Praise for Twisted Tales Events

'In the past few years Twisted Tales has become a major force in the promotion and appreciation of horror fiction. As well as putting on author readings and signings at bookshops it has expanded into organising larger events, bringing authors and critics together for discussions of the field. I've been involved in quite a few of both and have found them hugely enjoyable and stimulating - I believe the audiences did as well. May Twisted Tales continue to grow and prosper! If you love the field, support them! I do.' - Ramsey Campbell

‘Twisted Tales consistently produce well-organised events for writers and readers of horror. What really distinguishes Twisted Tales for me is the intelligent themes and investigations they pursue, and the high quality of the discussions they always stimulate. As an author I've been invited to three of their events and have been pleasantly startled, to near shocked, by the attendance levels - two out of three were even sold out. I salute anyone who contributes so much to the literary and cultural life of horror fiction.’- Adam Nevill

'Twisted Tales events are wonderful... a great way of promoting 21st century horror fiction. Supported by Waterstone's Liverpool One and really well organised, Twisted Tales brings together established names in the genre as well as new voices and of course readers. Looking forward to much more to come...' - Alison J. Littlewood

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

‘Midian: Down into the Unconscious’ by Suzanne J. Barbieri

Following on from last week's analysis of The Hellbound Heart, Suzanne J. Barbieri turns her attention to another of Clive Barker's novellas: Cabal.

WARNING: Contains significant spoilers.

The novella Cabal concerns the personality; the face we show to the world at large as opposed to our true hidden selves. The story examines the concepts of Duality and Persona, and the discovery of the Unconscious. The legendary underground city of Midian is home to the Tribes of the Moon; the Nightbreed. Despite the appearances of the Breed, and their taste for human flesh, they are not the villains. The real monsters are the humans who have for centuries persecuted the Breed for the crime of being different.

The story’s main character, Aaron Boone, makes the journey down into Midian and discovers the truth about duality, his own included. Many of the Breed are literally ‘two-faced’. When moving in the outside world, the Conscious, they wear human faces, while in Midian, the Unconscious, they wear their beast-faces; their true faces. As does everyone. None more so than Boone’s psychiatrist Dr Decker.

Decker’s alter-ego is a serial killer called the Mask. ‘Persona’ (the term coined by Jung to describe the public face behind which we conceal our true self), is the Latin word for an actor’s mask. Decker frames Boone for the murders he has committed as the Mask. Boone, plagued for much of his life with mental problems, has put his trust in Dr Decker, and although he cannot remember ever having committed the murders, he feels he shouldn’t doubt the doctor’s words.

Boone first hears whispers of Midian whilst in an asylum. Midian, they say, is a place of refuge for those with nothing left to cling to; the monsters and outcasts of society whose last hope is of finding the one place that will take them in and forgive them their sins, however profane those sins might be. Boone has reached the lowest point of his life. He believes himself to be a murderer, and is on the run. After a failed suicide attempt he decides that if death cannot embrace him, his place is in Midian.

After travelling many miles across virtually desolate terrains, Midian appears as if out of nowhere. Boone’s first explorations of Midian would have it a ghost town. Lightless and empty, it appears to be uninhabited. Desolate, he heads off to the town’s vast cemetery in search of a place to rest his weary body.

As he sleeps Midian stirs, as though from the depths of his dreams. At first an animal’s growls invade his dreams, waking him; then from the shadows, two creatures emerge who challenge his right to enter their refuge. One of these creatures is the shape-shifting Peloquin “... more reptile than mammal” who transforms before Boone’s eyes, inhaling his lizard features like cigarette smoke. Boone’s pleas that he belongs in Midian are ridiculed by Peloquin, who insists that Boone is not the murderer he thinks he is: “You’re not Nightbreed... You’re meat... meat for the beast.”

Thus Boone is at first denied Midian, because he is not ready. It takes death to make him ready. He must cast off his old life and outmoded concepts of reality so that he may be reborn into the richer world of the Unconscious. Only then may he enter the underground city of Midian. Yet Boone’s literal and symbolic death is a willing sacrifice. He wants so much to explore his Unconscious and understand his duality that no price is too much.

What Boone discovers is that he does indeed have a secret self, and that other self is not a murderer, but the Saviour of the Breed; he is Cabal, “who unmade Midian”, and who will remake it in the image of his choosing. Unlike Decker, whose suppressed dark side takes him over, Boone accepts his duality and takes on board the lessons of the Unconscious, and is made whole by the knowledge that he is something more and other than human.


Copyright © Suzanne J. Barbieri -First published in Clive Barker, Mythmaker for the Millennium

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