Clive on Sacrament

It had not explicitly forbidden Will to follow it, which was all the invitation he needed. He went in cautious pursuit of it, like a spawning fish climbing waters that would have dashed him to death without the Nilotic ahead of him to breast the flow. Even so, he quickly understood the truth in its warnings. The deeper they ventured the more it seemed he was treading not among the echoes of the world, but in the world itself, his soul a thread of bliss passing into its mysteries.
He lay with a pack of panting dogs on a hill overlooking plains where antelope grazed. He marched with ants, and laboured in the rigours of the nest, filing eggs. He danced the mating dance of the bower bird, and slept on a warm rock with his lizard kin. He was a cloud. He was the shadow of a cloud. He was the moon that cast the shadow of a cloud. He was a blind fish; he was a shoal; he was a whale; he was the sea. He was the lord of all he surveyed. He was a worm in the dung of a kite. He did not grieve, knowing his life was a day long, or an hour. He did not wonder who made him. He did not wish to be other. He did not pray. He did not hope. He only was, and was, and was, and that was the joy of it.

"'Gay hero. Gay book. Clive Barker. Can't do this.' [said HarperCollins ] 'We paid you all this money, you can't do this.' I said: 'Jack, I did it.' He said to change the pronoun - make the boyfriend into a girlfriend. Nobody'll notice.' [The sceptic at Harpers was handed a pink slip]"

Love, Barker Style

By Randy Myers, [NY???]Times, 30th July 1998

"'Again, this is completely true, and this fellow has left HarperCollins, his name is Jack McEwan and, I'd written this book, Sacrament, with a gay hero - it's not a gay book in the sense of well that's the only issue in the book, the issue of the book was not homosexuality, but I was very comfortable with the idea that the hero, like me, was gay and having his sexuality was part of who he was and part of the narrative. And I write my own flap copy and about six weeks before I delivered the novel I sent in the flap copy - they had not seen the book. What happens is I give them the two sentences on the book a long way ahead of time and say this is the book you'll get in fourteen months. So they'd seen two sentences and it had mentioned that the hero was gay, but that was it. Jack McEwan had clearly not read these two sentences. Because when I turned in the flap copy he called me up six weeks before I delivered the book - so we're talking about a year into my writing the book - and he said, 'Clive!' , I said, 'Jack!' He said, 'According to this flap copy...' (he's a very polite man) '...your hero in the new novel is homosexual.' And I said, 'Yeah, Jack, that's it,' and he said, 'Oh, no, no, no, no, no - we can't do that; you're very expensive. No, we can't do that, we'll lose readers, we'll lose all kinds of readers.' And I said, 'Well, we'll gain some as well.' 'Oh, but we'll lose more than we'll gain.' I said, 'I think my readers are extremely sophisticated people. I don't think the sexual orientation of a character is going to be a problem, in actual fact I think they may embrace it.' 'Oh, dear, no...' I said, 'Jack, I'm six weeks from delivering this book and I've been working on it for a little over a year.' And he said - and I swear this is what he said - 'Can't you just change the pronoun?' I don't know - I mean, it's certainly interesting - I guess the sexual stuff just didn't matter, the position stuff just didn't matter; that could just be fudged, you know? That seems to me to be evidence of that kind of conservatism, of that kind of Hollywood conservatism...
"By the way, we didn't lose readers, we gained readers and the new novel, Galilee, has - Galilee's bisexual, his sister's a lesbian, it's a Freudian nightmare, but it's great fun! I think readers are the last reasonably secure pool of intelligent individuals in this country, and I think if you start to condescend to that pool of individuals then the culture is lost."

LA Times Festival of Books

Transcript of an interview by Martin Smith at the LA Times Festival of Books, 25 April 1998

"It is set in Yorkshire in England, in San Francisco, and in Hudson Bay in Canada. It is about a wildlife photographer who devotes his photographs to making accounts of species that are moving towards extinction. We discover as we follow his very troubled life that the reason for his obsession with animals and extinction can be traced back to his childhood in Yorkshire. It's a story about how we become who we are and how we must deal with what we are by facing up to including the things that happened to us in childhood, good and bad. It's also about what's happening to our planet. "


