On the 26th of August 2013 I started doing a very long biographical interview with Steve Moore (as mentioned in my earlier post, Steve Moore 1949 – 2014: A Personal Appreciation). The plan was that it would take as long as it would take, and then we’d spend a bit more time fiddling about with it, then decide exactly what we wanted to do with it. Steve died on the 14th of March, give or take a day. At that point, we had reached the end of the questions and answers about his time at Warrior in the early-mid eighties, and I had sent off three final questions about it, just to clarify a few final details, before we moved on to whatever came next. The answers to those questions, although they were written, never got sent, and were found on Steve’s computer after he died. They’ll eventually make their way to me, and will be in the last post in this series.
In the meantime, there’s 48,000-ish word of interview between us that I have decided needs to be seen, even though it is unfinished. The current plan is to put it up here in reasonably sizeable chunks, every Sunday.
One note on the text: As we went along, I would ask supplementary questions, which got inserted into the previous text. To make it clear where a question has been added in later, I’ve included little arrows for those subsidiary questions, like this: ->. Occasionally, there were further questions, which are indicated by an ever expanding length of arrow, like this –> or this —>. Hopefully this will help to understand how the interview unfolded. So…
Pádraig Ó Méalóid: Before I get to your own life, can I ask you about your parents? Where they were from, what they did, and how they ended up in the house on Shooters Hill where you were born?
Steve Moore: As far as I can tell, my father, Arthur James Moore, was born in Charlton, South-East London, in 1908, the son of a soldier in the Royal Artillery. For reasons that aren’t very clear (possibly because my grandfather died or left the family), he seems to have started working at the age of 11 for a chemicals company called Frederick Boehm, firstly at Silvertown in East London and later at Belvedere in Kent. He stayed with the same company for the whole of his working life, eventually rising to middle management, before dying of a stroke in 1972.
My mother, Winifred Mary Deeks, was born in 1917, and came from New Cross, also in South-East London. I believe she was working as a secretary at Boehm’s when she met my dad, and they married in 1938, after which she became a housewife. She passed away from a stroke in 1985. The Moore side of the family seem to have been pretty much working class: bakers, soldiers and factory workers, and the earliest trace I’ve been able to find is of a Moore who was a farmer in Derbyshire in the 18th century. The Deeks seem to have originated in Suffolk, where my earliest traceable ancestors seem to have been brickmakers. If I have any sort of vague literary connections in my ancestry it seems to be on the Deeks side; grandfather Deeks was a printer, and my Uncle Don was a book distributor who specialised in oriental publications.
Jim and Mary, as they preferred to be known, seem to have lived in Charlton to start with, though they eventually bought the house on Shooters Hill in 1942 (Not 1938, as was stated in Alan Moore’s biographical confection about me, Unearthing, though this information only came to light after Alan wrote the piece). By one of those weird twists of fate, when my father was called up in World War II he was disbarred from serving on the front line because he’d worked for Boehm’s, a German-owned company. As a result he ended up in the Home Guard, working on an anti-aircraft rocket battery on Shooters Hill, which at least didn’t give him very far to walk to work.
My brother Christopher was born in 1943, and evacuated a year later, with my mum, to Gloucester, during the V1 and V2 raids. He eventually began working at Boehm’s too, though by then it had been taken over by the Hercules Powder Company. He rose to laboratory supervisor before being made redundant when the company moved, and spent the rest of his career doing bar work and greenkeeping at Shooters Hill Golf Club, at exactly the same location where my dad’s rocket battery had been situated, and on the same golf course where my dad passed away. Chris eventually died of motor neurone disease in 2009.
And then there was me, of course, born in this house on Shooters Hill on the 11th of June 1949 (at 2:00pm BST, in case anyone wants to work out my horoscope and perform evil magic against me!), and I’ve pretty much been here ever since. We Moores don’t move around much…
PÓM: I presume you went to school locally as well, then?
