This week, Avatar Press announced a six-issue series arriving in December fully scripted by Alan Moore, with art by Gabriel Andrade of Ferals, set in the world of Crossed as created by Garth Ennis, but leaping 100 years into the future of the epidemic outbreak that has set uninfected humanity fighting for their lives against animalistic hoards of attackers. This new project is Crossed +100, and not only has Moore written the series, he has even personally designed the covers for this new take on apocalypse and survival.
Moore became interested in the Crossed series via friend Garth Ennis, and the two, speculating about what the future might hold for humanity and for the planet itself, came to conclusions that spurred Moore into authorship on the new series. Now, Alan Moore talks with us here at Bleeding Cool about the logic, and even science, behind a Crossed future, the world he envisions, and how a lack of information may well be as great a threat to human culture as the epidemic itself.
HMS: So, the news is out and it’s very exciting. Crossed set 100 years in the future.
Alan Moore: I’m really excited myself. I’ve just seen some of the first sketches that Gabriel [Andrade] has done and they are fantastic. The energy in them. It’s the fact that the guy clearly gets it, he’s engaged his mind with the ideas that were in my proposal, and it looks like he’s loving it. Which is always a joy to see. That’s when you know, if the artist is into it, then you’ll get that kind of—and it’s a horrible word, but—that kind of synergy sort of inspiring the other person. I think I’m every bit as excited about it.
HMS: When you first approached Crossed, before you necessarily decided to write something of your own, what about it struck you as being “real” or significant in some way?
AM: Well, I’m ashamed and embarrassed to admit that the first time I started reading Crossed I got maybe 1/3 of the way in and I had to put it down. I just thought, “This is too horrific, it’s too brutal, I’m an old man, don’t do this to me. This is just really upsetting”. And I spoke to Garth [Ennis] and Garth was accepting that it was a point of view, he also said it was a pity that I hadn’t persevered with it because they’d put all of the most deliberately upsetting stuff up front to get respect, if you will. And then they were exploring the different issues afterward. By that time, I was convinced in my admiration for Garth’s work. I think that he is one of the finest writers in the medium. So I went back and read it again without my squeamish revulsion, and I found that actually it was one of the most profoundly moral pieces that I’d read.
HMS: How did you come up with the “future” of Crossed and extrapolate what things would be like 100 years after the outbreak?
AM: To start with, it would make a huge impact if all human industry were to stop dead in 2008. I’ve tried to think all this through. I’ve tried to come up with an estimate of around 7 billion people on the planet, and I followed Garth’s estimate in one of his “Fatal Englishman” stories, where he outlined the numbers that had been infected and the numbers that had survived, and extrapolated that across the planet. There would be a massive depopulation and a lot people would just be killed. The majority of survivors would be infected and there would be just tiny groups of uninfected human beings, however, given time, those trends would start to reverse.
The main thing is that the Crossed are extraordinarily stupid. And do not have any survival instincts. Humans do have survival instincts, and those who have survived might have done so because they’ve gotten to a place of relative safety, somewhere that can be defended, somewhere that was isolated enough not to be a problem. They would have presumably gotten better at surviving if they’ve managed to survive. The Crossed, on the other hand, would start dying off in extraordinary numbers. Mind you, there are extraordinary numbers of them, so that wouldn’t be as much of a consolation for the human survivors for a considerable time. But the first bad winter would kill an awful lot of the Crossed who hadn’t already died from starvation, stupidity, or their own colleagues.
And although, of course, there will be a huge disincentive for human beings to breed and reproduce, in those first say 10 years following 2008, this will gradually be reduced because the Crossed actually can’t reproduce. Any species faces logical hurdles in its advancement. Regarding our own species, for example, as Freeman Dyson has suggested, any species like ours faces as a first hurdle the “Uranium 92 Hurdle” or 93. It’s when we realize the immense amount of energy that is in that isotope that we develop nuclear power and we develop the capacity to destroy ourselves. Then that is the first hurdle that we overcome. Then there is the eco-hurdle. Where our industry might tip the balance and make our planet unlivable. We still have that one to overcome. Well, we still have both of them to overcome, to be absolutely honest.
But the Crossed wouldn’t really have to bother about that. They aren’t going to be making nuclear weapons or working out how to use them anytime soon. And they haven’t got an eco-hurdle to worry about. Their hurdle is the “Honey, I sodomized and ate the kids” hurdle, and if anybody actually wants to start a Kickstarter campaign to get that made into a film, I would put money in just to see the sheepish grin on Rick Moranis’ face on the poster.
