Almost anyone of a certain age who is a fan of reading sci-fi/fantasy will have heard of the author Michael Moorcock. Born in the UK in in 1939, his most famous works are probably the Elric of Melniboné series which relate the life of the Eternal Champion, Elric, servant for the forces of Chaos, possessor of the cursed black sword Stormbringer and inhabitant of the multiverse.
Elric, although a hero – the Eternal Champion, a man who cannot die and is re-incarnated again and again to struggle with the dichotomies of good and evil, chaos and order – is not your typical muscle-bound conqueror. He is an elongated, slim, white-haired albino who has to use drugs to maintain his health. He is, in fact, an emperor, but the last of his line. The books (7 in the main series but Elric also appears in others) tell of Elric’s reluctant battles for the God of Chaos, while at the same time trying desperately to keep a shred of humanity – difficult in itself as Elric is not entirely human but comes from a much more ancient and powerful race who traditionally have had very little regard for lowly, ordinary humans.
Apart from being a junkie albino brooding servant of Chaos, Elric also possesses one of the most famous swords in the sci-fi/fantasy world – Stormbringer, the Stealer of Souls. This black, growling, screaming, mumbling, singing sword not only takes your life but also your soul, which is then dispatched to the God Arioch, God of Chaos. It’s also got its own consciousness too, which often makes it quite difficult for Elric to control, as Stormbringer’s demands don’t always agree with Elric’s wishes.
Now, unless you’re a big fan of Hawkwind and Blue Oyster Cult, you’re probably wondering what on earth their connection is to Michael Morecock and his writing. In fact, Michael was a collaborator of theirs and wrote many of their songs. He is particularly connected to Hawkwind and received a gold record for being one of the writers of their album “Warrior on the Edge of Time”, which is a direct reference to the Eternal Champion. Moorcock also did some of the vocals on this album as well as being very involved with many of their other works and side projects.
Moorcock also collaborated with the Blue Oyster Cult, writing the lyrics for three tracks, two of which are directly connected to the Elric stories. The first is called “Black Blade”, which is, of course, a direct reference to Stormbringer, and the second, “Veteran of the Psychic Wars”, is linked to Elric’s emotions and psychological states. In 1987, Moorcock, who was an accomplished musician with his own band “The Deep Fix”, played onstage with Blue Oyster Cult in Atlanta, Georgia and the members of both Hawkwind and Blue Oyster Cult together with Moorcock contributed to many other songs and album tracks as side projects.
As a result of his deep connection to music, it is often suggested that Moorcock named his infamous sword Stormbringer as a tribute to the famous guitar Fender Stratocaster. Since then, there have been many connections between music, other rock bands and Moorcock and his books, including numerous mentions of the name “stormbringer”, such as the mediocre Deep Purple eponymous album. (Although a direct connection to the Elric stories was denied by the band members, stating that the name was based on mythology.)
Both the books and the music have had great impact on their respective genres and it’s always worth going back to them for another read/listen. The music is available on Youtube and there are various free online sites where you can read parts of the books to get “tasters” before buying.