PEOPLE Online Conference with Author Clive Barker 7/30/98
Clive Barker: I was taking a meeting with a writer called Matt Wilder, and my team at Seraphim Films, about an upcoming series -- Dark Fantasy -- for HBO called Heretic. Matt is scripting the first two-hour movie for us from a mythology which I've created.
Elissyia asks: Mr. Barker, Galilee seems so different in tone in regards to your other books; was this deliberate?
Clive Barker: I've tried through my writing career to keep ringing the changes. (It's actually an English bell-ringers's phrase.) By which I mean that for me the pleasure of writing is in exploration of new territory. When I first began writing books, I made several volumes of short stories, and these were the Books of Blood. They were violent, visceral and erotic stuff. I then went on to write a Faustian novel, and then on to write the fantasy book Weaveworld. In other words, I've tried to surprise myself from book to book and hopefully kept my readers appetites sharp. Galilee is definitely a departure from previous books, both stylistically -- it's written in the first person -- and in terms of its content. I've been very pleasantly entertained by the number of other authors that have been cited by reviewers as they've covered Galilee. A brief list of these authors include William Faulkner, Anne Rice, Jackie Collins and Barbara Cartland! Actually another important name on that list is the South American magic realist Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Anivil asks: Wow, all I can say is how do you keep pouring out the hugely creative/spiritual/thrilling/imaginative stuff??
Clive Barker: Firstly, thank you! It's very important to me that the spiritual content of the book finds its way into people's hearts. In practical terms, I have a very strict working routine which keeps me at my desk writing or in my studio painting seven days a week. I consider myself just about the luckiest man in the world. I get to express my deepest feelings about life, death and everything that happens in between ( and indeed afterwards!) and then I'm allowed to pass the stories and images which I've created to other people.
Zipe_Totec asks: have you written any more plays recently?
Clive Barker: Regrettably, no. But since the publication of the two collections of plays, Incarnations and Forms of Heaven I've been delighted that productions of the plays have sprung up all around the world. Right now, there are productions going on here in America and in Sweden, Germany, England, and Scotland.
Peloquin_Cabal asks: what do you think about the rumour of Hellraiser becoming a stage play with Doug Bradley playing Pinhead on stage?
Clive Barker: I think it's wonderful! As you may know, my professional relationship began with Doug as an actor on stage in plays that I had written and was directing. He's an extraordinarily charismatic stage actor, and the chance to see him live as Pinhead (laughs) is irresistible. I believe the production, which is rumored to open in London next year, is to be directed by Oliver Parker. Oliver not only a fine actor himself (he plays Peloquin in Nightbreed) but he's also the director most recently, of the film adaptation of Othello starring Larry Fishburne.
Rose_starr98 asks: Clive.... wanting to be an author myself...and writing fantasy stories do you have any advice?
Clive Barker: My answer to some extent depends on whether you're writing short stories or novels.
Clive Barker: I, as you may know, love the short story form, but it's very difficult to sell short stories in the present marketplace. My short story collections usually sell about half as many books as my novels.
Clive Barker: If you're writing fantasy novels I guess my only piece of advice would be to trust your imaginative instincts and not concern yourself with being like anybody else. I really believe that there is an enormous appetite amongst readers for an originality of vision. In other words, be true to your own dreams and they'll always be people who want to hear them.
Kringle11 asks: Clive, how do you like the movies made of your books?
Clive Barker: You know, it's strange. On the one hand, I feel a great loyalty to the creatures who have appeared on the screen in various versions of my tales. But there's also a frustration with the way that Hollywood works. For instance: the first Hellraiser movie, which cost a little under a million dollars, has been followed by a number of more expensive sequels which have been less and less true to the original film. That said, there are moments in just about every movie derived from my work -- with the exception of the first two, Transmutations and Rawhead Rex -- which I enjoy. I guess, in the end, they're all my children.
Run311 asks: Wow...I think you are great!...Do you have anything in the works right now?
Clive Barker: I have so many things in the works right now that we'd probably use up all our time online
listing them. But to give you a very brief outline of what's coming up:
Icetress asks: Would you want to write an X-Files episode like Gibson and King?
Clive Barker: Though I am a great admirer of X-Files I feel my best contribution is with original material.
PEOPLE Online: The theme of family is a big one in Galilee. Could you tell us a little about your family life?
Clive Barker: My mother and father live in Liverpool, England. So does my brother and his family. My mother's family is Italian (my grandmother is 100 this year) and my father's family is Irish. You're right that the theme of family is hugely important in Galilee. I think as I get older, I see more and more how I have been formed, both negatively and positively, by the dramas, conflicts, and the love of my family.
Peloquin_Cabal asks: what was it like growing up in Liverpool (my home town)? Did any of your ideas or characters come from people you knew there or the area that you lived in?
