While perhaps more honest conversations about identity are occurring today than ever before, the violence infused into identity by millennia of conflict has barely been reduced, if affected at all. Indeed, identifying with a particular political party, religion, sexuality, etc. is often considered a declaration of war on those of differing beliefs and/or existence. The abuse and toxic perceptions created by such conflicts have only fed our culture’s escapist tendencies. Now, individuals often role play characters’ adventures and/or binge watch the lives of others more than they live their own, and the face—both figurative and literal—that individuals show on social media is partly, if not wholly, a persona. Seeking to escape reality, we have become a people skilled at substituting for every part of it, including ourselves.
The Morpheum Principle is a dystopian novel that aims to explore such issues by examining the nature of perception and how escapism/self-substitution can lead to self-erasure. Set in the city-state of Morpheum—a society that has banned the public expression of personal identities and mandated that its citizenry wear masks at all times—the narrative follows the lives of the twin sisters Dalia Lorenson and Anastasia Peddlebrook. Born to an abusive mother and a negligent father, Dalia seeks to dissociate herself from their parents’ and culture’s view of her blindness while Anastasia strives to break free from being their mother’s personal slave and another mindless citizen. Both take refuge in the personas allowed during Morphuem’s masquerades, and both must decide how much of themselves they are willing to sacrifice to escape the labels and lives that hold them.