The Mighty Moore Marathon – part three of Pádraig’s talk with Alan Moore
Welcome to the third and final leg of this week’s Mighty Moore Marathon; this week I think we’re supplying 100% of your RDA of Vitamin M (if you are playing catch up you can find the first part here and the second part here). At the end of the last episode Pádraig and Alan were creating sentient giant mushroom armies to fight an invasion of merchant bankers (from a parallel dimension where Aleister Crowley was the head of the Bank of England) who used a Lovecraftian accounting system to spread chaos across the land. Or perhaps not. A good while back we asked our readers if they wanted to send in questions to Pádraig so he could put a select few to Alan, who had kindly agreed to answer some, so without further ado let’s see what some of you were asking:
PÓM: OK, I have a bunch of questions here from people, they kinda break down into a few general topics. There’s one thing I want to read you first, though, one thing somebody sent in, and he said, “Sorry, not a question, just a comment and a Thank You. In 2005 your song, “March of the Sinister Ducks” was making the rounds on the internet, and I linked to it on my blog. A friend of a friend commented there, saying it was awful and hating me for putting it in front of her ears. I replied back… and we ended up going on a date that night, and have been together since then, and married a year and a half. She refuses though to let me to refer to Sinister Ducks as Our Song, so thank you.”
AM: Well, I’m glad that relationship had a happy ending, it’s good to be of assistance.
(March of the Sinister Ducks by Alan ‘Northampton’s Got Talent’ Moore, animated by pippyisatruck and techie rob)
PÓM: OK, that’s lots of people asking about who might turn up in the last volume of Century. Are you familiar with Doctor House?
AM: Yeah, he is an American-based character, who it would be unlikely for us to refer to, simply because the story is set in London, all three parts are set in London, so things that are, political figures – I mean, we refer to 24, we refer to shows that could conceivably have some global impact, enough to be mentioned on British television as news events, but I’m afraid I don’t actually watch a lot of these shows, but if there was a way that I could have worked House in logically I would have done, but then I would have been able to have worked in stuff from my favourite shows, like The Wire which, other than a passing reference in the text story, there isn’t any real desire to do that.
PÓM: I think the reason he was bringing up House is because he’s obviously a modern version of Sherlock Holmes anyway, you see.
PÓM: Oh yeah, everything. The flat is number 221b, everything, it’s all Holmes as a modern American doctor.
AM: Well, yeah, I mean, I suppose if we ever did – I mean, one of the things we’ve talked about is a possible future American expedition for the League, in which case some of these things could turn up. Whether they will or not, I mean, we don’t know really what we’re doing beyond the end of volume three, but it’s always a possibility.
PÓM: OK. A number of people mentioned the possibility of Harry Potter – you don’t have to comment on that if you don’t want to.
AM: It probably, like I say, there’s various characters from modern narratives and culture that will be making at least cameos, some will be making more than cameos but, as we say, it’s kind of, the closer we get to the twenty-first century, the more delicate some of the copyright issues become, you know, but it’s a possibility, I suppose, some kind of reference somewhere, you know. That’s possible.
PÓM: Somebody say, “Why is Orlando so stylishly dressed if she’s basically a promiscuous war hero addicted to killing people?”
AM: Because Orlando – actually, Orlando is becoming, in this third volume, a very interesting character, especially in the 2009 section, which opens with Orlando, as a male, in Qumar, which is a surrogate Iraq, at the tail-end of Operation Sinbad, which is actually the name of the real operation which the British troops are taking, south of Basra, clearing up the last of the insurgents and preparing to pull out.
PÓM: That’s interesting, because of course Orlando and Sinbad were an item at one point, weren’t they?
AM: They were indeed, which is a kind of, an irony which, shall we say, does not escape Orlando in this opening sequence. There’s some consequences for it. I mean, Orlando, who we see as a male for the first two books, well, for the first two and a bit books, Orlando is a male. Orlando is a female for the – there’s a brief bit where we see Orlando as a female in ’76 as well, and, Orlando keeps up with the times, is the answer. The thing is, this is a problem with immortals. Mina has some dreadful problems in book three because she can’t really get her head around the idea of being immortal, and she starts to become quite desperate about keeping up with the times because she doesn’t want to become an isolated Victorian freak, and so she would rather go too much the other way.
