Mr Flibble Talks To... Night Sweats
Despite a deep dark sense of foreboding, Mr Flibble ventured forth to talk to a master of horror. He's the man who put a hook on Candyman's arm and did something really nasty to Pinhead - British export and best-selling horror novelist, Clive Barker.
26 January, 2001
Clive Barker
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

How did you get started as a horror writer?

I got started as a writer of plays before I was writing horror fiction; I was writing plays for the fringe in London, and later plays that we took up to the Edinburgh festival, a few plays that were commissioned by youth theatres. I came to that out of a passion for theatre and out of a passion for fantastical storytelling of one kind or another. And then around the age of 30 or 31, I realised that this was not going to keep me in the manner to which I intended to become accustomed. (Laughs) It became necessary to really think about organising my creative life a little better. I'd been a little lackadaisical about really focussing on it.

So I put together a collection of short stories which my theatre agent sold to Sphere - and those were the Books of Blood, the first three volumes of the Books of Blood. And from there it became a question of lateral motion, because my passion isn't really for horror fiction, it's for fantastical fiction of one kind or another. It involves science-fiction, fantasy fiction, fairytale, folklore, mythology. In other words, anything which stands against the tradition of naturalistic or quote-unquote 'realistic' writing. My sense is that the root story-telling, the root necessity of storytelling, is to take flight from the real, not to mechanically examine its minutiae.

I've always wanted to celebrate what the imagination can do with reality, how it can twist it, how readily we can drop down a rabbit hole or be carried off through the nursery window, or be shipwrecked on an island of tiny people; all these images which everybody knows. Everybody's familiar with Neverneverland and Lilliput and so on. They are the beginnings of very resonant adventures. Adventures which work very often - when they're working well - on many levels.

How did you get started as a horror writer?

I got started as a writer of plays before I was writing horror fiction; I was writing plays for the fringe in London, and later plays that we took up to the Edinburgh festival, a few plays that were commissioned by youth theatres. I came to that out of a passion for theatre and out of a passion for fantastical storytelling of one kind or another. And then around the age of 30 or 31, I realised that this was not going to keep me in the manner to which I intended to become accustomed. (Laughs) It became necessary to really think about organising my creative life a little better. I'd been a little lackadaisical about really focussing on it.

So I put together a collection of short stories which my theatre agent sold to Sphere - and those were the Books of Blood, the first three volumes of the Books of Blood. And from there it became a question of lateral motion, because my passion isn't really for horror fiction, it's for fantastical fiction of one kind or another. It involves science-fiction, fantasy fiction, fairytale, folklore, mythology. In other words, anything which stands against the tradition of naturalistic or quote-unquote 'realistic' writing. My sense is that the root story-telling, the root necessity of storytelling, is to take flight from the real, not to mechanically examine its minutiae.

I've always wanted to celebrate what the imagination can do with reality, how it can twist it, how readily we can drop down a rabbit hole or be carried off through the nursery window, or be shipwrecked on an island of tiny people; all these images which everybody knows. Everybody's familiar with Neverneverland and Lilliput and so on. They are the beginnings of very resonant adventures. Adventures which work very often - when they're working well - on many levels.

Did that begin in your childhood?

I think that's where it begins for us all, in childhood. We begin with the dream journeys, and as children we feel comfortable with the dream journeys. We don't ask ourselves, 'Could it happen?' We just say, 'This is cool; this gets our imaginations going.' It's only later, when this wretched sense of 'is it provable?' enters the agenda. We have to ask ourselves whether this is real or not, and we use the likelihood of something being actual or possible as a yardstick for how pertinent it can be to us. This is a nonsense! Images - dream images, nightmare images, images that are cold from the imagination - can inform our inner selves in a way that realism never can.

Did that begin in your childhood?

I think that's where it begins for us all, in childhood. We begin with the dream journeys, and as children we feel comfortable with the dream journeys. We don't ask ourselves, 'Could it happen?' We just say, 'This is cool; this gets our imaginations going.' It's only later, when this wretched sense of 'is it provable?' enters the agenda. We have to ask ourselves whether this is real or not, and we use the likelihood of something being actual or possible as a yardstick for how pertinent it can be to us. This is a nonsense! Images - dream images, nightmare images, images that are cold from the imagination - can inform our inner selves in a way that realism never can.