Alan Moore: Voice Of The Fire
This is my 2016 drawing ‘The Accuser’ used to mock-up a cover for Alan Moore’s Voice Of The Fire. First published in 1996, this was Moore’s first full-length prose work. Having established himself as one of the most visionary and prolific comics writers of the late 20th century, this book came as something of a surprise to those who knew his work only from 2000 A.D. or Watchmen. Not really a novel, Voice Of The Fire is a series of short stories thematically aligned around Moore’s home town of Northampton. The stories cover a period of around 5000 years, employing a wide range of narrative voices, most startlingly in the first story – ‘Hob’s Hog’ – where Moore uses a crude and blunted form of English in order to convey the mindset of those living in 4000BC Britain. This is the first sentence:
A-hind of hill, ways off to sun-set-down, is sky come like as fire, and walk I up in way of this, all hard of breath, where is grass colding on I’s feet and wetting they.
Starting your first novel in such a fashion seems like a deliberate attempt to repel your potential audience, but Moore described it as a way of “keep(ing) out the scum.” If you can’t get past ‘Hob’s Hog’ – which is nigh-on 50 pages long – then you’re not worthy of the rest of the book, through which the language begins to evolve as events progress towards a final chapter in 1990’s Britain, where the author explores his own state of mind as he nears the end of the book’s creation. Along the way we meet forgers, thieves, witches, monsters and more than a few murderers. Characters from one story will often haunt the dark corners of another, appearing to the narrators as phantasms or in fever dreams, suggesting that time’s apparent linearity is an illusion and in reality the thread is a knotted tangle in which we are all trapped. Recurring motifs of skulls, black dogs and sacrificial fires under brooding November skies suggest Moore was infused with a pre-millenial foreboding throughout the five years he spent writing the book. Twenty years on from its first publication, it retains its power, offering dire warnings from the past about the kind of future our dreams of ‘progress’ are hauling us towards.
There’s been several reissues of the book over the years, but the cover design of the original paperback edition by Robert Mason has never been bettered: