Dave Answers 6 Questons: May 2005
Dave has taken to answering questions for the Cerebus Yahoo!Group. Here are the questions and Dave's answers for May 2005 (yes, there were no questions for April 2005 due to SPACE Convention). If you prefer, here is MS Word document with all of the answers and questions. Once again, thanks to Lenny for getting the questions organized, sent to Dave and posted!
May 2005 - READS questions & answers
Q1: Back when Cerebus raped Astoria (C&S II, p872), there was quite a bit of controversy among the readers about it, and much discussion about the nature of the act, and trying to understand it. Astoria seemed quite surprised when Cerebus put the blindfold back on, an quite angry when he raped her. In the Throne Room scene with Astoria, Cirin, Cerebus, and Po, Astoria tells Cerebus that she provoked him into raping her. Her facial expression when Cerebus put the blindfold back on her, and then her verbal reaction to the act itself did not seem to be the behavior of someone in control of the situation. Is it still your contention that Astoria really did want Cerebus to rape her, or do you think that she found the idea of being raped by Cerebus such a blow to her sense of self that she has deluded herself into remembering the scene with herself in control of a situation, where she was not? How and when did you come to this decision and did the idea of her desire to try for an aardvarkian offspring develop at the same time?
DAVE: No, the aardvarkian offspring idea as a tactical device on Astoria's part was always there. The idea of women getting pregnant in order to forge a link with someone because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line is nothing new under the sun and is a natural extension of the proximity tactic. Get next to him if you can, if he lets you get next to him, get him romantically interested if you can, if he gets romantically interested, get him to marry you if you can, if he marries you, get him to get you pregnant (and transpose the last two steps if need be). Particularly in a culture like the Aardvarkian Age and our own-where standards are eroding so that the notion of the specific meaning of the term "bastard" has all but vanished from the society's lexicon-you effectively eliminate a major "downside" for women of getting pregnant out of wedlock. Given that the definition of "bastard" probably has vanished from our culture at this point, I'll indicate to any younger readers who are unfamiliar with its dictionary meaning that "bastard" was a term which, once upon a time, applied to a male child born out of wedlock. So far as I know there is no female equivalent term.
[One of my favourite jokes is about the two young guys in a diner who decide to shock the old woman sitting next to them at the counter with a loud discussion
"Did your parents get married?"
"Naw. Did yours?"
"Naw, they never saw the need-they just shacked up together."
Finally she turns to them and sweetly says,
"Would one of you bastards mind passing me the ketchup?"
See? It has no resonance in this day and age. You could probably be arrested in most cities for suggesting there was something wrong with having a child out of wedlock.]
It's just something as a man that you have to watch out for: the "accidentally-on-purpose" pregnancy. My vision of Astoria was always that of the feminist caricature, the strong, independent woman who perceives herself as a dazzling and astonishing individual but who is actually just narcissistic and cynically manipulative and uses her sex as much as anything else to get what she wants. It's really more imitative of masculinity-at least as masculinity appears from the feminine side of the divide-than it is some shining new feminine nature which is how feminists prefer to see it. It seems to me to originate from a father-identification state of existence usually encouraged by a certain kind of father terrified of losing his little girl to a younger "rival" and is, consequently, rather vulgar and incestuous. I did extrapolate from that rather common societal archetype an individual who had connected all the dots and figured out that if she was taking the organic birth control deplored by the Cirinists that she could cut a wide swath through the political scene as a kind of modified courtesan, slut and hooker. Again, I don't think there's anything particularly unusual in this. Once a female has been given carte blanche-either in her family or in her society-to identify with her father instead of her mother sexuality enters the mix. What was perhaps unusual was that Astoria realized she needed to inure herself to the consequences of being the first one into the pool (so to speak) hardening herself against how she was perceived (that is, as a combination courtesan, slut and hooker with the emphasis on the latter two) and inflating her self-perception as a masculine analogue ("I'm only behaving the way that men do and therefore I'm interchangeable with them. I'm not a slut I just have a lot of lovers simultaneously") and disconnecting herself from a core value of her own gender. The disconnect between marriage and virginity exacerbates and "enables" the situation. When it is no longer expected that a woman comes to her marriage bed as a virgin then the opposite condition tends to prevail. Virginity becomes something to be gotten rid of, like braces or Barbie dolls as a means of establishing grown-up bona fides. The inflating of self-perception is a defence mechanism more than anything else. Once a woman has surrendered her virginity out of wedlock and then becomes sexually active she can't see herself in archetypal frames of reference-because that would require seeing herself as a slut and a harlot-so she has to manufacture new frames of reference and try to make them archetypal. She's a Cool Chick or a Hot Chick or a Strong, Independent Woman or something along those lines (although, significantly, she will still portray herself as a virgin