Monday 15 October 2007

Retro write-up: Alan Moore 'Lost Girls' talk

On the 12 October 2006, Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie appeared at the Institute of Contemporary Arts to talk with their friend Stewart Lee about the forth-coming release of their pornographic comic, Lost Girls. While those of us in the UK are still waiting for the official January 1st 2008 release (thanks to copyright issues surrounding Peter Pan), eBay and Amazon have mercifully allowed fans to get their eager mitts on Lost Girls now.

With Alan Moore about to make another public appearance on October 26th, in connection with Ian Sinclair's soon-to-be-published [in paperback] London: City of Disappearances (for which Moore wrote a short story, along with many other contributors), I thought I'd post my original write up of the ICA event for any Alan Moore fans who read this.

Tickets are still available, for the upcoming event, and if you decide to come, I'll see you there!

(Fans of Moore and Gebbie might also like to read their recent interview with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell author Susanna Clarke, from the Daily Telegraph.)

Here's what I wrote a year ago to this day [with some comments], in response to those asking for an account of the bearded one's public appearance:


I suppose I should write something!

It was really good. Both Melinda and Alan were great. Stewart Lee seemed a little nervous as host, and he said so, but he never explained why (the [pornographic] material or the whole set-up?), but he was still great too. He never lost the thread of the conversation and pulled Alan back when he did.

In fact, Stewart Lee did a very good job indeed. He even confronted Alan a bit about some of the aspects of Lost Girls which he thought were cartoony, and also when an audience member asked Alan that, considering he gets upset about how his work is treated by other people (namely, filmmakers), how did he think the original authors of Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan would feel about his use of their characters.

Alan sort of avoided the question, apparently hoping that none of us would notice, but Stewart Lee pulled him right back and forced him to answer properly. Which he did, extremely well, too. Basically he said that, with his work, they used the same title, so many people think that the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell films are taken from his writings. As a result of this, his work is diminished because he becomes associated with a crap movie he had nothing to do with, rather than a good book that he wrote.

This is of course, his real bone with Hollywood, and it's good to hear his real reasons for his hatred, rather than the usual cack-handed rationalisation he hands out by way of explanation ["they cost too much money" etc.].

Stewart Lee opened the evening by pointing out the bizarre situation: They were about to talk about a book that a tiny percentage of the audience have read and that wasn't even officially released yet. But they did do just that, and I think that they did a great job. They used images from the book projected onto a screen behind them, so they could talk about specific things.

A lot of what what said has already been said in many Moore and Gebbie interviews about the book, but it's always nice to hear it from the horse's mouth, so-to-speak, and most people there probably hadn't read the interviews anyway.

Some of the things discussed were; The original inspiration (Moore wanted to do something pornographic, but couldn't figure out how - Melinda helped him come up with the idea of Wendy and they developed it together from there). How they couldn't have done it if they weren't a couple. How they collaborated together. Moore's views on the original authors [Carroll and Barrie as probable paedophiles] (only L. Frank Baum came out 'clean' - until Lee pointed out he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan [not sure about the KKK connection, I've since looked into it and been unable to find anything supporting Lee's claim - but Baum did once print his positive opinions about the killing of Native Americans]). I'm probably not doing it justice, actually! There was a LOT of stuff discussed, followed by questions from the audience, but it all pertained to Lost Girls.

I remember one person (a girl) asked if they were fans of Angela Carter(?) and the work she'd done trying to create, I presume, female-friendly, artistic pornography. Moore explained that they both were, and Melinda went on to discuss how she'd tried really hard to make her artwork beautiful and attractive for women, too. Moore added that they'd discovered that it took very little to please a male audience (big laugh), so they'd concentrated a lot on making Lost Girls work for women.

I got to meet Moore afterwards and he, as always, was extremely gracious, even if a complement I was trying to give him got misunderstood (I said that I'd noticed the blurb for Lost Girls begun "can pornography be art?", but after reading it it seemed to me that it was the other way around: Lost Girls was a real work of art... with pornography. He took no hesitation to point out that "well, of course it's art, we just wrote that stuff for the blurb..."). Obviously I knew that Moore would think it was a work of art, but he seemed to miss the complement I was trying to give him. Of course he'd been there for two hours at that point and the queue was still out of sight, so I suppose he just took my comment at face value, and as such my comment must have seemed silly to him.

I did get to explain one other observation to him (which he liked more), and that was how hard it must have been to create characters to fit in the genre of porn. That is, in thrillers, comedies, dramas, whatever, each character behaves in a certain way which is conducive to the events in that story, whether it is 'realistic' or not. (In a thriller it could be a quickly getting over a brutal murder in order to get revenge; in a comedy it could behaving in a way in order to create a ridiculous set-up, etc.) It's important that characters in stories don't impede the story by reacting too realistically to events, but also they must behave in a way that seems somewhat real to keep the story going. If you go too far in either direction the fictional 'reality' is ruined; too real and our characters stop the story. Too conducive in making the plot work and we stop believing in the characters and, as a result, we don't care about them any more.

