It is bone that has been buried for hundreds, thousands of years. The specific blend of soil components in certain parts of London gives the bone a unique tawny-ivory colour, a hypnotic multitude of shades and highly desirable.
At first Raymond Gold, a venture capitalist who knows London intimately, does not want to get involved; he has been burned before on commodities, and this feels like selling off London’s heritage. But when he loses a good deal of money speculating in Andrew Lloyd Webber tickets, he agrees to quietly introduce London Bone to the rich. It becomes successful, far beyond his wildest expectations, as London Bone becomes the next must-have item, encouraging a slew of entrepreneurs to start rooting through hills and graveyards for bone, any bone.
You couldn’t transplant this story elsewhere; it is saturated with local references that give a vivid image of what London is like, especially in how tourists are shepherded to get the experience of visiting London they expect: “Thursday: Changing-of-the-Guard, Harrods, Planet Hollywood, Royal Academy, Tea-At-the-Ritz, Cats. It’s a sort of tribal dance they all feel compelled to perform. If they don’t perform it, they feel inadequate. Saturday: Tower of London, Bucket of Blood, Jack-the-Ripper talk, Sherlock Holmes Pub, Sherlock Holmes tour, Madame Tussaud’s, Covent Garden Cream Tea, Dogs…. It’s my job to smooth their paths, to make them exclaim how pretty and wonderful and elegant and magical it all is.”
And by the end of it Moorcock really sells how creepy the concept of London Bone really is.
London Bone by Michael Moorcock
Availability: free online, print
Word count: 9,200
Awards: Locus Award for best novelette
First published: New Worlds, David Garnett, 1997, White Wolf Publishing
Where to find it: Free online at infinityplus
Free audiobook from Starship Sofa
London Bone, collection, 2001, Scribner / Simon & Schuster
The Best of Michael Moorcock, collection, 2009, Tachyon Publications