Friday, 8 October 2010

AB-solutely FAB-ulist: The Heart & Soul Of Clive Barker

Clive Barker is no longer the foremost figure in British ‘horror’. He is the world’s foremost ‘fabulist’, a genre he created for himself that he says stems from folklore, fairy-tales and scripture. He has also fled these shores, having set up home just outside Los Angeles.

The fame of Barker has grown and grown, from the first cult readership of The Books Of Blood short stories more than two decades ago, to the now world-wide audience that keep his novels in the international best selling charts for months on end.

Clive Barker photo courtesy of HarperCollins

His more recent works have been epic tales that sweep the reader along from world to world and from one reality to another. Galilee was the novel to firmly establish Clive Barker as a literary presence outside of genre, it is a huge generation-spanning family saga set against the broad canvas of America’s bloodstained history - a little bit of a departure from what his vast audience may have come to expect. Although there is action occurring on supernatural planes, much of the drama is earthbound and human centred. So was Barker deliberately trying to come down to earth in order appeal to a yet wider audience?

“I could not say that I woke up one morning and decided to do this - I don’t have a lot of control over the way my imagination works, it sort of decides by itself. I always had a passion to do a multi-generational family saga. I wanted to do something with a real sweep to it.”

“I’ve made sure that supernatural stuff is going on in the book, but I can see by the numbers that we were widening the readership as I context these fantastical events in more realistic settings. As I’ve moved more in that direction, my readers have moved along with me…”

He has turned four of his stories into major movies, Hellraiser, Nightbreed, Candyman and Lord Of Illusion, in addition to the numerous adaptations based on his huge repertoire of short stories. His epic saga, Weaveworld, has been adapted for television as a series, though this project has yet to reach fruition after ten years in development. It did see a transmedia manifestation when it was published back in 1991 as a three-part comic series, adapted by Erik Salzgaber, who has more recently written for the CSI franchise.

On its release, Hellraiser was hailed as heralding the resurgence of British horror cinema... So what happened?

“The problem is that the Americans stole our thunder. They make these movies so much faster and so much cheaper than we do. I had to go to America for the money to make Hellraiser, I had to for Nightbreed. I went to America to make movies there... there’s nowhere to make my kind of movies here.”

Clive Barker made his presence felt in the USA, rapidly earning himself a degree of notoriety and infamy. Hellraiser and especially Nightbreed stirred up plenty of trouble with the MPAA, the American equivalent to the British Board of Film Censors. Are the States a suitable climate for making his kind of movies?

“They gave us seventeen scenes they wanted cut from Nightbreed... I got four Xs on the movie and I only got one on Hellraiser. Which is bizarre to my mind because the movie is a much mellower and less aggressively horrible movie than Hellraiser. Well both movies are fairy tales.

“What can you say - they’re inconsistent. That is the nature of the censorship game: you never know where they’re going to come from. They’re always going to find something, that you don’t think twice about, bothers them in an incredibly weird way and then something that you think is really gonna cause trouble, they just pass over. There’s no logic or pattern to it and that’s very irritating.

“There are people who have suffered it far worse than I have, Cronenberg is obviously an example, but that’s the way it is, you’re dealing with irrational people.”

What was it like dealing with David Cronenberg - one of Barker’s heroes and one of the horror genre’s most respected directors himself - who starred in Nightbreed?

“Wonderful, a deeply rational man. He is someone who’s enthusiasm for the genre is not dissimilar to mine in the sense that we both feel that you can do things with the genre which are more than saying ‘Boo’ behind people’s backs. I’ve never been interested in ‘Boo’ pictures, and David isn’t either. You don’t go to one of David’s movies to be made to jump, you get something different, a kind of intelligence and poetry which is missing in most horror movies.

“And he had a good time making the movie. He said, ‘Hey do I get to come back with worms coming out of my eyes?’ And I said, ‘David, if you want to come back with worms coming out of your eyes, you got it guy, no problem’!”

It’s not only the MPAA that get worked up over Barker’s fiction and films. We all know that the States are crammed with fanatics and bible-thumpers, but Clive knows this better than most...

“I get so much mail, some saying I am already burning in Hell - which is an interesting theological notion - but many saying I will burn in Hell, or that I’m the Devil’s child or on occasion I’m elevated to the Devil himself. I get copies of The Bible with passages underlined and so on. I mean the hypocrisy and nonsense of it all, where does one begin?”

Which of course leads us to believe that these god-bothering people actually read Barker’s books... Does it worry him that there is this fascination with the darker side, which is always a prominent theme in his works?

“I’m much more concerned that people are interested in the Catholic church. I’m much more concerned that the Catholic church prevents contraception in nations that are spilling over with starving babies. It seems to me that the people who pull on the black magic string don’t look at the organised religions and their horrors anything like closely enough. If you want a really scary religion, look at fundamentalism, in any form.”

Clive Barker was born and raised in Liverpool, which has a strong Catholic community and culture, how much does he owe to his roots? The accent is now lost and his speech liberally spiced with Americanisms...

“I never had the accent. Knowing what part of is your roots, what part is your education, what part is genetic, what part of you is self made - those are difficult analyses. It’s a bit like being told by some body that you look like one of your relatives... and you can’t see the resemblance, it may very well be there, but you just can’t see it. And I feel the same about my roots. Maybe I do seem like a child of Liverpool, but I can’t see the resemblance. Your environment makes a mark on you, of course.”