What I've noticed in porn that tries to have a story (and I'm sure I'm not the only one), is that any attempts to create characters that can exist in a world where they could have sex with a complete stranger at the drop of a hat, is usually unbearably contrived, and as a result it becomes a joke.

Moore amazingly managed to create characters that somehow seemed 'real', so we care about them, but they could still exist in this universe where sex could happen at any time with no emotional strings attached. In a word: Wow!

He appreciated this complement a little more and said that it hadn't been easy! (Although I'm amazed I managed to get it all out and he follow what I was saying!)

I also queued to get my copy of Lost Girls signed by Melinda Gebbie, and she was, as usual, fabulous! So incredibly nice and friendly, such a lovely person! I was there with my girlfriend and Melinda asked her what she thought of Lost Girls, and said to me, "sorry, but I'm more interested in what she thought than you!", which was really funny. My girlfriend wasn't totally comfortable discussing it with other people around (understandably), but she told her that she liked it. (Afterwards my girlfriend kept looking for an opportune moment to talk to her a bit more privately, as it was obviously something Melinda was interested in and my girlfriend had things to say, but sadly it never came.)

After we'd got the signings done, I decided to say hello to Chris Staros from Top Shelf and ended up having a really nice conversation with him. I wasn't expecting it, but he was an extremely nice guy. Me, my girlfriend and I talked to him for quite a while. Afterwards, what with how unbelievably nice Alan Moore, Melinda Gebbie and now, Chris Staros where, my girlfriend was just like "I want to work with these people... they're all so nice!!", which was very true. It seemed like Alan Moore, Melinda and Top Shelf were a perfect match for each other, and just really really nice people.

I learned some interesting things about Top Shelf too, namely that it's entirely run by two guys: One in Portland and one in Atlanta! Amazing! They've been going for ten years and they've slowly over that time become bigger and bigger, but it's still just the two guys!

Anyways, that was a quick stream-of-conciousness review of the event. Sorry if it was a bit all over the place or didn't answer any question you were hoping I was going to. (Please ask!)

I didn't see any cameras, but it's possible the event's audio was being recorded. We can only hope that someone has a bootleg of it. [One has yet to appear, sadly.] It would be well worth a listen as the night was extremely enjoyable and informative.


The excellent Lost Girls should be seeing a UK/European release on January 1st 2008.


Anonymous said...

London: City of Dissapearances soon to be published?! It's been out since last year!

Moore's contribution is excellent so i reccomend you get a copy Johnny (more generally speaking the content is very mixed in terms of quality). It sheds a little light on the slightly mysterious Steve Moore too.

Anonymous said...

Wow... I wanted to live in England for the sole purpose of attending one of these events... your comment about Lost Girls was really great.

I had already thought about the fact that Moore is very protective of his work but he uses other people's characters... and I had come to the same conclusion as he did: he is not using their work as an excuse for a cheap adaptation (he doesn't use the name of their works), he is just using the characters, which are already part of the popular imagination. I'm pretty sure he has no problems with people using his characters, as long as they don't pretend they are "adapting" his work...

By the way, John, I really liked your blog. I will come here more times... I'm also a big (gigantic, in fact) fan of Alan Moore (my whole family knows who he is but they have never really read any of his work... yet), who I consider one of the greatest minds of this century. Wish you luck...

Johnny Walker said...

Thanks for the kind words George. I'm glad you enjoyed reading my blog!

CBM: Whoops! I misread the release date on Amazon, Oct 26th 2006. I wonder why they're doing this event now, then? Any ideas?

Johnny Walker said...

Paperback edition!

Anonymous said...

I would imagine it is just to publisize the softback edition. Which looks identical to my hardback edition except, um, with a soft cover...

George... I too have done much to publicize Moore with everyone I know... He is now a legend in my household and my girlfriend jokingly refers to him as 'King Moore'because of his standing in my eyes... ;)

Anyway, I don't wanna take over Johnny's Blog with a personal conversation!

Johnny Walker said...

I'm lucky, I guess. Even though my girlfriend hasn't read any Moore, she still really likes him because she came with me to two Moore events and stayed to say 'hello' at the signings.

Anonymous said...

Chinaboatman, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only guy filling my girlfriend with this kind of thing... she has just started reading From Hell and she's loving it...

Storm said...

A photo of Moore resides over my altar; he makes a lovely representation of Herne, the Lord of the Forests. :)

There's an indy comic that you've probably never heard of (few have, even over here) called "Omaha the Cat Dancer" that faced similar problems; it was (Is? I'm not really sure if Reed Waller is drawing it anymore, since his life and writing partner Kate Worley passed away a few years ago) a well written, very real, very intelligent and engaging series, that also happened to be populated by animal people, including the title character, who was an exotic dancer. Yes, there was graphic sex throught, but wow, what a story to go with it! And Waller couldn't get it sold in a lot of shops/counties/states, because of the graphic sexual content, so it inevitably went tits-up before it could be wrapped up (though he did try to bring it back in the late 90's, only to have Worley grow ill and pass before it was finished). It made me want to SCREAM "Look, you prudes, get past the turgid wangs and READ THE DAMN BOOK!" (heavy sigh)