In the world of tent-based entertainment, there are the traveling circuses, the county fairs, and the carnivals. Growing up in small town Colorado, we got plenty of the first two, but the carnival is another beast entirely. See, a circus has the big tent with shows, while a fair has some rides and games along with livestock and crafts showings (at least all the ones I’ve gone to). But a carnival has a bit of both, along with something relegated to our dark, collective past — the sideshow.
I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a real carnival, but it feels like I have. Between Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, the movie Freaks, Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, and the lamentably short-lived HBO series “Carnivale,” I think the seed has been planted in my subconscious. There is something magical, mysterious, perhaps a bit dark and dangerous about the shadowed midway. The carnival is the allure of the road, misfits and freaks, secret rites and rules cloaked beneath greasepaint, chipped paint, and gaudy canvas. For those of us who never quiet fit in, it is a traveling company of our own kind — or one where we wished we belonged.
My good friend and editor for Timid Pirate Publishing brought the carnival up in conversation last night as we prepped Cobalt City Timeslip for printing. We had been discussing options for the next anthology, something I touched on yesterday. Turns out that she had an intense dream (she might have used the word nightmare…I don’t recall), about a Cobalt City anthology that centered on a dark carnival. My two immediate thoughts were, “Aren’t all carnivals dark?” and “What a brilliant idea!”
There are many discussions that need to take place before we settle on our next theme. But I’m confident that this will be one of the stronger options. The idea of dark carnival, perhaps with roots in France and Lafayette’s legacy, coming to the city once a generation presents all kinds of fascinating options. Must start jotting down some notes!
2 thoughts on “A few thoughts on carnivals”
Wonderful writing, really beautiful…I too am mesmerized by the “dark” allure of the circus. Thank you Ray Bradbury, Dr. Caligari, Tim Curry and Tod Browning! Ha ha. Would love to see what you do with this topic!
Since we’re committed to doing one Cobalt City anthology a year, I’m certain that we’ll do the Dark Carnival at some point, if not in 2011. And it is also very possible that I may use the idea for a novella next year. Maybe it’s the autumn air, the fact that I usually read “Something Wicked This Way Comes” this time of year, or just the way it gets dark earlier — I’m feeling the fire for a carnival story!