The Good, The Bad And The Light In The Dark

The First Revelatory Interview
By Phil Stokes: questions and answers during the Write On! evening at Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, 11 November 1998

Revelations : "A decade ago you told Fangoria that all you'd ever, ever wanted to do in your life was to 'darken the day and brighten the night'. * "

Clive : "Yes."

Revelations : "Do you think you've moved on from there?"

Clive : "That's a good quote, I like that... No, I'd still hold by that. I like the idea of writing fiction that takes images that are totally dark or disturbing, and somehow illuminates them. I think we're taught very often to be scared of things we should not be scared of and very often told to be reassured by things that are actually meaning us harm - the Republican Party, Walt Disney - and I think there's something useful in a kind of a Wildian way of sort of 'flipping it' and saying 'Well, now. Let's just look at the idea of the monster. Is there something deep we're feeling about this energy?'. Blake is great about this. Blake is for me, in this as in so many other things, a touchstone of wisdom. Blake reintroduced me to the Bible, Blake gave me the Bible back. He says of one of his enemies - and Blake had a lot of enemies - 'We both read the Bible day and night, but he reads black where I read white,' which I think is wonderful. It means that Newt Gingrich and I don't have to agree. It means that Ken Starr and I do not have to agree even though we might have the same book in common. You see what I mean?"

Revelations : "Yes."

Clive : "That these images and these ideas are open to interpretation. One of those interpretations - in fact, one of the prime interpretations, or reinterpretations,I think - is to allow things that are 'different' in inverted commas to actually also still be useful to us sometimes. Our imaginations are, I think, stimulated very often by things that are forbidden, or taboo, and I think we should own up to that more often. We go to see a movie called 'Dracula'. Nobody would go to see a movie called 'Van Helsing', right? 'This is the story of a very moral man who...'. Fuck, I don't want to see that - give me that Dracula thing, give me that blood-sucking thing! We are drawn to, and healthily I think, drawn to this darker thing."

Revelations : "You talked [earlier this evening] about using the ideas that a 14 year old has, making those very important and still embracing them, but I think, in fact, that a lot of the time you go back to what it is to be a 6 or 7 year old where the possibilities are limitless."

Clive : "That's right. I think that's exactly right. And maybe I'm wronging the 14 year old, because what happens to the 14 year old is that sex rears its ugly head, and it may be that sex is the most terrible distraction from metaphysics, a good one, but... No, I think that's a very good point. The difference between that 7 year old, if you will, and the 14 year old is that the 14 year old has begun to articulate, because the vocabulary is there, some of the concerns. I remember, as we all do, sitting through long nights, often with more drink in you than was healthy, talking about these deep problems..."

Revelations : "As a 7 year old..?"

Clive : "Ha! I regret to say that I was never drunk as a 7 year old... But I think that those questions remain in our heads from that age : why do these forbidden things, why do these sometimes monstrous things have so much power over us; and why, very often, [do] images of good have so little power over us. So, you know, OK guys, you have the chance to see an interview with Mother Theresa or Jeffrey Dahmer, hands up... It's hard, you know. The monstrous really attracts us. Why is that? Going back to your original question, if it's about brightening the dark, it's the brightness not of erasing the dark but as in illumination.
"There is an energy, a - I have to say it - a Satanic energy, which is deeply, deeply within us. As long as we try to pretend that it isn't there, try to pretend that it doesn't invade us, I think we empower it in the wrong way. I think this appetite for the monstrous and the strange is perfectly fine and dandy as long as we admit it's there. The moment we try and pretend that it isn't there, we're Ken Starr, you know, demonising everything but himself. I'm ragging on Mister Starr, who's history, but there's a certain kind of posture in this thing and that posture is one of moral self-righteousness in which these dark and strange deeds have no part of my life. Well, I don't want to be there, I want to say of course it's a part of me and a part of my imagination and let in the good in the bright and the transformative - what Blake calls 'Jesus, the Imagination'. I want it. I want to make it interesting in my books. I want to make 'good' interesting. I don't want people to go to these books, to the heroes and the heroines in these books, and think, 'Ugh, now we have to sit through all this shit until we get to the bad guys'. It's a technical problem, it's a characterisation problem, it's something I'm trying to do. I want to engage the 'good' in a way that they find the idea of being good, of being good to other people (I mean very simple things here - to be able to express love, to be able to reach out and bridge the gap between other human beings, and maybe the mass of human beings), I want to make that important to people. I want people to say, 'You know what? This business of goodness is not dull. It's not like eating vegetables. It's wonderful.' And in order to make that wonderful, I think that we need to invert the rules a little bit. You see what I mean?"

Revelations : "It's almost putting a marker down for your spirituality; take it or leave it. Good is good but bad is also good - is that it?"

Clive : "It's my ethos as a writer; which is that people are just fascinating - good, bad or indifferent. It's just great to write about people and the temptation is to find the villains more interesting than the heroes. There is a terrible temptation.
"In Galilee, for instance, that is not a temptation. The hero, Galilee himself, a brooding, beautiful, very sexual - bisexual - man roaming the world in his ship, his boat, only getting off his boat once in a while and only then to seek peace, for reasons the book goes into, with the women of the Geary clan and yeah, I love writing about him. And the villain, Garrison Geary - or one of the villains, Garrison Geary - who, in a somewhat outrageous scene, makes love to a prostitute who is pretending to be dead having lain on ice for a while and made herself look blue, which is a completely well-documented sexual perversion, is interesting but he's not as interesting as Galilee. I think that I took time to turn the narrative around in a way because [if] the person who has the opinion is more interested in the necrophilia of one of the enemies, then that pisses me off a little. I feel like I've failed. And one of the things I'm trying to do in the story with D'Amour and Pinhead is, I actually want to kind of make Pinhead feel fucked. I want people to make fools of him as he breathes his last and with no hope of resurrection. No sequels. I swear the way he's going - I have plotted this - the way he's going is so total, is so complete that the most optimistic film producer in Hollywood could never dream of resurrecting him! So I'm going to 'off' him, and I want the audience to say, 'Good'.
"To be good, to be loving, to reach out into the space between not necessarily being particularly comfortable, reaching to those people who are difficult to love, can be difficult. Those things are very important and, much more importantly, a lot more interesting than gnashing of teeth is."

* If You Knew Clive Like We Know Clive by Philip Nutman, Fangoria No 78, October 1988

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