Sunday, August 25, 2019
Meeting Clive Barker
I was 12, I think. Maybe 13. Somehow, I convinced my grandmother to buy it for me. I would track down Volume 3 soon after, and get my mom to purchase it. I think she was hesitant at first, but I leveraged the fact that “Grandma bought me Volume 2”. Or maybe she just thought reading would be better for me than watching any of the blood-drenched movies I had become a fan of. The first in the series took me longer to locate, but eventually I found it during a trip to the mall (it was the late '80s in New Jersey). I read them all, mainly in the car on family road trips.
I picked up The Inhuman Condition and In The Flesh next, then The Damnation Game, and later, Cabal and all the rest. I stared endlessly at the art on the covers, and devoured the words inside.
I wrote Barker a fan letter (the only person I ever did that for), asking for writing advice, never really thinking I would ever truly be much of a writer myself (I had dabbled in a few short stories at the time)—but what else do you ask writers about when you’re a kid? Months later, to my delight, he answered with a typewritten letter, signed by hand at the bottom. (Joke’s on me now - I guess I followed his advice and kept at the writing thing.)
In reading interviews, and in the book Pandemonium, I discovered Barker’s history in theater. I quickly became obsessed with tracking down scripts for the plays he had written. I wondered if anyone had filmed any of the productions, and if so, how I could get copies.
Occasionally I would hear about readings and signings that he had done in bookstores—but always, sadly, after the fact. I would occasionally see pictures in magazines (like Fango, I assume) of the crowds, of him signing books for attendees.
That Christmas, my parents gave me a copy of The Thief of Always, and to our surprise, it turned out to be a signed copy. I was thrilled, but also wondered: Had Barker done a signing in my hometown that I had somehow missed?
A few years later I got to see a bunch of his drawings on display. But it was another reminder that I always seemed to miss the chance to meet him or catch a reading. I had all these artifacts, at least—stories, images, a couple autographs.
I was excited. I would finally get to meet the man who inspired so much in my own work. And on top of that, there would be a screening of the “Cabal cut” of Nightbreed, which added another layer of anticipation. I bought my ticket and anxiously awaited the weekend of the show. But then, unfortunately, Barker had to cancel at the last minute, due to health issues. I was of course saddened by this for multiple reasons, and was also forced to realize that meeting him was simply never going to happen. I accepted it and moved on.
Flash forward 7 more years. Suddenly Barker was scheduled for another Monster Mania. I couldn't believe it. A sense of giddiness bubbled within me. Would I actually get to meet him this time?
My buddy Adam and I made plans to go. We got our tickets. We got in line. A very long line. I wondered what might possibly go wrong this time around.
Thankfully, nothing did. After standing in line for two and a half hours, most of it outside in the sun, we entered the room and spotted Clive Barker seated behind a table, smiling, shaking hands and signing autographs for fans. His artwork hung about the room, old and new copies of his books were piled high.
Looking back on what I’ve written here, I suppose it amounts to little more than a fan appreciation post. But that’s okay. Sometimes other creators put the wind in your sails, and inspire your own artistic pursuits. A handful of them, perhaps, can fuel you for a lifetime. Clive Barker has been one of those latter individuals for me, and finally getting the chance to meet him felt like something to commemorate and place on this (digital) shelf.