or a near virgin to her father). This is all pretty tedious and commonplace stuff, although naturally it is seen as terribly exciting and dramatic for the girls who are going through the transformation and experimenting with the various portrayal options and inflating different areas of self-perception for the first time. It is, I think, genuinely exciting and dramatic for those who pioneer a new state of female existence at odds with the society around them which is what the Astoria character was mostly about. I'm thinking here of Zelda Fitzgerald and Anais Nin and the other girls/women of the flapper generation. There was some insulation to be derived from safety in numbers-if every female in your social environment is a slut then the term itself loses meaning-and the fact that John Held was carving them in stone on the cover of Life magazine and Gloria Swanson was playing them in the movies and F. Scott Fitzgerald was immortalizing them in essays, novels and short stories coupled with the female inclination towards inflated self-perception did make things easier-"everyone's doing it, don't be so old-fashioned". But they were still dramatically at odds with the perception of what a 'good girl' is and they had to harden themselves against that perception and the majority of their society.
Most of their stories didn't end happily-there's the abundance of suitors (mistaken for friends and lovers) in her twenties and then mostly complete isolation in her forties as her looks fade-and that's pretty much locked in as our new societal template. As each successive generation of woman has decided that the problem is that she doesn't have enough freedom-everything would be fine if everyone would just bend themselves to her will and let her do exactly what she wants exactly when she wants to do it (starting with Daddy and Mummy and moving out from there)-at an earlier and earlier age the template reinforces itself. No headstrong wilful young girl-or strong, independent woman to use our modern terminology-is interested in the opinions of forty-year olds so each generation makes the same mistakes and ends up the same way. A handful of Astoria-style exceptions whose abilities match their ambition ending up along and pretty well fixed and the vast majority ending up alone and well below the poverty line. Alone, however, becomes the new "given", all exceptions duly noted.
Astoria is in a tangential but related category because she was a creature of politics with an interest in changing political realities. In the 1970s she wouldn't have been sleeping with the Rolling Stones, she would've been sleeping with Henry Kissinger (EEwwwWWW!). The same disconnect between virginity and marriage has taken place but sex as bait to snag a husband has been replaced with sex as entrée into the corridors of power. There's her own agenda and her own political aptitudes and her cold cynicism and manipulative nature and talents and that is coupled with sex as the trump card in no small part because she is such a pioneer in that area that it is genuinely a trump card in her dealings with politicians and other people she wants to make use of. It's taking the disconnect between virginity and marriage and running with it, basically. Once disconnected why stick around that emotional area mentally? Sex is a more useful tool politically than it is emotionally once its been divorced from marriage so she just moves it out of the emotional category and into the political category in what I assume is a manner comparable to the way that a prostitute moves sex out of the emotional category and into the employment category. It's Astoria's sexual dispassion and its uniqueness to the environment that allows her to pick her spots on the basis of political instinct rather than romantic attachment, the less emotional she is about sex the sharper her political instincts for its political application become and the more effective she becomes in applying it to her political ambitions i.e. Pavlov was right. The rewards she gets reinforce the message for her. In my mind, she devoted a lot of time and energy to overcoming exactly the sort of inherent female inner nature which sees sexuality as inextricably bound up with marriage and emotion and romance and was largely if not completely successful and so had become, by the time we meet her in High Society completely detached, personally, from the sexual act itself. It was just something, to her, that you went through to assist you in your actual interests-manipulating powerful figures into serving your agenda.
[Coincidentally this morning I was reading an article about Hilary Rodham Bonaparte which recounted an episode in the Oval Office in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky fiasco where President Clinton was reading the latest polling that they were having done and mentioned to her that a vast majority of Americans admitted to wondering why she had stayed with him after the big revelation. She is reported to have said, ruefully, "I was wondering that myself." I think the answer is in an Astoria-like level of disconnect. Her marriage was far more a political alliance than it was a romantic one so there was no reason to file for divorce and every reason to stick it out. The arguments in favour of divorce were all feminine and romantic. "He broke my heart and I can't stay here anymore." The arguments in favour of staying were masculine and political. "He's a popular two-term President and a brilliant campaigner and fund-raiser. If I stay married to him I'll have those assets to draw on when I run for the Senate and when I run for President. If I divorce him he may campaign or fund-raise for a Democratic rival. To an Astoria, the resultant "do I stay or do I go" decision is a no-brainer. You would just wait and see if Slick Willy could get out of this one and when it becomes obvious he's going to, it reinforces your political alliance with him and the marriage becomes a moot point.
