“After reading Clive Barker, I felt the way Elvis Presley must have felt the first time he saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan…His stories are compulsorily readable and original. He’s an important, exciting and enormously saleable writer.” – Stephen King
“You have threescore and ten years available to you. I want to fill those years of my life – the rest of my writing life – with as much imaginative originality and brio as I can, and there’s nothing faintly appealing about making an extra million bucks by going back and doing something that somebody already did…” – Clive Barker
His name is legendary among horror communities. His characters have become modern day icons, just as easily recognizable as Stoker’s Dracula or Shelly’s Frankenstein Monster. His stories are timeless and by them he shall outlive us all.
Clive Barker and the Fantastique
He’s masterfully woven a literary world that opens us to the fantastique, and unabashedly invites us to take our first timid steps out into the far reaching expanse of his imagination. Beyond the shimmering threshold of his creativity we discover the dark prose of caution for the infernal desires pent inside every living man and woman’s ribs. The very same passion (if left unchecked) that could lead us all into the abysmal decadence of the forsaken.
Or, if we’re truly brave enough to venture out across the sea of his imagination, we may discover the enlightening shores of Morning and Night.
You see – Light and Darkness, Heaven and Hell, are all wildly interchangeable when it comes to the brilliance of Clive Barker.
For sixty-five years we have been blessed to call Clive Barker one of our own. He’s the soft-spoken leader of the rebel artists. He taught us that it’s ok to touch the soft dew of our shy taboos, to not fear our own secrets, and then unleash their potential upon an unsuspecting world. With cool gentleness he pried open our third eye and revealed to us the waiting mysteries of what lay behind the pallid wall of our mundane expectations – to sail the seas of time across Abarat, perhaps even solve the puzzle of the Box with shaking hands, or to simply sit back and marvel at the unveiling of the Great and Secret Show!
Clive Barker also dares us to gaze upon the ghastly – to almost admire the infections of the mutilated faces leering at us out of Hell. We can’t help but see a shred of beauty among the Cenobites, and are reminded of how arrogantly we strive to be beautiful. From that pursuit of glutenous vanity, get caught up with the business of living. Not life, but living. The task of waking, eating, shitting, working, love making, and finally sleeping – only to repeat the wheel once more. Over, and over, and over.
Clive Barker does not teach ‘life has no meaning.’ No, quite the contrary. He teaches us that life is meant to be far more than what we settle for in the business of living. Even if the “more” happens to be the Labyrinth of Leviathan, it at least takes us outside of our accepted routines and challenges us to dare for more out of life – to take risks and stop merely existing – but to truly be alive before it’s too late.
It’s Clive Barker’s sixty-fifth birthday today. To say the man has influenced me would be the understatement of the year. So much of what and who Manic Exorcism is, is largely attributed to Clive Barker and his impact on not only the genre I love, but on me as a person.
For me, growing up in a strict missionary home in Russia was not at all easy. There was always a darkness in me, but it was not pitch. It was a scintillating dark, one relying on both light and shadow, but it was still unwelcomed in the evangelical community. It wasn’t easy, but I had my ways regardless.
Russia didn’t offer many chances to find Clive Barker’s books in English, so I’d save up to travel six hours by train into Finland. Yup, I put up with two hours of dealing with Russian custom agents just so I could visit Helsinki. Once there I’d rush to their glorious book stores and happily stocked up on any Clive Barker book I could find.
Clive Barker has contributed more than just books of blood or horror films to the genre. So for the six decades he’s given to us, I take a moment to say thank you for six ways he’s made the world a bit more beautiful.
VI – Video Games
Now before some bemoan the point, please remove any thoughts of Jericho from your memory. I’m not talking about that. Trust your pal Manic on this one. To those of us who remember, Clive Baker scared the Hell out of us with his twisted video game exploits in Undying.
Undying is a first-person survival-horror game. You find yourself exploring the foreboding guts of a demon-haunted mansion owned by a family given over to power-lust and the forbidden practices of the Occult. It’s a haunting and formidable horror experience, one that needs to be re-explored.
