By James Kirkland
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Over the past 65 years, Michael Moorcock has written a plethora of books and short storues, many of which have been reprinted and repackaged many times over. In 1981, Richard Bilyeu published an essential bibliography of Moorcock's works up to that time in The Tanelon Archives, but many years have passed since then and Moorcock has continued to publish new works and republish old works, with many of his novels never going out of print. James Kirkland has elected to tackle a portion of Moorcock's prodigious output in Urish's Hoard: The Guide to Elric Collectibles.
Kirkland opens the book with a brief essay on collectability, pointing out that prices are dictated by someone is actually willing to pay, not what the asking price for an item is. While a collectible may theoretically be worth $40, finding the individual willing to pay that amount may not be feasible. On the other hand, it is always possible to find that long elusive item for only pennies at a flea market, garage sale, or second-hand shop.
Often the term "collectibles" seems to mean Funko Pop dolls or action figures. It is a little surprised, therefore, to realize that an overwhelming majority of the collectibles Kirkland describes are textual in nature, from the original books and reprints to comic book adaptations. Elric has frequently found himself turned into role-playing material (and Hawkmoon and Corum to a lesser extent) as well as board games.
The chapters of Urish's Hoard are defined by the types of collectibles they cover: the original literature, comics, art, music, games, models, and odds and ends. There are subcategories in each chapter, and within the subcategories the items are sorted in mostly chronological order. While there is a logic to this order, it means that a reader looking up a specific item needs to have a certain level of knowledge about when it was published or issued. It also means that Urish's Hoard is almost designed for browsing and coming across an unknown object, much as an actual search for collectibles. When reading the book, I can across many objects from my own collection, as well as many items I once owned, but no longer have.
The book is copiously illustrated with photos and scans of the book covers, magazines, games, etc. which Kirkland discusses. While most of these photos show collectibles in pristine conditions, a few show loved and used items, the way they are most likely to be found in the wild. Price stickers are the most common feature on these items, but duct tape also makes an appearance. The presence of these less than perfect items is a reminder that collecting is not only the search for hard-to-find items, but also an attempt to find them in the best possible condition, and the willingness to settle for less than perfect until a better copy comes along.
In addition to the meat of the book, the collectibles themselves, Kirkland includes interviews with several of the people who have created items listed in the book, from Michael Whelan to P. Craig Russell, to Alan Davey, and finally, Michael Moorcock himself. These interviews offer a look at the process behind the creation of the items and the thought that went into various depictions of Elric over the years and how the creators were influenced not only by Moorcock's writing, but also by the works that had come before. There are also a couple of essays, one by Richard Watts on Moorcock's influence on role-playing games and the other by David Hartlage on the infamous first edition of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragon's Deities and Demigods volume that included the Melnibonean mythos.
Urish's Hoard is a necessity for anyone who is a collector of Moorcock's work. Not quite an updating of Bilyeu's work, it offers an in depth look at the availability and influence of one of Moorcock's most famous creations and pictures to help the collector recognize what they have or what they are looking for. The breadth of items covered is incredible and will likely surprise most fans of Moorcock who may be aware of the books, comics, and games, but less aware of the figurines, t-shirts, and trading cards. Clearly a passion project for Kirkland, Urish's Hoard will soon be out of date as Moorcock's work not only inspires fans and artists to build on it, but as Moorcock indicates in his interview, he has not yet finished adding to Elric's saga. Perhaps someday Kirkland will have the need to expand this volume and, with luck, he'll have found items to complete his own collection by that time.
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