I think he’s very like Alan Moore in that respect — Moore’s another one who comes across to a lot of people when they read interviews with him as like a ranting madman, some sort of Old Testament fire and brimstone prophet, when in fact he’s a lovely, sweet, funny man.
Moore, Miles and Moffat all share that condition - that when you hear them speak in public, they’re engaging and interesting and not horrible. But when you write down their words, divorced from context, the meaning of the words alone seems awful.
You’re not the first person to bring to my attention that these people seem lovely when they’re talking out loud (that’d be Jim Smith, who’s endlessly fascinated by the difference between screen interivew Moffat and print interview Moffat).
What’s interesting is that you and Jim put more weight on the versions of these people we see in interviews - that we just need to hear them say the words, and we’ll realise they’re not appalling things to say at all!
There are times when that’s true - that the meaning is ironic. But there are plenty of times where I think stripping the words of their delivery show them up for the horrible opinions they really are.
The odd thing is, though, for Miles and Moore at least, I’ve always read what they say in the sense in which they sound when they’re spoken, since long before I ever heard either man speak. Yesterday was the first time I’d ever heard Miles speak, but I’ve just never (or at least very rarely) read his words as having the aggressive, petulant quality so many seem to read into them. The tone they always read as having in my head is rather self-deprecating, if anything.
So I don’t think it’s a matter of the lack of tone revealing the ‘truth’ of their opinions, as possibly a different way of approaching text — a difference in what people’s “instinctive” reading of something is. It might — I don’t know for sure — be something as simple as some people taking any statement of opinion without explicit caveats as some sort of dogmatic statement, while others read implicit caveats into the words, so where, say, Alan Moore says “modern superhero comics are rubbish”, some people would read that as “modern superhero comics are all, with no exceptions, rubbish, and I believe I am the ultimate authority on this”, while others would read it as “the modern superhero comics I’ve bothered to look at are mostly pretty bad, and while there are almost certainly exceptions, I’m not going to bother talking about them because we all know that”.
I believe, for the most part, that Moore and Miles intend their statements in something like the second sense, and are being read mostly in the first. I may be wrong, but I do think that explains the difference between how they come off in person and how they come off online. I also think that in general it’s better to give people the benefit of doubt.
I may tend towards that view, though, because it’s how people tend to react to me in writing. I consistently find that people who only know me online think I’m some sort of rather aggressive, humourless, stern, arrogant figure, while those who know me offline use words like “lovely” and “sweet”. The people in the former camp often seem to me to be misreading what I’ve said, in much the same way people seem to me to be reading Moore or Miles’ statements very differently from the way I do. That suggests to me that it really is a question of communication styles, rather than of intent.
Of course, one could also argue that given that Miles and Moore are both professional writers, they should be better able to communicate their tone in text than that…