Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse III: Battling WH Smith, Celebrating Billy Batson & Remembering Harlan Ellison

Sumner welcomes the world’s greatest living fantasy author, Michael Moorcock, back to Hard Agree for the latest instalment in their ongoing series of conversations about Michael’s life and work. In this third episode, Sumner & Moorcock discuss Mike’s battles with WH Smith about John Norman’s Gor; puritanical America; the artistry of CC Beck and Mac Raboy – and the brilliance/anti-capitalism of Fawcett Publications’ Captain Marvel; thanking Paul Levitz; the one-world idealism of the UK’s Eagle comic; Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors in North Hollywood; fake beer expertise and Michael’s friendship & adventures with the late Harlan Ellison.

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Moorecock 3

Andrew Sumner: [00:00:00] But we did some, it was pretty good actually, which is Dave opened the live of building up for the first time in its history to, to like the public.

So you can actually go inside and go up one, got one of the towers which I’m willing to do in my life. So that was, that was a real tree. It was brilliant. And you know, you got to go right inside the clock tower and then right to the base of where one of the live of birds is the one in the south overlooking the river.

Michael Moorecock: We were doing a gig and had to get to Liverpool stadium, but they’d torn down virtually all the houses and buildings around there at the time there wasn’t, there was barely a landmark standing that’s right. And I got to the gig late. I mean, not, not too late, but I got there pretty late. We got a sound check.

It’s just, I don’t know what it is now. I think that was probably the last time I dad go, go, go into.

Andrew Sumner: [00:01:00] Yeah, well that you’re describing the level that I grew up in. And and my, my, my dad used to used to work at the, the head, the Northwest head office branch of the Midland bank. She was on London road, which when I was kid was the tallest building I’ve ever seen.

You know, it’s only about seven stories, actually. There’s a large flat. The whole area around it, which in the I’ve been told by my dad you’re right. In the fifties and sixties, it was like tailors and all this kind of stuff, or all the streets had been knocked down. So it was like literally in the middle of a track of traffic island in the middle of this wasteland in the middle of nowhere.

And that was the Liverpool of my youth. For sure. It is, it is very different now because when it got nominated, the European city of culture, 15 years ago or whatever, there was a ton of European money went into the city, which benefited it now. And you know, so there’s been a lot of development, none of it coming by the way from [00:02:00] the UK or UK all come all coming from Europe, which is why Liverpool’s one of the few you know, kind of traditional British cities to overwhelm welcomingly votes, to stay in the European union course that, that turned out the way it turned out.

But but yeah, it looks very different now and it’s been quite a lot of the dating that’s going on with the city. It’s kind of respects all the brilliant old sort of Victorian and pre Victorian architecture. So it’s, it’s looking a lot better than it did when I was a kid. How it, how it firs over the next 20 years now that we’re out to out of Europe and you know, the conservative certainly got no love for love.

Michael Moorecock: Maybe Liverpool should declare independence, join Europe. Actually joined to do is join Ireland. Bingo. That’s it?

Andrew Sumner: I may, I absolutely love that idea. I absolutely love that idea and, and brilliant. I’ll tell you what I’ll I’ll start this off before, before we get [00:03:00] rolling. Welcome Todd agree. I’m Andrew Sumner and welcome to our sub strand on hard degree, which is Michael Moore Cox.

Multi-verse with the great man himself, Mr. Michael Moorcock.

Michael Moorecock: Well as a great man, I’m not feeling too great. It’s probably Texas heat, which is you know, which is famous. And yeah, I think just, just COVID lunar seals. I got a new computer, which. Just by some accident, all my current work was missing from it.

When the guy transferred it all for me, because I’m no good at all, any of that. And. And he, you know, I mean, it wasn’t his fault, but somehow it had just got moved. So I’m looking at it and where’s all the work. And the only thing that’s sort of keeping me more or less cheerful at the moment is, is working.

You know, I’m, I’m doing some sort of light work. I’m enjoying it as a collaboration with a friend of mine. And you know, and so I know the collaboration [00:04:00] because it also means the email has to work, which it wasn’t. So I had no idea how dependent I was on, on work. Come in, you know, your yours here, the, the old miners, you know, just who identified with work and that’s all they could do.

And when they, when they were sort of laid off, there’s nothing else they could do. You know, they just went bad, all that sort of thing. And, and I thought, well, you know, it’s a shame. I can see how that could happen. I never thought it would actually have.

And this is ridiculous. You know, how much, you know, how much you identify with what you do, you know, if you can’t do it, you know, even if you hate it, when you’re hunting it.

Andrew Sumner: No, it’s so true. I, I I’ve had that experience myself and I know, I know exactly how it feels now. We kicked off actually, by talking about a music relates to that they would learn.

Cool. And that’s what I wanted to focus on [00:05:00] in this edition. But before we get into that, I was when I was reading around about a bunch of other things, something, a piece of information dropped before my eyes, which I have read before. And I realized it must’ve been 20 years since I’ve read this. And I just wanted to ask you about it because I don’t know if this story is apocryphal or not.

And it was about you getting involved with wh Smith about John Norman’s, Gordon novels, getting, getting placed on a top shelf because, because of the content, and I wanted to ask you about that, that’s true. That’s true. And you, and your take on those books.

Michael Moorecock: And my logic was, you know, you know, very profound.

It’s raised in a house full of women. I probably couldn’t have been anything else as it were, you know, on the opposite. But anyway so, and and she sounds shit and, and Smith’s argument was that if they were going to stock stuff, which it may have viewed degraded women they put [00:06:00] it on the top shelf where kids couldn’t get at it.

