The Lazarus Muse: Nights Of Magic, Days Of Gore

The Ninth Revelatory Interview
By Phil & Sarah Stokes, 2nd June 2005

Clive : "Hey guys, how are you?"

Revelations : "Hi Clive, we're well, how are you?"

Chris Ecclestone as Dr Who, Billie Piper as Rose

Clive : "Good, thank you, good. Under an amazing, not a cloud of work, but inner turmoil of work - unbelievable amounts of projects all happening."

Revelations : "Well, for you to say that it must be really something."

Clive : "Yeah, no, it really is; it's like, 'OK now, which of the seven things shall I do today?' It's good, though, it's good.."

Revelations : "Well thank you for finding some time for us."

Clive : "Yeah - you're very welcome, and thank you so much for thinking of me with Doctor Who."

Revelations : How are you enjoying it?"

Clive : "I'm enjoying it a lot. I'm having a little trouble with Ecclestone's performance. It seems a bit broad to me, a bit larger than you really want him to be, a bit larger than you really want him to be - is that just me?"

Revelations : "I'm struggling with how often he mugs to the camera."

Clive : "That's exactly what I mean. And I was hoping that what he would bring was - keeping the Northern accent, I thought that was great - then I thought well, he's going to be a down-to-earth, I'm going to see a Doctor Who who's really a Doctor Who for the new century; you know, a practical time traveller, and it's a tad stylized - the performance - it plays like panto, and like he feels he has to get to the back of the theatre somehow - you want to say, 'Hey, the camera's four inches from your face now, you really don't need to make that expression'. On the other hand, the special effects are startlingly better than they were!"

Zoë Wanamaker as Cassandra

Revelations : "Isn't it extraordinary?"

Clive : "Yes - you know, every now and then I check out a DVD of the older episodes and I gasp at what used to frighten me..! And I hear the Daleks are pretty impressive in their revisitation - is that right?"

Revelations : "Yes - I'm not going to ruin anything for you, but there's a special effect in the Dalek episode which is better than anything else in the series so far. Conversely, I expected to dislike Billie Piper and actually, I think she's pretty good."

Clive : "I'm in exactly the same place. This stuff is, I think, very witty - I mean, I saw the creature that had basically become a piece of skin with eyes and a mouth - that was fantastic - witty and funny and bitchy and campy. "

Revelations : "And they've rolled out a really good cast list - that was Zoë Wanamaker, wasn't it."

Clive : "Yes, absolutely, and every line of it was beautifully turned. So, right now I'm watching, I've watched each one you've sent me twice and have eagerly watched the post for - I'm like a little kid here, because we're not getting these. There's no sign we're getting these at all, so far.

Revelations : "Is that right?"

Clive : "Yeah - I don't know why, there just isn't the same, I mean there are pockets of Doctor Who fanatics here, obviously expats like myself, but I think Americans were brought up with, as children, Lost in Space and, I don't know, Gilligan's Island and stuff - things which strike us as pretty darn bad and I think that probably we have transferred a lot of a young person's affection on to Dr Who which, from an adult's point of view is incomprehensible!"

Revelations : "I'll tell you what's extraordinary is they've really caught the kids in Britain with this - running around shouting, 'Exterminate!'"

Clive : "That's so cool."

Revelations : "Our eight-year-old - we took him out for a birthday trip about three weeks ago with two or three of his friends, and there'd just been an episode where there's an invasion of London and they smash into Big Ben, and we went on a tour round London and they were saying, 'Ooh - I wonder if they've rebuilt Big Ben yet?' and the whole thing was totally real for them."

Abarat 2 - French trade edition, Albin Michel 2004

Clive : "Oh cool, cool. I remember those days. Fridays (because we had Art on Fridays) and so from Friday noon to Sunday night was pure joy. Because Friday noon meant that I had Art all afternoon and then I was off and then I woke up on Saturday morning and Doctor Who was waiting for me and then on Sunday it was 'I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again' and 'Round The Horne' on the radio, you know? And then unfortunately 'Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In' would come on at like nine o'clock on a Sunday evening - the signal of the fact that the weekend was over. So for me 'Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In' has always carried the doom drum of returning to school. "Shall I give you a run-down of where we are this end, because there's a lot of stuff. Let's start with the books stuff. We won a prize, a French prize, the Prix Imaginales, for the second Abarat book, which was really great - I don't think we were favourites by any manner of means but we won the best children's book which was great."

Revelations : "They brought out the French edition very quickly, whereas everyone else is playing catch-up."

