Rocks Off readers will recognize Carmilla Voiez from her roundtable appearances on the Gothic Council. The British clothing designer has released her first dark fantasy novel, Starblood, and Art Attack was granted a copy just this past week. The novel deals with a young goth magician named Satori who accidentally summons the demon Lilith in an attempt to use magic to rekindle his relationship with his ex-girlfriend Star.
The book is a brutal exploration of the nature of obsession, abuse, murder and sexual assault. Within the first 50 pages, Voiez uses Lilith and a knife to top the brutal rape scene from Christopher Alan Broadstone's short film Scream for Me... something we hoped we'd die having never seen done. It's just the first horror in a highly emasculating work (we counted three castrations).
Indeed, the nature of sex and its misuses seems to be the main focus of the novel rather than hammering home some kind of silly warning against diddling with the occult. Satori's desire to will Star back to his side through magic stands simply as a metaphor for what unethical things he will do in the name of recapturing a former prisoner. As Lilith weaves in and out of the goth scenesters' lives in the book, leaving a carmine trail behind her, she is merely the consequence of their sins, not their cause.
Fitting that Lilith take center stage in this tale. As Adam's first wife, she was cast from Eden for assuming a dominant sexual position with the first man. In Voiez's theology, this culminated in the first rape, the first desire to force a woman to submit sexually to a man's whim. Now she wanders, an unrestrained avatar of victims' rage playing out a never-ending series of violent intercourse.
No sexual encounter in the book goes unpunished. Everything from pregnancy by a rapist to pedophilia (seen through the analogy of sacrificing children to demonic forces) to adultery is dealt with. The only time two people are ever locked in what seems like honest sexual affection, it is merely one more game of Lilith's.
Is there anything in the book besides sex, death and the work of devils? Yes, somewhere beneath it all lies an exploration of the desperate identity crisis that often leads one into the goth scene. When avenues of expression are denied by society (the character of Donna bears a scar from an attack by anti-goth thugs, and Freya's sister was killed in an assault prior to the start of the book), they often manifest in a whole new persona. Learning to live with the difference between that imagined self and the person who you actually are is the key to long-term psychological survival. Failure to do so was Jim Morrison's tragedy.
The novel is not without its flaws, though there are surprisingly few for a debut work. Some of Voiez's theology seems more like name-dropping than it would have had she endeavored more original origins for her demons. At times, her references to goth tunes and manners of dress are just a wee bit eyerolling, and a few unnecessary breaks in linearity urged on her by her publisher are needlessly confusing.
However, these are minor scratches. In general, Starblood is a haunting yet compelling read. Those who dare its pages risk wounds that will scar, but they will learn what damage can be done in the name of a love that isn't love in return for their wounds. This ain't a book, it's a knife.
We sat down briefly with Voiez to talk about the book. Continue to page 2 for the interview.
Art Attack: There's no denying that a lot of goths have been attacked or abused over the years, but a lot of people would argue that we bring it on ourselves. What do you think?
Carmilla Voiez: Do I think we bring the attacks on ourselves? No, I don't. I think we live in societies which get political and economic mileage from promoting discontent and hatred between the people. Many argue that it is natural to divide and hate others who are different to you i.e., racism, homophobia, goth hate crimes, I don't think it's natural. I think it's a tool of oppression. But then I am a pinko lefty. The media loves stereotypes and often paints a picture of goths as evil, sadistic vampires. I think like people in all walks of life, goths are who they are and differ as greatly from one another as they do from "normals."
AA: And on a similar note, rape is a very prevalent theme in the book, specifically revenge and the horrors of any kind of forced intercourse. What inspired that aspect of the novel?
CV: Perhaps that's a little personal, but it's a fear which plays a part in my life.
AA: What was the reasoning behind using Judeo-Christian demonic beings instead of, say, demons made up from whole cloth? Was that important, or did you just feel that people would be able to identify more with creatures they may have already heard of?
CV: I'm fascinated by Lilith. The story started with her. She was my first character. I wrote chapter 2 before any other part. I'd already written a short story with Lilith as a character and I wanted to find out and write more about her. As she was my focal point, it made sense to include aspects of her "history." As I wrote the story she almost became an archetypal feminist for me, a completely self-actualized woman. This was both exciting and unnerving considering how amorally and violently she behaves.
AA: One of the things I gathered from the novel was the damage that constantly attempting to assume another identity can do to you. Is that something you think we grow out of, or do we just continue to invent personas?
CV: I identify with Star. Her struggle between suppressing parts of herself she dislikes while being true to herself is also my struggle. I am 40 and have never outgrown this. I hope one day I will.
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