That was their morality, their idea. Okay, so that was the compromise. It wasn’t entirely, I mean, it’s difficult when something like that, because you’re dealing with censorship, he didn’t even with all kinds of liberties and stuff, you know, it’s not, it’s not an easy question if you, if you, if you don’t, you know, you think porn’s bad for people.

So I won’t go into that. Sorry. But so I thought, you know, Norman’s book. After the, the weird thing is I was offered the job before he got it. I’m not, not with him women, but but writing a grasper is tight benches and Ballantine phoned me and the imbalance. And you never knew what an Ballantine was saying.

He was, he came from the subject from such an angle that you were sort of after now, you sort of left wondering what was it all about? Did I agree to something? Did these, did he agree or whatever it was, he was a nice guy. [00:07:00] So he’s rambling away on the phone and it turns out that he was already done. Three boroughs, prestige issues as a kind of took, but I took aggressed powers, his own ideas and applied them to his heroes, which meant that the here is forever moving away from fights because they, they didn’t, they didn’t do any harm to people because they’re all saying now they don’t want to do the people, but by the end of the, any book, you know, there’s about 5 million cops is piled up somewhere.

So that’s why I did those. And I didn’t really, you know, I had no reason to do anymore. So, so I turned it down. So it went to whatever the bloke’s name is. Bryce is John Norman and the first Townsman of gore was the first one I think. And it was, you know, it was looked all right to me. I mean, I wasn’t engrossed by it, but it was you know, it was a fair boroughs, pastiche, nothing too bad about it.

But gradually the books became. Obsessive. I mean, [00:08:00] genuinely obsessive, the sort of things you see written out in until the pencils run out or the boroughs in a, in a tote on the toilet door, you know, some, you died to know what it was all about. You can’t probably tell, but nonetheless, you know, it’s, it’s the product, but just,

and that’s what they got to be like to the point where Ballantines wouldn’t publish them anymore. I’m on the other hand has a certain portion. I won’t say anymore than that, because I don’t know any more than that, but he has been known to change the title of, I think. I think it was called the temple, a John Wyndham story for a magazine edited to I think it was called whip queen whip, queen Virgin of Venus.

That sort of name. I mean, [00:09:00] there used to be a joke that if you know, Don was publishing the Bible, he’d do it in two books, you know, and I can’t remember what they were, but they were both Begley, S and M sort of titles. Brian oldest is a, the inheritors came became bow down to no Tom dishes white fingers, Dingo became mankind under the leash, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I was so lucky I never had one.

But when I did a book, which did have semester now, Don thought it was literature. I mean, he didn’t know why he was being offered. It was such a great book and frankly, it wasn’t one of my greatest books. And you know, you’re really offering it to me. Are you sure you love to do it? I actually changed the book because it was, it was, I was I was involved with somebody who was into all that stuff and I’m not one to judge without having kind of, you know, at least some kind of experience.

So it just isn’t for me. I mean, I can’t, I mean, I’ve [00:10:00] only punch one person, same person, three times in his life, but

Andrew Sumner: he wasn’t, he

Michael Moorecock: wasn’t a person. I mean, I might as well, Charles would probably remember.

It was a really obnoxious kid. I mean, he really was. I had to throw him out of his own house one time. He was so obnoxious mean

anyway. So w w w apart from fisticuffs, where were we? Oh, yes. Oh yeah.

I wrote to the bloke, it’s this, I can’t remember his name, but I knew him Begley. And I said, look, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re doing this. You’re know you put new worlds through all this because they’d banned new worlds for no reason. They could clearly identify, which meant that either they had filthy minds and didn’t want [00:11:00] to say, oh, they, they were so innocent.

They thought everything was filthy. Except of course they were doing all kinds of. Semi, you know, Paul magazines themselves. And I remember talking to a buyer at Smith’s and I said, well, you’ve got stuff on, you know, on the floor here in your office that is far more pornographic than anything new worlds has done.

And he said, oh yes, but that sells. And you’re telling me some bus bigger. And I thought, oh, so that’s really where we are. You can be moral, you know, if you, if you haven’t got a circulation big enough to, to make a, a good profit. But you know, anything else goes by the wayside. But anyway, so I was, I, you know, I’d already had a history with Smith’s overall.

I also send a copy of the letter to the guardian. The response from the guy was it’s a bit unfair sending a letter private letter to the guardian when a hadn’t had a chance to answer. [00:12:00] And that was his answer. You know, I mean, there was nothing, there was no the fact is the gob books weren’t hugely popular.

It just seemed to me wrong that young, you know, young boys and they mostly are young boys come into a shop selling science fiction, which is what they, you know, they want to read and are interested in and instead get something which is essentially mind rotting, I mean, which is literally going to possibly change their, you know, how, how they deal with the world and people in it.

So, yeah, the least they could do is put it out of reach of kids. That’s all or argued anyway. Yeah, that was all it was. But, but I, I, I, you know, I’ve always had this problem because compromise where censorship is concerned. I mean, the Americans are all saying how the British has a censorship written. They seem to think that they, I mean, I’ve been in conventions where they seem to think that, but self-censorship is [00:13:00] just everywhere.


Andrew Sumner: Oh, yeah, I couldn’t agree. I couldn’t agree more. And, and the reality is that if you spend a lot of time in American society, like you have, like, I have, there is a massive amount of graciousness, which doesn’t exist,

Michael Moorecock: British people on the talk shows saying that you’re coming up with that. And these are just ordinary things that you would normally expect to see on an English talk show or a French talk show, anybody’s talk show, but, but the Puritans, you know, you know, my, my idea for a game, which was to save America from itself, it was a, it was a game called sync, the Mayfair.