We just had one of those in Canada with Belinda Stronach jumping from the Conservatives to the Liberals, in the process not only abandoning-promise not to laugh-her principles, but ditching her boyfriend who was the number two guy in the Conservative Party in the process. Same situation in reverse of Hilary Rodham Patton-she saw the Liberal Prime Minister as vulnerable and the Conservative Party as going nowhere so, home is where the ambition is best served. The romantic relationship was a moot point and nothing to give her even a moment's hesitation in her decision-making. It's a complete disconnect from femininity. It is no big surprise that Belinda Stronach has a number of father figures in her life, including her own father Frank Stronach who appointed her the titular head of his Magna Corporation, former Prime Minister Mulroney, former Premier Ernie Eves, Red Tories all who see no dichotomy between Conservative principles and feminism and consequently got bitten on the ass but good by Stronach and are completely mystified by what may have caused it. Astoria-style disconnect would be my answer. When a woman disconnects from her heart she is the living embodiment of the loose cannon. There's no question that she'll jump-"a woman's right to choose"-but it's an open question of where she'll land and where she'll jump to next although it's a safe bet that she will jump...again, and again and again and again...as she tries to reshape her world in her own image]
Of course with any woman for whom sex becomes merely tactical, a means to an end, the disconnect becomes universal and she tends to lose any ability to actually perceive her own reactions. The portrayal becomes the reality. Because it is necessary for her to de-link sex from romance so as to align it more clearly with political instinct and the exertion of control, anything she might tell you about sex or her part in it or your sexual relationship with her is going to be suspect. Like the sex, her reaction to sex is sublimated into other areas. Rape and sex become treated the same way in her mind. She isn't being humiliated by being raped anymore than she is emotionally moved by being made love to. She gives a lover a blow-job for the same reason that you give a petulant and difficult child a cookie-because it gives you leverage over their behaviour. The key for Astoria is knowing when to do it, familiarizing herself with the subject and, as I say, picking her spots. You give the blowjob at the point where it is going to result in maximum leverage.
I wouldn't think she had been raped very often, but her reaction however many times it happened would've been as you saw in the scene with Cerebus. She knew it would be over soon so she just waited as if she was at a dentist's appointment and probably used the muscles in her vagina and her experience with "moving things along" to bring it to a conclusion faster. In that sense she was very much in control of the situation because she was in control of her perceptions of herself. It would be impossible to humiliate or wound her sexually because she didn't connect who she was with what happened "down there". There was no sense that her vagina was reserved for the One True Love She Would Someday Find and therefore no sense that someone not of her own choosing invading it was, therefore, a wounding or even particularly significant event. As I say, to Astoria sex was just like a dentist appointment. This one wasn't going to accomplish anything for her but considering how much her sex had accomplished for her and what she expected it would accomplish for her in the future, she could afford a "freebie" under the circumstances.
One of the points that I was making, or attempting to make-very much apart from who Astoria is sexually which was a central point-was the nature of the religious authority involved and Cerebus' perception of it. If he's the Pope he can marry people, so he married himself to Astoria. It's really an ironic critique of forensic, literalist doctrinaire thinking that occurs in an organized religious context of established guidelines and parameters. Obviously marrying yourself to someone doesn't make rape into not rape, at least in my view it doesn't. If anything it is the worse sin because you are using your clerical status to get laid and using your clerical status to change your marital status so that you can persuade yourself that you aren't committing a sin and ignoring the wishes of your new "wife". From what I understand, Islam has been having trouble with something very like this for some time, although I certainly wasn't aware of it at the time. Rich guys who are allowed to have (like any Muslim who can afford to take care of them) up to four wives and so marry fifteen year-old girls, give them their dowery and then divorce them. Technically it's a marriage and sanctioned by the Koran depending on who is giving you the opinion. Literally, to me, it's obvious prostitution and, depending on the jurisdiction, statutory rape.
