In November next year, Aurum Press will be publishing a book by me, a biography of Alan Moore, an author who I assume needs no introduction to most of the people reading this blog.
This is why my bookshelves look like this at the moment:
I’m sure I’ll be talking about this book at length over the next two years, so I won’t go into too much detail today.
I’ve wanted to write this for a long time. Back in the early nineties, I was at the University of York, one of my Professors was Hermione Lee, and she was working on her biography of Virginia Woolf. (Oh, I’ve just realised today is the 29th February, and so it’s Hermione Lee’s birthday. Happy birthday, sweet sixteen!). I remember thinking ‘I wish someone would write a book like this about Alan Moore’. This was a faintly silly thing to say then, but twenty years on it makes a lot more sense. We’ve had time to see Moore’s career and the industry evolve, to see the influence he’s had (and perhaps just as importantly the paths not taken). I think a ‘literary biography’ of Alan Moore is now entirely appropriate.
One question I’ve been asked which I think I should answer straight away is how this will differ from both my own The Pocket Essential Alan Moore, and from Gary Spencer Millidge’s book Alan Moore: Storyteller, which came out last summer.
The Pocket Essential is, as books in the series are meant to be, a slim, quick overview. About half the text is a bibliography. If you want a primer to Moore, or if you want to see just how much more he’s written than V for Vendetta and Watchmen, then it’s a good book for you. It’s also now out in ebook form.
Storyteller is a great book, and anyone interested in Alan Moore should have a copy on their shelves. It’s got a host of never-before-seen material and true rarities. It has a lot of time for Moore’s underground work, his music and performance art (areas that my Pocket Essential barely touched on). It comes with a CD which includes some songs that I didn’t even know had ever been recorded.
The book I’m writing is going to be a more conventional biography, one that would be at home in the Biography section of a bookshop. It’s going to be ten times longer than the Pocket Essential and will have taken me, by the time I’m done, nearly three years to write. This is going to be, I hope, the definitive literary biography that explores the life and career of Alan Moore and goes a little wider than either my previous book or Storyteller, placing Moore in the context of the British and American comics industry, as well as the underground, occult and countercultural scenes. It’s going to include a mass of original interviews – I’m hoping that where there are two sides to a story, both are represented in full – and a lot of analysis. Tons of facts and figures, names and dates.
This is a book that I hope will appeal to a wide range of people. I think Alan Moore is one of the most interesting and important living British writers. He’s highly visible, too. Just in the last couple of months, we’ve seen the influence he’s been: Anonymous and Occupy make use of the V mask, and there was a huge amount of discussion of the Watchmen prequels. He’s shown up on the Channel Four News, he delivered a marvelous Thought for the Day on Radio 4.
So, yes, I hope my book will be of use to people who are not avid comics fans who are curious about him. But I also hope that even the most knowledgeable comics fan will read it and go ‘well, I never knew that’. I’m unearthing all sorts of things and finding all sorts of connections that I didn’t know about.
Alan Moore is often seen as a wild and eccentric figure, and clearly that’s part of the mix … but, at the same time, it’s often struck me that a lot of what interests and drives him seems remarkably consistent and level-headed. Moore is often treated as though he’s sui generis, but he is almost always consciously working within, and working with the conventions of, a rich tradition. There are contradictions and complexities about, say, an individualistic artistic talent working for a multimedia conglomerate. There are interesting things to say about the nature of ‘originality’ in art generally, and in an often derivative genre like superhero comics more specifically. Above all else, Moore often writes big, complex books about big, complex things. I think there are many big, meaty things to talk about, and my hope is that I’ll be writing a big, meaty book that tackles them.