You had to get the periods and anybody else

it’s not really.

Andrew Sumner: No, no, I’m sure they weren’t, but just a bit, many people of influence [00:14:00] did. So, to wrap it up on gore, I think the thing I completely agree with your stance on those books are books. I remember trying to read one of them when I was in high school and just thinking it was some weird meeting polemics for some kind of sexually filled massage it’s actually was really quite unpleasant to read it.

Wasn’t a Sodom planet novel on the web.

Michael Moorecock: So you published a how to book, which door published on purpose

  1. I was dragged into it. Little bit, I was dragged into, by a woman. There are women who confirm all this. So you know, that, you know, I was thought it was ridiculous to ask people, to ask a woman, well, what do women want? Because God knows whether they want it the same as everybody else, you know, they want different things.

So, so, you know, there’s all somebody going to support something like that. But I, but I, I, you know, I don’t think there’s really much of an argument. I mean, I, oh God, this is too [00:15:00] complicated. I’ve had that argument too. You know, I was part of the committee serious. We used to be in the house of parliament.

I mean, it was a, you know, a proper sort of thing on pornography, on, and you know, and how to deal with it. And yeah, it’s, it’s such an incredibly difficult subject because, I mean, I’ve, I’ve known quite a few women. You know, so no, it doesn’t bother me. I do it. You know, change, think about it. I knew one woman who wouldn’t recognize you in the street.

If she was in her porn mode, she just refused you’d know it too. Cause she was, you know, she was still in somewhat different makeup. So yeah, and so it was a problem and it is true that I did have a contract with, with Smiths, but as I say in the end history sort of did the trick and, and you know, the people who still want that stuff can go and get it in the specialist [00:16:00] places.

And I’m sure they still have it, but you don’t see it much in the, in the general you know,

Andrew Sumner: You actually don’t see it in the mainstream anymore. And I think that it’s one of the side effects of the the glorious variety of internet, right. People who want to pursue that stuff, they can surround themselves with it 24 7 and not even have anybody. I remember I was sitting on a train coming back from where was, I?

I don’t know what it was. I was on an Amtrak train at night. I think I was going from San Diego to Los Angeles and the sun had gone down and there was a fairly respectable middle class, you know, businessman type, you know, couple of years older than I was then who was sat the, who was sat there, looking at his iPad.

Yeah. Because the sun had gone down outside of your mirror window next to come a mirror. Yeah. And what he was actually looking at was like hardcore SNM, just reels and reels had [00:17:00] adopted this candidate, scholarly looked as if he was looking at business reports, but it just endless amounts of S and M porn, you know, for two whole hours though, we just had no idea that everyone else

Michael Moorecock: could see.

So that’s how we used to be comics at school, basically trying to look like we’re studying, you know, it’s very hard to when up something interesting.

Andrew Sumner: Yes, absolutely. So two she’s out.

Michael Moorecock: Sure.

you know, I’ve got an original CC Beck that Paul

could you send it to me? When I was doing the multiverse twenty-five years ago, nurse, and he said, you know, I know it’s not a character scandal and that it’s not a character particularly, but in fact, CC Beck’s Gandalf looked exactly like the wizard and captain Marvel. So

even to worry, but [00:18:00] anyway, I’d completely forgotten. He’d sent it. I found it. Linda found that she’d been going through a lot of pictures and you know, we’ve got a lot of pictures. We haven’t got wall space to put them all up. I wouldn’t want to really. But anyway, she, she found it and she said, you know what?

This is, and I have no memory of him sending. I’m just afraid that I never thanked him for it. It’s quite possible that I did. And because my memories and that sort of thing is pretty terrible. Usually if I’m working on a book, it doesn’t really matter what you tell me or show me or do I’ll say, yeah, that’s great.

And carry on. With the book.

Andrew Sumner: Yeah. And your focus should be focus, remains on your work. It is well, hopefully he’s listening again and it he’ll get to hear this cause cause I know Paul A. Little bit and have had several like really pleasant conversations with him over the years. And of course, you know, he’s an endless font of knowledge about comics, history and whatnot.

And it’s a great creator in his own. Right. But what a lovely gift, [00:19:00] I mean a CC back original, I thought particularly if you’ve grown up re re reading, like,

Michael Moorecock: I mean, I got, I got into fights at school because almost everybody was a Superman fan and captain Marvel or they were harder to get hold of the American ones with the proper colors and everything got them in black and white from a.

Whoever they were. I mean, they’re the same people do the towels distributed to us and the benches. But anyway but you, you couldn’t get them in color. So you had to hope that some, some bloke from a base, you know, left one somewhere and then it had got into a shop. You could, you could buy them in a, in a, in secondhand bookshops.

Then the American comics very hard to come by. Maybe they won’t, you won’t even be able to get the Sunday newspapers. You know, the imports were so strict at that point and reasonably, I mean, you know, America had, after all bankrupted us and we had to pay them back. [00:20:00] So, you know, we, we, we, we didn’t get much of that stuff.

So captain Marvel really was, I love captain Marvel. He was far too serious. And


Andrew Sumner: would, I was just going to say my, I couldn’t agree more because I love the whimsy of captain Marvel and, and actually, you know, I mean his best mates are talking tiger, just walking around the neighborhood he lives

Michael Moorecock: in. He

Andrew Sumner: pretends he can. Yeah. Uncle Dudley, just brilliant. And w I mean, the whole emphasis on family as well, it was really quite healthy. And, and also if you like classic stuff, it, all you have to do is flip over to, to a dimension of captain Marvel Jr. With all that amazing boy.

