Monday, September 6, 2010


For a variety of reasons, I was moved to spend a few hours this morning rereading what I consider one of the great fantasy/SF novels (a novella really) of all time, Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock, the classic and long out-of-print tale of a time-traveler who returns to the time of Christ and discovers both a terrible truth and the true purpose of his life.

I have the the 1996 Thirteenth Anniversary limited hard cover edition in my library and this was the first time I've read it, usually depending on an earlier paperback edition which I cannot find any longer. That meant I read Moorcock's "Afterword" in this copy just now. The latter section is about some of the reaction to the book when it was first published in 1969.

He notes near the end that when the original magazine version (at right is the cover of the issue of New Worlds, which Moorcock edited, in which the original appeared) was expanded and released in book form the reaction of the religious press, "particularly the Catholic and Jewish press' was generally favorable but that he began receiving death threats, "mostly from the Bible Belt, almost all from Texas," when Behold was published in America, threats he compares to those received by Salman Rushdie following publication of The Satanic Verses, and continues...
"We are living in times when people cling to the wreckage of their sinking orthodoxies as if to salvation and aggressively continue to promote the very ideas which have led to their predicament. All we can hope, I suppose, is that, in their enthusiasm for self-destruction, they don't drag the rest of us down with them.

[ ... ]

"As an enthusiast believer in the principles of our common democracy, I cannot help mourning the fact that the USA is presently the most exploited, misinformed and badly educated modern state among her democratic peers. Notoriously she has the worst news media. Poorly informed people are easily manipulated and convinced to act against their own self-interest. Too few modern Americans understand their own history or the principles of their nation's robust political system..."
Those words come from 14 years ago but could easily have been written today. I'm not sure whether the message we can take away is that the this poor country has been as screwed as screwed up as it is today, albeit perhaps not so loudly and  proudly so, or if we should consider it a bit of prophecy. I'm going with the latter as the header attests, on the basis that the "exploited, misinformed and badly educated" seem now to be the emerging majority rather than merely a dangerous sub-culture mostly used and abused by politicians and other charlatans.

I also looked around the internets and found the Michael Moorcock website. Dunno if he's still living in Texas as he was when the above was written.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to read this, but I checked around and none of the libraries in this area have it, and I'd assume that it isn't going to be in a bookstore with it being out of print.