On the novel's title page and on its original cover, Moorcock calls Gloriana a romance and, indeed, its setting and characters resemble those of that popular literary genre of the Medieval and Renaissance periods—an imagined time of quests , jousts , and masques. Moorcock based his novel on elements of Edmund Spenser 's The Faerie Queene , an allegorical epic poem of the s that praises Queen Elizabeth I in the character of Gloriana, queen of a mythical " Fairyland ". But Gloriana is an anti-romance , "more a dialogue with Spenser of The Faerie Queene than a description of my own ideal State," [1] says Moorcock. The era is a century after the time of Elizabeth I: "I wrote the book as if it was being written in the late 17th century , closer to Defoe than Shakespeare , drawing on language and understanding from that far forward, as it were," says Moorcock.

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Not that I was religious or anything like that. I was just shocked to see Jesus and the Virgin Mary depicted in such a way. What an innocent I was. But times change. It was an allegory, a fable, a Tudor history set in an alternate universe, an Elizabethan extravaganza.

Why not give it a shot? So I did. We are in Albion, the head of a global empire that stretches from Virginia in the New World to the borders of Tartary. Revered, feared and admired by its neighbours, Albion has achieved the dream of many a state: it is contented, stable and generous.

Its harshest penalty is exile. And at its heart is Gloriana, the magnificent Queen, whose masques and pageants provide her subjects with a glorious array of chivalrous escapades to wonder at. Gloriana has become the saviour of her people, succeeding her vicious father King Hern and turning his age of suspicion, darkness and treachery into a new golden age of peace and prosperity.

The wellbeing of the state rests upon her broad and shapely shoulders; and yet, should you scratch the surface of this idyll, it swiftly begins to show cracks. For all her success, Gloriana has one deep, abiding grief. Although she is no Virgin Queen — she has had nine girl-children, and numerous lovers of both sexes — none of her paramours have ever brought her to orgasm. This mighty Queen, who has the bounty of all the world rolled out before her, is tormented by the lack of the one thing that her own body can never give her.

For Montfallon, the idea of a state without blood is a pretty fiction. His tool is Captain Quire, a sly, black-clad malcontent straight out of a Jacobean tragedy, shrewd and world-weary and cunning.

This is the moment on which all rests. For a malcontent, turned against the state, can work miracles. And Quire is a genius. At the heart of it all lies the question: when the state is embodied by a single figure, what happens when that figure grows tired? Is it fair to place such weight on one human being? And is it fair to demand that a young woman or man close off the world to become the pure, far-removed symbol that their country needs?

Obviously, spoilers in the next paragraph. Interestingly, Moorcock homes in on this scene in his afterword. He writes that he had no idea how it would be viewed when he wrote it. He notes that he was friends with Andrea Dworkin, who wrote to him with concerns when the book was published. And so he has a rewritten version of the scene, included here in the appendix, in which Gloriana genuinely does find release through the act of freeing herself from male dominance. I prefer that idea.

Some books seem to have a mismatch with their size, if that makes sense. Intellectually and narratively, it battles the constraints of its spine and binding. We find ourselves in a place which is both a tiny pinprick of time among all possible worlds, but also a sprawling labyrinth of lost potential and broken dreams.

Whole communities huddle lost within its walls and the palace, like some swarming beast, swallows up anything in its path. The writing reflects this exuberance. Moorcock becomes positively Proust-like at points, with vast tangling sentences, or lists of words, some of which tingle exotically on the tongue. He is a more sophisticated, more world-weary Steerpike. Yet there are other flavours here too: the book is suffused with the heavily-spiced strangeness of the late s. Overall, the book has a deliciously English eccentricity.

Moorcock is a Londoner by birth and you can sense a kind of twisted local pride in his picture of this weird, gargantuan capital.

In my case, though, it was his Elric series, which I absolutely loved. The problem is knowing where to start with that whole series though! The entire book is just steeped in Peake.

I have been a Moorcock fan…. I think at one stage I had over 50 volumes of this, and those were very hard to come by in those antedeluvian pre-Amazon days a bunch of which I still have and sometimes pull out to shudder at the ultra-garish 70s-style covers.

Gloriana actually used to be me favourite novel of his back then, but I was a bit wary of re-reading it because I was not certain how well it would hold up, but it seems I need not have worried, and should give it a go again some time soon.

The next one of his I am planning on reading, though, is Warlord of the Air which I was a lot of fun I remember particularly vividly one scene where Lenin and Rudi Dutschke are piloting a zeppelin and which I am rather looking forward to.

As i am to any further excursions of yours into the wonderfully bizarre world of Michael Moorcock. Should I read The Eternal Champion before any of the Elric books, to get a kind of base-level understanding of this world? And, as I said to Helen, which Elric comes first? Does it matter? Maybe the point with Moorcock is that you just leap in and hope for the best. If you want to just dip your toe in his Fantasy without tackling the Eternal Champion complex, there is always his initial Runestaff tetralogy which is only losely connected to it and still a lot fun.

Behold the Man … I am not really sure what he was trying to accomplish with that, but I did enjoy it on a recent re-read, although I probably preferred The Dark Corridor which I had re-read a few weeks earlier. Or you could go for Moorcock at his most bizarre and at the same time most British and I do wonder whether there is a connection and read his Dancers at the End of Time trilogy.

Or you could start with something completely different like the Pyat Quartet which is not speculative fiction at all, but where he tours the 20th century with the gloriously insane and rather unreliable narrator Colonel Pyat. Another nice starting point might be his autobiographical novel, about the London Blitz, Mother London … … and yeah, I realise I stopped being helpful about six paragraphs ago. Oops, and of course I missed putting in a link — this is the first volume of the SF Gateway edition of the Elric stories in order of chronology.

It seems WordPress ate a rather longish comment of mine. Probably did not like all the links I put in there and moved it to spam….

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Gloriana (1978): Michael Moorcock

Gloriana was conceived after King Hern killed most of Montfalcon's family except his daughter, Flana, whom Hern raped on her thirteenth birthday. It was assumed she died giving birth to Gloriana, whom Hern similarly raped on her thirteenth birthday, causing her to sexual unfulfillment. She had nine children by different fathers, none of whom gave her an orgasm. Montfalcon sought to purge all of Hern's tainted blood from the royal court by leading a mob which butchered eight of Gloriana's children, unknowingly sparing a single surviving daughter who was safely sent to Sussex. Montfalcon then beheaded John Dee and a woman Dee thought was a simulacrum of Gloriana but was really her mother Flana.


Queen Gloriana

Added by 6 of our members. Gloriana rules an Albion whose empire embraces America and most of Asia. A new golden Age of peace, enlightenment and prosperity has dawned. Gloriana is Albion and Albion is Gloriana; if one falls, so too will the other. And Gloriana is oppressed by the burden this places upon her - and by the fact that she remains incapable of orgasm. The maintenance of the delicate balance that keeps Albion and Gloriana thriving depends of Montfallcon, Gloriana's Chancellor, and on his network of spies and assassins - in particular on Quire, cold hearted seducer of virtue and murderer of innocence.


Not that I was religious or anything like that. I was just shocked to see Jesus and the Virgin Mary depicted in such a way. What an innocent I was. But times change. It was an allegory, a fable, a Tudor history set in an alternate universe, an Elizabethan extravaganza.

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