Friday, 18 February 2011

Modem Times 2.0 Plus...

This slim volume (hoorah for slim volumes) contains a new Jerry Cornelius novella, a short essay, an interview, and an outline bibliography. Whilst there is nothing spectacularly new in either the essay (on London) or the interview (by Terry Bisson) for anyone acquainted with Moorcock’s life and work, both are nonetheless illuminating, witty, and well worth reading – not just for insight into Moorcock, but also into the creative process. The bibliography lists (over eight pages) Moorcock’s phenomenal output – which would be amazing enough in its own right but which does include his journalism, musical work, or the less quantifiable contribution he has made over the decades to editing, encouraging, and promoting the work of others.

I am, of course, a Moorcock fan.

I have been reading his work since I was about seven (some of it before I even knew it was him in anonymous pieces in the likes of Look and Learn magazine). From his conventional rip-roaring fantasies to his non-genre work, from the conventional to the exploratory, I have devoured his output (and own most of it). One of the great joys of discovering Moorcock when I did was that you didn’t have to wait long for a new one to appear on the shelves. Interlocking works that he has, over the years, drawn together into a vast, multi-volume, work.

Jerry Cornelius is quintessential Moorcock. These comic strips, short stories, novellas, and novels encompass all his styles, themes, and concerns. Because Moorcock is more than just a fantasy or sf writer (which would be no bad thing). Moorcock’s work is informed by political awareness, a desire to explore and understand the human condition, and a great deal of warmth.

Modem Times 2.0 is a novella that demonstrates that over the years, Moorcock has lost none of his touch. It is a sparkling piece of work that uses old methods and styles to gain a new perspective on today’s’ world. Superficially light and, at times, knockabout (look out for the three literary worthies and their prizes), you find yourself suddenly aware of the depths of the piece. It is difficult to call it a novella as it does not have a plot in the conventional sense. The Cornelius stories (even those carried conventionally by a recognizable storyline) are more a method of bringing bits of the world into focus than they are stories with beginning, middle and end. It would be senseless trying to describe what this is about. You have to read it and tune into it. But I can say that it is eloquent, smooth, with an underlying flavour of the ‘60s still present for the tutored palate. Besides, any story that manages to mention The First Spaceship on Venus (the first movie I saw on my own at a cinema), just has to be one of the best things ever written.