Alan Moore is widely regarded as the best and most influential writer in the history of comics. In 1979, Alan began working as a cartoonist for the weekly music magazine Sounds. He contributed to Doctor Who Weekly and 2000 AD (The Ballad of Halo Jones, Skizz, and D.R. & Quinch). Alan then worked for Warrior, a British anthology magazine.
His seminal works include (the still unanthologised) Miracleman and Watchmen, for which he won the coveted Hugo Award. Alan has also published a novel, Voice of the Fire, an epic poem, The Mirror of Love, and three of his ground-breaking graphic novels, V for Vendetta, From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, have been adapted for film. Alan still lives in his home town of Northampton (England) where he’s simultaneously working on his next novel and graphic novel.
Readers Loft: Lost Girls is a wonderful reading experience, and I think that any artist worth his or her salt will want to reconsider their use of sexual or erotic or pornographic elements in their own work after reading it.
Alan Moore: I hope so. I mean, we wanted to try and do something that would raise the bar considerably when it came to erotic material. We wanted to do something which would show the potential that we could see in that kind of material. Now, we’re not naive or idealistic enough to expect that immediately upon publication of Lost Girls every seedy pornographer from the length and breadth of the world will suddenly start trying to do great works of art. But hopefully Lost Girls will give the serious artists and writers – who perhaps have already used erotic materials in their work, or have perhaps avoided using erotic materials in their work – a new perspective upon what that kind of material is capable of being. If we can achieve that, in even a few cases, then that might have an impact upon the relationship we have with our own sexual imaginations and our own pornography.
RL: And Lost Girls does celebrate sexual imagination. In fact, the book celebrates imagination, full stop.
AM: That’s right. Choosing Alice, Dorothy and Wendy as our three protagonists was a way of signalling, from the very start, that we are dealing entirely with the world of the imagination. They are wonderful symbols of the imagination, and when we began to think about the sexual part of the imagination, we found that they were wonderful figures when it came to telling that sort of story, as well. Simply because there was such a wealth of rich metaphors available in those narratives, including the central metaphor of our first experience of sexuality as human beings often being as if we had been plunged into a strange new world every bit as illogical as Oz or Wonderland. So, those characters were perfect. I mean, we only had to put those three characters together and the whole story more or less wrote itself from there. It was very fortuitous that the idea happened to come together like that.
RL: Imagination makes life better, but it is just the first step. We all have to take action. This comes up in Snakes and Ladders with the so-called “fantasies of sex and money: lottery pornographies”. There the word pornography clearly has an oppressive, life-defeating connotation.
AM: Well, in Snakes and Ladders we were approaching the imagination from the point of mysticism and Kabbalah. And in Kabbalah, the three lowest spheres on the central trunk of the Tree of Life… At the bottom we have the spheres of that relate to the realm of material experience. Above that, you have the lunar realm of the imagination. And above that, you have the solar realm which is related to the will. And as we point out in Snakes and Ladders, the imagination is vital, but unless you have a good relationship with your own imagination, you will be unable to imagine the higher spheres of consciousness and existence that might be possible.
However, imagination on its own can be a quagmire. I’m sure we all know people who are living through what as far as we know is their only life entirely based upon some fantasy of what’s going to happen to them in the future. You can get people who are living their entire lives in the realm of the imagination. Whereas, really, the imagination is a kind of quicksand unless your imagination is governed by your will. If you can bring your will to bear upon your imagination, then that is, to a degree, the secret of all artistic success. You can travel in the realm of your imagination, you can find these wonderful gems, but they’ll be useless unless you actually have the will to bring them down to materialization.
I mean, with Lost Girls that was a very clear process that took us a very long time. The book took us sixteen years. Which is longer than any of my other projects have ever taken and I think that the end result perhaps shows why. I do think that this is the most beautiful artifact that I’ve ever been associated with. And I can remember the time when it didn’t exist as anything more than a kind of abstract urge that existed between me and Melinda that that it might be possible to do some grand and ambitious work of humane pornography that would be beautiful and liberating. But we didn’t have much of an idea what form that grandiose notion might actually take. It was barely an idea just hanging there in non-existence. And over sixteen years, we’ve been able to watch this very slow process by which a naked idea gathers form and substance until finally it is materialized as a beautifully produced three-volume book of the nature of Lost Girls.