Clive Barker: The book Weaveworld is set in Liverpool, as you probably know. A number of the locations in the book are places that I knew as a child. I've almost always changed things a little for story reasons, but there are certainly a lot of things about being a Liverpudlian that make me who I am. I have very fond memories of the city, and I'm looking forward to going back there in November of this year to visit my parents and do a public signing.
CarmenElecktra asks: Clive - asking this purely based on your "dark and mysterious" books - did you have a happy childhood?!
Clive Barker: Good question! I guess I would have to say I had a mixed childhood. I suspect that's true of most of us. Certainly nothing terribly tragic occurred with one notable exception: my very best friend died tragically when I was eleven. Otherwise, I had a loving family and a very solid English education. But somehow from the very beginning my imagination was drawn to things dark and mysterious. I guess it must be genetic.
Hahlooo asks: How do you feel about some of your more violent scenes in movie/books now that you are raising a child?
Clive Barker: I have always said that movies I make are not for kids. I don't feel comfortable with the idea that an audience of, let's say, viewers under 12 are watching these movies. The imagery is sometimes visceral, sometimes erotic, sometimes disturbing. Certainly I am more aware than ever, having a child in the house on a regular basis, of how important it is to control the images and ideas which are flowing into a vulnerable and impressionable mind.
Clive Barker: I think this is true of images on the new and on the Learning Channel, just as much as it is images in Hellraiser. I believe strongly in the principle of parental guidance. Now, let's not use our anxieties regarding children to empower those forces in our culture who would wish to prevent adults from seeing images or being told stories which are sometimes powerfully transgressive. I believe that there is an extraordinary importance in images which a Pat Robertson or a Jesse Helms would not approve of. Indeed I believe that some of these more conservative minds (and I use the words "minds" loosely) are exercising a highly politicized power over our imaginations when they seek to prevent us seeing. For instance, an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe photographs. Their hunger to control what we see and experience through art must be powerfully resisted by all of us who care for the health of our culture, or else we will find ourselves one day waking up in a Disneyfied, Christian Coalition nightmare.
Intertwined_Bodies asks: Clive what would you say your best novel is and why ?
Clive Barker: Oh Lord! It's hard to play favorites when all of these books expressed, at the time of writing, some profound need in me. I guess if I have to have one book of mine tucked under my arm when I appear at the Pearly Gates, it will be Imagica.
Clive Barker: I think it's impossible. In fact, I HOPE it's impossible! I believe strongly that there are experiences which are best left on the page. An example: though I enjoyed Patrick Stewart recently playing Captain Ahab, nothing will every convince me that the poetic density and metaphorical richness of Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick has a cinematic equivalent. Somehow, what is a literary vision of the page simply becomes a big ol' whale story on the screen. I fear the same thing would happen with Imajica: that once the language which is used to describe this spiritual journey is removed, much of its power will be diminished.
Platinum_edge asks: don't ever feel like taking some time out for yourself after finishing a project?
Clive Barker: I confess it: I'm a workaholic. I get very bored with my own company if I'm not travelling somewhere in my imagination. So the day after I've delivered a book, I'll start on something.
Gwynyvyr asks: My son was in therapy for "disruptive behavior" in school when he saw Nightbreed. It helped him so much. He was 8 then, he's 17 now. He says it helped him realize that sometimes being different wasn't bad
Clive Barker: You don't know how moving it is to hear somebody say that. One of the reasons why I tell my stories, as I mentioned a little earlier, is because they answer some need in myself. I've always thought of myself as an outsider, as somebody who was different, not better or worse, just different. If I can pass the message out to folks, to readers, or viewers of my movies, that to stray from the assumed norm is no great crime (indeed it may be healthy) then I'm doing my job. Please pass my best wishes on to your son. I hope you're both doing well.
Dougdwise asks: I was very impressed with your children's story, Thief of Always. Might you do more things accessible to children?
Clive Barker: A lot more. I love writing for children. There's this huge project I was talking of a little earlier, with many short stories and illustrations, which will be called Clive Barker's Book of Hours. There's also another book similar to Thief noodling around at the back of my head. By the way, you might be interested to hear that Thief is now taught in schools in a number of states. That's a great thrill for me.
PEOPLE Online: Lots of follow-up questions on Imagica...
Tao_music asks: Clive, how exactly did Imajica come about and do you really think its possible?
Clive Barker: Let me answer the second question first. Yes, in a strange way I do believe it's possible. I don't believe that our consciousness has fully grasped the complexity of reality, or, perhaps I should say, realities, in which we live. Our imaginations seem to offer us glimpses of other possibilities, other states of beings, other dimensions. I believe we will one day access those dimensions. Now to the first question: the book came about because I wanted to write a spiritual quest story in the form of an enormous religious/metaphysical fantasy. A big ambition.
AardVARD asks: Will there ever be a sequel to Imajica?
Clive Barker: I don't think so. Though I have once in a while played with the idea, I suspect there are simply too many other stories I need to tell. Other dimensions I need to visit.
PEOPLE Online: Why did you decide to use the narrator into Galilee?
