I got today a really nice copy of “Weaveworld” by Clive Barker. I was a fan as a kid, when I read Cabal and then proceeded to read most of the Books of Blood. Then I entered a new phase and left the “horror” genre behind. Now I’m back with my interest focused on the more “fantastic” side, Weaveworld and Imajica.

Nice copy, I said, with textured cover and seventeen black & white illustrations by the author inside. The book opens with a powerful quote:

…the spirit has its
homeland, which is the
realm of the meaning
of things.

-Saint-Exupéry, The Wisdom of the Sands

That’s tied always to the same theme. The dichotomy. “This” side we have language, meaning, symbols, gods and mythologies. The spirit is the realm of human beings, separate from nature. The “fantasy” genre has the power to paint it more vividly. Meaning-full.

The book also contains a very interesting introduction by Clive Barker. It has a number of parallels with Steven Erikson. I’ll quote the latter part:

It isn’t necessary for a storyteller to have answers to the questions they pose, of course; only to be interested enough to ask them. Weaveworld is full of unrequited enquiries. Why does Immacolata’s hatred of the Seerkind burn so intensely? Is the creature in the Empty Quarter an angel or not? And if the garden of sand in which it has kept its psychotic vigil is not the Eden of Genesis, then where did the Seerkind arise from? There are certainly answers to these mysteries to be wrought and written, but they would, I am certain, only beg further questions, which if answered would beg yet more. For all its length and elaboration, the novel does not attempt to fill in every gap in its invented history. Nothing ever begins, its first line announces; there are innumerable stories from which this fragment of narrative springs; and there will be plenty to tell when it’s done. Though I get requests aplenty for a sequel, I will never write one.

The tale isn’t finished; but I’ve told all I can. That is not to say my attitude to the work does not continue to change. In the past ten years I’ve gone through, periods when I was thoroughly out of sorts with the book, or even on occasion irritated that it found such favour with readers when other stories seemed more worthy. And in the troughs of my discomfort, I made what with hindsight seems to be dubious judgments about fantastic fiction as a whole. I have been, I think, altogether disparaging about the escape elements of the genre, emphasizing its powers to address social, moral and even philosophical issues at the expense of celebrating its dreamier virtues. I took this position out of a genuine desire to defend a fictional form I love, from accusations of triviality and triteness, but my zeal led me astray. Yes, fantastic fiction can be intricately woven into the texture of our daily lives, addressing important issues in fabulist form. But it also serves to release us for a time from the definitions that confine our daily selves; to unplug us from a world that wounds and disappoints us, allowing us to venture into places of magic and transformation. Though of late my writing has concerned itself more and more with detailing that wounded, disappointing reality, as a reader I have rediscovered the pleasures, of unrepentant escapism: the short fiction of Lord Dunsany, early Yeats poems, the paintings of Samuel Palmer and Ernst Fuchs.

The author who wrote Weaveworld has, however, disappeared. I’ve not lost faith with the enchantments of fantasy, but there is a kind of easy sweetness in this book that would not, at least presently, come readily from my pen. We go through seasons perhaps; and Weaveworld was written in a balmier time. Perhaps there’ll be another. But its tender inventions seem very remote from the man writing these words.

Nothing ever begins.

There is no first moment; no single word or place from which this or any other story springs.

The threads can always be traced back to some earlier tale, and to the tales that preceded that: though as the narrator’s voice recedes the connections will seem to grow more tenuous, for each age will want the tale told as if it were of its own making.

Thus the pagan will be sanctified, the tragic become laughable; great lovers will stoop to sentiment, and demons dwindle to clockwork toys.

Nothing is fixed. In and out the, shuttle goes, fact and fiction, mind and matter, woven into patterns that may have only this in common: that hidden amongst them is a filigree which will with time become a world.

Ah! That last line.

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