Language, Joyce, Newton, Bojeffries, magic and drugs advice – part two of Pádraig’s with Alan Moore
Well we hope you enjoyed the first part of Pádraig’s chat with Alan Moore yesterday. Today we have even more yummy goodness for you in this second part, as Alan and Pádraig discuss what Alan is working on next, from the Bumper Book of Magic to Jerusalem and possible future (or, chronologically speaking, past) LOEG tales, the Bojeffries Saga, Tarot cards and along the way taking in characters as diverse as James and Lucia Joyce, Doctor Faust, Isaac Newton, Julie Burchill and the nature, the influence of comics geniuses like Ken Reid and Leo Baxendale and use of language and still (rather nicely, I think) finding time to contribute to a new local (to Alan) mag, OVR2U and explaining to kids about drugs:
PÓM: OK, I wanted to run through some of the forthcoming work. You’re still working apace on Bumper Book of Magic, I presume?
AM: Bumper Book of Magic is proceeding at a gradual pace. This is largely because I’m co-writing everything in it with Steve, and Steve Moore at the moment has got, he’s got a family member who is seriously ill, and he’s having to spend a lot of time of his time looking after him. But every time I’m up there we do another couple of pages and we’re about perhaps, what, a quarter, a third of the way through? We’re getting close to the point where I’m going to be beginning the Tarot deck that I’m doing with Jose Villarrubia.
We’re about a quarter or a third of the way through the Great Enchanters, which we’re very pleased with, there’s some information that we’re digging up, and some in-fights that we’re having in these potted biographies of the significant magicians – real and fictional – throughout history. I mean, we’ve worked out the Doctor Faust story. We know exactly who the historical Doctor Faust was – well, he was a composite of two men – and we know that the first of them, Faust the Magician, referred to himself as Faustus Secundus, which means Faust the Second, which rather begs a question: so who was this original Faust that nobody’s heard about? And we think we’ve answered that.
We’ve also explained what the Faust story as Marlowe and later Goethe portrayed it, what that is actually based upon, which is actually a much earlier figure that we cover in The Lives of the Great Enchanters, and we’ve explained why the Faust story emerged when it did, which was at the dawn of Lutheran Protestantism. But, loads of stuff like that and, yeah, the book is, I’ve just seen some illustrations by Rick Veitch for the Things to do on a Rainy Day section, and that’s all looking great, so it’ll be a while yet, because of circumstances.
(cover to The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic by Alan Moore and Steve Moore, which will be published by Top Shelf)
PÓM: I think those of us who follow your work are used to waiting – it’s always worth waiting, but, you know…
AM: Well, thank you. I hope it’s always worth waiting for. We put all the work in anyway, and I think that the Book of Magic, when it’s finally finished in a couple of years, it’s going to be something splendid.
PÓM: I’m supposed to be doing an interview with Rick Veitch soon as well, which I’m really looking forward to doing.
AM: Well, you know, he’s a fantastic artist and a very impressive dreamer.
PÓM: Absolutely! Before I get completely away from the League, any future plans beyond Century?
AM: Well, in the first part of the text story, Minions of the Moon, there is a section which hints at a certain sequence of events that Mina was involved in 1964 – 1965 that actually is kind of a superhero story, and me and Kevin don’t know quite where we’re going with this yet but we’re both kind of intrigued by the idea of being actually two of the foremost superhero haters in the medium, and yet it’s only thwarted love in the case of both of us. We had genuine love and respect for these figures back when we were younger, and we’ve had all of that mangled out of us, and yet we still have a fondness for a certain kind of imaginative ideal, so there’ll be some possible hints as to what we could be doing in future with the League that will be in this text story. I’ll say no more than to say that it features a character, with permission granted by the very generous and venerable Mr Mick Anglo, so, one of his characters gets our treatment, at least glancingly, in this text story but, who knows.