Ever since the first groups of humans huddled round the first fires, the Shaman has been with us - priest, teacher, medicine man. A storyteller recounting his dreams, tales of spirits and animals in the Otherworld. His dreams would become the dreams of the tribe, their identity.

It is from his dream diary that Clive Barker plucks many ideas and themes for his bizarre creations. His dreams become his drawings, stories, novels, films, and our memories and nightmares. There are many parallels between the state of dreaming and watching a movie in the darkened auditorium. Does Barker parallel himself at all with the Shaman?

“The whole idea of the shamanistic principle, that the tribe can collectively dream a solution to a problem and that the shaman somehow indicates the direction in which the tribe heads off into their collective unconscious, to pick around amongst the bones of old gods and return with news and indications... that is very easily parallel with what, particularly the writer of the fantastique is doing.

“The realist, the writer of naturalist fiction, is necessarily bound, by definition. The fantasist says, all right, I can write about divinity, semi-divinity, demons, gods and spirits of air and water or stone. I can write about human beings, sane, crazed, visionary, even dead and I can write about them all in landscapes that are very realistic or very unrealistic. I can write about them in states of mind which are also worlds unto themselves.

“So when you’ve got that range of possibilities, reality dissolves, which I think is a dreamstate in a way because in our dreams we also meet the dead, we commune with gods and spirits. Whether we literally do that is an issue which I haven’t resolved for myself. I’m tempted to think that sometimes we do, that there is a literal sense in which in certain states of consciousness, dreaming, trance states, drug states, any altered states, I think it’s very possible that in some instances we are actually communicating with entities other than human, at least other than living human.

“But even putting aside that possibility - which I realise marks me as a crazy - let’s just assume that this is all the mind’s creation. Even under those circumstances, in dreams we are learning from our subconscious, which is, to take the realist view, representing itself as the dead or the semi-divinities in order to instruct us. We are learning from those forms and forces in symbolic form, and we are growing by the exchange.”

The Shaman was the most respected of the tribe, he has a great power, but little wealth. Is it the power or the wealth that motivates Barker? Does he find himself exercising restraint in his fiction to comply with what his now vast audience want to see?

“I don’t know what they want. They seem to be willing to take me at my most extreme. Which pleases me. Great And Secret Show doesn’t soft pedal any of its themes, which are very difficult. There is some strange fantastical stuff, the odd sex, some very violent material, it’s a big book and so on... Yet it was one of the most popular books in terms of number of copies sold that I’ve done. So I don’t think about my audience in the sense that I think, ‘Oh, I’d better not do that - it might turn them off’.

“With movies it’s a different thing. You’ve got the constant problem of the MPAA and the BBFC and so you’ve got people telling you that you can’t do this... but in books it never occurs to me to mellow what I do...

“As for motivation... I got through my twenties without earning a dime and not worrying about it. Money has never been a motivation.

“It is very important for me to produce - to make things that don’t resemble other people’s things. Not just for my audience’s sake but for my own so I don’t bore myself... It’s important for me to have the power storytelling gives. There is something very wonderful about holding someone enthralled, just as there is something wonderful about being held enthralled.

“I love to be told a story, I love to be in the middle of a movie and know that this movie’s got me. Not just fantasy stories, it’s all kinds of stories... The story is about what happens next. That’s what the kid wants to know when he’s told a story, ‘What happens next?’ It’s very primitive, very simple. And I love to have that done for me.

“I hate knowing what is going to happen next. My problem with most Hollywood movies is you always do. There’s a terrible predictability about most movies, particularly horror movies. You enter most movies knowing who’s gonna live or die, knowing what the division of good and bad is, knowing who you’re going to end up caring for and who you’re not.

“I have nothing in my life but work - that may sound like a trial, but it isn’t. I desire nothing in my life but the making of stories on the screen or on the page, and it obsesses me.”

Clive Barker has more than enough to keep himself busy... In addition to creating and writing his ‘fabulist’ tales – currently concentrating on the Abarat series that he also illustrates – he has ventured deeper and deeper into the world of Hollywood and film production. He was Executive Producer on the 1998 film, Gods And Monsters, the critically respected biopic of cult horror director James Whale. Dread, adapted from Barker’s short story by Anthony DiBlasi was released in 2009 and there are two more movie manifestations currently awaiting release: The Thief Of Always, scheduled for 2010, and Tortured Souls, adapted from his own Hellraiser-linked short story and being directed by Barker himself … and he tells us that he intends to, “get on with the business of making movies on a case by case basis...”

Then, after a short pause, he adds, “But I don’t take movies as seriously as I take books. And never will. ”

Clive Barker was in conversation with Remy Dean.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

A Trilogy Of Appropriation

- three plays by Ian Rowlands
Parthian Books, ISBN 1-902638-01-8

Reading plays does not always work… Words on dry paper can never have an effect like words spoken, shouted or whispered by a flesh and blood fellow human upon a stage. The author of these three collected plays would agree, yet in text form, Rowlands' dialogue has enough rhythm and finesse to carry the reader along and into the worlds of the characters, however unusual they may be.
Blue Heron In The Womb is the first of the plays presented in textual form here, a sharply paced scenario based around the funeral of a baby, bringing out underlying frustrations and resentments within the family of mourners. Sexual tensions and jealously soon transcend grief and the boundaries of life and death become confused.