And for what it’s worth I’ve played Jericho more than once, and I like it. I genuinely love the characters and have a lot of fun playing it. The lore of the First Born is eerie and the game lathers you in its ethereal tone. It’s the ending that left many players scratching their heads, but I still enjoy it.
V – Comic Books
A few of his classic works from Books of Blood have made their way into the comic form. His epic Great and Secret Show has also been republished as a graphic novel.
I already covered his amazing Hellraiser comic-book continuation – a series that furthers the heroic crusade of Kirsty Cotton and her entanglement with the Cenobites. Honestly, if you’re a fan of the first two movies, you would love this series. The Omnibus is available for pre-order now at Amazon.
Currently another Hellraiser project is on the market. One I have not read yet or own. Shocking, I know! You can purchase Volume I of said project here.
IV – Figurines
In the early millennium a dream of mine came true. Clive Barker teamed up with Todd McFarlane – another artist of the macabre, whose work I love – to bring the world a line of grotesque figurines no horror fan’s home should be without.
Clive Barker’s Tortured Souls are a vision of agony and obsession. Included with each figure was a small snippet of story which told the tale of these tortured individuals. Collect all six and you have a completed original novella by Clive Barker, thus making the collection that much more valuable.
Each figure was a masterpiece of the macabre. And the story of the Tortured Souls was engrossing. In fact, for a few years there it seemed as if Hollywood would give the novella a proper film adaptation. The project was lost in limbo though, but maybe some day the movie will be given the light of day.
Barker and McFarlane would untie their dark talents once again with Barker’s Infernal Parade line of figurines. A dastardly carnival of twisted delights and murder. Like the Tortured Souls line, each figure is alive with detail and pain.
III – Movies
When I was sixteen I was introduced to the man’s vision by Hellraiser. The lights were off and I sat with only the glow of the TV to drive away the night gaunts. I was entirely spell-bound by the film and was made an instant admirer. For a more intensive look at my thoughts on Hellraiser, please click here
Hellraiser isn’t the only story of Barker’s brought to life on screen. Other incredible films include Candyman, Midnight Meat Train, Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut, Dread, and Book of Blood.
These movies all deserve an individual article in of themselves, but for time’s sake I will simply recommend them for your Halloween watch-lists.
II – Books
As I said in the above, each of his books also deserve their own individual articles. For example, his anthology work The Books of Blood is highly celebrated. It works as short horror stories and grotesque fantasy tales. It’s a brilliant collection of dark delights.
I feel it’s unfair to not praise each book for the vision and tone he incorporates into every page. However – for time’s sake – I can leave you with a list of my personal favorite reads. If you’re looking for a few good horror books to dive into this Halloween, please look no further.
Books of Blood
In the Flesh
The Great and Secret Show
Scarlet Gospels – expect an article from me on this one very soon.
I – Art
“Memory, prophecy and fantasy – the past, the future and the dreaming moment between – are all one country, living one immortal day. To know that is Wisdom. To use it is the Art.” – Clive Barker
The grand culmination of all Clive Barker’s many and great achievements can each and every single one be attributed to his one driving purpose in life – the Art. Immeasurable is the depth of his ongoing talent. For six decades his visions have awed, terrified and inspired us simply because this man has stayed true to following his pursuit of the Art and not the damn dollar sign.
In book form or on a canvas, there you’ll see his faithfulness to the Art.
Comic books and video games were woven by the glowing threads of his cosmic tapestry. Some may scoff at such a talent lending itself to something as crude as a game or comic. But he shares his art with every age group. He’s not prejudice to whom he may inspire, just as the Art itself is not bias unto whom it touches.
So, what’s our excuse? What wonderful dreams are there waiting in the unmined depths of our own psyche? Who will stay in shadows – un-inspired and without an influence – because we don’t dare to release our dreams out into the night? How many ships stay tethered to the docks of self-doubt because we are too timid to sail away, far, far away out into the glistening unknown to where dreams and nightmares may drive us?
Clive Barker, thank you for the many years of inspiration you’ve given us all. May you have a very happy birthday and may there be many, many more to come. We await to learn more from your glowing example. We love you.
Once again – Happy Birthday,