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The Corporate Mofo Interview


Michael Moorcock on Politics, Punk, Tolkien, and Everything Else


by Ken Mondschein



Michael Moorcock is, of course, well-known as a popular science fiction writer, the author of the Elric series, as well as several other cycles of books. Few, however, know of Moorcock as a musician whose career in London's fertile underground of the '60s and '70s saw the birth of such bands as Hawkwind and Mötorhead, and fewer still are familiar with Moorcock the political thinker. Some of his views, we think, will not be unfamiliar to CORPORATE MOFO readers. Mr. Moorcock was gracious to answer some of our questions about his career, his philosophies, and his life.


CM: First off, I hope that your health is good, and that your family (cats included!) is well.

MM: My health is crap, by my standards. I've been hugely healthy all my life, but since I moved to Texas I seem to have picked up all kinds of weird diseases. I had a bad auto-immune disease which went into remission and I have fairly serious progressive neuropathy which is painful and makes it hard to get around sometimes and, unfortunately, is going to get worse (though I live in hope!) but which doesn't seem to slow down my flying fingers very much. I actually exercise my fingers by playing guitar and banjo! Old blues player told me that years ago—keep playin', it stops the arthritis taking hold. Cats are well and too hot at the moment. We hope to be traveling with them in a month or so.

CM: You don’t mind us printing that about your illness?

MM: I'd only not want an illness kept secret if it was going to upset someone or stop an editor buying my next book and I don't have that kind of illness. I always do interviews on the basis that if I say something to the interviewer that isn't actually an admission of crime I could be prosecuted for, then I stand by it.

CM: I wanted to thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I noticed that you're very open to questions from your fans, journalists, and the community-at-large. Do you find this onerous at all? Do the same banal questions come up time and time again? And, if so, do you wish people would ask you more high-minded questions?

MM: I think of myself unconsciously as part of a community. It is, if you like, a community of intellect and temperament whose links are strengthened and developed via the Internet, but I have always had the sense that I am one voice in a community of voices. I therefore tend to think of my work in part as an ongoing dialogue with the reader and I am inclined to note readers' questions or demands and often try to satisfy them in my fiction. Although fairly solitary in general, I still see my interest as the same as my readers.

For me, being available to readers has always been part of it. It led to some spectacular problems in the '60s and '70s when I was at the height of my cult success, but Hawkwind used to have the same attitude—we'd go into the pub and drink with the audience. You only get treated like a superstar if you want to be. Most people are ordinarily polite and the more like them you are, the more like themselves they'll treat you.

I am a natural anarchist. I really don't believe in leaders, though I tend to see the point of parking meters. . . I was brought up to expect and enjoy a very large degree of liberty. I was brought up to respect people and to listen to their experience and ideas. I was brought up virtually without preconceptions. My grandmother and mother were fierce lovers of liberty and my whole family is rather "bolshy" in its attitudes. So I'm used to argument and like it. I enjoy the exchanges with readers, just as I enjoy readings and discussions when I tour. By and large I am blessed, as you can tell from the Q&A site, with very smart readers, many of whom are writers or have ambitions to be writers themselves.

I know I'm more "generous" with my time than many writers, but I think I have a bunch of very generous readers. It sounds like the rawest sentimentality, but I do just like people. I feel no need to escape from this world, have no social problems living in it, so I tend to use my fantasy writing as a method of confronting certain ideas, rather than avoiding them.

I said to Mike Harrison the other day that some readers have a look at Elric, for instance, and become positively enraged by the fact that I haven't made him cuddly and likeable. These are readers who see Elric as a failed escape plan. I have always used the methods of escapist fiction to look at the modern world. That's what science fiction gave me. When I read my first real sf [science fiction] book (Tiger, Tiger/Stars My Destination by Bester) I saw that it was possible to write imaginative contemporary fiction which also incorporates ideas and ideals. For me that book was the great American novel. I read it in Paris, where I found it, and it has the best kind of American idealism—with that marvelous populist ending. Trust the people. It was the book which made me decide not to give up on contemporary science fiction.

But most of the best U.S. science fiction in those days very much addressed social issues and often brilliantly. Pohl and Kornbluth are the two most prominent. This was when American socialism was still alive, if not well, under Joe McCarthy. What rock-and-roll and science fiction offered the English reader was a voice from the real America, from the working class and politically engaged America we could see was already being buried. We responded to black blues and white social protest songs because we were desperate to hear the voices of the real Americans, not the horror of populist fascism, which seemed to have been brought home on the boots of returning soldiers. . . Sf and rock and roll meant a lot to us—not just as entertainment, either. It brought Americans in contact with Europeans—jazz was doing that, too--and producing the cultural template which would result in an explosion of talent on both sides of the Atlantic through the sixties. I've said this before—but Joe McCarthy, by sending the likes of Kubrick and Ramblin' Jack Elliott to England, did the world of the arts a power of good. That American influence came back a few years later as the British Invasion.

CM: I've heard you quoted as saying that if one wants to be a writer of fantastic literature, or at least one worth his salt, it is imperative to read everything but fantastic literature. Do you think of yourself primarily as a "fantasy genre writer," or simply as a thinker and writer who finds a certain mode best for expressing his ideas? Or do you think questions of genre are simply irrelevant unless one is employed in a publisher's marketing division and is trying to tell the chain bookstores on which shelf to put the softcovers?

MM: That's my standard advice to people who want to write fantasy: Stop reading fantasy. I read very little in the genre and never read as widely as most. I have no special liking for it, but I do have a talent for it, so I suppose you can say I took the line of least resistance. I have never really thought of myself as a fantasy writer or a genre writer, although I've written plenty of genre, including Westerns. But I began as a professional journalist and I tend to think of myself as a professional writer. I started in Fleet Street (actually just off Fleet Street) when I was l6. For many years I wrote very little fantasy or genre, but mostly features or comic strips about Vikings or Romans!

The question's not irrelevant. Snobbery is a huge factor in a creative artist's life—as is fashion. Categorizing has the effect of helping the snob determine what they won't read. Snobs are much happier with the arts than science because you can have an opinion without any information on the arts, but you need to know what you're talking about in the sciences. As a result, a certain section of "educated" society makes science less respectable a subject—i.e. the snobbery has to exclude the entire subject because snobbery wing any of it. Badly educated Englit [English Lit] majors are, therefore, one of the worst aspects of the phenomenon. They tend to get the jobs as lit editors and off you go. It's far worse in America where the snobbery is even more endemic. Snobbery is the last resort of the intellectually inadequate. Most of my first books, like Behold the Man and The Final Programme were not published as genre fiction. None of the Cornelius books, nor Gloriana, were published as genre in the U.K. They were published as genre in the U.S. (where much of my non-fantastic fiction isn't available—you can buy Mother London in Italian or French, but you can't buy it in America).