Everyone would have to deal with that if they were going to carry on living. I mean, we do have to deal with that. I dress and act – I mean, I’m not stylish, by any means, but I dress differently now to the way I did ten years ago, or twenty years ago, or thirty years ago. You do as well, everybody does. If you had that as an ongoing problem, like Orlando does, over a three thousand year period, then you would probably be quite naturally stylish. You would keep up with what, from your perspective, would be rapidly changing times.
So, that’s why he is stylish, he’s also very arrogant, and a bit of a fop, especially when he’s a man. He’s not even a very likable character when he’s a man, as I think the readers will probably discover in this 1910 volume. He gets on everybody’s nerves because he never stops talking about how he founded London, or fought at Troy. When he’s a woman he’s much more pleasant and much more sensible, but when he’s a man he’s very vain and, as the questioner points out, he is a promiscuous killing machine, which again figures quite heavily in this opening Qumar sequence in the third part of the book, but you’ll have to wait and see how that turns out.
(a fairly androgynous Orlando in male guide being insufferably conceited and annoying in Century 1910 by Moore and O’Neill)
PÓM: Fair enough, OK. Are there any characters that you’ve written that you’d like to revisit at any stage? Have you ever felt the urge to go back and have another crack at something you had a go at before?
AM: Well I mean, all of them were such a lot of fun, I mean, Mister Hyde was incredible. It broke my heart to kill him off, but on the other hand he’s even more memorable for having had such a brief twelve-issue existence. There’s a lot, I mean, we used the golliwog and the Dutch dolls…
PÓM: No, I meant of your own characters, particularly, let’s say, there’s someone who mentions Halo Jones.
AM: Well the thing is with all of those, I’ve put them completely out of my mind because, with all of them, they were written for publishers where I don’t own them any more and where, because I’ve got such a lot of new stuff to do, I don’t ever think about any of the material that I don’t own. I’ve got only enough room in my head for Jerusalem and a few other things, frankly, but, I mean, yeah, I still look back on those things with affection, but the time has long since passed when they could ever be picked up again, and times have changed, I’ve changed, you know.
Probably the time to have done more episodes of Halo Jones would have been back when we were finishing up book three, but the publishers, although they know that they don’t have any moral right to the ownership of those characters, are not interested – I’ve told them at one point that I would be happy to write more stories if they gave us the rights back, but they weren’t interested in that, so I assume that they weren’t interested in more stories, and like I say, that time has passed. These days, even if I did get the rights back to the lot, I probably wouldn’t even want the rights back to a lot of those things. I’m just, I’m all about the stuff that I’m doing now; I probably always have been, you know.
(the brilliant Halo Jones from 2000 AD, written by Alan Moore, art by Ian Gibson, still a fave with many of us)
PÓM: Yeah, that’s true I think, I mean you always seem to have moved forward, you know.
AM: Yeah, it’s a matter of momentum, but, while I look back on a lot of those things very fondly, no, I wouldn’t want to revisit any of them again. It’s a different time, and different times need different works, you know?
PÓM: OK. The only other thing about your previous work is, do you keep up with what’s going on with the Marvelman Miracleman debacle?
AM: Nah. I mean, other than the fact that I was happy to do everything that I could to help Mick Anglo, who is the person who has always owned all of the rights to Marvelman, as far as I now understand it, that we never had the rights to do those stories, even though Mick really liked the stories that we did. We didn’t understand at the time that Mick Anglo was the sole owner of the rights. We were misled. So I’ve done everything that I can to clear all that up. I’ve said that, they talked about the possibility – what they want is money quickly, because Mick’s a very old man, he’s got a sick wife to look after, and they could use some dosh quite quickly.
I mean, I believe that the Todd McFarlane thing, his ridiculous claims to the character have now been dropped, so it can move on. I believe that they’re going to be reprinting some of my stuff, but I’m not sure of all the details, I’ve just said, “Yeah, go ahead,” and all the money from the first book, from the first printing of the book, should go to Mick Anglo. They’ve also said that what if there’s a possibility of some animated Marvelman cartoons, and I’ve said, again, “Don’t put me name on them, and give all the money to Mick Anglo.” So I hope that some of it turns up in time to do Mick some good, because he’s a great artist, you know, the British comics scene would be poorer without him, and I’m making great use of Captain Universe – oh, I’ve given it away!
PÓM: You have, you have now!
AM: Yeah, I’m making use of, some use of Captain Universe in this text story in the first part of volume three, and maybe at some point in the future I’ll be making some use of the same character.