It’s been a very revelatory process. I mean, I won’t say it hasn’t been a tiring one at times, but we’ve had an incredible amount of fun, fun in the most profound sense of the word. The excitement of knowing that what we were doing was material that had never been done before, that’s a very heady experience. When we saw the kind of material that was starting to develop from our initial, scant ideas then we became incredibly excited. I think we both progressed as creators during the time that we were working on the book. I mean, I was working with Melinda in a different way that I’ve worked with my other collaborators. Normally I tend to do pages and pages of description and dialogue, all in one script the size of a phonebook. But Melinda had previously had been working with her own underground comics in San Francisco and – as with most of the underground artists – she wrote her own stories. So she’d never actually worked from a script before.
When Melinda first saw this gigantic script she was expected to read through and make sense of the descriptions, I think it crushed her spirit. I mean, we did the first three or four chapters with complete full scripts, but then it became evident that it was causing Melinda a lot of problems. We thought of ways to modify the process and decided if I were to do thumbnail sketches… This wouldn’t really be practical if I were working with, say, Eddie Campbell, because he lives in Australia and I’d have to explain my indecipherable thumbnail sketches to him over the phone. Whereas, since Melinda was living here in Northampton, we were able to collaborate much more closely. So, she would construct the pages of artwork from my incoherent thumbnail sketches and then I would put the dialogue in afterwards. Which meant that I had the opportunity to actually finetune the dialogue to any nuances of expression or gesture that Melinda had worked into the artwork.
RL: At which point did page counts enter the picture?
AM: Originally, we’d been independently asked to submit an 8-page story to a proposed anthology of erotica that was going to be published in England. When Neil Gaiman told me he had bumped into Melinda Gebbie in London I suggested that Neil might perhaps pass on my phone number with an eye towards collaborating upon this piece of work. So Melinda came to visit me here in Northampton for couple of weekends and we talked about our various ideas regarding erotica. Although we were getting to know each other and starting to roughly put our basic ideas together, it didn’t go very far. We had a kind of a stumbling block in that we couldn’t think of a vehicle that could produce erotica that was serious enough to be the kind of material we were intending.
The idea was actually a collision of two ideas we’d had independently. I thought it might be possible to do a version of Peter Pan that was a sexual reading of the story, based purely upon the notion that according to Sigmund Freud dreams of flying are dreams of sexual expression. And there are a lot of flying scenes in Peter Pan, so I thought it might be something I could do with that but I really hadn’t an idea as to what. Melinda mentioned she’d always enjoyed working in stories in which there were three strong female characters in some sort of a dynamic relationship. The two ideas crossbred. My thinking was that Wendy was one of those characters and it lead very quickly to Dorothy and Alice. From that point, the ideas began exploding at a furious rate. I think that within a couple of weeks of that first idea I’d worked out this was going to be a lot longer than an 8- or 16-page story for an anthology. It seemed to me to tell this story comfortably, we were going to need something like 240 pages.
Because I couldn’t think of where we would be able to publish such a work at that time other than in anthology magazines, I decided that it might be a good idea to do it in 8-page chapters. This would perhaps make it more publishable and would also tend to keep the storyline tight. I’d noticed in some of my English works that the necessity to make each 5-page chapter of, say, Halo Jones almost a self-contained story in its own right is a very good discipline. It stops the story from meandering; it stops it from being flabby. And so we decided to do Lost Girls in thirty 8-page chapters.
We realized that a lot of the story would be taken up with the retelling of the three girls’ individual stories, so we were already starting to think about how we wanted to conceptualize these three women. We decided that each of them should have her own motif. The idea of mirrors and reflections seemed to suit Alice very well. We decided that the idea of shadows tended to suit the more repressed Wendy very well, especially with the sequence in Peter Pan about having to try to attach Peter Pan’s shadow to his feet. With Dorothy we thought that the image of the silver shoes was an interesting one that would symbolize Dorothy’s adventurous nature.
