This is a transcription of the events of Magic Words: An Evening with Alan Moore, an event held in the Prince Charles Cinema in London on Tuesday the 26th of November, 2013, to publicise Lance Parkin‘s MAGIC WORDS: THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF ALAN MOORE, published by Aurum Press on the 7th of November, a few weeks earlier. This transcription is based on Pop Culture Hound‘s Podcast Episode 66 – The Magic Words of Alan Moore & Lance Parkin!, published by them on the 4th December, just about a week after the event. My transcription starts at 3:32, as the previous three-and-a-half minutes are taken up with PCH’s own material, which is not specifically relevant to the task in hand! All the time’s noted in [square brackets] are taken from the PCH podcast, if you want to check any of them for yourself. Sometimes it has been difficult to figure out exactly what’s being said, so if you have any suggestions for those, I thank you in advance. So, without (much) further ado, here it is…
Dramatis Personae (in order of appearance):
LP: Lance Parkin
AM: Alan Moore
MG: Melinda Gebbie
KON: Kevin O’Neill
MJ: Mitch Jenkins
RG: Robert Goodman
SH: Siobhan Hewlett
plus Audience Members 1-7
Lance Parkin in Conversation with Alan Moore. With guests Melinda Gebbie and Kevin O’Neill; Mitch Jenkins, Siobhan Hewlett and Robert Goodman.
Screening of Alan Moore & Mitch Jenkins’ short film: Act of Faith.
Screening of Alan Moore & Mitch Jenkins’ short film: Jimmy’s End.
Book Signing with Alan Moore and Lance Parkin.
[00:03:32] Lance Parkin: OK, so, hello Alan.
Alan Moore: Hello Lance.
LP: I’ve been studying the works of Terry Wogan and what you’re meant to do with these things is start with a nice easy softball question that allows you to plug your latest product, if you like, so my first question is this: are you a curmudgeonly old hermit who hates life and is fuelled by anger and rage?
[Sound of microphone being thrown to the floor by Moore, as he rises to leave. General laughter]
LP: It’s the question that everyone’s asking.
AM: Yeah, yeah, I kind of am. I didn’t want to be, but it’s just how circumstances have worked out. I hope you’ll bear with me. I wanted to be a much more loveable and happy person than this, but it’s just, it’s just the way that things have worked out, you know. Bear with me.
LP: OK. Very good. We have – early in the New Year we have an old work of yours, that was originally published in Warrior, is – it’s finally going to come into print after twenty-five years out of print, something like that, and I know that you’re keen to be involved with that, and that is of course The Bojeffries Saga. That’s going to be published by Top Shelf and Knockabout – some people in the audience got that joke! There’s not many in the audience that have got that, that would have got that! [laughs] One of the things that I found really interesting rereading The Bojeffries Saga is that this is a work that is very personal to you, and is set in a place very similar to Northampton, and fits really nicely into the work that you’re doing now, but it’s one of the first things you wrote, practically, and I was just wondering – first of all, have you re-read it recently, and secondly, what are your thought about the project?
AM: Well, I’ve not re-read it for quite a while – I’ve heard that Steve [Parkhouse] is just finished the new twenty-four page strip that’s in there, which – I’m looking forward to that. The Bojeffries was always kind of special to me, because – I’ve never actually been exclusively an adventure writer, or – certainly not a superhero writer. That was just largely the way that the market was, and I was working for a specific market. But with The Bojeffries, that was a strip that was actually about something really close to my heart, which is basically how extraordinarily mental much working class life is – or at least mine, certainly, and – there’s a surrealism in working class life. There are these factories that have got strange names – there’s a pile of blue shavings that smell funny. The factory does something like, you know, light filliping, or – And you think, ‘what’s that? Is that actually a thing? Does that actually exist?’ And often the labourers there don’t seem to know exactly what the place does. These places, they used to haunt my childhood, and the kind of – that life that goes on in those streets – it’s much stranger, and much more absurd, than most fantasy stories that I’m aware of. So, yeah, The Bojeffries was always really special. And the new one, where we’ve brought them bang up to date, so it’s during a Gordon Brown government – yeah, I mean, when I wrote it, it was quite timely, there was a lot of topical references which would have been really funny, believe me, you know. If you’d’ve read this a couple of years ago, you’d have been howling. But, yeah, it’s – I’m looking forward to seeing that.
LP: I think one of the things that – as someone writing a biography of you, one of things that’s very, very striking is that until The Birth Caul, practically, there’s very little – very little autobiographical in there. And A Small Killing – oh, Big Numbers, I suppose, and A Small Killing, a little bit. Nowadays it seems to be a lot more family history, local history of Northampton, and things like that. Is this you growing up, or is this you… What’s – why – it seems to be quite a shift in your career, a shift in your interests, perhaps.
AM: I suppose that, I mean, way back around Big Numbers, that was the first time that I thought, ‘I’m actually much more interested in Northampton that I am in most of the other places, including the imaginary ones, that I’m writing about.’ I think Northampton’s actually much stranger and much more involving. This has become more focused – these days I tend to think it’s all about place – I think that when it comes to, say, literature, the writers that I like best are the ones who are focusing upon where they are. I mean even, say, a writer like H P Lovecraft, who I’m very deeply involved with at the moment – I’ve got this huge stack of Lovecraft reference books. I’m, like, walled in with Lovecraft reference. There’ll just be, it’ll be like The Cask of Amontillado or something, there’ll just be this final copy of The Haunter of the Dark or something, and that’ll be slipped in place, and nobody will ever see me again. But – he was a writer who was completely obsessed with place. He was trying to express the New England landscape around him – and, yes, I do happen to suffer from the delusion that Northampton is the physical and moral centre of the universe…
LP: I think ‘moral’ is a new development…
AM: Well, I just thought of that one, I thought I’d try it out, try it out on the audience, see how it went down, you know…
LP: Is it where the Big Bang banged?
AM: Well, I mean, I’ve only just found out – this is like about a year… about a year ago – no, this last year. I mean, I’d already got most things in the universe starting in Northampton – and I have actually, I claimed in front of an audience that the Big Bang happened in Wiggins’ Coal-yard, which was just across -
LP: Was this when you were on stage with Brian Cox, did Brian Cox set you right?
AM: It probably was – he was in the building, certainly, you know…
LP: But did he correct you? Because if he didn’t correct you…
AM: No, he doesn’t – he’s very insecure – if you say a thing, if you say a thing forcefully enough, you know, Brian, he’ll probably back down, you know…
LP: So we can take it as read that is – science has said that…
AM: But I found out, about six months ago, something like that, amongst things that started in Northampton there were industry, and capitalism. Now this –
LP: It’s your fault!
AM: Well, it sounds like a kind of a large claim, but I’ve actually seen the underside of the – it’s a kind of traffic bridge over a river, and halfway – you have to sort of crouch down to get underneath it, and like, halfway along there’s all these – there’s beer cans, and there’s items of sodden clothing, and there’s syringes, and there’s handbags that have been completely gutted, and all the contents pulled out, and you think, yeah, this is…
LP: I’m home…
AM: …this is the fossil imprint of capitalism, isn’t it? And industry. So, yeah, it does all start in Northampton, it’s not just me saying that, you know.
