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Author Topic: Elric books for Sorcerer and Sword background (Help!)  (Read 4059 times)
Henri
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Posts: 88


« on: April 18, 2004, 04:13:59 PM »

I have a question for the big Sword and Sorcery fans out there.  I wanted to read Elric of Melnibone as background reading for Sorcerer and Sword, since I haven't read much Sword and Sorcery, but I discoverd that it is out of print!  There is a dizzying amount of Moorcock stuff on amazon.com, a lot of it overlapping and a lot of it out of print.

Does anyone have any suggestions on where to start, and where to go from there?

Thanks in advance, your advice is greatly appreciated.

PS  I hope this post isn't out of line, since technically it isn't about RPG's.  If it is, apologies.
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-Henri
Eric J-D
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Posts: 187


« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2004, 04:56:52 PM »

White Wolf put out Elric: Song of the Black Sword several years ago, followed by Elric: The Stealer of Souls.  Between the two of them you would have all of Moorcock's Elric stories.  These should still be available in paperback through Amazon or Powell's bookstore or the like.

Since Moorcock revised these slightly for republication in the White Wolf collections, they represent his take on the series as of the 1990s.  The differences between their form in these collections and in the DAW novels is very slight, so unless you want the stories in their absolutely original forms I would go with the two titles listed above.

I haven't read them in a while, but I remember them being good stuff.  Much of them concern Elric's pawnlike manipulation by higher forces and his desire to be his own master, and you would have to be blind not to see the destination towards which the story is heading, but they contain some good writing and are certainly important in the way they aim to overturn many of the conventions established by Howard's worst imitators.  

If you haven't read any Howard, I would recommend it.  His stories offer some real pleasures and have more going on under the surface than people like DeCamp ever guessed.

Eric
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2004, 06:05:20 PM »

Hello,

The most important thing about reading Elric stories is to recognize the order in which they were written.

Phase 1: the novels The Stealer of Souls (middle), The Dreaming City (beginning), and Stormbringer (ending). The DAW editions renamed The Dreaming City, calling it Elric of Melnibone; included The Stealer of Souls in the collection called The Weird of the White Wolf; and published the final one under its own name.

Phase 2: a bunch of fill-in material, giving Elric's pal Moonglum more time in the spotlight, adding the rather poor subplot of Myshella and Theleb K'aarna, and crossing over with the Corum, Jerry Cornelius, Dancers at the End of Time, Hawkmoon, and other Eternal Champion stories something fierce. The point at which this latter approach ceased being "about something" and graded into self-parody is left up to the reader.

The DAW books summarize both phases:

Elric of Melnibone: the "origin" story, one of the original few, although not the very-first written.

The Sailor on the Seas of Fate: all Eternal Champion crossovers.

The Weird of the White Wolf: includes the infamous The Stealer of Souls, as well as some other easly stuff like The Dead Gods' Book, plus some Eternal Champion crossover.

The Vanishing Tower has some Eternal Champion crossover, but is notable for truly grisly imagery - slam-bang adventure; the most straightforwardly "fantasy hacking" of the saga. Theleb K'aarna filler warning.

The Bane of the Black Sword: mostly setting up the details for the final novel, especially with Elric's lover Zarozinia, Tanelorn, and a lot of Law & Chaos talk. Still marred by the intolerable Theleb K'aarna who fails to be interesting even when being killed.

Stormbringer: balls-to-the-wall harsh fantasy, a great climax and taking no prisoners.

Phase 3: a 1990s Elric resurgence, including Fortress of the Pearl, that one about the Rose, and others. Frankly, I find most of them intolerable and confess I'm biased. Add to taste.

So, on a strictly personal basis, I recommend reading the DAW books Elric of Melnibone, The Weird of the White Wolf, and Stormbringer, as the basic spine of the saga. Everything else - and some of it is great stuff - can be thought of as adding muscle and nerves, or, unfortunately, wads of fat, or even more unfortunately, gangrenous spackle.