CM: You've already mentioned Brackett, Steerpike, Richard III, Byron, the Norse trickster god Loki, and Gothic literature as influences on the Chaos lord Arioch from the Elric series (in response to my earlier query about Milton's Satan being a possible inspiration for the character). More in general, what written works or personal experiences do you feel have been most influential on your own writing and personal philosophy? What are you reading right now?

MM: My influences are a mixture, like everyone's, and include movies and radio, of course. But Peake was probably the one writer who made me realize it was possible to do my own thing and use fantastic imagery at the same time. Two writers I admired and knew were very considerable influences on me—Peake as an imaginative novelist and Angus Wilson as a social novelist. Wilson was once regarded as the leading literary figure in England. What people didn't know was that as an sf advisor to Sidgwick and Jackson he also bought Alfred Bester's Demolished Man and Tiger, Tiger, which were also massive influences on my sf. Bester remains the single greatest influence, I think. Bradbury and Dick were others I admired.

But my romantic relish was for the pulps in which Brackett, Bradbury and Dick, amongst others, appeared. I have no particular nostalgia for pulps as such, but in those days you could find really good writers there—what you might call anti-modernists rather than post-modernists. The pulps, by and large, never paid much attention to modernism. G.B. Shaw was a big influence on me as a boy, as were Wells and Huxley. I read Wells's History of the World and Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy, which gave me a broader view of the world's experience, and went on from there. I'm largely self-educated, having been to a number of schools briefly.

I'm not reading much fiction at all at he moment because I'm writing two books at the same time and that's more than enough fiction. Mostly it's when I have to review something. I liked Dworkin's Scapegoat, about the failure of Israeli men to incorporate their women allies into the system. I recently read Landor's Tower by Iain Sinclair, which is, of course, highly inventive and outside genre. I enjoyed Perdido Street Station by Mieville, but liked his King Rat better. Perdido Street had too many genre elements for me to be wholly enthusiastic. I dip in to Tim Etchells' wonderful Endland Stories and I love M. John Harrison's short stories—Travel Arrangements recently out. I admire writers like VanderMeer, Rhys Hughes, Steve Aylett and feel I should be finding more women I like. Annie Proulx, Ellen Gilchrist, Sheena Mackay are all writers I like. Glad to see Maureen Duffy's Capital back in print (experimental novel about London done before Mother London) and that Gerald Kersh is coming back, too.

I subscribe to a wonderful company called Persephone who specialize in reprinting modernist fiction by "forgotten" women writers. They have turned up some great stuff. I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Bowen, for instance, and her Death of the Heart remains one of my all-time favorites, along with Victory by Conrad, with which I bizarrely associate it.

CM: You're certainly one of the most prolific writers in the fantastic or any other genre. In fact, I can find no exact count of how many books, novellas, short stories, and articles you've written. How do you manage to be so busy? Also, though we're conducting this interview via computer, when you write, do you still use a typewriter, or have you switched over to a [bad joke alert] world processor?

MM: Good health, natural energy and a training which taught you that anxiety cost time and money and was best channeled into doing the work. I work on anxiety-power—or used to. It was easier to write a book in three days than sit about getting more and more anxious about it for weeks. . . I'm a story teller. I have stories to tell. I'd be telling them somehow, no matter what. One story leads to another. I have, an old lover once said, an unsleeping mind. I wake up thinking. My wife hates me in the mornings. I'm curious about stuff.

A computer proved a huge boon to me–for the 'net as much as the word processing. I came fairly late to composing onto the WP and still tend to do most of my work in long hand—I draw scenes pretty much the way a movie director would—sketching out a story board as I go. I'm very visual. My notebooks have as much visual material in them as written notes.

CM: More on the ideas and concepts found in your work: Since Plato, Western thought has cleaved to the idea that there is one true reality, and the world we live in is illusion-in other words, that there is knowable, transcendental, discernible Truth-with-a-capital-"T." (Of course, today, the shadows on the wall of the cave have been replaced with television and movie images designed by some of the most creative human minds, all directed to selling us worldly goods.) However, the concept of the "multiverse," of parallel, equally valid worlds-which I believe you first conceived of in the early '60s-goes distinctly against Platonic grain. How did you come upon this idea? And how does that idea, as well as other concepts found in your work, such as the balance of Law and Chaos, relate to the political and social climate you were involved with at the time?

MM: I think it has to do with experience. Growing up during the Blitz, you became used to seeing whole buildings and streets suddenly disappear. After the Blitz, new buildings and streets appeared. The world I knew was malleable, populated, violent and urgent. After the war, everything seemed dull and certainly the obsessions of most politicians and writers didn't bear much relevance to my experience. I had no particular worries about the Atomic Bomb (Brian Aldiss thinks it probably saved his life, since he was just getting ready to invade Japan when it happened. . . Of course, it would have been great if the young Aldiss had liberated the young Ballard from his prison compound.)

Our experience simply wasn't dealt with in modernist fiction. You got stories of how the war affected sensitive middle class people (Heat of the Day) but nothing which really described what it was like growing up with nothing else but war. My generation came out of those ruins. To be honest, the likes of Martin Amis and Ian McEwen, let alone the previous generation, didn't seem to be addressing my experience any better. I noticed in Amis, for instance, that when he wrote about Ladbroke Grove (the main spiritualcentre of the Cornelius stories) I was probably one of the 'denizens' he was afraid of, who lurked in the dark doorways he found so sinister.

I was lucky in having very little education and a lot of freedom. So my response was, like my feminism and my 'post-modernism', spontaneous and visceral rather than intellectual. Since then, of course, I have given an intellectual gloss of what we've done, but it was gut response that led to it, not sitting about discussing the crisis of the novel (though we did that a bit, too, in the early days). The same with New Worlds—run it up the flagpole and see what comes down was our chief "policy statement." We were doing post-modernism before the name was invented.

As someone who can't stand the idea of unused space, I think I was psychologically prepared for the multiverse before I described it. That book also described black holes and a "shrinking" universe. It was very predictive re: theoretical physics, but the images were poetic rather than scientific, just as the physicists tended to use poetic imagery to frame their ideas. I grew up with a mother who was both highly supportive and loving and was a congenital liar on certain levels, very perceptive on others. I learned early on that the "truth" is malleable. It's what we make of it.

