The universe is a haunted house: the Cornish Earth Mysteries Group

An unquiet house

One of the best discoveries I made on moving to Cornwall was the Cornish Earth Mysteries Group, a bunch of local Pagans who spent the summer hanging around at sacred sites, dowsing and suchlike, and the winter holding fascinating talks in Penzance. The talks sadly ended a couple of years back due to increased venue rental costs, but the few I went to opened my head – literally – to The Way Things Are, and I’m eternally grateful to them for it. As a lifelong believer in the paranormal, it was perhaps appropriate that the first talk I went to was by ghost-hunter Ian Addicoat. It was a long time ago and he seemed very nervous, but there were plenty of ghosts in Penwith for him to tell us about. I met him a while later at Pengersick Castle, where I was lucky enough to have him give me a tour of the building and gardens, then a look at some photos taken outside the house of orbs. He still does ghost walks in Penzance and St Ives and I must go along to one. I’ve not experienced anything in town that feels like a haunting although I’ve had experiences elsewhere, most recently in Minions. Near to The Hurlers stone circle is a bridleway that goes past an abandoned house and down towards Darite. It is an uneasy place to walk. The house (occupied at the time by an affable squatter) feels ‘dark’ and continuing along the path was extremely uncomfortable. I kept looking behind me, expecting to see something there. A definite feeling of being watched by something unpleasant accompanied us (T didn’t like the place either) and I’ll not go there again. Ian’s talk didn’t tell me a lot I didn’t know, but it made me realise I’d made the right decision to leave London.

A while later I was back at a talk by Jude Currivan about Cosmic Geomancy. I will try to explain the theory simply: every Thing in the universe is connected. All are part of a Life energy. This hit me for six and made perfect sense. And it was refreshing to hear someone talking about all life as being equal and from the same source of energy. It made me realise that this life is just one phase of being. We change at death. This doesn’t alter the huge loss of bereavement, but I certainly feel a loved one’s death is worse for those left behind than for the deceased. I’ve linked to Jude’s site. It looks ‘wafty’ but the woman has plenty of substance. Oh, and have a look at Ian Johnstone’s piece on Jhonn Balance’s memorial and the sign Balance left him of his presence.

The third mind-altering CEMG talk was by Pam Masterson, who owns a shop in Penzance called The Healing Star. It was about chakras and at the end she did a short meditation with the audience. All we did was relax and focus on various parts of the body but when we got to the forehead things got weird. The best way I can describe it is like having the front of my head opened and a brilliant light streaming out. I’d always been sensitive in the ‘third eye’ area but had thought nothing of it. Now – several years after that short meditation – that area still constantly tingles. It’s not a great feeling but I know it’s incredibly important and something I should explore, preferably with Pam in more meditation. Lack of money is holding this back but at some stage it will be done.

There are many talks I missed – Paul Broadbent, Hamish Miller (now departed) and Craig Weatherhill all spoke at meetings over the years and I would have loved to have been there, but what I did hear has changed my worldview. It’s also affected what I write about – it’s all still very dark stuff, I suppose, but I certainly feel some of the bleakness has gone. Someone dying at the end of a story is not necessarily an unhappy ending.

The forest is a college, each tree a university

St Michael’s Mount

Here’s an interview with Graeme Hurry of Kzine, the new British SF Kindle-only magazine. I have a story included in the first issue, which should appear during this year, but I’m undecided about how I feel about e-readers. I must admit that I’ve not even seen, yet alone used, a Kindle. I did wonder if iPad’s (etc) would render them obsolete, but I don’t know enough about it all (although Graeme mentions intended improvements to Kindle in the interview, which brings up the question of constantly buying/upgrading gadgets but that’s for another day). My main thought is that you’re not likely to get mugged if you’re on a bus/train reading an old paperback. But which is more eco-friendly? Should forests really be colleges?

The Welcome To Levanthia page now contains a full (more or less) bibliography, the first I have compiled properly. It’s given me a clearer idea of where I’ve been and where I’m heading. I’d forgotten that Bedlam’s Way, which was originally going to be included in a fiction supplement in the New Statesman – which never materialized for reasons never explained – actually appeared in print in Saccade magazine, so that was quite a surprise, expecially as I was thinking of re-writing and extending it and sending it out for publication! The only things I’ve not included are the various fanzines I wrote in the 1980s. They may well appear there soon.

And The Falling Man is now finished as a second draft. I’m keen to get it properly into shape and to one of the editors interested in reading more of my work. As usual, continual tiredness gets in the way.

