by Carnell / page 3

Carnell Ok, I'm going to move on from there. I've seen you several times now at public appearances and I am continually struck by the way that you are mobbed and adored and through it all, even when it becomes difficult, you remain almost unnaturally nice to people.
Case in point, at the Fangoria Convention in Los Angeles, I remember distinctly you saying to someone, "Look, I only want to shop. Let me just shop and we'll do the thing in the auditorium and then I'll sign anything you want." Is it because you feel that you need to give something back, or is it that you're just a nice guy? [laughs]
Clive Barker It's a bunch of things. The first thing is, in my father's words, "you shouldn't have joined if you couldn't take a joke." It's no use going to the Fangoria Convention and then expecting to behave like Greta Garbo. I mean, that's not the deal. The deal is you go and meet a whole bunch of people who have the good taste to like you. [laughs] It would profoundly perverted of me to go to something like that and say "I want to be alone." I can be alone in my bathtub. When I go to a convention, the purpose of it is to be with people, it's to meet people, it's to shake their hands, it's to know their names, and to know what they feel about what you are doing and to share with you what they're doing. It's about the sacred relationship between the artist and his or her audience. That's what that's about. I feel as though these people are, (there are a few exceptions to this,) overwhelmingly pleasant, communicative, articulate, polite. I don't feel that I am being particularly nice despite the fact that sometimes the numbers make it intimidating. I think that on a person by person basis, they tend to be extremely nice people, that it is no effort to have a conversation with [them], no effort whatsoever to chat with [them]. So, I don't feel like I am gritting my teeth and being martyred at all. I don't feel like "Oh God, get me the hell out of here." They are the people who buy my books, see my movies, share the mythology. What the hell is my writing if these people aren't in the world? Being an author is a solitary business and when you go out and you meet the people who read your books, you feel "Oh, this is great! These are the people I don't talk to. These are the people who are sharing more intimately what's going on in my head than somebody who sees on of my movies ever could." There's nothing more important to me than that relationship. When somebody comes up to me and they've got a copy of Weaveworld or a copy of Imajica which is dog-eared and dirty and has coffee spilled on it and has been read four times, that's wonderful. It's fucking wonderful! The idea of ever offending somebody like that mortifies me. And it doesn't mortify me out of some kind misbegotten sense of politeness. It mortifies me because this person is why I do my work in the morning. I would prefer to sign for fifty people and know that ten of them were going to take their books and sell them, or ten of them were going to be dealers, and inevitably there's people that come along with cartons of stuff and you just now that they are not going to take these books and put them on their shelf. They're going to take them home and they're going to mark them up and sell them off to people. But, I prefer to do that and don't ask the questions and just do that knowing that in that line there would be forty people who would walk away with the book with the signature on it and feel like, somehow or other, they've made a contact just ad I'd hope that I'd made a contact with them in writing the book.
Carnell Upon completion of a book or film, do you ever look at it and say "If only I could have had a week more"?
Clive Barker Always.
Carnell Are you ever happy with what you do?
Clive Barker Never
Carnell Oh, good. Thank God. [laughs]
Clive Barker Shit, you know, let it go. That's the thing. Let it go. But, no. The moment you come up with something that you think is all you ever wanted it to be, then you should probably stop and become a pastry cook.
Carnell Were you surprised at the reception Books of Blood received, both at home in England and here in the United States when it was released?
Clive Barker Oh, of course. I mean you're always surprised at the things that succeed and the things that fail. I was surprised just because they were short stories and because the conventional wisdom of publishing says that you don't publish short stories if you're unknown. So, I was pleased and delighted at the response of those books.
Carnell Did it bother you when people referred to you as "overnight sensation Clive Barker"? I know that you had been plugging away for a while.
Clive Barker Yeah, but I had been plugging away primarily in theater, which is a very private art. [laughs] There aren't a lot of people that see shows, and so I was not surprised and not offended. I mean, I had written these stories and I was just delighted that people liked them.
Carnell Were there any short stories that you had that didn't make the cut in the Books of Blood?
Clive Barker There were a few and there's a couple of things which in the course of time I may publish, having gone over them again. There wasn't anything which was finished, polished, and done. There were things which I had either abandoned or felt that I wasn't ready for, or occasionally there were ideas which found their way into novels, subsequent things which I knew would brim over if I tried to do them as short stories.