Increasingly, of course, we have developed the tools of making new "truths." Modern society is inclined to see all "truths" as mere statements of opinion. It makes argument difficult, if you are armed with facts, because the tendency is for people to say that truth is in the eye of the beholder and can't be persuaded by argument. They are more likely to be persuaded by style or method of approach. I think that some of this has to do with our horrible consumerist economic system, which promotes a false idea of "individualism," and some is what people have always done. You have the idea before you have the reality.

I have always felt mildly that the brain is a very powerful engine in a slightly inadequate chassis. Early stories of mine tended to be about people creating reality more or less whole. Forty years ago we were saying that none of the existing accepted systems were that useful for dealing with the amount of information we were able to get. During that forty years we have improved the systems, but the under-educated Englit world has scarcely understood it. Most of them have been educated into a deep, specific ignorance. No wonder so many of them feel inadequate or threatened by the modern world.

I don't think we ever felt threatened by the modern world—just the politicians who were messing it up. New Worlds and Jerry Cornelius embraced computers when in fact they were far too big to embrace and needed specially cooled buildings. Polite society meanwhile continued to worry about "computers taking us over". . . We were curious to see what you could do with them. That was probably what the cyberpunks saw in the English "new wave" (not a term we used ourselves). What we saw was variety, proliferation, possibility. It was far more exciting to us than moon-shots. I never had much interest in space. Jimmy was slightly more interested in astronauts than I was.

CM: I'm confused about the ideas of free will and determinism expressed in your works. The Elric series, for instance, has an undeniable sense of doom about it; by the final book, Elric is convinced that his path has been chosen for him. Yet, the Corum series ends with one god destroying the rest, so that humankind can determine its own destiny. A third idea surfaces in Breakfast in the Ruins, where we get the idea that people are the products of their environments. Have your views on this issue changed over time? How much free will do we have?

MM: No reason not to be confused, since these are ideas which have developed from early romantic notions in my late teens to my present state. I was very much writing under the influence of Norse mythology and French existentialism when I did the first Elric stories. Both tend to adopt a somewhat fatalistic approach.

CM: Elric's roots in Norse mythology brings to mind another writer who was influenced by Norse and Germanic mythology, J.R.R. Tolkien. As a result of Peter Jackson's upcoming movies, a whole lot of attention has been paid to Tolkien's work recently. Some are seeing The Lord of the Rings less as escapist fiction, and more as a "serious," quintessentially postmodern work that draws on a mythic past for a categorical rejection of modernity. In fact, some are even calling the Ring saga the "book of the century." I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the reasons for Tolkien's popularity, and your interpretation of what ways in which your views are in harmony or opposed to his.

MM: What I found lacking in Tolkien which I had found in, for instance, the Elder Edda, was a sense of tragedy, of reality, of mankind's impermanence. Tolkien really did set out to write a fairy tale and in my view that's exactly what he did—provide a perfect escape plan, which had the added attractions of having been written by an Oxford don. I knew and liked Tolkien who in a bufferish sort of way was very kind to me and encouraging. I looked forward to those books coming out. I was deeply disappointed by their lack of weight and their lack of ambitious language. They are about as likely to last as “the book of the century” as Ouida, Hall Caine or Marie Corelli, all of whom were judged the greatest writers of their day by a contemporary audience. Thomas Hardy hardly got a mention and well into the twenties people were still wondering if George Eliot was going to last. . . You can just hope nobody puts a curse like that on your own work!

Those polls remind me of what happened after Melody Maker stopped being a professional musicians' paper and became a pop music paper. They still ran the votes for best musicians. In the old days the winner would have been someone like Louis Armstrong. By the time the pop fans were voting, the best guitarist would tend to be whoever was guitarist with the teeny fave band—I remember the guitarist of the Bay City Rollers won one year. I am against popularity contests on principle (they always result in some people feeling less popular) as I am against literary prizes. They are only good to stimulate interest in the trade or professional organization that puts them out. Otherwise they are divisive. I grew up in an England that actually thought high-profile literary prizes were bad for literature. That all stopped after the Triumph of the Market (or the Marketer, actually).

Tolkien has the right elements of snobbery and escapism to make it a huge success. John Buchan for teenagers. A compendium of disguised bigotry and English high church snobbery. I hate it for exactly those qualities which made it so popular. It's a lullaby. Not sure we need lullabies at the moment. Unless we're all just going to give up, go to sleep and wake up dead. I really do feel contempt for Tolkien and a certain disgust for those adults who voted him writer of the century. This has nothing to do with why I decided to be a writer.

CM: What you said about Tolkien—"A compendium of disguised bigotry and English high church snobbery" put me in mind of Benjy at the end of Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury," bawling his head off because the horse-cart was taking him on other than the accustomed route. Could one see "The Lord of the Rings" as the last gasp of the former order, crying out for the way things used to be? Similarly, can you see American conservatism as some sort of grasping at the myth of Norman Rockwell's America?

MM: I think the appeal of Lord of the Rings, like certain quasi-dystopian science fiction stories which clean the world of all complication, is the escape it offers from the industrialized world. Such work (including mine) sells very well in highly industrialized societies but does not sell well at all in non-industrial countries. The Gothic was a clear response to the Industrial Revolution and Tolkien is a clear response, in my view, to the post-Industrial Revolution. It has the same discomfort with cities, the same 'volkishness' you get in proto-Nazi stuff. It scares me a bit, but not that much because times have changed. It would have scared me more if it had been published the year it was conceived.

CM: You were born in London, but now make your home in Texas. Of course, there is now a Texan in the White House. Being a native-born Briton living where you do now, what's your perspective on the political mess in this country? Why do Americans tend to support a system and political parties that openly cater to large corporations, instead of human concerns such as socialized health care? Why are private and public morality, or the semblance thereof, such a pressing issue in American politics?

MM: I'm a political person. When we decided to move to the States I wanted to move somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon because that was where I perceived the real, on the ground, politics to be happening. It's post-LBJ America I'm interested in—watching the Civil Rights and Immigration legislation making the changes, creating the variety, creating the civil resistance, coming up with the strategies, making an America Tom Paine would perhaps be able to revive a little hope for.

I don't look to escape when I move (unless it's to nicer scenery) and can't help but become involved in the politics of the area I live in. After all, as a British residence I pay taxes but can't vote. The cry of the London mob for two hundred years before it became the cry of the American revolutionaries was "no taxation without representation." I see the American Revolution as a re-run of the British "Glorious Revolution" in which defeated Methodists (as it were) continued hoped to continue their reforms. The British Bill of Rights of 1689 is very similar indeed to the American and I find it very odd that American history seems, in modern versions, to have begun spontaneously in 1776.

