Mostly (not) on McSweeney's!

A blog for my academic ideas, more or less.

Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, Iain Sinclair

So Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair had a chat last night.

Photo by a href=I was there.

Here are some things I wrote down while I was there.

I am instituting more-or-less arbitrary breaks, signalled by ===, to make this more readable.

There is also some stuff in (parentheses) that is extraneous, added at the time or now.

(This is not a complete transcription.)

Alan Moore has excellent shoes.

Alan Moore is surprisingly spry.

Iain Sinclair says “To write about the city is to write a mythology.”

Ian Sinclair: naming issues — ‘psychogeography’ versus ‘deep topography’.

They are having some problems with the lights.

They are turning off the lights.

Only my row has any light now.

(This makes me feel exposed.)

Alan Moore’s laugh comes over his microphone  a lot. It is deep and throaty, and makes him sound friendly.

Iain Sinclair says “Before we can move forward, we have to absorb everything that has come before, and rip it off.”


Alan Moore talks about Jerusalem. His latest work. Work-in-progress. About Northampton.

Alan Moore says “London and Northampton are alternate capitals of England in parallel worlds.”

Alan Moore says he wouldn’t want to live in London. (Dick.)

Michael Moorcock says he began writing when London was ruralised, and everything was demolished. He was interested in remythologising London. (Is the current be-scaffolded state of London perpetual remythologising? Is it possible for us to conceive of ‘London’ in a fixed state such that we could attempt to change its identity?)

Michael Moorcock says he doesn’t remember what models he used when he began to write.

Michael Moorcock was nine years old when he began to write.

Michael Moorcock made as many copies of his early zines as the number of carbons he could fit into a typewriter borrowed/given to him from his mother’s office.

Michael Moorcock went to Paris age 15.

Michael Moorcock says that going to Paris was the first thing adolescents would do to show their independence.


Alan Moore says he originally approached William Burroughs as pure science fiction.


Iain Sinclair asks Michael Moorcock “Did you just meet in a pub, kind of reimage the cosmos as a hobby?”

Michael Moorcock says “Yeah, I suppose so.”

Michael Moorcock is very deadpan.

Michael Moorcock’s earliest stylistic influence was P.G. Wodehouse.

Michael Moorcock says he and J.G. Ballard began to write science-fiction because the stuff that they read was crap, and they wanted to do better, and knew they could do better.


Iain Sinclair discusses the significance of the English literary canon in education.

Iain Sinclair suggests that Alan Moore and Michael Moorcock are autodidacts, who learn only from what they need.

Alan Moore and Michael Moorcock agree that they are autodidacts.

Michael Moorcock says that Kingsley Amis’s “Lucky Jim” is “a waste of time.”

Michael Moorcock says that when you begin as a writer, you start to read the “Sunday Times” book pages, and think “Is this what I should be doing?”


Michael Moorcock discusses how we are taught to grow up looking for narrative. And he started to wonder how many narratives you can carry/load.

(I get a bit distracted at this point because I like what Michael Moorcock is saying too much.)

Alan Moore discusses how in comics you have the Image Track, the Dialogue Track, the Caption Track, and the Interaction between these. How the possibilities for narrative are incredible in comics.

Iain Sinclair suggests that Alan Moore loads comic narratives with as many types of information as possible.

Alan Moore agrees with Iain Sinclair.


Alan Moore says “The most fun thing to do with genre is to break it.”

(It is dark in here.)

Michael Moorcock says “The thing with genre is, once you’ve read it once, you don’t want to read it again. It’s boring.”


Iain Sinclair tells a story about how Iain Sinclair has a few scenes in “Conan the Barbarian”.

Iain Sinclair says that all culture goes down many levels, if you dig hard enough. And that most of these lead to a struggling writer in South London.

(There is a covered port-hole in here, blocking out the sun-light.)


Michael Moorcock talks about a recent Elric book, which presents stories alongside articles Michael Moorcock was writing at the time. The context is presented alongside the fiction. Touches on Empire and post-war Britain.


Alan Moore says “Why don’t I just do the story that I wanted to do?”

