In the 1960s he became editor of New Worlds magazine, evolving its format from a fairly conservative science fiction magazine into an anarchic counter-cultural organ (heh, heh. Moorcock. Organ), bringing a much-needed waft of swinging-London "hipness" and progressive sensibility to fantastic and fantasy fiction and touching off the so-called "New Wave" of science fiction (not that one.)
Most of his work centers around the concept of the "Eternal Champion"; a being who undergoes repeated incarnations throughout time, and is destined to maintain the balance between Law and Chaos-- whether he wants to or not. Many of his earlier works were written as stand-alone works; but have been retroactively added to the Eternal Champion mythology, mainly through later crossovers.
The Eternal Champion commonly has a sidekick of some sort, if only briefly. Just as the Champion has many incarnations, so does the sidekick, and is commonly referred to as the Eternal Companion. The nature of the Companion varies, from Hypercompetent Sidekick, to The Watson, to Damsel in Distress, to almost pure comic relief. The various sidekicks are also commonly more down-to-earth than the Champion; and frequently Genre Savvy, being aware of the nature of The Multiverse, the Champion, and themselves.
The Eternal Champion also has a (typically doomed) love-interest: the Eternal Consort.
He strongly dislikes J.R.R. Tolkien's works despite having met him personally and finding him sympathetic on a personal level (although he has also stated that certain accounts have overstated his dislike of Tolkien's works; notably, he did use The Lord of the Rings as a favourable reference point for the inventiveness of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. However, there is also the essay "Epic Pooh", which spells out what he does dislike about Tolkien's works). He also loathes C.S. Lewis and Robert Heinlein. These people's opinions on him are unreported. On the other hand he greatly admires Mervyn Peake and considered the Gormenghast trilogy an injustly-overlooked masterpiece.
He cannot multiply 13 by 13 and get an accurate result. This is a flaw shared by his editors. Assuming he has editors.
He has also written songs for Blue Oyster Cult and Hawkwind and occasionally performed with the latter band. During his brush with Hawkwind he seems to have befriended Lemmy Kilmister, who later went on to found hard rock/heavy metal seminal ensemble Motorhead. He has dedicated a recently-released Hawkmoon omnibus to "his friend Lemmy".
Some members of Hawkwind helped him record a music album under the name of "Michael Moorcock and the Deep Fix" (in the mid-70s). When, with the advent of Internet, enough fans began pestering him for a reissue he made his own personal copy downloadable from his website (the masters apparently having been forever lost).
He has also written comics plots which have been illustrated by Walt Simonson and contributed a few issues to Alan Moore's "Tom Strong".
He is one of a number of writers that Games Workshop (and TSR) ripped off shamelessly.
A longtime fan of Doctor Who, Moorcock was commissioned by the BBC to write a Who novel, The Coming of the Terraphiles, or Pirates of the Second Aether!! (2010).
A highly prolific writer, most of his works fit into collections revolving around a particular incarnation of the Eternal Champion; although there are a few stand-alone works. Many of his earlier works were later incorporated into the Eternal Champion mythology.
Some examples of the Eternal Champion works below:
- The Elric Saga (Elric of Melnibone)
- The Eternal Champion Saga (Erekosë / John Daker)
- The History of the Runestaff (Dorian Hawkmoon)
- Count Brass (Earl Aubec)
- The Cornelius Chronicles (Jerry Cornelius)
- The Dancers at the End of Time (Jherek Carnelian)
- The Chronicles of Corum (Corum Jhaelen Irsei)
- A Nomad of the Time Streams (Oswald Bastable)
- Von Bek (various members of the von Bek family)
- The Second Ether (Jack Karaquazian)
- Behold the Man (Karl Glogauer)
- Kane of Old Mars (Michael Kane)
Notable works not part of the Eternal Champion mythology:
- Behold the Man (Not originally an Eternal Champion novel, it was later retconned in).
- Gloriana, or, The Unfulfill'd Queen
- Mother London
- The Pyat Quartet (aka Between the Wars)
Both he and his other works could use some Wiki Love.
- Anti-Hero: Nearly every one of his main characters pretty much defines a type of anti-hero; covering all variations.
- Balance Between Order And Chaos: The Eternal Champion exists to maintain the Balance.
- Blessed with Suck / Cursed with Awesome: Depending on the particular protagonist, they will typically view their situation as one of these two, if not both. The most notable example is Elric's Empathic Weapon; which makes him nearly invincible, able to kill even gods, but also has a tendency to kill his nearest and dearest at every available opportunity.
- Blue and Orange Morality: When morality is not gray or black, many characters and settings tend to have this sort; especially if they're non-human.
- Canon Welding: Originally named "The Moorcock Effect".
- Crapsack World: Many characters live here.
- Determinator: One of the defining characteristics of the Eternal Champion. Also applies to more than a few Sidekicks, enemies, and secondary characters.
- Deus Angst Machina: Mostly due to the actions of the Jerkass Gods mentioned below.
- Damsel in Distress: Several. Examples, Shaarilla of the Dancing Mists, and Cymoril of Melnibone.
- Downer Ending: Moorcock is fond of these, especially the Kill'Em All and Shoot the Shaggy Dog variety.
- Law And Chaos Are Both Jerks: In several works, the best end for humanity is to Kill The Gods and be free of their meddling forevermore.
- Grey and Gray Morality: Often descending into Black and Gray Morality.
- It Got Worse: Pretty much guaranteed, especially when characters look like they're headed for a good ending.
- It Sucks to Be the Chosen One
- Jerkass Gods: Regardless of which side of the Order-Chaos divide they're on, they don't really seem to care too much about what happens to their pawns, so long as they do as they're told. The few True Neutral gods that exist aren't much better.
- The Multiverse
- Omnicidal Neutral: Some Eternal Champions end up destroying both sides in order to maintain the Balance.
- Order Versus Chaos
- Rage Against the Heavens: A common reaction to the Jerkass Gods.
- Sidekick: Some notable examples include Moonglum (Elric), Jhary-O-Conel (both Corum and Hawkmoon), and Rakhir (Elric), who also doubles as an incarnation of the Champion.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Tending strongly to the cynical side; although a few Champions manage to maintain a fairly strong Idealism despite living in a Crapsack World, most notably Jherek Carnelian, whose idealism actually increases as the situation gets worse.
- Trauma Conga Line: Inflicted on multiple Eternal Champions; with varying effects, most commonly Result D, E, or F.