This tendency to romanticize and sentimentalize history is common, of course, but has become somewhat institutionalized in America, even in some academic circles. It means that the political continuity, of which America is a part, is misunderstood. This is also the only country which commercialized all its radio waves and didn't leave anything for the public. PBS in this country is a lie. It is controlled by government, through grants, and by big business, through patronage. It is not controlled by the public by any form of licensing fee to fund public airwaves (as in pretty much every other advanced democracy in the world).

America has always been in the hands of violent and ruthless entrepreneurs. There would have been no "War of 1812" without the land-hungry Madison and Jackson to fake it and the general treatment of Indians, while continuing the tricks and hypocrisies and cruelties of the original Dutch, English and French colonists, is a terrible indictment for a country which alleges it founded itself on ideals of liberty. The rhetoric, of course, is what makes the American who uses it evidently provincial and poorly educated. You can hear Bush attempting public speaking without the otiose cliches and its almost impossible for him to speak at all.

The words of American politicians in the world in general are empty of content and understanding. Americans are incredibly badly served by their representatives and too many Americans seem to think of their representatives as patrons. The authoritarianism in the political language is astonishing to a modern ear. So I might sometimes despair of this huge country's inadequate and unsophisticated bureaucracies and follies, but every so often the clouds part and I see the same vision Tom Paine saw—the same possibilities remain. All is not lost!

I have no representative. Therefore I make it my business wherever possible to represent myself. They ain't getting those fucking taxes without me having a say in how they spend them. This means I remain political. I'm involved in local politics around water rights and social reform, I'm involved in State politics with reference to Alcoa and some of Dirty George's other get-rich-quick-and-fuck-the-people schemes. I'm involved in national politics to the extent that I write articles and letters concerning U.S. politics and join organizations designed to ameliorate or reform U.S. social institutions. I'm still involved with British politics. I was involved with the Women's Shelter movement from the very beginning and still send money to the original Chiswick Shelter, which was the first modern women's shelter. I have been a keen supporter of Womankind Worldwide since it began (an outfit that puts the power—like the water purifiers and donkey engines—into the hands of the women, who will conserve, preserve and prosper whereas the men and boys would swap it for an AK-47 tomorrow).

My wife is hugely effective both as a fund-raiser and as a planner in our local Family Crisis Center, which is regarded by Federal agencies as one of the very best and as a result it now receives good funding and is a model to others. I'm very proud of what she's achieved. I've been involved in racial politics since I was a teenager and helped get the U.K. Race Relations Act through. Now that the E.U. has incorporated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into its legal system, there is now far better machinery in place for solid social reform. If I had time I'd work for that to be incorporated into U.S. law as well, but the U.S. argues it already has a system.

That's the wonderful excuse of American big business. We already have a good system. It was a good system for its day. it is now a pretty awful system,. Canada and Australia, among other countries, have learned from the US experience and got themselves superior constitutions. The only problem is that the American version seems to work a lot better for the rich than the poor. That isn't a Christian system, whatever else it is. America sometimes seems to me to be more Old Testament than New and a lot of the Jews seem more New Testament than Old.

Liberal humanism—what young Americans believe is "socialism." I grew up in a British version of socialism and it was very good to experience. We have to understand that certain public services actually are better provided by and for the community rather than by and for private enterprise. Americans used to understand this. I know because I've seen the movies and my friends used to talk like that.

I've seen the quality of life and thought in America decline badly since the full-fledged adoption of consumerism Ralph Nader warned the world about so long ago (not capitalism—consumerism in my view is totalitarian capitalism and it's the totalitarian bit I hate—it's also dumb and doesn't work, as the Soviet Union proved). We are almost as badly mired in orthodoxy as the Soviets were, but we probably have a slightly better chance of getting out of it. Mire, I would say, is George Bush's middle name. (Well, mire's the polite word). Theirs is probably the last attempt of the old guard to produce the counter-revolution Reagan and Thatcher thought they had started. They cleared the decks for the real thing, but the clearing was unnecessarily brutal and still is. There are subtler engines for running a large economy.

I do have a huge faith in American citizens to put their house in order. But when everyone has been told they live in the best of all possible worlds (they don't—the French do at the moment) and that it's thanks to the rapacity of big business, it takes them a while to find out otherwise. Americans have been badly educated. It suits crude consumerism to have an under-educated, self-esteeming public. But it's short-term. That under-educated, self-esteeming public makes blunder after blunder, and the economy of the country declines as a result. Americans are just waking up to that fact and I've seen improvements already. My sense of commonality extends, as it were, to my fellow Americans. I know from my own experience that there are lots and lots of smart Americans. It's time they got themselves some real power.

Americans have to understand how their public language buzzes with authoritarianism and aggression and actually contradicts the idealism in the rhetoric. Email correspondents in Europe are often astonished at the aggressive language used by Americans and I still reel a bit from it when I encounter it unexpectedly. A weird sense of "success," of competition, or value. They are also astonished at the ignorance and bad education of so many young Americans.

But again, I don't believe this will last. Nobody likes to be stupid. If you're told you're smart and then discover that you're not as smart as you were told, you tend to start getting yourself properly educated. As I said once—if Jay Leno tells his viewers that 75% of students at Harvard didn't know the earth went round the sun, by the next day every one of those viewers is likely to have made it their business to make bloody sure they know that and everything else associated with it!

As long as the problem is identified, Americans can solve it. People love solving problems. If they didn't there would be no market for crosswords and detective fiction. You could argue that as it becomes unnecessary for us to solve problems on a moment-to-moment basis, we seek out problems to solve anyway. We are problem-solving machines who make problem-solving machines. . .

The American Giant is capable of doing a lot of good for itself and the world. It needs to drop the self-esteem and the rhetoric, however, and start responding to reality. So far the world's perception is of a selfish, greedy giant that merely spouts Disney sentiments while stealing your cow.

CM: You moved here from the U.K., but you're hugely critical of the U.S. Why? Is it that you see this country as the place on the dyke where you have to stick your finger in, lest all the world be flooded?

For instance, you wrote: "When we decided to move to the States I wanted to move somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon because that was where I perceived the real, on the ground, politics to be happening." Of course, the Civil Rights movement was one big example of this. More in my own experience, I'm an editor for the nation's largest school book publisher. (To wit, I'm working on the sixth-grade world history book.) One of our biggest concerns is your adopted home state of Texas, which is a huge market—yes, we write the books "to the market," and no, it wasn't my idea, I'm a 26-year-old junior editor. However, we have to take into account all sorts of insanity, such as the Holy Rollers dictating that we can't talk about evolution. How do you see what's going on in Texas as paradigmaic of the rest of nation? Also, how can American education be saved? Any thoughts on what Neitzche called "The Use and Abuse of History?"

