Rummaging Through The Toybox: Plushes, Plagues and Plaudits

The Tenth Revelatory Interview
By Phil & Sarah Stokes, 11th August 2005

Revelations : "Hi Clive, how are you?"

Clive : "I'm well, how are you guys?"

Revelations : "We're good, we're well."

Clive : "You're never not good, are you?"

Revelations : "You're never not busy - you are a difficult man to track down these days."

Clive : "I know, it's crazy!

Plague - teaser poster

Revelations : "What's going on?"

Clive : "We have here two movies both in pre-production at the same time, which is a lot for a little - you know there's only three of us in Seraphim - so we're trying to service these three films: actually we have one partner who's there with us, and obviously we have people there with us from the two companies who are funding the movies, but really our controls lie with us and we've got to be everywhere, got to have eyes everywhere. So, one of them is being shot in Winnepeg, starting in two weeks' time - that's The Plague, and then I think we've got, presently, a 17th of October start date for the shooting of The Midnight Meat Train and so they are in active pre-production now."

Revelations : "That must really make you feel great, to actually be there on the cusp of getting these things done at last."

Clive : "Yeah - finally getting these things done is actually, is really, really good. Just to expand laterally from that, on October the 4th the Visions of Heaven and Hell book comes out, I mean, I've got one last thing today for that, so one of the things I've been doing is doing the little illustrations for the chapter headings and things like that. We've got Abarat III, the paintings for Abarat III have sort of seized me by the neck, and are shaking me violently, so I did four of those last weekend!"

Revelations : "Ouch!"

Clive : "Yeah, I know, it's ridiculous! And then of course there's Scarlet Gospels, so there's a lot going on - but it's good; it's all good."

Revelations : "Better than sitting in your chair, watching the world pass you by..."

Clive : "Well, exactly - or complaining that no-one wants to make our movies or print our books, you know?"

Revelations : "Absolutely. What's the third movie, Clive? The Plague, Midnight Meat Train, then what?"

Clive : "Well, fingers crossed, The Thief of Always - I mean that is with Fox, right now, and they're making their decisions, so fingers crossed. And then next year we're looking at what? The two pictures we're going to do next year are going to be - one of them I think will be Pig Blood Blues and we're playing around with what the other one will be - but hopefully, if this works, we'll be doing two movies a year from this point on. So it's an interesting time!"

Bray Studios

Revelations : "It's a genuine film studio..."

Clive : "Well, it was our ambition to have a little bit of a Hammer thing, you know? And of course, you can't have exactly what Hammer had because they really were a proper studio, they had Bray studios and it was their little universe and I think I'm right in saying that once they took it over I don't think anybody shot at Bray besides themselves, Hammer Studios. We, on the other hand, live in an age where we have to go (or it is necessary for the look of the picture to go) to different kinds of locations and shoot reality because I think all these movies that are coming up, all these Books of Blood movies have got to look very different from one another. And that means that when we go to Midnight Meat Train we have got to go to New York, if not for all of it, at least for some of it. And with The Plague, we've got some great sites up in Winnepeg which are really off-beat and strange in the way, almost, that Cronenberg's world is strange. The only thing which will be, I think, almost totally studio-bound is The Thief of Always because I think, pretty much Kelly wants to build all of that - which I think is right; I think it should be its own, complete world."

Revelations : "Right, I can see that..."

Clive : "Yes, so the answer is there is a shit-load going on! And I am into the final draft of The Scarlet Gospels and it's very bloody and very intense - very intense - I'm quite surprised how intense it's got. I think I thought I got used to whatever the S&M overtures or undertones of the Cenobites were; I think I thought, 'Oh well, there's nothing there that could distress or disturb me now,' but in seeking out something which would distresss and disturb my audience, I seem to have found some things to distress and disturb me! It's good!"

Revelations : "It's perfect!"

Clive : "Yeah, yeah! So there're some pretty cool things happening in that story, I think - and I think you're going to adore Visions of Heaven and Hell; the reproduction is amazing."

Revelations : "So have you seen a mocked-up version of the paper quality and - ?"

Clive : "Yeah - it's just lovely, they've really gone the full distance to make this an 'A+' art book, so that for instance the colour of the paper on which the black and white pictures are painted, you know, sepia or whatever - because some of that paper is kinda old, these pictures go back a way - we've preserved that in the reproduction which is really nice. And the colours from the Abarat reproductions are eye-pricking!"

Revelations : "Take us back to Comic Con - how did you get on?"