Clive : Prix Imaginales, 2005 "They did, didn't they, I wasn't sure of even why that was - it's been interesting, just as a side note to that, there's been a lot of... I'm painting like crazy right now because I now have 270 paintings in readiness for books two, three and four which is obviously, actually in some senses, more than I need but I actually want to have more than I need because I want to almost cherry-pick the best things for the final two books and obviously also the books are going to be bigger so they're going to have more pictures in. The books have steadily been getting bigger."

Revelations : "Harry Potter style."

Clive : "Yeah exactly right, there's just more story to tell and so I've been painting like crazy. It's been wonderful to get the response from around the world - we're in thirty-two languages now, which is great, and I'm beginning to get editions - I haven't yet had the Chinese edition - but I have the Chinese cover which is beautiful. They are fascinating, there are so many subtle differences sometimes and then sometimes some very large differences."

Revelations : "The Indonesian version of the map of Abarat's just great."

Indonesian version of the map of Abarat

Clive : "Isn't it? Isn't that just so fun? It really takes it to another level of strangeness, you know. So now I am shaping up Abarat 3 and 4 while writing Scarlet Gospels during the day and polishing the script of The Midnight Meat Train which goes into production this year in New York along with a movie called The Plague."

Revelations : "When you say you're shaping Abarat 3 and 4, is that in paintings or are you actually putting words on a piece of paper now?"

Clive : "I'm actually putting words on a piece of paper and it's because I'm beginning to see, in a way that I didn't with Books 1 and 2 really, the shape, the feeling of what these books are going to be as they reach their apocalyptic and transformative end and you know the narrative is going to explode into a huge scale in the third book. I did a painting of the destruction of something well-known in the Abarat and David came in and was aghast, he said, 'You can't destroy that!' and I said 'I just did!' It will be destroyed in Book 3. Book 3, as the title Absolute Midnight suggests, is a pretty dark book but the darkest hours are not actually in Book 3, the darkest hours are in Book 4, so in a way that is new to me in this Abarat process I am feeling a sense of the shape of these things as I paint. And I'm making copious notes and writing paragraphs and literally have two files full of notes now. It will be interesting to see how much of it actually finds its way into the final books."

Revelations : "When you're coming up with ideas are you mentally shuffling some ideas into Book 4 because you want them to wait to the end? How clear is the division between Books 3 and 4?"

Clive : "Well, it's pretty clear now, it's simply a length issue now, Phil. I'm aware that I've begun a pretty huge narrative with a lot of characters already and even though there was a night of the long knives in the second book and a bunch of characters bit the dust, there's a bunch of new characters waiting in the third book. To give you an example, we have a glyph in Book 4 which is created by 7,000 people and the painting of the glyph is three canvasses long! It's in a style which I have never painted in before because I wanted this thing to look utterly... I just didn't want it to look like a machine or even necessarily a vehicle of conveyance. In a curious way I wanted it to look like something that had been summoned by 7,000 people - actually 7,001 because Malingo leads this joint creation - summoned by 7,001 imaginations and so, yes, I'm pretty clearly sensing what the shape of Book 3 will be. I'm not quite so clear about what Book 4 will be yet because there are some things in play that I have to work through which are actually about the metaphysics of it all; actually they are about what happens when you get into the 25th hour and you know, given the fact that it is a time out of time, what revelations, what horrors, what wonders are you going to see when you meet yourself as a baby or as an old person or whatever, so there's a lot of interesting stuff happening there."

Revelations : "You've just filled me with dread as talk of needing to work through the metaphysical meaning for everything is what's been holding up the third book of The Art..."

Clive : "Well, yes, but you shouldn't be too worried because the hunger from the world, I almost want to say the pressure from the worldwide audience is fairly insistent and I've got to get it right - remember, I already trashed one book because it didn't work, so I'm determined to work it out first. But it's a point well made, I take your point about The Art but I think this is a slightly different issue in someways. The Art is an even more thorough-going metaphysic than the Abarat in that hopefully the third book will bring this whole Blakean image of what this is, what the nuncio is, what evolution is, what the connection between magic and Christianity is, a lot of big issues interplay. Those issues aren't touching Abarat. What's touching Abarat are actually much more emotional pieces of metaphysics; I mean what happens when you find you are not the person you thought you were, but in fact two people in one, how you separate yourself off, is it possible to separate yourself off from someone that you have lived with for sixteen years, particularly if that person doesn't necessarily - and I'm giving a hint here - doesn't necessarily mean you good. So it's thoroughly engaging and interesting. And during the day, I am shedding blood like nobody's business in The Scarlet Gospels, which is quite an interesting return to a voice that I thought I'd lost and I'm happy to discover had simply gone into hiding for a while."

