Let’s be honest with ourselves: no matter what degree of sweet sheen and serenity we could be graced with, we each feel that there’s always an occasion for, well,…Hell. For instance, Dante Alighieri’s “Commedia:” weighed in all its fourteenth-century vernacular glamour, nonetheless, it is the song of the “Inferno” that ever tips the scales. Sure, Salvation ( for those who flatter themselves that such will be their case ) will ultimately win the day, but until then we, on varying levels, masturbate the tenebrous dimensions of our respective characters with the other end of the equation- Damnation.
Damnatio– more than a state, it’s a business; an appetite. We search TV channels and scour bookshelves for it.
With the initial opening of “Voices of the Damned,” your immediate sense might be that a tome from the Tophet Public Library had just fallen off the shelf like a rebel angel from heaven, with its destiny being the lap of anyone for whom all nine circles weren’t enough. Not really, but you’d be close. Written by Barbie Wilde,-yes, the Female Cenobite of Hellraiser II herself- Voices of the Damned is a brilliant braiding of horror, religion, shock, and gore into a cord with which you’ll happily hang any and all notions you may have of a New Jerusalem. Comprised of the most devilish eleven yarns, the anthology not only celebrates those avenues by which horror fans have traditionally sacrificed the light for the sake of thrills, but also accentuates those said avenues in true Cenobitic fashion by precisely the right combination of eroticism and wantonness. E.g., “Valeska” and “Zulu Zombies.” Before these two tales each bit into me, I thought I’d reached the proverbial dead end where matters of the undead were concerned. “Valeska” was just the infusion I needed. (Anne Rice, eat your staked heart out!) Taking the classic vampire story two steps further in terms of bodily fluids and folklore, “Valeska” is the bride’s arrival that “Dracula” has forever been waiting for. “Zulu Zombies,” too, is a masterful story with both bite and a bit of history, leaving much of the oft revisited devices of the living dead genre at the wayside.
For the those who prefer their carnage alla Cronenberg, “Polyp,” about an average Joe and his colon, is one gut-wrencher that’s guaranteed to be up your…alley.
Indeed, each narrative is a frighteningly finely sharpened barb with a glint of either the gothic, the classic, the occultic, the tabloid sensational, or even the extraterrestrial; something to hook any soul in the habit of skirting the borders of torture and torment.
Speaking of habits and skirts, embedded in the overall work is the exquisite expansion of the character of a Female Cenobite. Titled “The Cilicium Trilogy,” it’s a biography that straddles the Schism of Clive Barker’s original masterpiece, giving us an extremely sanguinary take on the theme of the liberated woman. Equal parts pathos, adventure, and daemonology, it stands in its own last rite as the dogma of Leviathan’s Special Lady.
As if laid bare before some contagious deity of the Pit, by the time you reach the final lines of the book you’d be peccant for not feeling that some conversion had taken place. Barbie Wilde’s artistry, visceral and splendidly vicious as it is, is inarguably imbued with the power of vision that sustains the horror genre, as well as perpetuates the quest for Hell’s sundry wonders. And having immersed yourself in her brand of prose that is at once nuanced and unabashed, like the melody of a certain music box, don’t be surprised if you find your own voice aching to be added to the chorus of the Damned.
Order your own copy of Barbie’s throat-gripping collection at amazon.