Clive : "It was good, it was fun because I was taking out something I'd never taken out before - plushes!"

Yaboo - the minimalist packaging option

Revelations : "We're really looking forward to the books that go with them - how many are coming out and at what sort of pace?"

Clive : "Well, there are going to be four in the first wave; the Comic Con thing was a special. The idea was that the one that came out at Comic Con was specifically for Comic Con and it's a sort of experimental vehicle; it's very fun but, it's an experimental vehicle. I think we will have got things a little bit smoother by the time we get to the second one which will, in truth, be the first of the real, commercial run. For instance, we put it - the one for Comic Con - in a white box simply because we hadn't even begun to think about packaging by the time that came around, which is nicely minimalist, but you know is it going to work in a store? We sold most of them and there were thousands of them, and they went to - the youngest of the purchasers was nine months old! And she purchased it by just stealing it off the display as her mother walked by and then her mother coming back and saying, 'Excuse me, how much is this? She won't give it back!' By that time, every inch of Yaboo had been sucked to pieces, so there wasn't much chance of reviving it! It was very sweet, really."

Revelations : And it wasn't just Yaboo you had there, it was the other three as well?"

Clive : "No, we only had Yaboo and we had a couple of really very early, early passes of the others."

Revelations : "We saw a couple of photos of those..."

Clive : "Yeah, but to my mind, they're crude first starts. The fun is watching - because there are 240 of these designs - watching people decide, because we took the paintings down there, watching people decide which is their favourite is almost like a Rorshach test! Do they like the aggressive ones that are all teeth, or do they like the ones that look like pale little parchment-coloured penguins? Very fun, very fun. And San Diego is as crazy as ever - I don't know what the numbers were this year, perhaps you do - ?"

Revelations : "No - but it just looked awesome!"

Clive : "Yeah - it was huge, and it becomes just overwhelming at a certain point; there's just so much eye-candy, everywhere you look there's just huge displays and everything's very beautifully presented. And every now and then you'll come across somebody like William Stout, for instance - you know, the dinosaur man? Who - I've loved his drawings for ever - and there he was, sitting there just drawing dinosaurs in his little corner without any of the, you know, the brou-ha-ha, you know, the huge signage or whatever and there was something nice about that; it spoke to me about how often we mistake the sizzle for the steak, you know? Because most of that brou-ha-ha is sizzle, it isn't steak; it's people getting your attention by putting up bigger and bigger and more and more colourful signs."

William Stout - Red Death

Revelations : "Right - they have to be there and they have to be noticed, because that's where the movers and shakers will be - it's self-perpetuating."

Clive : "Absolutely right."

Revelations : "But that's always the delight in a dusty second-hand bookshop, not the display of the new stuff, it's what's squirrelled away in a corner that will surprise you."

Clive : "Completely right, absolutely right and it's interesting that you say that because my first supplier of comics was, in Liverpool, a little sweetshop called Bascombe's - which is no longer in existence, on Smithdown Road - about a twenty minute walk from Oakdale - and I would go over there every Sunday and they had a cardboard box at the back with second, third, tenth-hand comics in it - American comics - which were given to you reluctantly, because, I don't know what they were giving them to you for, sixpence or something, you know. 'Yes, you can look through, but don't make a mess,' kind of thing - and every now and then, just going through there, your eyes would alight on a cover that you'd been looking at in a 'coming soon' in another comic for years! And there it was! And I remember coming across a couple of Fantastic Fours from the fifties - not the years, the Fifties, but the numbers - you know from 45 to 60 which is the best of the Kirby drawings - I remember coming across a couple of those and not believing that I was only being charged a shilling for these treasures! Now, of course, everybody's in on it and I suppose that a little of the magic perhaps has gone, because it's so much about selling, selling, selling; I liked it when I could discover things in a cardboard box, you know?"

Revelations : "And all booksellers are a bit like that - they love their stock so much they don't really want to part with it."

Clive : "Yeah, I think that wasn't what this old lady, little old lady who ran Bascombe's was about. The old lady who ran Bascombe's was afraid I would steal some and run so fast out she wouldn't be able to chase me! Which I never did; I mean I was always a good little kid, by and large and it was a great joy to be able to go in there and you know, go through these gems."

Fantastic Four - No 58, January 1967

Revelations : "And you had to get there first - legend has it you were fighting Pete Atkins and Ramsey Campbell for those in the same little box..."

