Alan Moore Heralds Providence: 'It's Time To Go For A Reappraisal Of Lovecraft'
Fans have been chomping at the bit for some time to hear more about the forthcoming H.P. Lovecraft-inspired series Providence fully scripted by Alan Moore and drawn by Jacen Burrows as published by Avatar Press. Providence follows in the tradition of the previous Bram Stoker Award-winning Lovecraft collaboration between Moore and Burrows, The Neonomicon, and also in the tradition of the comics adaptation of Moore's work, The Courtyard, both published by Avatar Press. Recently, we reported on the full solicit for Issue #1 of the series, which will be monthly up to 12 issues, arriving in May. But it seemed cruel to keep readers waiting much longer to hear what the author himself has to say about the series, why the present day is just the right time to release such a work, and the ways in which he hopes the series will impact our view of H.P. Lovecraft's work in the 21st century.
For those who have schooled themselves in Lovecraft's stories, Providence is going to be a rare treat and create a resonant dialog with what they might already know about the stories and their creator, while for those who are new to Lovecraft, they may encounter in Providence a world as shocking and new as Lovecraft's stories would have felt to readers first encountering them in the 1920's, according to Moore. Either way, this is fair warning that Moore describes Providence as his "ultimate Lovecraft story", and as such, this will be neither a comfortable nor nostalgic journey into 1920's New England.
Hannah Means-Shannon: Why has this been the right time in your life to work on a story like Providence, and what do you think makes it timely for readers?
Alan Moore: Well, this is a complete coincidence and it's not as if we planned it, but I think that Providence is coming out at an ideal time in relation to the incredible burgeoning of H.P. Lovecraft's reputation and popularity in American culture, which seems to be reaching the proportions of a massive, dark, snowball, probably with bits of sea food sticking out of it. (Laughs)
And also, coincidentally, this year is the 125th anniversary of Lovecraft's birth. But mainly, it's the incredible amount of insight into Lovecraft and the fresh understanding of him that's been mounting since the 1980's or so. The amount of critical material that is available now on Lovecraft is substantial, and there's the fact that he has been, belatedly, accepted into the American literary canon as one of the very best authors of the weird and the macabre that America has ever produced, right up there with Edgar Allan Poe, and certainly as distinctive.
All of this is starting to come to a head at the moment, and this has coincided with me taking a fresh interest in Lovecraft, who is a writer I have been at least glancingly familiar with since I was around 11 or 12 years old. Lately, I've become aware of aspects of Lovecraft that I wasn't aware of before. I've seen possibilities in Lovecraft that I haven't previously glimpsed. Given that I've been planning this for about 4 years now, it's a very fortuitous convergence, if you like, for my interest in Lovecraft and my desire to tell a different kind of Lovecraft story, one appropriate to the 21st century and how we see and understand his work now. So, that desire of mine has happened to coincide with a sudden meteoric rise in Lovecraft's popularity. This looks like quite a fortuitous kind of book altogether. It seems to be coming together at exactly the right time.
HMS: I think, if possible, the fact that Providence didn't come out, even a year ago, only adds to where it's going to be landing in terms of popularity among readers. Even in the past year, things have substantially heated up in terms of interest in Lovecraft's work and creations.
AM: Absolutely. And I've been working on Providence specifically for three or four years and it's the culminative work in a process that probably began when I started doing my ill-fated Yuggoth Cultures prose stories all those years ago in the 90's. The fact that it's all come to a head now is so fortuitous as to be almost creepy. I'm very pleased with it. And like you say, if it had even come out a year ago, it wouldn't have reached the pitch of readiness that I sense at the moment regarding the way the public, even if they don't know it, are hungry for a reappraisal of Lovecraft. I think that they are, but we shall see.
HMS: You've spoken about your personal reasons for working on this project right now, but could you tell us what your goal is in creating it, and what you'd like the outcome to be? What do you want for this series?
AM: What do I want for this series? I want to create a vision of H.P. Lovecraft that I think is adequate to our extraordinary current century and what we now understand regarding Lovecraft and his work. I think that the way in which we have perceived Lovecraft for too long has been a view of Lovecraft that was probably outmoded 40, 50, or 60 years ago. I think that it's time to go for a reappraisal of Lovecraft. Actually, I read a very intelligent review of Neonomicon in one of the Lovecraft criticism books that I've collected. I was surprised to find it there. What they were doing was giving a list of Lovecraft's appearances in comic books, which I believe starts off with the canonical first appearance of the Justice League of America. Which you perhaps wouldn't have thought of as a very Lovecraftian story.
HMS: Not in a million years.
AM: That was written by Gardner Fox, a huge Lovecraft fan, who had, I think, made vague Lovecraftian references in Justice Society of America stories back in the 1940's. But in the first issue of the Justice League, he has got a great big starfish thing, and this starfish thing is manifesting in the town of Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. So, that was another nod from Gardner Fox, to H.P. Lovecraft. And also, the editor of that comic, would have been Julie Schwartz, who had been an agent of H.P. Lovecraft's and had sold At the Mountains of Madness to Astounding.
HMS: Wow. Amazing.
AM: So, yes, there has been a history of Lovecraft stories in comics. This particular piece of criticism I was reading was saying that with Neonomicon, we were moving into an area where Lovecraft fiction has become capable of critiquing Lovecraft.
HMS: Interesting! Fiction-as-criticism.
AM: Yes, I thought that was interesting. Because I'm sure that, yes, that probably is a fair assessment of what we were trying to do in Neonomicon, though I wouldn't have been intelligent enough to put it in those terms while we were doing it. But yes, I think that's a fair summary. We are trying to come up with a form of fiction that can address Lovecraft's writings, his philosophy, and all the other aspects of the man and his world. At the same time, hopefully, it can be a more powerful, more shocking, and more intense vision of Lovecraft than any of the readers out there will have ever seen before. Now, that is quite a bold claim, but if it is not true, may I be dragged, gibbering and screaming, into some kind of trans-dimensional abyss, still frantically writing in my journal.
AM: I think that with this, at least for my purposes, I have created what is "my" ultimate Lovecraft story. It's a repurposing of the Lovecraft pastiche to make it a vehicle that tells us more about Lovecraft and his world rather than simply extending the roll call of unpronounceable gods. And rather than regurgitating tropes that were brand new and exciting back in the 1920's, I wanted to create stories that were true to the essence of Lovecraft, but were as shocking and unprecedented as Lovecraft's stories were when they first started to appear in small circulation fanzines and in the pages of Weird Tales.
Providence #1 will be arriving May 27th 2015, and is currently listed in Previews World with item code: MAR150951 for the "regular" cover, with several other covers listed separately. You can find a complete listing of those here.
Avatar Press is the parent company of Bleeding Cool.