Alan Moore discusses “Jerusalem” some more.

Alan Moore says “I don’t know what it is.”

Alan Moore says that on one level “Jerusalem” is social realist fiction.

Alan Moore says that on another level “Jerusalem” is family history.

Alan Moore says that on another level “Jerusalem” is local history.

Alan Moore says that Charlie Chaplin shows up in “Jerusalem”.

(I am starting to get a headache looking at the word ‘Jerusalem’.)

Alan Moore says that on another level “Jerusalem” is about angels and demons.


Alan Moore talks about the 1960s and how the popular began to be seen as having the potential to be art.


Michael Moorcock says that in the 1950s you would go into the studio and you wouldn’t know what you would come out with. He began to write more spontaneously. He wrote without genre conventions.

Alan Moore discusses deadlines, and the frenetic life-style involved in popular writing. To be a periodical writer becomes your life.

Alan Moore, Michael Moorcock and Iain Sinclair all say some things related to this topic.

Alan Moore says “Stuff leaks in from the future.”

Alan Moore talks about sleep deprivation.

Alan Moore says that craft becomes less conscious.


Michael Moorcock discusses “Xeroxes of culture”, and imitators of the style of Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair.

(All three writers seem comfortable in being confident about their abilities. This is nice.)

Michael Moorcock says he gets pissed off when he sees someone copying him.

Michael Moorcock says he isn’t sure if he should get pissed off.

(There aren’t many attractive people in here.)

Michael Moorcock says he sometimes thinks about it as spoon-feeding their work to the masses, spreading borrowed ideas in sanitised form.


Iain Sinclair talks about the ferocious pace of the rewriting of London.

Iain Sinclair talks about how many interpretations of London there are. He uses the word “infinite.”


Some people ask Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair some questions.

Michael Moorcock says “I invented the multiverse!”

Michael Moorcock says he invented the multiverse as a reassurance against the second law of thermodynamics and heat death of the universe.

(I don’t want people I love to die.)

Alan Moore says that “Jerusalem” disproves the existence of death from a scientific standpoint.


Alan Moore discusses mythologising fiction as a mode.

Alan Moore says that Martin Amis would see Shepperton as bland, and ignore it.

Alan Moore says that Jim Ballard saw Shepperton as a canvas for his imagination, and filled it with downed war pilots. He filled it with his imagination.

Iain Sinclair says infinite again. He says that London is an infinitely plural palimpsest.

(They don’t articulate this but I start writing about how it is not just imagination or invention, it is awareness they are espousing. A street with no history is boring. But that is only because we do not know its history. If we are aware of a place’s history, of the texts written over and under the street, then life is richer. I even write: ‘We can avoid death by recognising the reassurance of the continuum; we have a place, that will be transient, but it will endure.’ I think the heat may have got to me a bit.)


Michael Moorcock uses the word shamanism, and Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair say other things about this.

Someone says “Speaking the dreams of the public.”


Alan Moore says “It is all story, it is all narrative.”

Alan Moore says “If you write vigorously enough, your act of writing changes the place you’re writing about.”

(I think my first-year psychology lecturer from Strathclyde is here. But I had heard he died three years ago, I though. Or maybe it was just a heart-attack.)

Michael Moorcock uses the word “prospective” as the opposite of “retrospective”.

(This makes me happy as I had been struggling with those words recently. But then I decided to use “progressive” as I felt “prospective” was a linguistic ghost, a synonym we expect to work but doesn’t hold. But Michael Moorcock just made it work. I’m not sure what to do now.)

Someone asks Michael Moorcock something about “Mother London”, about why/when a character wakes up.

Michael Moorcock doesn’t remember what happened, never-mind why it happened.

People laugh.

Michael Moorcock says “I’m sorry” a lot.

Michael Moorcock says that it was a long time ago.

Michael Moorcock says he thinks whatever people interpret as happening is better than anything he could tell them.

(This is a weird moment to end on, as the girl is sort of humiliated. But it was an empty question, so I don’t feel too bad.)