SM: It certainly was local – In 1954 I started attending Christ Church Primary School, halfway up Shooters Hill and about 200 yards from my house. It’s been extended since, but at the time it was absolutely tiny. Only 60 pupils, spread over six years; ten pupils per year. There were only two classrooms. The first two years (‘infants’) in one, the other vaguely divided into two, with two teachers, who each taught two years simultaneously.
Thinking back, I realise that my physical world was really quite small as a kid. Although I was theoretically in London (the border with Kent was only a quarter of a mile away), being on top of a hill rather cuts you off from the surrounding territory, and half the hill was covered in woods besides. There were a couple of ‘corner shops’ on the hill, but that was all. If you wanted to get to a shopping centre or cinema, etc., you had to get a bus; and as no one in the family drove we tended to stay home a lot. I don’t actually recall eating in a restaurant at all as a kid, unless we were on holiday. In the summer holidays my mum would take me off to the museums in central London, but that meant both a bus and a train to get there, and I didn’t really spend much time at all in central London until I started working there, aged 17. I suspect that may be why I still, to this day, dream an awful lot about trains and stations: they were the portals to the exciting world of possibilities that London represented.
On the other hand, living on top of the hill meant that I had enormous horizons – I could see the whole of central and East London – and a very large sky. I think that may have affected my mindset; I may have been pretty much stuck in one place, but both literally and figuratively I could see for miles, and fill up a very large world with my imagination. Which, being fairly solitary, I did. My brother was six years older than me, so he was already at school before I was born and the age gap meant that we never really played together much; it was a bit like being an only child in a two-child family. So I read a lot from quite early on.
->PÓM: What sort of a child were you: quiet, outgoing, or what?
->SM: I’ve really always been introverted rather than extroverted, so I was quiet, shy, occasionally sulky and easily bored. I also found it quite hard to make really close friendships, and as soon as I left primary school I left behind all the friends I’d made there. The same thing happened with grammar school and the job at Rank’s. The really close friendships I’ve tended to make have been based on shared interests, usually creative or scholarly, and they’ve been few and long-lasting. On the other hand, I think with hindsight that I was also a bit hyperactive, though I’m not sure the term had actually been invented then. In my teens and twenties I’d spend more time pacing up and down in my bedroom than sitting down, listening to music, thinking about story ideas, and so on. I suspect that’s reflected in my rather dilettantish shifting of interests over the years.PÓM: And what sort of things were you interested in as a child?
SM: As for early interests, they divided roughly into two. On the one hand, there was the ancient world, and especially mythology – I remember from a very early age having an exercise book in which I’d collect, in my very bad hand-writing (it’s never improved), lists of gods and goddesses from all parts of the world, delighting every time someone gave me a new name to add to my collection. Possibly that sprang from seeing movies like Helen of Troy or the Steve Reeves Hercules movies (for which I still have a lingering affection), but it’s an interest that’s stayed with me ever since. On the other hand, I was also mad for outer space, especially after the first Sputnik went up in 1957 (about which I still have some original newspaper clippings somewhere in the back of a filing cabinet). Although I read some juvenile SF like E.C. Eliott’s Kemlo series and Angus MacVicar’s Lost Planet books, my interests were mainly non-fictional. I was a member of the junior branch of the Royal Astronomical Society and had my own telescopes; I read Patrick Moore’s books; I collected the complete set of 88 Space Cards bubble-gum cards (published by Topps in the States in 1958, and by ABC here), which explained, speculatively but not fictionally, and with painted images after the style of space artist Chesley Bonestell, how mankind would explore and colonise the solar system (I still have them too – quaint, naïve and absolutely gorgeous). And, of course, there was Dan Dare to read every week. My brother had taken the Eagle since issue one in 1950, and I just grew into it, and we kept having it delivered every week until it closed in 1969 (those, alas, I don’t have any more). As a kid, I used to think ‘I hope I’m still alive in the 21st century’ (which seemed an awfully long way away then), as I was expecting us to have moon bases, and colonies on Mars, and regular spaceflights. Needless to say, the reality has turned out to be a gross disappointment, to put it mildly.
