Thursday, 1 May 2014

Steve Moore (1949 - 2014)

Steve Moore (centre) at the Brinklow Crescent burial mound. Photo by Mark Pilkington

When someone dies there is a temptation to write an obituary. If I'd written an obituary for the comic writer, Fortean Times grandee and occultist Steve Moore when he died last month it would have ended with the final few sentences from his dream diary, in which he describes the end of his last dream:

“I came to what seemed to be a small lake, and decided to float across the surface, but it seemed to be only about an inch deep anyway. I then decided to run, as I wanted to get home quick.”

That would normally have been a perfect image with which to mark someone’s passing. But the usual narrative of a-physical-thing-leaving-us doesn’t seem appropriate in Steve's case. As his life-long friend Alan Moore wrote in the afterword to Somnium, Steve “had always seemed to me to be deliberately liminal and ghostly in relation to the solid and shin-bruising world around him.” As an example of this, I searched through the video footage of Alan we shot at Alistair Fruish’s house earlier in the year, to see if there was a good image of Steve. All I could find was the following screengrab, from the moment that the camera was lifted up to be switched off, in which his left hand and leg can be seen in the top left of the frame. He was there, but you’d have a hard time proving it in court.

Steve possessed both a great love of the margins and a rigorous quality control, so as a result he was often way ahead of the curve. Much of the imaginative end of our culture has Steve’s influence somewhere in its background, but the man himself is largely absent. Remembering how he co-organised the first British comics convention and was behind the first British comics fanzine, I asked my teenage daughter, who lives in the Tumblr world of Sherlolly and Wholock, if she could imagine a world without organised fandom. She just stared at me, horrified, before saying, “How could you even suggest that?!”

Steve is, of course, frequently invisible in those cultures that he was in some way involved in shaping. At best, you might find a hand or a leg peeking into the frame.

Yet my relationship with Steve Moore is easier to pinpoint. With the exception of that afternoon at Alistair’s, I can show you exactly what our relationship consisted of, for I still have it in front of me. It is a chain of 58 lengthy emails, entitled ‘Re: From Steve Moore’, that we wrote between last November and his death in March. It was a relationship of the written word, where he seemed more present that in the physical world.

The emails begin after he discovered that I’d named the moonbase in The First Church on the Moon after him. He got in touch to say that, in his philosophy, having a fictitious moonbase named after you was more of a compliment than if it had been a real one. Those emails then continued on a strange, twisting path covering such subjects as triangular temples, why I should not go and see the upcoming movie based on his Hercules comics (“It will be shit”) and, perhaps most relevant here, the eternal nature of time.

"Don't go and see it, it'll be shit" - Steve Moore

Steve was an eternalist. Like Einstein, he thought that all of time exists in a big block. If something existed at any one point, then it exists always. The future and the past are just as real as the present - it’s just that you happen to be in the present, so you don’t usually see them.

The day before I heard he died, I read an interview from 2009 in which he said that the Bumper Book of Magic he was writing with Alan would be finished next year. I made a mental note to mock him about that when I visited him the following week, for I was due to spend actual real-world time with him the following Thursday. He also said that he had to get his long-promised academic work on the Greek moon goddess book, Selene: The Moon Goddess and the Cave Oracle, finished before he died, because he “owed it to my goddess”. He died at his desk, upon which sat a half-eaten Kit-Kat and printout of that manuscript, and on top of that was a helpful ‘Things To Do’ list, which itemised all the changes to the text that he still had to make. And so, over the last month, I've been editing that book in accordance to his wishes.

In the book he strips away modern lunar symbolism, such as the mother-maiden-crone triple goddess, in order to reveal what Selene meant to the ancients. To the Greeks, gods and goddesses were ageless and immortal. This set them apart from us mortals, who age and die. The story of Selene tells of her love for Endymion, a simple shepherd from Latmos. A relationship between an ageless immortal goddess and an ageing mortal man was never going to be straightforward, but in this myth it was possible because that mortal retired to a cave and sank into a never-ending sleep. This meant, essentially, that he was removed from the present. For Endymion, this was a small price to pay to be with his goddess. Steve Moore, it is fair to say, agreed with Endymion on this point.

There are indications, in that 58-email chain, that Steve wasn’t as beholden to the present as the rest of us. In one email he mentioned how he had been struck by the thought of what he would do should his doorbell ring at 11:30 at night (which never happened). He decided that he would go to his upstairs office and call down through that window. That evening the doorbell went at 11:30, so he went up to the upstairs window, where he was able to direct a confused fast food delivery guy to the correct address. Two days before he died, he dreamt that a plasterer was up a ladder, trying to seal that same upstairs window. After he died the police gained access to his house by putting a ladder up and getting in through that window. In his account of his final dream, the last lines quoted above come immediately after he noted that it was, in his dream, 11:30 at night. As he has noted, in magic you often get the answer long before you understand what the question is.

Selene will be finished and published in due course. He did his goddess proud. The Bumper Book of Magic will be finished by Alan, Somnium will be arrive in paperback soon and a collection of prose Tales of Telguuth stories should also be released. Steve may no longer be in the present, but he exists in the same quietly productive way he always did.

We can’t actually see him at the moment, of course, but then what’s new?