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Author Topic: Elric books for Sorcerer and Sword background (Help!)  (Read 4564 times)
Eric J-D
Member

Posts: 187


« Reply #15 on: April 20, 2004, 01:58:20 PM »

It's been fun to read what some of you see in the Elric stories, although I have to say that while I certainly recognize its appeal, especially to adolescent males, the Stud Powercock fantasy element of Elric was never the driving thing for me.

I see the real gripping stuff of the story (and hear I am talking very specifically about the story "The Dreaming City," the first book of The Weird of the White Wolf) as coming in the chapter that follows Cymoril's death.  The chapter begins with Elric mourning the loss of his love, but then it takes an abrupt turn.  Moorcock writes:


Quote
Elric looked back at Imrryr and suddenly a greater sadness overwhelmed him as a tower,
 as delicate and as beautiful as fine lace, cracked and toppled with flames leaping about it.

He had shattered the last great monument to the earlier race--his own race.  Men might have learned again, one day, to build strong, slender towers like those of Imrryr, but now the knowledge was dying with the thundering chaos of the fall of the Dreaming City and the fast-diminishing race of Melnibone.


This expression of regret from a character who has engineered his culture's doom, a culture for which he has previously demonstrated only contempt, really grabbed me as an adolescent.

I suppose that like the sex-power fantasy, my interest too is related to certain biographical realities of my own.  Growing up in the 1970s amidst some of the ugliest racial conflict in Philadelphia's history (I can recall the cops engaging in gun battles with groups like MOVE, an organization that the city would later obliterate when the mayor agreed to let the police drop a bomb on the roof of their building), I confess that I was more than occasionally afflicted with a desire to see U.S. society--which I could only see then as racist and death-loving--consigned to the flames.  That's where I suppose I could see myself in Elric.  I felt like the society I was living in was, frankly, poisonous, that we were arrogant in our dealings with other nations, out of touch with the needs of the rest of the world and insulated from them in unhealthy ways by our wealth and power.  Hell, I still feel that way.

But as a teenager, I was also drawn to the feelings of ambivalence that Elric experiences in this passage.  Despite his deep hatred for many of the things Imrryr represents, Elric clearly recognizes the loss that accompanies its passing.

I am sure that during the 1960s this sort of thing was much stronger for British youth of a clearly or even vaguely leftist orientation.  After all, Britain had an empire that once spanned the globe, but even if you were a middle class educated Marxist who loathed the whole rotten apple you couldn't help but admire some of its achievements.  So at least my lefty British friends say.

Anyway, enough biographical sharing for me.  This was what made the stories so intriguing to me and it is probably this element that I would want to mine for a Sorcerer game.

Sorry to go on at such length.

Eric
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2004, 02:08:11 PM »

Eric, that's great stuff. I buy it in full.

I also like to consider the Elric stories in the context of glam rock. There's a hell of a lot of Iggy, Bowie, and Glitter in Elric, in terms of appearance and all kinds of world-weary, arty thematic stuff. You can see it in lots of Moorcock stuff like The Time of the Hawklords (heavily influenced by MM's own tenure as a musician) and most especially in the Jerry Cornelius stories.

Best,
Ron
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Eric J-D
Member

Posts: 187


« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2004, 04:16:40 PM »

Ron,

I totally see that.  Did I mention that Bowie, Iggy, Transformer-era Lou Reed, and, of course, VU were my favorite perormers during this time?  I don't think I was conscious of the convergence of these aesthetics at the time I read the stories, but I can see exactly what you mean in retrospect.  One could have a grand old time reading them to the accompaniment of Bowie's "Hunky Dory," especially the song "Oh You Pretty Things."

Oh, and by the way, when I asked about why you didn't care for the Myshella material in Weird I was actually confusing her with Shaarilla, the wingless woman of Myyrrhn from the "While the Gods Laugh" section of the book.  My bad.

Cheers,

Eric
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The Fiendish Dr. Samsara
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #18 on: April 29, 2004, 05:31:41 PM »

I know that this thread is pretty much over, but I just stumbled on it and felt like responding, even if the response just ends up in the Dead God’s book.  I want to quibble with the “adolescent sex-power fantasy” reading of Elric that was proposed here.  I’m not denying that you could read it that way, but do so is kind of too narrowly circumscribing the idea of power fantasies.  Actually, to read “power fantasy” as “sex-power fantasy” is itself a kind of adolescent bias; that is, reading everything as being about sex.

