We are All Complicit:|
An Interview With Alan Moore
[by Scott Thill]
Even though we have spoken at length before about his seminal works like V For Vendetta, Watchmen, From Hell and more, Alan Moore's interests lie far beyond comics, fiction and metafiction. There are few novelists out there, to say nothing of comics notables, with such an encyclopedic grasp of culture, history and the tragicomedy that engineers both of them. He's also a riotously funny dude, as well as a believer in the dark arts rather than your traditional monotheistic hallucination. And he's absolutely fearless when taking an idea to its logical, uncompromising limit.
Enter his latest tome Lost Girls, a collaboration with his longtime partner and new spouse Melinda Gebbie. An intertextual erotic tale reimagining the familiar narratives of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Wizard of Oz -- with all the sex, loving and otherwise, put back into them where they originated and belong -- Lost Girls promises to stir the family values shit harder and longer than anything Moore has ever written. Mainly because he set out to save pornography from itself, and used Western culture's master narratives of budding maturity to make it happen. No squares allowed.
Morphizm: It's hard to explain Lost Girls, but it feels like an Alan Moore comic, which is horrible to say. But I'm having a hard time explaining it any other way.
Alan Moore: Well I suppose it's got that Alan Moore feeling, you know? That's as good as a description as I can hope for.
Morphizm: Before we get started on sexual mores, I thought you'd like to know that a few government officials have been caught here in America for soliciting sex from minors.
Alan Moore: Is that true? Well, that's certainly something to have in our arsenal in case anybody starts cracking smart about Lost Girls. So thank you for passing that on.
Morphizm: I thought it was apropos considering the political circumstances of our time. Why are we still grasping for a hypocritical sexual purity at this late stage of the game?
Alan Moore: Yes, this is the American fundamentalist view of purity and virginity. And I'm over here on the Atlantic, so I might not be up on this as other individuals, but there have been quite a few evangelists who have been spending prayer dollars on blow jobs, whether it's Jimmy Swaggart. Jim Baker and so on. In fact, you have to wonder whether there is any actual genuine agenda behind any of this at all, other than some fundamentalist one-upmanship interested in appearing to be pure. When in fact, this kind of thing tends to cover a multitude of sins. We only have to look at the Catholic church, the Anglican church and, although it is not fashionable to say so, the Muslim church. I mean, we've got a lot of imams who are often self-appointed, and who can just turn up at a mosque and say, "This is my mosque now." Over here, a number of them have been charged with child abuse, and it has all happened exactly in the same way it happened with the Catholic church. Several parents who have expressed concern have been visited by high members of the church who advise them, for the good of the church, to keep quiet. When you actually look at reality rather than what a lot of people interpret from their sacred books, which were written hundreds or thousands of years ago, it turns out that countries such as Holland, Spain and Denmark, where pornography is openly available in every family bookstore and not really thought about, don't have a lot of children being raped, strangled and thrown into the canal. Which we do have quite a lot of over here in sexually repressed Britain. And I should point out when I say that that Britain is not actually a sexually repressed country, but it does have a sexually repressed upper and governmental class. Actually, Britain is a very bawdy country; you only have to read a little bit of Chaucer and Shakespeare, and you get the picture pretty quickly. Yet over here and certainly in America, you have this strange little sect that has got out of hand that seems to insist that everyone must think and behave the way they do, even if the way they think and behave often leaves a lot to be desired. So yeah, I'm not at all surprised that it usually turns out to be the people who are actually in charge of enforcing these moral codes who turn out to be transgressive or worse. And I suppose that's to be expected. After all, if you were somebody who enjoyed preying upon children, then there's only a certain number of jobs that are actually going to send that kind of action your way.
Morphizm: (Laughs) Priest.
Alan Moore: That'll do!
Alan Moore: Some teachers, and if you're perhaps part of this kind of task force cracking down upon child pornography, that would probably put you in the arena. You'd probably be contacting some people who would be involved in that. There'd be opportunities. Not that I want to cast aspersions on the great many, I'm sure, perfectly honest and respectable men and women working in this capacity, but it's worth remember that people who live in glass houses really shouldn't throw stones.
Morphizm: One thing that kept coming up while I was reading Lost Girls was the idea that this is a hell of a time to produce a huge revision of erotic literature. From the Mark Foley case to the church scandals, we are experiencing a constant stream of sexual hypocrisy right now in a country that is becoming more fundamentalist by the minute.
