clive barker

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - News -

The mas­ter of hor­ror on The Scar­let Gospels.

Mas­ter of hor­ror Clive Barker tells Joseph McCabe all about bring­ing t wo of his great­est cre­ations back to the page

ew tales of mod­ern hor­ror have been so im­pact­ful as Clive Barker’s “The Hell­bound Heart”. The au­thor’s ac­claimed 1986 novella in­tro­duced the ex­tra- di­men­sional sado­masochis­tic Ceno­bites; the most fa­mous of which – thanks to Barker’s own 1987 film adap­ta­tion Hell­raiser – be­came the pop- cul­ture icon known as Pin­head. Yet the ever for­ward­look­ing Barker re­fused to cash in on the pop­u­lar­ity of his cre­ations, and, rather than pen or di­rect a string of Ceno­bite se­quel sto­ries, moved on to other projects, some of which fea­tured his haunted oc­cult de­tec­tive Harry D’Amour, in­tro­duced in his short story “The Last Illusion”, and on screen in his 1995 adap­ta­tion Lord Of Il­lu­sions.

Now Barker is bring­ing his most popular char­ac­ters to­gether in The Scar­let

Gospels, which po­si­tions the two as mor­tal ad­ver­saries. The novel de­picts Pin­head as one of the pri­mary rea­sons for Harry’s unique ca­reer path, and finds the de­monic en­tity at­tempt­ing a com­plete takeover of Hell. In fus­ing the two worlds, Barker has at­tempted one of those rare works that func­tions as both a gift to fans and the re­al­i­sa­tion of a per­sonal vi­sion. But when he speaks with SFX from his home in Bev­erly Hills, he tells us he paid lit­tle mind to such pe­riph­eral con­cerns when writ­ing.

“I only know one way to ex­pe­ri­ence the writ­ing,” he says, “and it’s al­ways damned en­joy­able. The ex­cite­ment of writ­ing is that I gen­er­ally have no idea where I’m go­ing next. I’m usu­ally just along for the ride. If I stepped out­side of that and thought about what th­ese char­ac­ters mean in re­sponse to some sort of zeit­geist, I’d be do­ing my­self and the read­ers, I feel, a great dis­ser­vice.”

Since much of The Scar­let Gospels takes place within Hell, and presents Barker’s most thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion yet into its land­scape and hi­er­ar­chy, we ask him how long the ideas it in­cor­po­rates have been per­co­lat­ing in his mind.

“Does for­ever count?” he laughs. “Se­ri­ously, I have wanted to share this vi­sion of Hell for

“The ex­cite­ment of writ­ing is that I gen­er­ally have no idea where I’m go­ing next. I’m just along for the ride”

as far back as I can re­mem­ber… I grew up in a post- war Europe, and that al­ways seemed far more im­me­di­ate and ter­ri­ble than any Dan­tean de­pic­tion of Hell as this very tidy place with nine cir­cles, each of which is cor­doned off to spe­cial kinds of suf­fer­ing or damna­tions. The apoca­lypse will not be or­gan­ised. Why then should The Pit? It seems to me that if Hell ex­ists, it would be like the War­saw ghet­tos as run by the Nazis.”

Barker has said that The Scar­let Gospels be­gan as a se­quel novella to “The Hell­bound Heart”, but that as the project de­vel­oped he saw in it the po­ten­tial for a novel.

“Keep­ing in step with the themes here, the orig­i­nal model for Pin­head was the Nazis. Himm­ler, specif­i­cally. Here was a man who had oc­cult ties and a fiendishly sadis­tic side, but some­how kept him­self at arm’s length from the ‘ un­seemly’ side of the Holo­caust. For god’s sake, he once went to a con­cen­tra­tion camp and passed out be­cause blood got on his glasses. That’s a fas­ci­nat­ing psy­che, and I’ve never re­ally been able to shake the im­agery loose. Pair that with the fact that I thought it was time the bas­tard got what he de­served, and it be­comes un­de­ni­able that there’s a story want­ing to be told. It be­came a novel when the story in­formed me that there was a much big­ger plot afoot. Books are funny that way.”

Harry D’Amour’s in­volve­ment, how­ever, was al­ways a part of The Scar­let Gospels.