When we get to volume four of the League, which could be anything at the moment, frankly – we try to leave our options open, but one of the ideas we’re thinking of is perhaps at least part of the story might be set in 1965, and might be a kind of superhero team story, but it wouldn’t be anything like people might imagine, because it would be a superhero team in the world of the League, which would make it very, very different, but that’s one of the options we’re considering. So, you know, there’s possibilities of doing some stand-alone stories of the various characters like the Gollywog or Orlando, or the Pirate Jenny character. She deserves probably a book of her own at some point, but there’s lots of possibilities. There’s possibilities for doing stories set in earlier eras, during the Prospero or Gulliver periods of the team’s history. We’re kind of leaving our options open. There’s even the possibility of things in the very far future.
PÓM: Now, when I interviewed you a year ago, you were saying that Jerusalem was about two years away from being finished. Is it still two years away from being finished?
AM: Yeah, it probably still two years away from being finished. I’m at chapter twenty six, which I think is officially the three-quarters mark, out of thirty five, but in the chapter that I’ve just done, the whole book’s kind of exploded into something that was much more, much bigger in its scale. Not in terms of its pages – it’s going to be immense in terms of its pages, but was much bigger in its intellectual scale than I’d previously imagined, which is great, because it’s going to fuel the last ten chapters of the book, because, obviously, at this three quarters mark I’m starting to get a bit exhausted, and I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to keep up the energy for these final ten chapters, but I just decided that the best way through that is to make it much more difficult for myself, and really go to town on these last chapters, so the one I’m doing at the moment is called Round the Bend, and it is basically one of Lucia Joyce’s days in the St Andrew’s mental hospital, which was next door to the school that I spent five or six years at. Lucia Joyce being James Joyce’s daughter, who spent the last thirty years of her life in the St Andrew’s hospital.
So I’ve got a story about her on one of her days, just wandering around the asylum grounds, and she’s also wandering in her imagination, and she’s wandering in time and space, and she’s meeting other inmates of the asylum, some of whom were in there at the same time that she was, some of whom were from earlier centuries, and I’m doing all of this in language, in an approximation of the language of Lucia’s father, which is a bugger. I mean, I don’t mind making it as impenetrable as Finnegan’s Wake, so that means it’s probably not as clever, nowhere near as clever as Finnegan’s Wake. It’s not even quite like Ulysses, its, it’s an invention.
It’s Joyce-like, because it’s meant to be his daughter, not him, but she was the only person in the family, I believe, who read his books, and they did share an incredible bond, and they shared a kind of private language. I mean, she is perhaps the central figure of Finnegan’s Wake, she is Anna Livia Plurabelle, and he believed that, I mean, when she began, in the early thirties, began her series of spells in mental institutions, he kind of somehow magically believed that it was because he was still struggling through his murky and impenetrable masterpiece that she was lost in the dark, and he believe that when he’d finished Finnegan’s Wake that she would somehow find her way back to the daylight.
Unfortunately he died in 1941, still trying to get Lucia out of occupied France, where the Germans had announced that they were planning a policy of extermination for the mentally or physically infirm, which must have worried him terribly, but he died of peritonitis in 1941 with her still lost, and, yeah, she came to Northampton in 1951. I think the week after she got here she heard that Nora had died, and spent the rest of her life here, quite happily, apparently. And I think that she’s something of a heroine, so I’m doing this chapter, and I’m enjoying it immensely, but it’s taking me twice as long to do as a normal chapter because I’m having to write each sentence and then translate it into gibberish – meaningful gibberish…
PÓM: Did you do that with the first chapter of Voice of the Fire?
AM: No I didn’t. Actually with that one I wrote it all in the language a word at a time, whereas with this one I’m finding that – I’ve tried it different ways in the course of writing the twenty four pages that I’ve written so far, but I’m mainly finding that if I do a whole sentence, then I can connect up the, I can tell the part of the story that I want to tell, and I can then translate the words so that their double meanings or treble meanings relate to each other in some slight way, and it seems to be working OK.