Carnell Did Damnation Game make the mark that you intended and did it, in your opinion, prove to the world at large that you could make the transition from short story writer to novelist?
Clive Barker No, I think in both instances no. It was Weaveworld that did the latter rather than Damnation Game. I actually went back and read Damnation Game and basically kind of like the book. It was very dark, very European very grim and oblique. And it doesn't read like a Stephen King book, and it doesn't read like a Dean Koontz book, it doesn't read like the stuff which was being written at that time. My publicist greeted it with a sort of "Oh, we wish this was accessible." Now, ten years on or whatever it is, I think the book is looking quite good and I think that some of the qualities which people didn't like about it when it first came out are probably now strengths. It's obliqueness, its reluctance to sweeten the narrative pill, its classicism, if you will. It's a book made up of long sentences in one paragraph. There's a certain style of pop writing which I can't do. The one phrase sentence. The one phrase paragraph. The words that are laid out on the page like a poem by EE Cummings. I can't do it. Ira Levin was one of the first people to do it in novels. William Goldman does it in novels. Steve does it superbly well. Some of the splatterpunks lately do it. David Schow does it. Skipp and Spector do it. Nothing wrong with it, I just can't do it. I need to write densely. I know I write densely and it's the way I feel about the language and I have no choice but to do that and Damnation Game is a very dense book.
Carnell In Cabal and later in "Nightbreed", you portray the "monsters" as virtuous characters, almost heroic, and the humans as the monstrosities. Does that harken back to what you were saying earlier about your being an outsider and writing about outcasts?
Clive Barker One of the interesting things, going back to an earlier conversation and an earlier subject, was that some of the first reviews that I got from the gay press, talking about the work of a gay man writing and working in the fantastic, was with Cabal and "Nightbreed". Where in some quarter of the gay press, it was read as a straight metaphor for the repression of gays, which is not, by the way, a terrible way to look at the movie. Not the only way, but certainly a way. It is certainly a book about making superficial judgments. It's a book about the poetry of the monstrous. It's a book about going back to another part of our conversation, giving up normality. I mean, I read your magazine. I know there is no lack of comprehension about this. I'm telling you something that you guys virtually embody so I think I maybe should stop very quickly because anybody that would be reading Carpe Noctem is going to get this in one moment. You know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fact that the "Naturals", the "Normals" who seem to have all the answers, who tell us what we should be and not be from pulpits, and from behind psychiatrists' desks, and from political podiums are so often wrong. They're protecting their own interest and their own interests are very often the interest of frightened people.
Carnell I know so many people who saw the film and read the book (myself included) and thought to themselves "Give me a map and I'm there!"
Clive Barker [laughs] In a sense, that's the point. It's the point of this whole genre. It's the point of your magazine. They're all maps aren't they? They're ways to say the spirit of Midian, the spirit of that underworld is alive and kicking in people everywhere.
Carnell I think it refers back to what you said earlier. There are voices that you choose to ignore.
Clive Barker Exactly. Some of us just love to ignore them. Some of us choose to say "Yes, speak to me loudly," and if we listen closely to those voices, very often, they re-direct us back to the world of the Normals. One of the things, I think, that those voices say is "Just look more closely, strangers are everywhere." I think that's important. It's important that we understand that "The Tribe" that is really under siege finally is the tribe of people who want to keep the world as stripped of its visionary content as possible. The miraculous and the extraordinary erupting all the time around us and the ultimate loser is the person who says "I will not see."
Carnell I know you are working on a new book.
Clive Barker It's called Sacrament and it's set in Canada, North America, and England. It's about animals and extinction. So I am in the middle of that right now and balancing that off with preparing for the release of "Lord of Illusions."
Carnell I read that The Thief of Always was going to be an animated film.
Clive Barker Right. Well that's being animated right now, but God is that slow. [laughs] It's another two years, I think at least before it finds its way to the screen.
Carnell Moving on to your films, I hate to bring these up, but I will.
Clive Barker You're going to bring up "Rawhead Rex" or something.
Carnell Yeah, and "Transmutations". Did that leave an absolutely horrible taste in your mouth?