(Captain Universe from the Minions of the Moon illustrated text story in LOEG Century, written by Alan Moore, art by Kevin O’Neill)
PÓM: Yeah, I’ve done a fair amount of digging myself, wherever I can, and everything I’ve seen leads me to believe that, yes, Mick Anglo has always owned the thing, you know. It was always his, it was never Len Miller’s, so therefore it was never anybody else’s.
AM: Mick was the owner, and also, Len Miller never went bankrupt, and all of the things that we were told when we were doing Warrior turned out to have been fabrications, you know, unwitting fabrications, but fabrications none the less, and that goes for all of the American versions. Apparently Mick Anglo was abused, by the usual suspects in today’s rather venal comics industry, you know, right up to the Todd McFarlane part of the case. Neil Gaiman has been an absolute diamond throughout all this, and I’ve done me best, and the important thing is supporting Mick Anglo, really.
PÓM: Good. OK, next, a lot of questions about magic. A couple of people saying they’re interested in magic from reading about yourself and your own work and so on, and saying where should they start? What should they be reading, where should they be looking?
AM: Well, I would say, the advice that Steve Moore gave me is to pick a god or, depending on how you look at it, let a god pick you. Some moment of recognition, something that – an idea, a concept – that you can explore. Obviously if they’re interested in magic then, what, Thoth, Hermes, Mercury, might be a good one, but they’ll find their own god, and it’s sort of, it’s a conceptual form that they can then explore and they can perhaps build up a kind of relationship with. In the Book of Magic we’ll be talking about all of this.
In terms of what books to read, I would say get a couple of decent books, get a good book on Qabalah, because basically all of the other magic systems, or the majority of them, do map very easily onto Qabalah. It was the system that the Golden Dawn based most of their rituals and grades upon, it’s fairly central to understanding how magic kind of fits together. This is not the Madonna version of the Qabalah, this is, I mean, there’s a book by a guy called Will Parfitt called The Living Qabalah or The New Living Qabalah – I think there was a couple of editions of it – that is very lucid, and would give you at least some beginner’s information.
Basically, what’s quite good advice is to just read any old rubbish, and cram your head full of a lot of mixed-up occult information and occult nonsense, which there’ll be a tremendous amount of, and just simply rely upon your own discrimination, your developing sense of discrimination to actually sort out what is valuable and what is not. You’ll find that having all these little ideas in your head, it helps to put your consciousness into the right kind of areas, you’ll find that you’re considering new ideas, some of them you’ll dismiss, some of them you’ll perhaps find are valuable.
Aleister Crowley’s Magick Without Tears is quite good, because that was written for people who hadn’t really got any grasp of his sometimes esoteric occult ideas (now out of copyright it can be read free online here – Joe). To get the flavour of magic, they could do a lot worse than read a couple of the books by Lon Milo Duquette, one of his books in particular, My Life with the Spirits by Lon Milo Duquette gives something of the flavour of magic, and he’s a very entertaining writer. Robert Anton Wilson. His Illuminatus trilogy is of course wonderful, and does contain a lot of information about both anarchy and magic and all sorts of other things, but some of the things that he did for New Falcon Books, like Coincidance and Prometheus Rising and the, what was originally The Playboy Book of the Breast, which actually became in Wilson’s handling a kind of meditation upon female goddess energy.
Like I said, these are all ones that I’ve enjoyed, and which will perhaps give you a kind of a way into the kind of ideas that you should be thinking about, and also try to remember that this is all happening upon a level of pure metaphor. That doesn’t mean it won’t affect things that happen in the real world, but that magic basically happens in the world of the mind. Promethea is not a bad place to find at least some of the rudiments of magic; there’s stuff about the four magical weapons and their importance.
Find your own way. I would advise, this is purely my taste, but I would advise not joining schools of belief, or organisations, or lodges, or cults. That’s not to say that there isn’t sometimes advantages to sharing your thoughts with other people, but what we’re advising in the Book of Magic is, find a friend with the same interests. You don’t need to buy into whatever ideas some magical lodge or organisation or cult has, because you can find yourself running into organisations where, you know, I mean, it’s difficult enough sometimes to avoid, in this kind of territory, running into delusion, but it’s better if you do, it’s better that the delusions are your own, rather than those of a third party who’s imposing them upon his or her followers. So, it’s best to try and make your own way, at least in my experience, it’s best to try and make your own way.