LP: I think one of the things about the Northampton… stuff, if you want to call it that – you’re talking about really big themes when you’re talking about this, you’re talking about – I realised this, when you’re talking about the growth of history and the personality of family history, and things like that, these are bigger themes than ‘What would it take to have put on underpants and fight crime?’ I mean, creativity, and sex, and war, and death, these are bigger themes than that, and I wonder if this –
AM: They seem to me more important. I mean, like I say, I was – the only reason that I ended up writing so many superhero comics, or indeed comics at all, was because – I mean, I’d started out thinking, all right, maybe I could write books, or maybe I could write poetry – maybe I could draw comics, maybe I could be a rock star, who knows? A show jumper, you know? Ballet dancer? I was too tall, basically, you know – but you eventually, you kind of – that was never really what I – I tried to make those things into vehicles for things that I was interested in talking about.
LP: Now, you read a lot of comics as a kid, though, and you loved the American comics – got those over… read all about it, I mean, read all about it in the biography! You’ve been quoted – you found this out today, I think, you’ve been quoted in the Guardian as saying ‘Why would anyone be interested in superheroes?’, the line about anyone who – I’m 42, I know, I look more youthful – why would anyone my age, basically, be interested in watching Iron Man hitting things, to […] things, these are children’s stories for the youth. Could you expand on that, and give us a little context for this remark, you angry, grumpy old man?
AM: This is my current angry, grumpy – was it crazy and paranoid?
LP: Eh, no, I think I said curmudgeonly…
AM: No, there was – I did get a paranoid, didn’t I –
LP: I didn’t say paranoid…
AM: I think in one of the recent things – but I’m aware –
LP: You’re being paranoid! [audience laughter]
AM: That is part of my profile, you know. Now, what I was saying in that particular quotation, and it’s one that I – I repeat myself tediously, so I’ve probably said it several times – but someone happened to pick this one up – I was saying that I don’t really think that it’s healthy that the characters that were designed for the 12- and 13-year-old boys – and I haven’t missed out girls by accident there, these characters were designed for 12- and 13-year-old boys, of 50 years ago.
AM: Yeah, that was it. I was seven, seven or eight, something like that, and they were fine, they were brilliant entertainment for children of that age. But it seems to me that – surely the people of the 21st Century deserve something of their own, something that was actually crafted in their times, with their sensibilities in mind. I don’t really see – I mean, much as I would love to just recycle the 1960s forever – we need never have bothered with another decade, in my opinion, if we’d have just rerun it every ten years, that would have been great. But – that is actually what we’re doing, and I don’t think it’s very good. I really don’t see that – why we should be rerunning variations upon the music of the sixties and seventies. Yeah, I loved it, but this is 2013, you know. It’s – that’s not good enough. This century needs its own music, it needs its own comics, it needs its own concepts, and I – I am also a little worried that perhaps – I mean, I have said that, in the 1980s, comics didn’t actually grow up. I know that there were all those newspaper articles that said ‘Bam! Sock! Pow! Comics have grown up,’ but actually Bam! Sock! Pow! No they haven’t. No, it’s – what they did was, I think, and this might be a controversial statement, but, I think they met the emotional age of the general public, coming the other way. It’s like – there has been a retreat, I think, in this century. I think that because of the burgeoning levels of complexity that assail the entirety of our culture – yes, this is understandable. It’s too much for a lot of people. We were not designed to take complexity like this, and no previous human generation has ever had to take complexity like this. I can understand why people would want to retreat from that. I could understand why they would perhaps be more comfortable with the things that they enjoyed when they were children in simpler times. I can understand all of this. I just don’t think that it is what is best, either for people individually, or for culture. And also, I really just hate to see people having a good time, and enjoying themselves. [audience laughter]
LP: It is – I – this is – when I was looking at the things you criticised in your own work in the past, the two things that you were most vehement about at the time that they were published were DR & Quinch which, you know, breaks my heart, and The Killing Joke. These are the two things – these were both things that were quite straightforward. They weren’t really about, you know, your great political issues, or your great things, but they were also wildly popular. So is there something about it, it’s like, ‘Grrr, those kids, they like my stuff, but it’s the wrong stuff.’ Is this a…?
AM: When I was actually doing those things, I don’t really think that I thought of them as being wildly popular at the time. With DR & Quinch, I was finding it more and more difficult to actually keep up the standard of humour – and it was quite a high standard of humour, they were very funny. And also I was starting to feel a bit uneasy about using things like thermonuclear war as a source of humour – that was starting to sit a bit oddly with my green politics. It was just something that I didn’t really feel good about, so I wasn’t – it wasn’t a problem to me that people liked that strip. The Killing Joke was something different. I mean, to a certain – I have more or less disowned most of the work that I don’t own, if not all of it. It’s not really a pleasant feeling for me to actually see that stuff any more –
LP: Can I just ask, is this artistic, or is this purely because of the bad blood around…?
AM: Purely emotional. It’s purely emotional in that I find that all of those works, much as I enjoyed them at the time, much as I was excited by them, that it’s sort of – there is, there’s a lot of bad memories connected to each of those projects, and I’d much rather concentrate upon the things that do still give me pleasure, including the work that I’m doing at the moment.
LP: We’re in a – you might get lynched at this point, but, what do you think of people then that will reread Watchmen and go ‘Oh, Watchmen is still great!’ or ‘Well I really enjoyed The Killing Joke, what about it? What does Alan Moore know?’
AM: That is completely fine. I mean, personally I think that, yes, like I say, with Watchmen, with V for Vendetta, with a lot of those works, I put everything that I’ve got into them, and I was very proud of them. The fact that I don’t particularly want to see them again, that’s just purely down to me. The Killing Joke was a bit different. The Killing Joke, that was a Batman comic – I was largely doing it because that was what Brian Bolland – I wanted to work with Brian Bolland –
LP: You had a Batman / Judge Dredd crossover fall through –
AM: There’d been that, which – that lasted until I found out that John Wagner hadn’t actually been asked, at which point I decided that I didn’t want anything to do with the project.
LP: I think one of the things – that one of my big revelations writing this, and I’ve said this in interviews, so I’m sorry if anyone’s heard it – I realised about halfway through writing this book, that writing a book about Alan Moore I ended up with far more rights that I just took for granted than Alan Moore has generally enjoyed with any of his work. I think when you realise – and I don’t want to tattle-tale about this – when you realise that for example Alan Moore – very odd talking about him in the third person when he’s sat next to me – but Alan Moore isn’t being paid for Before Watchmen, and wasn’t – is not consulted about it, and they can just do that. They can make W for Wendetta whenever they want… [audience laughter] …and there’s nothing that they can – there’s no control. I think the power that you want is not money, and it’s not acclaim, it’s that you want to be able to say ‘This is a bad idea, don’t do it,’ and they will go ‘Oh, well, Alan Moore must know his stuff, we won’t do it.’ Is that all that – just respect…?
AM: All that I want is the ability to actually produce my work in the way that I want it to be produced, and I simply want the not unreasonable rights, which people in almost every field other than comics, enjoy. I think that comics would seem to be providing the financial backbone of a great deal of the movie industry at the moment, and an awful lot of culture in general. So why is it OK that the Kirby case isn’t settled yet? For those of you who don’t know, this is Jack Kirby and his estate who are still, I believe, trying to settle with Marvel Comics, who Jack Kirby created almost every character that you have ever heard of for.
