The Steel Tsar

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The Steel Tsar is the third novel in the Oswald Bastable trilogy, A Nomad of the Time Streams, by Michael Moorcock. It is a sequel to The Land Leviathan and was originally published in the United Kingdom by Granada Books.

The novel was heavily revised and rewritten for its inclusion in the Orion/White Wolf omnibus of A Nomad of the Time Streams to the extent that it is essentially a different novel. Moorcock has expressed his dissatisfaction with the original novel, which was written when his marriage to Jill Riches was breaking up.

The 2013 Titan Books re-issue (erroneously) omits Moorcock's Introduction wherein he recounts being visited by Una Persson who delivers Bastable's latest manuscript, which comprises the following text of The Steel Tsar, to him.

Publishing History (UK)

  • Mass Market Paperback, Granada, 160pp., ISBN: 0-583-13432-7, 17 Dec 1981, Cover by Melvyn
  • Mass Market Paperback, Grafton, 160pp., ISBN: 0-586-20998-0, 25 Jan 1990, Cover by Paul Damon

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Omnibus Publication

Publishing History (US)

  • Mass Market Paperback, DAW, 160pp., ISBN: 0-87997-773-6, Sep 1982, Cover by Walter Velez
  • Trade Paperback, Titan Books, ISBN: 978-1781161470, 13 Aug 2013 - revised edition, minus Introduction

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Omnibus Publication

Differences between US and UK editions

In 2013 John Davey, editor of Gollancz's definitive The Michael Moorcock Collection series, discovered that the 1982 DAW Books edition of The Steel Tsar included an additional seven pages of text that had not appeared in any other versions of the novel[1] with the exception of the 1982 SFBC The Nomad of Time omnibus that had used the US texts rather than the UK ones, which all subsequent editions up to (and including) 2013 had been based on.

In the 1st UK edition (Granada, 1981), and also the 1993 revised version (for A Nomad Of The Time Streams) at the end of Chapter 2 ('The Destruction Of Singapore'), Bastable is safely aboard a hospital airship leaving the bombardment of Singapore behind; then at the start of Chapter 3 ('The Crash'), they're near Surabaya and about to crash-land.

However, in the 1st US edition (DAW, 1982), Chapter Two continues for another 7 pages(!), describing more of the destruction of Singapore, how Bastable tries to help treat patients aboard the airship, how the ship got damaged enough to crash, and how they end up heading towards Surabaya.

This section has never appeared in any UK edition (nor any recent US one), although it was included in an extract/preview (of sorts) called 'The Flight from Singapore' in New Worlds #216 (1980 [dated 1979]).[2]

Davey announced that the 'missing' text will be restored for Gollancz's 2014 edition of The Nomad of Time, which will feature the revised version of The Steel Tsar.[3]

Mike Says

  • "I should never have written it. I rewrote it extensively for the omnibus -- the only one I did rewrite. I think I improved it, but I'd need other opinions before I was sure! The book was such a disappointment to Don Wollheim, the original publisher, that he said it wasn't worth the advance we'd agreed. I said he was quite right and why didn't we settle for half ? Done, he said, and the book came out. Don could never resist a deal.[4]
  • "I wrote Tsar...back to back with The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, which I think was the more successful. Both were done in days to deadlines in unsettling conditions. But even then I feel I should probably have stopped at the second volume, with its emphasis on racism, as the first had emphasised imperialism, its constant twin. But the publishers had all begged me for a third volume at a time when I was financially and somewhat morally weak... As I said, I did my best to improve it in the rewrite, but I probably should have suppressed it. Then everyone would have wondered what nation had the power to keep me quiet..."[5]
  • "I was never satisfied with the original version of The Steel Tsar. I felt it fell down on structure. When I wrote it I was in the process of splitting up with a lady who was a little uncertain about whether she wanted to split up or not and alternated between trying to kill herself and trying to kill me! I associate writing that book (and the Sex Pistols book which I did at the same time) more with hands holding carving knives than airships... :) When I had the chance to revise it for the omnibus I added a fair amount of new material. I like it better now! Wrote the new material in summer, in a lovely, calm garden... The American editor who bought the book, incidentally, didn't like my take on Stalin. He was probably the last unregenerate Stalinist in NY!"[6]
  • "I actually used the rewritten Nomad of the Time Streams as a kind of pivot for the series when I was revising them all for the omnibus set. So I added material, specifically to the final (and I thought weakest) volume, which needed rewriting anyway, so as to give some extra substance both to the sequence and to the series as a whole. In the omnibus version you'll find some additional ideas about the multiverse which I thought worth mentioning somewhere and that was for me the ideal place to put them."[7]



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