MM: I'm hugely critical of any country I'm paying taxes in. It's as simple as that. It's my privilege and I'm paying for it. I like Americans and I like the town I live in. I am disgusted by how badly served Americans are by their shoddy political system. That's all. If I was living in France, you'd find me making similar comments—and you might not have read much of my political writing about England (The Retreat from Liberty for instance).

I'm a populist democrat. If the democracy doesn't appear to be working, I want to know why. This is not anti-Americanism. I have a reputation in Europe for being far more pro-American than most of the people I know. In certain cases this makes people suspicious of my politics because you're not supposed to like America and be a socialist. I'm actually an anarcho-syndicalist by instinct and this is a far more common form of American radicalism than it is British. I felt that some Brit had to come over and carry on the work Tom Paine started. . . That could be why I'm starting in Texas!

Seriously, there is a radical tradition in Texas that produces some fine commentators (Molly Ivens being one, Jim Hightower being another) and in a sense the raw basics of the American experience can be found here. I know it is also 'another country' compared to the rest of the US, but I wasn't going to move to Mississippi because it's too hard to get out of fast. Texas has major airports. American education needs even more strong-minded educators who are already changing things (and things are changing in Texas—not all teachers go along with that Neanderthal stuff).

I came here because I hoped to experience social change and I think I am. Because Texas is a conservative state, it was more open to the idea of going back to a more substantial method of education (i.e. its not only bad policy, but it makes bad teachers—it's a lot easier to show consumerist-style "results" if you lower the boom and concentrate on self-esteem rather than gaining self-esteem through becoming knowledgeable, articulate and effective in the world).

America is a big slow country. It took it ages to get on to VCRs and mini-dishes, for instance. Once it got them, it embraced them. Ideas take even longer to catch on. But they do catch on. This country is a strange one in that it does offer a model for other similar democracies—but it doesn't have the foundations that some of those similar democracies have—and since Europe sent America all her religious loonies, we have generally very little religious bigotry in the mainstream and you have a lot! That's glib, of course, but it might have a truth in it.

Personally I believe that Americans are far too responsive to bigotry and there should be a lot more people out there telling the bigots that they are fools. I disapprove of modifying schoolbooks to suit bigots. Many years ago I wrote to the chairman of the Race Relations Board, who also happened to be the boss of Collins, who did a lot of educational books. They had a World History that was selling world-wide which essentially described the Japanese as little yellow devils with no respect for individual human life and soft-pedaled disgustingly on South Africa (a major market). I wrote to him and asked why as chairman of the RRB he was allowing such books to be sold. He wrote back and told me that they sold millions and hadn't had any complaints. . . Something I'm sure you're used to.

I don't intend to live in America permanently much longer (maybe six months to a year). I really am becoming tired of a culture which actively celebrates philistinism. That would be my serious criticism of this country. Intellectuals are marginalized, put into compounds virtually, and have no real function in their society. European life incorporates its intellectuals more cheerfully. But the BBC and any other large broadcasting company that is not controlled by State or private enterprise is the chief base of British civil society and the National Health service is the other. If you are not afraid of losing your health insurance, you can become a bolder citizen. Americans aren't very bold as citizens. They complain and express shock at the lack of humanity of corporations. They feel sorry for the children of politicians as if those children weren't used to the life. They defer to authority which has not been earned as readily as they defer to fame for its own sake. They start wars they can't finish. They make laws that can't, in any rational way, ever be implemented. This isn't an active democracy. I think it will be again soon, though.

I might complain, but I also have a lot of idealism wrapped up in the American experiment! It's a very big federation and has its own big problems. What I mostly hate is the way big business has set the rhetoric as well as the terms. It makes them harder to resist.

CM: As you mentioned, another preoccupation in America is race. I've noticed that there is a certain reoccurring theme of the wise black man in your works, such as the ebony-hued wizards sleeping under the volcano in "Stormbringer" or the protagonists in "Breakfast in the Ruins." Does race have a certain symbolism to you, or am I reading too much into this?

MM: The reason I made Hawkmoon German was because of the levels of anti-Germanism in England at the time I wrote it. The Pyat novels, only two of which have been published in the U.S., deal specifically with the elements which allowed the Nazi holocaust. There is no question that I deliberately made black people authority figures, but they were based on authority figures from my own world—Americans have no understanding, I think, how important and popular Paul Robeson was in post-war Europe—and most of my early American heroes were black—whether mythic like John Henry or actual like Muddy Waters. So I tend instinctively to see black men and women in general as having more authority (not more power, but more authority) than white men.

I had little experience of white men as such growing up and feel sorry for those as did. When my friend next door's father came back from the War, the noise level went up, everything became unpleasant. Apart from my amiable uncles, who weren't given to barking or swaggering about (my granny would have seen to that), he was the only adult male I'd seen on a daily basis! My guardian, Ernst Jellinek, was a converted Jew (Rudolf Steiner's Cosmic Christianity from which, I suspect, a lot more of my imagery and notions of The Higher Worlds comes from) who went in and out of Germany and Austria "buying" Jews from the Nazis and helping others escape, often at threat to his own liberty and life. Until well into the seventies I was meeting people whose lives he'd helped save. So I have a rather fine model to live up to. If the Pyat books are done for one person, they are done for him.

Racial injustice has a lot to do with what I write. See Nomad of the Time Streams for a simpler version of the dialectic! Both the current Elric book and the final Pyat book, which I'm writing on and off. At the same time, address issues of racism.

CM: By an amazing coincidence, I'm Jewish. Of course, you also have to remember that most liberal Jews are college-educated and have roots in the liberal Northeast.

MM: My mother was Jewish, my guardian was Jewish (and helped Jews get out of Germany and Austria -- he was Austrian). I remember Rabbi Blue, who had been a child in Auschwitz, recounting how a group of rabbis in Auschwitz had put God on trial and found him wanting which proves, he said, that Jews care more for justice than they do for religion. If it wasn't for her Jews, America would be a pretty awful place, all in all! A passing point—I'm at the holocaust period in Pyat now and have huge amounts of popular stuff from the thirties—mostly German, English and American. The German and American are far more anti-Semitic in an unconscious, enculturated way than the English. Cromwell, as you know, invited the Jews back, so we tended to get some pretty nifty Jews (Isaac Disraeli and his son Benjamin, who became Victoria's favorite prime minister) and there just isn't the undercurrent of anti-Semiticism in popular magazines and papers of the day—indeed, there is a philo-semitic cast which was clearly attempting to offset the anti-semetic rhetoric of the fascists. Far fewer racist jokes in UK publications than, say, the original Life Magazine (U.S.—not the photo-magazine but the Punch-style first incarnation). I'm rather proud of this, though of course even the pro-Jewish stuff has a tendency to talk of us as "them"—the Jewish Question. One thing I have learned is that it became a matter of habit to describe Jewish victims of the Nazis not as Jewish but as artists, doctors, lawyers, intellectuals—this wasn't denying that they were Jewish, it was an attempt to get understanding and sympathy without characterizing them as specific minority. It looks like denial, these days, but I know it wasn't. It was an attempt to counter the Nazi propaganda and any appeal it had in the UK. Philip Wylie, that great fierce critic of the US, pointed out that anti-Semiticism was everywhere in the air in Washington during the thirties and he attacks the U.S. for not taking a firmer stand against it. But racism is endemic to an imperial power bent on taking over a large area of land from the original occupants. It goes hand in hand, as I tried to show in The Warlord of the Air.

