Webzine | Underground | Interviews  
Go to: 
Interviews with Grant MorrisonBarbelith Interviews » Interview with an Umpire
 Interview with an Umpirepage: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

BY: I don't know if you've heard of Coolworld. I think it's called Coolworld. Hewlett Packard are developing this technology - it's either called Coolworld or CoolTown - and it's a whole load of virtual technology devices which interact with realspace and they've developed this text messaging system which works with geo-synchronous satellites so that you can pin a text message to a physical space; say for example, earlier tonight you walked into the tea house - I could have left a message hanging there that says: 'I'm in here, up at the back for the interview' and it would come up on your phone. If you're phone was set up to receive such messages, when your phone moved into that area you would be able to read that message. I thought that this was really quite exciting, Y'know you could have invisible graffiti all over the place. You could slander someone outside their house! Just leave it hanging there at the doorway!
GM: These are the spaces that emerge. Think of all the other spaces that have been taken over when something new emerges that can be played with.
BY: Yeah - the technology opens up these spaces. I worked for a videogames company for a couple of years - I got out of architecture, I thought: I want to make computer games - and its incredibly exciting but insane as well - it's a mad industry as I'm sure you know from your experiences with it but one time we were having a brainstorming session about how to sell ideas and products and we were seriously contemplating download time as a place to insert games; this was because we'd entered a downloading culture where we sit and watch a blue bar on a screen get bigger and bigger, waiting for something to load; that's dead time. Can we squeeze content into that - it was this whole 97, 98, 99 content creation is king kinda shit that was going on and that's burst as you know, that bubble. It was strange, very strange. But I like that whole idea of ripping open space within the environment whether it's solid or virtual and y'know the whole paperverse interface that you explored, or have explored countless times, but you've really started to look at the technology of it in The Filth and I'm fascinated by it. What's the idea behind it?
GM: That idea was me making sense of when I'd taken mushrooms and read Doom Patrol - I was aware that I was holding a continuum, that's when I started to develop ideas of comics as magic, comics as sigils, because I got to page 22 then I turned back to page 8; I thought, "I'm in this story which I don't understand, I've read this bit, I can go back to the point where the characters don't know what's about to happen to them and I can experience it out of sequence and I saw that this comic was this entire little universe/ continuum in it's own right and also the wider implications; that the DC Universe and the Marvel Universe were also continuums in their own way created by people when I was a kid or before I was born. Maintained by people, who like these Demonic Corporations, maintained and kept these characters which were sustained by people who would come in and look after them; people who would come in and look after Scott Summers - it was that notion of the universe in your hands and the possibilities in that.
BY: Do you think that informed your experience of Space-Time?
GM: Yeah - because it was a metaphor for that. I mean Zoids-
BY: I've not read it but I know of it.
GM: It winds up that the prime movers of the story are 5 dimensional beings aliens who manipulate them all because the Zoids are toys-
BY: That's hilarious - in Zoids!
GM: I thought, 'What if I treat them literally as toys?' When I was a kid I'd try and draw the fourth dimension. To me it's something that's always been there - it's a refinement of ideas. As you grow older you bring backup and other peoples ideas to scaffold things you've thought yourself and you begin to assemble some kind of structure from it and make some kind of sense of it.
BY: It's always very comforting when you find someone in the pubic realm whose producing work that matches what you're thinking and articulates it when I couldn't articulate it myself. I think comics lends itself to-
GM: Comics is like poetry. It's a miracle that it has the circulation that it does
BY: The chord it strikes in people who are attracted to it is so strong it can be impossible to explain to someone who doesn't experience that.
GM: It's the virtual world aspect of them. You're actually inside it. When you're really enjoying a comic you're inside the space like nothing else. The way you have control over the time it takes to read it. You've got control over this continuum. I just wanted to do that with Animal Man. It was an experiment with those characters - I wasn't happy with that continuum. I wanted to do more of that with DC - I might still do it with the HyperCrisis idea to explore that emotion of the comic talking to you, developing it's own language, to control how you read the comic and how you would have certain kind of experiences while you read the comic. So those are ideas ready to be played with: the actual thing in your hand and how the characters react with it. The Challengers of the Unknown standing on the boundaries of the comic saying 'There's something massive...a massive lifeform out there. The entire continuum is trembling.'
