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Clive Barker
Malcolm Edwards

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24 February 2005




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Clive Barker: The Outsider March 2005

Clive Barker grew up in Liverpool and worked in theater for several years there and in London. In 1981 he became interested in horror, and in 18 months wrote the quarter of a million words that became Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volumes I - III (1984). The books won the World Fantasy Award and were followed by Volumes IV - VI in 1985. They catapulted Barker to fame when Stephen King famously proclaimed, "I have seen the future of horror, and its name is Clive Barker."

Barker's first novel The Damnation Game (1985) was followed by eight more, through Coldheart Canyon in 2001. In 1999 Barker began a series of paintings that eventually became illustrations for his young adult fantasy series The Abarat Quartet. The first volume, Abarat, appeared in 2002, followed by Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War in 2004.

Barker's career in films began with screenplays for low-budget horror movies
Underworld (AKA Transmutations; 1985) and Rawhead Rex (1986). He wrote and directed Nightbreed (1990), the groundbreaking Hellraiser (1987), and Lord of Illusions (1995). He helped produce the acclaimed 1998 film Gods and Monsters.

Barker moved to Los Angeles in 1991, and lives there with his partner, photographer David Armstrong.
Photo by David Armstrong

Clive Barker's Official Website

Excerpts from the interview:

“I'm about to become a US citizen. I'm always going to be an outsider to some extent, but I love America. In the 12 or 13 years I've been here, England has changed very radically. I left at the end of Thatcher's regime, and now Blair has been in for a long time. My dad passed away four years ago and my mom moved away from the family house, so it's a very different experience being there now. I still get into moods where I put on a piece by Vaughan Williams or Elgar (whom they would always play the last night of the Proms), and I can certainly feel a kind of sticky, almost mawkish, sentimentality about England. A lot of my short stories are set there and a lot of my plays are about England, as well as Weaveworld and The Damnation Game. I felt I'd sort of squeezed it dry. There's a certain kind of English fantasy which I've never been particularly comfortable with -- Arthurian fantasy, for instance. I find the Arthur myths incredibly moving, but I don't have anything to say in terms of adding to it. Rosemary Sutcliff and Henry Treece had quite a bit to say, and I've read all their books. I started to come over here a lot for movie reasons, but it was only when I started to visit a bunch of the small towns, places like Simi Valley, that I felt confident enough to try something set in America, in The Great and Secret Show and Everville.

“As a Brit, to some extent I'm an outsider (though less than I used to be). As a gay man, I'm an outsider on another level. My husband is black and our daughter -- David's daughter, but I'm Dad #2 -- is half black, half Mexican, so I get other visions of outsiderdom. Nicole is a beautiful 16-year-old girl, and I'm fairly forward in asking questions about her life because you want to know as much as possible, particularly because I've been writing about a young girl. I would not have attempted Candy had I not known Nicole. I knew her first when she was seven, and the difference between a seven-year-old and a 16-year-old is just phenomenal. I've watched her blossom, and it has empowered me to feel confident enough to write about that kind of change.”


“YA works on at least two levels. I saw this the many times I went to the Royal Shakespeare Company's Christmas production of Peter Pan, which has elements from Barrie's original story, the play, and some of his letters (with Barrie as a character wandering around his own world). At the end, he says "This story will go on as long as children are young and heartless.' It ends with the death of Wendy, and Pan forgetting to come back to the connection he has made -- surrounded by an immensity of darkness, we see Peter Pan flying but looping the loop, as it were, trapped in this unbreakable circle of his own desire to be eternally youthful, both a tragic and an idyllic figure. Every single time (I saw it maybe seven times), when the lights came up every adult in the place was crying and every child was smiling. It really made this incredible impression on me. Adults see it as a story of childhood lost, and kids see it as an adventure of facing off against evil.”


“I'm still interested in getting movies made. Gods and Monsters was a nice thing to do, completely different -- a $3.2 million movie. Now we are about to do a movie deal which will allow us to make perhaps two modestly-scaled pictures a year, but with the hope that we will be able to do what Hammer did in my youth: make movies on a regular basis, sometimes even with a repertory of actors, and the same special effects people and designers from movie to movie. Because the movies will be modestly priced, I'll also have more control.

“As for the writing, beside the last two Abarat books, I have a third Book of the Art to write, and a second book of Galilee (to follow Imajica) and I will have to service stylistic continuity in all of those books, which have very different styles. When all four Abarat books are done, maybe five years off, we're also going to put them into a single mega-volume as they did with the seven books of Narnia, which proved to be fantastically successful. The project will have taken 12 years -- a significant slice of my life -- and I know you do something on this scale once

The full interview, with biographical profile, is published in the March 2005 issue of Locus Magazine.

You may purchase this issue for $7.95 by sending a check to Locus, PO Box 13305, Oakland CA 94661; or via credit card submitted by mail, e-mail, or phone at (510) 339-9198. (Or, Subscribe.)


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