This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced one fantasy author.
Elric of Melnibone
by Michael Moorcock
Back in the early 1980s, I was a just hitting my teen years and was still discovering all that the speculative fiction genres had to offer, from science fiction to fantasy to eventually horror. In a bid to help build my reading experience in such genres, I joined the Science Fiction Book Club.
This club works like many book clubs did back then. You join up by paying a dollar, then you get five or six books at no additional cost. The only catch was you had to buy so many books (I believe it was four, in my case) at regular prices within the next year.
That was a no-brainer for me. I joined up and picked out my original group of books. Back in those pre-Internet days, I had a short pamphlet from which to pick my literature. I believe I ended up snagging some AnneMcCaffrey, Isaac Asimov and a collection of Elric novels and short stories by Michael Moorcock.
The book Elric of Melnibone was the first part of this Elric collection. I believe what drew me to this first book were the ancient-looking, arcane images on the cover. It had to be good with all that stuff, right?
It opened my eyes to new ways of telling fantasy stories, and introduced me to new, darker types of fantasy characters.
By that time I had read more than a smattering of Sword and Sorcery tales, so I was somewhat familiar with the darker elements of fantasy, but Moorcock’s Elric stories were so much strong, and darker.
To keep it brief, Elric is a former prince of the nation of Melnibone. He’s not human. He’s also an albino. He can put up a fight, but he’s mostly a dark mage of sorts. In other words, he’s not really a good guy. Oh, and he has this magical sword. It does more than kill. It steals its victim’s souls.
Cheery stuff, eh?
I see a lot of Elric influence in today’s fantasy literature, especially epic fantasy. I don’t know whether the man is a fan of Moorcock or not, but R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt the dark elf character at least visually seems to be a thematic descendant from Elric.
After first dipping into the stories of Elric, I was hooked. I think I spent the next six months hunting down and ordering every book there was available Moorcock had written about Elric. There were a fair number, a half a dozen or so, but not as many as there are today.
Don’t you sometimes wish you could re-discover something for the first time? That’s how I feel about the Elrictales. Alas, we don’t grow younger.
Up next: Swords and Deviltry