Barker, Clive (Contemporary Literary Criticism)
Clive Barker 1952-
English short story writer, novelist, playwright, and screenwriter.
The following entry presents an overview of Barker's career through 2002. For additional information on his life and works, see CLC, Volume 52.
Barker has gained distinction within the horror genre for his sensual, often erotic prose and is highly regarded by fans, critics, and other writers within the field. Called “the future of horror” by novelist Stephen King, Barker's works address a variety of themes, including sexuality, repression, and the homogenization of society. Many reviewers have interpreted these three themes as being closely interlinked, maintaining that sexual imagery contributes to Barker's overall social and political message. Barker's fictional oeuvre does not rely completely on dark and gruesome horror, however, and includes elements from other genres as well; he has also geared several works at a young adult audience. Whether his emphasis is on horror or fantasy, Barker remains a vital creative force within the contemporary horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres.
Barker was born in Liverpool on October 5, 1952. As a child, Barker was influenced by such fantastical and often macabre literature as J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. While in elementary school, Barker began writing stories and producing plays for his friends. While taking courses in English and philosophy at the University of Liverpool, Barker spent his time drawing, painting, and absorbing literary inspiration from such sources as film director Jean Cocteau, author William Blake, and others. During this time Barker made two short films, Salomé (1973) and The Forbidden (1978), which were distributed during the 1990s. After earning a B.A. degree, Barker moved to London and formed a theatrical troupe called The Dog Company, which produced many of his plays, including The History of the Devil (1981). This play, along with two other early dramas, Frankenstein in Love (1982), and Colossus (1983), were later collected and published as Incarnations (1995). In 1984 and 1985 Barker released six volumes of short stories titled Books of Blood. Upon publication, these stories helped launch a career displaying a unique vision of the horror genre. Barker's interest in horror extended to film, prompting him to move to Los Angeles in 1991. Soon afterward, he made his directorial debut with Hellraiser (1987), a screenplay adapted from his novella The Hellbound Heart (1986). Since then, Barker has served as screenwriter, director, or executive producer for numerous horror films. Breaking away from conventional horror cinema, he served as executive producer of the film Gods and Monsters in 1998. Barker has continued to focus on the fantasy/horror genre, as evidenced by such novels as Coldheart Canyon (2001) and Abarat (2002).
Barker first gained recognition with the publication of Books of Blood in 1984. Written while he was known only locally as an obscure dramatist, this collection of stories represented a strong new voice in the horror genre. The graphic imagery and gore featured within these volumes provides an element of sensuousness and a focus upon the human body. One story from Books of Blood, titled “In the Hills, the Cities,” relates the history of two warring towns whose populations merge into two giant bodies and enact an endless battle. Another story, “Rawhead Rex,” depicts a flesh-eating monster that savors the taste of children. The Damnation Game (1985), Barker's first novel, quickly made the New York Times best-seller list. The book's theme of opposing mythical figures engaging in an epic struggle is one Barker has continued to develop throughout his career. Weaveworld, published in 1987, incorporates more elaborate elements of fantasy than his previous works. The plot revolves around an alternate universe contained within the interwoven strands of a magical carpet. Created by a race of ancient magicians, the carpet is the last refuge from impending forces of darkness. Barker combines the horror of his early stories with the nearly romantic fantasy of Weaveworld for The Great and Secret Show (1989). Subtitled The First Book of the Art, this work is the first volume of a planned trilogy. The novel details the quest for a lost form of magic known as the Art. Utilizing more than forty characters and a narrative that shifts between various dimensions of reality, Barker crafts an epic tale of cosmic forces barely concealed beneath a veneer of mundane, American modern life. In 1992 Barker surprised many of his fans by releasing a novel ostensibly for children. The Thief of Always uses familiar aspects of the fairy tale or fable, but features a protagonist in the form of a child who has been turned into a vampire. Everville (1994) is the second part of Barker's Art trilogy. Sacrament (1996) and Galilee (1998) are smaller works, containing naturalistic themes and settings: in Sacrament, a wildlife photographer suffers a polar bear attack and is stranded in northern Canada, and Galilee comprises a steamy romance set in the American South. Barker compiled and published the anthology The Essential Clive Barker in 1999. In 2001 Barker released Coldheart Canyon, fusing his trademark elements of horror with a tale of Hollywood glamour and dissolution. The beginning of his most ambitious project, called Abarat—projected as a series of four books—was published in 2002. Abarat features a group of islands, with each representing an aspect of time. The work is loosely based on C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. Barker's other cinematic work includes directorial and screenwriting credits for Hellraiser, Nightbreed (1990), and Lord of Illusions (1995).