There is certainly something deep and symbolic going on here, as there is in most of the works of Rowlands, but even if the reader ‘don’t gerrit’, then the skill, pace and intensity of the writing should still leave them with something to grab onto.

Love In Plastic ventures further into a surrealistic mindscape. A story about a man who deals with the death of his parents by transforming his house into a symbolic womb and becoming a recluse for nine months before re-birthing himself into the world, obsessed with tracking down an actress he has seen in a TV advertisement - more death, wombs and birth. It may appear that the subjects of these plays get ‘a bit heavy’, but the dialogue and characterisation is imbued with a lot of wit and philosophical tomfoolery that successfully lightens the tone, often to the point of comedic farce.

The final of the three plays, Glissando On An Empty Harp, continues the thematic journey mapped by the first two plays, with a woman giving birth to a box. The meat of the play is the debate sparked off by this event between two bards who argue about the nature of truth, beauty and art, sometimes falling toward preachy polemic, but usually redeemed by self-referential puns and self-conscious parallels with religious dogma.

On the surface, these texts can be read as lyrical interactions, much like successful poetry. If the reader ponders longer, there is always a little more to what is being said… well perhaps not always… you’ll have to decide that for yourself!

- Reviewed by Remy Dean

Ian Rowlands' Utopian Tool Kit

Ian Rowlands has a lot to live up to. The Western Mail called him, “the theatrical conscience of modern Wales”, others have likened his talent to a, “fusion of Dylan Thomas and The Manic Street Preachers”. His plays seem to have been continually touring throughout Wales, and internationally, for the past two decades - this turns out to be no illusion - he is the author of fifteen produced stage plays, director of many more, all of which attract the attention of critics and almost always elicit a vociferous and generally positive reaction. If awards and nominations were the currants in a loaf of bara brith, his bread would be fruity.

This is a slightly expanded and revised edition of the interview conducted by Remy Dean for the newstand edition of Scrawl...

Throughout the work of Ian Rowlands run strong themes of Welsh attitude to its own identity and its place within Europe and the world - nationalism versus patriotism, cultural identity or cultural isolationism. But far from being ‘worthy’ polemic, his plays are sharp-witted, often humorous, sometimes dreamlike in their content, veering into surreal territories, forging in-roads deep into the terrain of the Welsh mass psyche. He is a theatrical activist. Drawing on both modern and atavistic (look it up) influences. A driven practitioner with a far reaching vision that can see a way ahead for a new theatrical presence in contemporary Wales.

Originally training as an actor, Rowlands’ first success as a playwright was with The Great Adventures Of Rhys And Hywel, a play about two characters - one originating in the North of Wales, the other in the South. The play is set in the post-referendum era of the early eighties, well before the surge in Welsh consciousness that has occurred over more recent years. Straight away the play attracted the favourable attention of many a review.
Above: Ian Rowlands (left) with Dafydd Wyn Roberts in The Great Adventures Of Rhys And Hywel (picture courtesy Parthian)

Ian Rowlands, remembers how Rhys And Hywel came to be, “My original scrawlings and thoughts at that time condensed themselves into four, one act satires. These plays started performing around 1989 to around 1991, and condensed into a full length play in 1992 called, The Great Adventures Of Rhys And Hywel - toured four countries in 1992 and was nominated for a Writers Guild Awards.”

Of his distinctive style, already evident, he said, “They were very much influenced by Italian pantomime, Commedia Dell Arte - where you have stock characters. My work is full of archetypal characters, and in Tuscany at that period, four or five centuries ago, theatre was a means of discussing ideas, and transmitting news. Some people have termed the kind of theatre I have written, ‘the theatre of ideas’. Character is not as important to me up on the stage, what is important to me is the discussion of ideas. In deed, in some of my plays there are no real characters per se, only facets of a debate.”

Of course, things have changed and developed over the ensuing decade, “as my writing evolved, I’ve stepped further away from that and more towards characterisation.

“I remember the first time I ever used emotion, deliberately in a play, it was in a one-act play called The Ogpu Men, written for the Sherman Theatre, and done by HTV. I deliberately used and manipulated emotion up on the stage and that was a compromise for me, because my work was very much black comedy and dealing with ideas, not naturalistic or realistic at all.”

One aspect of Rowlands' work that has been repeatedly picked up on by many reviewers, is his apparent love of wordplay, of language and the sound of language. Was it this love of language that first attracted him to the writers life or has that developed as a symptom of that life?
“What inspired me to write…” Ian echoed, “It came from the performance element… From reading works by people like Umberto Eco, Salman Rushdie, Patrick Suskind, Tom Stoppard - I was interested in people who really use language and use language for effect.

“The kind of writers I enjoy are those that use language and tend to be from bilingual cultures… or have experienced bilingual cultures, such as the magical realist writers of South America - any writer who uses linguistic imagery and manipulates that for effect. Writers who play with words, fantsatical imagery and create other worlds, other ways of thinking - multi-lingual, multi-layered ways of interpreting the world. I can’t abide naturalistic, realistic novels, television, theatre or anything. Life does that so much better.

"There are two types of writers - I am generalising here - writers who get used by language and writers who use language. Writers who get used by language tend to be more naturalistic, concentrate on character and plot in quite a realistic way. Those who use language, for effect, are more concerned with that effect upon an audience, which sometimes can be divorced from characterisation and realism. I use language for effect, and some people get rather annoyed with my work and say that it’s too dense. But you don’t really have to listen to my words. Let my words wash over you like atmosphere.