Clive : "Absolutely right! It was the same box, and actually Pete lived closer! Though I never knew him... though who knows, maybe one of those Sundays, long ago, in the Sixties, we might have brushed shoulders as he came in and I left... "And the rest of the Con was signing, and signing and signing, and it was nice, it was fun and a lot of Abarat - a lot of Abarat. It's really nice to feel that something really happened..."

Revelations : "That's what people are generally bringing to the signings now, is it?"

Clive : "Yeah - often in more than one copy now - "

Revelations : "That's interesting - "

Clive : "Family things - yeah, it's nice, it's very nice. And now we've got the Chinese edition, which looks marvellous - it's just very cool. They've kept Abarat, they kept the word 'Abarat' and then translated it into Chinese as well, so that's kinda cool - I get the best of both worlds. I'm very excited - and though I'm enjoying writing Scarlet Gospels immensely - I have said to the guys I am not going to go direct another movie until I have done Abarat III; it burns too brightly in me right now."

Revelations : "I guess if you're just completing the pictures, it's all there - in your head..."

Clive : "Exactly, Sarah, exactly, so - I can smell it, you know? And it's a big book and I want to be in there, so..."

Revelations : "And it's going to be a really fun one, isn't it?"

Clive : "Fun?"

Revelations : "To write."

Clive : "Oh, it'll be fun to write because it's so damned dark! Yeah, absolutely, it'll be great fun to write."

Quills - vote for Abarat: Days of Magic Nights of War

Clive : "Did you get all the verbiage about the Quills things?"

Revelations : "Yeah, and actually some people have picked that up from the site and started posting it around some message boards, so the word is certainly out. And you're also up for voting in the British Fantasy Society Awards."

Clive : "Jolly good - do they still gather at that pub in High Holborn?"

Revelations : "Yes, we had great fun there the other night. We finally went to our first event, which was a showcase of all the things that are up for nominations and it was fun."

Clive : "It's still upstairs? Yeah, a fun place!"

Revelations : "And talking of awards we should talk about the Stoker - congratulations!"

Clive : "Thank you - which was completely un-looked for, un-anticipated on my part; partly I suppose because I had thought maybe the book wouldn't be dark enough to deserve the Stoker's study and I was delighted that they felt it was, and very proud of their support so."

Revelations : "And we talked a little while ago about how second books don't tend to get the attraction that the first books do..."

Clive : "Absolutely."

Revelations : "...and yet the awards are coming for the second book."

Clive : "Yeah, isn't that weird? I think it's because the story is more satisfying in the second book than the first one and I think that there's more of a sense that OK, this really is what that map promises to be and, you know, with the first book there were a lot of technical challenges which simply came with 'Well, how the heck do you write a relatively modestly scaled first book that introduces somebody to a world, gives them something of an adventure, introduces us to a bunch of characters but has to get out again in roughly five hundred pages with illustration' and it was a technical challenge which the book only partially, I think, acheived. And I think it was an act of faith on readers' parts - for which I am immensely thankful - that people went back and looked at the second book, found that it did carry through thematically and narratively from the first and that a lot of the questions that they had about the first one were directly addressed in the second book, so that there was a sense that, 'OK he does realise that he left us hanging there, he's not just some dumb bastard who just asked all these questions and then didn't answer them!' You know it was a hard one for me, it was a hard one when I put down the text of number one I thought, 'Shit - this leaves so many questions unanswered, so many,' and part of my problem with the first version of the second book - the one I threw away - was that it didn't answer enough questions - you know? It needed to be thrown away and started again and I needed to play more honestly out to my audience and give them the pleasure of wrapping up some storylines - of course beginning some new ones - but wrapping up some that were fairly sizeable, I mean big storylines coming to an end."

Revelations : "And do you find it difficult thinking more carefully about your audience? Because that's not something you've had to do very much before."

Haeckel's Tale - in Dark Delicacies (publication due September 2005) Haeckel's Tale - Masters of Horror

Clive : "Can you more specifically ask me what you mean, Sarah, I mean do you mean about in terms of content or do you mean just in terms of answering the questions as I was talking about?"

Revelations : "I mean answering a question in a technical sense - the satisfaction of a story arc - but from a reader's view rather than from yours."

Clive : "I think that is something I've not had to confront before, though I've known, I know there's a third book of The Art there and I know there's a second Galilee book, I've always known that for the Abarat, for the core Abarat audience, these books have to come quicker; it's one of the reasons again that I've put my movie obligations aside, as director - I've got to just go back and get stuck in on Abarat III because people are eager for that book - and they're growing up!"

