Interview with Clive Barker

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  1. rhett

    rhett Administrator

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    October Madness continues with our exclusive interview with horror icon Clive Barker. He dishes on his craft, his new Abarat book, favorite horror movies, HELLRAISER, painting, the NIGHTBREED extended cut, video games and what he really thinks about Roger Ebert
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    We were fortunate enough to speak with horror icon and purveyor of such horror classics as HELLRAISER and LORD OF ILLUSIONS, Clive Barker, who's promoting "Absolute Midnight", the third book in his best-selling Abarat series. He was quite candid on his craft, his books, his favorite horror movies, the Hellraiser series, video games, and what he really thinks of Roger Ebert. Hopefully you enjoy reading these as much as we enjoyed asking.

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    Horror Digital: The Abarat books have been praised for being accessible to adults as well as younger readers. Was it a conscious decision on your part to make the books appeal to a multigenerational audience, or was this something that happened organically?

    Clive Barker: It happened organically. I don’t think you can plan something like that. Clearly, writing for a broader audience means that I’m not going to be writing about sex. That I’m not writing about violence in a gory or excessive way. But my major ambition was to write a story that had great characters. And I think great characters in a great story – like say, the first Star Wars movies – are universally appealing. It doesn’t matter who it’s written for. It’s who wants to read it in the end that matters. And it turns out that adults and children want to read these books. That, to me, could not be a more delightful surprise.

    HD: The Abarat, Harry Potter and Hunger Games books (among others) seem to be part of a larger trend of books that bridge the generational divide. What do you think the driving force behind this trend is?

    CB: I think people are going back to books. I think it’s as simple as that. And they’re coming back to books because the other forms of entertainment, which have been much touted as the ‘replacement books’- whether it be games, the dubious pleasure of television, or the spectacles of cinema - don’t give you the intimacy and the sense of belonging that books give you. Absolute Midnight has been out for only a few days now, and I’ve already received messages from people that have read it, and all they have talked about is entering the world again (You have to remember, this is the third book in the series.) with a delicious sense of coming home.

    HD: What was the impetus behind moving into the realm of young adult fiction with The Thief of Always and, later, the Abarat books?

    CB: I am a younger reader. There’s a part of me that adores the fiction of YA readerships, whether it be Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree, or the classics like Peter Pan and Treasure Island. These are books that never lose their joy for me. I’m completely bewitched by them. I’m enchanted by them. They make me happy. And they do it by reminding me there’s a child in me still.

    HD: What are your thematic inspirations for the Abarat books?

    CB: Time. Courage. Evil.

    HD: Since the Abarat books are aimed at a younger audience, do you feel it’s important to impart a larger message or moral to the readers?

    CB: They’re not aimed at all. They’re written. Yes, you can remove certain elements because they don’t belong in the heads of a younger audience, but you can’t aim a book. I went on Twitter recently and asked what people thought about the fact that there was no sex and violence in the Abarat books. Every single person said ‘I don’t miss it. It’s not relevant to the story.’ I want people to be enchanted by Abarat. Not aroused or nauseated.

    HD: The title “Absolute Midnight” implies that there are dark times ahead for Candy. With Abarat already fairly dark in tone compared to other young adult novels, are you concerned that the novels will grow too dark?

    CB: No. Because, ultimately, I’m in control of the material. I haven’t had a single voice complaining about the darkness of Abarat 3 and I think this book is as dark and as threatening a book as the world of Abarat is going to present us with. They’re not going to get any worse than this. It’s the third in a series of five. This is the darkest part of the story. It’s where the thicket is densest. And the barbs are most dangerous.

    HD: Is the arc of the last two Abarat books already planned out or do you just let the story come to you as it pleases?

    CB: Yes. Everything is planned out down to the last sentence. That isn’t to say that it won’t change, however. I plan with care and hope, and then I change. My hope is that I keep the strong stuff, and lose the weaker stuff.

    HD: Your artwork seems to work in tandem with the text to tell the story of Abarat. As someone who as always heard the adage “literature is the theater of the mind”, can you explain to me the function of your paintings when it comes to telling your stories?

    CB: Yes. The paintings are the inspiration for the stories. I painted maybe 150 paintings before I even started writing page one. The story began on the canvas. I started with a series of paintings for an exhibition. They were supposed to be erotic. But, clearly I wasn’t in the mood, because the first thing I painted was the yellow-suited Kaspar Wolfwinkel who is not appropriate for any erotic frivolity that I can think of. And the paintings grew from there. From that mode.

    From those feelings. And I discovered that these all belonged together in one narrative, which was very exciting, because I had always wanted to do a Narnia of my own. I’ve always wanted to do a series of books like this.

    HD: Marvel’s Hellraiser comics pushed boundaries and it seems like it has taken graphic fiction almost 30 years to catch up to what you were doing in the 80s. Now that you’re returning to the realm of comics with the new Hellraiser series, how do you plan to push the envelope even further?

    CB: I ain’t tellin. But we’re going to, I promise you that.

    HD: As someone who has adapted his own work to the big screen, what do you see as some of the greatest pitfalls of filming a live action adaptation of a well-known story?

    CB: Disappointment. Disappointing the audience who has read the story already, and has a vision of it in their heads. Your vision can never be their vision. By definition. That’s the biggest pitfall, and unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about it.

    HD: The epic scope of much of your work means that books like Weaveworld or Imajica don’t really lend themselves to motion picture adaptation. Have you considered a cable series on a premium channel, such as HBO, where the expansive canvas of a 12-20 hour season would give the material the room in needs to breathe?

    CB: Yes. I have. And we’re still looking at that, but these things take time.

    HD: What is the status of the proposed Hellraiser remake, and how do you feel about remakes in general?