Michael Moorecock: Do you remember? I mean, he was so beautiful.

So I have to say captain Melville, two neighbors who I looked for most as a kid. Just I suppose, because of the drawing. [00:21:00] Yeah, I loved him. And probably Mary Marvel was, she was sort of, the plan is in the use of a token token marbling anyway. Yeah, no, I, I think the fact that basically is a, is a. Who turns into him, man, but it’s still a boy.

I mean, you still, you still don’t, you know, you still got that kind of Stan Laurel puzzles, head scratch from time to time. The other thing about captain Marvel and the Marvel family is they’re a very anticapitalistic. I mean, this wasn’t a time when a lot more new Yorkers were left wing, and I’m sure that the chance that the binder brothers were left wing.

I mean, they were Jewish and in New York, I mean, I couldn’t, I couldn’t have been anything else. I don’t know where they were, but anyway the band of brothers, he wrote captain Marvel and, and back himself, it’s quite possible that they were quite strongly you know, if you like deliberate in in their [00:22:00] attitudes.

So you’ve got a lot of anti sort of anti greed stuff in the comic, stuff like that. You know, there were, there were subjects where the . Well, an eval of some kind and, and it was far more sort of focused in that way. I don’t know. It was you know, to me anyway, it was, it was the best and it was the most consistently drawn comic too.

I mean, I don’t remember very many that you know, that didn’t at least look back. I mean, I don’t have any back through.

Andrew Sumner: He was, he was kind of unique Tanta. I think that’s very, I thought about it before, while I’m racing through those stories. In my mind, he’s saying about the anti-capitalist underpinnings and that’s absolutely something that I now realize that I responded to very positively a manner.

And you think in terms of the villains that, that the, you know, one step away from being these arch dictatorial figures, whether, whether it’s black Adam or whether it’s I back, you know, they’re, they’re all, they’re all hearing the extreme, right?

Michael Moorecock: [00:23:00] I think that’s so interesting. That’s the only old comics I’ve got a small collection of, you know, I don’t really, I don’t, I’m not an obsessive collector.

I like to have examples of stuff rather than, you know, the whole running stuff. It’s just, just also I haven’t got room And so I’ve got about 20 or so the Wiz comics or captain Marvel comics of the period, and it’s pretty consistent. I mean, it’s not that I think to be fair, there was a liberal, a generally liberal view to the comics in general, let’s say DC and Marvel in particular.

But, but, but all of the comments, because again, there was that whole kind of liberal sort of movement that came after world war II. I mean, I’m really thinking about after world war two, I suppose. And and you know, the people were idealistic and, you know, you know, and there was a very strong emphasis.

You’re the returning soldier GI bill [00:24:00] things that were kind of. Mint popular measures. I mean, FDR was still with us essentially at that point. So, so I think that that, that even, even, even the DC comics are not so evidently, I mean, DC has never been fun to politics anyway. As I know very well when when I’ve asked them to trust your house I only got the back of bill Clinton’s head, I think, in the nineties.

But, but yeah, that just just general and, and, and I found that too with the Eagle the, you know, the, the Holton comic, which, which came out when I was, I think, 10 or 11, it started, and it was hugely idealistic. It, you know, one, one world, everybody equal, you know, the planet solving the problems of the planet together and all that.

This is all by 1990 as well as a two way, two way risk radios and the lake and all the other good stuff that the clock was putting into the, to those first [00:25:00] cereals. So, and, and there was a really strong sense of idealism and, and it, wasn’t kind of. Christian propaganda, even though Marcus Morris was was was a Reverend Paige has had the story of some Paul on the back apparently forever.

I mean, some of the, probably some of St Peter, probably I couldn’t, you know, you can’t tell the difference, really. At least I couldn’t having not been brought up with any religion. So it all looks a bit odd to me, so I never really read the back page, but the drawing was very good because throughout Eagle, I mean, there wasn’t a single bad artist, the whole in the whole bunch.

And it was, it was a very well known us. Can’t remember his name now. Anyway. Yeah. And an Eagle gave me my idea, this it’s everything, you know, anti-racism one world is you know, all the various ideals that. Power the ordinary progressive movements of the world came out of comics. I mean, if I think about a basic on a grass bar, is it wouldn’t be quite the same at the [00:26:00] time, the lower the jungle.


Andrew Sumner: I think you’ve tapped into something that’s that was absent my experience as well. And, and everything you’ve just talked about politically and philosophically, but they were big influences on me too. And they’re all there. They’re all there in comic books, which I read from a very early age

Michael Moorecock: as well.

And Yemen, I mean, like for instance, I didn’t like Blackhawk at all. I didn’t like the, you know, the war comics English welcomings, you know, I, I was, I had asked with fleet wherever doing, I wouldn’t do two comics because I wouldn’t use the language that was required, you know? Okay.

Andrew Sumner: The negative kind of slows against the Germans and the Japanese

Michael Moorecock: is can’t go on.

Of course, it’s still going. I still think the history channel is causing most of the Trump voters. I mean, it’s, I’m just watching the same old rubbish over and over again. The secret history of Hitler’s knickers, you [00:27:00] know, and just

people who not only not born at the time, they’d been generations that go now and they’re still bloody jabs, you know, rotten germs or whatever,

Andrew Sumner: even more extreme.

