Clive Barker barely needs an introduction to the horror and fantasy genre. Today we look back at some of his earliest work for his birthday celebration. Most notably his fiction. Born the 5th of October 1952 in Liverpool, Merseyside, England. Clive grew up on the same street that the Beatles named their famous song, Penny Lane after. Later, Barker and Doug Bradley formed the theater group, The Dog Company, with a few friends.
As a mature adult, Clive Barker exploded onto the horror literature scene with a seal of approval from his fellow Liverpudlian, Ramsey Campbell, with the Books of Blood volumes 1-3, having been published between 1984 and 1985. Clive’s source of inspiration was the 1980 classic anthology collection, Dark Forces 1980, inspired Clive to take pen to paper, as Clive is known to write all his fiction longhand, then later his secretary types them out for him.
“I thought I was past being profoundly disturbed by horror fiction, but these books proved me wrong.” – Ramsey Campbell
Clive Barker made a stance with volumes 1 to 3; shaping, crafting and weaving horror literature. Paving the way for many budding splatterpunk and bizzaro fiction writers. Even in the ‘80s, the great comic book writer, Alan Moore, also made claims that the Books of Blood are some of the best short stories ever written. Barker’s blend of perfect body-horror in the West stands side by side with such masters as David Cronenberg. Most notably Son of Celluloid and Jacquiline Ess (Her last will and Testament), by the end of Jacquiline Ess, one can almost feel the yearning.
“Barker has been an amazing writer from his first appearance, with a great gift of invention and commitment that stands on every page.” – Peter Straub
In the Midnight Meat Train, he is able to make use and almost manipulate the typical “run of the mill” stalk and slash-coating, and cutting his prose, allowing the blood to spill and swirl into poetry and even adding dashes of “Hitchcockian” themes like: Obsession, the story later turns three degrees into the cannibal genre, slowly becoming something fresh and anew.
“What he’s doing now is important exciting. He’s an original…he even scares me.” – Stephen King
While his Books of Blood gained such notoriety amongst readers and critics alike, Barker, the visual artist, went on to also reinvent the horror film – possibly due to the abysmal Rawhead Rex adaptation with Hellraiser, and with Nightbreed. Later, came Lord of Illusion, which were all adaptations of his own fiction. Cabal added a certain sympathy for the monster, which reminisced such wonderful classics as Bride of Frankenstein, Freaks and King Kong, giving Cabal, the novel, and Nightbreed, the movie, becoming a reconstructionists wet-dream. Love for the monster.
The Damnation Game was his first novel published in 1985, and is a Faustian tale, earning Clive a Bram Stoker for best first novel nominee in 1988. This opens in the ruins of WWII, and slowly moving into a standard crime novel, with added twists of M.R. James and W. Somerset Maugham. Barker also used similar themes found in his Books of Blood series, to give The Damnation Game the edge over other writers at the time.
Clive Barker’s literary influences range from William S. Burroughs, to Ray Bradbury, to William Blake, to Jean Cocteau and Herman Melville and Edgar Allen Poe… and many more. It’s with these authors that Barker’s vision in fiction can be clearly felt. But what really sets Barker apart from other fiction writers is his incredible attention to detail, distinctive moments in time and space, allowing the reader to render those frozen moments. Ideas and theories of invisible and hidden worlds beneath the veil. The reader can almost sense his surrealistic approach of opposites, and in the notion of the onion removing the layers, in peeling back the very core of reality.
“Clive Barker has been an amazing writer from his first appearance, with the great gifts of invention and commitment to his own vision stamped on every page.” – Peter Straub
Clive Barker’s wonderful paintings and illustrations have been housed and featured in art galleries across the USA, as well as in his own fictional works. He has even contributed his illustrations for the great master of horror. in Mick Garris’s fiction. Most people are unaware of Mick Garris and his wonderful prose style.
Clive Barker has conquered the graphic novel in ways that stand beside the ever-immortal, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. It remains these reactive, alchemical principles, that Clive Barker strives for. Forever and always turning lead into gold. And this is what truly makes Clive Barker “The Dark Prince of Horror and Fantasy”, and most importantly the Imaginer.
I will leave you on this quote from the late J.G. Ballard.
“A powerful and fascinating writer with a brilliant imagination…Clive Barker is an outstanding storyteller.” – J G Ballard