“All I’m trying to create for my theatre is an effect. I don’t consider myself a writer, I consider myself a theatre practitioner and writing is just one facet of that.”

So does he employ a strict regimen or have a secret recipe for his writing process?

“I have no time-tabled work process - I’m appalling. The only thing that presses anything out of me is deadlines, I think if you talk to a lot of writers you get the same answer. I write into a word processor, I don’t think I could write the way I do without my computer. The reason is that it allows me to play with the language in a way that would be just too tedious in long hand. It allows me to see the language set out in front of me - you can mutate it at the press of a button, and I find that quite fascinating. I find the mutation of language upon the screen exciting, it allows me to play with it in a more fluid way.”

As a writer with such a pronounced social awareness and intellectual appreciation of writing, does he have any advice for the aspirant?

“To write from your heart, not from your pocket. Write your truth on paper and be brave enough to allow the world to experience your naked emotions upon the stage or the page. Sometimes that is not financially worthwhile, initially, but if you have abilities, then people will slowly get to know of your work and will come to accept what you have to say in the way you want to say it.”

But Rowlands is a playwright, right? More often than not, theatres are slaves to their audience profiles and their catchment areas. As a director of theatre companies, as well as of productions, is this something that affects him during the writing process?

“I don’t think it should. Obviously theatre is a medium of communication - that’s why theatre exists, to communicate between actor and each audience member - but I don’t think that any writer should have the idealised target audience at the back of their mind as an aim. I think that being true to yourself is the most important thing for a writer.”

Rowlands has also gathered an impressive CV of TV. He wrote a four-part documentary series for S4C titled, Men, about the male psyche, and had a big hand in the BBC feature production, A Light In The Valley, which won the Royal Television Society Award for Best Regional Programme… but how can writing television compare with the theatre?

“I see the world through theatrical eyes. I have written for television and I find that process a compromise. Someone once said to me that the art of film and television is the art of compromise and theatre allows a writer to not compromise as much as they would in any other medium.

“The thing that draws me back is that excitement of an actor sweating and spitting in front of you. There’s nothing to beat the excitement and electricity of live performance. That’s why I remain true to theatre, though obviously, to pay the bills, sometimes one has to dip into other media.”

A review in The Stage observed that, “Rowlands writes metaphors to kill for”, and often an entire play can be viewed as one big metaphor, such as Love In Plastic, about a man who chooses to re-gestate in a plasti- lined house for nine months before venturing out in search of love clad in an environment suite, or Glissando On An Empty Harp, about a woman who gives birth to a box that reputedly contains perfect beauty. Do the meanings of his metaphors ever get completely misinterpreted and do those interpretations ever surprise or disturb the author?

Rowlands’ response may seem surprising, “As a writer so consumed by words, individual words, to me, don’t matter. What I’m looking for is an effect, so when an audience leaves a performance they leave with a kind of atmosphere surrounding them, having been touched by some sort of happening. They don’t really know what it means. So they go away thinking.

“In certain ways, what I’m doing is creating music and not a text. When I was young, fourteen or fifteen, I used to fall asleep to tapes of poets reading their work. And the words didn’t matter, what I was most fascinated by were the rhythms and the music of the voice. What I try to do in my work is write a score of words - and that score also dictates the physicality and whole nature of the stage - therefore I am not a writer, I am a theatre practitioner, creator, image-maker.

“Do the things people read into my work ever surprise me? Yes - and they should. I’m fascinated when other people interpret my work because it gives a different slant to something. Sometimes that illuminates things in my work that I might not have seen there. Sometimes one can be too close to one’s own work. Sometimes people can read something into your work that are sometimes there and sometimes they aren’t there. But that is the nature of any sort of text, to a degree and interpretations of my work I find quite refreshing.”

Could Ian Rowlands have happened anywhere other then Wales? To what degree has the Welsh culture affected and informed his work?

“Immensely. I was a bilingual person in a mono-lingual society. My parents spoke English and my grandparents, on both sides, spoke Welsh - the Welsh ‘leap-frogged’ a generation. I didn’t really feel that I belonged to English Wales, or to Welsh Wales. Somehow I was this linguistic hybrid in the middle. The benefit being that bilingualism offers you more than one way to see the world.

“My work and the way I play with words is influenced greatly by the Welsh language and its effect on the English language. I am attempting to create an epic language for the contemporary experience. This process is called ‘syntactic shock’. Even unconsciously, the Welsh language inflicts itself upon my English.

“I feel that, through my work, I am trying to ligitimise the Welsh use of English. The Scottish use of English and the Irish use of English have been ligitimised over centuries by the English establishment. But the Welsh use of English has been derided. I’m trying to produce that didactic Welsh-English voice, which I don’t think is clich├ęd - the roots of it have always been there - Dylan Thomas exploited it, as did Carradog Evans at the turn of the century, Gwyn Thomas did it within his work, the precedents are there for setting it down in text and ligitimising it.

“So my roots as a Welsh writer are deep - I don’t write constantly about ‘Welsh problems’, but it is there in the backbone of my work. I cannot escape the conflicts of identity in language because I happen to be a writer who is writing in Wales, and therefore it informs everything I do.

“I’m a patriot in the Orwellian sense. In his essays on nationalism, he defines the difference between patriotism and nationalism. A nationalist stands shoulder to shoulder out of antagonism with another nation, a patriot stands shoulder to shoulder out of mutual respect.”

