The Magic Happens

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Photo by Chris Boland / http://www.chrisboland.com. “Alan Moore – Cambridge, UK – March 2012”. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Alan Moore Q&A on Goodreads, selected hightlights.

Magic

“As regards how I use magic in my work, this has changed significantly in the twenty years or more since I took up the practice. Whereas in the beginning there was a great deal of ritual and serious magical experiment, both because this was the only recommended way to go about things and because it was a very exciting and pyrotechnical experience, these days I have internalised my ideas on magic to the point where anything creative that I do is perceived as a magical act. I will be bringing as great a weight of magical consciousness, perception and concentration to a chapter of Jerusalem or Providence as I would have done to the rituals that resulted in The Birth Caul or Angel Passage. Basically, I have understood that art and magic are precisely the same thing. This is not a way of saying that magic is a lesser thing, that it is ‘only’ art at the end of the day, but instead of saying that art is a far, far greater thing than its currently degraded state as a commodity or as simple time-filling commodity might lead us to suppose. If you happen to live within a worldview that supposes our entire neurological reality to be made up of words, and happen to believe that certain intense forms of language might therefore be capable of altering that neurological reality, then picking up a pen or sitting down at your keyboard feels like a very different proposition.”

“It’s really only fictional people that live in horror stories. Real people, even if they’ve been the subject of special rendition and are currently receiving electric shocks to their genitals somewhere in Egypt, are not in a horror story: they are in the same ordinary reality as you and I, which we are all a part of and which we all, by our actions and inactions, help to create. I think it would be best if we agreed that we are living in the real world, and if at times it reads like a horror story – or worse – then we are the only authors, and we are the only authority that is in a position t fix or change that.”

Scary books

“Q: Hey Alan, maybe I am wrong but you don’t seem like the kind of person who gets scared easily, have you ever read a book that horrified you? If yes, which one?”

A: “If I had to pick just one, then it would probably be The Blind Owl by (and I’m almost certain to mangle the spelling of this, not having the book to hand) Sedagh Heyat. Please don’t take my word for this, but instead read the book yourself and see if you agree. My guess is that it will make you feel almost ill with dread, and as worried for your own sanity as you would be by a long night of fitful sleep and terrible recurring dreams. Enjoy.”

“I suppose if I didn’t believe that anarchistic ideas in literature could have a useful and positive effect upon, as you succinctly and accurately phrase it, “the catastrophic trajectory of our species” then I wouldn’t have any incentive to get out of bed and start writing (or breathing) in the mornings.”

Q: “Who/what are your biggest literary influences?”

A: “Almost everybody I’ve ever read, if I’m honest, has influenced me either positively or negatively. Major influences would be William Burroughs, for the purposeful and shamanic energy that he had in his writing and his ideas; the non-musician Brian Eno simply for his eternally curious and adventurous approach to creativity itself; and more recently the extraordinary Iain Sinclair for the level of attack and crackling intensity that comes with his furious approach to language.”

Lovecraft

Q: “Your and Jacen Burrows’ Providence is unbelievable, especially in terms of the depth of your layering of H. P. Lovecraft allusions. I was wondering which of Lovecraft’s stories most petrifies your pubic hairs…why does this particular selection unsettle you and shake you to your horror-loving core?”

A: “I’m glad that you’re enjoying Providence, which me and Jacen and everyone involved are insufferably proud of. As for the Lovecraft story which most frightened me initially, this would have to be the first such tale I read, which was ‘The Statement of Randolph Carter’ with its famously spine-tingling last five words. Returning to Lovecraft as an adult, though, and especially with an eye to working on Providence, I have found a much richer and more complex writer than I remembered. This is no doubt because my own understanding of Lovecraft has become richer and more complex as a result of all the fine Lovecraft scholarship that I’ve been assiduously absorbing over this last couple of years. These days I find it’s not an individual Lovecraft story that particularly inspires me, so much as his whole body of work and the radical approaches to writing that it contains. His disorienting technique of giving a list of things that Cthulhu doesn’t quite look like a combination of, for example, or his insistence that the Colour out of Space is only a colour “by analogy”. There is a kind of prescient alienation in the work of H.P. Lovecraft that I suspect will form a much larger part of his legacy than what Lovecraft himself termed his “Yog-Sothothery”.”

On writing

Q: What happens to you when you write?”

A: “I probably shouldn’t play favourites, but for my money this is perhaps the most interesting question I’ve been asked all year. I don’t know. I don’t know what happens to me when I write, because I’m not sure if we have adequate language to describe, even to ourselves, what it is to use language in a purposeful way. I know that my consciousness, if I am immersed in writing something demanding, is moved into a completely different state than the one which I inhabit during most of my waking life. Neither is it like dreaming, having much more focus and control. If I’m writing, as I often do, something which requires messing around with the structure or vocabulary of the English language, then I find myself entering some very unusual mental spaces indeed. Writing the Lucia Joyce chapter of Jerusalem, ‘Round the Bend’, I found myself in a kind of synaptic cascade-state that had a delirious, mind-expanding bliss to it. By contrast, writing the collapsed future-vernacular of Crossed +100, I found myself ending up slightly depressed just by the experience of having a limited language with a subsequently limited number of things that the characters could think, or feel, or conceive of. What I suspect is happening is that, as started earlier, our entire neurological reality can be seen as being made from words at its most immediate level. When you descend into this level of our reality, the code of our reality if you like, then whether consciously or not; whether deliberately or not, you are working magic. So, the answer to your question as to what happens to me when I write, is the most banal and useless answer you will ever get from an author: the magic happens. I hope that the fact that it’s me saying that and that I mean the above statement with absolute conviction, along with all of its potentially frightening implications, will be enough to make it sound a little less fatuous.”

Q: “What is your favorite science-fiction novel of all-time?”

A: “I don’t tend to think in terms of favourites, as that would make my otherwise enjoyable tastes in relaxation into something of a competition. A (very) brief and changeable list of recommendations, in no particular order, would be Mike Moorcock’s Cornelius quartet, Walter Miller’s Canticle for Leibowitz, John Sladek’s Muller-Fokker Effect, Brian Aldiss’ Hothouse (one of the first science fiction novels I ever read), Bester’s The Stars My Destination, Mike Harrison’s The Machine in Shaft Ten, Ballard’s Unlimited Dream Company, Phillip Bedford Robinson’s Masque of a Savage Mandarin, Samuel Delaney’s Dhalgren, Ellison’s short stories, Judith Merrill’s anthologies, Disch’s Camp Concentration, Spinrad’s Iron Dream, anything by Steve Aylett, and so on, potentially, forever.”

 

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