->PÓM: I’m guessing, from what you’re saying, that you are something of a hoarder?
->SM: Pretty much so. Over the years my comics and SF collections got trimmed back so I pretty much only kept the stuff I really loved at the time, but I find it very difficult to get rid of anything, particularly non-fiction books, which I regard as part of my reference library, and which I also want to pass on to the Fortean Times people when I’m gone, as a research aid. And even though I’ve got the entire house to myself now, it’s still packed to the rafters (literally – the loft’s pretty full too!)SM: Anyway, that went on until 1960, when I picked up my first adult SF book, an anthology of stories from Astounding called Men Against the Stars, edited by Martin Greenberg, on a holiday in Guernsey. That was quite a life-changing event, as I then spent at least the first half of the 1960s just devouring enormous quantities of SF paperbacks – people like A.E. Van Vogt, Leigh Brackett, Jack Vance, Kenneth Bulmer, New Worlds in the John Carnell era, before it was edited by Mike Moorcock – and although I don’t read a great deal of SF these days, my tastes are still very much influenced by that ‘50s and ‘60s space adventure material. To start with, paperbacks were 2/6d each, and my pocket money was 2/- per week – but by some miracle (or more likely the kindness of my mum) I managed to get a book every week. That was pretty much the start of a collecting mania that these days has filled the entire house with books, though now very little of that’s SF. Just as an aside, back then ‘science fiction’ was always abbreviated as ‘SF’, and anyone who said ‘sci-fi’ was considered a hopeless know-nothing. I suspect that as SF has become more mainstream, the media have enforced a more pronounceable abbreviation, but to someone of my age, ‘sci-fi’ (or worse, ‘syfy’) still grates hideously.
Still, getting back to my education. I next went, in 1960, to the Roan School, a boys’ grammar school in Greenwich which, even if it was a bus ride away, was still fairly close at hand. I mainly chose it because they played football rather than rugby, which I didn’t fancy at all – mind you, I never actually wanted to play sport anyway. Still, with a greater interest in the past, these days, I’m actually quite pleased that I went to a school with 400 years of history. Influenced by my space and SF background, I ended up in the science stream, took my GCE O Levels a year early, and then embarked on the first year of A levels in biology, chemistry and physics. By then, of course, I’d discovered that what really interested me about science fiction was actually the fiction, not the science – and I was thoroughly fed up with school anyway – so as soon as I was 16 (barely), I was away [so, probably 1965 – PÓM]. Of course, what little qualification I had was in science subjects, so I ended up working in a laboratory at Rank, Hovis, MacDougall, the flour makers, in Deptford. By the time I’d been there a week, I realised I hated it, but I didn’t know what else to do, so I just retreated further into fantasy – which by then included comics.
PÓM: What exactly were you doing at the flour factory?
SM: I was working in the quality control laboratory, attached to the actual mill. We’d get in samples of grain and flour, which needed half a dozen different tests, though I can only remember a couple of them. One was ‘moistures’, where you’d weigh out a certain quantity of the flour into a small, close-topped tin. Then you’d bake a batch of tins in an oven for a couple of hours and weigh them again, and from the difference in the weight you’d work out a percentage for the moisture in the sample that had been driven off in the baking. The other was ‘proteins’ which entailed boiling the samples in flasks full of sulphuric acid (but I don’t quite remember the details). You’d spend a week working on one test, then move on to another the next, so you weren’t doing the same thing all the time, but it was all very routine. You see why I wanted to get out of there. About the only good thing about it was that they had a games room where you could spend your lunch hour playing snooker or table tennis. And there was a pub a few yards away…
PÓM: Do you ever regret leaving school so early?