Wales and the Welsh have always had strong socialist tendencies, does Rowlands feel that the writer has any particular social roles to play?

“I think there can be social responsibilities for a writer. I don’t think that theatre has any responsibility to be a tool of social cohesion, as the Welsh Assembly seems to be trying to promote at the moment. In certain ways I think theatre should be a crowbar that can break social cohesion apart and ask questions that society doesn’t actually want to hear.

“The theatre has the ability to change the consciousness of a nation. It does not have the ability to correct its ills. It should highlight those ills, point them out, expose hypocrisy and head towards a utopia. Theatre is a utopian tool in that sense. So writers should only perceive the society around them and comment on it in a way they feel is true to their own political and social consciousness.

“There is a problem in Wales at the moment, as I direct mainly Welsh-language, we are creating a nation of people who see the world through televisual eyes. There is a dearth of theatre writers, therefore there’s also a dearth of theatre texts of a standard that can be directed and performed. So part of my work is Bara Caws, a company in North Wales, as we approach a time when a National Theatre will evolve in the Welsh language, is to produce a source of genuine theatre texts, not televisual texts that have been squashed into a theatrical mould.”

Bread and Cheese?

Bara Caws - the name suggests many layers and it’s to do with the food that the slate workers used to take to quarry - it’s a community-socialist-based ideology.”

So what has read and enjoyed that sticks in his mind?

“I’ve been reading about a poet called David Samwell, who was a surgeon on the Discovery in Hawaii when Captain Cook was killed. He wrote a first-hand account of that which was published at the end of the Eighteenth Century. He was a Welsh-language poet who was very influential in the London Welsh Society at the time, very influenced by the revolution in France and the revolution in America. During the Eighteenth Century with the London Welsh Society, you had a dawning of the consciousness of modern day nationhood, which in certain ways has been realised two centuries later with the Assembly and the raising of awareness of what it is to be Welsh within a contemporary setting.”

Ian Rowlands is a busy man and there is plenty on his plate, including bread and cheese…

“I’m involved in the process of creating a National Theatre for the Welsh language in Wales. The English-language National Theatre of Wales, Theatre Clwyd, is already making headway, but the Welsh-language National Theatre is still lagging behind in the development process. I am part of that discussion and debate - in a very direct and integral way. That takes up a lot of my time. Over the next year, I have four plays to direct with Bara Caws, plus writing one of my own, and bits and bobs for telly…”

Ian Rowlands most recent published play, first performed by the Torch Theatre Company, is Blink – and not one to shy away from difficult and controversial issues, including the language of Wales, it concerns an inquiry into systematic child abuse that happened at the Welsh-language comprehensive school of a ‘tight-knight’ community in South Wales. Sounds pretty bleak and harrowing? Well there are very hard to take elements in the story, but Rowlaands manages to keep it centred on drama and personal stories that contain a lot of humour and warmth, beginnings and conclusions… He said of his play, “Blink tumbled out, almost fully formed, as if it had been seeking life for some time - a play that needed to be written, a statement I needed to make”.

Ian Rowlands is published by Parthian Books.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Futuregoth ... What The Hell Is It?

Remy Dean's article examining and defining the Futuregoth genre has now been posted on the author's personal site, with a few minor revisions since it first appeared in the pages of Scrawl's pilot print edition...

You can read it here.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Angels & Demons of Thomas E Sniegoski

Thomas E Sniegoski talked to Remy Dean about vampire babes, vampire slayers, hellspawn, writing the TV-tie-in … and being ‘sweet’ (This is an exclusive interview from the Scrawl Archive.)

Tom Sniegoski has been a consistent creator of – and contributor to – comics for more than 20 years, since his baptism into the medium in 1988 with the premiere issue of Steve Bissette's ‘underground’ title, Taboo. A panel from his Teeth story is shown above. He then worked through a variety of independent projects for Caliber Comics until he started writing the adventures of Vampirella in 1992. He made such an impact with these contributions that he was taken on to write Vengeance Of Vampirella for its entire twenty-five issue run as well as the many crossovers and spinoff titles that Harris Comics produced at that time. Sniegoski re-invented the vampire heroine of the title and transformed the comic from super-hero cheesecake into an intelligent action story with a completely new and cohesive virtual reality that combined contemporary culture, cyberpunk, folklore and superstition on a biblical scale. Vampirella was cited as one of the major influences upon the huge television phenomenon of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Since leaving Vampirella, he has worked on many and varied characters for just about every publisher in the industry. Some of these titles are, Shi, Razor, Avengelyne, Star Trek, Batman, The Punisher, Jeff Smith's Bone, Jade and both Buffy and Angel

You are credited (by the fans) as being the (re)creator of Vampirella, how did it feel to let other writers continue with what you set up?
“It's funny, I never really felt that what I did was all that well received. The writers that followed me kept some of the concepts but discarded others. I should probably feel proud that they kept at least some of the changes I made to her origin.