By [Stephen Dressler and Cheryl Bentzen], Lost Souls, Issue 3, [March] 1996

"It's a novel which - perhaps more than anything else that I've written - is personal. It's also significantly less fantastical than anything I've done before. It follows the journey taken by the protagonist, Will Rabjohns, who is around my age, happily and contentedly gay and British but who has moved to America.
"Will's business is the study, recording and documenting of species which are on the verge of extinction. And that's a big issue for me because animals are a big part of my life. Most of my behind the scenes involvement with charities is to do with animals. What I wanted to do was to write about why we need animals, why they're not just a convenience to us, why they're not just the creatures that guard our houses or can be seen through binoculars if you go on safari. They are to do with us, our humanity, and indeed our survival. They're not entertainments, they are part of the holiness of the world. And if we treat them badly and drive them to extinction, then that's a form of evil.
"One of the issues of Sacrament is that gay men have witnessed a terrible plague and are dealing with it in many extraordinary ways. And grief can sometimes open you up to a sense that we have a huge amount to lose on this planet. On a global scale there are species that we can't even name that are being lost. So I've tried to write a book which is optimistic, which eventually reveals a place where the imagination makes a sacred connection between being human, living in the world and celebrating and preserving the things out there in the world that are not like us.
"I mean, gays are not like the rest of the tribe in several all- important ways, and it's always been very easy for people to say, "Let gay men die of AIDS, they brought it on themselves." And I think people say the same thing about animals: "Oh, they're dying out, but they're not like us so if they disappear it doesn't matter." But it does! It's tough for people to understand that the harm you do to the world, you finally do to yourself.
"I've always felt Other, I've never felt like a tribal member. And I think that's at the heart of what I do. I don't feel quite the same and I want to report from the boundary. I'm out there with the Lost Things, and the things that may be lost. And if they are lost, we will be the poorer. Because, to look at this globally, we are, as far as we know, the only point of life in the entire cosmos. The planet is an ark, filled with extraordinary diversity and richness. This takes the form of animals and insects, but it also takes the form of a diversity of human cultures, which are also under threat.
"That's why I'm probably getting more politicised as I get older . Sacrament is a call to stand up and be counted, to say, "I love the world because it's rich and contradictory and paradoxical and strange. I love it because it's beyond me and there's so much I don't know. I don't love it because I want to reduce it and control it." And that's true of the diversity of people's sexuality, skin colour, the animal world and the diversity of cultural forms. In other words, I think we should always aim to celebrate what's different."

Clive Barker - Lord Of Illusions

By Nigel Lloyd, SFX, No 16, September 1996

"I wanted to create a story and place a character in the middle of it, whose sexual preference had no relevance whatsoever to it. A character readers would take for granted. Will Rabjohns does all of the things that one would expect from a straight hero of sorts. I felt that as long as I have a strong and loyal heterosexual following, I was well positioned to reach out to that audience as well and present them with a page turner. I feel that I have a responsibility to tell a story at a pace and with a conviction, so that the reader has no choice but to keep turning the page. The largest percent of my readers are heterosexual, so I hope that they come away somewhat more informed."

Clive Barker

By Timothy Nasson, In Step Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 14, 25 July - 6 August 1996 (note : online at the Midian site - see links)

"My focus of late has not been upon horror fiction but upon fantasy and children's literature. Sacrament doesn't fall into any of those categories. In a sense it's like nothing I've really written before.
"I write at least 3 drafts of every book, each one of which resembles the version before scarcely at all. In other words, I revise extensively, even obsessively. The first paragraph of Sacrament, for instance, probably went through 20 drafts. [It] took 14 months from beginning to end.
"I love the new book Sacrament very much, because it's so intimately connected with who I am. I am also intensely proud of Imajica. There are significant portions of Sacrament which are autobiographical. Details of geography, portraits of people, ideas, doubts, and images of faith that are spoken from some place very deep inside me."

AOL Appearance

Transcript of on-line appearance16 July 1996, (online at the Midian site - see links)

"[The Killer Of Last Things]'s about a man who goes around the world killing the last mating couples of near extinct animals. It's also about the person who comes between that man and his ambition."

