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Monday, June 15, 2015

The Link Between Michael Moorcock & Ashley Jackson

Science Fiction and Fantasy author Michael Moorcock may not view himself as a world-builder, at least not in the same category as the Bronte sisters, but their fiction clearly influenced him. After all, when most of us hear the term world-building, we tend to think in Hard Science Fiction terms, like knowing the gravity of a planet, its orbit around its sun, its age and the atmospheric makeup, those sorts of things. The type of writing that authors like Peter F Hamilton, Gregory Benford, and Dan Simmons do so well. Or we think of it in terms of Fantasy novelists, who construct elaborate histories for their invented lands, families whose heritage goes back thousands of years, and structure them with class systems and people filling the necessary tasks to enable such a world to function. This brings authors like J. R. R. Tolkien and Steven Brust to mind. But clearly, the stories of the Bronte sisters evoked characters, a society, an era, and landscapes that were so important to Michael Moorcock that, when asked a question about world-building, the first writers that leapt to his mind were Emily, Anne, and Charlotte Bronte.

Another person touched deeply by the sisters' work is artist Ashley Jackson. While enjoying the comfort of a warm bus during our "Last of the Summer Wine" tour in Holmfirth, England, the guide pointed out the artist's studio, and suggested that it was worth visiting. Later that day, we did just that, and saw canvases covering the walls, and set upon easels, all evoking the grey, stormy weather we had enjoyed that day.

Enjoying a rainy day outside Holmfirth inside a warm bus
on our "Last of the Summer Wine" tour.

During our visit, a sales associate handed us a brochure, in which Ashley Jackson described some of his favorite views in and around Holmfirth. So the next day we set out on the route Ashley had outlined for us, and drank in the lush, green surroundings.

Taking the Ashley Jackson walk outside Holmfirth.

If you're a fan of the British sitcom (or Britcom) "Last of the Summer Wine," or for any other reason ever decide to visit Holmfirth, you can download this map at Ashley Jackson's website.

Ashley Jackson has often said that what the Bronte sisters did with their pens, he attempts to do with his brushes. Throughout his life, he has aided several Bronte causes, such as saving landmarks that inspired their stories. Also notable is that he usually only paints during the winter when the sky is cloudy, and a storm is imminent. He even paints during the rain! Imagine painting watercolors onto a canvas, while standing in a wet field, the wind blowing the rain horizontally into your face. This is Ashley Jackson's world. While he depicts the world of today, his paintings transport you back in time, so you can see the world through the Bronte sisters' eyes. 

Pausing for a steak pie and a Diet-Coke in Haworth,
before seeing more of the Bronte sister's hometown.

Even if I never associated world-building with the Bronte sisters, or for that matter with Michael Moorcock, there's no doubt that the best authors fill readers with visions of their fictional landscapes, and imbue them with a reality that makes us desire to visit them. (Or inspire us to write similar stories, or evoke such landscapes and realities in some other artistic form, such as Ashley Jackson does). How else can one explain the tremendous popularity of such small, out-of-the-way towns like Holmfirth and Haworth, isolated locales in which TV writer Roy Clarke and literary icons Emily, Anne, and Charlotte Bronte set their stories? 

Taking in the views a short walk from Haworth.

Now, if only one could visit Elric's home of Melnibone, and enjoy a tour inside a comfortable, warm bus. Provided I was assured that Elric's sword Stormbringer wouldn't drink my soul, I'd sign up for that. Well, maybe...

Dragon Dave

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