RL: And this lead to the choice of varying panel shapes?
AM: Yes, it occurred to us that telling the three narratives using different panel shapes would be interesting. The oval panel shapes of the Alice chapters are very much like reflective pools, and most of the imagery has some kind of reflection involved in it. And I know that Melinda found that the Alice work seemed to lend itself to watercolour. With the Wendy chapters, we found that the tall vertical panels, with the silhoutted scene at the top, were reminiscent of the railings of a Victorian park. They were also very restrictive, so that all of the imagery had to be contained in this narrow, upright shape. And there was something about that restriction, that sort of claustrophopic quality, that seemed to suit Wendy’s narrative with all the dark shadows of sexual repression. As for Dorothy, the very fact that she was living in Kansas seemed to suggest these very wide-angle, panoramic panels to sort of give a sense of the wide, flat landscape.
So, we had different panel shapes for each of the three women, and this was to underline the differences between the three characters. Obviously they’ve got one very big thing in common in that they are all late 19th, early 20th Century children’s story characters. They’re all women and they all had adventures that took them to faraway magical places. But the differences between them interested me and Melinda the most. We initially noticed that the ages of the three women were different and this struck us as a good thing because one of the common aspects of the pornography that we were trying to get away from was the fact that almost everybody seems to be twenty-five and beautiful. The idea that people who are no longer in their twenties – or who are perhaps a little thinner or a little fatter than the average – should actually be enjoying sex seems to be a bit of a foreign one to most contemporary pornography.
We welcomed the idea that – basing it upon the publication dates of those three books – we would be able to do a narrative in which we had an Alice who was in her sixties, a Wendy who was probably in her late thirties, early forties, and a Dorothy who was in her early twenties. Here we had three different ages of women, three very different body types. And also, it struck us, three different social classes of women as well. Alice, at least as we portrayed her, is from an aristocratic or a semi-aristocratic background. Wendy is very much a part of the repressed and hidebound middle classes. And Dorothy is from a working class, rural background.
We wanted, first and foremost, to really do everything we could to underline these three women as characters because that is one of the things that is woefully lacking in most erotic material. The protagonists in pornography are more or less just sexual glovepuppets to work through all the permutations of the author’s imagination. You don’t get a sense of them being memorable characters in the ordinary literary sense, and we very much wanted to make sure that Alice, Dorothy and Wendy did retain a distinctness, that the differences in their lives and stories were emphasized. All of us, male or female, had a relationship with these characters when we were very small. We probably first read their stories during childhood, and to some degree we identified with those children. And here we are, as adults, reading the stories of those same children, but now they have grown up as well.
I’m hoping that everybody out there would be able to find something that they can identify with, perhaps at a very intimate level. Even if it’s only some fantasy that they thought they alone were harboring. If we have had an idea that we are unable to articulate or express, but then we see somebody who has managed to express that idea in a painting, a piece of music, or a piece of prose, we get that incredible reassurance that only real art can give us that we’re not alone, that somebody else feels the same way we do. Whereas, most traditional pornography is not there to make you feel less alone. Pornography, generally, makes you feel more alone, it tends to emphasize your loneliness. It tends to promote feelings of wretchedness and shame and guilt. And that’s not a way anybody wants to feel, especially not in relation to something as tender and dear to us as our sexual drives. So, I think that one of the things we were attempting to accomplish with Lost Girls was to produce a piece of erotica or pornography that had no shame attached to it, no embarrassment, no guilt, so that we could sever that connection between sexuality and shame, between sexual imagination and shame.
RL: Soon after starting Lost Girls, you two found yourselves in a relationship.
