Phil and I have just returned home from the SFW Weekender (see previous post). Always great to get back to the den after a few days away, and even better when postie has left treasure on the door mat. I’ve been looking forward to hearing the new(ish), live recording by Michael Moorcock & The Deep Fix so I’ll be getting that up in me ears later.
The second delivery was the recent Gollancz reissue of My Experiences in the Third World War (in this edition, subtitled The Best Short Fiction of Michael Moorcock vol 1). I’ve been picking these editions up as reading copies to protect some of my older treasures that are getting increasingly fragile. As usual with Moorcock reprints and collections separated by the years, there is a big contents difference between this book and my old Savoy edition from 1980. The core story, comprising the first 60 odd pages, is common to each but otherwise the contents are entirely different.
The 1980 Savoy edition was the first Moorcock book I picked up independently of my Grandad. I found it in a cheap books/tat store on Chanterlands Avenue in Hull, a couple of doors from the library. It was one of three books I bought, probably with birthday money, from bargain bins.
The first was The Illustrated Hitler Diaries, published before the fakery was revealed.
The second was the Dick Emery Cook Book. I still use Dick’s recipes for fish pie and bean and frank pot to this day.
The third was My Experiences in the Third World War by Moorcock. I’d read Stormbringer and Warlord of the Air by this point, but nothing else and my 10 or 11 year old head found it baffling to say the least.
But the cover… Oh that cover. I was drawn in.
The title story is a perfect example of what Moorcock was toying with increasingly in his Jerry Cornelius novels back then. Alternate histories of 60s and 70s cold and hot wars from the perspective of burned out spies, assassins and writers. The remainder of the tales were an early Jerry Cornelius short first published in a magazine called SPECULATION and a handful of other shorts, mostly early MM SF, from other magazines that had never seen book print at the time.
Sandwiched between all of that though was my first introduction to Jerry Cornelius in the form of a 15 page comic strip written by Moorcock and M John Harrison and deliriously illustrated by Mal Dean & R Glyn Jones. It introduced me to the entire Cornelius clan and Miss Brunner, had a tiny cameo from Elric, and was saucy, psychedelic and completely unlike anything I was reading in 2000ad at the time (which itself was pretty out there in the early 80s).
I remember taking it to school to show my mates. They didn’t have a clue what they were looking at but it had boobs and bombers so it struck a chord. Miss Minette-Sandern was less than impressed however and confiscated it, only allowing me to have it back on the promise it would remain outside of school grounds. I’m still amused by that to this day, but mostly because it just reminds me that an elegant teacher called Miss Minette-Sandern somehow had ended up teaching at an inner city junior school in Hull.
My Experiences in the Third World War (the Savoy edition) remains one of my most treasured Moorcock books. I wish I’d been of an age to get, or ‘grog’, it back then but I returned to it numerous times as I grew older and those ‘what if’ stories get better with age, even more so now I can web search some of the more obscure (in today’s terms) references to hotspots and flashpoints that were in the sidebars of the broadsheet newspapers regularly when these stories were written.
We will definitely be covering the Savoy edition on a future episode when, through sheer laziness, I’ll probably just read the above as the intro.
See you in Cambodia.