Clive Barker It is horrible, but...The only way to cleanse my palate, as it were, was to go and do it myself. In a way, it did me a round-about favor because what those people made me realize was that the only way that I could ever et anything close to what I wanted was to take some control myself and that meant directing and producing, and even then you don't always get the control you want. There's a little bit of cost, but at least I have a better chance of doing it than just writing a script and dropping it on some director who really doesn't share the vision and a bunch of producers who really just want to make some money. It's a business that draws a lot of bad people, because it's seen as being a glamorous business even though it isn't. It's seen as being a business where you can make a lot of money, which is sometimes true, but often not. It's seen as a place where you can exercise power, which is certainly true, but it's not a reason to get up in the morning. So, it's still a bad experience, but you learn. I realized the road divided. I realized that I could just sell off my material for the rest of my life and let it go hither and take the money and run, which is certainly a perfectly legitimate posture. [laughs] By and large, it's what happened to Ray Bradbury. By and large, it's what happened to Steve. I could turn up at a movie house on a Friday afternoon for the first screening, and I could sit there with tears coursing down my cheeks or occasionally, if there was a "Carrie" in my life, I would whoop and say "Good on ya", or else I could say "Well, I want to have some part in this process" and I chose the latter and don't regret choosing the latter. I man, it's been very good for me. One of the things that makes it good is that the more involved with cinema I've become as a practitioner, the less cinematic the books have gotten.
Carnell Because you get to vent...
Clive Barker Yeah.
Carnell I would think that would be the case.
Clive Barker I think that I would never have written Imajica if I had not made movies. See what I mean?
Carnell Yeah. In "Hellraiser," there are a lot of Dominance and Submission images from the leather and the chains to the idea that at a certain point pain becomes pleasure. What drew you to this concept, and was it all based on any exposure to the Leather Community?
Clive Barker Oh, sure. The Leather Community has been a part of my life for twenty years on and off. When you say Leather Community, of course there's a hole in the conversation, but I mean there are so many facets to that community. On one hand you have boys on Harleys, or we can be talking about scrotal inflation in some obscure dive in Los Angeles. Or we can be talking about something as simple as who gets pierced, who gets tattooed and which bar you go to on Thursday night. There's almost an infinite range of approaches in what we'll loosely call that community. I'm not even sure, honestly, in the end, it's even a community. It's a gathering of sub-tribes. One of your readers who is exquisitely tattooed and pierced would not feel very comfortable in The Spike on Sunday night. Equally, a guy who drives a Harley and gets himself dressed up in oiled leathers might not be very comfortable at a party full of Gothics, but there are definitely overlaps. There is definitely that sort of modern primitives feel going on in all those places. And then there was punk going on in London when that movie was being made and a lot of people were putting piercings where they'd never put them before. So yes, all of that is certainly going on but I also would argue, and this is all again another discussion, but Just offer it up in its most primitive form, that many of these issues are subtexturally part of horror fiction, and that all I did was make them text. I mean when the vampire bites the woman on the neck, or the guy on the neck, there is a moment where the expression on the victim's face hovers between pleasure and pain. There is something, even in our response to horror movies in the audience, that smacks of S&M. We like it, but we don't like it. It's scary, but it's fun. It makes us look away and wince, but then we look back at the screen with a smile on our face. What does that remind you of?
Carnell It's funny, I was talking to a friend of mine who is living in Japan and he mentioned that over there Pinhead is something of a sex symbol. What are your thoughts on that?
Clive Barker Well, good luck to Doug Bradley, I say. I'm surprised he isn't on his way to Tokyo right now. You know, Dracula was very sexy. The Sado-Masochistic thing is very appealing forbidden image. It is people who are living lives which are much less touched by this than yours or mine. Images of taboo, which you only speak of once in a while. Your daily life, I'm sure, your circle of friends, your discussions over a drink or dinner are going to constantly touch upon these subjects. That's not the case with most people.
Carnell The guy in Indiana doesn't get as much exposure to it.
Clive Barker Actually, good fun can be had in Indiana [chuckles] you just need to know where to look. Right? [laughs] The average person looks to horror movies and horror fiction and fantastic fiction generally for a taste of the forbidden. S&M is one of those forbidden areas. One of my great regrets about S&M is how public it's become.
Carnell It was much more fun when it was underground.
Clive Barker Yeah, I don't want it discussed on the Jerry Springer show, thank you very much.

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