The Judgment of Northampton: An Interview with Alan Moore

George Salis: Your new collection, Illuminations, is chock-full of wonderful stories. You said that “What We Can Know About Thunderman” was an attempt at an exorcism. In what way are some of the other stories exorcisms as well, and are there any other inner demons you’re itching to exorcise with future stories?

Alan Moore: Exorcism was probably too strong a word for what I was doing in “What We Can Know About Thunderman”, which, essentially, was unloading a lot of unresolved ideas and feelings about forty years spent in a comically grotesque industry. Purging might have been a better term, as with something you’ve eaten that clearly hasn’t agreed with you. If truth be told, I don’t think any of my stories, in Illuminations or elsewhere, are exorcisms so much as they’re the florid inventions of an exploratory imagination—which may sometimes draw on personal experience for the sake of emotional authenticity, but which are, at the end of the day, ninety-nine per cent artifice. As for demons, while I retain a respectful interest in the genus, I don’t have any that are currently assailing me, nor have I ever really had. If I have demons, then I assume that I’m on reasonably friendly terms with them, and certainly wouldn’t want to suddenly evict them like a callous landlord.

GS: The recent film you wrote, The Show, is a unique and phantasmic take on the noir genre. What films (or other works of art) have penetrated your psyche to inform The Show, in particular, and your artistic vision in general?

AM: With The Show, I think I was consciously trying not to emulate any of my many cinematic influences, although the movie contains lots of cinematic references throughout, from the ‘Tara’s Theme’-like opening music, to the self-consciously noir behaviour of the Michelson and Morley detective agency with their Chinatown door-chimes, to the glimpse of a poster for Tod Browning’s original The Show. As for the films that have influenced my wider work, there are too many to mention: Chris Marker’s La Jetée, Donald Cammell’s Performance, Nic Roeg’s Insignificance, Lindsay Anderson’s If… and O, Lucky Man, All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard, The Ruling Class, Polanski’s The Tenant…like I say, we could be here all night.

Alan Moore as the character Frank Metterton in his film The Show (2020)

GS: Jerusalem is undoubtedly one of the most ambitious novels of the 21st century. After writing that masterpiece, and now that we’re a hundred years beyond Ulysses, do you still think there’s more to mine within this art form? How much longer until every novel strikes the future reader as redundant?

AM: I think the novel is a perfectly adapted story-form, and will be with us in one guise or other for as long as there remain people with an attention span capable of absorbing it. As for these hypothetical future readers who find all novels redundant, they sound like idiots. I hope I don’t live long enough to have to sit through a conversation with any of them.

GS: What is a book you’ve read and think deserves more readers? Why?

AM: Given my subterranean tastes, I think all my favourite books deserve a wider readership, but if you’re insisting that I pick just one, I’m going to be shamelessly nepotistic and mention my wife Melinda Gebbie’s memoir, We’ll All Be Sorry When We’re Dead, which I’ve had the hair-raising honour of reading in draft. It’s a beautifully written account of a frankly reckless life, from her bomb-shadowed childhood in the martini-sedated suburbs of the Beatnik 1950s, through her star-studded Haight-Ashbury runaway 1960s and her time served in the since-legendary San Francisco underground comix scene, to the punk uproar of the 1970s and her precarious career in old-school animation, working on When the Wind Blows in London during the nuclear-nervous Reagan/Thatcher 1980s, right up to the point at the end of that decade when she met me and it was all downhill from there. It is, to my mind, a brilliant strand of important living history, of culture and counterculture, from someone who was right there in the sometimes-harrowing heart of it. Worth it for the Kerouac-as-a-girl cross-country jaunt with her girlfriend, a motorbike, and epilepsy alone, set against the fascinating backdrop of an America and a world that aren’t there anymore, it’s a gem of autobiography that shouldn’t remain solely for my enjoyment.

GS: The writer Marvin Cohen has had hearing issues for most of his life and claims it allowed him to nurture a more off-beat style of writing. I’ve read that you’re nearly deaf in your left ear. How long has this been the case and do you think this has had any effect on the way you formulate prose?

AM: Actually, I’m nearly blind in my left eye, and completely deaf in my right ear. The sight problem has been there since birth, while the hearing started to become an issue in middle age, around the end of the last century. Although I can appreciate how a loss of hearing could provoke a new approach to rhythm and delivery, as with my mate the profoundly deaf performance poet Aaron Williamson, my own only-partial deafness has had not even a partial effect on my work, as far as I can tell.

GS: Although not part of my original plan, I recently visited Salem during a trip to Massachusetts. The writer Alexander Theroux warned me that Salem is “insane during [October], filled with loonies and faux-magicians and witches.” What are your thoughts on this, one of the most magical or pseudo-magical places in the United States (with a namesake derived from Jerusalem no less)? Do you think the romanticization of witches is disrespectful to the women who were tortured and hanged?

AM: I’d heard through my friend and collaborator on the forthcoming Moon & Serpent Bumper Book of Magic, the massively talented artist Ben Wickey, about the grotesque commercialisation of one of American history’s more shameful episodes, and can only say that yes, it’s repulsively disrespectful, but it’s also what one would expect from contemporary culture. I can’t imagine that the torture and murder of any other group of people would be celebrated by a gleeful capitalist free-for-all, but because witches are in the zany and comical province of Scooby-Doo and Halloween novelties, and because the perpetrators were good, plain-speaking, homicidally delusional Christians, that apparently makes it okay. Incidentally, the connection between Salem and Northampton goes a lot deeper than the town’s name being derived from Jerusalem: one of the victims of the witch-panic was Northampton expatriate Giles Corey, baptised at the 11th century round church, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, that still stands down in Sheep Street. For steadfastly refusing to admit to witchcraft, this elderly-but-titanic man was crushed to death beneath a steadily-increased amount of stone slabs with, by the end, his accusers jumping up and down on top of these in order to elicit a confession. A Northampton man to the last, Corey’s final words to his executioners were ‘More weight’ – which is also the title of Ben Wickey’s masterly forthcoming graphic novel (or big, expensive comic) on the subject, which I’d advise everyone to keep an evil eye out for.

GS: I’ve heard that you’re a practicing magician who performs rituals, including one that informed your concept of time, that it’s a solid we’re embedded in and contains the past, present, and future simultaneously and eternally. What are some other notable ritual experiences you’ve had and are there any rituals you wouldn’t dare attempt?

To read the full interview, consider supporting the efforts of The Collidescope on Patreon. You’ll get access to other awesome benefits as well.

Photograph: Mitch Jenkins/AP

Alan Moore is an English writer widely regarded as the best and most influential writer in the history of comics. His seminal works include From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He is also the author of the bestselling Jerusalem. His most recent book is a debut collection of short stories titled Illuminations. He was born in Northampton and has lived there ever since.





George Salis is the author of Sea Above, Sun Below. His fiction is featured in The DarkBlack DandyZizzle Literary MagazineHouse of ZoloThree Crows Magazine, and elsewhere. His criticism has appeared in IsacousticAtticus Review, and The Tishman Review, and his science article on the mechanics of natural evil was featured in Skeptic. He is currently working on an encyclopedic novel titled Morphological Echoes. He has taught in Bulgaria, China, and Poland. Find him on FacebookGoodreadsInstagramTwitter, and at www.GeorgeSalis.com.

The Collidescope is an affiliate of Bookshop.org and will earn a small commission if you click through those specific links and make a purchase.

One thought on “The Judgment of Northampton: An Interview with Alan Moore

  1. What a fascinating individual! I love his acerbically optimistic comments on the future of the novel. His book picks are great and he is singularly multi-talented.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s