The newest Grandmaster named by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Here is the story. For some reason I kind of feel this kind of cheapens the honor. I used to like Moorcock’s work. I think I out grew him 20 years ago. I wouldn’t exactly call him a hack but I would not put him on the same level as the previous winners. Just putting it out there in case anyone wants to comment.
ETA: Sorry could someone report this? I meant to put it in CS.
I hope you reported my post.
I have read many of his books, not just Elric. After a while I didn’t feel the need to read any more. In fact I haven’t seen much of his work in years. Did a bunch of his work get published in England and not in America?
I think it’s an excellent choice. Moorcock was a major writer in the field, not so much for Elric and the like (that was his equivalent of slumming), but for New Worlds and Jerry Cornelius and The Dancers at the End of Time. Moorcock pushed the envelope and most SF is better for it.
Moorcock has had several separate parallel careers within the field. Here’s his Internet Science Fiction Database page. Looks like he’s written over 110 novels and a dozen short-story collections.
There is Moorcock, the popular sword and sorcery writer. That’s how you make money as a working writer.
There’s also Moorcock, the champion of the New Wave in the 1960s as writer and as editor of New Worlds, and Nebula winner for “Behold the Man,” one of the finest novellas ever written in the field.
And there’s Moorcock, the epic novelist starting with Gloriana in 1978 and continuing through such major novels as Mother London.
No question that he’s a pivotal author in the field and an important artist by any measure. If you remove the sword & sorcery books altogether, you still have a career as great as several of the previous winners.
Seems an appropriate choice to me - he’s definitely an architect of SF / fantasy in the 60s and 70s. Very influential and very active as a writer and editor as exapno has pointed out. Even when writing his eternal champion stuff I wouldn’t call him a hack - he always had elements of style and panache to his writing, albeit rolled out at 100 words a minute in those books.
Cannot empathise at all with the OP’s comment on Moorcock being not at the same level as other winners - some of those writers seem a bit pedestrian for a prestigious award. Anne McCaffrey, Philip Jose Farmer? Not in Moorcock’s league.
Still not sure what Damon Knight’s role in US scif-fi is. I know his name because Gene Wolfe (now there is a grandmaster!) often mentions him in dedications and has even written him into short stories I think. Is he an influential editor or publisher?
Well for one he is the founder of the SFWA , the organization that gives out the grandmaster award (and the Nebula Awards). And the award is named the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award. He also wrote a bunch of stuff.
Knight’s In Search of Wonder was one of the first serious critical books about science fiction, cobbled together from his critical columns in various magazines. He (along with James Blish) was one of the first true critical writers about SF books, willing to rise above the fanboy level to point out flaws (his early criticism of A. E. Van Vogt – which is pretty much the critical consensus today – was one of the first to dare point out the many flaws in Van Vogt’s work). I will say that the book was highly influential to me; he had a chapter about bad writers called “Chuckleheads,” and when I was starting out I followed his advice to avoid being one.
Outside the genre, his short story “To Serve Man” made one of the best Twilight Zone episodes ever (one issue I have is that everyone assumes the story was by Rod Serling and gives him all the credit, while Serling only adapted it). “Not with a Bang,” is a clever end-of-the-world story.
He edited the long-running “Orbit” original anthology series, which published some of the best SF of the 60s and 70s and was instrumental in the careers of R. A. Lafferty and Gene Wolfe.
Last and not least, Knight was instrumental in founding SFWA.
Damon Knight, besides being a good writer, was one of the first reviewers to look at science fiction as a literary form (along with James Blish). His reviews are collected in an influential book called In Search of Wonder, still a wonderful read 50 years after many of the books have been forgotten.
He later started a writer’s workshop in Milford, PA, out of which grew the Clarion workshop for new writers, the pre-eminent workshop in the field. He and his wife, Kate Wilhelm, taught at these for decades.
His Orbit series of original anthologies dominated the Nebula lists for much of the 1970s.
Oh yeah. He founded SFWA.
The Grand Master Award was renamed the Damon Knight Grand Master award in his honor.
Here’s his ISFDB page. (That’s Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Got it wrong earlier.)
ETA: Chuck and I didn’t confer about these posts. Honest.
Let me chime in with everyone and say he deserves it just for his editing efforts in New World. While there’s arguments over what was the key piece of New Wave that elevated things past the Cambellian style that dominated SF from the 40’s onward but he was a major figure in shifting SF to a more literary style. I’m not that fond of the majority of his writing efforts myself but Moorcock is a giant.
“Stuff” is right. He had the nerve to criticize quite a few authors, who easily surpassed him in talent. He was to SF during his life, what Mercedes and Diana Gabaldon are to the fantasy genre today.
I’ve read 3 collections of his short stories and 2 novels. As they say, “I wish I could have that time back”. He was a moral equivalent to T.S. Eliot. They both criticized others in their respective fields of writing, and both placed too much emphasis on their own opinions. Damon Knight’s fiery flailings at other authors will always taint anything he wrote.
As for creating SFWA. So what? Its just writers doing a popularity contest, much like the Grammys and Oscars.
Michael Moorcock doesn’t stick out in any way in that group. We all have different tastes in writing, but I don’t think that on average Moorcock is rated below all the others. I don’t think that on average he’s rated below all the others in influence on the field. I don’t see any reason to complain that he doesn’t fit into this group.
The last sentence shows you don’t know much about science fiction. You seem to think SFWA is only the Nebula Awards. Far more important is that it has worked for the rights of authors, increased their pay rates (when SFWA changed the minimum payment requirement for membership from three cents to five cents a word, magazines raised their rates in order to still say they were SFWA eligible), fought against practices that were bad for writers (like stopping a literary agent from becoming a publisher), helped gather estate information on authors so their work could be reprinted, and alerted newbie writers of writing scams. Damon Knight personally made sure that J.R.R. Tolkien was paid by the first US publisher of Lord of the Rings (before SFWA, Tolkien got nothing).
As for his criticism. The authors that Knight trashed have all been forgotten; the ones he praised (like Heinlein, Bradbury, Sturgeon, Asimov, even Vonnegut) ended up being recognized as giants in the field.
Knight was a good writer, if not top tier, but he wrote classics like “To Serve Man” and “Not With a Bang.”