Alan Moore: When we started this 15 or 16 years ago, we were thinking it would take perhaps two or three years. And yeah, it's been a bit frustrating. Over these years, we have had two or three publishers collapse under the book. But looking at it, I think that now is about the best possible time that it could have come out. It will probably never have been more relevant than it is right now. Because, yeah, Lost Girls is undoubtedly pro-sexuality and pro-sexual imagination, but just as much as that, it is passionately antiwar. I think it underlines the basic perversity of the current American neoconservative agenda which posits that, on the one hand, gay marriage would be the end of civilization. Two men actually expressing sexual love for each other in a legal relationship is unthinkable, because they've heard that it says somewhere in the Bible that gay marriage is wrong. They don't know where, because they haven't actually read it. Or the Constitution: Not that you can read the Constitution, because Oliver North and so many other people have wiped their asses on it that it's pretty much illegible by now. So they've heard homosexuality is bad. I don't know, maybe they've half-read the book of Leviticus or something like that. At the same time, the idea that perfectly innocent schoolchildren could be having their arms and legs blown off at the moment, that is just "collateral damage," and we shouldn't get upset about that because that's not child abuse. They've had their legs blown off, their hands blown off, their faces blown off, but no one has touched them inappropriately. I'm sure that those kids over there would much rather be blown into hamburger than have somebody even think about any kind of sexual activity. No, I think that agenda is exposed as antihuman, anti-life. I really don't see how anyone I would consider remotely normal could subscribe to it.
Morphizm: Speaking of war, the second book of Lost Girls ends with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, which ushers in a 20th century era of world wars. Did you set out to split the narrative along those lines between sex and war?
Alan Moore: Well, it grew out of the narrative. When Melinda and I first started talking about doing some sort of an erotic narrative, although we didn't know about what exactly, Lost Girls grew out of a collision of ideas. I had a vague, half-assed notion that I could turn Peter Pan into an erotic narrative. I'd been thinking about the flying sequences in the work, and how from a Freudian perspective at least they could be seen as a symbol of sexual expression., So I was thinking, not very well I admit, in a loose way about sexualizing Pan, but I couldn't get much further than a smutty joke. Which wasn't really what I wanted to do, since there had already been so much on that done already. It was when Melinda, who always enjoyed doing stories based on three women characters, suggested that we do the same with Lost Girls that I thought that we could find three characters like Wendy and Peter Pan. And, of course, Dorothy and Alice suggested themselves immediately. Then we worked out from when the books had been published what their putative ages might be. Once we worked out vague ages for the three characters, we decided that the optimum time for them to meet in our story would therefore be when Alice was just old enough enough to be sexually active. And Dorothy, the youngest of the three, was also old enough. That seemed to be around 1913 or 1914, which are very evocative years, over here in Europe certainly. And it struck me that we could tell this erotic story against the background of sex's complete opposite. It seems to me that an awful lot of the energy that we put into war is actually misplaced and perverted erotic energy. The people we send off to fight our wars are always our youngest and most sexually charged members of the population, our young people. The people who, if they weren't going to war, would be putting almost all of their energy into sleeping with members of the opposite sex -- or their own sex, if that's their preference.
Morphizm: The age boys go to war is often the age of their sexual prime.
Alan Moore: Absolutely, and increasingly there are an awful lot of women going to war now, which is a terrible waste. So there's that, the killing of the sexually capable and active often by old men who, as you can imagine, are beginning to be a little bit past it. And then there is the weird sexual language of warfare. For example, when America bombed Libya, the bomber pilots took off from Britain and came back to us saying that they shot their rockets right up Libya's back door. There were also stories circulated before the bombing arguing that Qaddafi was a transvestite. He was feminized, because we have to feminize our enemies before we fuck them. In the late 70s and early 80s during hostilities with Iran, there were rumors, again probably circulated by the CIA, that the Ayatollah Khomeni was a homosexual pedophile. It does seem to me as if the energies that people in a natural world put into sex and procreation are being perverted into this dreadful...I don't know, antimatter sex. We tried to show this in Lost Girls. For example, you see the young Austrian soldier Rolf, who is a foot and shoe fetishist, at the end of the story putting on his army boots with the same kind of fetishistic attention he had given Dorothy's silver high heels earlier in the narrative.
Morphizm: He's re-channeling erotic energy.
