Z is for Zombie (from A-Z of Horror)

Campfire tales. Urban legends. Rumours and whispers. The shaman sitting with the tribe, passing on knowledge. Parables and miracles. Gospels and dark, dark, fiction. There may well be only ten stories in existence with all the rest derivations from the source - but it's all in the telling...

"It really wasn't until I was eight or nine that I really began to grasp the idea of stories. I could do it orally, but it took longer to write them down. I started to write as most writers do, out of the desire to influence. Everybody likes to do something they could do well. Just as there were people in my class who were better mathematicians or better chemists or better sportspersons than I was, storytelling seemed to be the gift I had."

So Many Monsters, So Little Time...

By Michael Brown, Pandemonium, 1991

"[Having completed 'Books Of Blood'] I've had a great time and I really want to go on to something else. I'm relieved of these stories. I do feel that. I feel as though I have a more elaborate idea of the metaphorical structures that my brain takes. Writing thirty short fictions in a short period of time makes me feel I know something about myself. Lawrence said 'I don't know what I believe till I write it down.' I don't know what I believe till I make a story of it... It means that once I've solved the narrative problem - and storytelling is my obsession - I like to tell stories and stories have shapes and inevitabilities. In the best stories - particularly with short stories - I think you reach the end and you think, 'That's exactly the right place for it to end, but I didn't guess. I got there, but I didn't realise, yet of course it feels exactly right.' That for me is a working process. If I try to work intuitively I end up with something which ends in the wrong place. But if I plot it and plan it then I get the feel right, I get the structure right, I get the intertwining right, and I end up in the right place. I am didactic by burying myself very deep. I mean, I have got plots in my head which I have noreason to tell. I have two quite wonderful stories actually, they have wonderful patterns, wonderful causality, but they mean nothing. I haven't put the right characters in yet to make those patterns that come to some sort of emotional payoff which the audience is going to say, 'Oh yeah, that's inevitable. Yes, that's exactly the right place to be.' But they're wonderful patterns and there is a certain joy in pattern-making, yet I find it the hardest thing in all the world to resist. I think it has to be resisted and stories have to have a kind of planned irrationality to them. I think the rhythm of many stories should be more complex; you're halfway through and you discover what's happening. You know... Stories tend to be very manipulative about the characters inside them - that is, they tend to rearrange the characters in order to fit the punchline. That's arse-about-face as far as I'm concerned, because the point is the characters and their rhythms and motivations should dominate. A story is about getting involved. I couldn't write a story in the abstract, that notion doesn't make sense to me... .human causality is at the root of storytelling. It's a very simple lesson... the knock-on effect of a narrative element toward some inevitable and satisfying end is essential... ... at the end of a novel, I think you've got to feel that the place you got to was true: you weren't cheated into that place, you weren't cajoled into that place, you weren't bullied into that place, and neither were any of the characters in the story. They came to that place of their own accord. Horror fiction and science fiction has been beset, I believe, by a certain kind of story structure in which the writer is showing off himself rather than the characters he has written about."

Transcript of talk at UCLA 25 February 1987

Clive Barker's Shadows in Eden

"By a good story I don't mean a good series of events. One of the problems I have with a lot of fantasy and science fiction, and epic fantasy in particular, is that there's this sort of linear thing where you move from siege to rape... A good quest story isn't naturally linear. A great quest will have maybe a circular structure, will lead you from external wisdom tointernal wisdom."

Clive Barker

By Kim Newman, Interzone, No 14, Winter 1985/86

"There is a potent tradition of horror fiction writing, fantastique fiction writing, a slowly-slowly-catch-monkey structure whereby you let people in bit by bit, moment by moment, and you get to some final revelation by which the hero is either blasted to smithereens or from which he may escape. That's not the kind of story I write. I write stories in which there is confrontation quickly; then it will be something as original as my mind can make it. I'm always saying, 'Imagine more, imagine harder.'"

Some Harsh Words for the Critics from Ballard and Barker

By Rodney Burbeck, Publishing News, 24 July 1987

"It is not that the old stories are necessarily the best stories; rather that the old stories are the only stories. There are no new tales, only new ways to tell... For the writer this presents certain challenges, not the least of which is the shaping of a fresh and original interpretation of a structure which may have been cast and recast several hundred times down the centuries. The problem is particularly acute when working in a genre that boasts a very clear line of tradition, as does horror.
"Perhaps, if he's farsighted, the writer, looking back along the road he's travelling, may even glimpse its beginning... and be enriched by recognition of why the tale he's reinterpreting was first created... that farsighted glance I spoke of earlier - the one that leads back to the rocky place - shows us in the Faust tale one of the most important roads in all fantastic fiction. At its centre is a notion essential to the horror genre and its relations: that of a trip taken into forbidden territory at the risk of insanity and death. With the gods in retreat and the idea of purgatorial judgements less acceptable to the modern mind than new adventures after death as dust and spirit, all imaginative accounts of that journey become essential reading."

The Tragical History Of Doctor Faustus

Essay by Clive Barker, Horror : 100 Best Books

"My favourite moments in horror movies and books are the unmasking scenes, the key moment when the realities collide; when the bourgeois assumptions of the characters - who have muddled through so far unaware that an unspeakable 'thing' is hovering over their heads - finally look up and see the truth. What becomes interesting then is what metaphysical defences they have or don't have."

