Tuesday, September 29, 2020

#StayAtHome: Michael Moorcock's "Daughter of Dreams"


This weekend, I finished the third of the later Elric novels, Daughter of Dreams (2001), published in the  U.S. as the Dreamthief's Daughter. I took turns reading the novel in the bulky-but-lovely Gollancz omnibus, The Moonbeam Roads, shown above, as well as in a U.S. paperback edition with a cover by Robert Gould. Part of that cover is shown in the leftmost of the three miniatures up above.

The primary point of view character is Ulric von Bek, and as the story opens, Hitler is consolidating power in Germany. The novel may have reflected the times in which it was published (the early years of Bush's post-9/11 power grab), but it certainly felt relevant to the swift decline our democracy is experiencing in the Trump era. We no longer have to read fiction to imagine tyranny or how to oppose it.

The von Bek family of Germany have been the custodians of the Grail since the Thirty Year's War, when Ulric's ancient namesake encountered Lucifer and the Grail. The Nazi's want the Grail, but that isn't the sole reason they appear at von Bek's castle: their initial demand is for a black sword of great mythic resonance, Ravenbrand, another heirloom of the von Bek family.

Ravenbrand is indeed a sister-sword of Elric's Stormbringer, and soon enough Oona, the daughter of Oone (the Dreamthief from The Fortress of the Pearl) and Elric arrives, and later Elric himself. Jerry Cornelius makes an appearance, as does Oswald Bastable. Quite a chunk of the novel takes place in the bizarre cave-world of Mittelmarch. Later, there are even Melnibonean dragons, and it turns out these played a role in the Battle of Britain!

It's an extraordinarily good novel, combining historical fiction and fantasy, the myth of the Eternal Champion and the madness of Nazism. The novel will be less rewarding for readers seeking adventures in the Young Kingdoms, but it isn't far from here to something like Inglourious Basterds. 

And then there's the Runestaff...


  1. Totally off-topic, but I saw a comment of yours in another blog (Moonbase Central) from seven years ago where you mention the Archive Factor, a planetarium show put on by Strasenburgh Planetarium in Rochester, NY in 1975. I saw that show, too, and actually have an illustrated script of it that my dad bought at the time. The only other reference to it I've seen online is a resume by David Mammana, who was a technical assistant on the show. As you can see, I'm totally fascinated by Archive Factor, and by realistic near-future spaceflight Sci Fi. I'm curious to know what else you know about Archive Factor and how you're connected to it.

    1. WOW! It's a small world! There were two shows, IIRC: the Archive Project and the Archive Factor. My Dad took me to see them in the 1970s. I had both script books/programmes (my Dad got them for me, as well as Lou Zocchi's "Alien Space" wargame, which the Strasenburgh sold in their museum store). I tried to get them to send me a copy of the script, but they said I would have to come there and read their copy on site.

      I remember they had some funky alien designs. One was a species called Neves Ott. When they projected up images of the aliens, the audience laughed, because all were naked and a few were quite outlandish looking.

      One neat aspect of the show was that the Planetarium hemisphere was part of the Archive spacecraft. There was a dome structure that closed over the audience, and the ship was sealed and ready to go. I spoke several years ago with one of their veteran staff (first name, Elmer) who is now long retired. He said that in one show, a woman became so claustrophobic when the dome closed that she screamed and passed out. They had to stop the show!

      I know that one of the ships they used in the series was a kitbash combining a Klingon D7 and a Leif Erickson model. I don't know if you remember, but the Strasenburgh used to have a walk through dark gallery/tunnel with special exhibits. During the shows they displayed the spacecraft models from the show there!

      Elmer showed me photos of models one of the Archive spacecraft; sadly it was in disrepair.

      The show definitely influenced my own world creation and space empires of the 1970s.

    2. I definitely remember the bit about the hemisphere of the planetarium being the hemisphere of the spacecraft (the Cassini). Great stories. The model stuff is interesting, too. The show influenced my world-building, too, although, like I said, my world-building tends more towards near-future stuff like in the Archive Factor. Can we get to Jupiter by 2047? Maybe, but I wouldn't bet on it. The stuff about the Archive Project is also interesting. I came across a newspaper article from the time that talks about the Archive Project. That makes the talk of the far future in Archive Factor make a little more sense.

    3. Wow, I was unaware of any newspaper articles! That is an interesting detail I should look for!

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