I’ve got her meeting with JK Stephen, the Jack the Ripper suspect who was also a patient at St Andrew’s, I’ve got a meeting between him and Lucia in which, in their incidental dialogue, there are the names of all of the Ripper’s victims given in order – encoded, but they’re there – and the names of all the streets where their murders happened given in order, in code, the names of various suspects worked into the dialogue here and there, and various comments upon how Jack the Ripper was largely a linguistic construction.
There’s a sex scene with John Clare, which I think is kind of the consummation of the classical romantic tradition in poetry, and in literature, and the modernist tradition, as represented respectively by John Clare and Lucia Joyce, and also there was something irresistible about – I mean, Clare, that means clarity, and Lucia means light – so I’ve got this steamy sex scene – it’s the only steamy sex scene in the whole of this fifteen hundred page novel, and the readers probably won’t be able to understand it.
But I’m having immense fun; the next chapter’s going to be something about the economy, which will tie in Isaac Newton and Bill Drummond. So I’m getting more ambitious, in these last ten chapters I’m becoming more ambitious. I still think it’ll be about another year before I’ve got all of this finished, and then probably another year while I’m getting it revised, edited, and I’m drawing the cover. So, yeah, another couple of years and, yeah, if you ask me in another couple of years, and I still say another couple of years, I think it’ll probably take me about five years all told…
PÓM: Yeah, that sounds reasonable…
(cover to the new edition of Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore, published by Top Shelf)
AM: It took me that long to do Voice of the Fire, and Voice of the Fire is about a third of the length of this, and of course, I mean, James Joyce, it took him eighteen years to do Finnegan’s Wake, and he said, “Well, that’s how long it should take you to read it.” So, yeah, that’s my answer, that’ll do.
PÓM: I re-read Voice of the Fire there recently…
AM: Did it still hold up?
PÓM: Well, you know, I very nearly understand that first chapter now!
AM: Scott Allie from Dark Horse phoned me up the other night and said that he’s read that first chapter on a three-hour flight, and finished it, and when he got off at the other end he couldn’t talk!
AM: For about an hour, he couldn’t actually put the language together properly, which is something that happens when you absorb yourself in this stuff, but, well I mean, hopefully, once you do understand the story and get through the language, the story makes sense, and there is a story under there.
PÓM: And I noticed that you mentioned earlier on Lucia Joyce talking to people who were, you know, disconnected in time, and there’s a lot of that running through Voice of the Fire, of course, as well, and through a lot of your work.
AM: One of the things that went into my thinking on Jerusalem was the stupid notion, “Maybe I should do a sequel to Voice of the Fire? Nah, that’s stupid,” although I thought, “well, it’d be nice to do something else about Northampton, and if a couple of the characters spill over, then that’s not a big problem,” so I’ve got, you know, John Clare spills over, there are a couple of other allusions, or near allusions, to Voice of the Fire. The two books are connected in a sense, although it’s not going to make a difference if you haven’t read Voice of the Fire to whether you can understand Jerusalem, or vice versa.
So, yeah, that’s all coming along very well, and I’m confident now in saying, if I get to the end of this in one piece, this will probably be – it’s certainly the most ambitious thing that I’ve ever attempted, and if it’s any kind of success at all, it’ll probably be the best thing that I’ve ever done.
PÓM: Fantastic. I am genuinely looking forward to seeing that.
AM: Well, you know, I’m looking forward to getting it finished.
PÓM: And I think the other thing that I know is forthcoming – I believe is forthcoming – is – isn’t there a new Bojeffries Saga story?
AM: Yes, Bojeffries Saga. Oh, there’s a thing coming from Avatar that’s quite good, called Light of Thy Countenance. I’ve seen the adaptation of it, and I think they’ve done a really good job, and that’s coming out sometime soon. But the Bojeffries, yeah, I have written a final Bojeffries – well, I don’t know if it’s a final – but I’ve written a kind of, it wouldn’t hurt if it was the last one, although maybe me and Steve will want to do some more with them.
