Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gimme Moore

Unearthing (2010)

Alan Moore has long maintained that art and magic are one and the same, and since the mid 1990s his works have included complex occult and baroque yearnings. Moore has said of Steve Moore (no relation) that "It was his model I was following when I became a comics writer, and it was his model I was following when I decided to get into magic, so in many ways, he is singularly responsible for having ruined my life."

WRITTEN and narrated by Alan Moore, Unearthing is an audiobiographical tale of longtime friend and mentor, Steve Moore, an influential figure in the emerging British comics scene of the 1970s. Despite Steve guiding his more illustrious namesake through the joys of comic book scriptwriting, he has been consumed by the Northampton Magus' ever-increasing shadow. Yet Steve Moore has had a fascinating rise to obscuredom: he was a co-editor of the Fortean Times in its days as The News, and latterly was responsible for that magazine's more academic sister publication Fortean Studies (as well as acting as FT's indexer). He was also a key instigator of SF fandom in this country before writing for 2000 A.D., Warrior and Marvel UK, which included co-creating the sublime anti-hero 'Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer' for Doctor Who Weekly. Transforming an interest in Chinese mysticism that led to a fellowship of the Royal Asiatic Society, Steve Moore has also enjoyed many - shall we say - metaphysical adventures.

Layered by musicians Crook and Flail and assorted members of Faith No More, Mogwai and Godflesh, this hypnotic two hour reading - originally an essay from the Iain Sinclair-edited anthology London: City of Disappearances - is crammed with phantasmagorical diversions. The most arresting is when Steve summons an incarnation of Selene, the Greek Moon Goddess, for Alan to witness ("...he asks if I'm ready to begin and like a twat I say yes.") Steve has been secretly living with this entity as his invisible companion for some time, and after suitable chanting the Moore's see her, straddling Steve's lap. "I suppose technically, we were both hallucinating," Alan told The Guardian's Steve Rose, "but the fact that we were both seeing the same hallucination behaving in the same way makes it perhaps a different category of hallucination. This is not making any outrageous claims. We may be deluded but we are honest."

Selene by Mitch Jenkins, which illustrates a portion of Unearthing's box set. The Greek Goddess of the Full Moon, Selene is the daughter of Hyperion and Theia, and one of the deities of light during the dynasty of the Titans. By Zeus, she is the mother of Pandia and Ersa; by Endymion, she is the mother of fifty daughters, who represent the fifty lunar months that elapse between each Olympiad.

As Mark Pilkington states in Fortean Times #272 (March 2011), "this is not Steve Moore the rock opera," but rather in Alan's words "...after all those years of working within the comics industry and quietly going mad, this is what erupts." Packaged in a box set of sumptuous 1970s-tinged photography by Mitch Jenkins from Lex Records, Unearthing oscillates between Steve's story and the history of his lifelong home of Shooter's Hill ("where Kent begins and London... disappears.") Millions of years ago, a chalk fault on the north side of the hill collapsed, and formed the Thames Valley; without which there would be no river Thames and no London. Alan Moore has always been keen to link people and landscapes because, he argues, we all need a sense of mythology. Having a bedrock of story gives our lives coherency; the most important factors about any place or person is that they feel worthy and that they have been

The work also acts as a document of an almost life-long friendship. Alan praises Steve's progressive mindset - as well as telling of unrequited and lost love - with his flowing drone, describing his subject with delightful detail ("fine wrinkles spreading from the corners of his eyes, curved up around the brow, curved down around the cheekbones, face like a magnetic field.") When the reader is engaged with any text, they are creating a rhythm in their minds, something Alan Moore has always tried to achieve in his comic books and magic. When Unearthing was performed live in railway tunnels beneath Waterloo Station, you can understand the writer describing this catacombic event as "coming home," literally, the sound of the underground as he journeys toward the "final panel."