I think American education is in the process of being saved by the people who know best how to save it! That's what I mean about wanting to be around as it's happening. Once the problem is recognized, people turn up to start solving it. Economically, neither Britain nor America can afford to turn away skilled immigrants and they have to get their own populations better educated. They are realizing that a passive market (poorly educated people educated to self-esteem without meaning) doesn't supply the active intelligence you need to survive in the IT age! I meet bright American kids all the time. The fact that they are black, Chinese and Jewish mostly hasn't yet sunk in, it seems, to my WASP niece, who is confidently expecting the life of privilege WASPS have enjoyed in the US from the beginning. It is changing importantly and the WASP is becoming a minority. Also it is become an under-educated, self-esteeming minority. . .

That's what I mean about Civil Rights and Immigration—the demographics are also changing the ambitions and generally improving the goals! Just heard, a bit late, that John Hartford died. Cancer. 63. Bummer. American conservatism doesn't bother me. American bigotry does. The fact that bigotry is now called "conservatism" is more to do with the corruption and traduction of the language than anything else, I think! I'm probably something of a conservative myself, in that I like to preserve and celebrate stuff from the past, and oddly my literary work tends to appeal to conservatives—liberal conservatives, if you like.

CM: So much for race; now for sex. I've read your excellent interview with Andrea Dworkin, which presents her as a reasonable and articulate, if undeniably left-of-mainstream, thinker. Yet, few bother to examine her reasoning in depth. I have attended academic conferences where one of the attendees was selling a book severely criticizing Dworkin, using her as a straw woman to rail against the supposed excesses of the feminist movement, and complete with a caricature portraying her as a man-hating Gorgon. Do you have an opinion on why so many are so hostile to her ideas?

MM: Men seem to be in constant terror of someone getting at their private parts. I've never understood it. As I've said before, if men had to muster the kind of courage the average woman has to muster on an average evening, they would all be strutting around like heroes. So full of themselves.

Dworkin receives a degree less ferocity in England but honest I can't work out the primitive nature of American sexuality.It baffles me. It's a kind of materialistic consumer version of the real thing. And it is a construct defended to the death. It is so deeply enculturated (mostly, I'd guess from incoming peasants--seriously wrong invitation that, Mr. Lincoln—send us your trailer trash is what he told Europe. . . ) that I find it almost impossible to address here.

Americans are fucked up. They always were. It's something Europeans know. But I'm not the best person to judge, really. For some reason, I grew up with very few sexual hang-ups. My work in Cornelius, for instance, is just the way I look at the world. Most of what I learn about sexuality makes me laugh, if I'm not horrified. I thought the sexual liberation of the sixties was nonsense. It was simply an excuse for everyone to enjoy their own brand of fetishism or to get girls to sew your jeans for free. When I saw what they'd been repressing, I was all for repressing it again! Jesus Christ! And then there's the Washington suits who come up to you leering and asking how they can get some of that "free sex" you're having. . .

I'm a natural old hippy, I think. I really do believe in peace, love and understanding. It's what I like best. Dworkin, for me, is simply applying the logic of sophisticated feminism to the problems she sees. She scares women because she says things that are true but which they don't feel they can afford to think about. She scares men because they seem to be scared of women, anyway. See—it comes down to the gynaephobia she thinks is there. I think it is, though I don't think it's simple or that I have much hope of understanding it.

We are entering a period of history where women are gaining much more real power, both financial and otherwise. I've seen enormous changes, but they don't all come at once, or happen to everyone at the same time. People didn't come to America because they wanted change. They came here because they hoped that things would be the same only better. It makes for a very conservative, deeply orthodox population, carrying mores and ideas from pre-humanist cultures. Increasingly that population is coming from countries with no humanist tradition to speak of—Eastern Europe and the Orient—and while the smart kids are absorbing that and thinking stuff out for themselves as well, the dumber kids and their parents are still very reluctant to initiate change. This is probably a specific problem for America.

Although Europe has the racial tensions and similar problems, it is not a place which has traditionally depended on attracting cheap labor from abroad, as America has. And that's what Lincoln was asking for, to fill up the frontier and secure the nation. Fastest, cheapest, dirtiest way of doing it. Canada didn't have the same concerns (being part of a larger Empire) and therefore had less urgency about its dealings with, for instance, the indigenous population. Civil Rights has done wonders for the Iroquois, among others. You don't get "the white man done us wrong" stuff any more. You get Huron Computer Solutions.

The use of constitutional law to achieve what is usually best achieved through common law (general consent) means that America is forever making laws which don't have any common support and which can't be argued through common law. When you argue ordinary cases through constitutional means you are producing an unnecessarily abstract set of arguments, which does not agree with our common notions of justice. As a result Clinton is prosecuted forever under a system abandoned in England in 1934 (grand jury) as fundamentally unjust, but gets away with corruption on a scale which would leave even a French deputy gasping (the new breed of young French prosecutors are taking that on even as I speak) and OJ walks.

This is a problem because it is at odds with the average citizen's notion of common justice. If that happens, you get people increasingly taking "law" into their own hands or ignoring it altogether. American authority is so covered in corruption now that it has no moral weight at all. You can tell a kid not to lie cheat and steal, but if you demonstrate daily that lying, cheating and stealing is easy and profitable, it doesn't make much sense. While the government remains dependent so heavily on private money, both to gets its members elected and to put certain policies into place, it will remain thoroughly corrupt. One guy going Independent is simply laughable. Here's a man able to take on Nixon, the Contra scandal and God knows what horrors in the Middle East, but resigns on principle when farm subsidies are cut. . . It shifts the power, but not enough.

They are, I fear, pretty much all the same. They got there the same way. They have all taken dirty money—that is private money. That is private patronage of public politicians. It isn't generally thought an acceptable way of doing business in a modern democracy.

