Out Of The Depths

The Thirty-Third Revelatory Interview
By Phil & Sarah Stokes, 4 January, 2019

Over the past fifteen months since our last interview here at Revelations we've spent many hours in conversation with Clive, talking about his ongoing recovery from his 2012 toxic shock illness and discussing his creative projects across novels, artwork and television series. We've turned the pages of his new novel Deep Hill (previously titled Scarebaby), we've listened as Clive has read passages from Abarat 4 and new poems to us, we've jointly selected a number of recent paintings for Books 6, 7 and 8 of the Imaginer art book series, and we've seen Clive move back into a more public arena as he attended conventions in Dallas and Chicago last year.
Ahead of his appearance at Days of the Dead in Atlanta over the weekend of 25 to 27 January 2019, we talked with Clive about current projects and upcoming areas.

Clive : "Hi guys - what shall we talk about today?"

Revelations : "Well, we thought we might talk about some of what's upcoming, what you're working on..? "

Clive : "OK, great, sit down - are you sitting comfortably..? There's a lot going on in my head and the question is how much of it we talk about now and how much should we choose not to say, because some of it is... Well, let me just tell you!

Clive Barker - Days of the Dead design

"So firstly, the new novel, Deep Hill, is a little over halfway typed now. I am still working on it and am very excited about it. It's a rather larger book than I thought it was going to be but, as you know, that always happens with me! It is not a book for the very young readers of Thief of Always, say, because it has some very dark, fantastical material in it. It does not, however, contain any sexual material and any cursing you may hear is nothing you wouldn't hear on the nightly news, but it is scary and I won't try and water that fact down. In fact in some ways I think it's one of the scariest things I've done, because it mingles both imaginative scares (that is to say strange creatures and the like) with very threatening issues about the world we live in. Deep Hill involves a world of waste, how we deal with waste...

"I was moved to come at the book with a much more serious intent than earlier drafts had contained because I came close to dying a few years ago, and nothing concentrates your mind more forcibly than the proximity of a permanent goodbye!

"I'm sorry to sound a rather grim note at this point but I want to be honest: when I started this book in this form I wasn't sure I was going to live long enough to write another book after this. I no longer have that fear, but nevertheless my anxiety about voicing my profoundest concerns about the way we treat each other and the planet we live on had to be stated in this book because I might not ever have a chance to state it again. And really this book is driven by the fact that we are doing some terrible things to the world we live in and to each other that seem to me even more terrible than the things that used to terrify me when I was ten and I want, very much, to put those concerns into a book.

"Next, the television adaptation of The Books of Blood, a series I'm working on with Brannon Braga, [Star Trek, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Salem, 24, and more] is going forth, speedily, and working with Brannon is an absolute joy.

"I should add I think, because this is tasty, the series has been expanded from the stories in the Books of Blood with stories that have been developed by me along the style of the Books of Blood stories - because it's thirty years since I wrote the Books of Blood and my mind has certainly not remained empty of those kind of ideas. So there are, I think, about thirty narratives which I have developed which you could call 'Books of Blood stories', as narrative outlines, but I haven't yet turned them into stories. We will probably turn at least some of those into episodes for the television series.

"What I'm trying to do is at very least match, and in some cases surpass, the intensity of the original Books of Blood. Some of those stories have a nod and a wink to another kind of narrative - I mean New Murders in the Rue Morgue, is an example, obviously a nod to Poe, but then there's Rawhead Rex which is a straight-off monster story, and I want to revisit those kinds of stories. I want to do a new monster story for instance, something that is fresh and for a modern audience.

"I am hoping that in the Books of Blood series we will not only go to the most chilling and intense of the books but I will add to that sum of stories new tales that perhaps wouldn't even have occurred to me thirty years ago. The world has changed. The world has become a darker, scarier place since then, unbelievably but it's true."

Revelations : "There are new things to scare us - "

Clive : "Absolutely there are - and even the old things that used to scare us have new faces.

"For example, we live in a lonely culture and we are de-socialised, not re-socialised by the internet. And what is the consequence of being alone? I think we are more alone, we are more isolated than ever. And one of the most ancient clichés of murder, I suppose, is you know, the woman who walks alone down a dark street is very vulnerable... We're trying to avoid that. We're trying to avoid - as I hope the original books did - the clichés of the woman alone, the woman who makes dumb choices, that terrible sexist cliché. If the Books of Blood could have been called modern thirty years ago, we want to be modern for now and that means looking at our culture, looking at our society and analysing it and seeing how it has changed. Seeing how its terrors are changing, have changed and will continue to change.

Clive Barker - cover art for The Books of Blood 1

"We still have the political nightmares, of course, and we will be addressing some of those but we are trying to make sure that when we raise up the monster, the monster doesn't look like anything we've seen before. I've always prided myself on trying to - at least attempting to - create monsters that don't look like other people's monsters, obviously Pinhead would be an example. And we're definitely going after that too, so that while Brannon and I are writing the stories, I am also designing monsters for the films.