Barker has garnered generally positive reviews from critics for his ability to transcend the niche of popular horror fiction. His penchant for mixing genres in order to create surprising new worlds has also kept him in a favorable position with critics. Though his style is sometimes seen as overly gruesome, he is praised for his attention to detail, and for “the symphonic grace of [his] prose, his loping, muscular imagination, [and] his sharp eye on the human dilemma …,” according to Armistead Maupin in his foreword to The Essential Clive Barker. Critics also admire Barker's ability to transform frightening motifs into a childlike world of fantasy. Robert Ziegler, in his essay on Barker's The Thief of Always, explains this aspect of his work as illustrating the point that “transgression or insanity … are properties of the magic world of literary fantasy.” Although his darker prose may not suit all readers' tastes, the depth of Barker's imaginary world continues to draw attention from both critics and the public.
Salomé [adaptor; from the play by Oscar Wilde] (screenplay) 1973
Poe (play) 1974
The Forbidden (screenplay) 1978
Dog (play) 1979
Dangerous World (play) 1981
The History of the Devil (play) 1981
Frankenstein in Love (play) 1982
The Secret Life of Cartoons (play) 1982
Colossus (play) 1983
Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume One (short stories) 1984
Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Two (short stories) 1984
Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Three (short stories) 1984
Books of Blood, Volumes 1-3 (short stories) 1985
Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Four (short stories) 1985; also published as The Inhuman Condition: Tales of Terror, 1986
Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Five (short stories) 1985; also published as In the Flesh: Tales of Terror, 1986
Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Six (short stories) 1985
The Damnation Game (novel) 1985
*Underworld [with James Caplin] (screenplay) 1985
Books of Blood, Volumes 4-6 (short stories) 1986
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SOURCE: Newman, Kim. “Hellraiser: From Horror Fiction to Horror Movies.” Sight and Sound 56, no. 4 (autumn 1987): 233-34.
[In the following essay, Newman surveys the film Hellraiser and Barker's horror writing.]
In a gutted North London mansion that, conveniently for the publicity people, is supposed to be haunted, Clive Barker was—with apparent ease—making his directorial debut. Best known as a groundbreaking author of short (the Books of Blood) and long (The Damnation Game) horror fiction, Barker turned to direction after a disappointing foray into screenwriting.
Hellraiser resulted from a team-up between Barker and former assistant director Christopher Figg. Figg wanted to produce and Barker to direct and, after discarding several stories from the Books of Blood, they hit on an original idea (‘three people in a house, and things happen’) intended mainly as a showreel. Barker wrote it up into a novella, The Hellbound Heart, for an American anthology, Night Visions 3, which he shares with other leading lights in the current literary horror generation, Lisa Tuttle and Ramsey Campbell. New World stayed with the project after their co-financiers Virgin withdrew. In response to a suggestion that Hellraiser is an American film shot in Britain, Figg claims, ‘It's as American as the Mayflower.’...
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SOURCE: Greenland, Colin. “The Figures in the Carpet.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4428 (12-18 February 1988): 172.
[In the following review, Greenland compares Weaveworld to Ramsey Campbell's The Doll Who Ate His Mother, finding Barker's novel lacking in substance.]
These two novels [Weaveworld and The Doll Who Ate His Mother] by horror writers from Liverpool both take that city for background. Each selects a derelict house on the edge of a demolition site as the portal for that intrusion of chaos into the mundane that is the principle of the genre. Ramsey Campbell's chaotic agency is the influence of John Strong, a necromancer twenty years dead, which still radiates from the Amberley Street cellar where he held his peculiar sabbats. Clive Barker's anomaly is fairyland itself, a tract of marvels and monstrosities that has, for nearly a century, been magically parcelled up in a shabby carpet.
Of the two books, The Doll Who Ate His Mother is the less explicitly supernatural. The psychotic killer who haunts the neighbourhood of Amberley Street, taking bites out of all his victims, human and animal, may have been ruined by nothing more occult than the righteous hatred of his grandmother, who is convinced her daughter gave her baby to the Devil. The protagonist of the novel, an unhappy young teacher called Clare Frayn, hardly considers John Strong...