I'd better stop. Dworkin attacks the status quo. Men in suits have most to gain from maintaining the status quo.

CM: Anyhow, in reference to the Constitution and the wildcat nature of American polity, what the Constitution realizes is that people are inherently self-centered, and so it puts into place a system of checks and balances. What our brilliant founders, with visions of plantations and yeoman farmers dancing in their preindustrial heads, didn't see is that money is also power. How do you think a society should provide checks and balances for fiscal power?

MM: Actually, I thought America was progressing towards a reasonable series of checks and balances. But that was what "'deregulation" was all about—getting rid of the checks and balances American politicians, workers and activists have fought and often died to achieve. Reagan pissed all over the American people and they loved him for it. That is what tends to bring up the sense of contempt, sometimes, I must admit. I find Americans real wimps, politically. Then I remember Kent and realize most modern democracies have not shot down their children on their university campuses. Maybe America really is a natural ally to China.

What I always remember is that Tom Paine, discovering corruption in Congress (a particularly nasty scam whereupon public money was stolen by the guy who told Congress he was 'buying' guns from France and Spain. The French and Spanish, for their own reasons, were happily supplying them free.). Tom reveals it and is effectively exiled to France. . . It started like that. Dworkin says Israel has descended from her ideals and suddenly virtually every Jewish organization in the US cancels its invitations to her to speak. That's foolish. Israel, right or wrong, given the American record, is a very ironic attitude for them to be taking. I think society builds up its checks and balances and is having to do so again.

Breaking the power of reactionary unions might have been necessary, but to go on and destroy everything the unions built on behalf of labor—of the ordinary citizen, if you like—was obscenely cynical and greedy and I loathe and continue to loathe those who took part in that filthy exercise. As I've said more than once, men in faded blue overalls fought to get those “regulations.” But that's how it's done. Here, Americans have to start almost from scratch. But Americans are great problem solvers. In fact they are better at solving problems than they are at running other peoples' countries, like the British, and should stick, like the British, to doing what they do best. Of course, I'm still convinced the Teutonic expansion hasn't stopped. It just changed names.

The people build the checks and balances. They are a bit at a disadvantage currently but I'm sure they'll get there.

CM: You mentioned how American language buzzes with words for competition, conquest, and subjugation. Knowing a lot of Wall Street guys, I thoroughly agree. You've also commented, in response to one correspondent's question about a role-playing game, that you don't play games yourself, that you're more likely to negotiate a solution. Why do you think Americans are so competitive? How do we get out of the vicious cycle? (And how exactly are Americans screwed-up about sex--I've noticed several ways in New York, but complaining is useless. And I can't think of a course of action.)

Oddly enough, I agree with you about negotiating solutions, but for different reasons. While I've never lived through a war, I've studied karate and classical fencing for years (partially as an exercise in self- improvement; partially for romantic reasons) and I know that, ultimately, power is better constrained than freely exercised. (For a related reason, I think Americans will never understand schlager mensur as practiced in German fraternities. We're such a win-win culture that the idea of such an activity as testing rather than competition is utterly alien.)

MM: I agree with you entirely about fencing. Fencing is the only sport I thoroughly enjoy and for that reason. A sport where it's up to you to acknowledge a hit, for instance, and where politeness is a necessary element can't be bad for the character. Have a look about what I said about swords in The Dreamthief's Daughter, although to be honest I haven't much time for schlager mensur stuff, either. It's mainly butchery in real life.

America has always been known for its aggressive competitive nature. It has something to do, I suspect, with the amounts of adrenalin needed to maintain early frontiers! Also the first merchants were certainly pretty aggressive. It's not an unknown quality in Europe, of course, but it is a kulak quality typically. I can't speak for the whole of America but I know for sure that I am living in a kulak culture in Texas--rich peasants, not middle-class urbanites—even if they live in cities. Much of America has a kulak quality to me—that's what I identify it as, thinking of Ukraine, Bavaria and other places where the wealthy peasant is really the dominant cultural determiner. And, of course, America was populated by kulaks or would-be kulaks who think of politicians as patrons rather than representatives. . . It reminds me a lot of Russia. You often get a sense that you have stepped back into the 19th century, where issues of “blood” and so forth are still alive. The strong sense of nostalgia the European often gets from America would probably surprise most Americans. But it is often like stepping back in time.

America also has the most uncomfortable long-distance busses in the First World. I suspect this is because the American perception of public transport is that it is something poor (and therefore sinister) people use. I've traveled all over the US on pretty much every form of transport available and the busses are the worst. Trains aren't a lot better—though they were built when white folks were the perceived customer so are much more comfortable. . . I know hundreds of Americans who are astonished at our use of trains. They look at us as if we might have been Klansmen deciding to travel with black revival show. Of course, the trains are full of different kinds of people. Many of them simply people too scared to fly! Great way of seeing America and meeting Americans.

There is a strong strain of communitarianism which runs through American life and it is this which I respond to more than the competitive crap (the military stuff is ludicrous to most other eyes--all that yelling and running about). Kropotkin, rather than Marx, seems to have a better idea more suitable for America. There are some thirty women in the current Blair cabinet. When there are some thirty women in the US cabinet, some progress will have been made. That's the cabinet, not parliament. There are a lot more in parliament. There are also Indian, black and other 'minorities' represented by MPS and you don't have to cultivate a rich person to get elected. That's the core problem with American politics. Nowhere else in the world do I know of such a shambolic system. It won't be changed without some sort of fight, because it suits the white men in suits who dominate the US congress. Men in suits are still powerful in the world, but check out the makeup of the German or Italian parliaments. Just the comparisons show that America is neither the leader in democracy nor in the fight against racism and sexism. A sense of shame is lacking since Vietnam. It needs to be revived. But the problems are being identified. It's a matter of time and hard work before they're fixed. But Americans will fix 'em and I'll be there to help, if asked.

I might add that the 'feel' of American culture for me is far more German than English. Far more involvement in people's private lives, far more social engineering, similar need for social approval (over-riding private conscience). No Brit would carry a driving license or any form of ID on their person, except by chance. It is considered a serious breach of civil liberty to issue, let alone be made to carry, identify cards. I was fingerprinted three times during the first two days of my taking up residency in the US.

