Monday, April 28, 2008

Tribute to Michael Moorcock

As mentioned in my previous post, I had the honor of presenting a tribute speech for Michael Moorcock before he was officially named the 25th Grandmaster of the Science Fiction Writers of America this past Saturday night. The phrase "With A Little Help From My Friends" definitely comes to mind. Many thanks to Neil Gaiman, Chris Roberson, Jeff Vandermeer, Jeffrey Ford, China Mieville, and Alan Moore for their contributions which were all composed from the heart within a few days of the ceremony. Here are my words and their words (minus all of my ad-libs), for those that weren't there:

"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 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 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.


Blogger ces said...

Wonderful, simply wonderful!

Thank you so much for sharing it with us John!

9:39 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

Excellent - thanks for posting this. Moorcock is simply the best there is and no accolade could do him justice, but this one comes close.

5:11 AM  
Anonymous Nick (AriochRIP) said...

Thanks for sharing this, John. If it brought a tear to my eye as a fan, I can only imagine how it affected Mike and Linda. I've been reading Mike's stuff for almost 25 years. It's a rare thing to have your childhood hero NEVER disappoint you. It's such a blessing that the man is still writing, still productive, still expanding our minds.

Wish I could have been there.

All the best, Nick.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for that, John. Brought a tear to my eye AGAIN! Yet I can never really believe that it's me being talked about.
Very generous of you -- and the others you roped in -- I think of us all as a kind of multiverse of talent, all linked together in one great ranch...all lending our strengths to the same great enterprise!

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, didn't mean to be anonymous! Mike M

10:01 AM  
Blogger michael said...

Yikes! Once again I stand proudly in the shadow of MM...
John, reading this speech is nearly as good as hearing it was, and as Mike says, yet another tear in the eye.
A fabulous speech fit for the evening.

4:26 PM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Hi, folks --

Playing catchup over here, ever since I got back from the Nebs.

Thanks, Christine, Alan, Nick, and Michael E.! I really appreciate it.

Grandmaster Mike -- it means the world that the words connected. I felt like a heel asking some of the best authors ever to limit their expressions to only 100 words, but I knew I only had about 4 minutes up on that podium. So every word had to count. Like I said, you can't adequately express love that big in that short a time, but we gave it our best. It was a great night, and I was just thrilled to be in the room as a witness.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Samantha said...

That is great news. My favorite writer - who gave me the hope that even if in this universe I am doomed to chaos, there is a facet of myself living for order.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Moorcock's writing has sent me on a quest to find all of them that I can and even have multiple editions when I ran of new books to find.... I wish he'll visit smaller literacy cons like Confluence, since he would make my decade on a visit in person. His latest books have been incredible and shown that he has surpassed his earlier works.

10:49 AM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Hi, Eric....hi, Samantha --

Thanks for stopping by.....I'll let Mike know you said so. His work definitely transcends, doesn't it?

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks again, everybody. I actually prefer smaller conventions but we can't always come to them because we're in Europe half the year. However, I'm planning to visit Biloxi, Miss. for their convention next year. Mike

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Somnopolis said...

The man is a legend. Nicely done.

6:35 PM  

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