SM: What’s the point of regret? I made a decision almost 50 years ago and there’s no going back to change it. Seriously, though, there was nothing they could have taught me at school that would have helped me in a career as a comic-strip writer. When I was at Odhams I did a day-release course in journalism for several months, and that was completely useless to me as well. On the last day of the course I presented the lecturer with a copy of my fanzine, Aspect #2, fully typeset and with a colour cover, with professional artists and writers, and he said ‘Why didn’t you show this to us before?’ The answer being, first, that I already knew all the relevant stuff he’d been trying to teach me and, second, I just didn’t want to, as I’d been bored rigid all the way through the course. I think it might just have been a way of showing my contempt for the course that I’d wasted so much time on.
Of course there are times when, considering my non-fiction research interests in the classical and oriental worlds, I think it would perhaps have been useful to have gone to university and learned Greek, Latin or Chinese properly, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. And knowing how much I hated school, I doubt I would have had any better time at university. Or that either of those things would have helped me make a living.
PÓM: Now, I wanted to ask you about comics. What comics were you reading at this stage?
SM: As a very young kid I read Robin, the junior companion to Eagle, and then I think I probably had the same line’s Swift, before working my way up to Eagle itself. I seem to recall reading DC Thomson’s The Beezer for a while when it first started (I was probably seduced by the free gifts given away at its launch) and as I said, I then grew into the Eagle, which was my main boyhood comic. I may have read some other stuff, but I don’t recall reading any of the major boys’ adventure comics like Lion or Tiger. I have vague memories of reading the odd copy of Marvelman and Young Marvelman, probably borrowed from other kids at school, but I wasn’t really into comics at primary school. Too busy reading The Boys’ Book of Space!
PÓM: Had American comics started to become readily available, and were you reading them?
SM: No. I think American comics weren’t imported into this country before 1960, by which time I was at grammar school and reading ‘grown up’ SF. The first American comic I saw was a copy of Mystery in Space, which my mum (knowing my tastes) bought to cheer me up while I was in bed with some minor illness. I liked it (and Adam Strange has always retained a special place in my affections as a result) but, again, the bug didn’t really bite at the time.
PÓM: You were part of the very first wave of British comics fandom, I believe. How did that come about, and how did you become involved in it?
SM: Well, first I was involved with British SF fandom, which was long established – from before World War II, I believe. I think it was about 1964 (maybe 1963) that I joined the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA), probably as a result of seeing an advert in something like New Worlds. At the time there was quite a thriving London ‘scene’, particularly Friday evening meetings at the flat of a woman called Ella Parker, who lived in Kilburn, which I started attending regularly. I made a few contacts there and, while it might be too much to say I got to ‘know’ them, I at least got the chance to meet and hang out with authors like Mike Moorcock, John Brunner, Kenneth Bulmer and E.C. Tubb; and sometimes to share the tube back to Charing Cross with the charming John Carnell. Big thrills for a 15-year-old kid – though obviously I was too young to really make a connection with the professional writers.
It was through the BSFA that I got to publish my first fanzine, Vega. Things were pretty primitive back then – no computers, no printers, not even any copy shops. The height of amateur printing technology was the Gestetner machine, where you typed on plastic stencils which were then placed on an inked drum and printed from there. If you wanted to reproduce illustrations, you sent them away to someone who’d make ‘electrostencils’ for you. The BSFA ran something called the Publishing And Distribution Service, where you cut your own stencils and sent them in for printing (by future author and critic Charles Platt, who had his own duplicator). I don’t think there were more than about ten members of PADS at the time, but the idea was that you got a few copies of your fanzine for your own use, and there were also copies printed off for the other members, so you’d get an envelope full of everyone else’s fanzines as well.
