When Stealer of Souls and Stormbringer were first published in the 1960s, there wasn't much fantasy around. William Morris, Lord Dunsany and others of that generation were long out of print; Robert E. Howard's Conan stories were tied up in probate. The Lord of the Rings had just come out, and had turned our heads. Previously the world of science fiction was dominated by hard science fiction -- tales of space exploration, and aliens. Those of us who discovered we liked the fantasy also craved more. If we were lucky, we discovered Joy Chant's Red Moon and Black Mountain, a clever British tale of English schoolchildren whisked into a epic adventure in an alternate world. And then Stealer of Souls arrived (now called Sailer on the Seas of Fate I believe), a series of short stories about Elric, the tortured albino, wielder of the first great runesword, Stormbringer, and Moonglum, his faithful companion. It was so different from Tolkien and Chant, so energetic, it was an instant favorite. It was followed quickly by Stormbringer. I still remember my reaction when I finished it -- an anguished cry of "You can't do that!" But Moorcock could, and did, giving us one the first great unexpected endings. Thirty-plus years later, I reread Stormbringer for a book discussion group. It creaks a bit, but it still holds its place in history. Strongly influenced by the raw style of Robert E. Howard (I learned later once I read the Conan books which were -- finally -- reprinted in the 70s for a whole new generation), Elric remains a unique hero, not a mighty-thewed physical barbarian like Conan, but a mighty sorceror from an ancient race, with a past he's trying to run away from and/or forget. And, because the fans demanded more, Moorcock went back later and filled in the back story. But Stormbringer remains a strong story, with elements that weave through many fantasy tales now (C.S. Friedman's Coldfire trilogy comes instantly to mind), whether or not the authors themselves recognize it. Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone, like Lieber's Grey Mouser and Fafhred, Howard's Conan, and Tolkien's Strider, is a character that made an influence on the fantasy that followed it, and should be read by all lovers of the genre.