AM: To a degree, I suppose it was inevitable, given the material we were working upon. The fact that we were working on this project together meant that from the very start Melinda and me had to be absolutely frank about our sexual ideas, which is not a bad basis to build a relationship upon. And I think as they have grown up together, our relationship and our collaboration on Lost Girls, they have been an immense benefit to each other because we tended to be as diligent in our relationship as we were with Lost Girls. I think that our relationship has had an immense effect upon the book. There is an emotional warmth, and a human warmth, in Lost Girls that is not usually there in most pornography. I mean, the book is not talking about love, it is talking about sex. But even with that said, it is talking about human sex, which inevitably has a human dimension, unlike the gyrations of the characters in most pornography. We wanted with Lost Girls to produce a work of pornography that was as accessable to women and to men, that was accessable to a number of sexualities. We wanted this to be a book that lovers could share with each other.
RL: There’s a wonderful lightness to the work. For example, the way Wendy tries to evade Alice’s advances early on in Book 2: “Now, if you will allow me to depart this vice-den unmolested, I’ll be on my way.”. The look on Wendy’s face is priceless, it goes so well with the words. Her feline pride.
AM: Yeah, there were some delightful bits in the book like that that we really enjoyed. I mean, there are some genuinely funny incidents in the book, and that are some genuinely tragic and dark moments in the book, and some quite exciting ones. And it struck us that sex and sexuality should be able to include all of those things, that sex itself manages to comfortably include all of those elements. It can at times be funny, it can at times be delightful and exciting, delirious… It can have its darker or more disturbing edges as well. We wanted to get everything. The whole gamut of human experience and reaction to sexuality, we wanted to get that into Lost Girls somehow.
RL: There’s a strange relationship, I feel, between Lost Girls and From Hell. In From Hell, we see John Netley, Sir Gull’s driver, reading pornography and trying to cope with the terrible things he has witnessed Gull doing. A fear of women and loving sex is very clear in the actions of many of the characters.
AM: A very painful scene, that, from From Hell, where we see him masturbating and crying and then going out to aid Dr. Gull in another night of slaughter. Lost Girls and From Hell both started out in Taboo, the anthology magazine, and they’ve shared an awful lot of publishing history. Taboo was bought out by Kevin Eastman’s Tundra Comics, then Tundra was handed over to Denis Kitchen, they were both with Denis Kitchen for a while. And then Lost Girls was without a publisher for a number of years, and I was paying Melinda to do the work myself because we really believed in this book and it had to be finished. And I was confident that once Lost Girls was finished we’d find a publisher. And funnily enough we ended up with Chris Staros, who is now publishing From Hell as well.
And there are other connections between the two books beyond their publishing history. For one thing, they’re both in similar eras. There’s only twenty or so years between 1888 and 1913, and yet they are both approaching their subject matter from two completely different angles. Light and dark, I suppose, a kind of fantasy and a kind of reality. Lost Girls is an erotic fantasy which takes place in this lovely bygone era, in this art deco hotel sheltered somewhere on the border of Austria, Germany and Switzherland. Whereas with From Hell, we were approaching the same period with a much seamier vision of reality, probably aided by the black and white of Eddie Campbell’s artwork as opposed to the colours of Melinda’s.
To some degree, what From Hell was talking about was a very unpleasant sexual reality, that of Victorian prostitution and creatures like the Whitechapel murderer who preyed upon prostitutes and all of the people writing their masturbatory confession letters to the police. I mean, there was an awful lot about Victorian sexuality that as it really was in the pages of From Hell, and it didn’t make for a very pleasant reading, an awful lot of it. With Lost Girls we’re talking about something different. We’re talking about not the reality of the situation, but the imaginary aspects of the situation. The two works seem to mirror each other. Both of them also took a very long time to complete. So, for the first ten years, I was working on them side by side. I would finish an episode of From Hell and then write some more Lost Girls and had to switch gear into this different, much more colourful world of imaginary sexuality as opposed to the black and white realism of the sexuality in From Hell.
RL: Once the premise of Lost Girls became clear, you didn’t consider using characters from other works of children’s literature?