Lord Of The Lurid

By Emma Tom, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 November 1995

"Below the overt narrative is a story of celebration, survival, despair and hope. It is a 'vision-quest' story about a man who is watching the world around him being reduced. He watches species die out, he watches fellow gay men die and he comes to a crossroads in his life where he has to reassess what he's doing and why he's doing it. He discovers there's a great reservoir of hope, purpose and meaning in his life and in the world outside waiting to be discovered, accessed and used as an energy source for shaping the world and helping to improve it. At its heart, Sacrament is an optimistic story. But like any optimism worth its salt it has to be earned by a confrontation with hopelessness and despair. This is not the super-saccharine style optimism of a Hollwood movie in which all things are poaaible and any suffering is thin. The main character of this book eventually comes to a place of joy and celebration, but only after taking a very dark and tortured journey.
"I was surprised at the extent to which I revisited my childhood in writing this book. I was surprised that Lord Fox - a character who is both human and animal, as well as an expression of Will Rabjohns' subconscious - became such an interesting character. I was also surprised at how important it became to me to track Patrick's story and evoke the feelings we have as we watch him...I wanted to fold that story into the texture of Sacrament while retaining the celebratory element of physicality. I didn't want the book to come out as 'anti-sex'. "

A Conversation with Clive Barker

Harper Collins press kit for Sacrament release, reprinted in Lost Souls, Issue 4, [July] 1996

"I didn't do any prep drawings. I'm speaking to you as somebody who has read the book already, so you know what it contains. It's not like and doesn't contain the kind of illustratable material that other books have. 'Weaveworld' called for illustrations. You can imagine illustration for 'Imajica', certainly. It doesn't seem to be the case for 'Sacrament', it doesn't seem to call for that. I think it has some very visual sequences in it, but it feels that I should leave most of it to the audience's imagination. "


By [Stephen Dressler and Cheryl Bentzen], Lost Souls, Issue 4, [July] 1996 (note : online at the Lost Souls site - see links)

"Before I had written it, I literally sat with somebody as he passed which was the first time that had happened. I've been with people after they've passed away but I never actually sat with somebody and listened to their last breath. An as author or creator you want to be honest. You want to give your readers as many insights as you can pull out of your own life. Life is raw material and death is raw material too. And we must be careful not to lose the balance between them. For me, Sacrament is a book that was really an attempt on my part to balance off the two needs. One, the need to celebrate the world in all its complexity and all its richness. And there's a moment perhaps half way through when Will is on his way to Bethlynn's house in Berkeley and he has essentially an epiphany. It's an incredibly suburban epiphany because it's really about a cat on a window sill, cracks in the pavement and the sky and the houses, and my point really in that is you don't need to go to the Antarctic or to the wilds of some jungle to have an epiphany about the extraordinaryness of the world. It really is a question of just opening your eyes. And Will, who seems to have open eyes all his life really realizes at that point 'Now wait a second , what I've always done is put a frame around it. Whatever we have done has been looking at the world through a lens. The truest lens is my eye and the truest camera is my soul. Now here I am soul and eye and the world.' So one of the things that book tries to do is balance off this sort of sense of how wonderful it is and how full of mystery even at its most ordinary. Its still a mysterious, wonderful place with that fact that people die, that species die, that hopes die. That time passes suddenly we're older than we thought we were, and we haven't achieved what we thought we would achieve and all of that. And Will is a man moving into the middle of phases of his life and trying to articulate what it feels like to be in that place because the author is in that place.
"To me, the functions [of the writer] change depending on what kind of book I write. If I'm writing a book like Weaveworld or Imajica, I am essentially the God maker and the world maker and I am playing God because I'm creating a whole world of flora and characters and situations and philosophies and landscapes. I think in a book a like Sacrament and in a book like Galilee I fall much more into the Sadist category. I'm observing the world as it is and I'm putting my characters into positions where they will feel pain"

Explorer From The Far Reaches Of Experience

By Kim August, Pharr Out! 1998

"I thought: There's something here, something I want to write about which is about the point at which the Outsider, who in this case is the polar bear, encounters the human world. I couldn't figure it out until I realised that I also wanted to write about a gay man, who is also an Outsider. And then it hit me: Hey, I know what this is about, it's about a gay photographer chronicling the [fate of endangered species]! And when that happened, wow man, I had such a wonderful time! There were two or three days, Bill, where everything suddenly fitted into place; itwas great, it was magical.
"One of things I hope a book like Sacrament does is to talk about what it feels like to be inside the animal, so when Lord Fox has those conversations with Will he sort of says: I'm behaving like a human being to you right now, I'm talking to you and whatever, but don't get me wrong, I am an animal and if you were dead now I would eat your genitals. There's a wonderful straightforwardness about it and it was really wonderful to write that character because I was able to express the casual cruelty of this animal. "

