An Interview with Del Howison:
Revisiting Clive Barker’s Nightbreed with Midian Unmade
Del Howison is the co-founder and owner of Dark Delicacies, an independent horror bookstore in Burbank, California. Howison has co-edited several collections, including Midian Unmade, his recent collaboration with Joseph Nassise. Recently, he took a few moments to discuss this latest project with Cemetery Dance Online.
(Interview conducted by Blu Gilliand)
CEMETERY DANCE ONLINE: Who came up with the idea of an anthology dedicated to Clive Barker’s Cabal/Nightbreed mythology, and how did that idea progress toward reality?
DEL HOWISON: (Co-editor) Joe Nassise came up with the idea. I don’t know where it came from for him. Anyway, he knew that not only had I edited several anthologies with name writers but I was also a friend of Clive Barker’s since the making of the film Lord of Illusions. So he thought we would be a good match and he asked me to jump aboard. I was in-between books and thought it was a good idea. We brought in my agent Eddie Schneider at Jabberwocky in New York to shop the idea around. Clive signed on allowing us to play in his world.
I understand this book was four years in the making. Why was the process so long?
You have to understand that anthology is a dirty word in both publishing and entertainment. Publishers don’t think anthologies sell and television believes anthologies are a dead end, that viewers want to watch a series with continuing characters. I love short stories. Along with Jeff Gelb, I edited a three-book series of horror anthologies named after my store, Dark Delicacies. We won a Bram Stoker Award for those from the Horror Writers Association and were nominated for both a Shirley Jackson Award and the Black Quill Award. Yet every time I want to do a new anthology it is the same old fight. I’ve tried to pitch a Twilight Zone-type show for television called Dark Delicacies and get the same bounce back. So back to your question, we were getting the same resistance from all the publishers until it was finally picked up by Jim Frankel at Tor. After that it still took close to a year to get a contract finished and signed and then another year to gather the stories.
How much involvement did Clive Barker have in the project?
Clive and I had worked together before on anthologies. He had an original story in the first Dark Delicacies anthology, and a sonnet in the third. So we were used to each other’s sensibilities and we trusted each other. He gave us the guidelines he wanted to see used for the stories. But they were pretty loose since he knew we would honor the world he had created. I remember him saying, “Midian was a city. I couldn’t even come close in the film Nightbreed and the novel Cabal to mention even a small percentage of the denizens. Your authors are free to create other former residents of Midian who the fans haven’t ever heard of. It’s a democracy of monsters.” Of course, Joe and I wanted to make sure we covered the big guns from the Barker story since the fans would be expecting that.
What drew you to the stories that you included in the book?
Joe and I had our own guidelines. We wanted to be true to the tone of Clive’s work. We didn’t want a bunch of stories featuring the same character, say 10 stories of Babette, as the tales would end up contradicting each other and our aim was to move the mythology forward. The stories also had to pretty well stand on their own as an inclusive piece. We wanted people who had never read Cabal or seen Nightbreed, but enjoyed dark fantasy to be able to read and enjoy the story without a lot of background. That was a difficult level to maintain. Last of all, and most importantly, they needed to be well-written. Along with the overriding dread of loneliness I was particularly interested in showing the humanity in the beast and the monster in the man.
This is the second anthology dedicated to exploring and expanding a Clive Barker mythology (the other one being Hellbound Hearts, which concentrated on the world of the Cenobites from Hellbound Heart and Hellraiser). What is it about Barker’s works that lend themselves to this kind of project?
He’s a god. I’m not speaking of hero-worship here. I mean he creates entire worlds. His playground is so large and the options so numerous that it would almost be impossible to run out of ideas using the Barker bibliography as a starting point.
Are there other stories/mythologies – either by Barker or by other authors – that you think would lend themselves to this kind of treatment?
I’m a real horror person. I’m not into science fiction or fantasy, but from what I’ve seen I’m sure some of those worlds would serve the purpose. I can point to the spinoffs from The Walking Dead as a horror example. I don’t believe that most horror is large enough for this kind of treatment. Except for apocalyptic horror the genre works best when it is personal. It’s the humanizing of horror that makes it scary for me. The horror is inside us all. We just don’t like facing it.