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Horrors of the Holy
Staci Layne Wilson
Running Free Press, 106 pages & 17 page forthcoming novel bonus

Horrors of the Holy
Staci Layne Wilson
Staci Layne Wilson is a cat lover, horse trainer and advocate, and author of both fiction and non-fiction. Collections of her short stories include Horses & Their Women, Seductions: Tales of Erotic Persuasion, Nasty Snips, and I Am Dragon. Her fiction has also appeared in many online publications, including Jack Hammer, Orphic Chronicle, McCann's Planet Magazine, and Gathering Darkness. Her current non-fiction title, The Horse's Choice, is an inspirational book about horses and horse training. Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy, a fantasy novel, is in preparation.

Staci Layne Wilson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
Review: Horrors of the Holy
Review: Horrors of the Holy
Review: Horrors of the Holy

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

Horrors of the Holy: 13 Sinful, Sacrilegious, Supernatural Stories is a collection of 13 straight-forward, don't spend too much time on the atmospheric details, horror short stories. It isn't to say that the stories are not imaginative and well written in their own way. Certainly they cover a wide range of subject matter, from the undead enjoying the living's nightlife in "Slumber Party" to a Jim Morrison-like rock star's death in "Goddamned Rock Star," from the straight-ahead and fairly graphic story of a murderous monster picking off unsuspecting teenagers in an old movie theatre in "Cutting Room Floor," to a lovely understated and atmospheric story ("Thundering Hooves") of an old cowboy and capturer of wild horses whose regrets at having killed, rather than captured, the last stallion he went after, haunt the last moments of his life. This is certainly the best of the stories, which is not altogether surprising since the author is a horse-lover and advocate, allowing her to weave into the story her entire emotional and experiential baggage.

The problem is that the book doesn't entirely live up to its billing. Seeing that the book was published by a small press, I had some preconceptions that some of the stories might push the envelope in terms of sin or sacrilege. In this regard, nothing in Horrors of the Holy wasn't done better and in a much more sacrilegious manner (even by today's standards) by Hanns Heins Ewers in The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1907) and his other works. In terms of the supernatural, many of Wilson's stories include supernatural occurrences, but nothing I might qualify as "creepy" -- it is all rather matter of fact.

With respect to the "holy" qualification, there is little material that qualifies in this regard. A large body of British horror writers from the first half of the 20th century, including M.P. Dare, L.P. Hartley, M.R. James, and E.G. Swain, amongst others, wrote excellent stories set around church crypts, fallen priests, cathedral ruins, etc., but nothing like this can be found in Horrors of the Holy. The story "Losing My Religion" comes closest to the "holy" appellation, being the story of a young priest sent to replace an elderly priest on a remote island who gets "replaced" in a most hideous way himself. The combination of remote islands and religion-associated horror has been covered with much more details of local culture and weird horror in Rev. Henry S. Whitehead's mid-40s collections (Jumbee and Other Uncanny Tales and West India Lights) and W.B. Seabrook's The Magic Island (1929).

Wilson's story "Anti-Christ Superstar," a story about the charismatic leader of a Satanic cult who gets "too big for his britches" and has to be disposed of by ol' Beelzy himself again can only be peripherally associated with matters theological, while the rest of the collection has even less relevance to its avowed subject matter.

As long as you are not expecting anything truly sinful or sacrilegious, and are contented by straight-forward events unfolding to a horror climax, by all means, read Horrors of the Holy. If Ms. Wilson manages to flesh out her locales and add a bit more creepiness (i.e., atmosphere) she certainly appears to have sufficient imagination to turn out, as "Thundering Hooves" attests, some excellent stories in the future.

Copyright © 2000 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.

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