Cerebus wanted to have sex with Astoria but he didn't want to sin, particularly now that he was the Pope. So he just took the straightest route to what it was that he wanted and used his own religious authority to legally overcome his personal qualms.
I hadn't realized it at the time, but what I was addressing was what I now see as the bedrock foundation of ethics which is the need of each individual to determine the nature of one's innermost motivation. Cerebus' innermost motivation wasn't to marry Astoria, it was to commit an act of fornication with her. Later, of course, this (ahem) seminal thinking would lead to my own decision to become celibate. I wasn't looking for a wife, I was looking to get laid. When I claimed to be in love, it was just that I wanted to have sex with them more often than once-either because it was convenient and enjoyable to have an "on-call" sex object or because I actually enjoyed their company for a period of time (more often the former than the latter). It's an unbecoming innermost motivation but that was what my innermost motivation was so eventually that made the decision easy. Don't have sex because my motives for having it are wrong.
It was also tackling a core element of the "damsel in distress" motif coupled with sadistic titillation which we see everywhere in our entertainment (first and foremost in romance novels intended exclusively for women). The rape scene that is interrupted at the last possible second is a cliché of monumental proportions. It satisfies the impulse toward sadism on the part of men and masochism on the part of women (which has to be near to universal or romance novels would have different contents and covers) and then provides a kind of cathartic absolution by being interrupted by the heroic last-minute rescue. It allows women to switch gears from the rape fantasy to the rescue fantasy and persuade themselves that their genuine interest is in being rescued. It's having your cake and eating it, too. So, I was definitely interested in doing a scene that not only didn't interrupt the threatened rape at the last moment but which indicated that rape of the conventional sort wasn't possible in the circumstances because the victim didn't relate to her sexuality in any conventional way and so didn't have the conventional response to it-shame, anguish, a sense of having been dehumanized. Sex to Astoria was as human as politics and for her it was in the same category. Sex could help her to change her society into a Dictatorship of Daughters so she thought of it the same way that she thought of her persuasiveness in argument and her calculating mind. It was another tool in her toolbox.
And, of course, Cerebus just falls asleep after which isn't really one of those classic hallmarks of the rapist but more the response of the satisfied husband-which, to his mind, was what he was. This was his wedding night. Through his first marriage to Sophia, sex had become an Acquired Taste and a big part of that Acquired Taste involved going to sleep right after.
Say what you will, that certainly puts it out of the category of a conventional rape scene.
Q2a: There seem to be some parallels between Po's ascetic lifestyle and the way you live your life today. Were you already envisioning moving toward something like your current lifestyle when you were writing Po's speech, or even previously when you were developing his character in your mind?
DAVE: I always saw that way of living as an unattainable ideal. Even when I was a complete pagan and aware of the forces that existed in the universe and the hidden nature of things I was aware that celibacy and ascetic living were efficacious. I was, however, still mired in my own "Acquired Tastes" phase and only vaguely aware that I hadn't smoked cigarettes and pot all of my life-that I had lived for a number of years without thinking that a day where I hadn't smoked a joint or gotten drunk or had sex was a wasted day. I just saw those things as irrevocable. Once I had started smoking pot, I would be smoking it for the rest of my life. I would always be trying to get laid, I'd always be drinking far more than I should. I read books on different mystical strains and philosophies mostly centred on LSD and I did tend to think that was the Stairway to Heaven even though it was actually just an accelerant as I experienced it. My mind did all the same things it just did them a lot faster and played a lot more tricks on me. The one time I went to church with my mother-in-law just convinced me that religion was in the portrayal category, a kind of simpering One Big Happy Family feminized approach where preaching and the Latin mass had been replaced by touchy-feely group hug crap. The same reaction that I had to the PTL Club with Jim and Tammy Fae-which is where I got the idea for Most Holy and the "He doesn't love you, he just wants all your money" t-shirt and which I watched with a compulsive "wiggling loose teeth" obsessiveness way late at night, smoking pot and channel-surfing in search of naked women. In that sense, I was always very self-isolating and solipsistic. I never connected with anything in any way that approached the way I connected with comic books so the world always seemed like a series of transparently fake portrayals which only served to make me more interested in reality and in finding a way to perceive more accurately. Suenteus Po and I shared a motivation in that. But I was still at the mercy of my hormones. I spent thousands of dollars renting a two-bedroom penthouse apartment and decorating it-and instead of staying home and enjoying it, spent most of my nights in shabby nightclubs staring at the chicks. Chicks dressed to the nines was the one portrayal that I was tight with. They took what they looked like and then decorated it laboriously and with dazzling results. It was portrayal but it was interesting, unlike spending an evening as a part of two couples or going on a nature hike or to my parents' or to conventions. And, of course, the more you drink the more a portrayal begins to seem even more real because your perceptions are more easily fooled. And that only worked in nightclubs. I couldn't get severely drunk as part of two couples or at my parents as a means of letting it fool me more easily. Being drunk changes the complexion of the activity whereas the nightclub just continues being a nightclub no matter how drunk you get.