Frankly, Vega was embarrassingly awful. The first issue was six pages long, the second and third eight pages. Having no contacts, I wrote the whole of the first two issues – mainly stories and book reviews – though by the time I got to the third issue a couple of other PADS members had taken pity on me and contributed stories. But by then even I couldn’t stand my own magazine any more, so I knocked it on the head – which was probably a relief to all concerned. But looking back, I can see a beginning there: I didn’t so much want to write about SF, I actually wanted to produce it, which was something that carried over into my comics fanzines. Not long after that, I started building up a nice little collection of rejection slips from magazines like New Worlds, but never sold a story at the time.
Charles Platt also published a very classy (and very fat) fanzine called Beyond, which was where, in early 1964, I first read an article about the exciting new Marvel Comics that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were producing, so I went out and picked up a few, and after that I was lost. For the rest of the 1960s I was collecting everything in sight … mainly Marvel and DC, though I’d look at just about anything … and as it was relatively easy at the time, I soon managed to pick up everything I wanted back to the time when American comics were first imported. But I was always picking up stuff as a ‘reader’ rather than a ‘collector’: it was very nice to have a brand new copy of something, but as for older stuff, so long as I had a copy I could read I really wasn’t fussed about condition and the idea of going out and buying comics as an investment and storing them in mylar bags would have just struck me as ridiculous. Later I picked up some older stuff from the ‘40s and ‘50s, but again condition wasn’t that important to me, and with that stuff I was much more interested in SF comics than superhero material.
Anyway, my first involvement with comics fandom really came about when I met Phil Clarke at the World Science Fiction Convention [Loncon II] in London, in 1965. We were a couple of 16-year-olds and hung out that weekend, and from that developed a close friendship that lasted several years. At the time, of course, everyone basically kept in touch by letter, but every now and then I’d go to Birmingham to see him, or he’d come to London to see me. And before too long we’d decided to produce a comics fanzine together. I think we might have seen a couple of American examples, but at the time there was nothing over here.
I then acquired a Roneo spirit duplicator, which is just about the most primitive form of printing you can get. Essentially, you’d have a ‘master’ sheet of paper with an ink sheet attached, like carbon paper, facing the back of the master. So you’d then type or draw on the master, and you’d end up with a reversed ink impression on the back of it – the standard ink being purple, though you could get other colours. The master would then go on the drum of the duplicator and be dampened by pure alcohol, which would dissolve just enough of the ink to print the image or text. It was hand-cranked, one page at a time, smelled appalling, and was good for maybe 50 or 60 copies per master. And, of course, if you left the pages in direct light for too long, they faded horribly. So that’s what I printed Ka-Pow with.
Frankly, my memories of this period are pretty vague now. Hunting out the old issues of Ka-Pow, it became obvious to me that we’d prepared masters of interior pages for a first issue, which are dated April 1966, but this was never published – though obviously I ran off at least one print from them, as I still have it. I suspect we just weren’t happy with it. But we eventually released the first, much improved issue in July 1967. As far as I know, that was the first British comics fanzine, though Tony Roche’s Merry Marvel Fanzine, published in Ireland, was a little earlier. By then we’d met a pretty good fan artist from Durham called Ken Simpson (though I’m not sure if he ever made it professionally), who contributed a cover and a strip called ‘The Cat’ while I, under the absurd delusion that I might be able to draw, did a strip called ‘Nite-Man’, and there was a text-story called ‘American Eagle’ by ‘John James’, which I think was me (at least, it was a pseudonym I used later when contributing an article to the men’s magazine Game about women fighters in kung fu movies), although it could have been Phil and I together. I suspect it was just a move to make it look like we had more contributors! And Phil and I both did articles about old time British comics. The line up was pretty much the same for the second issue (February 1968), except the article (on Tarzan strips) was by Gerald Cleaver. That was printed on the Roneo again and, frankly, large parts of my copy are now unreadable!
The third and last issue (August 1968) was all litho, which again I think was a first for this country, and featured strips by Mike Higgs, Ken Simpson and John Hudson (I’d learned my lesson by this point). I don’t know why we stopped – I suspect we may just have run out of steam. I was eventually involved in a couple more fanzines, but they come a little later in the story.
