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Friday, 25 March 2011

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Rich Puchalsky

I have not read Neonomicon. However when I asked a local comic book store guy what Moore was doing lately, he told me about the series and said that it was basically an attempt to confront head-on the racist and sexual subtext in Lovecraft. He also said that Alan Moore has achieved a status in which he could basically do anything he wanted, with a strong implication that maybe Neonomicon was just perverse sexual fantasies and not much else. My apologies to the actual person in question since I'm sure I didn't get the nuances of what they said.

SEK

It's far too Moore-ish to just be about perverse sexual fantasies, and more to the point, it's at odds with the sexual politics he established in Lost Girls, so I do think he's parsing the Lovecraft here. To what end, I've no idea -- by which I mean, why write a comic critique of Lovecraft's sexual and sexual-political short-comings? Such an endeavor would just be, you know, fundamentally odd. Since I wrote the post, I've picked up the fourth issue, which makes clear that much of the nonsense-prose just needs to be read aloud by a person with a deaf accent. For example, "What is this, is you're a nun, see asian merry," turns into "What is this, is your annunciation, Mary," which means all that rape had something to do with God and reproduction, but again, to what end, I can't fathom.

Rich Puchalsky

"why write a comic critique of Lovecraft's sexual and sexual-political short-comings?"

It's magic, dude. Lovecraft is a core source for Moore and his whole SF/fantasy milleau. He's also really really problematic even by the standards of his own time, let along ours. So I'd guess that this is an important reworking for Moore if for no one else. He's got a Lovecraft-land bobbing around in his imagination, which is very real to Moore -- see Glycon etc. -- and reworking it is important.

How is this reworking it? I can see a bit of it just from these two panels. It's the horror of non-voicelessness within horror. The victims in this kind of Lovecraftian script are supposed to be immediately traumatized and not say anything, much less still attempt to bargain with their captors.

Andrew R.

I think that the problem with understanding later Alan Moore is that by this point he's ingested enough LSD to kill an ox.

John Emerson

By making the rapist a dramatically attractive we can all can identify with, Moore forces us to acknowledge with our rape fantasies.

Or maybe it's just me.

John Emerson

That is to say:

By making the rapist a dramatically attractive person we can all can identify with, Moore forces us to acknowledge our own rape fantasies.

Or maybe it's just me.

Ahistoricality

My brain hurts. I'm trying to reconcile "a dramatically attractive person" with "anthropomorphic fish-penis hybrid."

SEK

Lovecraft is a core source for Moore and his whole SF/fantasy milleau. He's also really really problematic even by the standards of his own time, let along ours. So I'd guess that this is an important reworking for Moore if for no one else.

Rich, I think that's it. Problem is, at least, my problem is that I read Lovecraft a lifetime ago, and what I remember isn't as resonant as Moore thinks it is. (Again, to my mind, as I'm embarrassingly past The Five Year Rule with Lovecraft.) (Because I'm old.)

I think that the problem with understanding later Alan Moore is that by this point he's ingested enough LSD to kill an ox.

I know he dropped out after being busted, but I also remember him saying, in one of those documentaries, that he stopped taking LSD because he didn't want to become Grant Morrison. (I also remember Morrison taking offense, but oddly, Google's not confirming my memories. I'm probably Googling the wrong drug.) ("Googling the wrong drug," of course, being slang in an unwritten Samuel Delany novel for unspeakable acts.)

Or maybe it's just me.

I believe it is, John. I really, really believe it is.

Ahistoricality

If you want a quick-and-dirty refresher on Lovecraft, I recommend The Adventures of Samurai Cat ("What a stud."). Actually, Lovecraft aside, I'd love to know if you know the book (or series, but I've never done more than glance at the sequels).

SEK

I don't. My ignorance is deep and wide, like an ocean. On another planet. Revolving around a dead star. But given 1) my limited time, 2) my desire to understand this damn Moore book, and 3) my reluctance to re-read Lovecraft, I'm all for picking it up.

