She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror
Posted April 11, 2012on:
She Nailed A Stake through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror, edited by Tim Lieder
published in 2010
where I got it: Interlibrary loan
It being Passover/Easter week, what could be more appropriate reading than something biblical? I recently came across Tim Lieder’s blog, and he struck me as a swearing scholar (my favorite kind. of both). There was mention of an anthology that included old testament allegories and demons, and as I was already in a Haggadah frame of mind, so off to the library I went.
with a title like She Nailed a Stake Through his Head: Tales of Biblical Terror, it’s easy to think this is a one dimensional collection, that’s nothing but bible story retellings. You’d be wrong. While there were bible story retellings (which I admit, were my favorites) that don’t quite parallel what I’ve taught at Sunday school, but there were also vampires and Cthulhu monsters, and a Gilgamesh prequel and a parallel future where King David is a druggie rock star, and a few more vampires, and people, this is horrifically wonderful bizarro non-traditional stuff.
Mostly very short stories, this anthology was nice and easy to swallow, the whole thing is barely 150 pages long. I read the entire thing in two sittings. And you don’t need a biblical education of any kind to enjoy these. There are no inside jokes for you to figure out, no parables to puzzle over. Just deliciously creepy and sometimes heavily sexualized fiction. That word “Terror” in the title? yeah, there for a reason. And if you have any kind of Judeo-Christian education, you’ll be even more creeped out, which for me, made it all the better.
Here are some of my thoughts on a few of the entries:
Whither thou Goest, by Gerri Leen – With the death of their husbands, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth head back to Naomi’s homeland. In this version, it isn’t that Ruth doesn’t want to follow, it’s that she’s bound to follow. Not bound by anything Naomi has done, but bound, beautifully and powerfully, by her own words “Wherever you will go, I will go”. This Ruth survivies and lives off Naomi’s lifeforce. Naomi is trapped forever, for Ruth will never let her escape. And when they reach Naomi’s hometown, Ruth sets her sights on a new patron, someone new from whom she can steal lifeforce and energy.
Swallowed! by Stephen M. Wilson – told in reverse order, at first it’s easy to be disgusted by the man’s actions. He follows the voice in his head and does the horrible things it commands. He kills a few people, violently, needlessly, and viciously. But then we get an inkling of who he might be. that he was on a ship, fleeing something, and was thrown overboard by Cthulhu worshipping sailors, and was swallowed into warm darkness, where he didn’t die. The absolute creepiest retelling of the Jonah story I have ever had the pleasure of reading, this Jonah is deformed and mangled, possessed by something hungrier and more murderous than even himself.
Babylon’s Burning, by Daniel Kayson – taking place right here, right now, nerdy Daniel gets dragged to a corporate company party by his brother. Daniel is disgusted by the kind of money this company throws around, their parties populated by high end call girls, their filthy government contracts that land them headlines about civilian deaths. And then he arrives at the party, and oh, the girls, the beautiful girls! A translator by training, Daniel witnesses something at the party that changes his life forever. He knows what those words mean, and he knows they will eventually point right at him. When you are the prophet, the translator, the high priest, there is no escape.
Psalm of the Second Body, by Catherynne Valente – Ya’ll know I love me some Valente. Although this anthology was published in 2010, this short story was originally published in 2005, it was Valente’s first. An almost prequel to the epic of Gilgamesh, it had me running to Wikipedia for a refresher course. I haven’t read Gilgamesh since high school. This is the story of Shamhat, the harlot who was instructed to seduce Enkidu, and took seven days to complete her mission. The story is from Shamhat’s point of view, and she is very good at what she does. I get the impression she’s offended to forever be known as the harlot, the prostitute, that the pains she took to help Enkidu become just slightly more human would never be acknowledged as important. I do love me some Valente, so it kills me that this story did nothing for me. The whole thing felt overwrought and overly ornamented just for the purpose of being overdone. Is she perhaps telling me that a harlot covered in the gaudiest golden jewelry will still always be seen by history as nothing but a woman who spreads her legs for money? The only story in the collection that I read twice, and the only one that didn’t do it for me.