By then, of course, there were a number of other comics fanzines, and it was standard practice to trade issues and adverts with other editors, which was pretty much how the whole fan publishing network built up. Another good friend I made at the time was Frank Dobson, original publisher of the adzine Fantasy Advertiser, who lived not far from me in Lewisham. And although I’d realised by then that I couldn’t actually draw, I could still swipe, so I did most of Frank’s covers in 1968 and 1969, being basically pin-up pictures of favourite costumed characters. Frank was very good to me in that period. At weekends we’d jump in his van and go round the market stalls in London, where it was still possible to pick up second hand comics, Frank looking for stock and I for stuff for my collection, and there was never any competition. If I found something I wanted it was mine, even if it might have been something that Frank could have sold for a fair amount. He was a great EC collector, always looking to improve the quality of his collection by trading with dealers in the States; and, of course, EC had only gone out of business a dozen years before at that time. So if he’d got a pristine copy of something to replace a poorer one, he’d pass that on to me for about half the price he’d sell it in FA – which was great because, as I said, I wasn’t that fussed about condition. So I got quite a nice collection of original EC Comics really cheap, particularly the SF titles, which were obviously the ones I was most interested in.
Probably the most important other friend I made at this time was Derek ‘Bram’ Stokes, future owner of Dark They Were and Golden Eyed, the first specialist SF and comics shop in the country (and, I’m not sure, possibly in the world). I think I first met Derek at an SF convention where he was regarded by the more straight fans, many of whom could be surprisingly conservative, as a long-haired weirdo (particularly when he turned up for the fancy dress as a barbarian, wearing little more than a sword-belt and a translucent scarf as a ‘loin cloth’), but I rather took to him. He was hip, and it was the Sixties, and we had a lot of fun. At the time he was running a mail order business for SF, horror and comics called The Vault of Horror from a lock-up in North London, but eventually he decided to open a shop. I remember him coming over to my place with a couple of young ladies called Eileen and Cathy, and we then all sat on my dining room floor (as one did in those days) discussing a name for the place. There were two options: to call it after the fairy tale collection East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which I actually favoured, but the other three outvoted me and it ended up as DTWAGE, after the Ray Bradbury story.
->PÓM: Did you have many girlfriends at the time?
->SM: The short answer to that is no. Having been to a boys’ grammar school, and with my usual sort of stay-at-home lifestyle, I hardly had any contact with girls before I left school. The first time I asked one out was when I was already working at Rank’s. But besides my rather sheltered upbringing, I don’t think we matured as early then as kids do these days.
I got to know Eileen and Cathy as friends of Derek. They were part of a larger group of friends who gathered around the beginnings of DTWAGE (I think Cathy worked in the shop for a while), and we’d hang out together, smoke dope, go to concerts, and do all those other things people did in the late ‘60s – including getting together to sit on floors and talk about weird shop names. Later, of course, there were other ladies I was very fond of, but they all tended to be on a one-at-a-time basis. ‘Many girlfriends’, though – no.SM: Derek’s first shop, a tiny place with its frontage painted a wonderful deep purple, opened in Bedfordbury, on the edge of Covent Garden, in, I think, 1970. I painted a pair of big, golden-pupilled eyes in the front window for him. I seem to recall doing this in black and gold gloss paint, so how the next owners of the shop actually got them off again, I’m not sure! Eventually he moved to larger premises in Berwick Street, and finally, and most famously, to an impressively large shop in St. Anne’s Court. That was pretty much my second home in the late seventies. By then I was freelance, and if the work was a bit short I’d go in a couple of days and work behind the counter – and at other times I’d just go in there and hang out, make cups of tea for the staff, etc. When it finally closed in 1981 I felt like I’d lost an enormously important part of my life, and a lot of good friends. But Derek ended up in Lancaster, and I just lost touch with him.