What we’re going to do is, we’re going to collect up, with Top Shelf, all of the Bojeffries material that’s appeared to date, and we’re going to cap it all off with a twenty-four page story called After They Were Famous, which is the Bojeffries in 2009, existing side-by-side with culture as it is now, as opposed to culture as it was in the eighties and the early nineties, and I think it’s the best Bojeffries thing yet, and it’s great, it’s a pleasure to be working with Steve again.
(cover to the Complete Bojeffries Saga by Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse)
It’s great working with Kevin on the one hand and Steve Parkhouse on the other. They are two of the most British of all of my collaborators, you know, their influence are – I mean, this is not to mock the artists whose influences are more from the other side of the Atlantic, but there’s something very cheering about working with a couple of artists who grew up on the same Beano and Dandy illustrators that I did. You know, the Paddy Brennans and the Ken Reids and the Leo Baxendales, and who kind of worked that into their style.
So, yeah, I mean, I don’t know what the schedule is, I believe that Steve is working away, he said he found the script very challenging, but he thought it was a perfect ending, a perfect contemporary take on the Bojeffries, so that, I think people will enjoy that when it comes out, it’s very funny. It’s also got, they’ll never need to make a movie of the Bojeffries because one of the episodes in this twenty-four page story is coverage of the Bojeffries Movie, which shows a few shots, two scenes, a clip from the Bojeffries Movie, which starred, I think, Meryl Streep as Uncle Raoul, which is probably all you need to know.
It’s pretty good, it’s pretty good, and that’s just one part of this story. There’s a whole Big Brother part to it, and Ginda is a Blair’s Babe, Reth is a Booker Prize-winning author hanging out with Julie Burchill at the Groucho Club, and, yeah, what happened to Baby, and what happened to Jobremus, and what happened to Granddad. It’s pretty good. The entire family is broken up, by the way, when the story starts. They haven’t seen each other for years, which doesn’t sound like the most promising introduction, but it leads to a very, very good story, so I think that everyone’s going to enjoy that.
P; I always loved Bojeffries, I felt they were…
AM: One of my favourite strips, and fantastic to be working on it again. Writing the script it was like I’d written the last one a couple of months before. The characters were just immediately there, and I suspect that Steve is going to find some similar things when he’s drawing it.
PÓM: OK. You mentioned Avatar are publishing Light of Thy Countenance. They’re also publishing Neonomicon…
AM: I haven’t seen more than the first issue of Neonomicon. The first issue, the artwork looks fine, I don’t know about my story, it might be a bit black, I don’t know, you know. Jacen Burrows has done a good job on the artwork, I just, that was when I’d just quit DC, and that was when I was at my absolute blackest, and that may have coloured the story more than it should have done. Light of Thy Countenance, however, is a wonderful piece. I just don’t know yet about Neonomicon, because I’ve only seen the first issue, and that looked great, but that hadn’t got most of the really nasty stuff in it, so, we’ll see.
(cover to Neonomicon by Alan Moore, art by Jacen Burrows, published Avatar)
PÓM: Ah, it’ll be interesting to see what you do when you’re dark, kinda, you know?
AM: Well, I have me moods, Pádraig. I have me moods.
PÓM: We all have our moods, Alan. Is there any chance, you’ve written a few short stories over the years, I know a few of them were adapted, again by Avatar. Any chance of those being collected as prose stories?
AM: At some point, yeah. I mean, when I figure there’s enough of them. I mean, there’s the Liavek story…
PÓM: Which one is that?
AM: Hypothetical Lizard.
PÓM: Hypothetical Lizard, of course, yeah.
AM: Light of The Countenance, there’s a couple of other pieces…
PÓM: Sawdust Memories?
AM: Yeah, Neil said that he’d sent you a copy of Sawdust Memories.
PÓM: That’s right, he did, yeah.
AM: Yeah, I’d forgotten that one, yeah, that was quite a laugh.
PÓM: That was quite entertaining, I have to say.
AM: I did me best…
PÓM: Ah, you always say that!
AM: But, no, at some point in the future I wouldn’t be surprised, but it’s not a priority at the moment.
