Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Interview: Sci-Fi lord Michael Moorcock puts in a good word for the Queen of Space Opera

The online music publication The Quietus recently posted a lengthy, wide-ranging interview with British science fiction and fantasy author Michael Moorcock, titled “Talking To The Sci-Fi Lord: Regenerations & Ruminations With Michael Moorcock.” Here’s the section that caught my eye:
Interviewer: Back to writing, what were the literary influences when you were growing up?

Michael Moorcock: PG Wodehouse. Richmal Crompton, who wrote the William books. Most of it was comedy. And I also read Edgar Rice Burroughs; that was the adventure stuff I liked best. And then I discovered pulp fiction in old junk bookshops, so I started buying the American pulp magazines, and I really liked a lot of those. I never liked the posher stuff; I didn't like The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, all the things that were all striving for a better literary tone and all that, I didn't like it a bit. I liked the good old-fashioned space opera stuff, but preferably centered around one character. So I liked… I don't know if you know Leigh Brackett? She wrote the majority of [1946 movie] The Big Sleep, as it appeared, and she just had a wonderful romantic sweep to her science fiction, which is really science fantasy, I mean there wasn't much science in it. Most of the stuff I liked was set on a Mars that was very evocative, ancient Mars with ancient cultures, and her character is a guy called Eric John Stark, and he'd been raised on Mercury where it's very hard to live, which made him incredibly tough, you know.

It's basically westerns, and most of the writers who wrote that stuff actually came from near-deserts; California mostly, New Mexico and so forth. And it's interesting, when you look at Burroughs, who lived in California -- who moved to California, admittedly, but he'd been brought up in Arizona -- Brackett, Bradbury, all the writers who really kind of invented Mars, they were essentially writing about California. Not the cities; the cities were Hammett and Chandler, which again is stuff I like very much. I think some of the best American style came out of the pulps, Hammett and Chandler being one side and Brackett and Bradbury the other; all style.
This is not the first time that Moorcock has cited the influence of the under-appreciated Leigh Brackett(1915-1978), the Queen of Space Opera and of Martian Science Fiction & Fantasy. Hopefully, it will not be the last!

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