How did you get involved with Vampirella?
“I had met Meloney Crawford Chadwick at a convention in New York and dazzled her with my rather extensive knowledge of the stories and characters that had appeared in some of the other Warren comic magazines – Creepy and Eerie. In case you aren't aware, Harris Comics bought the rights to all the Warren Publishing properties - Vampirella, Creepy, Eerie, The Rook - at a bankruptcy auction.
“I guess she was impressed and when they were looking for a writer to take Vampi in
a new direction she called me up. I'll never forget the phone call. I was working at a college in Boston as the Financial Aid Director and the call came through. I was thrilled to hear from her thinking that she was calling about some of the other ideas that I had pitched to her. All Mel said was, ‘Hey Tom, if given the chance – what would you do with Vampirella?’ The gears immediately started clicking and I rattled off some pretty basic stuff. It must have been what she was thinking as well because she offered me the gig right off.”

Were you happy with how your writing was finally visualized?
“Most of the time I was really happy. But, as with most monthly titles, you're working on a really tight schedule, so every once in a while you don't quite get what you're looking for. It's just something you grow used to with comics.”
How much of what you wrote made it onto the page - how heavily was it edited? Was there anything that was 'cut' for reasons other than editing to fit the page?
“When working with Meloney, almost everything that I came up with, no matter how outrageous, made it into the comic. I think there was only once scene that took place in a funeral home involving a bunch of monsters sitting around a table and eating the dead body of a teenage girl – the undertaker slicing off pieces of flesh as if the girl was a turkey – that she asked me to cut because she thought it was tasteless.”

What is it like working within the constraints of characters and scenarios created by others – especially when those characters are already very developed and very well known by the audience?
“It's not that difficult. When you approach an established character you kind of know the baggage that comes with it. You just look at the established continuity as the tools you can work with to tell your particular story. Every once in a while you're given an opportunity to add to that established continuity – like Vampirella and the Marvel Knights version of the Punisher that I did with writer Christopher Golden.”

How did your involvement with Buffy come about, did you pitch an idea to 'them' or did 'they' come to you?
“Actually, my involvement came as a result of my work with Chris Golden. He had kind of established himself as the writer of the Buffy characters and I was kind of pulled along, due to the fact that we had worked together in the past, and the editors liked the sound of what we had done together.”

Tell us about your first tie-in novel for Angel.
“It's called Angel: Soul Trade and it's my attempt to tell a really cool, hard-boiled detective story – only with monsters. A little girl's soul has been stolen and it's up to Angel and the gang to try to bring it back to her. As they pursue the case they come to the horrific realization that there is an entire black market set up that involves the sale of human souls. I really don't want to tell too much more, because I don't want to spoil it. Hopefully the fans of the show will dig it.”
What sort of involvement did Joss Whedon and the story editors have in the writing?
“They would read the outlines before allowing me to start the book. Once the chapter by chapter was approved, I was allowed to write the book. After the manuscript was delivered, they went over it and gave me some minor revisions to do. I really had very few problems with them creatively.”

How did you approach the task of writing for a TV tie-in title? I'm guessing you were already familiar with the show?
“Oh yeah. I love the show, so it really wasn't that difficult - especially since I had been writing the monthly comic for Dark Horse with Chris Golden.”

Any advice for the aspiring writer who wants to write a TV tie-in?
“All I can say is, get to know the characters that you're writing about and come up with the coolest possible story that you can think of. You have to catch an editor's eye. Make them say, ‘Hmmm, I never thought of that before’.”

What are your tips for writers wanting to break into the comic genre?
“Surprise me! Make me feel like a kid again like when I was reading Jack Kirby and Stan Lee comics. Bring back that excitement level any way you can. I'm not talking nostalgia here, I'm just talking about solid storytelling. Make me want that next issue really badly.”

Do you have a writing regimen or ritual - any particular time of day, place, etc? Do you write longhand first, directly into a word processor, dictate?
“Let's see… I get up every weekday morning at around five-thirty a.m. and get my wife ready for work – I make her a cup of coffee and her lunch (aren't I sweet?) – feed my dog and get him settled. Then I workout for about an hour or so and then take my shower. From there, I eat some breakfast, take the dog for a longer walk and then return to the house for my work day to begin. It's usually around ten in the morning by then. I sometimes do stuff longhand first and then clean it up as I'm putting it into the computer. In between business calls and calls with Chris, I do my day’s work, usually wrapping up around four-thirty in the afternoon. This is pretty much my daily routine. I sometimes have to do a similar schedule on the weekend.”
How does writing full-length fiction compare with writing for visual media such as comics?
“Comics are much more fun. There is a lot of energy and excitement that goes into producing a comic book. With a comic, I'm not doing all the work. I write the script and then the artist takes over. With a novel, it's all up to me! It's much more time consuming and stressful – but don't get me wrong, there are moments of excitement.”

What is the first book you can recall that really grabbed you and carried you along with it?
“It was probably Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. Scared the crap out of me! Took the whole concept of vampires and put it on its ear. Really great book.”

Do you have a favourite author, and which of their books really stand out for you?
“I think if I was forced to pick a favorite it would have to be Stephen King. The guy is just amazing. The Shining is one of the scariest books ever written. It gets into your head and stays there. I think the Dead Zone and Salem's Lot are really powerful pieces as well.”

Is there an all-time favourite book, one that you keep coming back to?
“There are lots like that. It would be hard to pick just one. One of the few books that I've read more than once is Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. I read it in college and I really had an effect on me. Also, Ernest Hemingway's short stories were pretty influential as well. There are just too many writers to say. Sorry!”