But this is the problem with the Crossed, they can’t really have children. They are not going to survive. We allowed that there might be a tiny, tiny percentage that might select for not killing their own children. That you might get small, isolated outposts of inbred Crossed, that this was a possibility. But the others would be dying off in extraordinary numbers. And we worked out that certain tipping points would come.
There’d be a time when the population of humans was starting to expand, the population of Crossed was receding dramatically, and also that a lot of the Crossed children that somehow managed to survive—if it happened in 2008—are going to be by 2060 relatively old Crossed. And they are not going to have been looking after themselves. So they are going to be easier to deal with, they are going to be less numerous, and I can see that from around that time, that you are going to start to get humans being able to have relatively defended settlements and would possibly start concerted efforts to “clean” various cities of what remaining Crossed there were.
Now there are still not many remaining people, and they are scattered in settlements across the world. But this was the basic premise. Vegetation would have altered. Most cities, as far as I understand it, would have been colonized by Buddleia, within 4 or 5 years. That would colonize most of our urban centers, and that brings in the butterflies, and most of the insects, which brings in the birds, which brings in other predators. And with the species that had escaped from botanical gardens and zoos, a lot of our western cities would be pretty tropical.
HMS: That would make for very interesting visuals in the story, to say the least.
AM: Most of the buildings would have collapsed, too. Most of the ones made of newer concrete, like the ones at Canary Wharf in London, would still be there in 700 years, unfortunately. Animal populations would have changed massively. Certain animals like cows and sheep, food animals, wouldn’t have it as good because they wouldn’t have humans to look after them any more, and they would probably be too slow to get away from creatures like the Crossed. So, by the time I’m talking about in Crossed +100, they’ve got different staple food items like Ostriches, a very good source of food. There’s talk already about Ostrich burgers being a lot better for you and generally than ordinary beef. The thing is, Ostriches can run very, very fast, and they could outrun the Crossed. You’d only need a few of them for breeding purposes. You could have quite sizable herds. As you had asked me previously, ‘What made me certain that there would be a future for that world?’ There would be a future, it’s just what kind of future would that be?
HMS: Are the Crossed a different species than humanity?
AM: Thinking about the Crossed has been interesting. I don’t know that I can call them a different species. If one of the indications of a different species is that you can no longer breed with it, then I guess the Crossed are a different species. Although it’s not quite the same. You could theoretically breed with it, but then you’d be infected, and so would the babies, so it’s a different situation. Certainly, they are divergent in terms of their psychology. Now, you don’t have to generally consider that in terms of evolution. It’s physical differences that determine whether a species has diverged or not. But given that most of human physical evolution seems to have stopped quite awhile ago, all of our evolution now seems to be psychological, and intellectual, and cultural.
And that is changing us much more quickly than natural evolution did. I’d say that in that sense, the Crossed could be considered so. They both are and are not a divergent species. I would say that from a human perspective, and the way I’m dealing with it in the comic book, is that yes, in 2108, there are quite a lot of conversations about the Crossed virus, about the outbreak, and most of these conversations are pointless and go nowhere. Everyone’s got a theory and most of those theories don’t hold up on some point or another. It’s something incomprehensible that happened to humanity and humanity has to deal with it.
HMS: Do you think it’s important that humanity doesn’t know, and the reader doesn’t know, and the characters don’t know, what caused the outbreak?
AM: Well, when I was talking with Garth, I was putting forward something that I thought might conceivably work as an explanation. This was the idea that I’d heard of called the Plasmacytosis Worm. This is a parasitical worm that’s found in cat feces. Its objective is to get into the gut of a feline. What it does, for instance, is that mice will often eat cat feces and things like that. Once they are infected, the Plasmacytosis Worm will affect their brain. It will make them incredibly brave. They are certainly not going to be frightened of cats. With the Plasmacytosis Worm affecting their brain, they are not scared of cats. They could beat any cat in a fair fight, they think. And thus they end up in the intestines of a feline. Now this worm has been around for a long time, since before domestic cats. Those were not the felines that it was trying to get into the gut of. The felines that it was trying to get into the gut of would probably have been Sabretooths. And the creatures that it would have been affecting would have been Hominids.