Revelations : Sure - part of your audience you're losing!"

Clive : "Right - and then the good thing is of course another part of the audience is growing into them, so - but I'm absolutely in awe of the discipline that has been shown by Rowling, just every two, three years producing absolutely massive books - extraordinary!"

Revelations : "Now, with Abarat you were surprised that people thought it had horror in it. We've now got Haeckel's Tale - the same cannot be said for that; can it! Where did all of that come from?"

Clive : "I was between books and I was trying to figure out what - I was thinking I was going to do that collection of short stories and I put together some four or five. Haeckel's Tale is one of four or five that I finished and I really, part of it was a desire for me, on my part to just re-visit the old Clive and see whether he was still living at the same address - "

Revelations : " - and boy, was he!"

Clive : "Yeah - if you think that's true of Haeckel's Tale, Sarah, just wait til Scarlet Gospels, it's makes Haeckel's Tale look like, I don't know, something a lot gentler."

Roger Corman's Tales of Terror, 1962

Revelations : "That thing is not filmable, is it?"

Clive : "You know they're doing it - but I know, of course it isn't filmable! I mean, I can't wait, particularly because there's talk of Roger Corman directing."

Revelations : "But is there a hiccup with it being one of the first thirteen, because Roger's not well, is he?"

Clive : "No, he isn't well, and we're waiting on news, frankly. I've always been fond of Roger as a person, he's always been very nice to me and I'm hoping he'll be well enough to do it and if he isn't well enough to do it then there'll be somebody else at the helm, but I said to Mick [Garris] last time we spoke, please to hold out for Roger as long as you can because he's a wonderful guy."

Revelations : "So would you prefer it to be part of the second series [of Masters of Horror]?"

Clive : "If that meant we had Roger? Absolutely. It might be one of a few things that Roger chooses to do at this end of his life and I've always thought of him as a master and the fact is it's a period story and my favourite of his movies are the Poe pictures - it feels like an interesting match. And of course, he was always fond of cleavage and even Haeckel's Tale goes a little beyond..."

Revelations : "I did think there was a bit of a fixation going on there..."

Clive : "There is, there is."

Fangoria Weekend of Horrors - 24 - 25th September 2005 Rue Morgue's Festival of Fear - 26 - 28th August 2005

Revelations : "You're doing several upcoming conventions, aren't you? This is a return to an old tradition - you're back into Fangoria and Rue Morgue."

Clive : "Yeah - I felt it was time, with Scarlet Gospels and the horror movies coming along, it didn't make sense not to go and talk to that audience again and reconnect with that audience, and celebrate my history with that audience. The people from Rue Morgue are completely delightful and so it will be real fun to do that and you know Tony and the Fango crowd have been my friends for twenty years now, almost, and so it's always a pleasure to hang with those guys - so yeah, it is a break with tradition and it'll be fun to do. And then I'm doing a tour for Visions."

Revelations : "It looks like at a few of those you're going to be doing readings and discussions as well as the signings."

Clive : "Yeah, I think more discussions because it's hard to do readings, because even though there are essays in the book it's primarily a book of pictures and so really what I want to be doing is hopefully talking to people about painting and the place it had in my life and the new, much larger place it now has in my life. It's extraordinary how ten years ago - when did we first meet, eight, ten years ago - well, a lot has happened in the time we've known one another. We've put out, obviously a couple of Abarat books and now this and we're going to do a two-month exhibition at the Bert Green gallery here in LA, which I know you know about. I'm painting a lot of new stuff for that, but I'm also putting on sale things like the designs for the capital letters that I did for the Visions of Heaven and Hell and we're definitely - one of the things I talked with Bert about right from the beginning was that we had to be able to put this stuff up on his website so that this was not a sale that was only available to people in Los Angeles, and he's been very good about that. So everything will be up and so it'll be possible to - obviously you can't see the pictures physically up."

Revelations : "But there'll be images, will there?"

Clive : "Oh yes, of course, absolutely. So that's going to be fun - some big pictures and some smaller things for people who don't have perhaps too much money."

Jump Tribe
Abarat (Book Two)
Abarat (Book Three)
Abarat (Books Four and Five)
Scarlet Gospels
Midnight Picture Show movies - Plague
Abarat II's Quills & British Fantasy Society nominations
Haeckel's Tale - Dark Delicacies
Haeckel's Tale - Masters of Horror
Visions Tour Dates

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