There’s a haven for horror fans in the Los Angeles area: Dark Delicacies Bookstore. The store not only houses genre-oriented books and paraphernalia, but also serves as the site for signings by authors and entertainment industry personalities. Del Howison and his wife Sue Duncan founded the shop of horrors in 1994. Del graciously took the time to be interviewed by Sheila M. Merritt regarding Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, an anthology he co-edited with Joseph Nassise. The stories in the collection are based on the universe established in Barker’s film Nightbreed, which was an extension of his novella Cabal.
Diabolique: Flashback to 1995, to the film Lord of Illusions, directed and written by Clive Barker, based on his story “The Last Illusion.” You were in a bar scene in the movie. Now you are again in Barker territory as co-editor of the anthology Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.” How does it feel to return to the Barker universe, and what prompted this most recent reunion?
Del Howison: Actually, I’ve never really left the Barker Universe. I met Clive at the Pantages Theater during the filming of Lord of Illusions and he has been one of the biggest supporters of my store (Dark Delicacies) ever since. He has held numerous signing events there, with one actually running seven hours in length. In my first Dark Delicacies anthology, he had a story that was later filmed for Mick Garris’ Masters of Horror television series, and Clive also has a sonnet in Dark Delicacies III: Haunted. We have been in touch very frequently over the last twenty or so years. He was a huge influence and a good friend. So this feels more like a continuation of my involvement in the Barker universe, as opposed to a return.
Diabolique: How were the stories included in the collection selected?
Howison: It was actually more grueling than you may expect. It was certainly more grueling than Joe Nassise and I expected. We had certain authors in mind that we wanted to invite into the book, but we also made sure there was room for other writers, ones not on our radar or just starting out who were offering us a dynamite piece. So we put out a call and received about 1,000 entries for the remaining 6 or so spots. We broke the submissions in two, with Joe and I each taking half. If either of us knew the author we had the other editor read the story so as not to be swayed by the name. Stories that passed the first reading were read by the opposite editor and the remaining stories that passed both readings were put in one pile and whittled down. At that point we used criteria like: if we already had a story featuring a particular character, we tried not to include another one. There were some good stories that we had to pass on just because of reasons like that. Or, if the story was so embedded with Cabal mythos that an unfamiliar reader couldn’t enjoy it as a straight tale, we tended to let them slide. It came out well but there were a lot of tough decisions between us.
Diabolique: The Nightbreed are rather repulsive, yet simultaneously accessible characters. What makes them so bizarrely compelling?
Howison: To me, there is only one thing that makes a character compelling – humanity. The characters have to be more than just stick figures, and when Clive Barker wrote the original book he made sure that the characters had that sense about them. That’s why the feelings of being alone and seeking family resonate so soundly in the tales. Using Cabal as a starting point was wonderful.Diabolique: The publication of Midian Unmade seems well timed, given the recent DVD/Blu-ray release of Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut. Is this coincidence?
Howison: Less of a coincidence than you might think. This book was Joe Nassise’s idea from the start. I believe he was just in love with the idea. It was something that wouldn’t leave his head. We worked on trying to get a contract for the book for a couple of years before Tor jumped on it. Then it was another year in the making with gathering the stories and all. By then, we had missed the catalogue deadline from Tor to come out this past Autumn of 2014, which would have been closer to the film release and to ride on that publicity wagon. So we’re coming out now (July 2015). I don’t believe it hurt us any, which is what I was afraid of.
Diabolique: Clive Barker is a prime example of a horror renaissance man; he works in different mediums and wears many hats. At your Los Angeles area bookstore, Dark Delicacies, you interact with artistic “hyphenates”: “Author-Actors,” and “Writer-Directors,” etc. Included in Midian Unmade is a story by “Actor-Writer” Amber Benson. Do you think that the “hyphenate” trend is becoming more prevalent in the horror genre?
Howison: I believe that the non-horror world is awfully slow to recognize the true talent that many of these artists have. It’s about time that Horror lose its feeling of being some sort of sub-genre.
Diabolique: A “hyphenate” for Del Howison might read: “Writer-Editor-Actor-Specialty Bookstore Founder-and-Owner.” Any other title, professional or otherwise, that you’d care to add?
Midian Unmade is available now: https://www.amazon.com/Midian-Unmade-Tales-Barkers-Nightbreed/dp/0765335425/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8