Now granted that I haven’t reread the stories in quite a few years, but I did read them all several hundred times as younger chap.  So I may be forgetting some details, but I think that I have the general ideas pretty well to hand.  And it seems to me that Elric is principally about wrestling with questions of power, rather than being a power fantasy” per se.  This itself is great adolescent material.  The whole question underlying the stories is not only “who has the power?” but also “will you use you power”? They are all about the ambivalence of power, in the way that adolescence is about the ambivalence of maturity. Let me just look a bit at what became _Elric of Melnibone_ in this light.

Elric is the ruler of the most powerful nation in the world.  Yet that Empire is sadly sagging, attenuated by its own successes, increasingly powerless due to its previous power.  Elric is a reflection of that: he is, himself, physically powerless and knows it and has attempted to make up for it with knowledge-as-power.  But that knowledge-power has made him question the exercise of power thus rendering him powerless because of his power, just like Melnibone (ambivalent).  

Yrkoon and the old guard urge him to use this power to reclaim the Empire’s status, but he resists.  He doesn’t even want to fight the invading humans, but does so anyway. He gets booted off his ship and nearly dies.  He saves himself by calling upon the power he has long resisted. Even this is an ambivalent act, since in the Elric stories “powerful” sorcerers don’t seem to have any actual personal power, but rather the ability to barter/harness someone else’s power. With Straasha’s help he lives and returns to the Ruby Throne.  Now sort of high on power, he acts as Yrkoon would have him do and is a badass.  Except that he stops himself and doesn’t kill Yrkoon immediately (ambivalent again).

Yrkoon rapes Cymoril (in the old sense of the word, but you Freudians do what you will) and Elric is forced to confront power again. To fight Yrkoon he must call upon greater power and summons Arioch, binding himself to the Lord of the Seven Darks.  This is a great bit because of the power-ambivalence: Elric demonstrates himself to be the most powerful sorcerer of the age by doing this, but sacrifices power by accepting Arioch’s patronage.  Arioch here is essentially pure power; power without the constraints of morality or even logic.  He is exactly what Elric most fears.

Elric gives chase after summoning the Ship That Sails On Land and Sea, which is another power struggle, this between Straasha and Grome.  This detail could be seen as pure Color, but it isn’t: it’s part of the theme.  Elric rescues Cymoril (a powerful, heroic thing to do) only to find that he is powerless to wake her up.  Instead he can only chase after Yrkoon, which, for what it is worth, is a rather bathetic turn of events. In the Otherworld (I can’t recall if it has a name, although the village there does), he is forced to slaughter a bunch of sad, beast-men, displaying a power to kill which he does not enjoy.  This, of course, a repeated throughout he series and is one of the ways in which he really is an anti-Conan.

And so we get to the final confrontation in the very womb-like cave of the swords.  Elric enters to find Yrkoon holding Mournblade and exalting in the feeling of power.  Elric has a choice and he makes it: he literally grasps power and enjoys it.  And yet (once more), he holds back at the last moment and doesn’t kill Yrkoon.  They return to Imryrr and Elric decided to leave the throne and wander the world as a (powerless) traveller and makes Yrkoon regent.  That ending seemed so pleasant to me the first time I read it, but once you have read the rest of the stories, you realize that this is the Elric Saga in a nutshell: Elric has power, but doesn’t want to use it, and that decision dooms everybody.

I’m not saying that sex doesn’t figure into questions of power; of course it does.  And there is some heavy sexual imagery in the series: the fight between Elric and Yrkoon in the pink, pulsing cave where each of them keeps shouting out the name of his “blade” as he thrusts.  Okay; got it.  But I am saying that limiting it to sex is missing the real point.

Incidentally, I don’t think Theleb Ka’arna is pointless.  He is pointed because he is Elric’s shadow: he seems to be everything that Elric ought to be, a powerful, nasty, semi-human sorcerer who cavorts with demons.  Elric rivalry forces him to pursue greater power; rather than being ambivalent, he is zealous.  But the more he pursues power, the further it recedes from him and the more pathetic he becomes.  He’s an object lesson for Elric and his lack of strong personality seems appropriate to me.

But that’s just my two cents.
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I have this wonderful plan for world domination. Pretty much. At least in theory. Or some ideas, at any rate.

O.K., I've got nothing.
Sean
Guest
« Reply #19 on: April 30, 2004, 02:14:43 AM »

Dr. Samsara (love the handle),

That's an interesting, nuanced discussion of the Elric tales. I would agree with much of what you say. I think, however, that you're missing the point of the earlier discussion, which was not so much "what, in the final analysis, are these stories about?", but "what do (certain) people read into them and get out of them?" Follow the way it emerged out of the discussion between Kirt, Ron, and I and I think you'll see that.