Best,
Ron
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Henri
Member

Posts: 88


« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2004, 06:22:34 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Everything else - and some of it is great stuff - can be thought of as adding muscle and nerves, or, unfortunately, wads of fat, or even more unfortunately, gangrenous spackle.


Yowzers!  I'm glad I asked for expert advice before jumping into that.  I could have picked up the wrong thing first and never gotten anywhere.  Actually, when I was like 15 I did read some Conan (I have no idea if it was by Howard) and Moorcock (Jewel in the Skull), and was pretty unimpressed, but I guess I probably picked up the wrong stuff, since I had no clue.

Anyway, thanks!
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-Henri
xiombarg
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« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2004, 07:40:28 AM »

I'll note, in passing, not being aware of the historical matters that Ron cites, that I read the DAW novels in the order that DAW set them up to be read while I was in high school, and that I actually liked the Theleb K'aarna stuff and all the Color associated with it, as well as the Eternal Champion crossover stuff.

That said, the most Sorcerer-relevant stuff is in the "spine" of books that Ron mentions, the rest is Color that, unlike Ron, I enjoyed immensely for its own sake. You see, in cooking, fat adds flavor. ;-D

That said, there is one scene in the Elric books that I think is the most purely Sorcerer moment I've had the pleasure to read...

-- SPOILER WARNING, GRATUITOUS SPOILER SPACE BELOW ---

















When Stormbringer kills the love of Elric's life... Oh, man, that's such a Sorcerer moment, possibly only topped by Elric's death and Stormbringer's little epitath for him...
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
DannyK
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« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2004, 01:10:38 PM »

I'm tempted to tell you to read Stormbringer first; the impression will be greatly heightened if you haven't encountered these ideas and characters before.  

(There must be a handy term for "writing additional stories which spoil your appreciation of the first ones through abuse of the material" -- maybe we should call it Lucas-ization.)
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Doyce
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« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2004, 01:36:11 PM »

Quote from: zhlubb
If you haven't read any Howard, I would recommend it.  His stories offer some real pleasures and have more going on under the surface than people like DeCamp ever guessed.


I realize this is topic drift a bit, but I really want to recommend this recent Conan collection: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0345461517/qid=1082410196/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/103-7409443-1102246?v=glance&s=books.  I picked it up recently and was very very pleased.  It has 13 Conan stories within (all but one of Ron's 'must read' list and a couple from the 'darn good' list as well), plus early drafts of some of the work, Howard's essay on Hyborea, and some other goodies.  Much recommended.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2004, 01:52:33 PM »

Hi,

Doyce, check out s&s lit: the return of REH for some discussion about the new Conan book.

Best,
Ron
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Eric J-D
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Posts: 187


« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2004, 01:54:34 PM »

I agree with what Ron says about the series as a whole; for me the real delights are found in the DAW titles Elric of Melnibone, The Weird of the White Wolf, and Stormbringer.

Unless you really want to begin with the origin story first, I recommend starting with Weird of the White Wolf, especially book one which, just to add to the confusion, is titled "The Dreaming City."  Most of the significant themes are established here, and a Sorcerer campaign could mine it for lots of useful inspiration.

Enjoy.

Eric

P.S. Not to derail the thread, but could you tell us, Ron, what you don't like about the Myshella material in Weird of the White Wolf?
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Henri
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Posts: 88


« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2004, 07:39:00 PM »

Quote from: zhlubb
P.S. Not to derail the thread, but could you tell us, Ron, what you don't like about the Myshella material in Weird of the White Wolf?
As far as I'm concerned, you can derail all you want.  I got my question answered (and more besides!).  I'm glad there have been other threads on Sword and Sorcery literature, it makes me not feel bad for posting a non-RPG thread.  So as long as Ron doesn't mind chatting about Conan and Elric, I certainly don't.
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-Henri
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2004, 08:03:24 AM »

Hiya,

Myshella's a relatively interesting character whose eventual fate plays a neat role in the final story. Theleb K'aarna, on the other hand, is a Ken doll who takes up space. He is the equivalent of "two too many car chases" in a movie.

