by Carnell / page 2

Carnell Do you find that sometimes you have to catch yourself from falling in love with the sound of your own voice?
Clive Barker Oh, Lord, absolutely. That's the great note from Williams. "Slaughtering your favorite children." Whenever you find a sentence which you've published and devoted hours to, it probably doesn't belong. Strengths. I have a very vivid imagination and I have a real passion to communicate what's going on in my head to other people.
Carnell Since you've brought up sex, I want to ask you about that. I'd like to get your thoughts on the relationship between Sex and Fear. You seem to plumb that with a journeyman's ability.
Clive Barker Well, the truth is, sex is more fearful than perhaps it has ever been before, that's the first thing to say. As a gay man, with a lot of gay friends, some of whom I've lost, that certainly sharpens the edge of one's knowledge more than you would like, really, but there's something else, something even if AIDS were not such an important and tragic element of our lives right now; the issue of sex stirs us up because it's a control issue. We, as personalities, tend to like to be in control of ourselves. We don't like to relinquish control. Sex demands that we relinquish control. Chemicals flow in our bodies which say "Oh, well, you don't want to get a hardon? Too late, guy." [laughs] You are not master of your own anatomy. Speaking to my women friends, it seems that, even though the manifestations maybe not quite so obvious, nevertheless, they feel the same kinds of demands and psychological changes, and they're every bit as inevitable for a woman as they are for a man. There's also the issue that we feel closer to something which is erasing part of our personalities. By which I mean, our personalities are constructs, the masks we put on and take off. I think it's fair to say that if root elements remain a constant nevertheless change. One of the things that sex does as it makes us less ourselves. There's something wonderful about that. There's something wonderful about the fact that we are being transformed, in a way, in the grip of sexual feeling. That as we move towards greater and greater intimacy with somebody our personalities become less important to us. In fact, in the height of love and the height of love-making one of the things we want is to be erased, to be subsumed by the other person. To become, in a way, blocked and so identified with the other person that maybe both personalities disappear. There's something transformative and extraordinary.
Carnell I wanted to ask you about "The Advocate" article that's just out. I don't really want to dwell on this, but I think that it's important. Why did you choose not to come "out"?
Clive Barker The truth is, I didn't chose now. I did a big piece in "The Advocate" about four years ago, nobody gave a flying fuck about it, but I did it. I've read at gay book stores. If anyone ever asked me the question I gave them the answer. It's just that no one has really been interested in the question. The truth is, I don't quite know why suddenly everybody was. I don't mind at all. I've written a lot about gay people in my novels, Imajica has a gay relationship which is cherished in the context of the novel and becomes a very important part of the novel. I'm writing about another gay character right now. It's never been an issue, really. I guess maybe because I've always thought it was so obvious and I've had many letters from gay men and women saying "Well, we love the fact that you write about gay characters and we love the fact that you're gay" and so on. And I always thought, "Well, there you go." It's not even an issue. So then, I was a little startled, but not unhappy, just startled. I mean I did a piece in "Out", and a piece in "Ten Percent Magazine" around the same time which was a function to some extent that I have a wonderful publicist whom I've just taken on, who said "Well, why don't we do all these things?" I said, "Well, sure." It's just fine. It's just surprising that anybody would be surprised.
Carnell Did the media behave in a way that you expected or was it a complete shock? Were you surprised that people jumped on it?
Clive Barker I was surprised that people jumped on it.
Carnell I would think that we as a culture had moved well beyond that.
Clive Barker I would have thought so, too. I was somewhat startled. Again, I didn't mind. It's the truth and certainly nothing I am unhappy about. I think it's very important right now, perhaps more important than it's ever been, with so much negativity being directed towards gay men. So much misinformation is being passed around by people who want to get political headway out of it. People in my position, if you will, whatever you want to call them, media people, celebrities, whatever, say "Oh yeah, by the way, me too."
Carnell I find it interesting when someone like Stephen King says "I'm married," people aren't saying "Oh, really?" Let's talk about that!"
Clive Barker I'll tell you what I think it is to some extent. People who exercise influence on the culture, in some way or another, particularly if it's a relatively mainstream influence, (I make movies and I paint pictures and I write books which hit the best seller lists, so I am a relatively mainstream presence,) are not, by and large, identified as gay. There are a few exceptions to that. Elton John would be one, I suppose. But when you actually think of mainstream authors for a moment, I mean, people who write thrillers or science fiction, (Sam Delaney would be one in science fiction, the late Patricia Heissman would have been one, though I don't know whether she liked to be called lesbian in her life,) but now, keep adding to the list and it's not that long a list. I think, curiously, it's more understood that people who work behind the scenes, in some way or the other, either because they are movers and shakers like David Geffen, or because they are people who make things look amazing, like the costume designers who work in Hollywood or the amazing scenery designers or the people who work on Broadway, that kind of thing, I think people accept. But people who are bang in the middle of things, actually you are going to be reading my words tomorrow, or you are going to be looking at my paintings tomorrow, or you are going to be seeing my movies tomorrow, I mean how many gay film makers do you know who don't may gay films?
Carnell I think the other thing is that you are not a stereotype. Using your example of Elton John, people can say "Well, you know, he's flamboyant, blah blah blah." The whole idea that I am reading articles and I'm looking through the Internet and people are making such a big deal about it kind of bothers me.
Clive Barker Yes, they are making a bigger deal of it than I think any of us would have thought. By and large, they are not making a negative deal of it, which I think is very reassuring. Maybe you have been reading different entries on The Internet than I have, I don't get a look at these things, but I get reports from people, people tell me the response has been "Oh, how cool."
Carnell What I am also hearing a lot of is "Who cares?"
Clive Barker Which I think is absolutely great. I mean, one of the things that I said in "The Advocate" article and I think is true, there is such a thing as a "gay sensibility." There is something about my fiction which is influenced in a significant way by the fact that I have always been an outsider to mainstream heterosexual life. I think that informs my fiction and I think it makes my fiction more potent, curiously. I think that I sort of look at mainstream life from the outside. I look at my brother's wonderful marriage with wonderful kids, amazing wife, or my parents' wonderful marriage over many decades now and say "How cool, just very different from what I am." There's a part of me that feels like an alien, feels like somebody dropped me on the planet and one day they're going to tell me how to unzip my skin. I think it's a good thing to feel that sometimes. I think it's very good for a writer. It means I look at the world, not necessarily dispassionately, but I certainly look at it in a different way than if I was Steve [King]. Steve writes from within the status quo and he is constantly validating the status quo. I mean his fiction is very often, not always, but very often, a brilliant defense of the status quo, right?
Carnell Yeah, and it's actually the intrusion on that status quo which makes for the horror.
Clive Barker Exactly right. I have a different feeling about where the fantastic comes from and where it belongs. I am more likely to turn the fantastic, (I am using that word loosely, by which I mean anything which doesn't fall within a readily described, readily summarized idea of reality,) I am more likely to use that thing as a way of probing at the status quo and saying "Well, wait a second, are things quite the way we think they are? Is this comfortable picket fence world quite the world we really want to live in, or is it actually a way of falling half asleep?" Is it a way of having the three score years and one half, and at the end of them being no closer to understanding why you'd lived in the first place? And so, what was in my early books was monstrous, and my later books have turned into something different, maybe more complex. These forces and powers that intrude and explode into the status quo and transform the status quo and coax people out of the status quo and into their own reality. Those forces very often are figuratively, and sometimes actually, tapping people on the shoulder and saying "You know what? Your life is a compromise with your ambition of your higher self, with the divine in you, with the beast in you. There are voices speaking in your heads which you choose not to hear. Hear them."

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