->PÓM: What else were you interested in in your teens and twenties? Music, cinema, television, anything like that?
->SM: Ah, now you really want me to show my age! The first record I owned was a 78 of Elvis Presley singing Hound Dog and, when he was still singing rock’n’roll in the late ‘50s, I quite liked Cliff Richard too (but please don’t use this in evidence against me – surely the statute of limitations must have run out on that one by now!) though I was actually much more interested in The Shadows, and an underlying interest in instrumental music, rather than songs, has remained with me ever since. From there I moved to the American guitar band, The Ventures, which in turn led my interest toward surf music for a while. I listened to The Beatles, but was much more fond of the Rolling Stones (their first album was the first LP I bought), but the band I really loved in the ‘60s was The Yardbirds, especially in their Jeff Beck period. Again, the guitar solos were a considerable attraction, but from there I developed a liking for blues, bands like Cream and some British psychedelia, and then for several years around the late ‘60s and early ‘70s I was into West Coast bands like the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service where, again, the emphasis was on extended soloing. By the mid ‘70s I was turning to jazz-rock, and people like Al DiMeola and Jean-Luc Ponty, and since then I’ve had phases of classical, Elizabethan harpsichord, world music, and so on. In all this stuff it tends to be the music that interests me rather than lyrics, possibly because I tend to listen to music more when I’m doing other things as well, so I don’t really want to be distracted by songs. And I have a great love of complexity; I tend to go back to things like Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas, or Paco Peňa playing classic flamenco guitar.
As for TV, I remember watching the BBC serial of Quatermass and the Pit, literally from behind the sofa as it scared me so much (mind you, I was only nine at the time). I really liked The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but the main series that impressed me in the ‘60s were The Avengers (particularly the Diana Rigg period) and The Prisoner. I never really took to Doctor Who, probably because the first series featured William Hartnell and a girl supposed to be his granddaughter, and I never liked programmes with kids in, so I swiftly gave up on it, and never really watched it until I actually had to write the character as a comic strip. And there was other stuff, of course, that I don’t remember. But I think that, generally, we watched far more TV in those days when we only had two channels than we do now, when the choice is almost infinite.
As for movies, like I said, I was brought up on late ‘50s sword-and-sandal epics, which I couldn’t get enough of. In my later teens I was fond of Hammer films, and still have some affection for that comfortable, non-threatening Gothic supernaturalism; whereas I wouldn’t dream of watching a modern horror film, most of which seem to be about horrible ways of murdering people or torture-porn. And while I was working with Steve Parkhouse at IPC, we’d often go off to the British Film Theatre or the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill, and watch European art movies like Last Year in Marienbad and The Seventh Seal, and Japanese samurai movies, though considering where we saw them, these were mostly the up-market productions of people like Kurosawa and Kobayashi. And then in January 1972, Bob Rickard introduced me to the Hong Kong and Taiwan historical swordfighting movie which, again, caused a major shift in my life.
->PÓM: Do you read any recent SF, or is it more what you used to read when you were younger that you go back to?
->SM: No, I haven’t ready any current SF for a long time. When the ‘New Wave’ came along in the late 1960s, I started to lose interest. I’d always loved escapist space opera, and the New Wave stuff was much more contemporary and concerned with current ‘issues’. Like a lot of people at the time, I turned away from that (although I appreciated some of the fine writing by New Wave authors) and got into the burgeoning sword-and-sorcery/fantasy field, and the Weird Tales authors; particularly Clark Ashton Smith. The more traditional SF authors started turning out ‘hard’ SF, but whenever I looked at that stuff it just seemed to me like a lecture in astrophysics, which didn’t appeal to me, despite my boyhood interests; and by the 1970s I was moving into other areas anyway. Occasionally in recent years I’ve gone back and reread a few of my favourite ‘50s and ‘60s authors, but that’s really just a nostalgia trip. Apart from that, I don’t really intersect with SF at all these days.To Be Continued…