Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present, controls the past.
It looks like Swords and Stitchery is influencing my reading. In Though I need little nudging when it comes to reading stories of Michael Moorcock.
Michael Moorcock’s Elric & The Young Kingdoms make it quite plain that they fall under the preview of the Chaos Gods. What makes the Young Kingdom so dangerous is two fold. One is the fact that the realm is that Young Kingdoms is a post empire setting. The Melinbonean empire is fading fast.
Twenty or so years ago, I read through eight or so books of the Elric Saga. They struck me as something unique compared to most of my other reading. Each novel follows a moment in Elric's 🔍 life; And are constructed so that more stories can and do fit between. Contrast this with the self-contained trilogies, crafted to tell a specific narrative. And positioned for sequels and prequels, but rarely the moments in between the books already written.
Since then, I’ve read Poul Anderson’s various fantasy books, including The Broken Sword and Three Hearts and Three Lions, Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber, Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series (along with many others). These fantastical stories focus more on Law and Chaos instead of Good and Evil.
In my Design Notes for Rite of Admixture - A Ritual for the Dark Six of Eberron I pull some quotes around Law and Chaos from ’s . A great framing resource, and highlights that perhaps Good versus Evil is a far less useful framing.
And that reminds me, I really do like the Rite of Admixture; It certainly fits within the theme of a Melinbonean empire.
, I finished reading Elric: The Ruby Throne.
The art captures the depravity of a failing decadent empire. The visuals make it clear, the Melinbonean empire lives on the bodies and blood of the subjugated. Blur your eyes not even a little, and you see this as a projection of the United States of America's hegemony.
Let’s look to the opening spread of The Ruby Throne. This massive entrance to the seat of the empire tells it all:
- Behold our splendor and power.
- Outsiders are not welcome.
Michael Moorcock’s introduction illuminates his intentions:
Another theme in the Elric stories is the end of empire. For those of us who grew up after the end of the Second World War, the attitudes of our parents could be baffling and disturbing. We could see how so many of their assumptions could be easily contradicted by our own experience.
A vast literature of nostalgia began to see print, much of it aggressively and sentimentally arguing for the return of imperialism. It saw a troubling revival under Mrs. Thatcher. It had not gone away at the beginning of this century. Indeed, it could be said to be worse. Attacking the nostalgia became the province of many of the graphic stories published in such magazines as 2000 AD.
People like Alan Moore and Bryan Talbot smelled the corruption in British society, particularly in its politics, and made it their business to attack it. The graphic story began to do what SF had done in the 1950s, when many French, American and English intellectuals found substance in the genre. It attacked and examined social institutions from top to bottom, addressing a popular audience, when more conventional literature only rarely tackled the issues and was also, in the main, thoroughly rootted in nostalgia.
I came to science fantasy because I liked the way it could be fashioned to question my world and contradict authority. I thought I could import some of its tropes and lessons into my own work and Elric was the first serious attempt I made to try to achieve this!
Nostalgia is the pull towards innocence. But that garden is closed. Instead nostalgia, especially with deliberate crafting, calls on a past only existent in the collective memory of the now, stewarded by the publications that seek to continue to shape the past. Notice how there are so many books published by Fox News folks, tapping into and further shaping the myth of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.
Nostalgia never tells us how we got to where we’re at. Instead it demands a willful forgetting and smoothing over of all of the struggles that brought us to this moment. It’s the propaganda-based weapon of late stage structures of Law.
What are all of the promises that give and keep Elric of Melniboné in power? What sacrifices of blood and body sustain the empire to which I pay taxes? In rethinking alignment, the “Western” approach of rugged individualism is very much Chaotic 🔍. Yet in the USA we rely on piles of paper contracts to form the lattice of support for pursuing these ambitions.
For me, when I keep Moorcock’s introduction (and the above extrapolation) salient, the final frame of Elric: The Ruby Throne hits hard; The unbridled power of that desire to return to simpler times.
It may seem contradictory to admonish nostalgia while also going back to books I read when I was half my present age. But I’m feeling an importance of that revisitation. To look from a different vantage point on a story from a fixed point in time; To listen to the introduction of it’s author some 35 years later. To wrestle again with art that then and still does critique a failing empire.