I'm not sure how to articulate it beyond the point that his presence in the saga puts no pressure whatsoever on the crucial triangle-relationship of Elric, Stormbringer, and [pick one: Arioch, Moonglum, Cymoril, and to a lesser extent Zarozinia].

I think it's significant that Kirt (xiombarg) liked the Theleb K'aarna stuff back in high school. I consider almost any enjoyment of these stories "back in high school" to express power-issues of adolescence (in which the books indulge, greatly) rather than appreciation of their actual stories.

Eh, Sean?

Best,
Ron
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xiombarg
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« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2004, 09:11:49 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I think it's significant that Kirt (xiombarg) liked the Theleb K'aarna stuff back in high school. I consider almost any enjoyment of these stories "back in high school" to express power-issues of adolescence (in which the books indulge, greatly) rather than appreciation of their actual stories.

I dunno, Ron. I reread some of that stuff as recently as a couple of years ago, and I still appreciated in terms of Color. Perhaps I just have an arrested adolescence. ;-D

That said, I will note that the first book and the last book, which Ron singled out, are the ones I go back to in order to reread the most often. I just don't think the Theleb K'aarna stuff is by-definition pointless, tho perhaps less so for pure Sorcerer purposes.
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
Sean
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« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2004, 09:52:28 AM »

Power issues in adolescence?

I was at a punk rock show once back in San Francisco, this was about '91, where they had these japanese cartoon sex movies playing on big TV screens during the concert. The characters - buxom women and giant demons, among others - would battle each other by having sex, whereupon their private parts would glow brighter and brighter until one of the two entities engaged in sexual melee exploded. There was this little boy character who had like a 6 foot long black penis covered with red runes who seemed to be the nascent hero of the saga.

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.

I write this neither to condemn the having or working through of such issues, nor to indicate that all people who like the Elric stories must secretly be nursing them, even in high school and before. (Though everyone has issues with agency of some kind, I would maintain.) But Elric, while in some ways an 'antihero' (as is commonly noted), is actually a much purer expression of adolescent power-fantasy than Conan and many others, because Elric is intrinsically powerless, just like the adolescent. He gets his power through magic (i.e. brains) and this whopper of a runesword he's got down in his scabbard.

I'm very tempted to go on at length here about the particular hinkinesses in my own configuration of male power-fantasy, but so as not to derail the thread I'll save it for next year's birthday forum.

As to where to go from those stories, that really depends on what you like. If you can tell us some non-S&S fiction you do like, that may help us to recommend some S&S fiction that would be more likely to float your boat. It does come in rather different flavors.
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xiombarg
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« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2004, 09:56:08 AM »

And to bring this perhaps more on-topic, I'll note that such phallic power issues make fine Sorcerer material, just as the Conan stories do.
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2004, 11:12:38 AM »

Hello,

Sean, that was brilliantly expressed. In one essay by Moorcock, he writes that The Dreaming City (later re-titled The Stealer of Souls, not The Dreaming City which got re-titled Elric of Melnibone) is a blatantly pornographic story. Elric basically fucks Cymoril to death; the whole faceless Madonna-Whore thing is just reeking all over it. The setup novel (DAW: Elric of Melnibone) makes her a more interesting character, but when you read that story in isolation as the originally-written core of the saga, it's definitely the stroke-it king of fantasy fiction.

Also, you wrote,

Quote
I'm very tempted to go on at length here about the particular hinkinesses in my own configuration of male power-fantasy,


I figured you did that in Character conversion, which is why I prompted you. If there's more, then whoo boy, I'm looking forward to the next Birthday already.

And as long as we're being fannish and pedantic (and hopefully critique-ful) of the Elric stories, I do hope everyone is mentally pronouncing Elric's homeland as having four syllables ...

The movie scenes you describe are almost certainly from one or more of the notorious Legend of the Overfiend movies, or at least from the genre. And yeah, Kirt, my-dick-as-demon and slut-babe-demon are consistent with Sorcerer play, and the rules seem made for it, certainly.

Best,
Ron
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