Revelations : "How easily do you switch between the two? Do you have to go away and chill out for a while?"

Clive : "Well, yes, I sort of do. I put down the pen about five o'clock on The Scarlet Gospels and then I'll mull around for perhaps an hour, tidying up or doing any bits of business that I haven't addressed during the day, you know, phone calls that I haven't answered and so on. And then about six o'clock I head into the studio and the nights are light here, as they are with you, so it's really pleasurable to work until nine o'clock, nine-thirty - I get three and a half hours of solid painting most nights and they are sort of complementary, Sarah. You know, the tone of Scarlet Gospels is going to remind you I think, in its taking-no-prisoners way, of some of the harsher stories in the Books of Blood and that was a bit of a test for me - did I still have that voice? Was I still, at 52, willing to be that harsh, that cruel?"

Revelations : "I'm interested here, Clive, because you have said that you couldn't write the Books of Blood now. When you went to the Scarlet Gospels, did you intend it to be as hard as it is?"

Clive : "No, not at all, and that's why I'm speaking in slightly surprised tones here and actually it's generally encouraging because I had also said goodbye in an introduction to Weaveworld to that voice as well and it it encourages me to think that perhaps I was premature in my saying farewell to these other voices. I sort of thought that I'd lost them and as I say, I think they needed time to go to ground perhaps and revivify themselves. When I got Pinhead on stage with D'Amour - and I've actually got him onstage with D'Amour as a boy, he meets D'Amour at a Catholic school as a twelve year-old / thirteen year-old, a fully mixed-up, fucked-up thirteen year-old is the first time he encounters this creature - it suddenly, suddenly I realised that this hard-hearted Barker that really liked the imagery, the almost nihilistic imagery that was a part of the Books of Blood, I was really happy to revisit it; I felt there was validity in it. It's interesting to me and I've written seventeen hand-written pages this morning which is very, very unlike me, to get seventeen pages out in a morning - normally I am really pushing by five o'clock to get my twenty and I'm having a good time is part of it. Part of it is, 'Oh, hello Clive, I'm Clive,' you know? So many of the journeys that I've taken in the last few years have taken me to such diverse places, and sometimes very sad places; Sacrament has such sadness in it, certainly, and I think the stuff I did for Chiliad, you know, that was pretty melancholy stuff. Abarat has brightened me and painting brightens me, and when I'm bright, I can go into the dark places more comfortably. It's only when you're actually in a really, really dark place that the idea of getting up in the morning and going into these dark places yourself is really overwhelming."

Revelations : "Yes it's a real threat if it's..."

Clive : "Absolutely right. Absolutely right. You said it in one. It becomes almost beyond me. It had become beyond me, particularly after my father's passing, to go into those very dark places. It's one of the reasons I'm having such a good time with Abarat; the lighter tone of Abarat, the brightness of Abarat, it was a wilful stepping away from the subdued tones and the cruelty and the violence and the almost arbitrary death that were part of my earlier horror fiction and now it's very much back on the page in not a short novel, it'll be certainly 150,000 words."

Revelations : "30,000 more than the last time we spoke..."

Clive : "I know, it's true."

Revelations : "And we're in June now, when the plan was to deliver this 'in the Summer'..."

Clive : "I think it will be early Autumn, but it won't be hopelessly late, I think."

Revelations : "And it will now be early Autumn but published standalone, is that right?"

Clive : "I would guess so - I'm not making any statements about that, I mean they need to see the text and work out whether they want to add some of the short fiction as well. I think it would be an immense book."

Revelations : "And if they did decide to add the short fiction, is the currently unpublished stuff fully polished or would that need more time?"

Clive : "No, they're fully polished."

Clive's Shelf

Revelations : "We've gone back to the photo of you in the New York Times and we hadn't noticed before that on the shelf behind you are some folders of drafts with some titles that we don't know about."

Clive : "OK - Name then..."

Revelations : "Well, one of them has an old name, The Everything, which we haven't heard about for years - is that up and running?"

Clive : "Yes, that's still very much there. Part of the thing that Abarat has done in becoming a little bit of an industry for me because it takes huge amounts of work to produce these books, you know just in terms of man-hours to cover the amount of canvas with the paintings are now five and six deep in the painting house and getting to a place where I simply have no more room."

Revelations : "And next-door isn't up for sale!"