"At the same time, for Nightbreed, the television series, I'm also doing the same thing - Nightbreed is also moving forward at quite a rate with a couple of very well-known directors showing a great deal of interest in it. I am on board to provide mythologies and ideas and hopefully put the Barkerian weirdness on the material. At the moment, we're putting the team together: we have a writer, director, producers and now that the New Year has begun we'll all get together and start to plan the long-term narrative, not just the opening narrative which is what we've done so far. I have the sense that, if all the things that I've been promised come true, there is a real passion for matching the tone of both the book and the film.

"You know we've got one series about the good monsters and one series about the bad monsters - I hadn't really thought about it like that but I suppose that's what it is."

Revelations : "And if the Books of Blood exploits horror from isolation and exclusion, you're then moving in Nightbreed to talk about tribes, albeit tribes that are set against each other - "

Clive : "Communities, yes. And I wouldn't like to characterise the Books of Blood as only being about isolation, you know there's a lot of stories that we're developing from the books which have fairly large casts, but it's definitely an interesting challenge because Brannon is a very, very smart guy and a very insightful man and a great writer - a fine, fine writer - and so we have these wonderful sessions every week when he comes by and we sit and we riff on - you know I wrote an opening line: 'When were you first afraid?' That is the question we've asked each other. When were you first afraid - what made you afraid? Because in the end, if we simply go back to what made other people afraid we're going to end up with the same old, same old. You have to, I think, if you have any hope of scaring people, you've got to first scare yourself."

Revelations : "Which of course is how you rooted the horrors of Dread."

Clive : "Right - and obviously Dread came out of being deaf for a while as a child, as you know, but there are a lot of other things: The Forbidden, obviously, has a terror of having your masculinity taken at the age of four, by someone who comes into a communal bathroom - this was put into my mind by my own grandmother. So very often, perhaps more often than you would think, the stories of the Books of Blood are based in landscapes I know - Rawhead Rex and Scapegoats, obviously Scapegoats is Tiree, are based in landscapes I know - maybe people I know or did know, and definitely atmospheres and imaginings which I have extrapolated from personal experience.

"Now, this is not the time, though hopefully we three will get the time at some point to go through the stories and go through what those stories' experiences are. Every single one of the stories has somewhere inside it a sentence or a person or an atmosphere that I have known - you'd be surprised how many cornfields there are in those stories, for instance, and that's because I saw Leo Valentin fall in a cornfield.

"It's very - the things that mark you as a, well let's say through to your teens, the little track in Coming to Grief, the Bogey Walk, exists: you can go to Woolton in Liverpool and I can show it to you, it's at the end of Quarry Street which is where Phil Rimmer used to live. It does exactly what I say it does - it bounds a quarry, an ex-quarry - and when the wall falls away, as sometimes it does, you can fall to your death in a heartbeat."

Revelations : "Remembering a conversation from years and years ago - is that also where you saw some tyres burning? Which inspired The Candle in the Cloud?"

Clive : "Yes, absolutely it is. The quarry was disused and it was re-purposed as a place where they stored thousands of used tyres and one day - I think it was a weekend, I think it was a Saturday - my mother was out in the garden in the summer and she said, 'Oh, good Lord, look at that!' And off towards Woolton, towards where Phil lived, there was a massive plume of black, black smoke - I mean, the blackest smoke I've ever seen - and it was immense. So I got on my bike and off I went! And I realised as I got closer, that it was actually very close to Phil's house - and literally a hundred yards, two hundred yards from that house was The Bogey Walk, what I later called The Bogey Walk, and the tyres, all of them, were burning. And again, this is in the story, accessing from Quarry Street was impossible because the smoke was blowing over the Bogey Walk and you wouldn't have been able to get through, so we went round the other side and there is a church there, St. Peter's, and the churchyard literally abuts the quarry. And surprisingly few people had come to the church to seek access to the fire, by which time the flames were licking the walls up and were visible above the top of the quarry, and therefore it looked like Hell's mouth had opened there. It was literally an apocalyptic vision of being able to look past a very beautiful church, across a very peaceful churchyard and at the very limit of that churchyard, literally a yard from the last grave, flames were licking up. And above the flames, this incredible column of black smoke. This is a long time before little cameras you could slip in your pocket so we didn't make a record of it but in a way the imaginative record is more powerful - it was an extraordinary thing to see.

Clive Barker - Imaginer 6

"As Brannon and I have been putting these stories together it's been a great way for me to revisit in my imagination and share with him where the roots of these stories came from, and then - as you know, we've been doing this for many, many months now - as we've plunged into our memories, what that's thrown up for me is a real, a great body of new memories - if you can have a new memory - and from those memories have come stories.

"I tend to be - we've talked about this a little - if I have a memory which is very strong, a story will come from it incredibly quickly, or not at all, and I always feel as though a narrative matrix is waiting in my head, or a series of narrative matrices are there in place, waiting for the appropriate narrative to slip into place.

"And when they slip into place they slip into place with extraordinary speed - it happened three times this week for narratives which are going to go somewhere else that I can't talk about right now."