Who would you say were your biggest influences and inspirations on (a) your life and (b) your work?
“As far as comics go, I would have to say Alan Moore. I can remember sitting on a bus reading one of his first issues of Swamp Thing and muttering to myself. ‘Can he do this? I've never read a comic like this before.’ And then I read it again. It was the first time that the writing of a comic really jumped out and whacked me between the eyes. It made me realize that comic book writing might be something I would want to do. As far as my novel writing? I think the best person to blame would be a creative writing teacher I had in high school named Ken Curtis. He'd read what I wrote and toss it back to me with some kind of wiseass comment making fun of it. He was usually right about the work, but it burned my ass. I wanted to turn something in to him that he couldn't make fun of in the worst way. I can still hear his voice when I write something below par. I then quickly delete what I did and start again.
“As far as ‘life in general’, my folks and family have always been pretty supportive. My friends have really been good to me as well.”

Recently you have been writing series fiction for youngsters and young adults aswell as lots more comic stories...
"All in all, I'm pretty busy and damn happy about it!”

- No happier than the awaiting readers!
Thank you, Tom Sniegoski!

Check out the Thomas E Sniegoski official website...

For more on Vampirella have a look at her Official Merchandising Site or go to the comprehensive fan-run site, Vampilore...

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Authors: A

Laurie Anderson - Multi-media artist (film, music, sculpture, interactive, etc) well known for her innovative stage shows

Dario Argento - Master of Italian horror cinema - cool site with content to match about this truly inventive and important auteur-film-maker. If you can read Italian, check out this lovely site supported by the maestro himself: il colore della paura e'Argento

Aristotle - Greek philosopher who is said to be the 'father of modern science' and was, for better or worse, the originator of 'Aristotolian thinking'... You can read and download a selection of his writings as e-texts here

Isaac Asimov - One of the 'grand-daddies' of SF... a clearly set-out, ecclectic collection of on-line Assimov resources and information - good starting point

Jane Austen - Remaining popular today... lots of gathered resources on this long established site

Friday, 16 July 2010

Authors: B

Iain (M) Banks - SF/Fantasy writer and one of the freshest mainstream novelists to date

Official website of Clive Barker - writer, film-maker, painter and master of the fabulist genre

An introduction to the haiku and some info about Basho, master of this verse form

Samuel Beckett - Plenty of info here on the author and playwright

Jello Biafra - A powerful wielder of words, cultural terrorist, one-time candidate for Mayor of San Francisco, founder of Alternative Tentacles record label and ex-front man for Dead Kennedys

The International Brecht Society operate a useful site dedicated to Bertolt Brecht - lots of good research ready-done here about one of the most important influences on modern theatre...

Lovely-to-look-at official site of Dan Brown, with generous content and an interview with the author of bestselling code'n'conspiracy thrillers such as The DaVinci Code

Charles Bukowski - A master wordsmith brimming with honesty, humanity and humour...

William Blake - Excellent, searchable archive of Blake's excellent writings and illustrations

Kate Bush - Excellent, comprehensive website dedicated to the singer-songwriter with a towering talent and lyrics that lead the mind toward new discoveries

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Authors: C

Ramsey Campbell - Traditional-style spooky stories twisted with sex and psychological horror

Albert Camus Some heavy-duty philosophy from the writer who has influenced many, from Scott Walker to Charles Bukowski...

Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll - Creator of the Alice who finds adventures in Wonderland and through the looking glass...

Leonard Cohen has an official site at which provides news, info and an e-mail newsletter (site requires Flash)... or for more about the life and works of this great singer-songwriter, poet, novelist, go to the excellent fan-run resource site, The Leonard Cohen Files

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Authors: D

Remy Dean - Novelist and comentator on arts, music and media...

Len Deighton - Cold war intrigue... between nations, between people... war-torn Europe, swinging sixties Britain... Harry Palmer, super-spy, cool cook... Deighton is one of the UK's finest storytellers

Philip K Dick - Extensive site dedicated to the SF pioneer and visionary

Johnny Dowd - Inventive musician and lyrical blues storyteller

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Offcial site of his literary estate and plenty of info about Shelock Holmes

Daphne Du Maurier - Novelist and master of the short story

Authors: E

Umberto Eco - Philosopher, academic and literary heavyweight... author of Foucault's Pendulum, The Name Of the Rose and more

Mary Ann Evans, writing as George Eliot, broke new ground in Victorian fiction and introduced conventions of characterisation that are still evident in modern literature

Authors: F

William Faulkner - Huge academic site dedicated to one of the USA's greatest writers

Derek Dick, better known as Fish, the singer-songwriter-minstrel-poet...

Gavin Friday - Performer and artist - one of Ireland's foremost creatives

Mark Frost - novelist responsible for the marvellous List Of Seven and co-writer of Twin Peaks

John Foxx - the pioneering and gifted musician-poet who defined 'New Romanticism' in the late 1970s and went on to be a multi-media artist, now as relevant as ever... visit his official 'Metamatic' website or read his 'Quiet Man' blog

Authors: G

William Gibson - The first author to be called 'cyberpunk'...

Michael Gira and s w a n s - Writer and musician with power, intensity and integrity

Dave Graney - Another true poet hiding in rock 'n' roll

Authors: H

Dashiell Hammett - Author of some classic crime-noir novels such as The Maltese Falcon, The Dain Curse... and creator of hard-boiled-detective-icon, Sam Spade

Werner Herzog - The dedicated and intense German auteur film-maker

Bill Hicks - Very angry, very funny and very true

An in-depth meta-essay about the ideas of Aldus Huxley with its focus on his classic novel, Brave New World, plus some related links

Authors: I

Henrik Ibsen - highly influential playwright, both Realist and Romantic, whose dramas are still widely performed ...also a poet and painter

John Irving - USA novelist responsible for The Ciderhouse Rules, Hotel New Hampshire and The World Accoring To Garp (all adapted to films) and many others...

