- Includes “The Deluge”
Nebula Award Winner
- Includes “Daughter Earth”
Rickie Award Winner
Job’s back on the old dung heap, and he wants a rematch with God. A Series-700 computer successfully reconstructs the tablets with the Ten Commandments from a million indecipherable shards–only to have second thoughts. Sheila, the lascivious sinner fished from the Flood by the captain of the Ark, has an agenda all her own. A congregation of sexless androids believes that Darwin’s theory of evolution applies to them and awaits the Great Genital Coming. And God justifies why he once beset mankind with an unusual plague. Why? Spare the rod, spoil the species, He says. (And He’s always right. That’s why He’s got the job.)
* * *
EXCERPTS FROM THE AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION
There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe the Bible is an anthology and those for whom it is a collection. Do the Scriptures trace to many minds, or were they dictated by a single Author? As the year 2001 approaches, this controversy will grow increasingly acute. The Parousia may get postponed, Jesus may neglect to come, Judgment Day may decline to dawn, but the one thing we do know the turn of the millennium will bring is millennialism. It will bring prophecies, predictions, and plays for power by those who regard the Bible as the “Word of God.” People who prefer the anthology theory of Bible origins, meanwhile, may experience a strong impulse to head for the hills. Myself, I intend to roll up my sleeves, fire up my computer, and continue rewriting Holy Writ as impertinently as possible.
Four of the tales in Bible Stories for Adults are overt critiques of famous Old Testament tales: a deconstruction of the Flood legend, a follow-up to the Tower of Babel fable, an alternative climax to Moses’s theophany on Sinai, and the further fulminations of Job. The Judeo-Christian worldview also informs “Daughter Earth,” with its unprecedented nativity, “Spelling God with the Wrong Blocks,” my attempt to stand so-called creation science on its head, and “Diary of a Mad Deity,” which purports to explain why Yahweh possesses the authoritarian personality he so frequently exhibits in the Torah.
Monotheism is just one of the myths by which we live, and Yahweh is just one of the deities who populate these stories. Powering the plot of “Known But to God and Wilbur Hines” is the dark god of nationalism. “The Confessions of Ebenezer Scrooge” exploits Dickens’s morality tale to ask whether charity alone can exorcise the demons that drive monopoly capitalism. “Arms and the Woman” considers the Iliad as a tract celebrating the cult of organized warfare.
Eschatological themes are not the only ones that fascinate me. “The Assemblage of Kristin” uses ghost-story conventions to explore the mystery of consciousness; “Abe Lincoln in McDonald’s” considers the notion that middle-class America would have far less difficulty accommodating chattel slavery than is commonly supposed; motifs of procreation, feminism, and epistemology figure prominently throughout these pages. Nevertheless, religion remains the personal obsession I am most often called upon to defend. Whenever one of my send-ups of the sacred appears in a magazine, I can normally expect a letter from a churchgoer informing me that I missed the point of whichever Scriptural passages I was trying to flay. Meanwhile, my friends in the nouveau paganism camp accuse me of quaintness: Bible thumpers are straw men, so why bother? (In this view, my efforts amount to what P. J. O’Rourke calls “hunting dairy cows with a high-powered rifle and scope.”) My answer is that straw men, once set aflame with zeal, can be quite dangerous, and that the gap between New Age irrationalism and Christian fundamentalism is not nearly as wide as we might wish to believe.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
“Bible Stories for Adults skewers religious pretension with a wicked sword … Morrow calls this collection his commentary on the Old Testament to go with his re-released New Testament Book, his brilliant 1990 novel Only Begotten Daughter. It makes a wonderful pair of satires by this delightfully funny writer.”
“At his best, Morrow is brilliant. ‘The Covenant’ offers a wonderfully warped view of the supposedly pernicious influence of the Ten Commandments on human history, and ‘Spelling God With the Wrong Blocks’ is the cleverest satire of the evolution/creation squabble that I’ve ever read.”
“Morrow takes on a wide range of religious issues with seditious and sadistic glee. The result is often hilarious, frequently blasphemous, and always thought provoking. Bible Stories for Adults includes an alternative variation of the Flood story … and another Bible-based story which examines the effect of a Tower of Babel curse in reverse–humans are sentenced to complete comprehension of each other’s speech and signals … Religious leaders who relish faith challenges, revel in a good argument, and believe God’s big enough to handle some teasing and defamation of character will likely find themselves more stimulated than offended.”
“Coming off like a combination of Kurt Vonnegut, Lenny Bruce, and a kindly old mensch, Morrow brings much-needed humor to the examination of religions and their purveyors. As he points out in his introduction, with millennialism slowly rising to a fever pitch, this sort of wisdom is needed–now, more than ever.”
Des Moines Sunday Register
“This is my choice for best collection of 1996–so far, anyway. Morrow is simply one of the best satirical fantasists ever. He is of the tradition that extends back through James Branch Cabell to Mark Twain … These stories are very much akin to Morrow’s novels, Only Begotten Daughter and Towing Jehovah. The gist of them is that mankind no longer needs a ferocious, possibly psychotic God to run the universe.”
Aboriginal Science Fiction
“In considering the present collection … we have to keep in mind that, while religion is Morrow’s most persistent and dramatic concern, it is not his only one … We have, in short, what hardly anyone ever calls James Morrow’s work: science fiction in the classic, ‘what-if’ mode. What if a group of people receiving different transplants from the same donor found themselves drawn together (‘The Assemblage of Kristin’)? What if a multiple personality actually had a whole world inside his head (‘Diary of a Mad Deity’)? … Morrow writes from neither trendy paranoia nor overly pliable heartstrings. Hence the second half of his title: for Adults. Morrow’s collection is the work of a grownup writing for other grownups, from a man who has beheld the slaughterhouse of history and decided that we should do better … Accordingly, we hardly ever feel lectured to (‘The Confessions of Ebenezer Scrooge,’ which critiques the valorization of individual charity as obscuring the flaws ‘inherent in the system,’ is the only story which feels a bit programmatic) and find ourselves buying into ideas which, presented less skillfully, would seem utterly preposterous (‘Daughter Earth,’ in which a nice Pennsylvania couple give birth to a biosphere) … At the end of ‘Arms and the Woman,’ the cause of war (a simulacrum of Helen) is safely stored in the closet, and the children are put to bed in peace. Do they live happily ever after? Maybe, maybe not. But they live. James Morrow, through his wonderful stories, insists on it. As should we.”
New York Review of Science Fiction