Michael Moorecock: Yeah. Who knows. But anyway, so I’m not a great, I’m not, I’m not a great believer in. In the history channel. I think it’s probably a full three evil and Superman should, or somebody captured Marvel would do something about it,

Andrew Sumner: just staying in the world of the, the Marvel family for a second. Were you ever aware of the the influence of captain Marvel Jr. On Elvis? No. I’ve heard this before.

It’s really quite fast. It’s really quite fascinating. So, so apparently stylistically two of Elvis’s biggest influences in terms of his look where. Captain Marvel Jr. As Australia by MACRA. Boy, can we [00:28:00] talk about, and Tony Curtis, which is where he got, we got the, her stuff wrong and, and in later life, you know, when you get to 1970s, Las Vegas, Elvis, all of his fantastical costumes often designed by a guy called bill bell.

Yeah. I think that’s how you pronounce it. He, they were based on the DNA of captain Marvel, Jr. So Al so obviously is taking care of business pendant that he always wore. If you look at it, it’s a lightning bolt with TCB on it and all those vents and flares and everything that he was a huge, huge fan

Michael Moorecock: in Los Angeles.

I sat

in my heyday. Really marvelous. Just the stuff, the hell on the racks, the stuff that we’re making people like Elvis and others. Yeah, I mean, I’ve got some, I mean, I’m not saying they’d lasted I mean the permittee well-made, but they didn’t,[00:29:00]

Andrew Sumner: but I’ll tell you it was a big fun.

Michael Moorecock: My littlest luck in north Hollywood where we new, this was one of the few decent Indian restaurants in the Sanchez at the time. So if you were, if you had funds go and get yourself a nice jacket and then get Curry stains all down it,

Andrew Sumner: well, Mike Nesmith of the monkeys. Well, once he set up, once he, you know, set up is when Emily asked the monkeys had gotten to his kind of country rock era, and he set up that the first national band around that period of time in it, progenitors of country rock to degree. It’s great stuff actually it’s but in one of, on, on one of their album covers one of the things he is.

Is that is a, is a sort of purpose, purpose designed and made a Nudie suit, which is just this completely phantasmagorical wild west outfit with like big crime

Michael Moorecock: stars and, [00:30:00] and somebody was there. I mean, oh, always the Hills then. So you must be dead by now cause his car. Did you ever see a picture of his car?

It was. It’s got horns coming out a little bit and guns for some of the controls, six kinds of seven controls. Is it, you know, it’s a Cadillac convertible. It’s it’s look it up sometime. I’m sure it’s easily found online. There was a great, you knew that this denude he was, was, it was, it was at the shop, which wasn’t very often by then, I think, cause he, you know, we lived just around the corner.

And so it was, you know, it was a local, so it was very easy to the, the, the local, the local boost. Decided because I was, I was British, I was an expert on beer, which I am not you know, I’ve got my favorites, but I’ve not done many beers. I do not know. But I was very fundable peculiar, which they didn’t, we certainly had apples, which I hadn’t seen before, but it wasn’t bad.[00:31:00]

And so I told them not to keep it in the fridge, keep it in a cellar temperature, you know, and it would actually be a better quarter. And so after I’d said. They decided I was a beer every time. Oh, I think that is from Hollywood. I think I probably already said this, a repeating myself after I told him that I become this great beer X, but what’d you think of this?

Should I show me lists, you know, from his premise wholesalers? I don’t know that

Andrew Sumner: there’s a lot to be said for being the token English.

Michael Moorecock: Well, plenty in there weren’t many in the PA in north Hollywood it’s predominantly barrier. And so it was nearly all Mexican except for the little block of shops where nudism the Indian restaurant, where Yeah. A few people who like us, who, who were renting cheaply in, in a, you know, in a, in a nice [00:32:00] house.

I mean, I’m saying us, but actually I moved in with hers. No question. I never paid a penny in rent. It was, it was very handy for the, the shops and a nice place to live. I mean, I find generally speaking that. I don’t know, may not be true now, but we, we, we lived in Mexican areas and like Venice was, was predominantly Mexican and black.

When we lived there, the only, the only people who worked with Japanese and we rented a, a little, well, well-baby basically a garage. They converted into a, into an apartment at the back and they were always very nice. I mean, you know, I don’t know. I think Linda’s dogs, you thrown a ball.

And I think a bull went over a fence and yeah, and the neighbors had said that the black lady across the street would come across and say time to move your car, you know? Cause you had to move your car for street cleaning. And it was a, it was a wonderful because it’s no middle-class you have inside nothing ill now.

I mean, it’s, you know, no, no,[00:33:00]

Andrew Sumner: yeah.

Michael Moorecock: it’s so much, you know, pushed up so much with.

Andrew Sumner: Yeah. The last time I was there, the only thing I could truly recognize from a couple of years ago is the, you know, the, the canal. So also, still seems to be the more or less all that seem to be massively preserved. Yeah. Yeah. Th they’re, they’re really quite beautiful.

I mean, you, you, you could actually not be in

Michael Moorecock: aye. Aye, aye. Aye. Aye. Visited somebody. I don’t think I knew them. Well, it was probably a girlfriend of Harlond’s that he was trying to get rid of, which is why I was with him. I can’t think of any other reason I’d have been there, but anyway, and she lived on one of those canals.

It was a lovely little house. I mean, she had a little house and it was, yeah. I just think the mosquitoes, I mean, that’s probably kill a lot of mosquitoes, but they get me before I get them the amount of fentanyl Amman, they die. Happy[00:34:00]

you met

Andrew Sumner: right on exactly. You know, fentanyl distributed

Michael Moorecock: and she’s got it covered in the woo

Andrew Sumner: that’s good shit, man. Hey, you, somebody mentioned in passing the mic and I wanted to ask you about your relationship with him was holding Alycia. Yeah. So, so, you know, what did you think of him? How did you guys go

Michael Moorecock: extremely well?