Clive : "Exactly - I should take them out at at gunpoint...! But it's a huge endeavour; I've been painting these pictures for the better part of ten years and there's now five hundred-and-something of them. You've seen the biggest of them - and some of the ones I'm doing now are almost as big - and my ambition for the series is to leave, when I'm done, as complete a record of an invented world in painting and writing and poems as I can leave, because that's one of the pleasures of being able to turn my hand to a couple of things and I can hopefully describe the world in both paint and words and hopefully they complement each other. When we get to the end of it, it will be a half a million words or more and probably 550 paintings - and that's a lot of world."

Art Asylum

Revelations : "And yet, if I hear you right, you have found the time to finish off something like The Everything in the midst of that?"

Clive : "Yeah, well not finished, but certainly continued to put detail on it; I mean, with the things that I do, I feel a bit like one of those guys on a variety show with a bunch of spinning plates on it, and I'm running from one to another, trying to keep all the plates up - it's part of what I do. I'm designing a game called Demonik right now, I'm doing introductions for Visions of Heaven and Hell, which comes out in October, I'm creating the stories to go with a series of what are called 'plushies', characters called The Jump Tribe of which I've designed 240 of them - it's a company called Art Asylum and they produce toys for kids and they call the toys plushies; soft toys, and I had painted 240 characters on five canvases - "

Revelations : " - is this The Bestiary?"

Clive : "Exactly, this is The Bestiary that I was working on, and the guy came round and said, 'Could we have that?' and I said, 'What would you do with it?' and he said, 'Well, we'd make a world around it, we'll produce plushies for all these characters,' and I said, 'You're on - as long as I can write the stories to go with each of the characters.' So at Comic Con in San Diego this Summer, we will unveil the first four Jump Tribes - Jumpers, as we call them - three good guys and a bad guy and the four stories that go with them and a fine time will be had by all.

The Bestiary

Revelations : "And will these be branded Abarat?"

Clive : "No, no, these will be completely separate from The Abarat."

Revelations : "So is The Bestiary no longer in The Abarat?"

Clive : "Exactly right, well it actually turned out to be good in a way because - it's curious, even as I was painting The Bestiary I was wondering, 'Why am I doing this?' I do think our fates are sort of pre-ordained in some measure and I couldn't figure out when I was doing this - Why? Why? Why?"

The Jump Tribe

Revelations : "You'd told us that you were going to name every single one of them, but that no-one would ever know..."

Clive : "And I did actually name them all and of course Adam Unger, the guy who bought them for Art Asylum, said, 'What are their names?' and I sent the names over and he was kind of gobsmacked! It's actually been really fun because the thing about this and the Art Asylum people, they're really nice, fun people, is that this moves at speed. Books move slowly, movies move even more slowly, even my paintings - although they seem to be produced quickly, do not seem to me to be produced quickly - and it's actually fun to make a painting and next see a beautiful sketch of what the toy will be and the next time see a toy! It's really fun and so I've written three of the stories and one to come of those first four. I don't think we'll ever do 240, but we will build a substantial world if people enjoy these characters."

Revelations : "And those are aimed at kids?"

Clive : "Yes, I think so; the stories are certainly aimed that way, always with a touch of something that hopefully an adult would have fun with. The stories are 1,500 words long, very short, but if they're all added together in a fashion that I've learnt from Tortured Souls, they will make one huge story."

Revelations : "Are you also doing some figures with NECA based on characters from Scarlet Gospels?"

Clive : "Yes - well, the Scarlet Gospels stuff won't come until I deliver Scarlet Gospels, but they wanted to do one last definitive Hellraiser 'Clive Barker-verified' scene so that you'd have all four of the Cenobites in the scene at the top of the Cottons' house and they've done a really nice job with it so I agreed to be part of that. It irritated me a little that all that stuff was getting done - and getting done very nicely, I thought the NECA stuff was very lovely - and that I couldn't be a part of it. And I guess it was just miscommunication because as soon as I spoke to Randy over at NECA I immediately liked him and we got on famously! I have a few of them to sign for the limited editions and so forth, but yes, that's definitely happening."


Revelations : "You mentioned Demonik in passing..."

