Reading Richard’s last post I was reminded just how clever Moore was to put his vampires in the water. First of all, it allowed for some incredible visuals…and second it’s just a really smart idea. Vampires don’t need to breathe…so a pond would be a perfect place for them to form a community. Why didn’t somebody else think of that first? (Maybe they did…but even if that’s the case, Moore’s clever for lifting it. (Update: …and he lifted it from Marty Pasko’s earlier Swamp Thing story, according to Alex Buchet in comments — which makes it maybe a little more obvious a lift than I was thinking. Sort of invalidating the whole point of this post. But oh well…that’s blogging for you. Update to the update: no, apparently the idea of having vampires in the lake was Moore. Carry on then.))
One of the things about Moore that’s very unusual for horror writers and for certain kinds of pulp writers is how carefully he thinks things through. He’s got all these ideas about how stuff fits together — if you start here, then that means this, which means you get to that. Steven King, for example, doesn’t do that. His stories make no sense — or they sometimes make sense, but you definitely get the feeling that he’s making it up as he goes along (in Salem’s Lot, for instance, the vampires are sort of solid, sort of not — it just depends on what the story calls for.) Neither do Lovecraft’s, really — it’s all unnameable this and unmentionable that and you know he doesn’t care whether the Yog-shoggoth works or not so long as he can work in a Poe reference. Moore really does care about the mechanics, though — which can end up really badly when he tries to deal with gender anxiety (which Lovecraft, for example, manages to do a lot smarter by being a lot less aware/explicit about what he’s doing). But it can also give you a tour de force like the Anatomy lesson, where everything you think you know about the character gets turned inside out.
Basically, Moore seems like a very deductive writer — which seems like perhaps not the best fit for horror, which tends to work best when it deals with subconscious inklings and anxieties rather than with ratiocination. Moore really hit his stride when he moved towards works which had a greater focus on ideas rather than on the half-formed dream world of horror.
Though those vampire issues are still scary. And the monkey-king was pretty bad ass…. Moore could do horror if he put his mind to it, even if it did work against his strengths in some ways.
Update: The whole swamp thing roundtable is here.