Tag Archives: Doctor Manhattan

Jerusalem interview tapes, #11: discover the New Gospel according to Alan Moore

17 Oct
© 2012 John Angerson.Filming of Jimmy's End - Northampton

Alan Moore: “Don’t do anything you can’t live with forever.” Pic: © 2012 John Angerson, taken during filming of Jimmy’s End in Northampton

Following my feature on Alan Moore’s Jerusalem, I’ve been posting edited highlights from the 30,000-word interview transcript. In previous episodes, Alan Moore has joked about being God. In the last extract, he revealed how he came to the conclusion, like Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, that time is an unchanging constant where everything that will happen has already happened and goes on happening forever, and it is only our perception that makes time appear linear.

Here, he brings the two together: his view of time effectively creates a secular eternity, and in so doing, creates a world-view that is just as compelling as any religion. Step inside the anti-Church of Alan Moore…

Alan Moore: “If you think about it, that [the idea that we are living in a time-static block universe] has got to pretty much kill religion, because there aren’t any religions that aren’t based on some kind of moral imperative. They’ve all got sin, karma or something a bit like that. In a predetermined universe, how can you talk about sin? How can you talk about virtue?

“My chapter Cornered, with the guilty council man, that was put in largely to talk about that issue. The thing is, we don’t have free will, or at least that’s what I believe, and I think most physicists tend to think that as well, that this is a predetermined universe. They don’t like it, but it is looking like that’s probably what it is. However, as long as we’ve got the illusion of free will, we’re fine.

“Also, I’m quite happy with my artistic decisions and career decisions, I’m pretty much guided by voices anyway, I couldn’t claim that I’ve got some sort of plan in all of this, I do what seems to be the next thing to do. That works just as well with free will as without it.

“It’s probably the most contentious point of the entire book, and also there’s the thing of when I first explained it to Leah, my daughter, she said, ‘yeah, I think I could live with that’. And so, sort of, when I explained it to Iain Banks [the late novelist], they were going through a painful divorce, and he said [Moore here does a passable Scottish accent], ‘Ah Jesus Christ, that’s the most terrible thing I’ve ever heard!’ He was really upset. And I can see that.

“We’re talking here about heaven and hell, we’re talking about them as being simultaneous and present, that all the worst moments of your life forever, that’s hell; all the best moments of your life forever, that’s paradise.

“So, this is where we are. We’re in hell, we’re in paradise, both together, forever.

“One of the dogma you can extract from this is, don’t do anything you can’t live with forever. Try to have a good life. Because you’re going to be having that life forever. Don’t be like my gran. She was a Christian, she had I think probably a very austere and miserable life because she was expecting that it would all be sorted out, and the first shall be last.

“Whereas if you know this is my only life, and it’s my only life forever, I’m not going to wait a moment longer before doing the things I should do to make it better. I’m not going to live my life in expectation of the very, very unlikely reward that awaits in heaven.”

Jerusalem is out now in hardback from Knockabout in the UK and Liveright in the US. For the full interview feature, click here.

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The Alan Moore Jerusalem interview tapes, #10: ‘Doctor Manhattan was right on time’

16 Oct
watchmen-doctor-manhattan-page

Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, published by DC. Through the God-like superpowers given to him, Doctor Manhattan sees all time as simultaneous. It took Moore a while to catch on

Following my interview feature on Alan Moore’s Jerusalem, I’ve been posting edited highlights from the 30,000-word interview transcript. The last excerpt was the weighty topic of what really happened on 9/11. Today, we get to a key part of the thinking behind Jerusalem: that we are living in an Einsteinean block universe where everything that will happen has already happened. Time is fixed, and it’s only our perception of it that makes it appear linear.

Though Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen experiences all time as simultaneous, it was only a decade later, Alan Moore says, that he realised his fiction was fact…

Alan Moore: “When I had my first what I believe to be magical experience with Steve Moore, in January 1994, I remember having this absolute crystalline understanding that time was a solid and that nobody was going anywhere. And then, almost as soon as I had thought that, I thought, ‘but you’ve been writing about this for years!’

“There’s William Gull in From Hell, there’s Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, there’s those early Time Twisters and Future Shocks in 2000AD, one of which has got some people exploring the remote edges of the universe looking for alien life, and all of a sudden one of them seems possessed by an idea, that he keeps trying to explain to other people, and they gradually kind of get a weird smile on their face, and this is all told from the POV of one of the crew who’s watching it happening, who finally realises, what if an idea could be an alien life form? And what if it could just propagate itself, and the only snatch of conversation you ever get to hear is one of the people talking to an initiated person, and he’s saying ‘So if all of time is simultaneous, then…’ You only hear the first few words?

“And at the end of the story, all the people have converged on the narrator, because he’s the last one, and at the end he’s saying, ‘Well of course I realise how silly I was being, and it really is very very simple: you see, if all of time is simultaneous, then…’ And at that point the editor comes in and says we’re going to stop this story here because we think it’s a bit dangerous.

“At that moment in 1994, I thought, well, actually, that is appropriate. I’m only just understanding the concept now. But if time really is as I think it is, there is no reason ripples shouldn’t go out both ways, that it’s like, I suspect some of those early references might have been pre-memories. I don’t know. But it was an idea that had clearly come to me at some point.

“What with the idea of time is a solid, what I was thinking is that if Einstein is saying this a four-dimensional universe, dimensions are measurements,  they’re not like – since Mr. Mxyzptlk, Superman’s foe, came from the fifth dimension, everyone thinks of dimensions as spooky places, like the Phantom Zone or the Twilight Zone, but no, dimensions are measurements, so the fourth dimension is a physical dimension like the other three. We know there has to be a fourth dimension because Einstein tells us space-time is curved. That is to say that the three regulars have another one that they are curved in.

“Now, as I understand it, the fourth dimension is not time. Rather, time is the way we perceive our passage through time. In reality, if this is a four-dimensional universe, or a universe of at least four dimensions, what we are talking about is a solid block in which everything is eternal and unchanging, in which there is no movement and no change except that which we perceive, as our consciousness travels along the filament that is how we are represented in space-time: a kind of filament I imagine a bit like a centipede, lots of arms and legs [vividly described in Jerusalem]; one end of it is in genetic slime, the other end in cremated dust, but those are just the extremities, like your feet or the top of your head. All the other bits, we are alive.

“And when we get to the end of our filament, I would say there is nowhere for that consciousness to go but back to the beginning, so that would be something we experience countless millions of times, but each time it also felt like the first time, because that was how it had felt the first time, and that will never change, except for those brief moments of déjà vu.”

Jerusalem is out now in hardback from Knockabout in the UK and Liveright in the US. For the full interview feature, click here. Come back tomorrow to discover how Moore’s theory changes how we should think about life, the universe and everything