Washington Irving - Author of early American Gothic tales, including The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow

Friday, 25 June 2010

Authors: J

Clive James - Really entertaining and comprehensive official site of this wise and witty author, broadcaster, presenter... nice design too

Henry James - Good starting point for all things Henry James, plus a very generous selection of downloadable e-texts of his works. Or you could just go for the rather effective film adaptation The Innocents (based on The Turn Of The Screw) which, in turn, inspired the Kate Bush song, The Infant Kiss from the classic album Never Forever

M R James - Website listing his works of classic, understated yet often 'haunting' stories of the supernatural

James Joyce - The Irish literary prankster: theres a good academic Joyce resources site hosted by Ohio State University and there is some useful information at the website for Dublin's James Joyce Centre

Authors: K

Stephen King - official site for the best-selling author of imaginative American fiction, plenty here on a well-maintained site

Dean R Koontz - prolific author of best-selling 'slipstream' fiction that is often transmediated to the screen... his official site

Friday, 16 April 2010

Authors: L

Joe R Lansdale - inventive, highly eloquent, though often feversishly delirous - one of the writers who can never be boring - author of crime fiction such as Mucho Mojo and other stories featuring Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, and of short fiction including Bubba Ho-Tep, adapted into the outrageous film of the same name. Some short stories are available free at his website.

Stephen Laws - leading UK proponent of the supernatural horror novel

Timothy Leary - One of the twentieth century's most important thinkers - a future saint - Leary dot com is also... interesting...

Stanislaw Lem - Soviet author (of Solaris and others)

Gordon Lightfoot - One of the few true poets

Lydia Lunch - Confrontationalist multi-media creator - a first in many fields

David Lynch - in the future, he will be seen as one of this era's most important artists, so check out the official webiste of the multi-faceted creative, world peace activist, eductional reformist, 'mad genius' and coffee salesman...

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Authors: M

Christopher Marlowe - The renaissance playwright, spy, and possibly (but not really) the author of some plays claimed by Shakespeare(!?)

Graham Masterton - Prolific producer of thrills and chills, mainly in the imaginative horror genre and a true master(ton) of the form... official site with good layout and generous content

Cormac McCarthy - One of the USA's most noteworthy contemporary writers

Frank Miller - Writer-creator of striking comics, such as the Sin City series...

Henry Miller - Site dedicated to the influencial and inspirational author, artist and 'father of the beats' with good content and a style true to Miller's exuberance and positivity

Momus (aka Nicholas Currie) - wit and wisdom, words and 'music'... and his record label Analog Baroque

For a pretty cool and comprehensive Michael Moorcock website go to Multiverse for lots of info and resources related to the prolific pulp SF author - who also worked with Hawkwind...

Alan Moore - Comic writer, novelist, occultist(?) - regularly up-dated and extensive fan site

Michael Moore - Journalist, documentary film-maker and TV personality who uses sharp wit and humour as tools of social change in a crusade against corporate crime and politic-powered injustice

Authors: N

Anais Nin - Site with nice design and content

Larry Niven - Multi-award winning, highly readable, genre-defining, SF writer - creator of Ringworld and many other 'Known Space' novels... plenty on this fan-run site

Authors: O

George Orwell - Melding politics with creative writing in such works as 1984, Animal Farm, The Road To Wigan Pier...

Authors: P

Robert Pirsig - The Quality of Truth and the Truth about Quality can be sought through 'Zen And The Art Of Motorcyle Maintenance'

Edgar Allan Poe - Poe resource site with many links related to the imaginative, important and inventive writer of classic dark fiction

Philip Pullman - his official website with lots of information about his books, films of his books, interviews, and generous free content including PDFs of articles

Authors: Q

Joe Quesada - writer of comics and Editor in Chief at Marvel

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Authors: R

Jean-Jacques Rousseau - French philosopher (of Swiss origin) who was a huge influence on both Enlightenment and Romantic ideology and an important commentator on educational issues has an extensive entry at the Internet Encyclopedia Of Philosophy, and also plenty of info and resources at the Rousseau Association

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Authors: S

William Shakespeare - Good site dedicated to 'The Bard', with extensive links to on-line resources. An excellent starting point for finding all things Shakespearian... And this site offers the Complete Works on-line and downloadable!

Tom Sniegoski - Novelist and imaginative writer of graphic novels, responsible for re-vamping the Vampirella comic series and contributing to Buffy, The Vampire Slayer novelisations.

Authors: T

Serj Tankian - Politicised poetry and words from visionary front man of power-charged rock outfit System Of A Down

Dylan Thomas - Information and resources related to the life and word-craft of the famous Welsh drinker

The Tolkien Society website with loads of Tolkien features and facilities. There is also a very thorough fan page with a huge list of other web pages and on-line resources relating to J R R Tolkien and his works...

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Authors: U

John Updike - Pulitzer prize winning writer of often witty and sometimes controversial texts, including The Witches Of Eastwick...

Peter Ustinov - actor, author and racanteur... both witty and witted and very quotable. Also international ambassodor for Unicef and campaigner for peace on earth.