From the start mostly by me insulting him, I think, I don’t know what. What he wasn’t used to was it was it w we tend to do this in England. I think it’s a sort of a delayed response where the first response appears to be approving. And then the next thing you say, kind of undercuts it completely, you know, for, you know, oh, wonderful stuff, you know, for a moron [00:35:00] as well.

Well, first it was in a Milford, one of the Milford things and he he was all right. I didn’t know a great deal about him, to be honest, I wasn’t much focused on American science-fiction. I obviously I knew I knew the people and I hadn’t actually volunteered to go. They somebody’s a suspect. Judy Merrill paid for me to go to, to the, this is, you know, in the states, Milford, Pennsylvania.

So that’s how I got. And I, I’m not a great fan of writers conferences, so, you know, I didn’t really want to be the, I like being the writer and talking to all the readers. I don’t like having to talk to other people. Who’ve got readers. That’s terrible. I’m sorry. I don’t know, man. I just don’t.

Andrew Sumner: Now that makes complete sense.

Michael Moorecock: So, Alan was a, and P he’d been talked about before he came, because he was the kind of person who gets talked about before they [00:36:00] turn up, turn up with Norman spin, who is a close friend of his, they both live nearby in Los Angeles. And I got on, well, Norman too. You know, we, we, we just, we, we got on.

Okay. But Harlem was forever projecting because that’s Harlem, can’t couldn’t help, but, but project some persona, I mean, when he was being serious, You could tell because he’s boys changed director Edward G. Robinson at his most serious in a Phil. And it was just, that’s what happened. I mean, you know, this is going to be serious said would be reminiscence coming home.

You know, I described him in an introduction, which you never really liked, but I had to tell the truth, you know, but I didn’t think I was having these feelings as a performer, but essentially he, he was a natural performer rather than a natural writer. You know, very few writers like to sit in shot windows with all the wealth to [00:37:00] see while they compose.

It was it’s a performance for, for him, almost all of it was a performance, including the many, many. Self invented stories. The, the incredible complexity of layers that he, that he told about himself that he believed, you know, by the time he telling them to the point where I think I told this story before about, about when we were at blitz the blitz club, I mean, you know, new romantics you know, limbers did new romantics to a man as it were.

None of them are going to be rolling up their sleeves and ask you much and a nice bunch of blokes. And I knew that the damned, for instance, who should fans and liked his work, I knew half the people in that buggy place where Ellison fans, I set him up an interview with a bloke whose name I forget, but he was very popular at the time with NME.

Who’s going to, who’s promised to give them. The [00:38:00] front page and the double page spread. I mean, how many people get that except David Bowie? I mean,

Andrew Sumner: yeah, like, so Charles

Michael Moorecock: well, but it was one of those kinds of guys. And yeah, I mean, I, I I’ve had much,

Andrew Sumner: oh, Paul Molly, Paul Molly.

Michael Moorecock: And I said, well, you know, we’ll meet you at blitz. Cause there’s a friend of mine was, was performing there that night. And I was going to go watch him as it were and have a drink. And, and I knew it would be a good environment for Harlan’s very, very delicate ego. And you know, then he’d have lots of people around, you know, that to see it.

So, we got the, the band was a guy called Richard strange. I don’t know if you remember, this is a sort of slightly. Yeah. And so he, he was out with his band, every one of whom, including Richard was, it was the Harlan Ellison fan. I mean a real heart. [00:39:00] They’d read more. And so, you know, standing there chat, you know, haven’t gone yet, you know, were just standing around talking and Richard sax player says, when you give it, when you’re going to give us a novel, then what everybody else who likes Harlan’s work.

How on snow turns to me smiles less because it goes, he’s never going to do a novel ever, ever, ever, but he keeps telling people he is and I’m stuck. I mean, you know, I’ve got a friend here I’m supposed to be cheering on his, and I’ve got a friend who wants to get up and I’ve got the bloke who’s supposed to interview him waiting outside that little table there.

And I’m saying, huh? Yeah, this is not a good time to be leaving. So I think I took him home. I know I didn’t go back. [00:40:00] It was too embarrassing. And I just, I mean, what could, I’ve said to all his nice guys? I mean, the only person that I didn’t like it was captain sensible and nobody likes captain sense. All nice guys.

Dave Banyan. I mean, they were just incredibly

Andrew Sumner: nice, really nice guys,

Michael Moorecock: but you couldn’t get a nice punch, you know, Maybe, I dunno what it was. Maybe he thought it was, but he, anyway, so that was that some, two weeks later, I’m in Sherman Oaks and I go to see Harlan. He’s got a bunch of people at his house.

Oh great. Yeah. I was just telling these guys how we fought our way out of this Salah full of punks. I said, what? And he elaborated and I started to do what I [00:41:00] usually did, which was that isn’t what happened because I thought, fuck it. You know, if that’s what happened, that’s what happened. But

Andrew Sumner: it’s, it’s the man, the man is

Michael Moorecock: conservative underneath.

Gang stuff. I seriously doubt that his knowledge of gangs was anything but other books about gangs or movies or whatever. He was, he would in, in LA, he would only go to the same restaurants. He would wouldn’t, he wouldn’t go out of a certain area. He would, you know, he wouldn’t, he never came to see us in Venice.