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SOURCE: McDonagh, Maitland. “Darklands Here We Come: Future Shockers.” Film Comment 26, no. 1 (January-February 1990): 60-3.
[In the following essay, McDonagh discusses Barker's foray into filmmaking, drawing parallels between Barker's career and that of cyberpunk writer William Gibson.]
The Greenhouse Effect, computer viruses, nuclear winter, bioethics, tabloid television, space debris, AIDS, dying oceans, serial murderers, the Survivalist Right, crack wars, the population bomb, televangelist scandals, biological warfare, the Rapture, genetic patents. … How did real life get to sound like a scary movie, and what are we going to do about it? Well, maybe we aren't going to do anything about it. But Clive Barker and William Gibson, cutting edge writers who've plunged headlong into film, are. The question is, are we ready for what they have in mind?
Once upon a time we dreamed utopian dreams, relentlessly optimistic fantasies predicated on the notion that the imperfection of this world was nothing more than the reflection of man's own arrested spiritual and intellectual development, that to recapture the pre-lapsarian perfection of Eden was not only desirable but eminently possible. Even cautionary tales of future totalitarianism, social chaos and ecological ruin proceeded from the belief that forewarned is forearmed, constructing disastrous scenarios to instruct and warn: James...
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SOURCE: Tuttle, Lisa. “Every Fear Is a Desire.” In Clive Barker's Shadows in Eden, edited by Stephen Jones, pp. 215-25. Lancaster, Penn.: Underwood-Miller, 1991.
[In the following essay, Tuttle examines the connection between horror and fantasy in Barker's work, relating a conversation she had with the author just prior to the publication of Cabal.]
Common sense tells us that nightmares and pleasant dreams are poles apart. One comes roaring out of the subconscious, a terrifying monster; the other floats tantalizingly above the surface of daily life, a beautiful castle in the air.
Freud rejected this division, arguing that all dreams enacted a wish-fulfillment. Sometimes these wishes are quite obvious: an erotic dream, a dream of success, or love, or fame. But dreams which appear to be quite innocuous, or even actively unpleasant and distressing, may be hiding, behind this manifest content a latent content—which is the wish—which can only be teased into conscious awareness through a process of free-association and analysis. Why the need for such a disguise? Because not all of our wishes—which can be safely fulfilled in dreams—are as socially acceptable as dreams of love, fame or success. Some of our subconscious desires, within us since infancy, are so primitive, so selfish, so untouched by the reality principle, so long and deeply repressed, that the conscious,...
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SOURCE: Burns, Craig William. “It's That Time of the Month: Representations of the Goddess in the Work of Clive Barker.” Journal of Popular Culture 27, no. 3 (winter 1993): 35-40.
[In the following essay, Burns explores the power of women and the dynamic between the sexes in Barker's stories “Rawhead Rex” and “The Madonna.”]
Until recently, the Western world has lived under the grip of male domination. It is only within the last century that women have begun to speak out for themselves, to fight for more rights, more “equality,” through what has been labeled a “Woman's Movement.” It is interesting to note that there is, in human history, a tradition of matricentral tendencies, a trait which is also extremely common, and practically the rule, in the animal kingdom, as Marilyn French points out in her book Beyond Power: On Women, Men, and Morals. And as illustrated in historical records and present-day “ancient societies,” in “every past society known, a matriarchy has preceded the present patriarchy” (Bly 29). These matricentral societies centered on more of what we today see as a feminine aesthetic, as opposed to the force- and domination-oriented patriarchal societies of today. Their religions also reflected these attitudes, with the main deity generally being a goddess, an “earth mother,” with whom the women of the culture shared some sort of intimate rapport. In...
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SOURCE: Epel, Naomi. “Clive Barker.” In Writers Dreaming, pp. 31-42. New York: Carol Southern Books, 1993.
[In the following essay, Epel presents Barker's thoughts on dreams and their importance to the artistic process.]
When I asked a friend to characterize the work of Clive Barker he replied, “Sympathy for the devil.” He went on to explain that in Barker's works of “imaginative fiction” it is the monsters who are the good guys and the protagonists who are often dead.
