To celebrate Pride Month, I'm going back to the first queer author I read as an early teen - the great and unrivalled Clive Barker.
This was the late '80s, and King and Barker were the two big horror authors of the time (I tried Herbert and Koontz but couldn't get into them). The two collected volumes of the Books of Blood were my first introduction to Barker's mix of dark fantasy, horror and sexuality. Barker was instrumental in my education* on the queer community and helping me to accept everyone as equal, particularly during a time when the F-slur was being thrown around very casually in the schoolyard. One story in particular, 'In The Hills, The Cities', as well as being a masterpiece of imagination and horror, kicked off with an explicit sex scene between two men, which, while initially shocking to me (I might have been 12 or 13 at the time), was clearly integral to the characters and ultimately, I realised they were no different than similar couplings in King's or any other books I was reading at the time. The more of Barker's writing I read, the more exposed I was to non-hetero-normative relationships. Of course, it helped that the message was subsumed in his fantastical worlds and beautiful prose, but the message was clear: 'love is love', which should be bleeding obvious to begin with, but wasn't widely accepted then and is sadly just as contentious now in this age of weaponised bigotry and hate. So for that, I thank Clive and all the artists that came before and after him writing from a similar perspective. I will be sharing some of my fave modern LGBTQI+ authors and films / filmmakers on the blog and socials this month alongside well as my usual carry-on. *Apart from Barker, Gus Van Sant's 1991 film 'My Private Idaho' was equally educational and affirming. And who could resist River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as sex workers and lovers on the streets of Portland? Not 14-year-old me!