kw: book reviews, anthologies, speculative fiction
My experience reading Michael Moorcock is variable. Some I like, some I don't, and some I don't understand. He edited the sf periodical New Worlds in the 1960s and 1970s. I read a 2004 reprint of New Worlds: an Anthology, originally printed in 1983. I have a firmer view now. I don't like the kind of fiction he likes, with very rare exceptions. I do like about half of the nonfiction (criticism, and interview, and review articles) he reprinted here.
Of thirty items in the anthology, twenty are fiction. Only two resemble (distantly) what I'd call science fiction. A few are fantasy, one or two are speculative fiction, and the rest either fantasy or unclassifiable. It is clear that Moorcock is proudest of the unclassifiable genre. He likes J.G. Ballard and Brian W. Aldiss, but only at their zaniest (though J.G.'s least zany is clearly ahead of anyone else's most zany).
The trouble is, many of the stories come from "the sixties", actually 1967-1975, when I quit reading sf entirely. At least half the "sixties" stories were extended wet dreams. This collection reinforced that view. I had to simply skip out after a few paragraphs on many of these. Many of the rest are varieties of pointless existentialism: obsession with detail, little or nothing that would reveal if any of the characters is actually conscious, and an ending that simply ends without conclusion. Most of my generation outgrew Camus and his "suicide is the best policy" ethic about the time President Carter invented the "miserability index".
New Worlds does try to present new worlds, all right. But I'd rather not live in any of them. There was a little to like, an interview with Tolkein that I enjoyed, a reprinting of "Traveler's Rest", which actually has a good idea—and which I'd read before with enjoyment—, and plenty that made me say, "Over all, I'm rather glad I skipped '60s sf."