Filed under: miscellaneous

23 Responses

  1. moleitau says:

    Excellent snippets from a good night. Sinclair got on my nerves with his interruptions though, and yeah – I felt bad for the girl who asked the last question, though (a) she should have known better and (b) Moorcock was very gracious about it while putting a cap on that kind of thing.

  2. chris east says:

    Alan Moore says “London and Northampton are alternate capitals of England in parallel worlds.”

    this is true
    except i am living in this world, and it’s not fantastic

  3. Sorry, are you calling Alan Moore a dick for saying he doesn’t want to live in London? That’s pretty poor showing, quite frankly.

  4. Kevin says:

    Irony is a literary or rhetorical device, in which there is an incongruity or discordance between what one says or does and what one means or what is generally understood. Irony is a mode of expression that calls attention to the character’s knowledge and that of the audience.

  5. […] Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, Iain Sinclair Never mind kicking myself – I am scourging myself with rusty barbed wire, and rubbing salt in the wounds for missing this. Couple of key quotes from this write up: "Is the current be-scaffolded state of London perpetual remythologising?" Iain Sinclair says “Before we can move forward, we have to absorb everything that has come before, and rip it off.” (tags: london writing culture) […]

  6. Ian says:

    Enjoyed this, cheers. Alan Moore appears to have a bit of bee in his bonnet about Martin Amis doesn’t he? Which is interesting but not at all surprising given their respective personalities.

  7. […] [Craft] Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair on storytelling Link: Mostly On McSweeney’s! […]

  8. Kevin says:

    I think Amis is representative of a certain ‘literary’ sensibility that Moore dislikes, for its narrow-mindedness to things like genre writing and people who make their living in it. No idea what he thinks of him personally.

    One of the interesting things about this discussion is the way they were all comfortable switching quickly between a personal/public perspective, disliking something because it irritated them as an individual, but understanding its value for society/culture/literature as a whole. And disliking an author or a movement, but understanding that the individuals involved were simply doing their job, more or less.

  9. gavin says:

    this is great. And I especially like the bit where you note how there aren’t many attractive people in the audience.

  10. tester says:


    three old guys come together to compliment each other about how writers are the most awesome persons on earth!

  11. Kevin says:


  12. […] A conversation between Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair (via Gerry Canavan) […]

  13. Ian Thal says:

    Iain Sinclair looks just like a character who appears in the latest installment of Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen!

  14. Kevin says:

    Indeed — Alan mentioned that he’d asked Kevin O’Neill (the actual famous one) to model characters on Michael and Iain, among other writers…

  15. Steven says:

    The problem with this account is your interjections. You attempt to make yourself sound as interesting as the speakers. And you’re not. Remove the irrelevant items in parentheses and you have a fairly nice acocunt of what i’m sure was an interesting discussion.

  16. cmkempe says:

    I wasn’t able to go to this, so I’m grateful for your write up. Moore is indeed very friendly, despite his reputation. LOL, how young are you that you’re surprised he’s “spry” at just over 50?

  17. Kevin says:

    Hi Steven. I’m sorry you find my attempt to make myself sound as interesting as the speakers a problem. I’m not. Remove the irrelevant items in parentheses and you have a fairly nice acocunt of what was an interesting discussion.

    Hi C. Margery. It’s not his age that gave me that impression, I think it was the voluminous beard. No-one who has grown that much facial hair should be able to move as quickly as he does, is roughly how my prejudice ran!

  18. K. A. Laity says:

    No-one who has grown that much facial hair should be able to move as quickly as he does

    HA HA HA!

  19. lee burridge deserves to do a fabric cd says:

    martin amis is an overrated synonim

  20. […] Mostly on McSweeney’s: Michael Moorcock discusses how we are taught to grow up looking for narrative. And he started to […]

  21. […] Kosmo. Saying that, however, it does make sense that Cornelius and Norton would be on good terms, just as their respective authors are, being as they’re both reality hopping metafictionnauts. In this sense they’d share a […]

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  23. I do agree with all of the ideas you have offered in your post.
    They are very convincing and will certainly work.
    Nonetheless, the posts are too short for beginners. May just you please prolong them a bit from next time?
    Thanks for the post.

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