Clive Barker: a dark light

Wild rocks, Isles of Scilly

Clive Barker has been a huge influence, not just on my writing, but on the way I see the world, for about the last twenty-five years. Not that I’ve read much of Barker’s stuff in recent years, apart from parts of Abarat – I’ve been delving more and more into non-fiction antiquarian/spiritual/magick/witchcraft reference books – but I’ve gone through the Books of Blood in the last few months. Many of the stories are just amazing (In The Hills, The Cities, The Yattering and Jack, The Skins of the Fathers to name a few) and his cover illustrations compliment the writing perfectly but what I noticed, having an overview rather than getting and reading one book at a time, was how he was aiming at America even way back then (the mid-80s). So many of the stories are set there, and the language of even the British (mostly London, where he was living at the time) set ones are quite Americanised. I’d heard that his native Liverpool was too small (minded?) for him, but I hoped that London would give him what he needed. But he was always going to end up in the US. I was quite sad when he did leave for Hollywood – it seemed a clichéd thing to do, I knew it would be Britain’s loss and I knew his writing would change. He obviously loves it there. Endless photos of him with a huge cigar clamped between his teeth, really playing up the Hollywood director thing, prove he’s either completely immersed or has a good sense of humour. While he is still doing fantastic things – I will always be a huge fan – the phenomenal Clive Barker obscures the man somewhat. Success is a good thing – a man with the brilliant imagination of Barker, the ability to write strong female characters and his empathy with the weird and the strange (especially seen in the novel Cabal or Nightbreed, as the film version was called) needs to be read by the masses. But it feels to me like the merchandise is a distraction. Perhaps my own idea about being a writer is also quite clichéd – sitting in a small room, poverty stricken, scribbling away longhand on cheap paper. It could be seen as a romantic view but the reality is far from it; I’ve done pretty well in getting stories published but I’m always fighting to keep my head above water financially. But the solitude, the separateness, of writing is, I think, important. Dare I mention the word art here? I wonder how Barker shuts himself away from the bullshit when he writes. He returned to horror writing a few years back, after many years of dark and darkish fantasy, with a short novel called Mister B. Gone and I’ve just re-read a few reviews of it. I still haven’t got the book because I’m worried that it won’t be what I want it to be. Too many readers have called it ‘amusing’, even ‘whimsical’ and while there’s room for humour in horror it sounds like the book could be overly light; a missed opportunity. Of course Barker is much older now and has a different take on the world and that’s quite natural – an idea, an atmosphere, a situation, can be far more scary than blood and guts and there’s too much casual nastiness around – but I hope he still takes horror seriously. There are still a lot of monsters out there.

One of his hundreds of projects currently on the go is the re-make of Hellraiser. The original film was a favourite of mine for a long time, despite some real reservations: the soundtrack (Coil, who were friends of his at the time, did a wonderful soundtrack which was never used; a waste of a great collaboration, although the work was released by the band), the drifting of location (half of the film seems to wander from London to America), and some of the acting was terrible. I’ve read that Barker wants to be involved so as to make it as good as it can be, rather than being faced with a finished second version that he’ll hate, but it would be better either left alone now or returning to what it was intended to be first time round. The initial filmed scenes were reported to be very English, gothic, black and white. Despite the minimal budget – or perhaps because of it – it sounded great. A lot about the film is very good – the Cenobites are quite magnificent and the sado-masochist angle is there for anyone who even lightly scratches the surface. Pinhead has become a rather over-used, almost cartoon bogeyman figure, up there with the likes of Freddie Kreuger rather than with Frankenstein’s monster, where he belongs. The original concept of Pinhead is fantastic.

Barker came out as gay many years ago and it was around that time that I arranged to interview him on one of his trips to London. I didn’t want to talk about his sexuality – I knew everyone else would and I was more interested in talking about the horror genre and horror writing, and he was happy about this, I think. He read an article of mine (the last interview Queercore band Sister George gave before they broke up) and it was all looking good. I was doing the article freelance, as I usually did, and had spoken to Attitude, a rather dim witted gay boys’ magazine from London. Once I’d explained to them who Clive Barker was, they were keen to publish. And at the last minute, they stole the job from me, and had Paul Burston do the interview. I was devastated. I did get to meet Barker some time later, at a signing in the West End, and had a chat with him. He was very affable. It meant so much to me that I needed a brandy afterwards to steady my trembling hands. Anyway, since then he’s done film projects specifically with the lesbian and gay community and his photography is openly gay. He also fought tooth and nail to get his first novel with a gay protagonist (Sacrament) published. He seems in many ways to be very true to himself. Perhaps the opportunities and the money available in America were just things he was not prepared to refuse. Would he have been constantly frustrated if he’d stayed in Britain, fighting for the chance to make films?

And I really should read Mister B. Gone, because I’m very happy to have Barker return to the horror fold.

[Listening to: Diamanda Galas]