Clive : "I have been having a blast; it's been interesting. I enjoyed my Undying time and I'm enjoying this too. It's not, as you know, my strength; I am not a player and yet that in some ways is fun because I'm learning as I go and it's always nice to learn a new thing. It's a big pool of people, there's a lot of people involved, but I like that too, it's collaboration. My day is spent, as you know, in solitary endeavours so sitting with these guys and solving problems and getting some designs together... It's essentially a revenge motif, it's a demon summoned that you are controlling, summoned to carry out revenges on your behalf and the question is, are you actually going to do it or aren't you going to do it? It carries some moral weight, which is fun. The first thing I did when I sat everybody down was quote Gaugin, who said, 'Life being what it is, one seeks revenge,' and everybody nodded sagely and everybody around the table had to tell me who they would want revenge upon - it was amazing! Wives, old boyfriends, there was no end to it, so that's actually been fun too. Each of these things is fun of itself, it's just that sometimes - for instance, I've just done a polish pass on The Midnight Meat Train, and on those days I was doing four different things during the day and you were saying Sarah before, how do I reorient myself, well the answer is on those days I wasn't; it was definitely muddying my brains to move from film work to novel work to game work to painting work - that's probably one or two things too many in a day.
"We are going to be making the movies - Midnight Meat Train is ready to rock and roll, we've a start date for the beginning of July for The Plague and we're casting right now and so that all seems to be working. And the best news of all is that I think Weaveworld is finally going to get made - can you believe that?"

Revelations : "Do you want the honest answer?"

Clive : "Ha! It seems that finally a wonderful guy called Steve Molton has pulled a draft together that everybody likes - it's a very cool draft, a very smart draft and very respectful of the book. There's great passion at Showtime to make it so I think that we are presently chatting with folks over your side of the water because it takes place in England, it will be shot in England."

Revelations : "That's the sort of news we like to hear! At one stage most of the action had been relocated to New York, hadn't it?"

Clive : "Yeah - one of the first things we did... there was a huge change of regime at Showtime and when we went in to talk to the new guy at Showtime, Bob, who is a very smart guy - I said, 'You know the thing I really think we should do is just go back to the book and put this back in England where it's set'; it's an English book - and the sweat and effort it's taken to Americanise something that never wanted to be American! So I gave Steve Molton, who has spent some time in England, a huge pile of books - you know, all my AA guides to England, which I used when I was writing Weaveworld because they are wonderful for little out-of-the-way details - they are fantastic as research tools and they seem to be in principle the most unpromising of books but they're actually great. And so I gave all of those to Steve along with several books of photographs; things that I really liked and he came back with just a wonderful, moving draft that really reinstated the bitter-sweet, the yearning qualities that are in the book and it's very satisfying. From A Clowns' Sodom alphabet, 1976 "Tortured Souls has taken a little bit of a side-step. It's hard to imagine while I'm producing two movies for other directors and producing Demonik and also executive producing Weaveworld how the heck I would be able to do those things respectfully and competently and also go away and do what is essentially a 24 hour-a-day job, which is to direct a movie. It seemed to me that I needed to make a choice and I thought the choices were pretty clear - we've got these movies going, we need them to be wonderful and Joe and Anthony have been amazing and I want to give them as much support as possible. I want Scarlet Gospels to be great and I want the paintings to be great, so it's impossible to say, 'OK, now I'm going to step away from all of this and go do a job which will consume me completely' - but that just doesn't make any sense. I mean it would be lucrative as hell, but that's not the way I look at things or I've ever looked at things and right now I am much more interested in making sure that the next Abarat book is the best it can be and the Scarlet Gospels is the best that it can be."

Revelations : "We'd talked a little while ago about you doing a new erotic art exhibition."

Clive : "Yes, that's happening. I bumped it from September because they are putting me on tour for Visions in September. I bumped it from September to December and January. Now, some of that work has already been done, work which I've been doing in my spare time for a while, but I've also got a lot of erotic work which nobody has ever seen and I'd like people to see - the erotic alphabet, for instance, which I've been working on for a while which I really want to have framed up and have on other people's walls. So there's a lot of pictures for this exhibition which are already done."

Revelations : "An erotic alphabet? That's sounding an awful lot like A Clowns' Sodom!"

Clive : "Yeah, it is a return to that idea and in fact some of the letters are almost identical and I love that, though I lost the original artwork, and I wanted to reconfigure it in a way that made it look like proper artwork. I really liked it as an idea and it's really fun and it's funny and it's also weirdly sexy too. So I've done a few letters and the 'Y' is particularly fun - the bottom stroke of the 'Y' is a little bloke looking up blissfully while the two diagonal strokes of the 'Y' are streams of urine coming from the penises which hang at the tops of those strokes - so it's a very neat little watersports 'Y'."

Requiem - Robert A Heinlein Requiem for Boone - Debra Doyle, James D. MacDonald Requiem - Peter David

Revelations : "Just to go back - I know you beautifully deflected my question about the stuff behind you! Can we just clarify some titles of some stuff? Is there something called Lazarus Requiem?"