PÓM: Fair enough, yeah, fair enough. And one other thing on the subject of Avatar. Every so often I hear rumours that Avatar are going to do something with your Fashion Beast script.
AM: Well, that has been an ongoing project for a long while. I know that I put, that Malcolm McLaren and the Avatar people are in touch, and I said it was alright by me if they wanted to turn it, I mean, Anthony Johnston always does a great job of the adaptations, so, yeah, I’m sure if anybody can turn it into a comic, then it’d be him. So, I mean, it’s certainly the only way it’s ever going to see the light of day. So, yeah, but as to when and where, don’t know.
PÓM: I think the only other thing I know that you have forthcoming, you’ve done the cover for Starry Wisdom book two?
AM: Yeah, that’s an old picture, that’s my image of Asmodeus, I believe, which is as the gentleman looked to me when I saw him, or at least as close as I could get. There was another dimension to the original that didn’t reproduce well when it came to my crayon drawing collage, but I think somebody described it, probably John Coulthart, I think, described it as a Demonograph, which is also, I should say, briefly featured in the hidden Easter Egg on the DeZ Vylenz DVD, the Mindscape.
PÓM: Yes, I found that, yeah.
AM: And there’s a brief – what John Coulthart has done, I think, is to distort that image so that it only comes into focus at the exact centre of that symmetrical piece of music, and then is distorted again symmetrically. So, I should imagine it’s the same image. They just called up and said is it OK if they used it, and I said, “Well, if you’ve got a copy of it that you can work from.” And Leah and John told me that apparently they’ve done it as a wallpaper, which is something that I’d often talked about as a joke, I said, “You could do this as a wallpaper, and it’d be ideal for papering the room of any toddler that you really wanted to mess up.” But apparently, yeah, it does work as a wallpaper.
PÓM: Now, are they talking about wallpaper on an internet site, or are they talking about real wallpaper?
AM: It’d actually work as real wallpaper. It only took a couple of little adjustments. I’d pretty much got the image so that it could be reproduced indefinitely, and would make real wallpaper, but it would be frightening and claustrophobic wallpaper, to be surrounded by an infinite web of spiders. On the other hand, I had to go through that, so why shouldn’t everyone else?
PÓM: Well, if you’re ever blessed with grandchildren, there’s a thought for the…
AM: That’s a possibility of course, isn’t it? Get to them early.
PÓM: And what else? An Austin Osman Spare book, you’re doing something…
AM: Doing the introduction. I was very pleased to do the introduction for the, there’s a new book coming out of, yeah, The Book of Pleasure – Self Love by Austin Spare, which is a wonderful book, and Austin Spare is one of my very, very favourite artist magicians, and his writing was pretty good as well, but, yeah, I’ve written one of the introductions for it. I believe the other one might be by Michael Staley or someone like that, which again will be a very interesting introduction from a different perspective so, not sure when that’s coming out but, yeah, that it something that I, I did quite a lengthy introduction for it, where I just try to get to grips with the content of the book and to try and make it clear what I think they were saying so, yeah, it might be helpful, it might be helpful to people who are trying to get to grips with an often difficult subject, you know.
PÓM: Somebody asked, as well, when I was looking for questions, you’ve done quite a substantial amount of introductions for things. Is there any possibility that they would all be collected up also as a volume?
AM: Well, one of the things that I’ve done the introduction for recently, which is not out yet, is the Savoy Book’s Into the Media Web, which is a collection of all of the non-fiction writings of Michael Moorcock. So, yeah, I’ve done yet another, which includes all of the introductions that Mike has done for other books, so, yeah, maybe at some point in the future, maybe way in the future there’ll be a book of my non-fiction writings, including my introduction to Mike Moorcock’s book of non-fiction writings, and anything is possible.
PÓM: And so on ad infinitum, kinda?
PÓM: And are you working on anything else that I don’t know about?
AM: Not that I can think of, Pádraig. Oh yeah, there’s a little sort of, there’s a local magazine called OVR2U, which is done by the same people who did, the Street Law kids who did the X Marks the Spot video. I don’t know if you ever saw that?
