Published: 2010 by Dybbuk Press
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She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror is a collection of short horror stories inspired by the Bible. I spent a lot of quality time with the Bible while growing up (Catholic school will do that), and I’ve always been amazed at how disturbing so many of the actual Bible stories are. This book takes that to the next level, imagining Biblical takes on vampires, Lovecraftian horrors, and sinister cults.
I purchased this collection because I saw that Catherynne Valente had contributed to it, and her story was easily my favorite of the bunch. The others were hit or miss for me; some of them I loved, but others fell a bit short of their potential. Let’s take a brief look at each of them, shall we?
Whither Thou Goest by Gerri Leen
This story was a reimagined version of the story of Ruth and Naomi. Ruth is a vampire/succubus creature and has bound herself to Naomi, and now the two are caught in a power struggle. I enjoyed this one.
Babylon’s Burning by Daniel Kaysen
I found Babylon’s Burning to be one of the more disturbing stories in the book because of it’s bleak view of human nature. Daniel goes to a corporate party, where he discovers that he has the gift of prophecy. He becomes a pawn of an international organization, and his own lust for power holds him in thrall.
As if Favorites of their God by Christi Krug
This is the story of the Witch of Endor, who summoned the prophet Samuel for Saul near the end of his reign. The story brings out her human side, and we see her as an old wise woman who just wants to go about her business and not be persecuted for her way of life. I enjoyed the ending.
Psalm of the Second Body by Catherynne Valente
Cat Valente is a poetic mastermind. In Psalm of the Second Body, inspired by the Epic of Gilgamesh, she tells the story of a harlot taming a wild man. Valente captures the almost otherworldly beauty that Shamhat uses to charm Enkidu, and uses their lovemaking to illustrate Enkidu’s transition from a rough man who lives with his flock to someone capable of functioning and thriving in society. It’s exquisite.
Judgement at Naioth by Elissa Malcohn
The story of David fighting the Philistines is reimagined as a gang war, complete with drugs, destitution, and motorcyles. There’s a prevailing sense throughout the story that all is not as it should be and that if only things were different, David could be a hero and not a washed out addict.
Judith & Holofernes by Romie Stott
In this story, Judith beheads Holofernes over and over again. This was one of the stories in the collection that, while unique, didn’t work for me quite as well as the others.
Jawbone of an Ass by Lyda Morehouse
This one was also one that I didn’t care for as much. The premise was fascinating, but I didn’t like the main character. Jawbone of an Ass combines the idea of war with the Philistines with a Judas-like betrayal, but set in Ireland in the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The protagonist is married to a rebel leader who has visions from God, and she ultimately decides to betray him because of their deeply troubled romantic relationship.
Swallowed! by Stephen M Wilson
A Jonah-and-the-whale meets Cthulhu mashup, filled with lots of blood and gore. The story begins with Chapter IV and works its way back in time so you see how a dead Cthulhu washes up on a beach. I think what bothered me here is that the thing I love about Lovecraft is the fact that he allows his horrors to remain unknown rather than telling us what they are, so actually seeing the monster and the horrific events in Jonah’s past seems a bit out of character.
Last Respects by D.K. Thompson
A vampire mourns the death of his wife. Oh, and there’s a lot of cannibalism (although is it cannibalism when vampires eat humans?). I like the sacramental twist at the end.