The sex-fantasy reading is there, and it's one reason (I would maintain) these books are relatively more popular with adolescent boys, or at least a certain type of adolescent boy, than are many other fantasy cycles. But for a reading to be there it doesn't have to be definitive; and even if your reading was entirely correct, I don't think it's that difficult to see the sex-fantasy reading as a natural oversimplification of it for many readers.

In other words, I don't think you're up against any reductive Freudians here. On the other hand, I think you've made a fine contribution to the discussion despite that, so no harm done.

Best,

Sean
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The Fiendish Dr. Samsara
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #20 on: April 30, 2004, 10:20:31 AM »

Quote from: Sean
Power issues in adolescence?
Probably some of you know what movie I'm talking about, which I can no longer recall, but the point I wanted to make about it here was just that part of what makes the Elric stories so attractive to so many young men (including many who never go back to fantasy again after they get laid for real) is that, well, Elric is this skinny nerd with a 6' long black penis covered with red runes named Stormbringer. He kicks ass on giant demons and on a high school quarterback named Yrkoon.


Don’t mean to tilt at windmills.  Perhaps I misunderstood what you were saying—it sounded to me as if you were saying young guys respond to the phallic-fantasy part (and implicitly miss the rest), rather than that the phallic fantasy is one part of what they respond to (and perhaps the part that lodges most clearly in mind).  So I was just trying to say that IMHO adolescents respond to all the power issues; I sure as Chardos did.

And while your point about Elric as the superior power-fantasy in relation to Conan is excellently observed, I think the limits of that should be pointed to as well: Elric hates his magic penis.  It would have been easy to make Elric the S&S Capt. Marvel: one day a skinny, brainy geek; the next day a big stud with the help of his magic thingy.  That’s a power-fantasy.  But Elric both loves and loathes his power and that’s why the stories aren’t really so much power-fantasy as wrestling with power-issues.  If you bear Capt. Marvel in mind, Elric starts off a kid with his peers taunting him to grow up and do something manly.  He resists and resists.  Whenever he asserts his mature status (power display), he immediately feels awful about it and tries to run away.  That’s why Tanelorn is so amazingly dull: trying to go back to childhood is really boring once you’ve been an adult.  It sounds nice and peaceful, but it just doesn’t work.

Now I’m not saying that I was consciously aware of any of this when I first read the stories at age 12 (inspired by the entry in _Deities & Demigods_.  Anyone else encounter Moorcock that way?  Jeff Dee drew cool pictures, although Moonglum was totally wrong). I’m not sure that I even got all the sexual stuff then either: Elric and his codependent-lover-sword enter the ecstasy of battle and Stormbringer starts moaning.  But I think that I felt the implications.  I wondered why Elric hated Stormbringer and yet I kind of got it too.

That reminds me (sheepishly) that I sort of forgot to include Stormbringer in that analysis.  But really the power issues of a thing that sucks men’s souls and gives their strength to you is maybe too obvious to go into.

Cheers all.
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I have this wonderful plan for world domination. Pretty much. At least in theory. Or some ideas, at any rate.

O.K., I've got nothing.
DannyK
Guest
« Reply #21 on: April 30, 2004, 10:39:26 AM »

Quote from: The Fiendish Dr. Samsara

Elric hates his magic penis.  


I think it's been worth following this thread just to get to this sentence.
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The Fiendish Dr. Samsara
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #22 on: April 30, 2004, 11:43:58 AM »

Hehe.  Actually, that is funnier than I intended it to be.
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I have this wonderful plan for world domination. Pretty much. At least in theory. Or some ideas, at any rate.

O.K., I've got nothing.
Nev the Deranged
Member

Posts: 741

Dave. Yeah, that Dave.


« Reply #23 on: May 02, 2004, 10:41:52 AM »

(off topic)

DannyK mentioned coining the word "Lucasization" for the addition of new canonical material that detracts from the existing body of work.

Well, Danny, I have taken the liberty of doing exactly that. But fear not, I gave the credit to you.

http://www.langmaker.com/db/eng_l_index.htm

NOTE - that I just submitted it yesterday and it usually takes at least a week, often much longer, for the single person responsible for updating the Langmaker site to add new entries, which I'm sure those behind the upkeep of the Forge will understand. So if you look and it's not there yet, give it a few days and check again.

If you click on the name of the submitter of any entry, it will take you to the By-Submitter-Name index, where you can see all the words that yours truly, as well as myriad others, have added to our wonderful language.

 enjoi ^_^
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