LP: Just a quick rundown – The Hulk, and…
AM: The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Captain America, most of the Avengers, the original X-Men, possibly even Spider-Man, although Steve Ditko would probably have deserved the lion’s share of the credit, but… Siegel and Shuster, I think if that case has been settled, then it’s only been settled very recently – these are the people who created Superman, and sold the rights for – I think $300? There are photostats of the cheque that they – where they had all of their rights to Superman taken from them forever.
LP: I think one of the things – I don’t think – I think one of the things is, that you are not actually treated that badly compared with other people in the comics industry. This is the terrifying thing, if you like, is that you are treated well. This is what – you know, you’re on a royalty for Watchmen. Every time somebody buys a copy of Watchmen you’ll eventually get your cut of that, and I think that – that’s an era where comics were trying to be more like novels, and more creator led, and the Watchmen contract was meant to be the good contract, that was meant to be the first of this new thing, and I think – I don’t want to dwell on the business things, but I think the book – talking about it, uncoupling it, you realise there are things in there, where you realise the power that you don’t have. There’s some extraordinary things where if you’d just written novels instead of graphic novels, you would have all sorts of rights that you would have.
AM: Yeah, yeah – well, tell me about it, as they say! [audience laughter]
LP: So, what’s the difference now? Now that you are working, you’ve got your Jerusalem, which you claim is being written – you’ve got a chapter to go?
AM: Nearly there.
LP: Nearly – chapter, chapter…?
AM: Chapter, eh – well, I’ve got three pages to do on what is officially the last chapter of Jerusalem. Then I’ve got the epilogue, which is about a chapter long.
LP: So, we – tell us a little bit about – what’s – I think these people might be presold on it. We’ve got an audience here, they paid fifteen quid for a ticket, so you’d think they’d be up for it – but why should they be pre-ordering it from Amazon? Why should they be buying it on day one?
AM: Well, let me see. Because it’s, like, really really big, yeah? It will really impress everybody – you can put it right next to that copy of A Brief History of Time that you haven’t read, and, um – but, no, I – I don’t know. It will find its audience. I’m not sure whether it will be for everybody. The main reason that you should probably have a look at it is that it completely solves the minor problem of death. I just thought… [Scattered audience laughter]
LP: …or your money back.
AM: Well, I turned 50 and I thought – this was obviously ten years ago – I turned 50 and I thought, ‘Yeah, this doesn’t really add up the same that it used to, I can no longer kid myself that I’m roughly a third of the way through my life, unless I’m going to live to 150,’ you know, so I had to start thinking about it and, yeah, actually I’m pretty certain that I’ve cracked death. And – you don’t need to thank me, you know. Just buy the book and, er… No, but it’s – I mean, simply put, it’s the idea that, as far as I understand it, we are living in a universe of at least four dimensions, which means that those are all special dimensions, even the one that we perceive as the passage of time. That means that you’ve got what is called a Block Universe. It’s a solid construct of space-time in which everybody’s lives are embedded, unchangingly, forever. And, to me, that seems like, when you reach the end of your life, your consciousness has probably got nowhere to go except back to the beginning. And there was a lovely quote from Albert Einstein – I only came across this halfway through writing Jerusalem. It was about a few months before Einstein’s own death, and he was consoling the widow of a fellow physicist, and he said, ‘Look, it’s not – to physicists such as ourselves, death isn’t really a big problem, because we understand the persistent illusion of transience,’ which is lovely, isn’t it? The persistent illusion of transience. The idea that those good programmes that used to be on television, that they’re not on anymore, that you can’t get Spangles anymore, that – you know, those nice houses that you used to like, and they pulled them down, those people that you used to enjoy the company of who are dead. That – yeah, that is an illusion, the illusion that things are going away. That somewhere these things – they’re just a bit further back down the road, and – so this, obviously, is the centre of Jerusalem – Einstein said it in about, what, twelve words, something like that –
LP: So, twelve, that’s his record, are you going for his record?
AM: I’ve – it’s somewhere over half a million – I probably could have used an editor on that, couldn’t I?
LP: War and Peace is 325,000, I think, so it’s War and Peace plus this, basically [Lance Parkin hold up a copy of his book] – Did you see what I did there? That was good!
AM: It’s bigger than the Bible, and I hope more socially useful –
LP: Better selling –
AM: And better. Better.
LP: Better selling? Better selling, perhaps, more homes will own it, soon.
AM: More optimistic.
LP: So, the magic. The magic. I’m approaching this from my ultra-rationalist perspective, and I’m seeing it as a strategy for writing, and I’m seeing it as a way of improving – an Oblique Strategy, as Brian Eno would put it, as a way of improving that. There’s very clearly more to it than just top writing – you know, a writing tips thing. What’s it mean to you, and what’s it – what sort of part does it play in your life, rather than your work?
AM: Well, I don’t know if I can even separate my life and my work, and I certainly can’t separate, really, either of those from magic. When –
LP: Sorry, can I just – I interviewed Alan for the book, and I asked him if he had any hobbies, and he laughed, and then there was like a two-minute, and he went, ‘I go for walks every so often.’ So, the life and the work are –
AM: Yeah, I mean, it’s difficult to separate those things but, by magic, what I’m talking about is, I suppose it’s any artist, writ large, and in some ways any human being, writ large. I believe that it is just a – a human being, or an artist, trying to achieve their full capacity, for experience, and for production, for creation. To me it’s like – the standard approach to consciousness, which is that either that consciousness doesn’t exist, because it cannot be explained scientifically – which is only obvious, really. I mean, science can’t talk about anything which cannot be demonstrated with empirical experiments, so consciousness is kind of off limits. However, you do get people attempting to explain away consciousness, because it’s annoying – it’s irritating for scientists to have everything in the universe worked out, apart from the phenomenon that they are using to study the rest of the universe. [laughter] That’s really irritating.
LP: So, is magic a way of trying to articulate the inarticulate, is that the idea?
AM: Well, that is part of it, but mainly it’s a way of approaching consciousness. Now, to say that, yeah, alright, there’s no such thing as consciousness – consciousness is purely an accident of our biology. Yeah, it’s some sort of glands that are giving us the illusion that we are conscious, and those glands are based upon chemicals, and chemistry is a hard science, because that’s based upon physics, and physics is a hard science, but unfortunately physics is based upon quantum physics, which says that the mind can actually influence things upon a quantum level.
LP: What would be – what would be the bad thing – if science – if tomorrow you wake up and you go – and you read in the paper that science has cracked the problem of consciousness, what do you – what’s going to be the downside to that? What’s the thing for you?
AM: I would be very very VERY surprised – I mean, I read the New Scientist every week, I’m aware of the breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, but you’re never going to be able to crack the problem of consciousness – in fact, you’re never going to be able to crack the problem of artificial intelligence because, as Alan Turing pointed out, with his Turing Test, which is – it’s not actually really a test, it’s a kind of – it’s a joke. He’s kinds of pointing out that you can’t ever tell if a machine is conscious, because you can’t tell if I’m conscious. You can’t tell if the person sitting next to you is conscious – you don’t know that this is not all a dream. Alright, it’s probably not, [laughter] but, sort of, that is – it cannot be proved otherwise. So, the – the thing of consciousness, it’s something that science really cannot approach.