AM: No, not really. At the beginning we might have, briefly, thought should we bring in some male characters. But the simple fact remains that there weren’t very many interesting male characters of comparable stature to Alice, Dorothy and Wendy. The only British character we could think of was Christopher Robin from the Winnie the Pooh books, and although they are very, very good books, basically, Christopher Robin is not a very prominent character in them. They’re not so much about Christopher Robin as they are about his stuffed toys, whereas Alice, Dorothy and Wendy are the protagonists of their various adventures. And also, they just seemed so perfect, those three names in conjunction. It just seemed so perfect that we didn’t really give serious consideration to anybody after that.
I suppose it is worth pointing out that I found that I was having such good fun writing Alice, Dorothy and Wendy – these three fictional characters suddenly brought together in one universe – that I realized that using other peoples’ characters from long ago was actually really exciting and it really worked well in putting together a work of pornography. And after a few years it occurred to me that perhaps this would work with an adventure comic. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is almost a bastard stepchild of Lost Girls. It grew out of Lost Girls, just suddenly realizing the richness of the literary landscape we’re surrounded by and that it’s all laying there for the taking. A lot of the old ideas, they are not particularly old. They just need reinterpreting in some way and they can shine with all of their original energy again, but perhaps in the service of a different idea. I mean, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is about the only ongoing comic strip that I’m still working on: I’m still having lots of fun borrowing other peoples’ property and rampaging through the field of copyrighted characters.
RL: Do you feel up to another work of somewhere down the line?
AM: Even before Lost Girls I was always very concerned that the characters I was writing about – if it was appropriate – should have a sexual dimension. So, there were sex scenes in Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, Marvelman, in a lot of my early work. Lost Girls was the only place where I decided to see if the sex could become the whole of the narrative and I think it worked really well. I’ve learned an awful lot about depicting sex in the course of Lost Girls. Sexuality and erotica should become as much a part of my mainstream narratives as their sense of humour or their sense of drama. They should become just another element.
In the forthcoming Black Dossier, there are some quite sexually frank little moments in there, including, for example, a sequel to John Cleland’s Fanny Hill that also recounts the adventures of the 18th century League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And it’s wonderful: Kevin O’Neill has done full-page illustrations with text underneath, and it’s very erotic, very funny, and it’s completely in context with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
RL: A few words about future works. The novel Jerusalem is in the works?
AM: Jerusalem is nearly half-completed. I’ve been doing it nonstop for the past eighteen months. It’s the longest I’ve ever worked upon anything without a break. All through my comics career I was inevitably working on three or four things at once. When I did my first novel I was breaking off every chapter to do another couple of installments of whichever comics I was writing at the time. But with Jerusalem I’ve spent the last eighteen months doing nothing but this novel about the area that I grew up in. It’s got an awful lot of family and personal, as well as national, history worked into it. There is also a lot of outrageous fantasy as well. So, a lot of things that you shouldn’t technically have in a mainstream novel. There are angels and demons and God turns up in the prologue, and yet it’s gritty, almost painful social realism an awful lot of the novel. It’s a strange beast. And I was just getting to the point where I was starting to feel that the narrative was starting to bog down, just purely because I’d been working on it nonstop.
But luckily, Kevin’s just getting to the end of the work on The Black Dossier, which should be out before the end of the year, touch wood and fingers crossed. So he’s going to need the script for the third volume of the League soon. So I’ve put down Jerusalem at around about Chapter 15. I’ve put Jerusalem down for a couple of months while I write at least the first part of this third volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to which I’m stuck in at the moment and which is going splendidly. It feels really good getting back to writing comics. Much as I’ve enjoyed writing prose, it’s nice to have another discipline that you can jump over into. I mean, by the time I was finished doing the America’s Best Comics work I was absolutely sick of writing comics. I was enjoying the work that I was doing, but I was just getting so tired of writing nothing but comics, which is why I was able to get past the first part of this immense, half-a-million-word novel in the past eighteen months, in just the rush of enthusiasm of writing prose again. But now that I’m getting back into the saddle with my comics work, I’m finding that the break from it has replenished my enthusiasm.
