Wilde kicks off with Sister Cilice, which, drawing on the mythos of Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart, reads almost like the backstory of Wilde’s own Female Cenobite in Hellraiser II: Hellbound. Sister Cilice is an icon of transgressive female sexuality and Wilde returns to her twice more in the collection, forming the philosophical backbone of the book. Along the way there are semen-hungry neo-vampires, miracle-performing dime-store preachers, insomniacs visited by demons straight out of Fuselli, a vengeful female fury who trusses up the scrotum of a hapless home invader with plastic ties, and oversexed train-riding Zulu zombies. All delightfully perverse and shot through with Wilde’s trademark black humour. Especially written for this collection, Valeska stands out (alongside the splatterpunk/medical horror Polyp) as the tale ripest for novel-length treatment (Wilde is currently adapting Zulu Zombies into a screenplay – can’t wait to see that one at the local multiplex), constituting, as it does, a total rethink of vampire mythology.
As to be expected with a collection that spans early publications to more recent work, some tales are more accomplished than others - but when taken as a whole, it’s the sheer force of Wilde’s vision that impresses most. Wilde’s writing reminds us that the unbridled imagination is, in the words of David Cronenberg, “beyond politics, beyond society – a threat to civilisation!”
As filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska remark in their afterword, Wilde’s stories are like “perverse fever dreams”, illustrated throughout with visionary artwork by Clive Barker, Nick Percival, Daniele Serra, amongst others, Voices of the Damned are precisely that.
VOICES OF THE DAMNED / AUTHOR: BARBIE WILDE / ARTIST: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: SST PUBLICATIONS / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 31ST