Clive : "Lazarus Requiem was, is my notes for Scarlet Gospels. I kind of liked that, the ridiculous paradox of that title, you know, but it sounded, wierdly, too science-fictional. You'd be surprised how many 'Requiem's there are in science-fiction. So - and I rather like Scarlet Gospels more, so - but I'm actually making reference to the Lazarus Requiem within the text, I'm going to put that in."

Revelations : "OK - that sorts that out for me. Carnival? Is there something called Carnival?"

Clive : "I haven't got a clue!"

Revelations : "Moon Door? We're going to have to send you this photo!"

Clive : "I'm just looking behind me - where am I sitting? Where are these? I'm just looking to see where they were."

Revelations : "Bottom left-hand corner by the seat."

Clive : "Oh - they're in the corner here - ah-ha - Veritæ, Villain, Olio, Bacchus, Defender - would any of those titles make sense to you?"

Revelations : "No - but you can talk about them! Keep going!"

Clive : "These are not abandoned children, they are just children who wandered away for a while... Well, what have I got? Olio - which is actually The Everything, Olio was my first pass at the title of The Everything. I've got Bacchus - I found the original Bacchus material which is nice. I've got Quiddity, which is Book 3. I've got Berlin - God knows what that is! I don't have a clue what that is - it's a big one too! Then I've got one called Horror, which is just horror ideas, and one called Veritæ (I have no clue) and then I've got The Last Thing, which is the notes for Sacrament and then I've got Creation, which is also the notes for Sacrament. So sometimes these are notes of a book that hasn't yet found its definitive title. Sometimes not; sometimes they're things which I - you know I've got a lot of things that I've got maybe 100 pages through and then just lost - lost the thread somewhere, almost always will come back to - and almost always the big books begin that way - they begin as something I didn't like, I mean, I've been trying to write a Book of Hours for twenty years!"

Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry - The Annunciation Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry - October

Revelations : "And that's still not happened - well, yes and no!"

Clive : "No - you're absolutely right. I have notes for a Book of Hours - I'm not telling the truth, not twenty years, it's thirty years! I have notes for the Book of Hours from when I was 22, 23. I bought a book, a facsimile of the Duc de Berry's Book of Hours and just, man, you know this whole idea of being able to encapsulate a physical world in a single statement, or a single series of statements as it were was just - to a world-making ambition - marvellously attractive. And Roz Kaveney, who I respect immensely as a reviewer, I think she's very smart, was very nice in one of her reviews for the first book - she said, she instantly said, 'look this is a book of hours - this is literally a book of hours,' and I had not in speaking to Roz talked about that at all and it was nice that she picked up that connection. And I think that will become much more apparent when all four books are finished and we step back from it all because something will happen penultimately which will give us that sense of a pattern completed, which I think Books of Hours give you - a wonderful sense of satisfaction that there is an entire world looking at you."

Revelations : "Yes - and what did we go to see in Dublin that's similar in style? The Book of Kells."

Clive : "The incredible thing about The Book of Kells is some fuckhead cut the pages!"

Revelations : "Although sometimes they cut them to keep them safe - almost like at the end of Nightbreed, breaking it up an dispersing in bad times and bringing it together afterwards."

Clive : "Is that what they did? I thought - my understanding of the story was much grimmer - that they simply chopped it up because it didn't fit! So like they chopped off a bit - you know, maybe that's wrong. Every now and then I see a reproduction of one of the Abarat paintings in one of the foreign editions - I take a deep, deep breath - and they've just chopped off some piece arbitrarily: 'Aaagh - I spent five nights sweating over that piece..!' "

The Book of Kells - The Holy Gospel according to St John

Revelations : "It's like the Books of Blood covers."

Clive : Oh exactly, exactly."

Revelations : "I don't think we've ever talked about it, but two or three years ago when the big Blake exhibition came through here at the Tate, we went to that and it was just completely different for me from having seen all of the plates that I'd ever seen of the illustrated books."

Clive : "Right - how so?"

Revelations : "Some of them because they were much larger than I anticipated, but for the majority because they were tiny. Just extraordinarily small - to have got that amount of detail into something so small."

Clive : "Yeah - without the aid of anything technological to go along with him, I guess - right? Amazing - I saw a relatively small Blake exhibition which didn't have anything particularly small in - what were you seeing?"

Revelations : "Oh this was an extraordinary collection that they took through London and on to New York, where they had gathered as much as they could possibly gather of all the extant editions of the books. So you could look at - there are six copies, say, of The Tiger and they'd laid four of the existing copies side by side so you could see the different platework and - "

Clive : "Amazing."