LP: So art is a better tool for the job?
AM: Yes! Art is a much better tool and, if you’ve got to have a concept of consciousness, then for an artist, or a creative person, I really don’t see why you should have to limit yourself to the rather sterile and barren conception of consciousness which is all that science can actually formulate. To me, magic is a different approach to consciousness – you are imagining that maybe it’s capable of doing different things, that maybe there are ways of handling your own consciousness, that maybe things like ritual are ways of programming certain psychological experiences. If that’s all they are, then I’m completely happy with that. I do not know that gods and entities – they certainly don’t exist in the same physical sense that we do. I think that’s a pretty safe bet, isn’t it?
LP: A show of hands? [laughs]
AM: But, sort of, the thing is that by actually treating those concepts as if they exist, we may just be reaching some other part of our own psychology
that we’ve not previously had access to. But, if that’s all it is, that’s still pretty good!
[00:34:45] LP: OK, I think it is now time to invite Kevin O’Neill and Melinda Gebbie onto the stage. [round of applause] We have – we have – both have done plenty of work with Alan in the past, they – it’s a little bit – it’s always a little embarrassing because both Melinda and Kevin were working in comics long before this gentleman here. They’ve had long [undecipherable voice says something] – these two, I think – and – OK, long and storied careers of their own, and – one of them, incidentally, is married to Alan Moore, but I’m going to make you buy the book to find out – make you buy the book to work out which one. I don’t want to sort of spoil that, it’s sort of chapter eight, nine –
AM: Kevin, I thought we’d been through this in counselling…
LP: And the, the – I can think of all sorts of fancy ways to ask the question, but it’s basically going to be the same question dressed up, which is: what is it like working with this gentleman? What is it like to receive the infamously long scripts? First of all, Melinda, does he give you the ninety-four page scripts as well, or does he just kind of – is it Marvel style, does he just sketch it out, and say, ‘Oh, there’s a dragon in it,’ or whatever? Does he…?
Melinda Gebbie: Oh well, he – on occasion I’ll get a rundown on what’s going on – has he mentioned he has 162 of criticism on HP Lovecraft, so I’ve learned way more about HP Lovecraft than I ever wanted to, but since he’s been working on that particular project, and he’s been reading stuff to me, I actually enjoy the part he wrote – it’s just he –
AM: She calls it my Lovecrap [general laughter].
MG: Did I say that out loud? [laughter]
LP: You thought you’d just thought that, you didn’t think you’d said it?
MG: I was writing it in my diary – he must have read it.
LP: Kevin, you get – we’ve seen the publication of the League of Extraordinary scripts, and I think one of the more extraordinary things about (sorry, that’s a terrible pun) is – you actually add detail to those panels. He gives you these ridiculous panel things, and you add half a dozen other things to these…
Kevin O’Neill: I went mental. I actually lost my grip – it’s actually – on the Black Dossier, to be honest, when – Alan sends it to me in bite-sized chunks, and when I was cleaning my studio, when I’d finished it, I assembled it all, and it was, like, yay big [holds hand several feet off the floor] – it was a monster. If you’d got that all at once you’d run a mile, you just couldn’t bear to think of how much work that is. But I had 20:20 vision until I worked on the 3D section of Black Dossier, and now I have to wear glasses.
LP: A health and safety claim incoming, I think!
KON: And Alan…
LP: Just, for people listening to us on audio, Melinda is now playing, what, is that the world’s smallest violin?
MG: The world’s smallest violin.
KON: And the other thing, Alan’s scripts have had an uncanny effect on my private life as well, because even though I draw incredibly slowly, so when he writes them, it is often several years back – by the time I get to a certain highly emotive point in a script, it actually happens in my real life. Someone dies, or there’s a breakup, or it’s something really dramatic, and it’s uncanny. I mentioned it to him a number of times, and he won’t take any blame for it, at all…
AM: No, he was actually being haunted by Aleister Crowley, at one point. I mean, seriously – he kinda thought this was something to do with me, he was trying to pin it all upon me – you know, blame the hippie [general laughter].
LP: One thing I’ve really – I’ve written two or three comics in my time – just, literally, two or three comics – it’s really much easier to write a comic than to draw one, because you can go ‘The big army comes over the hill. There are a thousand of them, and they’ve all got a different facial expression. Over to you, Melinda. Over to you, Kevin.’
KON: I’m really glad you said that, ‘cause I certainly…
LP: I mean, is this something that artists secretly burn away at, and they go ‘I might be working with Alan Moore, but grrrr…’?
KON: Well, actually, something that fascinates me is it’s rarely happened that Alan has had – how can I put this? – an unsympathetic artist collaborator, but occasionally it’s happened, where you can see they read – what they do customarily is just read the dialogue, the word balloons, and ignore all the description, so what you end up with is this kind of discord between a brilliant script, and what it should look like, you know, how it should be constructed, and it’s like ignoring the blueprints if you’re building a house, you know, so you’ve got the bathroom out in the back garden and all the rest of it, it’s just chaos, it’s insane. So, when I first read one of Alan’s scripts – I mean, it’s daunting, and I’d worked with Pat Mills for years, and I thought that was bad – but, you know, the second half of my career has been infinitely more –
LP: Can I just say, I just reread Ro-Busters and the robot, the blind robot who has a robot guide dog with eyes is one of the great comic moments –
KON: Those were the easy years, you know?
LP: Melinda – so, when you – when you’re trying to visualise these things, is it – there’s a Star Wars anecdote where Harrison Ford runs up to George Lucas and goes, ‘You know, you can type this shit, but you can’t actually say it out loud.’ Are there moments when it’s like, ‘You draw it!’, you know, or ‘This is -’ you – or – I think – or is it a case that he’s sympathetic enough to see it from the artist’s point of view as well?
MG: Well, when I wanted to work with a writer, I imagined a writer who actually was a writer, so I don’t have that problem about George Lucas and Star Wars, and stuff like that. ‘Cause he came up on the dirty end of the lollipop, and thought that was literature, and was happy with that – but that’s film. So, no, I wanted a real writer, so whatever I did get, I got a real writer.
KON: And Alan writes very specifically for each individual artist, I have to point out as well…
LP: Plays to your strengths, a thing a lot of artists say –
KON: Things the scripts don’t do to it [?] – A lot of writers write, and it’s sent out by the editor to whoever they think might suit the script, which is a kind of horrible way of working, it’s just the industrial way of working, whereas I think Alan tailors for all of us who’ve worked –
MG: [stage whisper] A horrible way…
LP: You’re not interchangeable components, or whatever. I mean, which way around is it, do you think, ‘Oh, I’ve got a Kevin O’Neill project,’ or do you write something, and go, ‘You know what, Kevin O’Neill.’
LP: Before you– when you barely knew each other –
AM: When we – we wanted to work together, upon this project, and so, when I was putting Lost Girls together, I’d seen Melinda’s work, I’d seen her coloured work, which I hadn’t seen before –
MG: He was a fan of mine before I was a fan of his…
LP: I know, he writes about you –
AM: Yeah, but sort of, it’s like – all of that, yeah, you’ve gotta work to the artist’s strengths, and the same is true of Kevin, the same is true with most of the artists that I’ve – all of them, probably. If I’ve had a relationship with them, then it would be stupid not to work with what they do best, you know?