Addicted To Creativity (Part 2)

By Bill Babouris, Samhain, No 71, January 1999

"Sacrament, because its concerns are so much more here-and-now, is reaching people the previous books did not, people who were intimidated by the scale of the imaginative leap those books required of them. For me the issue of sexuality was not a particularly troubling or unresolved one. Five pages in, somebody says to Will, 'Are you queer?' And he says, 'Yes' and the conversation moves on. That's great to be able to write, and it's wonderful that my straight audience clearly has no problem with that at all.
"Where I found the book a place of real growth for me was in starting to analyse the feelings I have towards an actual world ... and getting past despair, which is part of being alive right now and saying goodbye to too many fine young people who have been taken by AIDS way before their time, and feeling powerless and angry about what is happening in the natural world, on the environmental level."

Coming Out No Horror For Barker

By Wilder Penfield III, Toronto Sun, 17th August 1996

"It's the book closest to my heart of all the books that I have written, in the sense that it contains all the autobiographical elements. It contains a gay hero, it contains a hero who has relocated from England, northern England to here on the west coast. It contains a passionate, I would like to say, commitment to understand and devotion to animals and to the diversity of species. It contains a lot of material about AIDS and about people who have died of AIDS and that are dying of AIDS and what that issue is. So, these are all the things which touch my life. I've lost friends, we probably all have now... it's very much a part of who I am, as a guy, middle-aged, looking at my career, and saying: Well, how can I put more meaning in what I do? How can I make what I do deeper, richer and better? Will is in the middle of life and he's doing that. He's looking at his life and he's saying: I've spent all my time as a creative individual, as a witness. I've been witnessing the world, and now I'm coming to a place where I really want to connect working with all of it.
"Will, is basically a gay man. But, one of his closest friends is Adrianna, and she's not, by any means, a fag hand. She's not, by any means, someone who hangs around queer bars cause she can't get laid. She's a woman who has a passionate sexual life of her own, but is devoted to Will as a friend. Those tensions, descriptions of who we are in our emotional, sexual, physical, spiritual lives are in the book cause I think the way we are in our lives, their ambiguities in every nature, in every part and every part of our nature. And I think not to allow that to be there is to limit [ourselved] of what Pat Robertsons in the world want more than anything in the world is to be limited. What the Bob Doles want. Because the more limited we are, the more power they have over us. "


By Amber Black and Tim Trautmann, Review(?), 1996

"In Sacrament I'd taken another kind of jump into a different kind of fiction, one with a gay hero and a strong ecological subtext, but still with a lot of fantasy in it. And the readership was huge for that book. I felt that one of the things I now knew was that my readers were a brave bunch."

Lord of New Illusions

By W.C.Stroby, Fangoria, No 175, August 1998

...other comments

Well how could we resist printing this review...?

"I do not enjoy reading books that start in one time era (present), move back 30 or 40 years and then resume back in the present time zone. Why couldn't it start at the beginning and continue on? My biggest complaint was I couldn't finish it. After reading approx. 33% of it it became apparent to my disgust that the lead character was a homosexual. Would it be too hard to forewarn a potential reader that the book would have a very strong queer content to it? Clive Barker is an author I will avoid at all costs! I still have a repugnant taste when I even think of it (Sacrament)."

Customer Review

By 'A reader', Reviews at, 10th May 1997

"With the sheer power of his storytelling, Barker invites you to take the ride and dare to question your beliefs - perhaps even the very existence of life as you define it. Barker refuses to lead either Will or his readers to an answer. But he leaves us with a hint of possibility, as witnessed in Will's ringing defiance of the ravages of AIDS: 'We're spontaneous events. We just appear in the middle of families. And we'll keep appearing. Even if the plague killed every homosexual on the planet, it wouldn't be extinction, because there's queer babies being born every minute. It's like magic.' That's the closest thing to queer nirvana you're likely to read anytime soon."

Force Of Nature

By Mark Huisman, The Advocate, Issue 712, 23 July 1996

Sacrament bibliography...

home search contact Books