Alan Moore On Providence, Rhode Island, and More

For the full article, go to Goodreads!
For the full article, go to Goodreads!

There’s an excellent Q&A with Alan Moore posted over at Goodreads today, mostly focused on horror. Below are four brief excerpts from Moore regarding Providence:

Q: How extensive was your research on Providence, Rhode Island? Did you find anything in its history of particular interest? Have you ever visited?

Alan Moore: Actually, with Providence I found that given the considerable amount of Providence history contained both in Lovecraft’s work and letters, along with the fairly exhaustive studies of Providence in some of the Lovecraft scholarship and biography that I’ve been immersed in, it was the less-immediately-connected places like Athol and Manchester, New Hampshire that demanded the most research. Interestingly, 2015 being the 125th anniversary of Lovecraft’s birth, I was contacted by the Providence town authorities with an incredibly generous offer to sail me into Providence on a tramp steamer and let me look around the place without obligation of public appearances. Not having a passport and thus being relatively geostationary, I had to decline…although in some ways I think that, as with a lot of places, I prefer to keep my own private imaginary Providence intact. For me – and this is no doubt a purely personal quirk of no especial meaning – I’ve found that with historically based projects such as Providence or, for that matter, From Hell, the very best and most satisfying reference tool, after you’ve read all the necessary history and absorbed it, is a simple period map. In issue four, for our visit to the Wheatley/Whateley family, we were able to find a likely local site for their farm on the nearby Cass Meadow, which is encouragingly close to the hill with the Sentinel Elm (which becomes Sentinel Hill for the final scenes of ‘The Dunwich Horror’), and where we were also able to find a farm property without a current owner’s name attached to it, so that the Wheatleys might have lived there back in 1919. We…and when I say ‘we’ I’m mainly talking about me and my invaluable research-henchman Joe Brown…were able to do pretty much the same thing for the visit to Boston coming up in issues seven and eight. The thing is, with a map and an excursive imagination you can almost create a virtual walk-through of the place concerned, only with much better graphics and much better resolution. My extensive visits to Whitechapel during the writing of From Hell, while they gave me access to the atmosphere of the place as it is today, which I found useful in writing the ‘Dance of the Gull-Catchers’ appendix, I don’t think that any of those observations were relevant to the bulk of the story itself. I suppose what this comes down to is that in terms of research methods, I’m a big fan of remote viewing.

Q: Your and Jacen Burrows’ Providence is unbelievable, especially in terms of the depth of your layering of H. P. Lovecraft allusions. I was wondering which of Lovecraft’s stories most petrifies your pubic hairs…why does this particular selection unsettle you and shake you to your horror-loving core? Not part of my question, but thanks to the whole team for this read so far; it is challenging and dense and wonderful

Alan Moore: I’m glad that you’re enjoying Providence, which me and Jacen and everyone involved are insufferably proud of. As for the Lovecraft story which most frightened me initially, this would have to be the first such tale I read, which was ‘The Statement of Randolph Carter’ with its famously spine-tingling last five words. Returning to Lovecraft as an adult, though, and especially with an eye to working on Providence, I have found a much richer and more complex writer than I remembered. This is no doubt because my own understanding of Lovecraft has become richer and more complex as a result of all the fine Lovecraft scholarship that I’ve been assiduously absorbing over this last couple of years. These days I find it’s not an individual Lovecraft story that particularly inspires me, so much as his whole body of work and the radical approaches to writing that it contains. His disorienting technique of giving a list of things that Cthulhu doesn’t quite look like a combination of, for example, or his insistence that the Colour out of Space is only a colour “by analogy”. There is a kind of prescient alienation in the work of H.P. Lovecraft that I suspect will form a much larger part of his legacy than what Lovecraft himself termed his “Yog-Sothothery”.

Q: Hi, First of all, let me just say that I am a huge fan of The Watchmen, The Killing Joke and From Hell. My question is about The Watchmen and the alternative historical narrative you exploited for the story. Do you think that if you or anyone was to make a story as such; meaning an alternative historical narrative would it be easier or more difficult according to you to write such story nowadays, than in 1985?

Alan Moore: I really don’t think that it’s any more difficult – or any more easy – to craft an alternate world narrative than it was in 1985. Ignoring the perhaps contentious viewpoint that any fiction is in a sense an alternate world story, I’d say that my creation, with Jacen Burrows, of the alternate world of Neonomicon/Providence, with its Robert W. Chambers suicide gardens and its city-spanning anti-pollution domes is just as complex and involved as anything I’ve ever done, even if it’s not wearing its alternate world colours quite so brazenly, while something like Kieron Gillen’s excellent Über is a meticulous and carefully worked-out piece of extended parallel history that makes most other examples of the sub-genre seem frankly lazy. I think almost by definition, whatever the era or conditions of our own world, a story of a world that went a different way is always going to be equally as demanding and equally as possible.

Q: First, thanks for all the marvelous works through the years. An esoteric question: you’ve mentioned provocatively the idea that space-time is shaped like a 4D football with big bang/crunch at the ends. Care to speculate about the geometry of idea space? what part of that geometry is reserved for lovecraftian horrors? is it just another football that ended already with the 11th season of ABC’s show “The Bachelorette”?

Alan Moore: About the most interesting semi-recent speculation on the subject of idea space and its geometry was in conversation with my late and much-missed friend, accomplice and guiding light Steve Moore. We were talking about possible theoretical explanations for divination systems such as the Tarot or the I-Ching, and were wondering whether it might be that divination systems allowed us access to our own minds, but at some point in the future. This led me to suggest that the matter presumably depended upon how many dimensions consciousness could be said to have. None? One? Two? Three? Four or more, in which case we’d be talking about time as a dimensional distance? As for what part of idea space is reserved for Lovecraftian horrors, you’ll find a fictional meditation on that very thing in the later episodes of Providence, while if my ideas of spacetime as a fourth dimensional solid are correct, then everything has ended already, just as its simultaneously just beginning. We and everyone we know are already dead for decades, and there are people right now in the 22nd century smirking at photographs that reveal our ridiculous hairstyles and primitive dress-sense.

There are plenty more great questions and fascinating responses in the full article over at Goodreads.


One thought on “Alan Moore On Providence, Rhode Island, and More

  1. This is just an insanely long interview with the man. Great stuff. His advice to the father who’s worried his 14 year old son is very poignant.


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