Born in Liverpool, England, in 1952, Clive Barker grew up loving monsters. His initial ambition to be a painter was superseded by an attraction to the theater, where he created plays such as Frankenstein in Love, The History of the Devil and The Secret Life of Cartoons. Eager to portray things that could not be done on a stage, Barker switched to writing fiction. In 1984 he published six volumes of short stories entitled Books of Blood. Among the stories in that collection were “The Midnight Meat Train,” about a moving human abattoir running beneath the city streets; “Rawhead Rex,” about a baby-devouring monster; and “Sons of Celluloid,” the tale of a cancerous growth that spawned ghouls that resembled movie stars.
Barker is not afraid to break taboos. He delights in creating visceral images of sex, death and dismemberment. In his novels—which include...
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SOURCE: Zeigler, Robert. “Fantasy's Timeless Humor in Clive Barker's The Thief of Always.” Notes on Contemporary Literature 24, no. 5 (November 1994): 7-9.
[In the following essay, Zeigler contends that The Thief of Always invokes a sense of fantasy and conveys a moral message.]
What to grown-up readers may be evidence of transgression or insanity—the timelessness, indistinction, and auto-eroticism of childhood—are properties of the magic world of literary fantasy. Clive Barker opens to question the intended audience of his The Thief of Always (1992) by calling it a “fable” and thus implying a moral. Appealing to a child with an appetite for make-believe, the text compels the adult to evaluate its message. Consumption of a fiction, as Norman Holland comments, involves the “oral pleasure” of associating “reading with eating” (The Dynamics of Literary Response [NY: Oxford U. P.], 75), and the subsequent detachment of the critic or interpreter who, having assimilated the fantasy, then assesses its significance. Barker thus identifies his fable's contents and reception as the youthful hero enters a baneful fairyland and exits as a reader for whom the enchantment has been broken and who analyzes the process by which he had let himself be mystified.
The regressive dream of incorporation, swallowing, or engulfment, a return to the oral union of...
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SOURCE: Barker, Clive. “Trance of Innocence.” Sight and Sound n.s. 5, no. 12 (December 1995): 59.
[In the following essay, Barker recalls the feelings of purity with which he created two short films—Salomé and The Forbidden—early in his career.]
Like a psychic's production of automatic writing, the work we create when we are young can be a powerful clue to what obsesses us. In a trance of innocence, without the demands of commerce or self-consciousness, we speak with a purity that is difficult to achieve in later work. Not that purity is necessarily a great artistic virtue—some of the most boring art I know values that quality far too highly—but in the scrawl of an unwitting mind there may be interesting codes to be broken.
I offer this observation in relation to the release on video of two short films I made some 20 years ago, Salomé and The Forbidden. The former was made on eight millimetre, the latter on 16 millimetre; both were shot in black and white (The Forbidden is in negative throughout). Neither have dialogue, but ‘mood music’ has been added for the video release, which effectively supports the hallucinatory atmosphere of the pieces.
In short, they are technically extremely crude and their story-lines obscure: Salomé vaguely follows the biblical tale of lust, dance, martyrdom and murder, but only...
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SOURCE: Barker, Clive. “The Painter, the Creature, and the Father of Lies: An Introduction.” In Incarnations: Three Plays, pp. ix-xvi. New York: HarperPrism, 1995.
[In the following essay, Barker outlines the three plays—Colossus, Frankenstein in Love, and The History of the Devil—which comprise Incarnations.]
The dictionary defines incarnation variously as the action of being made flesh, the assumption of a bodily form (particularly of Christ, or of God in Christ) and as the creation of new flesh upon or in a wound or sore: thus, a healing. I cannot imagine an apter title for this collection of plays. Story-telling has always been for me a process of putting on skins; of living lives and dying deaths that belong to somebody else. And the more unlike me I look with these borrowed faces the more interested I am to see the world through their eyes. The thrill of living for a little time as a visionary painter like Goya, or as the Devil, or—as in Frankenstein in Love—a murdered fan-dancer blithely awaiting the end of the world, brings me back to my desk in the certain knowledge that I am venturing where my daily life would never take me. I am, if you will, addicted to incarnation.
Let me say here and now that reading these plays does not require a degree in theatre arts or a burning ambition to tread the boards. The words are laid out a little...
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SOURCE: Harley, Kevin. “Carry On Screaming.” New Statesman and Society 9, no. 395 (22 March 1996): 38.