LP: OK. Melinda, I mean – the relationship. I’m sorry to sort of bring the sort of gossip mag thing in here – the relationship. Which way – were you able to separate your – whenever I tried to write this in the book, it was always like, ‘their romance blossomed,’ and it’s just like, did it? Draw that, you know!
MG: You’re not going to ask me who the guy is, are you?
LP: No, I’m going to ask you – what I’m going to say is, is, was there – was it connect- were you able to separate the work, of was it all part of the wonderful process, the creative process became part of the personal life…
MG: Well, uniquely, and freakishly, it was an alchemical process. Nobody can ever do it again, I swear to god on my life, and everybody else’s life that I know, nobody else is gonna do this again – it was too damn hard, but we did it, and it was alchemical, and it was personal, and we were very very careful about what kind of emotional input we put into the relationship as well as how we dealt with the book, because we realised, to our own great sense of panic that, although we were getting to really care about each other, we also had this massive book to do, and I don’t know how many men and women have worked in pornography together – perhaps Serge Gainsbourg and his daughter*, I don’t know, but apart from that…
LP: We’ll cut that, Bleeding Cool, so…
MG: They’re not going to come over from France, they’re too cheap to sue us.
LP: We’ll cut that as well! [laughter]
MG: All the good bits – [whispers] this is why radio is so bland – anyway, it was very very hard, it was very amazing we, we managed to do – we still talk about ‘How the hell did we do that?’ You know, we’re still friends, we’re still married, although I like to think he made people like you [undecipherable words…]
LP: A question for Kevin as well is, you know, you’ve known Alan a long time as well, and worked with him a long time, is it, when you’re working together, is it, are you able to – argue? Are you able to sort of, can it, can it stain a friendship, can it stain, you know, can it get in the way of that?
KON: Well I can see how it could. We’ve not had any… I think Alan and Eddie on From Hell may have had a couple of disagreements, which I think is a matter of record, and… I don’t think on League we’ve actually ever disagreed. Occasionally, I mean, occasionally I think we just bring different things to it and occasionally… we brought a character into League, who I think only we like, the Golliwogg, to kind of reintroduce this actually incredibly powerful black character back into our world, who’s completely misunderstood. Now, I think most people just take it as, like, the Robinson’s Jam golliwog or something, and don’t quite see it that way, but we never argued about it. I think we both were in general agreement about it…
AM: We were on the same page, definitely. I mean, yeah, it’s, I don’t think, I mean, we didn’t have any arguments about things on Lost Girls either. I mean, there would be things where you might say, “I think it’d be better if we did it this way rather than that way.” In which case I’d sort of say, “OK, fair enough. If you feel that way, do it that way.” And –
MG: We’d – we’d always discuss it, wouldn’t we? It was just – it wasn’t like one of was just going NYEH NYEH NYEH NYEH NYEH (makes snarky couples arguing sound)
LP: So, I mean – how – I’m thinking about arbitration disputes, here. I’m just thinking if you, you’ve written your script and you’ve said, y’know, ‘if you can think of a better way of doing it, do it,’ and all that. What happens if, you know, Melinda draws something and you go, ‘no no no‘ what happens if Kevin draws something and it’s like…
AM: It’s just never happened.
MG: We – we would never sort of be that blunt with each other. I mean, we’d get someone up like dear Oscar Zarate, who’s Argentinean, and show him.
AM: He’s down there…
MG: Is he?
AM: …he’s on the end of the row there. (Points at Oscar Zarate, who’s in the front row.)
MG: [To Oscar Zarate] I didn’t see you! Well, it was Oscar that pointed out to me that I had done rather a poor drawing of Dorothy – purely for the benefit of the book, which I really appreciate – but it actually happened after Alan and I had a bit of a tiff, and I went home and drew Dorothy looking a bit sort of unhappy in orgasm. So Oscar said [attempts Argentinian accent] “I don’t think that works Melinda, she doesn’t look happy at all. This is…”
AM: No, you can’t do the voice.
LP: No, you can’t do the voice.
AM: He’s right here.
MG: I’m sorry, Oscar.
AM: He’s right here.
LP: You can talk about golliwogs but you cannot do that voice. Sorry.
MG: I’m terrible, I offend a lot of people whenever I try to do anything but Americanese, I do apologise.
LP: When it comes to offence, I think this is quite interesting – Lost Girls is clearly a – it was always meant to be something that was on the extreme, where you’re sort of testing – testing a boundary, and there’s stuff, plenty of stuff like that in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as well, especially more recent stuff is talking about that. What’s the idea there, is it – what’s the point of offending?
AM: Well, this is not stuff that’s done to offend, it’s just that it’s done for grownups. I mean, like, as we were saying a little while ago when we were talking about superhero movies, things like that, superhero comics these days, they’re not for kids. I mean, they’re still the same material, by and large, as was used for kids, but the readership of superhero comics, it’s largely for people in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Now, if we are working, if that is the audience that we’re really working for, then why do we have to aim the narratives at children? I mean, we are assuming, when we’re doing Lost Girls, that this is for adults. We’re assuming, when we do the Black Dossier, or Century that, yes, this is an adventure story, but it is for – it’s for grown-ups.
LP: Are we – when we read Lost Girls, say, are we meant to be shocked, or are – and this is a question for Melinda as well – are we meant to be shocked, or are we meant to go, ‘wow, everything else is so bland,’ because I think, you know, it’s depict- like as you say, you know, grown-ups, when you’re in your forties and fifties, there are things in Lost Girls you probably should have seen by that point. Perhaps some things you haven’t as well, but…
AM: Yeah, we weren’t – I really don’t like doing things just for shock. I think that that’s kind of – it’s kind of puerile, it – there are good reasons for having a certain scene, and that scene happens to work out shocking, then I don’t think that you should back away from that, if it necessary to the story. But if you’re going out of your way to provide shock after shock, it probably won’t be a very good story, and you’ll have probably exhausted your audience’s capacity to have responded to it.
LP: (Whispers to Melinda) Do you want to say something on that point?
MG: Oh! Yeah, well it – yeah, the tempo of pornography, which most pornographers don’t know about, is that it can move like music – it can be orchestrated, it can be fine art, it can be – it can include great philosophy, as part of the undercurrent of what’s going on physically between the people, so we hoped with Lost Girls that, yes, people who – well, I hoped that it would start dialogues between couples, that they could point to a page and say ‘I like that. What do you think?’ The other person would say ‘Turn the page, I like that one better, but let’s discuss.’ You know? So, sex on a ‘let’s discuss’ basis, or somebody else that makes all the mistakes, and people can look in an go ‘Nyeh, I don’t think I like that one, let’s move on to something else.’
LP: I think – I think that one of life’s little ironies is that, when I was looking at the press reaction and the reviews of it, that this – Lost Girls is the point where you hit a true respectability. It’s the point where The Independent goes, ‘Oh, he’s a great novelist, not just a great graphic novelist,’ and all that sort of stuff, and – You couldn’t have seen that one coming.
