Being a Clive Barker fan can be an exercise in frustration.
I speak from experience. I’ve been a fan of his ever since The Books of Blood washed ashore from the UK and sent Stephen King – and, subsequently, everybody else – into a tizzy. “I have seen the future of horror,” King famously proclaimed, and with that Barker was in the public consciousness in a way he’d probably never dreamed possible. It helped that The Books of Blood was every bit as good as the hype; it also helped that Barker followed the collection up in rapid succession with movies like Hellraiser and books like Weaveworld and Imajica – big, sprawling novels that showed Barker’s imagination was a force unto itself.
Later, though, Barker’s output began to slow. This might have been okay if he didn’t continue to tease and announce new projects at a rapid pace. We got two books of The Art (The Great and Secret Show and Everville), but a promised third book has yet to materialize. We’ve heard about Galilee II, and The Scarlet Gospels, and Black is the Devil’s Rainbow, and Cabal 2 and 3. Unfortunately, none of these have surfaced. They all sound fantastic, and I truly believe all are sitting somewhere in Barker’s office in various stages of development. But the guy just can’t turn the idea faucet off, and it seems to hold him back from actually completing a lot of work. This continued delay in delivering material caused his longtime publisher, HarperCollins, to drop him from its adult division late last year.
It’s not all bad news, though. Barker’s young adult fantasy series Abarat remains with HarperCollins, and this week the cover of the third volume, Absolute Midnight, was revealed. This would seem to cement the publisher’s announced plans to publish the book in November of this year – a feat that is accompanied by more than a little drama of its own, as detailed in this interview at Barker’s official website. In addition to the cover, the website lists titles for book four (The Dynasty of Dreamers) and book five (The Eternal). Barker is reportedly working on those books now, but no release date has been set for either.
I don’t know how well the Abarat series sells for Barker – I figure they must do well, as HarperCollins doesn’t skimp on the production, including tons of paintings on nice, glossy pages for the hardcover releases – and I don’t know how much of his mainstream goodwill he’s burned by dangling new books in front of readers and rarely following through. What I do know is that Barker remains one of the most visionary, accomplished and talented writers of this generation, and I hope readers will take the same approach I’ve been forced to adopt – wait it out, and when something finally does appear, rejoice in it. So far, it’s almost always been worth the wait.