The English are considered direct, even rude, by Americans. If you disagree with someone in England you can simply say “That's rot!” and carry on with your argument. In America, you are supposed to say “While I agree entirely with what you say and of course you are a person worthy of respect and attention, have you considered that what you have just said is rot…”

To be honest, I feel happier in New York with Jewish friends. Both Linda and I are fierce arguers. My mother loved her. All Jewish mothers love her. I swore I wasn't going to marry a Jewish girl—and here she is, sneaking in with an Irish name, a Baptist background, and a Mississippi accent. What's a poor guy to do? Oh, yes, she also gives you two ties for your birthday and when you wear one asks “So you didn't like the other one ?” I am so guilty, I told a shrink during a brief go at that, I feel the holocaust was my fault, and it started before I was born. That could be why I'm also popular with Catholics

Like almost every Londoner I ever knew, I had a fundamentally secular upbringing. I didn't really know anyone who had had a repressive religious background or any sort of religious background beyond a vague tendency to want to get married and buried in church, until I got Catholic friends. All my Jewish friends were from traditional socialist backgrounds. All the emigres at our house weren't religious, but tended to be left socialists. You would feel embarrassed if anyone mentioned religion and Dr. Strangelove was the first many of us knew of the way Americans call on God as some sort of personal authority. I did say, since living here, that Americans are the only modern Christian nation I know where Jesus is used as an authority rather than an example.

Americans always apologise for being ugly tourists. Americans, by and large, are superb tourists, at least in public. They have a world-wide reputation, however, for trashing toilets. They seem to have no idea that others are coming in after them. Linda wouldn't use public toilets for ages when she first came to Europe and we all found this odd. Then she discovered that the toilets weren't trashed. On a plane between the US and Europe I always try to get into the toilet early, before it is totally destroyed. This reflects the huge emphasis on public respectability you find in the US but it also suggests that Americans are willing to be absolute selfish slobs if nobody can see them... It IS a weird culture. Luckily, the people are a lot nicer and better than the culture suggests. And generalizations are crap, really, for such a big country. But it's pretty general with the toilets. . .

CM: I'm afraid this one rates pretty highly on the frequently-asked questions list, but there's an aspect of your career that some are aware of and some are not; to wit, music. I'm aware of your involvement with Hawkwind, which later spawned Motorhead, as well as your solo career. What other bands have you been involved with, and in what capacity?

MM: I've written for Hawkwind, The Deep Fix and Blue Oyster Cult. Done some session work, notably on the Calvert albums Lucky Leif and the Longships and Hype. I used to be in demand for banjo work—I was the only Brit who could play five-string that anyone knew. Generally these jobs have been casually arrived at. Eric Bloom suggested I write him a song, so I did. It worked. I wrote some other songs. Same with Hawkwind. I just do it if I'm asked.

My performing was similar. One of the reasons I soon stopped performing with The Deep Fix was because it stopped being enjoyable. Rock and roll is a working holiday for me. My two enthusiasms as a kid wererock and roll and fantasy fiction. They were mine. That was what kids want. Something that is theirs and hasn't been picked over by adults or authorities

There were no journals of rock or sf when I was a lad. It was virgin territory. Something you could make your own. I didn't make the rock as much my own, I suppose, as the sf, but that's still the impulse. But my preferred position in a band is as a sideman and backing vocalist. I happen to have a good voice, so tend to do the songs when I'm on stage, but really I'd rather be in the shadows working up an interesting harmonic. Happily, I'm not the most self-conscious individual in the world and I absolutely love stage work--rock and roll, acting or reading or performing something of my own—I would almost certainly be doing something like that if I wasn't writing. But writing needs a rather solitary, disciplined life and I tend to prefer it as my base.

I've had some great times in rock and roll, though, and it's nice to have enjoyed all the things that most people only get a chance to fantasize about. I'm musical. My own stuff tends to be more melodic than Hawkwind but even less commercial ("Another Quiet Day in Auschwitz" somehow never made it even to the indie charts. . . ) and the work I've done with my partner (ex-High Tide and Third Ear Band, bass and cello Pete Pavli) is much more complex. I gave up recording it when we couldn't find an engineer who didn't want to lay down bass and drums first. We were using neither. Pete and I both had an enthusiasm for Schoenberg, Captain Beefheart and, in my case, Iggy Pop.

CM: Continuing on the music theme, what did you think of the punk movement when it first came out, in the late '70s?

MM: We were in the happy position of being the only band the Pistols had any time for! That is the only 'long hair' band—that is, the Hawkwind, Motorhead axis in general. If you look at lyrics like "Kings of Speed," "Sonic Attack" and "Needle Gun" (all mine), you see more in common with punk than peace and love. Our lyrics weren't that dissimilar. And Hawkwind, don't forget, refused to play the media game very much as the Pistols refused. We didn't have the pleasure of telling Bill Grundy he was a miserable old hack, but we might have done, more reasonably. John L. and some of the others were far more interested in power, however, than we were. Glen wasn't. He got a raw deal from Lydon, but he was the real base of the Pistols and without him they would have been very little.

When Linda and I went to the gigs of punk friends in the eighties, people with Mohicans [Mohawks—ed] and black finger nails would ask us if we wanted a chair or if they could get us a cup of tea. I did a documentary about a punk revival in, I think, 1982 because I was told I was the only person who Siouxsie would agree to be interviewed by. We had friends in common—Lemmy included. So I liked the best of punk. I didn't like the worst of it, of course. But there was no conflict for me. In fact, for some reason, I seem to be accepted by people, as does Linda. It isn't anything we do deliberately.

But we also don't tend to have preconceptions about people, either. I knew early on that punk was just another form of dandyism and I'm a great fan of dandyism. The true dandy, as exemplified by a certain version of Jerry Cornelius, has to be able to keep their cool on all occasions. As punk sank, like hippies, into mere fashion, I lost interest. I spent time at Blitz because I knew a fair number of the people there and was vaguely involved with some New Romantics, but I must say I preferred the return of grunge.

CM: Though I'm afraid it also rates pretty highly on the banality scale, the question needs to be asked: What's your all-time favorite story from the Hawkwind/Motorhead era?

MM: I think if you look at Spinal Tap and substitute smarter people for the main characters, you have a fair picture of Hawkwind at their weirdest. There are lots of stories—the time Nik Turner suddenly rose into the air beside me when we were performing—the time we arrived late for a gig and an outside, slippery stage. I managed to stop at the edge of the stage as I ran out. Nicky didn't. Dressed in a complete frog suit he flew out over the audience, saxophone in hand—and was caught by an amiable bunch of fans who thought it was all part of the act. They simply passed him back to the stage and he started playing. . . You asked for the anecdote in the wrong place. I'm worn out now!

CM: Thank you very much for your time!


About the interviewee: Michael Moorcock is one of the most prolific and progressive writers working today. He may be reached through his Web site,


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Posted January 1, 2002 12:22 AM






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