PÓM: I have a copy, yes.
(Lucy and her collaborators discuss X Marks the Spot)
AM: It’s the same kids and Lucy, who is this brilliant – Lucy Lisowiec, who’s this brilliant worker from the community organisation down at the Boroughs, and I was telling them about the old arts labs days, and how many magazines we used to produce, and they thought it sounded like it would be fun to do a magazine, so they’ve brought out the first issue, which was free to schools; five thousand copies, or something like that and, brilliant response, I’ve done a, there’s a cartoon strip I’m doing in there called Rabbits, which is being drawn by Lucy, under her name as Calluz, which is her graffiti tag name, and – I should stress that she is a retired tagger, and that she’s doing the artwork on this, a little four-panel strip called Rabbits.
And I’ve also being doing a couple of articles for the magazine; I mean I’ve got one coming up in the second issue, just an article on drugs. Just, you know, talking to the kids down there, and hopefully a bit more helpfully than the Just Say No ethos, you know. I’m expecting quite a decent response on that, and we’re going to try and make the magazine bigger and better, and we’re thinking of going independent with our third issue, ‘cause it’s currently published under the auspices of, I suppose, the council, but we’ll be self-funded by issue three, with a bit of luck, so that’s another project that I’ve got on the go, and that’s about all I can think of at the moment.
PÓM: As a matter of considerable curiosity, what sort of advice are you giving them about drugs?
AM: Well, I’m just explaining to them what drugs are, in that, actually, nearly anything is a drug, and that obviously some drugs are more dangerous than others, although no drug is probably entirely safe for everybody, and that, peanuts or Ecstasy, probably peanuts have got a higher chance of killing you than the Ecstasy, unless you’re one of those people who reacts badly to Ecstasy, in which case the statistics won’t be any real consolation, but I’ve sort of said how difficult it is to get information about drugs that is reliable and honest.
I’ve talked about when I was growing up, and we were told that marijuana would lead to monster babies, and LSD would make you stare at the sun until your eyeballs melted, and I’ve said that, a lot people in my generation, when they found out that those things weren’t true, went on to assume that heroin would turn out to be harmless as well, which of course it definitely isn’t, so I’ve said it’s important to have a source of information. I said whether drugs are legal or illegal makes absolutely no difference to how dangerous they are, you know, it’s sort of, there are plenty of illegal drugs that can really screw you up, and can screw up – Crack; it’ll turn you into a monster and fuck up your entire community, but then, so can alcohol. And of course the people who take heroin so often will end up killing themselves, but you can say the same thing about Prozac.
So I’ve said that legal or illegal is actually irrelevant. What you need to know is how dangerous are these drugs, so I said, “We’ve not got much space, but here’s a rundown,” and I’ve kind of, I’ve started out with alcohol just because of the enormous amount of social damage that it does, but I’ve run through marijuana, weed, hash, through speed, the opiates, LSD and the psychedelics, mushrooms, the new legal highs, like salvia, and finished off with cocaine and crack, because crack is the most evil drug of all time.
And, you know, it’s not lecturing the kids, it’s just telling them from experience what happens with heroin, you know, how it’ll probably take you a couple of months to get properly addicted, but that once you do become addicted you’ll become a completely different person, and you might even turn into one of those heroin ghouls, that shoot up in deliberately disgusting parts of their body just to make themselves even more horrifying, you know. I talked about the first junkie that I met when I sixteen, he was holding up one of the veins in his wrist with a safety pin. So, yeah, I’m just trying to talk to these kids and the readers in practical terms in language that they can understand, and trying to be completely honest, you know.
PÓM: Yeah, fair enough.
AM: Yeah, that’s OVR2U, which is in the modern text-messaging style, so it’s O V R, the numeral 2, U.
PÓM: OVR2U, of course, of course it is.
The third part, in which Alan answers some questions from our readers will follow on the blog tomorrow, so stay tuned; if you missed it the first part can be found 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.