In retrospect, the real breakthrough point for me was Malcolm Muggeridge's A Third Testament series of television programs. It was the first time I heard Jesus discussed intelligently in light of various interpretations of the Gospels from Tolstoy to Dickens to Dostoevsky. It was pure thought, not simpering feminized emotionalism ("Jesus loves you and we do too") and that was definitely a breakthrough point. His distillation of Dostoevsky's core message as "Accept suffering and be redeemed by it"-that is, be redeemed both by the suffering itself and by the acceptance of it-really shook my world. I read St. Augustine because he was very big on St. Augustine and found him trite and largely unreadable. Likewise Mother Theresa of whom he was devoutly enamoured. She always reminded me of cat yronwode. But Muggeridge himself seemed transcendentally Christian to me and still does. There was a lot more Muggeridge in Suentus Po than there was Dave Sim at that point.
Q2b: Did the choice/desire for a much more ascetic lifestyle come only after many more years of contemplation and/or the discovery of Islam?
DAVE: The urge to feel good, to stroke my own pleasure centres in my brain by whatever means were ready to hand at any given moment were always in the way. I prayed two or three times a day and started observing a Sabbath and limited where and when I smoked, how often I'd let myself go out and how many drinks I'd let myself have when I got there. Fornication was easy to get rid of. Successfully "closing the deal" is all timing. There is a right time to throw your pitch and the window of opportunity is usually narrow. If your gut tells you that it's time to say "your place or mine?' or a less clichéd equivalent then you say it right then and there without thinking. My newly arrived at ambivalence meant that I would miss the window of opportunity and then there was no point in saying something, the moment was past and most girls who are interested in getting laid rather than just flirting aren't interested in a guy who can't throw the pitch when it's time. They move on and go looking for one who will. If getting laid was the reason they went out to the nightclub they know from experience that the guy who can't close the deal in the club is probably just going to drink twenty cups of tea at her place, shake hands and go home an hour after the sun has come up. I just became one of those guys who didn't close the deal when I was given an opening. End of fornication as an issue in my life.
Masturbation was more difficult. I had been sold the same bill of goods as everyone else. Like the Seinfeld episode where they make the bet about who can go the longest without masturbating and they're tossing and turning in bed and haunted and irritable. We really have convinced ourselves that that's true: that daily or very frequent masturbation is a cornerstone of mental health. It's really just the opposite, in my experience. The longer you go without it (I'm at twenty months right now) the more you realize-like love and sex-that it's a problem and not a solution. Everything works a lot better without it. Combined with prayer and scripture, I just started moving the things out of my life that I knew I should move out of my life. The ones I couldn't move out, I sequestered-I'll only smoke here-and diminished-I'll only smoke these many cigarettes a day. There were opportune contributions. Kitchener banned smoking in all public places. I already knew from Northampton which had had a similar ban that if I couldn't smoke, there was no reason to drink. I'd just get a buzz on and have to go outside for a cigarette and by the time I came back in, I'd have sobered up. As soon as I got a buzz going again, I needed another cigarette. So, that meant there was no motivation to backslide. I haven't had a drink in two years or a cigarette in six years. You start with the things you can diminish and you diminish them and the whole thing begins to reinforce itself. Every vice you get rid of makes you feel that much better. Eating healthy food makes you feel better than eating fried garbage. It's all pretty much a Duh, so you just end up shaking your head at the you that saw it all as being so impossible and such a daunting prospect. Your lungs crave oxygen, not cigarette smoke. Your body craves fruits and vegetables not French fries. You spirit craves Scripture and prayer, not movies and television. Get rid of the self-evident garbage-or diminish and sequester it-and stick with things of value and your life becomes a positive reinforcement no-brainer.