Thus, some people have suggested that extreme risk-taking behavior may have the Plasmacytosis Worm or something like it as its root cause. It puts a different light upon heroism, doesn’t it? It might be a parasitical worm. But I’ve considered, what if the Crossed epidemic was a parasitical bacterium that was trying to get into the system of carrion animals, who would be having a feast of it? It makes you act in a manner where you’re libel to kill as many other people as possible before you yourself are recklessly killed. At which point, there’ll be a banquet for the carrion animals, and when the carrion animals are infected, there’ll be an endless food source for your host. Then I thought, “Hang on. Why doesn’t it affect non-carrion animals?” So, that doesn’t work, does it? And as to how the virus spread, I remember talking with Garth. Could it have been a virologists’ convention? I was thinking, “Yeah, except it must have broken out in countries where they’ve scarcely even heard of virology”.
So none of these explanations exactly work. I think it’s best at the end of the day to leave it as a mystery. If there were a brilliant explanation that somebody thought up in the future that brilliant stories could spin out of, I’d say, “Go with that”. Of course, in the case of Crossed, that would be rather up to Garth. But for the moment, at least, I’m quite content with having it unexplained. That we simply don’t know.
This is one of the main themes of the whole of this +100 arc, the absence of knowledge. The priorities for humans would be eminently practical. Keep yourself safe, try to get a decent power source that is reliable, try to get as much of the old technology as is feasible working again. You’re not going to have an internet. You are possibly, if you work really hard, able to establish a rail network again. It would take a lot of track-laying because obviously things have deteriorated considerably in a hundred years. But this would be one of the big, ongoing kind of future projects for humanity in the time that I’m talking about. So there would be all of these practical concerns, but I think a moving concern would be the realization that we’d just been through a Dark Age, and the only way out of that was to try to recover as much knowledge as possible. And this is where I take a lot of the impetus for the storyline. My central character is an archivist, Future Taylor.
HMS: So, this is partly about the future’s perception of the past?
AM: Right. The luxuries in thinking that we used to afford ourselves and how that would look from the perspective of such a time is an awful lot of what this book is about. Yes, it has, I think, quite a good plot dealing with events in 2108, but one of the most powerful things in the book in as far as I’ve written it so far, is the reflection from this kind of imagined future glass of ourselves and our own culture. What would we look like through their eyes? What would seem to them to be fruitless, pointless, extravagant, useless, destructive, from the point of view of where they happen to be?
HMS: In terms of what would still be useful to them and what would not be?
AM: Yes. I think that they would, at the same time, be desperate to retrieve as much of the useful parts of that culture as they could. They would realize what an extraordinary wealth of information that culture had and how useful that could be. There was a book available from Paladin in the 1970’s called How Things Work Volumes 1 and 2 and I think on the cover of Volume 2, there is a diagram of a zipper, explaining how zippers work. If you had just one copy of Volume 1 and 2 of How Things Work, that would be the kind of science that would be wealth in this kind of future world. Books upon Black Holes or Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, you’d probably pass that up.
So, I think that their sense of history would be one that was keenly felt because so much of it was missing. I think that the desire to fill in those blanks would probably be one of our key driving forces. That we would probably have accepted that no, we are never going to be back to levels that we were, and maybe that’s a good thing because probably that wasn’t sustainable. There are even somewhat mystical schools of thought in this future world that the Crossed were Mother Nature’s way of saving humanity from itself, which is a pretty stupid idea, but you can see how it is a supportable one. From the point of view of 2108, if we hadn’t done this, then most of the world would be a desert by now.
HMS: It would’ve been a different apocalypse, right?
AM: Yes. We had an apocalypse that was survivable by the planet, if not by most of us, whereas the kind of apocalypse that we might be bringing about might not be survivable by the planet in its present state, and certainly wouldn’t be survivable for us or many other species. Some of the climate change graphs I’ve seen, and these things are updated and changed regularly, show what the world would look like in 100 years if we were lucky and 50 years if we were unlucky, and basically most of the world other than the polar regions, would be uninhabitable desert. The polar regions are the only ones which actually would still be having weather and could still produce food. It could be a world with mega-cities in the Antarctic and the arctic. That might well happen. But you could see how the Crossed outbreak, having averted that, could be seen as quite a good thing.
[From the Environmental Protection Agency.gov]
Stay tuned for more on the Crossed +100 covers designed by Alan Moore and further insights on the world of Crossed +100 here on Bleeding Cool.
Avatar Press is the parent company of Bleeding Cool.