October 05, 2004

Flesh, Feit and Fugue

Will you show these pages to the world, so that every wanderer may find their way home?

Happy birthday today to Clive Barker, who's now had 52 years in a life dedicated to the fantastique, the subversive, the outrageous, and the delightfully queer (in every sense of the word).

If you only know his work by way of his more terrifying creations - Books of Blood and the Hellraiser films being the best-known examples - you may be surprised at what you're missing. He's spent most of the last two decades trying to shake his reputation as a Master of Horror with an impressive catalogue of genre-bending books, from the psychedelic urban fantasy of Weaveworld to the dimension-spanning spiritual quest of Imajica to the supernatural Romeo-and-Juliet romance of Galilee. And he's now halfway through his illustrated YA series The Abarat Quartet (which he described at its inception as a combination of Harry Potter, Narnia and Cirque du Soleil), full of beautiful, surreal paintings to which he's dedicated years of his life.

The first Abarat volume is also notable for being the first book for kids I've encountered that openly mentions the author's same-sex partner on the bio page. Among the other things I admire about Clive is the way he's been entirely, unapologetically open about his sexuality for the last decade. His accomplishments as author, artist, filmmaker and storyteller are inspiring, but it's the way he's made himself a good example in the public eye that really stirs me to do the same.

(My favorite Clive Barker moment may be the time he was on Politically Incorrect about five years ago talking about gay themes in cinema, and Bill Maher quipped that, you know, Clive, there are some straight people in the world, and Clive without blinking replied, "Yes, but are they talented?")

Many happy returns, Maestro. Long may your Art endure.

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