Not once. Well, yeah. Yeah, and quite timid people would risk it. Sometimes there’s nothing to risk, but that’s how they think. Yeah. And, and so he was sort of, timid, nerdy kind, generous. Construct. Well, the kindness and generosity [00:42:00] was not a construct. The nerdiness and the rest of it was him.

You know, as I said, we’re all nerds under this. Some, it was just, you know, just have better table manners

and then wear the same t-shirt every time

Dr. Who t-shirt, but it was getting a bit manky. So, and also it’s just too hard. So wearing the loose. And I don’t think I’m putting him down to say this because I’ve seen him do incredibly brave things. A friend of mine. Well, I got a guy I knew called, called Bobby Lee. Who’s a, he was a film agent and.

Nice guy wanting to do Elric and I didn’t want to do it with Bobby, but that’s another story. And Bobby would probably agree. But Bobby says he used to, you know, he lived in New York in the same building his house when they lived in New York [00:43:00] and he lived on the 11th floor. He thought, oh, probably lived on the 14th floor, you know, is a bit up in you.

And you know, this is one day he looks out of his window on the 11th floor. He sort of thinks he’s just seen something kind of a shadow or something go past. So he goes up to his window and then he looks and there’s Harlem level stories up, climbing up the side of the building because he’s forgotten his keys.

You never hear, heard him tell a story like that. He tells a story about how he wants. Blacked up like a commando and went and climbed some big rollercoaster, which I mean is sort of meaningless to me. But I mean, I’ve been with him when been a bum on the street. Who’s obviously collapsed in New York.

Yeah. And not have to step over

the, guy’s clearly a bum, but he’s, but he’s out a [00:44:00] bit and he’s had some sort of episode is not parsed out. He’s had some sort of a. So w we were the, with a very nice editor at the time called Vicky shock. He lived nearby and she went and found an ambulance. We didn’t have cell phones in those days. And the ambulance turns out, oh, no, wait with the guy until the and the guy on the guys in the yard and say, ah, we’re not taking him, you know, is, is just a bum.

You know, we, we know, you know, it just, the is just supposed to get a warm bed for the night, you know? And so, and Harlan, all three feet tall of him reaches up into the curb, grabs the bloke by his lapels, drags him out of the cab and snows in his face. You all take this guy to hospital.

So they took him. They probably dumped him on the corner later, but nonetheless. Yeah. And you know, so I’ve seen him do and things and kindness is to [00:45:00] people, you know, kindness is to people. He is no, no, no. There’s nothing in it for him, nothing except just to, you know, being, being sweet. And it’s got him into serious trouble.

Some does because he had no common sense at all. You know, his life had become such a, a fantasy such a construct, but he, he really couldn’t, he could hardly work. And about the only times you did work, seem to be in shop windows. I’m not a stayed with him for, you know, for weeks and months. Not entirely all the time with him, but you know, in with him.

I mean yeah. Long time I doubt they ever saw him. Yeah. Once I saw him finish a very, very short. Intro to a boy and his dog. I think it was because he’d already come the publisher out of all the money and hadn’t done the story. The guy came out to the airport, Los Angeles airport from New York with the check that [00:46:00] harmed him because John said he pepper story ready for him.

When he could go home. The story Harlan sent his assistant, got the check. Another story. I don’t think it was never had much sympathy for Jim beans.

I didn’t particularly mine, but that’s classically what Harlan could do at his heyday as a, you know, he was a Spieler, you know what I mean? It was just. Who it was, and it was almost wasted on, on, on he couldn’t, he had no idea plotting he couldn’t plot to save his life. His film scripts were just a mess. I mean, nobody could, I, you know, I don’t know.

Maybe there were some, because I know some were filmed or TV stuff anyway, but when he did that prize one too, didn’t he? It was filmed.

Andrew Sumner: Yeah. Oh, the price. Now, now that’s interesting because the prizes is mentioned in an anecdote about Harlem. That [00:47:00] I was wondering if, if you were, have you ever, have you ever read that great Esquire piece by Gator lease?

It’s called Frank Sinatra has

Michael Moorecock: a cold. I read the extract that deals with oh yeah. And that actually happened. Yeah. Yeah,

Andrew Sumner: that, that, that’s that sort of that, because in a way you D you’re dealing with another person who was a complete construct. Frank Sinatra. Yeah. I mean, tremendous talent, very prolific. I

Michael Moorecock: live about three feet tall too.

I mean, it’s like, no five, I think the other ones, the munchkins, the munchkins much anyway. Yeah. He, he

he let almost anybody stay at his house, you know, and, and he, he, he, and he would go away and let people stay in his house and he had apparently still has there at the house and incredible. Collection of comic books, you know, going back to number one, Superman, all that sort of thing. [00:48:00] What I didn’t know about him, and I only found out that day or so ago, Linda saw it is that he, I was wondering if he was making any money because he, he, he ran out of credibility with publishers because he, I mean, he’s so dangerous visions several times without paying the authors who were in dangerous visions.

So that, that I was very, very critical of. I mean, I, I wouldn’t speak to her two or three years because I just got sick of his behavior.

Andrew Sumner: I got sick.

Michael Moorecock: But I, you know, I, I oh, you had a heart attack. So I had to phone them and I said, you know, if you’re going to have a fucking heart attack every time you want my attention as.

Anyway, he is recycling collections of short stories. You know, he must’ve, he said, you know, his whole thing was written 10,000 books, but they’re all cost 10,000 books that were all the same, just in different order of stories.