BY: It's an extremely powerful idea.
GM: I thought it best illuminates how I felt about reality. There's more to it. There's a higher scale. I began to think that things on a higher dimensional scale could be interacting with us in ways that might explain magic, alien abductions...
BY: There's a book, by, I can't remember who it's by, he's written several books about time, it's an American Academic and he talks about higher dimensional beings penetrating a 3 dimensional environment and how you would see 3D cross sections of this; I can't remember who's written this; you'd probably be familiar with him if I knew the name.
GM: Pickover?
BY: Aye. That's it. He actually done little sketches of what these sections might look like and y'know comics is probably the perfect medium for explaining that theory to other people because of it's inherent qualities. Another question which I meant to ask a while ago was, do you think comics generate synchronicities because they are defined by the constant pairing of word and image?
GM: It's primal magic. It's the sigil - the representation of desire in symbolic form. And when that happens, nature happens around it especially when accompanied by intent. The Invisibles was made with very strong intent: I did a bunjee jump in pure abject fear, clutching this sigil, another one on my chest, to inaugurate The Invisibles, so that was the intent. The intent was for me to expand my life into the sphere of The Invisibles. I wanted to meet people like that, talk with people like that, travel the world, to live like the characters and that's exactly what happened. So yeah. Something about it is really strong. The first comic book is the guy who drew a bison on the wall of the cave. It's the first spell. It's so primal.
BY: I think something profound does happen when you write about an event - it adds another layer to that event. Outside Space time basically.
GM: If you take the events of your own life and weave them into a narrative suddenly you find the world and the narrative do become entwined. You're drawn to certain experiences...
BY: I find that without a doubt. I've not done much writing but what I have done it has had that kind of effect and it wasn't a conscious attempt to do The Invisibles or anything.
GM: There's experiments to be done. What could happen if everybody tries this stuff?
BY: Yeah, this is a new technology, well not a new technology but an old technology...
GM: Yeah its been around for ages but its been suppressed because recently people have suppressed magic in favour of science and rationality but what they didn't suppress were all the books with the spells and recipes and explanations of this technology - they've been around for thousands of years.
BY: I suppose when earlier we were talking about pliable environments and being able to manipulate 'soft material' with nanotechnology-
GM: Forget the nanomachines, they're just more extensions of our imagination.
BY: This is it.
GM: Ultimately imagination itself changes reality.
BY: What I was going to say though, was we have that pliable environment and that's fiction. In that people manipulate their environment by writing. Even if that writing is not explicitly about themselves it cannot be about anything but themselves - it's they're expression. All these people writing from a selfish point of view changing the reality around them. That's the thing about dreams that freak me out - a friend or relative appears in a dream and that's you. It's not your mum or friend; it's you! Sometimes you suspend your disbelief and imagine that it's really is the person appearing in your dream!
GM: that's what I said in The Invisibles - Were all drawn on the same paper. Even in a physical way - our bodies are exchanging atoms with the environment all the time - there is no solid boundary. In seven years you'll have a completely different atomic structure from the one you have now. So were constantly exchanging with the environment. Our molecules are composed of bits of stars, there really is not much distinction between us and the environment apart from the ones we make in order to function as individual selves.
BY: I was thinking about synchronicity; when I'm involved in fiction whether writing it or reading it, I get into a certain kind of mode, synchronicities start coming so fast-
GM: Oh, all the time....everything you pick up has got something to do with it.