AM: No, I was certainly blindsided by that. It was –
LP: You thought you were going to be banned, and burned, and –
AM: Yeah! I mean, like, we were surprised that we were still at liberty, you know? We thought, ‘Why haven’t they hung us? I mean, what’s wrong with society? What are we paying our taxes for?’ [General laughter]
LP: How is this man still free?
MG: Our publisher was putting all his extra pennies into the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund in America, because he figured we were all going to end up in prison – when I went over for the debut of it in Los Angeles, yes, we were dead surprise that people were buying it – women were buying it in droves – one girl came back, and she was like eighteen – she proved she was eighteen! – she came back and she said, ‘I stayed up all night reading this book,’ she said [weepy voice] ‘I just came back, I just wanted to thank you for doing this!’ and floods of tears, and then I was in floods of tears, and I was ‘Oh thank you!,’ you know, so it was like a – a fairly rare pornographers moment, I think.
AM: I really didn’t want to go to prison because, like –
MG: I didn’t care, I’d nothing to lose!
AM: Well, I’m kind of…
LP: There’s some great literature written in prison…
AM: I’m kind of the pretty one… [general laughter]
[00:52:10] LP: Well, with that, thank you very much to Melinda and Kevin, and we’ll now see Mitch [Jenkins], and Siobhan [Hewlett], and Bob [Goodman] is there. Thank you very much. Thank you. [round of applause]
[…general faffing around sounds, as one group vacates the stage, and another ascends…]
LP: Oh no, we’d better make sure his mike works, ‘cause he’s a director and stuff, and he knows about these things.
Mitch Jenkins: You can come sit in the middle…
AM: You know, we’d invited Bob tonight, and he didn’t get the email, but…
MJ: He really didn’t…
AM: …but he’s just the kind of person who is just wandering around in Leicester Square [laughter], and somehow he’s here, you know.
LP: We did notice that Siobhan was here, and Alan noted that there should be some karmic balance, and Bob showed up, so, yeah… So, well, I think it’s a variation on a theme – we’ve got – I think Alan obviously is best known for his comics and his graphic novels, so, Mitch, you’ve worked with him for years and years and years on various projects – the first – when you get a script from him do you go, ‘Oh god, he’s writing a comic,’ or has he worked out that he’s writing a movie?
MJ: Ah, well I think that – when we got the screenplay for Jimmy’s End, I had no idea what a screenplay looked like myself, because I’d never directed a film, so I just took it as read that he knew what he was actually doing –
LP: It’s not like twelve hundred pages long for fifteen minutes?
MJ: No it wasn’t. It was about ten pages long, wasn’t it, Al?
AM: [faintly] Yeah.
MJ: Yeah, ten pages. So, like I said, I had no idea what a screenplay looked like until that point –
AM: And what – I didn’t actually have any idea what a screenplay looked like, so he still doesn’t, really, you know. [laughter]
LP: So, both of you, Siobhan and Bob, how did – was this pitched to you? I think, Bob, you knew Alan quite well before, didn’t you? You knew…? Have you got a mike? Have my mike.
MJ: It’s a Latitude moment…
Robert Goodman: Yeah, thanks very much. Yeah. Yes, Alan and I have been sort of good mates for many many years, and we’ve worked together before on various projects and the – Alan had been talking about doing a short film which he wrote, and one that he could do what he wanted to do with, as opposed to have to sort of kow down to what other people wanted to do with his stuff, one where he could do what he wanted to do with, and we’d sort of mentioned it over a short period of time, and then – and then he wrote the short – this film called Jimmy’s End, for Mitch to direct, and I think Alan sort of asked me
AM: I actually wrote the part around you, Bob, it’s one of the – it’s a really – you’ll see in the film it’s a really really unpleasant kind of character that I’d sort of – I mean, I’m not saying that Bob is an unpleasant character, you know.
RG: Oh good…
MJ: He’s a very good friend, actually…
AM: …he’s very likeable, but I – yeah, I kind of wrote it for the way that I – the lines that I knew that you could deliver, Bob.
RG: Well, thank you very much for doing that Alan, yes. And Alan and I, over the years, have got this sort of relationship anyway where we have banter between us, anyway – as you will see, and as you will see from the film. It was a very easy part to do actually, because, as Alan has just kindly said, he wrote the part for me, and in the character in which he sees me anyway, which I’m not sure whether that is too complimentary when you actually get to see the film. But there we are, yeah.
LP: And Siobhan, I don’t know – what was your – did you have a connection to the world of – did you know who this gentleman was before…?
AM: That’s too young. I can see, now how –
SH: You see?
LP: You’ve corrupted a generation.
AM: Oh my God, I am so sorry.
SH: It’s had a profound effect! Forgiven. Still one of my favourites. Yeah, of course, and Mitch and I had actually done a photo-shoot together – two photo-shoots – in the past, for some film PR work, you know, of some films that I’d done. And we’d stayed in contact, which has been, you know – ’cause he’s alright, I suppose.
SH: And, yeah, so just out of the blue I got an email from Mitch, just saying that Alan and he were, you know, gonna make some films together. And that they would like me to play the lead. And – you know, the way it was pitched was – you know, I love my job. As an actress I am just, like, so lucky to get to do what I do ‘cause I love it. But, on the flipside, especially in films and TV, a lot of the time as the actor you turn up, and it’s very much kind of, you know – regardless of whether you’re the lead or just kind of like spending a few days on set, whatever, doing your stuff, you have no control whatsoever. And it doesn’t feel so much of a collaboration as my great love, which is the theatre. So, one of the main things, which was the biggest draw, was actually the fact that we were gonna do this as a collaboration, together. And, you know, and be free to do our own things.
LP: I think it’s interesting – we’re gonna now see the movie, so, the fifteen minute Act of Faith, and you are Faith in Act of Faith, if people don’t know. It’s a very sort of complex part – it’s something – it must involve lots of judgements, how much of that is dictated in the script? How much of that was came through discussion…?
SH: I mean, definitely we did discuss it, you know, we did, but I think, you know, very much from Alan’s writing, I was very clear in my mind, of how it, you know, Faith was and, you know, I hope that it tarried with…
MJ: No, it did. And I think Alan’s scene descriptions, and his character descriptions is just so in-depth, and when you do look at other screenplays, which I’ve now subsequently done, you actually see that a lot of the direction there is just so ‘Yeah, it’s a white bloke, he’s thirty-five,’ and that’s about it, whereas on this occasion, I mean, everything that Alan provided, it was just so in-depth. So as an actor or an actress, you actually get a greater understanding of the character before you’ve even get in front of the camera. And at that point, that’s when you can start bringing it alive.
LP: I think one of the things people picked up on, and we’re surrounded by red curtains here, so it’s thematically appropriate – that you’ve been a fan of David Lynch for a very long time, and there’s Lynch-ey stuff there?
AM: Well, the thing is, yeah, we saw that and, yeah, I like I did quite like David Lynch. However, I would have to say that – I mean, the curtains, that was Mitch’s idea, and also the only film that I can think of that doesn’t have curtains in it, is perhaps, like, One Million Years BC. And I think that they actually did slip up and they did have some curtains – kind of, fur curtains.
MJ: Animal skins.