Revelations : "There was an amazing catalogue - well, not a catalogue , a thumping big four, five hundred page book that went with it, which we've got nestling on a shelf here which is just wonderful."

Clive : "Yeah - I've got the complete etchings, like the two-volume set and though you can look at the size and try and imagine it, it's really very hard to make an intelligent assessment of what that really means and what the artist's done, even if you're looking at the details and you comprehend it - it's one of the reasons why it's so fun to bring people up to see the Abarat paintings - particularly if they've read the books and are familiar with the paintings and then they've come up and they're so much bigger than they thought they would be!"

Revelations : "It's the physical nature of them - both with the Abarat paintings and with Blake the printing and the paper and how the blocks would wear from one printing to the next - "

Clive : "Just going off that - and a particular bête noire of mine is seeing how lazily the Pauline Baynes reproductions are being treated in the new Narnia editions, you know? Worn blocks within an inch of their lives!"

Revelations : "I haven't seen that."

Clive : "The pictures - I don't know, maybe they can't find the pictures anymore and maybe there's no way of reconstituting them, but they have that weary look of pictures - those are such fresh and beautiful pictures - they have the weary look of pictures that have been reproduced a few too many times - my bête noire..!"

Revelations : "Unlike the trailer for the first Narnia film that we saw this week when we went to see Star Wars."

Narnia, Peter Jackson-style

Clive : "What do you think?"

Revelations : "Phew! It was a bit more exciting than I had expected; it was so much bigger."

Clive : "Yes, it is big, isn't it."

Revelations : "All this expanse - the grand sweep of The Lord Of The Rings filming in New Zealand has clearly rubbed off on them."

Clive : "Right. Was it good? It looked very clean - I don't know whether I like that or I don't. I suppose it looked a bit - the scene in the throne room, particularly, looked very well brushed. I was very aware - in the Star Wars stuff also, maybe this is an effect of digital - that everything is now, looks like, there isn't a piece of litter anywhere. And I guess I came from - and that's what I like about Peter Jackson is that he was willing to make everything look really pretty ragged and aged. But I'm glad you liked the Narnia trailer - I've only seen it on the internet, which - the reduction is - so that's exciting."

Tilda Swinton as Jadis - The White Witch

Revelations : "Yeah, well our two boys - who are eight and five - who've seen the BBC adaptation were just going, 'Is this the same story?' "

Clive : "It's a whole different thing."

Revelations : "And, 'Can we see it today?' They now can't believe they've got to wait until Christmas."

Clive : "Tilda Swinton is going to be amazing. She's the ice-queen and she's one of my favourite actresses - she was the only good thing about Constantine as far as I was concerned. She plays Gabriel, the angel, and she's - ah, she's fantastic - I say the only good thing in it, I actually take that back, here and now, there were some good things in it, but the thing which really struck me about it was, struck me about the picture, was her; I thought she gave a superlative performance - completely edgy and wonderful and ambi-sexual - it was really tremendous."

Tilda Swinton and Keanu Reeves in Constantine

Revelations : "You got a heap of good press around the time of Hellblazer - everything I read said - Oh, he originally wanted to call it Hellraiser but you got there first!"

Clive : "Ha - well, that's true, of course!"

Revelations : "It was almost like I couldn't read a review of the film without that fact being - "

Clive : " - rubbed in their noses! Cool, cool. I never warmed to Keanu Reeves - is my problem - I never found him a particularly convincing presence onscreen and John Constantine's one of my favourite comic-book characters, and to see him being taken from a Cockney wise-guy with the fag hanging hanging out of the side of his mouth, you know, Sting gone-to-seed, to see him replaced by the perfectly chiselled features of Mr Reeves just, I don't know, took the balls out of it."

John Constantine - more Sting than Keanu

Revelations : "Yeah, we got lots of that sort of review of it in the UK - I don't know whether that was a similar review to the US reviews of the movie?"

Clive : "Yes it was - it tended to be - the reviews broke into two parts, the people who had read the comics and the people who hadn't read the comics, right? And those who had read the comics tended to admire the movie more than those who hadn't, curiously, because they knew that many of the things which are in the comic - like the moral ambiguity and the games that are being played between, you know, God, the Devil and John Constantine, are reflected in the movie. I mean very cleverly reflected in the movie, just in the middle you have this non-performance, for me and I don't think I'm the only person who thinks that - just beautiful; beautiful and vacant! "

Revelations : "Talking of adaptations, since we last spoke we of course went to see the second part of His Dark Materials at The National Theatre which, as you suspected from reading the text, it flies by, absolutely flies by."

