|Younger than most of the writers who were remaking postwar British science fiction, Moorcock acted as an important conduit between the SF chaps (still, judging by contemporary pictures, pipe-smoking collar-and-tie types) and the denizens of the music and art scenes. "At first I was the only one," he says. "Then the people who worked on New Worlds started coming in. They shared the lifestyle. When I first met Tom Disch, he'd got stuck in Spain because he contracted hepatitis from taking bad acid. Soon all of the really good writers on New Worlds apart from Jimmy [Ballard] and Brian [Aldiss] had basically had the same cultural experience as I did." |
Moorcock's good friend Ballard was reluctant to leave his suburban lair in Shepperton, and relied on Moorcock to introduce him to people and experiences useful for his fiction. In the early 80s, when Moorcock was living in LA, he wrote Ballard a series of long descriptive letters about the city, which were later published as Letters from Hollywood. "I was," Moorcock says, "his running-boy for experience." In the late-60s west London melting-pot, it was Moorcock who introduced Ballard to pop artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi and who brokered uneasy meetings between his whisky-drinking, socially-awkward friend and loon-panted extroverts like Hawkwind's Nik Turner, who had a predilection for make-up, strong drugs and ancient Egyptian stage outfits. Occasionally, Ballard would "dip in" to the scene, with mixed results.
"I got Jimmy some acid one time," Moorcock reminisces, with a grimace. "He insisted. I got him a sugar cube and I said to him 'don't take it now' because he was as drunk as a skunk. And of course, being Jimmy, he took it immediately. Appalling, psychotic – snakes all over the bed. Everything bad about Shanghai on top of everything bad about everything else. He didn't describe this. His girlfriend at the time told me about it. She was basically saying, for God's sake don't give him any more. And I didn't. It would have been a waste."