Read omnivorously, and you’ll find that the books that you read will lead naturally to other books, some of which will be to your taste, some of which won’t. Or, wait a couple of years until The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic is out, and hopefully that’ll be your one-stop shop for all magical and occult information.
PÓM: Nice piece of product placement there, Alan.
AM: Absolutely. It was very smooth, I thought.
PÓM: Yeah, exactly! I think the thing I got the most questions from people about was, is there any more performance work, or any more musical work, coming up?
AM: Well, there a gig in a couple of weeks’ time, and I would still like to do some more magical performances but, as I’ve said, I’ve not been in touch with Tim Perkins for a long while. However, if Tim’s out of the picture, you know, with family commitments, there’s always possibilities for, I’ve got other musical accomplices, like Joe Brown, and so, yeah, I should like to do stuff at some point in the future, but as to when or if I’ll get round to it or not, I really don’t know, you know.
PÓM: Were you ever going to do anything else with Gary Lloyd?
AM: Yeah, it’s a possibility, we talked about it at some time, but it won’t be for a while, until Jerusalem is finished, I don’t think. I haven’t spoken to Gary since I saw him at that, at the event that I saw you at…
PÓM: The science fiction convention in Northampton?
AM: Yeah, I mean, it’s always a possibility, you know.
PÓM: OK, fair enough. The various performances that you did do, was there ever any video footage of any of those? I mean, there seemed to be quite an elaborate amount of staging and so on with them, wasn’t there?
AM: I believe that there was, Bill Drummond’s mate Gimpo, the one who filmed him burning the million quid, he filmed the Highbury Working. Melinda has some footage of the Birth Caul, which she worked into a film with other footage, with the Birth Caul in the background; that still exists. Anything else? I know that there was some ridiculously inadequate video footage of the Snakes and Ladders gig, and I believe that Paul Smith of Blast First filmed all of the performances at the Bridewell, including the original Moon and Serpent gig, but as to whether that still exists, or whether he knows where it is, I really don’t know.
PÓM: Yeah, so the likelihood of them turning up commercially is not great?
AM: Not great at all, no.
PÓM: OK. Another thing a lot of people asked me: what are you reading? What’s – as somebody put it, I thought quite eloquently – what’s entertainment for Alan Moore?
AM: At the moment I am reading Iain Sinclair’s excellent Hackney: That Rose-Red Empire, a book I’ve been waiting for for ages, and Iain sent me a copy the other day. It’s all about the vanishing landscape of Hackney, which is disappearing under the Olympic village.
(Iain Sinclair’s Norton, the ‘Prisoner of London’, moving through the city’s ages in LOEG Century 1910)
The other book which I am, I’ve read the first part, and am now looking forward to the second part, this is something that you won’t be able to find yet, it’s unpublished, but it’s by Brian Catling, the sculptor, who did the wonderful glass cushion that’s at the execution block at the Tower of London, and Brian is a wonderful poet, and he’s a fantastic performance artist. His first novel, which is a fantasy novel, it is probably one of the, if not the best fantasy novels that I’ve ever read, certainly the most original. What he’s written is a novel called The Vorrh, which is a three-part novel. I’ve read the first part, it’s got characters in it as diverse as Eadweard Muybridge, the photographer, William Gull, Sarah Winchester, the proprietress of the Winchester House.
Fantastic and it’s about a forest called the Vorrh which somehow exists in lots of different states in different parts of the world and in different times. Some parts of it are in Africa, and some parts of it are a peat bog, possibly somewhere in Ireland. It’s brilliant. It’s full of cyclopses and weird Bakelite robots, and Eadweard Muybridge is dazzling, and I’ve got the second part, which I’m about to start on sometime soon.
PÓM: Tell me how to spell Vorrh.
AM: V H O O R? There’s another R on the end as well.
PÓM: Could be another R on the end, yeah, we’ll put another R on the end, just to be safe.
AM: I’ve got it here at my feet. Let’s just not be lazy, let’s open it up and see… VO double R H.
PÓM: OK, got that. Fair enough. What am I going to ask you next? Somebody says, “How do you manage to stay so passionate about your work? Most authors your age have become clichés of themselves or settled into safe security and are long past their best work. You work has remained consistent, and I wondered if you had a secret to how you manage this?”
AM: Magic has helped; it’s a way of understanding your own creativity. And also the fact that I’m determined to make every work better or more ambitious than the last one, and I have never settled for something just because it was popular. I’ve never allowed myself to fall into the golden rut, and I can’t write something unless it’s interesting to me, and because I’ve got such a very low boredom threshold, I find that everything I do I have to make it interesting and exciting to myself, so maybe that’s what’s done it.