Revelations : "So lots going on, but it's not been an easy time for you and we hear all the time that people wonder where you are. Because although they're aware that you fell very ill in early 2012 and went into a coma, it's now seven years later and you're still not fully recovered?"

Clive : "I went to the dentist and went into a coma. I saw something called Root Cause, it's a film about why people go to the dentist and get sick. I don't know how much dental work either of you have had or the boys have had but if you have, it's worth looking at - it's on Netflix, it just appeared this week. It's basically about the fact that when you have a root canal they trap the poison under what they put on top of the hollowed-out tooth. And if people are really sensitive to that bacteria lots of things can happen and it happened to me, it happened to me quickly because it released a mass of bacteria into my body and my body couldn't stand it.

"By the way, that is something I would like you to say whenever you get a chance, so that people know what made me ill - people can have all kinds of conjectures, from AIDS to heroin to standing on my head! But there's the truth of it."

Revelations : "And, of course, the recovery from toxic shock can be an astonishingly difficult thing."

Clive : "And often doesn't happen."

Revelations : "Right, we know that you were perilously close to death. We didn't know much about it as an illness until you had it - we were shocked when we looked at the stats as to how quickly it can be fatal and how its impact can be long-lasting and life-changing..."

Root Cause

Clive : "What's interesting about Root Cause is that it says that the degree of bacteria that's contained within the jaws of almost everybody who has had a root canal is botulistic in intensity - I mean it's as bad as it gets. And many people live perfectly happy lives without being touched by it, but some people are very vulnerable and the fact that I am getting better at all is a wonderment - the doctors meant it back in 2012 when they said, 'he's going to die,' they really weren't joking. As my father was fond of saying, though, when we passed Smithdown Cemetery, 'a lot of people are jealous of me in there, you know!'

"If you only believe five percent of the programme I just recommended, it's enough to make you think about what you do when you next go to the dentist. Heart disease, cancer, dementia, the list goes on, because you are living with really pretty disgusting, gangrenous fluid within your system, which has been sealed into your body by a dentist. Brushing your teeth won't help at all because once you've had a root canal it's there - now you can do things to fix that but - I feel like I'm being a snake oil salesman - but I saw the programme, watched it twice and I mean it when I say, 'if only five percent of this is true..'

"When we've learnt so much about it in the last, let's say five years, about big pharma generally, I think we have reason to understand that the large 'healing' (in inverted commas) systems that provide, you know, DDT and its derivatives, are also selling drugs that just repress symptoms instead of healing us.

Revelations : "You've been much more public of late with a return to the large-scale conventions after a long time away..."

Clive Barker - Texas Frightmare with Hellraiser cast

Clive : "Let me comment on that, if I may? There have been certain people who've known me who decided that they would give up on me, if you will. And they started to pass the rumours around that I was very, very sick and would not live, or that I was incoherent, my mind had gone as a consequence of the sickness I'd had and that I would never write again or create again. And a number of other unpleasant rumours - none of which are true. And nobody knows that better than you guys. It's been a long journey to get healthy and that's why it's important to know, for the world to know, what made me sick in the first place.

"But it's been very demoralising to discover that some of the people that I trusted and loved were amongst the people who said these things - even though they fully understood that I was not incoherent and I was not stopping writing and so on. So, it's been important to me to get out into the world, and we'll do about five conventions this year, starting with Atlanta in a few weeks, we'll go to London almost certainly.

"As somebody said, was it Twain? I'm not sure, 'reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated!'

"Clive Barker is alive and well and living in the fantastic lands he's always lived in, from which there will come novels and short stories and eventually films. So this is a great moment to thank everybody who's had the common sense and the faith in me to stay in contact with me, to stay in faith with me, to believe in me. And it's also a great thanks to the thousands of people who turned out in Dallas and in Chicago to say, 'Hey - it's been too long!' and I will not be invisible again unless I'm for a certain period making a movie or whatever, but my intention is to make sure that people know that Clive Barker is not only alive and well but piled high with ideas!

"As you know, because you've seen me here, I've been busily working away at lots of stuff for a while and, even though it's been a long and frankly painful process to get well, the alternative was wretched. And I am well-er literally by the day - and so, my love and gratitude and thanks - and a promise that the Clive Barker that perhaps they thought had, if not passed from the world permanently, had certainly moved into retirement, is neither retired nor dead! And those people who unfortunately decided to exploit my sickness are the truly sad characters in all of this. My fans, my readers, my viewers of my paintings have a lot to look forward to and I have a lot to look forward to in providing entertainments which I've always loved providing. And some very dark stuff: two more Abarats, one of which is almost finished, a third book of the Art, which is started, a second Galilee book, a lot more short stories to come - yeah there's a lot, there's a lot to come!"

Clive Barker - Days of the Dead 
	Atlanta tee
Clive Barker - Days of the Dead Atlanta tee

Head to Days of the Dead Atlanta for tickets, and
visit The Clive Barker Archive to order Imaginer 6




The Books of Blood for TV
Nightbreed for TV
Deep Hill
The Imaginer Series

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