Rich Puchalsky

It's not just Moore who thinks it's resonant, though, if by resonant you mean "occupying significant mental space" or something like that. For instance, here's a link to an art project where 8-14 year olds draw Lovecraft monsters. He's gotten his own adjective, "Lovecraftian", that really is better than any other word or short phrase at describing a certain set of cultural artifacts. You may or may not like Lovecraft, either at a critical or personal level, but he's there whether you like him or not.

Let's make a little list. Who are the main written sources for the contemporary pop fantasy imagination in English? By "pop", I mean leaving out ur-sources like the Greek myths, and high-culture sources like Spenser, and folk sources like the Arthurian legends. Also leave out comics because I don't want to look up who did Superman etc.

1. H. G. Wells
2. Tolkien
3. Robert E. Howard
4. Lovecraft
5. PKD
6. Poe

And then I go um..... no doubt I'm leaving out obvious people. Cabell and Vance are for writer-type readers, basically. Michael Moorcock might make the list next: Elric primarily. But I think that Lovecraft is somewhere in the top 5.

Readable Lovecraft? There are lots of short stories. Or try The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.

John Emerson

So most of you don't think that fish-penis hybrids are dramatically attractive? Darn.

SEK

Granted, this is a great place to trawl for dates if that's you thing, John.

Ahistoricality

Not anthropomorphic ones, anyway.

Rich Puchalsky

Looking back at my list above, you'd only need to add two authors to cover pretty much all of the main characters in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, including the text backstory in the (second or third?) volume. That's H. Rider Haggard and Bram Stoker. I would have thought that the whole Lost World subgenre had lost currency these days, but as wiki points out, Indiana Jones is a Haggard influence. Bram Stoker's stuff is Gothic, and I question how much he added to vampire mythos that wasn't in his sources and in earlier books like Camilla. But if we put him in, then Mary Shelley should of course go in too as being more important. And if Haggard, then probably E. R. Burroughs (Tarzan, John Carter of Mars).

That puts the list up to ten, with Lovecraft still convincingly somewhere in the middle.

Rich Puchalsky

"Looking back at my list above, you'd only need to add two authors to cover pretty much all of the main characters in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen [...]"

Oh, and Verne of course. I'd been leaving him out because he didn't write in English. But in contemporary terms I'd guess he'd be upper-to-mid-list somewhere.

Rich Puchalsky

Oh, right, and Robert Louis Stevenson, who I really should have remembered earlier. Perhaps some inverted snobbery there, because I've been thinking about decidedly pulp-ish authors, and Stevenson is really quite good in a literary sense (at least, I remember The Master of Ballantrae as being so). But Treasure Island puts him as the main English source for the whole pirate mythos at this point, so he should be in there somewhere.

All right, I'll stop with this already. But the point is that Alan Moore's influences are not too different from the general English influences on the area of the imagination that Moore is invested in. It's not just his personal crotchet that he thinks it's important to rework Lovecraft.

James T

It seems to me that not a lot of attention is paid to Lovecraft's own unpleasantness in everyday discourse on Lovecraftian things; perhaps Moore is trying to revive knowledge of what a berk Lovecraft was and the following unpleasant implications of Lovecraft's fiction, akin to what Moore did with Ian Fleming in League of Ext. Gents (James Bond being a scummy rapist who did well during Ingsoc etc)?

Jesse A.

On Moore and Lovecraft's unpleasantness, we can't overlook the Planetary/Authority crossover issue, where a bunch of eldritch beasts hatch out of what Lovecraft (a character in the comic) mistakes for "Negro eggs," I believe. Which is just to say, Moore has a demonstrated interested in confronting Lovecraft's less savory side. (Not that Lovecraft has what you'd call a savory side. The unsavory side is where his bread is buttered.)

Jesse A.

And I am, of course, a fool. Ellis wrote Planetary, it doesn't even smell like a Moore comic. So scratch that point, and mock me, please.

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