PÓM: Something I was going to ask you: how do you feel when people, like me, for instance, call you a genius?
AM: It’s very flattering, Pádraig, it’s very flattering. I don’t know what that word means, I’m not really bothered whether I’m a genius or not. I’m just doing the best work I can, simply, and if people do occasionally say that, it’s very nice, but you have to try not to let that sort of stuff go to your head, so you try and ignore all that stuff and just get on with the work, is I suppose the short answer.
PÓM: Somebody says, “What’s you take on academics and literary critics dealing with your work?”
AM: It’s interesting, sometimes. I mean, a book I got the other day by a woman called Elizabeth Rosen, it was talking about postmodern writing with relation to apocalypse, and it had got a big chapter on me, and a chapter upon Robert Coover, who’s another one of my favourite authors, a chapter on I think Kurt Vonnegut and Don DeLillo, and that was interesting. I mean, I didn’t agree with everything she’d said, but it was interesting to see an academic take upon it, and there were some good points that she made, you know, some which I hadn’t necessarily thought of myself.
It’s always interesting, I have enjoyed some of the academic pieces. Some of them are perhaps talking about thing in terms that I don’t personally recognise. That’s not to say that it’s bad work, it’s just to say that it’s coming at it from a slant that I hadn’t really considered to be part of the work, you know. But generally I enjoy these things very much, it’s certainly better to read something that’s been thought through than just another article saying, “Well, I liked this” or “I didn’t like this,” you know, so it is very gratifying.
PÓM: I have two more questions. One person asks, “Do you believe in fairies?”
AM: Do I believe in fairies? Well, I believe in absolutely every creature that the human imagination has ever thrown up, in an ontological sense, in that the idea of fairies exists, and I believe that fairies are the idea of fairies, just as I believe that gods are the idea of gods, that these things exist in a world of ideas in which they are completely real, and you only have to look at the Victorian fairy painters, and how many of them ended up mad, you only have to look at Richard Dadd’s Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke to see that little figure of the old man with Richard Dadd’s face sitting there, looking really anxious, staring out of the picture at you, sitting there on his log, and I look at that, and I don’t thing, “Oh, that’s Richard Dadd painting himself into his own, you know, miniature masterpiece,” I think, “That is Richard Dadd trapped in a painting. The fairies got him.” He was away with the fairies.
The same went for Richard Doyle, Arthur Conan Doyle’s dad, and some of his paintings look like, the later ones, that are not jubilant at all, they look like they’re taking place in the dayroom of a madhouse, and you’ve got a figure staring at the table, trying not to look, as these little imps and fairies caper through the air. I mean, I’ve experienced fairies during some of my magical experiences, or things that seemed to be fairies. They were quite traditional cute Victorian ones, rather than spiky post-modern Neil Gaiman ones. That’s just my mind, I guess, but yes, in the terms that I’ve just described, yes, I believe in everything.
PÓM: Of course, Conan Doyle himself was a big believer, wasn’t he?
AM: I mean, whether I believe in the same literal way that Conan Doyle wanted to believe, I believe these things are real; I do not believe they are real outside the world of ideas and the mind, but then they have no need to be real beyond that realm, because in that realm they’re completely real, and they can affect us profoundly, as with any of the other denizens of the imaginary terrain, the angels and demons and monsters.
PÓM: OK, super. And the very last question, I have a John Reppion in Liverpool who wants to know, “Who’s your favourite son-in-law?”
AM: Well, actually, at the moment I can safely say that, yeah, John Reppion of Liverpool is my favourite son-in-law, but, you know, I’ll have another son-in-law in a few months, so it’s open to negotiation, so you better tell him to keep his act together.
PÓM: I will, I will!
AM: OK, brilliant. So that’s everything?
PÓM: Thanks a million, Alan. Tell Melinda I said hello.
AM: I will do. Take care, then, and I shall be talking to you soon.
If you missed it the first part can be found here and part two is here. FPI would like very much to thank Alan for again sharing his time so generously with our readers and to Pádraig for orchestrating the interview and sacrificing the health of his fingers to transcribe it all into print. Thanks also to the nice folks at Knockabout and Top Shelf for help, encouragement and images. The interview Pádraig had with Alan on here last year can still be read on the blog, with part one here and part two to be found here. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century 1910 will hit UK shelves shortly.