[In the following review, Harley characterizes Incarnations as “hasty sketches … for completists only.”]
Clive Barker is an erratic talent. He has produced work that has redefined the horror genre (Books of Blood, Hellraiser) but also some of fantasy's most ponderous turkeys. For the most part, Incarnations veers towards the latter. These three plays were written before the Books of Blood: the earliest, History of the Devil, puts an unrepentant Lucifer on trial. This Devil is a construction, with no substance other than what history has projected on to him. He's an actor doing as directed, in keeping with Barker's declared theme: incarnation, or “being made flesh”.
Barker is interested both in the skins people put on and in stripping them—and their situations—of those skins. Colossus is set in a huge house stripped bare by cannon fire, leaving its inhabitants at their most emotionally exposed.
Incarnations also amasses Barker's usual collection of skinned people engaged in lusty sexual contracts. Frankenstein in Love uses such bodies to explore the functioning of power in relationships and in state oppression. It includes a gay version of the sexual contract between Julia and the skinless...
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SOURCE: Badley, Linda. “Clive Barker Writing (from) the Body.” In Writing Horror and the Body: The Fiction of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Anne Rice, pp. 73-104. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.
[In the following essay, Badley analyzes Barker's Books of Blood, his films, and his other literary work.]
With Books of Blood, an obscure playwright and illustrator named Clive Barker launched the “post-King era of horror fiction,” as William Gibson has called it (“Introduction” xv). “You read him with book in one hand and an airsick bag in the other,” King joked in 1986, adding “That man is not fooling around” (qtd. in Kanfer 83). Perhaps more importantly, Barker was as intellectual and politically subversive as King was not.
Barker challenged the modern horror genre as King had exemplified and defined it. “A lot of horror is written to reassure people the values they bring to the book are … correct,” Barker said in 1990, with King in mind, adding, “I'm not writing horror to reassure people” (Booe). King's “white soul” domesticated and mainstreamed horror; Barker privileged the different or marginal. His protagonists were people on the fringes: actors, gays, prostitutes, small-time crooks, women, and often the monsters themselves. King's horror stories were the product of a brilliant stereotypography and overstatement in which clichés...
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SOURCE: Dziemianowicz, Stefan. “Contemporary Horror Fiction, 1950-1998.” In Fantasy and Horror: A Critical and Historical Guide to Literature, Illustration, Film, TV, Radio, and the Internet, edited by Neil Barron, pp. 199-344. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1999.
[In the following excerpt, Dziemianowicz treats Barker's Books of Blood as a forerunner of the splatterpunk horror fiction movement in the late 1980s.]
CLIVE BARKER, SPLATTERPUNK, AND THE NEW DECADENCE
What's going to come out of those people who think that Night of the Living Dead isn't enough?
—Robert Bloch, Faces of Fear
In the 1970s and '80s, horror fiction flourished in an environment of permissiveness it had never known. The maturation of popular fiction content in general in the postwar years, coupled with the unofficial sanction of frank descriptions of adult situations and physical horror in the fiction of Stephen King, freed writers from the inhibitions that had limited creative expression even in the crudest pulp fiction. Horror fiction's sharpening focus on human vulnerabilities led many writers to explore the full gamut of weaknesses of the flesh.
The publications of Clive Barker's six Books of Blood in 1984 and 1985 marks a turning point in contemporary horror, as a phenomenon...
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SOURCE: Barker, Clive, and Christopher Landon. “The Many Lives of Clive.” Advocate, nos. 802-803 (18 January 2000): 105-07.
[In the following interview, Barker discusses The Book of Hours (which was published as Abarat), his prior work, and his private life.]
Winding up the sinuous streets of Beverly Hills, one wonders what awaits at the lair of Clive Barker. Severed heads impaled on iron stakes? Disemboweled corpses rotting before the massive doors of a gothic Tudor mansion?
Well, not exactly.
However, the gardens look lovely. Apparently the man who gave us Hellraiser loves flowers. In fact, Barker's dwelling, which he shares with his photographer husband, David Armstrong, brims with color and light.
What's more, the maestro of horror has long since extended his creative horizons. Barker's evolution as an artist is like one of those time-lapse movies where a day shoots by in seconds. Try as you might, you can't keep up. Born in Liverpool, England, in 1952, son of an Italian mother and Irish father, Barker is not just a best-selling author (Everville, Galilee) but also a film producer (Gods and Monsters; the upcoming gay and lesbian anthology Love and Taboo), a screenwriter-director (Lord of Illusions, Hellraiser), a playwright, and a painter. At mid career he's already produced a...