Q3a: Within the body of Reads, we are introduced to Victor Reid, and his alter ego Rotsieve. Given the parallels in the second half of Reads, and your admission of being a diagnosed borderline schizophrenic, could it be said that the authoring of the second half of Viktor Davis' Reads (and to some degree Tangent) could be inspired by your own "Rotsieve?"
DAVE: Yes, "Rotsieve"-Victor spelled backwards-was inspired by my own experiences as a mean drunk. That fed on itself-the longer I went without getting laid, the meaner a drunk I became and the meaner a drunk I became the longer I went without getting laid. It was Valerie-back in the 80s at Peter's Place who christened me "Evad, the anti-Dave" as I recall and then later "Deiter von Evad". It was just alcohol-fuelled rage pure and simple. I never hit anybody or anything but I would develop a very sharp tongue and a cruel wit which was very entertaining as long as you weren't the object of it. I tried to document that part as honestly as I could, particularly as it tended to manifest itself in my relationship with Diana Schutz which is what had been going on just prior to Reads, 1992-93. I'd place these terrifically abusive and interminable phone calls to her when I came home drunk and not remember a thing the next day. Susan Alston didn't put up with it starting in August of '94. The first rule was "don't drink and dial."
By the time I was writing "Tangent," I had been broken up with Susan for three years or so and that rage had evaporated as it sunk in that I was never going to let myself get into the situation of getting laid again. It broke the cycle of dependency between drinking and getting laid. The big difference was that from '98 on it wasn't that I couldn't get laid it was that I chose not to get laid. I could go out and have two, three, four or five beers and know how the evening was going to end which hadn't previously been the case. When the windows of opportunity didn't arrive and my drinking accelerated there was no telling what was going to happen next. Now, what was going to happen next what that I was going to get into a cab well before last call and go home. If windows of opportunity arrived, I ignored them. Consciously missing the first few windows of opportunity to proposition girls who were expressing an interest, scarcely believing that that was what I was doing was the transformational watershed. And then it became my way of life and the more it became my way of life, the less frequently the opportunities came along. I had "gone off" the female wavelength. I don't know what their receptors tell them about me now but it definitely closes off the sexual option.
No, "Tangent" was pure observation that I had picked up over the years while I was trying to get laid and ending up mostly getting drunk. It started as trying to "crack the code"-what did it take to get women to sleep with me?-but ended as perceiving reality accurately.
I already had cracked the code but kept conveniently forgetting. All I had to do was just want to get laid and I would get laid. Just as all I had to do was to want a girlfriend and I'd get a girlfriend. What I was unconsciously raging against was knowing that I wasn't getting laid because in actuality I wanted a girlfriend or if I got laid, I would turn her into a girlfriend. I was lying to myself. It's a very simple rule of thumb for guys that is very difficult to actually accept. It's easier to blame not getting laid on outside forces when the simple truth is that you actually don't want to get laid. And usually for good reason. If it's just getting laid, that's fine. Wam-bam thank you ma'am. But if it turns into a girlfriend situation the split-second decision made after your third or fourth drink can lead you onto a roller-coaster you aren't going to be able to get off for four or five years. That's one decision in your twenties when a year is exactly a year long and you think you're basically immortal and another when years go by the way months used to and the game is no longer worth the candle. If your innermost motivation is sincerely just to get laid, you'll have to, as they used to say, beat them off with a stick.
"Tangent" was just a summing up of everything that I saw going on around me, the fundamental problems with feminism. I could finally be completely lucid and dispassionate on the subject because I no longer had a dog in that fight. As soon as I knew I was never going to get laid again, I was no longer within the societal construct that compelled me to believe or at least pay lip service to inherently ridiculous precepts. Had I attempted 'Tangent' while I was still wrestling with myself about wanting to get laid or wanting to have a girlfriend it would have gotten bogged down in that internal warfare. I wouldn't be able to perceive accurately and put my accurate perceptions down on paper because I would have to maintain at least a toehold in the societal hallucination in order to get laid. As soon as the internal warfare was over-and the internal warfare was definitely over by the end of 1999-it was just a basic exercise in building a rational argument that I knew inside and out and writing it well.
Q3b: And if this is so, did you always assume the reaction would be so slanted on the Feminist/Homosexualist axis (making "Tangent" inevitable, or at least expected)? Or were you hoping to open a more level-headed dialogue using uninhibited (and shocking) prose to spur debate (the failure of which resulted in Tangent)?