Terror Tactics

By John Brosnan, Time Out, 16-28 March 1988

"I have to make the most of the time I have on the planet because I want to make sure that I at least make a contribution with the work I do. Besides, what any artist wants is to be blessed with ideas and an audience. You want an audience that says, 'I want to share your world, taste the vision that you're creating,' and those are things which so far I think I've been granted. Besides, when you get those things and have an audience, it would be selfish to say, 'I'm going to sleep now.' "

Barker's Bite

By Anthony C. Ferrante, huH, Issue No 12, August 1995

"You know the word autopsy. It means the act of seeing with one's own eyes. The work of a horror writer is actually in a sense a kind of extended autopsy. The act of seeing with your own eyes and saying I can look at that."

Horror Visionary

By Michael Beeler, Cinefantastique, Vol 26 No 3, April 1995

[re. motif of metamorphosis] "I suppose, implicitly, there's the idea of movement, perhaps to a higher state. Some of them drop back? Yes, I think that's right. I feel as though, right from my early fiction, I have been interested in the idea of a fiction of transcendence of some kind or other. At the very least a fiction of change, and at best a fiction of transcendence. Even in stories, going back to the 'Books of Blood' where, classically, you would view the transformation in negative terms... I did a story called 'The Twilight of the Towers', a sort of Le Carre meets werewolf story, the werewolf characters achieve a kind of transcendence by transforming into wolves. Whereas in the usual werewolf structure, if you like, the narrative is about a return to primitive, bestial, in-humane states from which the victim seeks to be released. I posited a drama in which that was actually a moving to something better and rarer and stranger, something that one would actually seek out. So I think even in the early fiction I was really liking to push the idea of transcendence.
"What we've lost, I think, in the commercial success that's attended so much fantastical writing of late, is a sense of what it's really there for. So that in all these, you know, sword and sorcery sagas, for want of a better phrase, in all these Stephen King pastiches which lesser writers create, in all the splatterpunking and cyberpunking that goes on, when writers like Gibson have already forged the way and done something extra-ordinary, in all of that stuff, which tends to be very diluted, the spark, the inspiration which makes those forts interesting in the first place, has very often disappeared. I am perfectly certain that most of the writers who are writing, you know, five-part series with Spelldragon or Thorne in the title, and an Of or The, are separated from the imaginative force which connects their lives to that fiction. Like movie brats, they're making books about books they've liked, rather than about what their lives are. And that's a very dangerous thing to do; you end with the husk, the form, but none of the content. When C.S. Lewis was writing about that stuff, when Barrie was writing about that stuff, when Peake was they were allwriting different forms of fantasy, but, nevertheless, they were writing out of very personal, very private urges and endeavours, which they were finding within the fantastical arena; finding forms to express, in Barrie's case, an incredible sense of loss; in fact, a sense of loss very often comes behind, a sense of yearning... I don't think that personal connection, that connection with the emotional lifeblood, if you like, that makes writing useful and significant, is there amongst so much of the writing in the area of the fantastic.
"I like some of the direct, traditional roots of what we'd call classic fantasy. I've always liked the invented world, the quest - the structures which inform, if you like, post-Tolkien fantasy, and via him go back to folkloric and mythological roots - that always strikes me as being interesting. Not, however, because the roots themselves are terribly interesting, but because Jung had an enormous amount to say about that absolute application, and it's their psychological application that I find fascinating. So it seems to me that you can use those roots afresh, you can use the folkloric stuff afresh. It's the absence of insight into...For an awful lot of fantasy writers it's almost as though Jung and Freud never existed; it's almost as though those insights into the subtextual life of those tinges had never been offered up in any form.
[re. medievalism in conventional fantasy] "I think part of that is actually a willful desire, almost a child-like desire, to return to a simpler structure, a feudal social structure, in which you had a boss to blame, and the boss was the baron, you know, and magic was somehow a solution, as opposed to another form of complexity, which is what religion is. It seems to me that that medievalism is in fact a profound form of conservatism, which manifests itself and also allows you all kinds of other things which simplify the world horribly. I mean, look for the sex in Tolkien, it ain't there...Very often there are misogynistic overtones to a lot of sword and sorcery fantasy."

The Edge Interview

By David Alexander, The Edge, 1991

"What I've always tried to do, what's drawn me to story telling from the beginning is to say things that are in my heart, somewhere. Now, the fact that I choose to say these things in such fantastical forms is often a confusion to people, not by and large to the readers but very often to critics and reviewers. They don't understand that some of the things that you want to say are actually best said in a form which stimulates the imagination rather than echoes what's going on in the outside world. If the kind of things that I like to talk about are best said that way, and from my earliest childhood the things that have drawn me, have been the stories that have drawn me, the images that have drawn me to them, They have been stories and the images which seem to be getting beneath the surface of what we loosely call the real world, beneath the surface of life as it is lived by most people, which is very often a compromise and which is very often a kind of half life. Getting beneath that surface in order to find deeper meaning, deeper sense, and deeper significance. "


By [Stephen Dressler and Cheryl Bentzen],Lost Souls, Issue 2, [September] 1995

"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."

People Online Appearance

Transcript of on-line appearance, 30 July 1998

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