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SOURCE: Gates, Rob. “A Bloody Sham.” Lambda Book Report 8, no. 8 (March 2000): 14-15.
[In the following review, Gates praises The Essential Clive Barker and details the history of Barker's novels and short fiction.]
Clive Barker is a sham, a charlatan, and a thief. There, I've said it. What do I mean by this? How can I say such things? I sit here surrounded by the works of Clive Barker, books strewn around me on the floor. In my hands is a copy of the author's own guided tour of his work, The Essential Clive Barker. I've read over two thousand pages of Barker in preparation for this, and there's no other way to start.
Sham: a thing made to seem other than it is.
He has been heralded as “the future of horror” by Stephen King, and “the undisputed prince of creepy-crawly” by the Philadelphia Inquirer. Many of his fans expect and see nothing else. In a signing for the book Sacrament in Washington, DC, I watched as one fan asked Clive to sign not a book, but his body. But Clive Barker is not a horror writer; instead he is a writer of children's books (The Thief of Always), fantasies (Weaveworld), romance (Galilee), and more. He's a screenplay writer, a director, a producer, and a visual artist. Though he often touches on the forbidden, the taboo, the physically disturbing in his work, it is rarely merely to...
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SOURCE: Barker, Clive, and Michael Rowe. “Horrors, It's Hollywood!” Advocate, no. 852 (4 December 2001): 69-72.
[In the following interview, Barker discusses Coldheart Canyon, Hollywood, and his personal life.]
Clive Barker, ruggedly handsome at 49 and looking vaguely piratical in a black shirt and gold earring, sits at a wooden refectory table in one of the three houses that form his residential compound high in the canyon country above Beverly Hills.
In front of Barker sits his most recent novel, Coldheart Canyon, the story of a narcissistic, washed-up action star named Todd Pickett in flight from the media while he recovers from plastic surgery. A blistering satire of modern Hollywood, the novel is also a full-on ghost story: Pickett selects as his hiding place the remote estate of a once-famous silent film actress with a taste for sexual sadism (among other things), and it turns out she's still haunting the place along with a cabal of the ghosts of old movie stars. In spite of its innately camp premise, the novel is as dark, violent, and hypersexual as Barker's best-known work.
Ironically, it was a series of delightful parties that got his imagination going. “I was lucky enough, seven years ago, to be drawn into Roddy McDowall's circle,” Barker says. “Roddy had Friday night dinner parties regularly throughout the year”—in the company of...
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SOURCE: Winter, Douglas E. “Nowhere Land: The Damnation Game (1985).” In Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic. 2001. Reprint, pp. 172-87. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2002.
[In the following essay, Winter analyzes the Faustian influence in Barker's first novel, The Damnation Game.]
Now Faustus must thou needs be damned, And canst thou not be saved. What boots it then to think on God or heaven?
—Christopher Marlowe, The Tragicall Historie of Doctor Faustus
Soon after his first meeting with Barbara Boote and Nan du Sautoy, Clive Barker realized how ‘inappropriate it was to write short stories’. Given commercial publishing's disfavour for anthologies and story collections, it is rare for writers of any stature to see a book of stories in print, and virtually miraculous for a writer's first book to take this form; certainly it was a publishing first for a writer's initial three books, all story collections, to be issued simultaneously. Boote told Barker, in her typically soft-spoken but direct style: ‘Now do something sensible and write a novel. Do yourself a favour and write something we can really sell.’
The prospect was daunting, but another new challenge that Clive embraced with characteristic enthusiasm: ‘In a certain sense I was granted a little license to step back in time and do what people used to do in the...
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SOURCE: Joshi, S. T. “The Persistence of Supernaturalism.” In The Modern Weird Tale, pp. 50-132. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, 2001.
[In the following excerpt, Joshi contends there are conceptual flaws in Barker's short stories and novels.]