DAVE: Well, I didn't see it as uninhibited and shocking. My thesis was just common sense supported by the evidence of what started going on in 1970 and what it had eroded into. The fact that the societal status quo of discussion of feminism is still inhibited-'don't go there'-The reaction to me was just the feminist/homosexualist axis doing what they do best-being drama queens. If you can't refute the argument then pitch a hissy fit and hope everyone just focuses on the hissy fit and forgets the argument. That's all that's going on at Harvard right now, that's all that the feminist who said she had to run out of the room where Summers was speaking because otherwise she was sure she would've fainted or vomited was doing. She was being a drama queen and hoping her drama queen antics would distract people from the subject. Worked good. It always works good. That's why feminists and homosexualists use it so much. Lawrence Summers is throwing 50 million dollars at the problem instead of discussing it. He knows how his team works. Don't call it a bribe, but if they pitch a hissy fit you have to keep throwing money at them until they stop. My guess is that they'll stop when he hits the 75 million dollar mark.
Q3c: (Please note, this is not an attack or a defense of the content of your writing, merely a desire to glimpse inside your creative process. Issue 186 and, later, Tangent have become important touchstones for debate not only on the subject of feminism, but also freedom of speech - at least within this community.)
DAVE: Yes, that's true, it's a small victory but even a small victory is still a victory. We have one teensy-weensy corner of the world where the reaction to criticism of feminism isn't a hissy fit. I think I'm safe in saying that in this teensy-weensy corner of the world it is pretty much accepted as a given that a thorough discussion of the issues involved with whatever science there is to support or refute them is far more valuable than throwing 50 million dollars at the issues involved. That's one small step for man...one giant leap for mankind.
Q4: For the second time in as many collections (first in Women pp87-88 and then in Reads p27) we are shown the phrase "I know things that have been forgot. I know things that will never be forgot." Is this some kind of foreshadowing of the revelations concerning the nature of Cerebus' reality, and your role in it? Or is there some other significance? Did you author that phrase? Or is it a quote?
DAVE: So far as I know, I authored the phrase. It just popped into my head one night as a lot of phrases did when I had been out drinking. It has a nice ominous tone to it. "Forgot" instead of "forgotten" helps the effect. It is quite possible that I was fed the phrase as a foreshadowing of my Torah commentaries but I'm not privy to those creative processes-where they originate and so on-so it would be purely guesswork on my part.
Q5a: Is the rising of Cirin and Cerebus an Ascension?
Q5b: Where was the gold?
DAVE: The gold was the large sphere that Cirin was trying to make as the Ascension was imminent.
Q5c: Where's the tower? If it is an Ascension (and, actually, even if it isn't), can you compare it to previous ones and talk about Ascensions and their meaning within the greater Cerebus Novel? (i184)
DAVE: It was a different sort of Ascension from the one depicted in Church & State. The core elements are always there but they enact themselves in different combinations. Weisshaupt thought the gold sphere could be carried. All it needed to be was round and made of gold. Cirin thought it needed to be huge largely because of Cerebus demanding that everyone bring him all the gold. She thought that he was privy to some hidden knowledge about the Ascensions and leaped to the conclusion that what he knew was that the sphere needed to be huge. It never occurred to her that he wanted all the gold just have all the gold. In this instance the Throne Room, the Church and the wall of the upper city exploded into small fragments and the tower was the narrow column atop which was the throne itself which ascended whereas in Church & State the tower itself which was the wall surrounding the upper city ascended. Everyone tries to guess what the right combination is. Sometimes as in the Women volume, the tower just falls over. I discussed the meaning elsewhere in these questions, I'm pretty sure, referencing Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven. The idea of heaven being "up there" and there being a stairway or a means of ascending into heaven, whether it's Jesus at the end of Mark's gospel or Muhammad's Night Journey, it's a pretty universal concept which I tend to view as being metaphorical as I think I've also said elsewhere. I think our progress is more transformative, analogous to the caterpillar turning into a butterfly with the originating state and transformative states being too drastically different to share any frame of reference so I think the idea of heaven being "up there" tends to be a placeholder concept for the transformative state and a misunderstanding of what earth's atmosphere is which is what I read in Genesis.
WILDCARD a: What's your take on the Star Wars saga?