LP: Mammoth curtains…
AM: And – yeah, and we read one review saying ‘Yes, it’s got lots of David Lynch things in it like curtains, you know, and clowns‘…
LP: Fifties music…
AM: …and I thought, Hang on…
AM: …what kind of – are there any David Lynch movies – I mean, was there a really jolly bit in Elephant Man where the clowns came on, and sort of probably kind of got out of the car, and then the car fell to bits, and then they threw the bucket of glitter, and all the rest of it? I don’t actually remember any clowns in David Lynch movies. I think that people just think ‘Oh, clowns. That’s probably a bit David Lynch,’ you know? But, yeah, alright, it’s sort of -
LP: You were a big Twin Peaks fan, when Twin Peaks was on, weren’t you?
LP: You were a big Twin Peaks fan…
AM: Huge Twin Peaks fan…
LP: You’ve said before that if you were going to write…
AM: …that really wasn’t – David Lynch is probably somewhere in the mix, but-
LP: So when you’re thinking about cinema, and you’re thinking about what I can do in this wonderful new medium, what was the – what was the – what was the toys you could play with you hadn’t been able to play with before?
AM: Well, I wanted to play with as few toys as possible, I think we both did. I mean, like, I certainly have a sort of Khmer Rouge, Year Zero approach to filmmaking. I – I wanted to – and I think that Mitch felt the same about this, that I wanted to not have CGI, to not go for all of the things that have become commonplace, to just focus upon the story, to not have any special effects that we couldn’t actually do for real.
MJ: Shush shush shush!
LP: I’ve given away the ending.
AM: Spoiler alert! It’s, er – no, it’s, those were the main things. And we talked about films that we both enjoyed, – I mean, I really love things like Jean Cocteau, La Belle et la Bete, which is, there’s no special effects in it. The ones that there are, are completely ingenious, and have real poetry to them.
LP: I think what we need to do now is actually –
MJ: Watch the film.
LP: …watch the film! And I think we’re going to start with Act of Faith, and I think it’s about fifteen minutes, sixteen minutes? Something like that? And we have Siobhan centre stage, and pretty much the only person in there, I think. There’s some voicework, yeah, so enjoy that. We have to leave the stage, and we probably should leave the lights on while we do that!
LP: Thank you very much. [applause]
First film – Act of Faith – is shown – 16m 38s
[01:02:20] LP: OK, thank you, everyone. Alan has just apologised to Siobhan for doing nasty things to her. OK, we’ve got about twenty / twenty-five minutes. What I would ask, is ask nice pithy questions, don’t sort of come up with an essay, and ask Alan to comment on it. If you can Tweet your – you know, if the question’s long enough to Tweet, it’s probably about the right length, that’s the advice we’d give. I’m going to work around – if, if there are two mikes they’re going to have to wait to get to people, but if people want to throw up their hands – it’s going to be absolutely random element here, because I can’t really see anyone’s face, so if I can see a hand – there’s a hand waving there, so I think he got to be first, so just let the mike get to him…
Audience Member 1: Alan, if you had – sorry, hello. If you had some advice for someone who wanted to stimulate their own creativity, what advice would you give them?
AM: I would say, look at good work by people. But don’t look at too much good work by people, look at rubbish. Actually, really terrible work by people is a fantastic inspiration. Like – I’m doing this Lovecraft thing at the moment, and one of the headings that I put in writing for other people who might want to work in the same continuity was ‘What Can Brian Lumley Teach Us?‘ Now Brian Lumley is somebody who writes really, to my mind, quite terrible Lovecraft pastiches. So, read somebody like that, and then: don’t do that. It’s – I know that that – I’m being deadly serious here. I mean, I had – my daughter Leah was talking to me the other day and she was saying ‘You know that thing that you said about how it’s better to read bad work than good work?‘ and she was finding that the same thing was true. The thing is, great work, unless you’re careful, it can lead to you just emulating somebody who’s already done it better. To find your own voice, get a bit critical. Look at good work, bad work, be able to say why it’s good or bad. And then adjust your own work accordingly. That is – that is probably a good way – it also, reading work by people who are worse than you, makes you feel really good. [laughs] It’s serious advice.
LP: Okay, we’ve got a question, it’s – OK, we’ve got one right at the back.
Audience Member 2: Iain Sinclair talks about place possessing him, and he’s almost – he’s channelling place. Did you ever expect to be channelling Northampton?
AM: Well, I mean somebody has to do it, don’t they? It’s like, I believe that, alright, yeah, I happen to be pretty much fixed in Northampton. It’s where I’ve always lived and yes, I do believe that it is the –the most important place in the world. However, I do realise that other people will have their own point of view upon that issue, and that they might think that the places where they live are just as important. In which case I would say, that’s fine. Just, you do as good a job at channelling your places as I’m doing with mine. That’s not inconceivable. And I think that if – what I would really like is if everybody were to pay more attention to the boring, miserable, nondescript places that they’ve grown up in, or that they live in, and I think that they would probably find, with a bit of examination, that those places were not boring or miserable or nondescript at all. They might find that they were kind of fabulous. That absolutely mythical things had happened there. Which might make them feel a bit better about themselves, and it might be a way of restoring – I think that meaning is a vital commodity. And it’s like radioactivity, it has a half-life. Meaning kind of bleeds out of things, and I believe that our communities mean less than they did fifty, sixty, seventy years ago. I think that meaning has been leached out of them, and we live in meaningless communities and therefore we think that we, we internalise that, we think that we are meaningless. I think that by channelling the place that you live, if you like, there’s a way of actually reinvesting some of the – the energy that places actually need to survive psychologically, and that the people in them need to survive psychologically. I think that if more people were to use the tool of poetry to investigate the world surrounding them, it might be a more interesting and a more elevated world that they found themselves living in. I mean, yeah, I just happened to be born in Northampton, you know, to Northampton’s – I’m not sure how Northampton feels about that, but that’s not really my problem.
LP: OK, oh, – yeah, OK…
Audience Member 3: Thank you. A question about your magic and your work – what point in your life did you make the connection between magic being your work, and your work being a form of magic, and what led you to that conclusion?
AM: Well, I’d got about as far – there were various things – I’ve given various answers to why I got into magic – all of them are true, to a certain degree. But one of them was that I felt that I’d more or less exhausted what I could do with my work, while remaining within the boundaries of strict rationality. I felt that I’d gone quite a long way with my writing, that I felt that if I needed to go further, I was going to have to somehow break through into some – some new territory, and to try and connect up, if you like, with some of the writers that I really admired, who seemed to me to be visionaries, who seemed to me to be people who were kind of constructing a reality that was in some ways more real than the everyday reality surrounding us. They weren’t just writing fantasies. William Blake wasn’t a fantasy writer, he was writing this incredible symbolical material in a totally private language, and hoping to sort of, to illuminate the, the world around him. And I suppose that after my initial introduction to magic I began to see that, yeah, this is pretty much what all artists are doing, whether they know it or not, and indeed one of the problems with art at the moment, as I see it, is that there is nothing of the visionary in it. There is nothing of the magical in it, there is nothing of the numinous. This is the thing that is wrong. That I believe that art is magic, magic is art. I believe that if those two fields were to perhaps talk to each other a bit more, perhaps swap methods, I think that if artists saw themselves as magicians then they might do something that had got real fire, real meaning, rather than just this sorry conceptualist stuff, which – it’s not even a real concept. It’s a concept in as much as a piece of advertising that you see on television is a concept. It’s empty. And to me, if that was reinvested with magic, then art could start doing the job that it is meant to do. Conversely, if a lot of the magical orders that are around today were to actually regard what they did as art, then there might actually be some point to their existence.
LP: Next question, if that’s alright.
AM: Yeah, sure.
Audience Member 4 (Gary Gray): Alan, one of the wonderful things about Lance’s book is that he really looks at your sense of humour, something that’s kinda been overlooked by many people in the past. Do you have much opinion on that yourself, or do you think you could maybe have had a different career as a stand-up?
AM: Well, I’ve done, I’ve got a lot of friends who are brilliant, brilliant stand-ups, and – like Robin Ince has been kind enough to ask me down to the Bloomsbury Theatre for the last three or four Christmases, and so I get to go onstage with people like, you know, Josie Long, and Stewart Lee, and, like, Barry Cryer. And people who are really, really, really funny. And like, I am really not, you know. Or at least, compared with sort of, with those kinds of people. It makes me aware that, yeah alright, they probably couldn’t handle a long comic narrative with the same élan that I could, but – although, I – can I –
LP: You don’t want to read Stewart Lee’s pornography…
AM: I was going to – there was one thing that I did say that was quite funny, even I say so myself. I was talking about how, amongst people who thought that Northampton was the most important place in the world, there was God, because, like, he was directing a lot of angels apparently to Northampton in the 8th century. It was very very popular with angels. So God obviously thought that Northampton was quite special. The other person who thought that Northampton was quite special, that was Hitler, whose invasion plan ended with the capture of Northampton. Once he’d got Northampton everything else was a foregone conclusion. So I thought, right, so if you wanna say that Northampton isn’t the most important part of the entire Universe, then you’re not only arguing with me, you’re arguing with God, and Hitler. And, like, that is the dream team, isn’t it?
LP: It covers the bases…
AM: And I thought that this would be a great children’s kind of cartoon series, for a Saturday morning, and… No, it would. It would. And, and, I thought, like, and I even came up with a theme tune, which was [sings]
Alan Moore, Hitler and God,
Though their friendship may seem odd
One made space-time, one hates Jews
And one wrote some comics that got reasonable reviews
[general laughter and applause]
AM: And them – no, wait, wait, that’s just the first verse [more laughter][sings again]
Though their friendship may seem weird
All have moustaches, and two have beards
One’s a Nazi, and one made Hell
And Hitler and God probably did something as well
So, yeah. Now imagine that after a Stewart Lee routine. I think you see my point.
LP: OK, you’ve got the job of following that, so what’s your question?
Audience Member 5: Thank you – this is gonna be very boring, I was just gonna ask you for an update of your collaboration with Steve Moore on the magic tome…
AM: Well, Steve Moore is actually down here at the front but I don’t think I’m giving away too much when I say that we are kind of a whisker from the end. It’s quite a fat whisker, but, sort of, we have just got to – I’ve gotta do the last part of the, the ongoing pult decadent occult fiction serial that runs through the book, then we’ve got a couple of things to do on the tarot cards and on the kabbalah board game, and the pop-up temple. [laughter] This is all real, we don’t know whether we’re going to be able to do it, but this is what we hope to do, and then we’ve just got to write the final essay, that will be huge and will kind of be summing up the rest of the book and kind of making our closing argument. That’s gonna be quite big, but that is where we’re at. So, we’re hoping to get it finished probably next year, almost certainly. That’s the plan.
LP: Okay, we’ve got time for I think two or three more. We’ve got someone there. Yeah.
Audience Member 6: Hello. In light of Mark Millar and Grant Morrison, both of whom have now received honours, have you ever been approached by the shadowy figures who run the honours system, and if not, if you were to be approached, would you accept it?
AM: Well, I did, I believe, have my very good friend Pádraig, who’s somewhere in the audience, [I wave frantically] there he is, there he is. I believe he did call me up at one point and told me that there had been a petition sent in to Gordon Brown’s office asking if I could be given some sort of award. Then Pádraig asked me, pretty much like you have, whether I ever could accept an award like that, or some sort of honour. And I said – I can’t remember my exact words – probably it was, ‘No of course not, and certainly not from a bipolar Cyclops,’ [audience laughter] which is the kind of thing that means that you’re definitely not gonna be – and, like, that was from a Labour government, you know. I certainly could never take awards from this particular government, because – now this is old fashioned, it’s one of those kind of sixties beliefs, you know, but I kinda think that culling the disabled is wrong, you know. I know, I know, it’s crazy, isn’t it? But, sort of, to actually accept an award like that, you’d have to – you’re condoning the behaviour of the people who are giving you the award. You’re saying ‘that’s alright.’ No, that isn’t the way that I was brought up. I really could never accept an award from a Conservative government, and I could not accept awards from a Conservative government pretending to be a Labour government. So, no, I really – I don’t like prizes, awards – I don’t like them. I – I’m sure it’s very nice and people mean well, but it’s gonna – if you take any notice of that stuff you’re doomed. If you actually measure your life in Eagle Awards, or Harvey Awards, or whatever they do now, you are doomed. I – I threw out all the awards, and my mum said ‘Ooh no, that’s a shame, you don’t wanna throw ‘em out, have ‘em round my house.’ And then she gored herself upon my Hugo Award, and they all went in the bin. This is not because I’m resentful, or ungrateful, I’m just not interested. That’s not – If people have enjoyed the work, that is the only part of the contract that I was interested in. I didn’t want stuff to clutter up an already far too cluttered house.
LP: Okay I think we have one last question, so we have hand-waving there…
Audience Member 7: Hey. Just going back to the consciousness thing you were saying before, I was just wondering, have you ever read Biocentrism – a book?
AM: Who’s that by? [it’s Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe by Robert Lanza with Bob Berman – BenBella Books; 2010]
Audience Member 7: I can’t remember off the top of my head. [laughter] It’s very good, though. You should read it – It’s – it’s quite scientific, you know, it sort of studies the problem of consciousness, but with quantum physics, sort of, in it. It’s good.
AM: It sounds interesting – I mean – like, I’m not sure how much – our mention of the word quantum physics, that – I’m not sure about that because that is a word that tends to get used quite a lot these days. I’m not sure whether consciousness has anything to do with – aright, yes, there’s the observer effect, things like that. I haven’t read the book that you mention but there is one book upon consciousness which – it’s brilliant, it’s the – Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. You don’t even need to read the book – if you just remember the title, then you can kill any intellectual conversation stone dead.
LP: And on that bombshell, we have – OK everyone, thank you very much.
[The recording stopped at this point, but after this point they showed the second of Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins’s films, Jimmy’s End, which was 32:35 long, bringing the official proceedings to and end at almost exactly 9.00pm. After that, there was a signing, which was meant to be an hour long, but actually stretched to two hours, as the queue was so long, and those of us who hung around finally went off to our various beds at 11pm, tired but very happy.]
Photographs from the event courtesy of Flavio Pessanha. Thanks, Flavio!
[*Serge Gainbourg and his daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg cause a certain amount of scandal in 1984 when they recorded a song called Lemon Incest.]