CLIVE BARKER: SEX, DEATH, AND FANTASY
When Clive Barker's Books of Blood were published by Sphere Books in London in 1984-85, the world took notice. Hitherto known only as a dramatist whose plays had been performed but not published, Barker (b. 1952) accomplished a feat almost unheard of in publishing by having not one but six paperback volumes of his short stories issued by a major firm. At a time when even established authors in the field had difficulty in publishing collections of short fiction, Barker's achievement was more than unusual. Barker has now issued a novel, The Damnation Game (1985), a novella, The Hellbound Heart (1986), and three more novels, Weaveworld (1987), The Great and Secret Show (1989), and Imajica (1991), along with a short novel, Cabal (1988), a young adult novel, The Thief of Always (1992), and random other short stories. The Great and Secret Show, subtitled The First Book of The Art, was the first in a projected series of four or five novels. Barker has also attempted to write and direct films, with middling success, and has...
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SOURCE: Barker, Clive, and Paul Wells. “On the Side of the Demons: Clive Barker's Pleasures and Pains.” In British Horror Cinema, edited by Steve Chibnall and Julian Petley, pp. 172-82. London: Routledge, 2002.
[In the following excerpt, Wells presents highlights from his conversations with Barker in which the author summarizes his literary preoccupations.]
Clive Barker, novelist, artist, writer and director, has already achieved considerable success in two major aspects of the horror genre. First, he has resurrected a notion of ‘British horror’; previously mainly understood as a phenomenon of Hammer Films (see Hutchings 1993), the maverick talent Michael Reeves (see Pirie 1973) or exploitation auteurs like Pete Walker (see Chibnall 1998). Barker, with his self-conscious re-working and re-configuration of the British horror tradition, has simultaneously progressed the tradition but also called attention to its neglected backwaters, and re-engaged with the centrality of ‘Englishness’ at the core of the genre.
Second, Barker has added a significant myth to the canon of horror monsters with the invention of Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and the Cenobites in the Hellraiser series—Hellraiser (1987); Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988); Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992); Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1995); and in the variety of monsters in...
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SOURCE: McRoy, Jay. “There Are No Limits: Splatterpunk, Clive Barker, and the Body in-extremis.” Paradoxa, no. 17 (2002): 130-50.
[In the following essay, McRoy categorizes Barker's The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser, and Nightbreed as examples of the splatterpunk sub-genre.]
In his introduction to the 1990 horror anthology, Splatterpunks: Extreme Horror, Paul M. Sammon locates the authors that comprise his collection as “outlaws” in the tradition of the Marquis de Sade and William S. Burroughs. They are writers, he states, that know “no restraints” and recognize “no boundaries” (xv - xvi).1 Although ultimately slipping into a discourse of transcendence and “sick”ness, recuperating what he sees as the “essential contradictions of human nature” (emphasis mine), Sammon's positioning of splatterpunk as a genre concerned with disrupting traditional expectations of the human body presents a useful point from which to launch an investigation of three texts by Clive Barker, one of splatterpunk's best known practitioners.
Composed during the mid 1980's—a time, not coincidently, of “voodoo economics” and cultural excess—Barker's novel, The Hellbound Heart, and films, Hellraiser and Nightbreed, are particularly representative of splatterpunk in their...
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Barker, Clive, and Robert Starner. “Imagining New Worlds.” Lambda Book Report 10, no. 3 (October 2001): 9-11.
Barker discusses his literary influences, upcoming projects, and his novel Coldheart Canyon.
Barron, Neil. “Contemporary Horror Fiction.” In Horror Literature: A Reader's Guide, edited by Neil Barron, pp. 220-22. New York: Garland Publishing, 1990.
Provides a critical overview of Books of Blood, Cabal, The Damnation Game, and Weaveworld.
Campbell, Ramsey. Introduction to The Books of Blood, pp. 9-10. New York: Ace/Putnam, 1988.
Describes the Books of Blood as “the most exciting début in horror fiction for many years.”
Gilmore, Mikal. “Hellraisers.” Rolling Stone, no. 519 (11 February 1988): 103-09.
Praises the horror work of Barker and Alan Moore.
Gracey-Whitman, Lionel, and Don Melia. “Beneath the Blanket of Banality.” In Clive Barker's Shadows in Eden, edited by Stephen Jones, pp. 403-21. Lancaster, Penn.: Underwood-Miller, 1991.
Interview with Barker.
Hoppenstand, Gary. “From Here to Quiddity: Clive Barker's The Great and Secret Show.” In Clive Barker's Shadows in Eden, edited by Stephen Jones, pp. 227-60....
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