But he started reading, doing audio books. And I didn’t know [00:49:00] that at all. You know, I don’t really read locusts and maybe they’ve said it in there somewhere, but I think maybe that’s where Linda read it. I’m alive subscriber to locus and and the new statesman. And I’m trying to think of how I can stay alive long enough to to get the best out of Mo.

Andrew Sumner: To be a subscription. You have you’ve actually might you’ve given me the key to something here to, to understanding the Paul and Alison who’s worked one have dipped into a very much enjoyed, but there were so many unfinished projects wrapped around him. I remember this must have been when I was at the end of my year of high school first.

Yeah. At the end of high school. So early eighties, I remember seeing an advert for a shadow graphic novel that was going to be called dragon shadows. And it was because a lot of shadow stories take place in Chinatown. It was one of those. And and it was going to be written by Harlan and it’s going to be illustrated by Michael Kaluta.

And I thought, wow, that’s [00:50:00] amazing. I can’t wait to, it’s never turned up. It’s one of those, one of the, one of those books that was solicited, great image by Kalita. Never

Michael Moorecock: heard he was, he, he did a lot of stuff. I mean, he didn’t turn in. Linda, when she was working for him, there were two very nice producers. I mean, there were producers who’d been involved in in the whole McCarthy thing and everything and sort of, they, you know, they, they kind of stuck in that.

I think they were the actual producers of spark because you did most of the stuff that Kurt Douglas later claim to do, which was rather pleasant as a filmmaker, but he wasn’t the hero of the, you know, the upper left that that the

Andrew Sumner: great employee of Dalton

Michael Moorecock: Trumbo it was, it was these guys you’ve done all of that Dalton Trumbo included.

So, yeah. And I said to Linda, we know he’s going to lie to us on the phone. You know, we know him, he’s going to lie to us on the phone. Could you just [00:51:00] play. Every serve and just confirm, I think this is what I mean, she would confirm, but it is something that I just to confirm. Yes or no, whether something we say, has he done any work on the script today as it were?

I don’t know whether she ever had that one, but you know, that was the sort of question. And I think it was for the first script of a robot, which which anyway was, for some reason, producers all say the same thing and directors sometimes also said, is it, don’t worry about the cost. Don’t worry about what’s going to happen.

Just write the script the way you want it written. And you’re gonna think, well, where the hell should I, because I know you’re going to start cutting it here. Cuddly. They all kind of pull that. You know, we can’t, I mean, there is no movie. I mean, there are probably, there is an ultimate movie. You couldn’t make it, but.

Sooner or later, you know, somebody is going to happen to it anyway.

Andrew Sumner: And of course [00:52:00] produces lots of validate their own existence, particularly

Michael Moorecock: idealistic producers, incredibly good track record and yeah, everything. I mean, they had everything and Linda loves them to this day. I think they did.

There’s a classic film. They did. That’s very well known. I mean, really a great film. Can’t remember anyway, she would know, but she’s not here. And I don’t think he ever finished the script. He actually turned in a finished script and after a while you can, you know, you can, if you’ve got a gift to the guidelines and you can, you know, talk you out of.

For a while, but sooner later you’ve got to deliver, you know, because what Harlan didn’t seem to realize is publishers talk amongst themselves. They actually have friends in other publishing companies. Perhaps they both worked at the same one at one point, oh whatever, but they say, Hey, you know, I just [00:53:00] a paid Harlan, you know, double that or dollars for story.

You know, we should be getting it by next week and the person will say, oddly enough, we just paid. We didn’t ever get it. So he ruined, ruined his own. Credit. And it was considerable. I mean, it was, people would recognize you in restaurants if they didn’t. Cause you’d make sure that they did. Unfortunately the battery’s going unfortunate.

Hey, can you see me hear me?

Andrew Sumner: I,

Michael Moorecock: What was I saying? Oh yeah, unfortunately he’d drive me. We’d be in Barnes and nobody say, Hey Mike, you’re a boxer because that’d be shrinking into the ground. And

he thought he was doing me a favor and his own in his own lights. What are we going to do about this? Well,

Andrew Sumner: well, I, I think, I think that, I think the [00:54:00] universe is sending us a message that it’s a good time to wrap up because we’re almost exactly an hour in and it’s, it’s been fascinating hearing your kind of last word on, on your friend, Howard Wilson.

I’m done. I

Michael Moorecock: don’t think I, I disliked him or despised him cause I didn’t, you know, I really, I really, both of us cared for him incredibly. I mean, we were fucking spoonfeeding and valley scream when he would sell in bed and talking like parents, you know, you and feed him now it’s your turn to go and feed him.

No, I’m not feeding him. He’s old enough to feed himself. So.

Andrew Sumner: Well, Mike, that was, that was a glorious journey from John Norman tons would have gone through captain Marvel and captain Marvel Jr. Onto Holland Ellison. And we didn’t talk about music once, very briefly, Elvis Presley. So, so we’ve still got all

Michael Moorecock: of that once to, at some point you know, Intel that was never pulled Liverpool [00:55:00] stadium.

Yes. The Liverpool. Well, it’s great. Ben, how about Liverpool stadium? So remember that for next time,

Andrew Sumner: right? That, that, that is where we’ll start next time, mate. Great. Great to see you take care. I’ll see you very soon. Bye-bye cheers, mate. Same to you. Bye-bye

One thought on “Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse III: Battling WH Smith, Celebrating Billy Batson & Remembering Harlan Ellison

  • October 1, 2021 at 9:59 pm

    These have been a great! I think it would be funny if you keep saying next episode we’ll talk about music, but keep going down whatever memory lane catches your interests.


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