    CB: There are good remakes, and there are bad remakes. I don’t have an opinion about that really. I keep away from them as a viewer, by and large. And I know nothing about what the Weinsteins are planning.

    HD: How much have you kept up with the Hellraiser sequels? Are there any of the later sequels that you thought did anything interesting with the mythology?

    CB: I haven’t watched them. And that isn’t any reflection upon the artists involved in the projects. It was just that, at a certain point, you lose focus on what those projects are; you lose focus on what connection they even have with you as an artist. What was the last one I watched…number five perhaps? I was involved with number three. And number four was the space one, which was a mess. People took their names off of that picture. There are so many hands involved so many of those things. They feel as though they’re made by committees.

    HD: What were your favorite horror films of the past few years?

    CB:
    A Serbian Film
    The Cove
    Enter the Void
    Trouble Every Day
    Black Swan


    HD: Fans were extremely excited at the discovery of some of the lost Nightbreed footage though Morgan Creek didn’t express much interest in a Special Edition DVD re-release. With the explosion of Blu-ray and the HD market is there any hope that the footage will soon see release, even if it’s not incorporated back into the film itself?

    CB: I’m going to pass that one over to my colleague, mister Mark Miller, who is the one that’s really done the hard work first in finding the material, and doing his best to persuade Morgan Creek to become more involved in this. I think Mark can probably express more clearly the issues that are involved there:

    “It’s tough. From what I understand, after the fans proved their enthusiasm for the project, Morgan Creek decided to go back to the vault and look for the missing bits of film, but they couldn’t find it. Whether it’s gone forever, or still in hiding remains to be seen, but what I can tell you is that the video footage we found is bad ass.

    Nightbreed was supposed to be a balls-to-the-wall, action/fantasy/horror epic. And that reads when you watch this footage. Now, as far as this stuff seeing any HD/SpecialEdition release, I really can’t say. It’s very possible. Anchor Bay released composite editions of both The Wicker Man and Army of Darkness, and people loved them. And I know that a lot of people want to see Nightbreed get the same treatment. The fact that the question of its release is still being brought up, is a testament to that. All I can say is keep asking. Squeaky wheels have a way of getting greased.“

    HD: In your experience developing games, what were the toughest
    artistic challenges that were unique to the medium of video games?


    CB: There is no singularity of vision when you’re dealing with rooms full of people.

    HD: Undying was a first person action adventure game and Jericho was
    a first person shooter. What genre would you be most interested in exploring next?


    CB: As long as it’s got interesting stories to tell, I’m not a guy that’s bound by genre. If you look at my work, there is a very wide range in the material. I’m not wetted to any one thing. Or any ten things, for that matter.

    HD: You got in a public, and very heated, debate with Roger Ebert where you defended video games as art. Why do you think there is still such resistance in the mainstream to accepting video games as an artistic medium?

    CB: I think it’s always the case: when new mediums come along, they’re argued with. It took a long time for comics to be accepted as a valid art form. Many people will not accept them even now. Roger had his views. I have mine. So be it. Roger wrote one of the Valley of the Dolls pictures, so he obviously knows all about art.

    HD: As an artist who has worked in so many different fields, which medium would you say best expresses your artistic vision?

    CB: Two. Painting and Writing. I love both.

    HD: The 1980’s saw the rise of splat-stick cinema and the splatterpunk movement. Horror cinema in the 90’s gave us films that were post-modern and deconstructionist in their approach to the genre. The 2000’s have been an overwhelming wave of nostalgia, with franchises being remade, rebooted and sequelized. Looking ahead, what do you see as the next big trend, or trends, in cinema or literature?

    CB: In horror we’re going to find new subjects to horrify people. Horror is always about the subjects. I think our decreasingly artificial, and cynical, and unreal, and desensitized culture is producing horrors which would have been unthinkable fifty years ago - things that make the atom bomb look positively benign. The Cuban Missile Crisis was fifty years ago. It was a battle that never happened. It can be argued that it was either never going to happen, or it can be argued that a lot of smart people stopped it from happening. I go for the first one, because people were a lot more sensible back then. They had a sense that life was worth living. I think we now are seeing the rise of a generation filled with too many individuals that simply don’t care.

    And when these people are put in positions of power, there is going to be great trouble, because they don’t believe in anything.


    Clive Barker's Abarat: Absolute Midnight is in stores now, as are the previous two books in the Abarat franchise, Abarat and Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War.
     

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  2. dave13

    dave13 Well-Known Member

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    great interview. completely unexpected, but really engaging. i had no idea the third abarat book had been released. i'll pick it up once its released in trade paperback, so that it will match my copies of parts 1 and 2. a beautiful series.
     
  3. msw7

    msw7 Re-animated member

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    Thanks for the great interview. I just started book 3 (after a wait that made George RR Martin look like a hyperspeed Steven King). But still, that makes two books this year that I'd been waiting years for - I can't wait to get into the meat of the book.
     
  4. othervoice1

    othervoice1 Well-Known Member

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    Interesting he brought up Enter the Void as a horror movie- I caught that by chance the other day on either IFC or Sundance Channel and that movie is a trip- especially the opening. But the whole interview was great - HorrorDigital.com never disappoints
     
  5. Mok

    Mok Family is Forever

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    Very cool to log in today and see this here :)
     
  6. dayglo

    dayglo Member

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    Definitely disagree with the Ebert take on video games, but I will not abide anyone bad mouthing Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. :p
     
  7. moogong

    moogong Arte Suave

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    Great interview. I always love hearing Clive Barker's opinion on things.
     
  8. Mitbox

    Mitbox Member

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    Cool interview, sad that I'm a slow reader so I'm not able catch up with Barker's latest works for now.
     

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