DAVE:I went to see Episode Three a week or so ago, not having seen any of the films since the second one. I sort of wondered to myself about that. Why didn't I go and see any of the other ones? As soon as Yoda came on the screen I remembered. A Muppet with Fozzie Bear's voice. It just blew the whole thing out of the water for me. I had forgotten the skewed syntax to his sentences as an alien motif but I'm sure I found it as sincerely irritating twenty-five years ago as I did this time. It's Fozzie Bear. How do you expect me to take a muppet who sounds like Fozzie Bear seriously as a Grand Master Poobah type. It was silly. Ger lasted one more movie and then had the same reaction, he informs me, to teddy-bears saving the universe.
WILDCARD b: Do you see any comparisons between your 25 year devotion to a single storyline and George Lucas' 28 year devotion to his?
DAVE: Lucas just went away and came back and visited from time to time didn't he? I mean the last two films were made back-to-back, but he wasn't actually working on Star Wars for twenty-eight years non-stop. I kept thinking as I was watching the last one about how much Gene Day loved this stuff. I was sorry that he never lived long enough to see the whole thing. He was one of those guys who went and saw the first one eight or nine times. Even back then, I'd much rather have seen a page of Al Williamson artwork or Howard Chaykin's Cody Starbuck than watch the movie. Anything having to do with Star Wars and I just start thinking about Gene Day and how happy it made him. But for me, personally? The dialogue is like fingernails on a chalkboard to a writer's ear. I always loved Harrison Ford's line, that George Lucas should be tied to a chair and forced to recite his own dialogue. In terms of movie entertainment its on a plateau all its own both because of the length and the devotion of the audience which numbers in, I'm sure, the hundreds of millions. It's like Harry Potter or Sandman. It's really too big a cultural event for someone of my scale to discuss without sounding as if I'm getting above my place. Cerebus isn't in that league and shows no signs of ever getting anywhere close to that league. I'll leave it at that.
WILDCARDc: What's your take on Lucas' moral/artistic right to tinker with the previous movies and withdraw/suppress dissemination of the original versions? Is he acting within his rights as Creator?
DAVE: Mm. No, he's acting within his legal rights as the Owner/Proprietor in the same way that Ger and I, as Owners/Proprietors of Cerebus, decide what goes into the trade paperbacks. The fact that we're also the creators is a secondary consideration. Aardvark-Vanaheim owns Cerebus and we own Aardvark-Vanaheim. I assume he negotiated a deal which allows him to call the shots like that. He used the leverage from the revenue the movies generated to get that kind of control from the studios and now he's exercising it.
Likewise with the tinkering. Studios don't usually allow tinkering, but if you've made the kind of money Lucas' franchise has that's going to become negotiable and if it's important to Lucas (as clearly it was) then he's going to acquire those tinkering rights which he has. Money talks. Clearly and eloquently.
WILDCARDd: Or does he owe a duty to the fans who supported him through the years who want to see/buy those original versions?
DAVE: No, I would see that as being the same thing as the Cerebus back issues. Ger and I have the sole right to reprint those and have chosen not to. At that point it's up to the fans-or, rather, readers in our case-to preserve the original back issues as artefacts because Ger and I aren't interested in replenishing the supply and to pay whatever it costs to complete a three-hundred issue set if that's what you want to do. If you want the original Star Wars the way that it looked on its first theatrical release, then I think you have to find the best print of it or the best videotape of it and work at preserving it if that form of it is important to you personally that it be preserved. Assuming that George Lucas has the largest supply of the original print(s)-assuming that was part of his deal with the studio in agreeing to update it which I would imagine it was I assume that that comes with the legal right to torch them if he thinks the later version is an improvement and should be the only one that exists. If the Owner Proprietor doesn't want to maintain the supply line of something he owns and has a proprietary interest in whatever that thing is, then that thing becomes an artefact and enters a different category. The fact that the number of original prints is a fixed commodity with an uncertain demand means that basic market forces of supply and demand take over. If millions of Star Wars fans want an original print and there are only ten it's going to be very expensive but it will probably be preserved effectively as a result and somewhere up ahead will be available for reproduction if posterity judges the earlier version to be preferable to the later version. If there are thousands of original prints and only twenty Star Wars fans who want the original then it's going to be up to those twenty to get their hands on as many copies as they can and preserve them. The bad news is that you'll probably have been long dead by the time that comes to any kind of resolution. The good news is: in that case, why worry about it?