I am planning on giving away a few books to my good friend and fellow writer Desmond rather soon here.
I was very impressed by Alan Moore’s Neonomicon and Providence series. Like his other occult works (Promethea comes to mind), Alan is doing best what all writers do, which is justify their worldview through their respective mediums. After all, our desires inform our writings. We pen what we desire to be true. Grant Morrison took mushrooms and saw aliens and other dimensions. Neil Gaiman, a Journalist originally, wants normal folks to understand their sometimes almost supernatural imprint they make on the world, and why their uniqueness makes the world delightful. Alan Moore, is exactly who he appears to be in his writings: a disgusted and vengeful man that desires the upheaval of the status quo in favor of non-conventional society influenced by hermetic thought. (Given how DC and Warner Brothers have treated his intellectual property, I am not surprised in the least.)
Providence and Neonomicon are powerful works. They are intertextual, metaphysical expositions on the nature of consciousness and waking madness. When I purchased them, I was solely throwing my money at Avatar Press on the basis of Moore’s reputation alone. Providence is in many ways a prequel of Neonomicon, following the exploits of a gay jew, who has eschewed a comfortable life in New York City as a Journalist to pursue a mystery cult after the death of his lover. The characters and overarching plot of Neonomicon find their fulfillment in Providence’s three volume narrative, consisting of a standard length comic followed by handwritten journal excerpts from the protagonist. The later aspect of the storytelling is, I suppose, the root of the elements of existential horror that are interwoven through the narrative. Robert Black, our protagonist, writes from his perspective completely unaware of the secret world of occultism up until the conclusion. It made me wonder how he could be so dense. But could I have been so willing to accept the cosmic nihilism awaiting the subsequent generations?
Horror as a genre today, especially in the context of film, is sort of a celebration of gross-out, grindhouse films of the 70s. But there is little about them that is “scary.” Sure, there are jump scares, moments where you need to catch your breath and take stock of your surroundings. But all these things are transient. If anything, they are cathartic, but catharsis implies an ultimate end to the experience. Moore’s horror is far different. So different, that I need to give up these books altogether from my library.
Moore’s works are largely apocalyptic, narratives preoccupied with the end of things. This is both sad and fortunate, considering the bevy of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives that have saturated the market. (I’ve made great effort in my own writings to not give in to the seductive hooks presented by this genre.) Many follow the formulaic establishment-being-overthrown narrative, and we watch society degenerate into a mire of violence and oppression. The saving grace is always the lone hero, who vows to restore stability. These stories dominate the market, obscuring the actual stories that truly horrify us, hence myself giving up Moore’s work from my bookshelves. His work is existential, of course, but also claustrophobic. You feel trapped in his world after reading, and after so much time spent in his alternative histories, the real and unreal blur.
One of the aspects of Providence that really impressed upon me the most was the pseudo-biographical treatment of H.P. Lovecraft himself, revealing—very deliberately—his repugnant private self. Robert Black’s twice-made-outsider status conflicts heavily with the source material he is placed in. And Moore wastes no time in establishing the disillusionment of Black, a devotee meeting his hero and being gravely disappointed. I myself was enthralled with Lovecraft’s celebrated works, though very soon realized that I was enjoying the work of an anti-Semite and white supremacist. Moore and I seem to be on the same page, Black’s revulsion being Moore’s and vice-versa.
Why then must I give up the text?
There’s just so much anger buried in it.
I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s too dark, too hopeless. As I aforementioned, an author’s work very much reflects who an author is, deep down. There are desires and motivations that go into drafting any story. I feel that when I write, for instance, that I am trying to investigate something about myself or the society that I find myself in. For Moore, in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it was nostalgia and reverence for the penny dreadfuls and turn-of-the-century travelogue narratives of adventure and danger. In V For Vendetta, he was denouncing the seemingly authoritarian government of Margaret Thatcher. In The Watchmen, in the wake of 80s revisionism in comic books, Moore borrowed the identities of forgotten Charlton Comics characters and told the world what would’ve really happened if the Superman was American. All these starting points are acceptable and well founded. They are critically acclaimed for good reason. But Providence and Neonomicon is hardly that. They are something different, something darker. And they need to get the hell out of my house.