The third book of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen will be a three-issue series. Each issue will be 72 pages long and will tell a stand-alone story that will nevertheless build up into an overarching narrative. The first story takes place in 1910 and a lot of it concerns the events of Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera. So, we’ve got Mack the Knife and Pirate Jenny wandering through the narrative, along with other characters from the literature of that period. I’m about third of the way through that first 72-page chapter at the moment. The second story will take place in 1968 during the Summer of Love and will have lots of fictional characters relating to the 1960s involved in it. And the third and final chapter will take place in 2007 or 2008. Whenever the book comes out will be the year it will be set in. It will be dealing, at least in part, with contemporary characters that will probably not be possible for us to refer to directly by name, but because of the nature of our culture everybody already knows all of the trivia surrounding these characters, and if they don’t know it, they can google it. So even with the slightest of allusions, you can tip the reader about who you’re talking about without risking any sort of problems from copyright lawyers.
That’s the third book of the League which I’m just launching into at the moment, but other than that and Jerusalem, that’s pretty much all I’m doing at the moment. That’s not to say there won’t be little projects and things on the side. I mean, a new anthology by Iain Sinclair which’s got stories by Michael Moorcock, and myself and a number of other writers is coming out next month. It’s called London: The City of Disappearances in which I’ve got a story I’m very proud of called “Unearthing”. It is a portrait of my oldest and dearest friend Steve Moore, but that doesn’t really do it justice. It’s a bit of a strange portrait. Yeah, I do little things here and there. At some point in the future I’d like to get back to doing a couple of recordings again.
RL: I actually heard a rumour that you were working with José Villarrubia on something related to magic?
AM Oh yeah, that’s right. Well, actually José is working with one of my old pieces. It’s a section from the very first Moon and Serpent performance that was done at the Bridewell Theatre in London in 1994. There was a CD released of it. One of the sections is called “The Book of Copulations” and José had always been very affected by that. He asked if he could produce a visual work to accompany that, and after seeing what he had done with Voice of the Fire and Mirror of Love, I was obviously very eager to see what he’d do. So, I believe he’s working on that at the moment and I believe he’s trying to come up with a completely new style that will involve both his digital photography and painting, but also his drawing, which is something he’s been practising a lot recently. I know he’s been very influenced by Jean Cocteau and the way he would combine drawing with other elements. It should be a very strange piece of work and I have no idea what it will look like, but knowing José it will look absolutely beautiful. I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you when it’s likely to see the light of day. Perhaps next year? I should be as surprised by it as everybody else, I’m sure.
RL: Would you ever consider using illustrations or playful typography as integral parts of your prose work?
AM: That’s always a possibility. I think that Jerusalem will almost be too big to fit into one book even without illustrations. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t think about an edition of it in the future that was lavishly illustrated, especially after that José did with Voice of the Fire, which was not really conceived of a book with illustrations, but where his images fitted perfectly. I mean, I’ve obviously got a good relationship with imagery which has come to me through working in comics all these years. Even doing a poem like The Mirror of Love, it wasn’t until José suggested of bringing it out as a book of photographs with an image on the right-hand page and a few lines of the poem on the facing page that I considered it like that. But once I saw how it turned out, I’d love there to be visual elements in as much of my work as possible in the future.
And I’m sure that probably in everything I do in the future, that there will be a visual aspect in there somewhere. I mean, even with Jerusalem, I’m hoping to draw the cover myself. I’ve already made a start on it, this massive pencil drawing. It looks a bit like what you might politely call outsider art or, as we used to call it, mental patient art. I’m quite pleased with it, but I’ve put it aside while I’m writing the book. When the book comes out, there’ll be maps in it, and other things as well.
Once Jerusalem’s done, I will eventually be getting around to doing my Grimoire, my Big Book Of Magic And How To Do It. I would like to make it a very visual experience because magic to me is a very visual and a very colourful experience. And I would like any book that I did upon the subject to reflect that. And also to be playful, and amusing, which I also find magic to be. So, yeah, there would be a huge visual element to that book once I finally get round to it.
RL: I was reading the last chapter of “Voice of the Fire” to remind myself what you had written about Melinda and her studio. After finding the bit I was looking for, I came upon the following great line: “All that remains in question is whose map we choose, whether we live within the world’s insistent texts or else replace them with a stronger language of our own.”