Alan Moore: Yes, but into something that's going to result not in pleasure or anything like that, but rather something that's going to result in the scenes we see in the last several pages of Lost Girls, which is the first World War. I mean, Lost Girls is not just pro-sex, it's pro-beauty, pro-art, pro-culture, pro-life. And war is an incredible simplification and negation of all that stuff. The art treasures get destroyed, the beautiful young people get destroyed, the living landscape gets destroyed, At the end of it, when we human beings, as we frequently do, need some reassurance that there's actually some point to all of this pain and struggling, then we look back at the high points of our culture. We look back at Michelangelo We look back at the great artists, writers, humanitarians, composers and scientists. We don't look back and think, "Hiroshima, now that was a high!" Warfare is invariably something we're going to be ashamed of. Given how America is behaving at the moment, with England shamefully following suit because of our besotted and infatuated poodle of a prime minister, I have to ask myself whether this the same America that screwed everything up over Vietnam and then spent the next 20 years in therapy over it. I mean, we are talking about the same country, right? The one that made films like The Deer Hunter that admitted how psychologically damaged the country was over the war it started. One thought that it would have been a bit soon, because this war is not going to be ending anytime soon. The psychological damage that sets in from this one is going to be a lot quicker, one that admits that a very bad thing has been done and we are all complicit.
Morphizm: During Vietnam, soldiers returning with horror stories helped energize public opinion against the war, whereas today they've yet to come back and do the same. And the mute button has been turned on until they do.
Alan Moore: Over there it has. Over here, we have a feature on our main news channels on how news of American massacres of Iraqis is being revealed by returning war veterans who are joining antiwar groups. I don't know if you have had this year's My Lai Massacre yet.
Morphizm: That was probably the siege of Fallujah. We'll have to wait and see.
Alan Moore: There was a thing on television here the other day about a eight-year old girl who was the only survivor of her family, who had been massacred by American troops in retaliation for a roadside bombing. An American GI was being interviewed about the whole thing and he said that they would be given a lot of shovels when they were sent out on patrol. So that if they shot someone, it didn't really matter who, they could throw a shovel over the side of the Humvee and allege that the victim was about to dig in a roadside bomb. So the shovel is kind of a license to kill whoever you want to kill. No one's going to come out of this looking good, if anyone comes out of it at all.
Morphizm: Ending Book Two of Lost Girls with the 20th century assassination of Ferdinand and the onset of WWI seems to draw a distinction between the way the 19th century approached sexuality in all its variations. After that, Lost Girls turns a bit uglier; rape and mechanical, violent sex are ascendant. Was that done on purpose?
Alan Moore: I'm not sure. You could probably find a ruthless and mechanical approach to sex earlier, and you wouldn't have to look much further than the Marquis de Sade. I think what that came out of was the characters and the narratives themselves. The Tin Man does suggest a man who's got a lot of character armor, to use a psychoanalytic phrase. Someone who's a control freak, who's ruled by emotional ridigidity. So yeah, I suppose that points to an industrialized, 20th-century type of sexual relationship, but that was something that probably came more out of the stories than a conscious decision. At the climax of the first book, we have Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, which precipitated a riot at the Paris Opera in 1913. It's a very strong indicator, with hindsight, of where Europe's feelings were at. It was an absolutely emotional reaction that almost told, at least with hindsight, that something very bad was going to happen within a year. At the end of the second book, we have the assassination of Franz Ferdinand -- not the rock band, because they're not bad. They don't deserve to be assassinated. But that was the point, that was the event, at which the whole of Europe tipped over and went to hell in a hand basket. So the action of the third book is this almost desperate sexuality in the face of mounting apocalypse. It was where we could strike the contrasts more clearly, where we could situate the delicacy of the sexuality of the women's narratives against an increasingly dark landscape that is soon not going to have anything to do with art, sex, love, beauty or any of that. It's just going to be mud, barbed wire and bullets.
Morphizm: A fascinating juxtaposition, especially when the Germans come in at the end of the book and destroy Alice's mirror, which frames the entirety of Lost Girls.
Alan Moore: Yes, I think that within a week of the book actually coming out, there will be translations on the internet of what the soldiers are saying, since it's all in German. But their conversations are basically coarse soldier conversations, but they do provide a good counterpoint to all of the stuff you have seen going on in that room and reflected in that mirror. It's a complete negation of the whole world of fantasy. We open Lost Girls with a shot of Alice's mirror, so to a certain degree all the action of Lost Girls, at least the main part of the story, is bracketed with these mirror-eye views. At the end, when the soldiers smash the mirror, we wanted that to be quite emotional. We wanted the mirror by then to become a symbol for everything that was sensual, beautiful, decadent and lovely about that pre-1914 world that was completely destroyed at the stroke of a rifle butt.
[Next Page: "Getting married
shows that, despite all this talk about sex and pornography, Melinda and I are a couple of old traditionalists at heart. I should reassure middle America...'"]
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