Clive : "Is it OK for that?"

Revelations : "Yes it was - but it did grate a bit that we lost a whole character, I was sort of wondering, 'What are they going to do next?' and so I was thinking about the structure rather than enjoying it. And the introduction of the Amber Spyglass was just a throwaway single line from one of the witches to replace everything that Mary was there for."

Clive : "Yeah, yeah."

His Dark Materials at The National Theatre

Revelations : "But then we went to see Philip Pullman and Nicholas Wright at a platform performance. And that was a really interesting evening and one of the first questions was, 'Why on earth did you drop that character?' and the answer was, 'Well, there's an awful lot to get into six hours here,' and interestingly they hinted that it may well be a different decision that's made for the movie."

Clive : "I was talking to the guys who are making the movie a few days ago and that's an interesting challenge for those guys over there. There's great difficulties in that book for a large proportion of an American audience; metaphysical difficulties. I mean, the death of The Authority is not something I think we're going to see on screen in the movie adaptation of this book, and yet, how can you not have it? Right?"

Revelations : "Which is such a shame because, I mean, England's Christian, mostly, but we seem happier to not share someone's point of view but still accept its possibility and see it as a reasonable challenge to our belief."

Clive : "It might be, also, that a theatre audience is actually a smarter audience than a cinema audience and that when you actually have to package this up - I don't know if they're making three movies or one, I suppose they must be making three - package Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan this up for an audience that, you know a cinema audience thinks with its eyes and it really does, I mean more and more movies are just told in pictures and when the words come out of people's mouths they sound pretty wretched! You know, I don't think that George Lucas is actually the best of writers when it comes to actually giving people dialogue, you know?"

Revelations : "Whereas I quite like the dialogue; for me there's something about the direction of the people speaking it - although I remember Alec Guinness famously saying that he didn't understand a word of what he was talking about!"

Clive : "On the other hand, Ian McDiarmid clearly understands and his lovely speech about, 'There are those who think the dark side, the lessons of the dark side are not entirely natural,' is so, I mean he's not hammy, at all, he's just taking his moment and I enjoyed that immensely - I enjoyed that so much more than the endless chases and fights and, oh yes, just another vista of a new, huge city! Isn't it curious the way CGI has taken some of the glory out of all that? It's all possible now, and given that it's all possible, why would we bother to be impressed?"

Ian McDiarmid

Revelations : "Well, I come at it from a slightly different way - given that it's all possible, why does the fight on the lava look so bad? I would have dumped the fight on the lava and done it a different way."

Clive : "Right - maybe put the actors on real lava! Now that woulda gotta performance!!"

Revelations : "Method acting!"

Clive : "Right, but when I think back, in 1968, the gates of Rome opening and Cleopatra entering - you're familiar with that scene, right?"

Revelations : "Yeah, but that was the most expensive movie of its day, wasn't it."

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra John Martin - The Great Day Of His Wrath c.1853

Clive : "A $40 million movie, but man, you knew it was all real and there was a sense of, OK, does it take ten minutes for her to get to Cæsar? Sure it does, but do we care? No, because it's all real. And Anthony Lane in The New Yorker did an hysterically funny piece about Star Wars too, I think I actually have it here, hold on a sec... I love Lane's reviews because he's very funny, very witty, he is very, he just manages to say things and he says he really, really hates Yoda! He says, 'Anakin seems to have problems with his dark side in a way you or I might have tennis elbow, but Yoda, whose reptilian smugness we have been encouraged to mistake for wisdom, has the answer: 'Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose,' he says. Hold on, Kermit, run that past me one more time?'"

Revelations : "I got a single text message from a guy in LA the night after the premiere where he's just gone to see it and I hadn't spoken to him in a year and a half and I just got a single text message from him that read: 'Good relations with the Wookies have I' and he said he had to do it, it was the greatest line in the whole movie!"

Clive : "The one thing he does remark upon - Lane, who is smart - remarks upon how much some of the scenes bring John Martin to mind - the paintings of John Martin, you know? And that's right, that sort of desire for the cataclysmic on some epic scale, you know, it's enough now that I guess you blow up a planet in the first one and build up to a climax, right!"

Abarat Book Three
Abarat (Books Four and Five)
The Scarlet Gospels
Tortured Souls movie
Jump Tribe
Weaveworld - TV
The Art 3
Visions of Heaven and Hell

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