AM: That’s important. I mean, we are inevidably going to be living in somebody’s story. The nature of societies is to write stories for us to live in that will be beneficial to that society, even when they are not necessarily beneficial to us. We can’t live on the territory. You know, we are going to be living upon the map. Inevitably. We do not experience reality directly, we only experience a simulation of reality that we put together through the vibrations in our ears, the messages to our eyes, and the signals passing through our nerves. We compose all of these into an image of reality. We are constructing our reality, so inevitably our own lives are fiction. When we look back over our memories, we are editing them. We are changing bits of them: forgetting things that are inconvenient to us, embroidering bits we enjoyed.
Our societies are texts. They are fictions that we, it is insisted, inhabit. That’s not good enough. I think human beings have the power, if we so wish, to come up with our own stories, stories in which we have more enjoyable roles than the ones that have been laid down to us. Yeah, I was pleased with that line as well. I think it’s as close to a political statement as you are liable to find in Voice of the Fire. Yes, people should take their stories into their own hands. We can come up with alternative ways of thinking and living. We can come up with texts of our own that are more suited to human beings than these inhuman narratives such as war and economic recession that are imposed upon us from above. We should use our imagination a bit more.
RL: Brian Eno, for one, has written about culture as a series of different styles that allow us to inhabit fictional realms to experiment with various ways of being and communicating…
AM: If I may brag for just a moment, one of the earliest and loveliest responses that we had to Lost Girls was a little postcard that said, “Thank you for your amazing book… It was entrancing, erotic, intriguing… It is sure to be an epoch-making, or at least epoch-shaking, piece of work. It makes me feel very lazy in comparison. Kiss, kiss, Brian Eno.” I mean, me and Melinda just sat around squealing for about half an hour after receiving that one. He is someone I admire more than probably any other artist on the planet. I knew that he has an interest in erotica, so we promised him a copy of the book when it came out. But we hadn’t expected such an early response and we were stumped.
I agree with him completely. In the creation of, say, Lost Girls, we’re giving the readers a space that they can inhabit. We have created this imaginary world that the reader can enter into and try out experiences or ideas. It is one of the ways we have progressed as a species. We’re been telling ourselves made-up stories since we first sat around a campfire back in our Paleolithic past. And those stories have been inspirations for us. We have made up stories about gods and heroes, and then we have tried to live up to them. And we’ve pushed ourselves further in the attempt. I mean, I’m sure that a lot of people in this world have based their lives upon admirable real people that they have known. But I know a lot of us have based our lives upon completely fictitious people that we’re read about.
I mean, Elvis Presley was a big fan of Mac Raboy’s Captain Marvel, Jr. That’s why he had his hair like that. That’s why in his later days he wore that little half-length cape for the Vegas appearances, very much like Captain Marvel, Jr. And that’s why he had his “TCB” belt buckle motto which stands for for “Taking Care of Business” and had a little thundercloud and lighting bolt underneath it just like Captain Marvel’s Shazam. You know, the ideals that many of us are reaching for are often not real people at all, they are fictitious people and they affect our lives immensely. I think when I was a child I got a lot of my basic morality not from my parents, not from my schoolteachers or my contemporaries, but from Superman. I mean, alright, it wasn’t a very sophisticated morality, but at the age of six it made an impression. And I think that this is one of the functions of art, that it enables us to imagine spaces that we can then progress into, potentially. At least in our thinking. I think Eno’s dead right about that, as he is with almost everything.
RL: And his postcard seems to have prodived you with the blurb for the softcover edition!
AM: Oh yeah, definitely. We’d be stupid to pass up something like that. If that ever emerges, then I’m sure there’ll be a Brian Eno blurb probably in bigger letters than the title.
The editor of The Readers Loft, and pursuer of relatively interesting information, Simon has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales, and is a photo-journalist and writer whose written and photographic work has been represented by the AFP news agency and appeared in newspapers across Europe and Asia.