“Oh yes. Al­ways. Harry shows up in a lot of my books, and he’s had an ap­point­ment with Mr Head that was rather long­stand­ing. It seems to me that Harry and Pin­head are com­ple­men­tary souls. Blake’s The Ever­last­ing Gospels – an un­de­ni­able in­spi­ra­tion, as you can likely see by the ti­tle alone – says, ‘ Both read the Bi­ble day and night. But thou read’st black where I read white.’ That’s very much the dy­namic we have with th­ese two char­ac­ters. Both char­ac­ters are in Hell. Harry has fash­ioned his own and keeps go­ing deeper. Pin­head has be­come a prisoner and is do­ing ev­ery­thing he can to es­cape. They were made for each other.”

Although Barker has de­scribed The Scar­let Gospels as his fi­nal word on the Ceno­bites, the au­thor tells us we may yet see more of his long- suf­fer­ing de­tec­tive.

“Much in the way that I can’t step out­side of the char­ac­ters and look at their greater imprint, I am com­pletely un­able to know when they’ll turn up next. There’s a lot more I’d like to do with Harry, yes, but he hasn’t re­vealed to me ex­actly what that is yet.”

One pos­si­ble ve­hi­cle for Harry’s re­turn is a long- dis­cussed TV show chron­i­cling the New York PI’s ad­ven­tures.

“All things re­main a pos­si­bil­ity,” says his cre­ator. “The char­ac­ter is owned by MGM, who we have had a num­ber of dis­cus­sions with about the idea of bring­ing him back in a tele­vised form. It seems that the tim­ing is right. Hor­ror is more preva­lent than ever, so as long as that trend con­tin­ues, I think we’ll keep mov­ing closer to that day.”

As for Pin­head’s screen fu­ture, Barker’s Hell­raiser re­make re­mains in the works. Will his work on The Scar­let Gospels’ ex­panded mythol­ogy find its way into the new film?

“This, too,” he says with a smile, “is a pos­si­bil­ity. Though I’m afraid that’s all I can say on that sub­ject.”

SFX asks Barker what he thinks will de­light long­time fans about the new Hell­raiser.

“Its ad­her­ence to the orig­i­nal vi­sion. It’s new, and it’s spec­tac­u­lar, and most im­por­tantly it isn’t done to death.”

As to whether The Scar­let Gospels could one day in­spire a film, Barker adds, “I think it’s too soon to say, but as I say, all things re­main a pos­si­bil­ity. I cer­tainly have no ob­jec­tions to see­ing this vi­sion on the big screen.”

In the mean­time, the re­nais­sance man re­mains busy writ­ing and film­mak­ing. “Hav­ing just wrapped the six- year long jour­ney of fin­ish­ing the direc­tor’s cut of my film Night­breed,” he tells us, “I’m happy to be back at my desk com­plet­ing Abarat IV: The Price Of Dreams. The big­gest thing to dis­cuss, which will likely be an­nounced by the time this is printed, is our work on a film called The En­twined. The story spoke to me and Mark Alan Miller, who spear­headed the move­ment to bring Night­breed to a close. We found our­selves hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions about the story and ended up re­vis­ing the script our­selves. What we ended up with is some­thing that’s quite a bit of fun. The film will begin shoot­ing in Ge­or­gia in a few months.”

Barker also re­mains a pro­lific artist, paint­ing pieces daily for the next two vol­umes in his Books Of Abarat se­ries. Of all his works, he re­mains es­pe­cially proud of the Young Adult fan­tasy saga.

“Ev­ery day I’m ei­ther writ­ing chap­ters for the books or paint­ing the images that will go with them. It’s been the great un­der­tak­ing of my life and it’s still too soon to share any­thing ex­cept the ti­tle for book IV, which I men­tioned: The Price Of Dreams.”

Just as Barker’s ca­reer re­flects his own be­lief in the value of imag­i­na­tion, he adds, “I think the ti­tle alone speaks vol­umes about the con­tents of the book.”

The Scar­let Gospels is pub­lished on 21 May.

We can’t help won­der­ing if he once had a bad acupunc­ture ex­pe­ri­ence.

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