You won’t be surprised, I think, to learn that I’m a Clive Barker fan. It’s one of the nails in the “morbid” coffin they’re continually trying to bury me in. It’s not that I mind being called morbid as such, I’m fine with being a weirdo, it’s…
Well, it’s the way that word “morbid” seems to be co-morbid with other words that keep people in their place, other words that outline the limits of “polite society” and “normal interests.” Words that seem to draw lines around what’s okay to enjoy, and judge the character of anyone focused outside them. I like Clive Barker because his work seems to perceive this also - the way that mainstream society’s prissy fear of anything that could be “offensive” is often weaponized when mainstream society decides that it is offended by, say… your skin color, or your sexuality.
I often recommend Barker, to those who seem like they’d feel his flavor, by saying, “He writes about the lives and loves of people with no skin on.” More broadly, he humanizes the inhuman, empathizes with the dead and dying and devastated. He looks into the eyes of those with unholy appetites and uncontrollable reactions, and asks them if they’d like a sandwich. When I learned Barker was gay, I was profoundly unsurprised, because his perspective is completely inextricable from that sense of having been othered by society, called a monster on the basis of whom he loves.
That’s one of the scary ways that homophobia is sometimes different from racism. Racists treat other humans as if they’re animals, deny them participation in human society on that basis. But because race isn’t seen as something one can “catch,” only the most unhinged racists ever try to argue that other races are engaged in a coordinated, malicious recruitment campaign with the explicit intention of destroying society. Only the most insane of conspiracy theorists treat other races as monsters, aggressively inhuman predators out to infest the world with their kind. But that’s how queer people have been represented almost universally for decades. Y'know, like how JK Rowling says, “Lycanthropy in the Harry Potter universe is a metaphor for AIDS,” thus representing the LGBT community as predominantly composed of uncontrollably violent people who gleefully set out to infect children with their “disease.” This attitude is still part of mainstream public discourse.
Barker empathizes with monsters because he’s spent his life being called one… and I can relate to that.