoots and kill Bismarck. Distraught, Hitler runs into Sagittarius’ lethal garden and is consumed. Sagittarius blames Aquilinas for forcing Bismarck’s hand, leading to his promising protégé Hitler’s death.

"The Mountain" (1965)
     "While sitting on the peak of Mount Portafjallet and waiting for the mist to lift I had the nearest thing to a revelation. When I returned to England I decided to concentrate on my adult fiction. The Mountain is pretty much a straight account of the expedition to Arctic Lappland which caused me to revise any ideas I had previously had about writing conventional social fiction."
  -  Earl Aubec, Omnibus Introduction, 1993
Published in New Worlds #147 (Feb 1965, collected in The Time Dweller (1969), and more recently in My Experiences in the Third World War and Other Stories (2014)), this story begins on a bleak post-nuclear premise, but ends up focusing on the profound beauty of (almost) unspoiled nature. In some sense it could be perceived as having an environmentalist theme.

Synopsis: After a nuclear holocaust, only two men (Hallner and Nilsson) have apparently survived, as they had been hiking in Sweden near Norway during the fallout. When they find signs of a living woman, they follow her trail up a steep mountain. Hallner begins to lose interest in the whole affair and finds it enough simply to appreciate the wondrous nature around them. When they reach the peak of the mountain, the woman is nowhere to be seen. Hallner tells his partner that he may have seen signs of her down below (a “spread out shadow” on a glacier - i.e., dead). Nilsson heads back down after her and seemingly falls to his death. Hallner (probably dead) does not hear his scream.

Next Chapter: The Roads Between the Worlds (The Fireclown, Prof. Faustaff and the Twilight Man)

Previous Chapter: The Sundered Worlds