Clive Barker: I wanted to write about how I create. I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of the storyteller. Galilee contains innumerable confessions as to my state of mind while I write. Confident one moment, uneasy the next. Filled with visions on a Monday morning. Drained and frustrated by lunchtime.
Hahlooo asks: Why do you write out all your stories in long-hand? Do you find it aids in the creative process or is it just what you prefer?
Clive Barker: A little of both. I enjoy the act of writing, the motion of the hand across the page. It's very simple -- it requires nothing by way of preparation. It's also the way I've worked since I first put pen to paper. And it's been a perfectly acceptable working method through almost twenty books. I guess it's a case of: if it's not broken, why fix it?
Jason___Vorhees asks: Mr. Barker, I'm a 15 year old male, and wondering, how much input do you have into your comics, do you write them all etc..?? and what do you think about comic shops censoring comics??
Clive Barker: I have very little input into the comics, Jason. As you may know, Marvel Comics, with whom I used to work, has long since discontinued their more experimental work in favor of endless, and to my mind, witless, versions of X-Men and Spiderman. As to the issue of censorship, I would say this: that it is absolutely acceptable that a comic shop keep certain titles away from its younger customers -- there are, after all, a lot of very graphically sexual and violent comics being created -- but, as I said earlier when talking about film, there should be free access to this material by adults.
Gwynyvyr asks: Hope you see this Clive. My son said to tell you thank you for your story that helped him so much. He's fine now and doing great in school, life, etc...and out of therapy
Clive Barker: Great to hear!
Mentalmisfit asks: what do you think should be the limit to censorship from the artistic perspective?
Clive Barker: Why should there be any? In the realm of the imagination, all things are possible, and, though I might choose not to explore certain forms of material as an artist, I will absolutely defend somebody else's right to do so. That said, you and I as consumers of other people's imaginings, also have the right -- indeed perhaps the duty -- to question the validity of somebody else's statements. Therefore, while I will defend the right in a democracy, and in a country which believes in free speech, for people to say in books and films things with which I may passionately disagree, it is also important that I voice my disagreement. Hateful things can be said in fiction. Hateful things can painted in art. Hateful films are being made all the time. Films which demonize sexual and racial minorities, films which are designed to make us afraid of the natural world. I could never support a government which withheld the right for creators to make those hateful things, but it doesn't mean I need to support those creators with my hard earned dollars.
The_Jaff_ asks: Clive, I know a lot of people are eager to hear this: when will the final Book of the Art be released?
Clive Barker: Soon, I swear, soon. The final book of the trilogy will be enormous, both in its narrative elaboration and in its metaphysical echoes. I know the story I have to tell and I'm excited at the prospect of telling it, but it's a big, big book.
Enchantress_Eva asks: I take it by some of your other answers to some questions, that you do not like censorship. Have any of your books been censored and if so, which ones?
Clive Barker: That's a great question. I have on occasion had to fight with editors to keep material. There was one fellow at HarperCollins -- he's since left -- who objected strongly to the fact that Sacrament had a gay hero. Six weeks before I delivered the book he told me that it was unacceptable and that I should change all the pronouns and make the character straight. I very politely declined. The book became a huge success. And it was very satisfying for me to discover that my readers were just as I had told him they would be: open-minded and far too intelligent to be troubled by the issue of a character's sexuality. That's about the only time I've had a problem with a book. Movies are another matter. If you check out the director's cut of Lord of Illusions on laser, you'll see a number of scenes have been reinstated that the MPAA forced me to remove.
CarmenElecktra asks: what do you want to be remembered as more "an author" or "painter"? (had to get death in there somewhere!)
Clive Barker: I want to be remembered as an imaginer, someone who used his imagination as a way to journey beyond the limits of self, beyond the limits of flesh and blood, beyond the limits of even perhaps life itself, in order to discover some sense of order in what appears to be a disordered universe. I'm using my imagination to find meaning, both for myself and, I hope, for my readers. It's easy to be cynical and pessimistic, to believe in something -- to believe in the importance of our own imaginative lives -- is sometimes hard, especially when, in our culture, we are surrounded by trashy, empty images which distract us from the search for significance in our lives. Our imaginations are our most powerful personal tool for revelation. In the face of the truth contained in our dreams and fantasy the regressive, stifling, divisive cruelties which are sold to us daily in the guise of fundamentalism and political expediency, wither. We have to dream.
PEOPLE Online: We understand you're off to do still more work, Clive. Any other parting thoughts?
Clive Barker: I realize that I haven't gotten to anything more than a tiny fraction of all you good people out there. But I hope that some of the questions that I have been able to answer have usefully illuminated some of my thoughts about my work. Thank you all for being here. I hope we can do this again real soon. Sweet dreams!
PEOPLE Online: Thank you so much for talking with us tonight, Clive! We hope to chat with you again soon.
PEOPLE Online: Unfortunately, our chat is over for this evening! Goodbye everyone! To quote our guest, sweet dreams!
PEOPLE Online Chat with Author Clive Barker