Moore On British Apocalyptic Fiction

Illustration for article titled Moore On British Apocalyptic Fiction

It's the explanation you've always wanted: V For Vendetta and Watchmen author Alan Moore talking about the British school of apocalyptic science fiction, and the influence it's had on his own work.


Concluding his six-part interview with, Moore was asked about the influence authors like Ballard, John Wyndham and John Christopher have had on his writing. His typically intelligent response:

I think there's always been a traditionally apocalyptic side to British science fiction, from H.G. Wells onwards. I mean, most of Wells' stories are potentially apocalyptic in some sense or another. The Time Machine has chilling visions of the end of the world.

John Wyndham, I can remember reading The Day of the Triffids and finding that a frightening and bleak book – not because of the mobile plants, but because of the chilling picture of a blind humanity and people just reacting with despair.

I remember a sequence in that book where the main character is talking to a blind man, who's been made blind by the comet, and has just gassed his wife and children and is going back upstairs to join them in a few minutes. That was such a bleak vision of how an apocalyptic event would affect people. I suppose I soaked all that stuff up.

There is also a sense of solace in the British apocalyptic tradition, particularly in the works of J.G. Ballard, who sort of suggested that an apocalyptically-changed landscape would create a new psychological landscape that would reveal new states of mind as the water level rose or sank, as the planet turned to jewelry, or massive winds that rendered society unworkable.

All of J.G. Ballard's many apocalypses pointed toward a different consciousness, and I think that's true of many novels that weren't about the apocalypse, such as David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus, which is mystical, almost indecipherable in places, but is a beautiful, visionary novel that in places seems to suggest a kind of revelatory apocalyptic, almost psychedelic state of mind.

My favorite British apocalyptic novel would have to be William Hope Hodgeson's The House on the Borderland – Hodgeson also created Carnacki in the League, but he also wrote this book, which is kind of an unconventional fantasy story that has got wonderful visions of the end of the universe, not just the world, but the universe. It's got planets with faces on them toppling into this all-devouring black sun, which sounds to me like a very early sort of prescient idea of a black hole.

But I think it just has something to do with the climate of the British Isles more than anything else. (laughs) It probably magnifies by 10 apocalyptic thoughts. But it's a very real tradition, and it's something that's been with me all through my literary development, and when I started to become interested in occult ideas and magic, the two seemed to go very well together, because a lot of magic hinges upon that revelatory moment of apocalypse where consciousness changes and illumination occurs.


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Chip Overclock®

Britain probably is a nation of people with year-round Seasonal Effective Disorder. But its also an island that's been conquered several times in the past couple of thousand years by just about everyone in the neighborhood (and ended up absorbing the conquerers to make them its own), not to mention surviving two World Wars in the Twentieth Century. The only people I can think of that has more right to apocalyptic thoughts is the Jewish culture.