Call to arm Syrian rebel fighters

The exiled opposition Syrian National Council calls for foreign states to arm rebel fighters, as government troops continue their assault on Aleppo. (BBC news website, 29.07.12)

The Final Programme, 2012

The Final Programme is the first novel in Michael Moorcock’s Cornelius Quartet. It was published in 1969 and was the first to feature the character, Jerry Cornelius. The book is a fairly straightforward SF adventure story with a  conventional episodic structure. Jerry Cornelius, a physicist and hip secret agent, attempts to subvert a plot by his (drug-addled and generally disreputable) brother Frank and a Miss Brunner (who has a vampiric appetite for young flesh) to build a super computer for nefarious ends. There’s also the little matter of rescuing his sister Catherine from their clutches.

In 1973 the book was adapted for cinema by Robert Fuest, who also directed. But Moorcock was quick to distance himself from the film when it was released.

Locog vows to solve empty seats problem

‘Olympic family’ areas stand empty as 500 places unoccupied at Phelps v Lochte swimming heats and more than 1,000 at gymnastics. (The Guardian, 29.07.12)

A Cure for Cancer, 2012

A Cure for Cancer was published in 1971, and is described in the original book’s blurb thus: “Up from the ocean depths comes the jet-black caucasian transvestite champion. Resplendant in warpaint, wampum beads and silk suit by Cardin, armed only with a tomahawk and vibragun, he returns to the napalmed ruins of London to resurrect his sister and wrest from the disgusting Bishop Beesley and his formidable henchwomen the black box which has diffracted the cosmos and set the world spinning at super-speed towards its own final solution. Lock up your daughters, hide your stash, keep to the shadows.”

The book has an unconventional structure, Moorcock claiming that it follows a kind of wave form, which dictates that the climax to the book comes right slap-bang in the middle. It’s my personal favourite – I just love the exhilerating chaos and disorientation of it. But if you’re planning to read the quartet, I wouldn’t start here.

“It was a bit of a laugh”: The Queen tells of her delight after acting debut alongside Daniel Craig. (The Mirror, 29.07.12)

The English Assassin, 2012

The English Assassin was published in 1972, and finds Jerry Cornelius comatose in a coffin for most of the book. The book posits eight alternative apocalypses and progresses in predictable unpredictability. The world is coming apart at the seams – time has broken down – the cossacks are crossing Europe. London is near to collapse. Jerry finds himself at the center of events, still able to stir things up – valuable but also dangerous to those who employ him.

It’s an odd novel – there are so many strands to it and Jerry seems to have ceded the spotlight to another character, Una Persson. What could be going on?

The sections of the book are prefaced by brief newspaper reports of generally horrific crimes. Jerry’s adventures may often seem shocking, but they pale against reports from the real world.

Rain causes floods and landslip

Scores of homes are flooded in North Somerset following heavy rain, which also caused a landslip. (BBC news website, 05.08.12)

The Condition of Muzak, 2012

The Condition of Muzak was published in 1977. And things have fractured and dissipated further – Europe is nothing but a collection of tiny principalities, of burning city states, of chaotic gestures. And Jerry’s not up to much – he’s withdrawn and sulky, busy transforming himself from one character type to another. Specifically Harlequin to Pierrot, for we are seeing a world refracted through the lens of the Italian Commedia dell’arte. (Wikipedia: The characters of the commedia usually represent fixed social types, stock characters, such as foolish old men, devious servants, or military officers full of false bravado). All the characters from the previous novels are back to reprise their roles in this new theatre of the catastrophe. While civilisation burns Jerry/ Pierrot slinks off to leave them to it, in search of his dead sister, Catherine.

The Quartet is a genre all of its own – by the fourth book, Moorcock has turned the SF novel inside out – narrative threads are (untangled and) resolved, but only according to the Quartet’s internal logic. Character, plot, narrative structure have all appear to have been disolved.

What I love about Jerry Cornelius is that he always asks more questions than he answers.

You can read more about the Cornelius Quartet, including Michael Moorcock’s take on it here. Michael Moorcock’s website (a must if you’re in any way interested in his work, and he can often be found on its message boards) is here.

* * *

This is the final post in my Science Fiction “fortnight” (probably about three weeks) – I was going to make a joke about time machines, but in the end I couldn’t be bothered. The second hand on my watch appears to be coming to a halt…

Huge thanks to John Pindar and Deanne who set this whole titling thing in motion. And to my collaborator and all-round cool dude, Richard over at CK Ponderings, who has just finished using classic Dr. Who serials as titles for his work – check his blog out now. And to a more recent collaborator, J.E. Lattimer, who is doing really interesting things with text and image over at Arcane Arrangements.

You’d be a fool not to visit Theodora Brack’s blog, People, Places and Bling, Cheryl Moore’s Unbound Boxes Limping Gods, and Stevie Gill’s Killing Time With A Camera.  And if you fancy listening to some mighty fine songs, try Cathryn Stone, whose White Sun Dark Moon has been a soundtrack to a lot of my recent shots.

Next week, Medical Romances…