BY: The other day I was reading Garth Ennis' The Pro, which is possibly the most awful comic I've ever read but I thought, This is his 'Filth', y'know. He's looking at the most ridiculous puerile, (not that The Filth is that), degrading aspects of the superhero genre and he's just getting it out of his system. I dunno if that's necessarily the case. What I was going to say was that while I was reading this comic I started experiencing loads of synchronicities with what was on the TV. I read something, anything, in the comic and it would chime with something being said on the television, it was ridiculous....what I thought was; if we take time out of the equation, i.e. time doesn't exist, then synchronicities might be a clue that this is the case, because during a synchronicity you're given evidence that two 'things' exists at the same time and that the co-incidence of this parallel existence is uncanny. So, if there is no time, then everything exists at the same 'time' in a single instant, a 'now', and a synchronicity is almost like this window which says, 'yeah, of course it does'.
GM: It could be the sense of smell when we suddenly get a whiff of what time is actually like - that's why it feels so magical and exciting, the buzz you get, "oh everything's falling into place!', 'all my references are here, the quote is exactly right', then you turn on the TV and there's a connection there. That's just the moment when you realise everything's connected. But you could be right. That's the dawning sense of smell of time.
BY: Aye, I like that, the sense of smell. Definitely. This whiff of...
GM: Immanence.
BY: ...the Big Picture. Imam (stutters)...Immanence. Yeah I've always had trouble with that word. (laughs)
GM: (laughs)
BY: Just saying it's tricky! Christ! Hopeless at interviews!
Kristan: Any last plugs for yourself?
GM: I dunno?..Do I?
BY: What's it like working with your boyfriend and girlfriend?
Kristan: Terrible.
GM: Terrible. It's like The Doors. It's like that bit in The Doors where they burn the chicken and they're all on acid! (laughs)
BY: Me and my girlfriend work together quite a lot together as well. She's an architect too. The thing is it's extremely creative I find but also potentially destructive as well.
Kristan: Yeah it going to be when your doing creative work....The pair of us sit down and talk about a story or a game or a concept, we can bounce ideas off each other and good things come out of it but if we're both kinda sitting and we're both kinda surly and Grant's wanting to write something and I'm wanting to do something else and we start sparking with each other..
GM: And all you've got on the phone are editors and people causing trouble...and holding things up. (laughs)
Kristan: You just get caught in the mire of it and it just becomes too close for comfort because you're both doing the same thing and you're both getting the same pressures and-
GM: Suddenly you're hanging off balconies in LA Hotels...
BY: Sounds all right....
GM: (pleading) 'I'm going to do it this time!...' (laughs)
Kristan: But no, it's difficult.
BY: Get that Crack Website updated! (laughs)
Kristan: Well it was updated.
GM: It was updated. We've got two of them sitting there!
Kristan: And we've got another update as of last night (Sep 1st) which will tell you all about the Paperverse...
BY: Have you been getting many letters for The Filth?
Kristan: It's been all right. The thing is we actually don't get enough letters through the websites' to do two letter columns; we couldn't do a GM.com and a Crack one because a lot of people just send odd things that you just wouldn't print or... a lot of X-Men fans write as well-
BY: Of course!
GM: 'Here's an idea, 'How about doing...'
Kristan: Or 'I'm a writer and I want my idea in this' or 'I want into the business'...a lot of it becomes very, very repetitive; if you put up letter columns every month faithfully, people would think, 'This is a load of shit' and stop reading them.
GM: God. I feel guilty now for asking you to update the website!
Kristan: We tend to be away quite a lot. We were away from something like the 24th July until, eh....we came back on the 13th of August and then we had to go to Iceland on the 16th.
BY: 'Had to.'
Kristan: We were invited to go. We'd committed to it before we went to the States and we had to be back from the States at least a day before we went to Iceland or we thought we would just go insane and we went slightly insane but we weren't back on the ground until the Monday or Tuesday of the next week. And then Grant had to go to Belfast to do a talk on the Friday. So that's why I kept saying to you about the interview, 'I don't know when we're going to fit this in because we're-'
BY: No, I was amazed at how easy it was. Honestly. Okay, we all live in Glasgow but-
Kristan: Well, we try and be reasonably approachable.
BY: I think you are, without a doubt.
Kristan: It was really just trying to find the time.
GM: Put that off and I'll tell you the Alan Moore story.
(tape ends)