1991: Pandemonium

Pandemonium (1991) edited by Michael Brown.

I enjoyed Clive Barker’s earlier, funnier work, but like most people, I lost track of him in the 90s after he went on to do… other… things.

This is from 1991, though, and most of the things he’d made so far had been successes. He was reeling from the failure of the Nightbreed movie, which is alluded to several times, but whatever happened (did the studio take away control from him or something?), it’s not made explicit.

But other than that, he’s still in his golden period here, before the Hellraiser series went into freefall with ever-more cheaply made films. How many are there now? Ten? With the last five going straight to DVD? Something like that.

This is not a very focused book. It’s basically a grab bag of everything Barker, so we get an essay or two from Barker himself, where he, as usual, bitches about being pegged as a genre writer.

Then an interview with Barker, where he makes deep and insightful comments about Cary Grant in the middle of an extended “what would you bring to a desert island I mean heaven” thing.

Which it’s a kind of boring list of books and stuff, he does list Krazy Kat, so he’s got that going for him.

Then we get interviews with several people he’s worked with…

… old and new artwork…

… really flattering photos…

… and an interview with his teacher, who is amazingly forthright about Barker for a book like this.

He seems to think that Barker has a very one track mind.

Then we get an analysis of Barker, and it turns out that he’s so great because he’s “a literate writer” making allusions to Faust, The Inferno, Peter Pan, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Old Testament (!), The Phantom of the Opera and Frankenstein.

So literate! How can it be!

The thing about this book is… before reading it, I knew nothing about Barker. I assumed that he had to be a pretty cool guy, because he wrote some books that I liked when I was a teenager. The impression I have after reading it that Barker is totes jejune. At every point, the book points him as being kinda dull and not very well-read.

Ok, back to the contents… Eclipse! That’s the subject of this blog series, remember?

We’re informed that Barker was pleased with the Tapping the Vein series, so he gave Eclipse the rights to all the short stories in his Books of Blood, which is nice of him. Eclipse published six of these, which I’ll cover later in this blog series, because… I bought the first one, Son of Celluloid, from somebody on ebay, and it apparently got lost in the mail or something.

Finally, the last section of the book: The History of the Devil: Scenes From a Pretended Life, the manuscript for a theatre production.

So many fonts! The editor must enjoy playing around in InDesign or whatever was popular in 1991…

The play is one of those terribly witty British things where there are approx nine thousand characters that run around and pop on stage to deliver a devastating bon mot or two before exeunting again. “I beg your pardon?” “By all means beg it.” You see, he’s a demon.

It’s tedious as fuck.

Unless I miss something, we’re not actually told whether this play was ever staged, or when, or how long it ran. I think it probably ran… for three seemingly interminable hours.

It’s about the Devil being put to trial and it has an oh-so clever twist ending because of course it has.

I was snidely going to say “yeah right”, but it’s apparently been staged more than onceand the sci-fi channel made an audiobook out of it.

Here’s somebody who knows something about this book:

This glossy assembly of articles and interviews grew out of Michael Brown’s Dread newsletters and, after initial plans to produce the book with HarperCollins foundered, Eclipse became home for what was planned as the first in a series of ‘further explorations into the worlds of Clive Barker’ (a tagline that seemed oddly reminiscent of Coenobium’s ‘explorations in the further regions of Hellraiser…’).

There you go.

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