Wednesday 29 January 2014

humani nihil a me alienum puto

This has been a difficult week on The Blob.  It started brightly with a song but has since been on this downward spiral into murk and I'm not done yet - it's going to get worse.  So if you want light-and-fluffy, you may come back to the sunshine on Monday. Right now I have to drive out demons.

Although Alan Moore is older than me (just!), my children are much more into his works that I am.  If you've read more than three graphic novels, you've probably seen some of his work.  He is credited with bringing graphic novels ("comics" to him, although they are rarely obviously funny) into something like the mainstream.  His V for Vendetta, Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen have been stripped down and remodelled into successful Hollywood films.  There are those who claim he is not only crafting the best writing in the graphic novel medium, but is also a great writer, full stop.  His stuff, the little I've read, is quirky and disturbing and yet it gets under your skin and makes to read on.  When I see his name surface in the Blogosphere, I send off a link to my offspring.  I did that at the beginning of January, flagging something billed as The Last Alan Moore Interview.  It may not be The Last but it's definitely an Interview with Alan Moore and it's long and roiling and addresses some difficult issues.  In the process, it exposes the soundbyte twitter world many of us inhabit as shallow, monochrome and without nuance.

It started with a twitterer complaining last November that a public conversazione involving Alan Moore was offensive in its racist stereotypes, denigration of women and mockery of a previous Prime Minister for his supposed disabilities.  I mean previous Labour PM, because Conservative politicians have been fair game since Christine Keeler shagged the Minister of War and a Russian military attache on alternate nights through the Spring of 1963.  Indeed, The Blob had to come to the support of one a couple of weeks ago, because nobody else would, when he was being slagged left and right for supposed blasphemy against St Mandela.  Alan Moore's interview articulates and elaborates his position on his perceived sins and you might benefit from reading the whole thing or as much as you have stamina for.

What struck me quite forcibly was that, at one point, he is attacked for writing about sexual violence against women with the implication that by doing so, he is a purveyor of pornography and that he is not qualified to write about something that it is impossible he could experience himself.  In measured tones he debunks these arguments.  One point he makes is that he's written a helluva lot of words and only a tiny fraction of these have crossed into that taboo zone.  So if he's obsessed with that sort of thing he's keeping quite well reined in (oooo, he must be repressing it, so . . . I don't think so).  The next point he makes is a quantitative argument.  In the real world, sexual violence against women outnumbers the incidence of regular violence and murder by a long chalk, but in fiction (television, newspapers, books, graphic novels, everything) the ratio is reversed.  Why is that okay?  And if we pretend that sexual violence doesn't exist, is that going to make it really disappear?  I don't think so.  And on his qualifications to write about dreadful things happening to women, he points out that he's neither murdered anyone nor been murdered but nobody questions his licence (or Agatha Christie's, or Ngaio Marsh's or Karen Slaughter's or Ruth Rendell's) to write about that. You can read the interview itself for some thoughts on 'a fate worse than death'. 

The anger and judgment leveled at Moore for what he chooses to write about reminds me of the condemnation of Doris Lessing when her muse took her into the realm of science fiction and out of the comfort zone of a rather shouty section of her readers.  An argument could be made that unless you make your readers a little uncomfortable you aren't really doing your job as a serious author (as opposed to a churner of pot-boilers).  Let's try to row in behind Terence (Publius Terentius Afer) "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto" - Being a man, nothing which humans do should be considered foreign.  Censorship doesn't help, but censoriousness is worse.

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