|Fantasy: December 21, 2010 Issue [#4140]|
This week: Santa Claus Edited by: A Midsummer Night's Waltz
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I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.
Christmas at my house is always at least six or seven times more pleasant than anywhere else. We start drinking early. And while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, we'll be seeing six or seven.
Santa Claus is a god. He's no less a god than Ahura Mazda, or Odin, or Zeus. Think of the white beard, the chariot pulled through the air by a breed of animal which doesn't ordinarily fly, the prayers (requests for gifts) which are annually mailed to him and which so baffle the Post Office, the specially-garbed priests in all the department stories. And don't gods reflect their creators' society? The Greeks had a huntress goddess, and gods of agriculture and war and love. What else would we have but a god of giving, of merchandising, and of consumption?
-Donald E. Westlake
I got a secret for ya.
Santa Claus exists.
Oh, no, no, not in the same way that I exist - or, based on available evidence, the same way that you exist.
It's just... well, "we are the musicmakers, and we are the dreamers of dreams," right? Existence is a... slippery concept, sometimes. For instance... does a piece of music exist? I don't mean the sheet music or guitar tabs, or a recording of it. The piece of music. You can't touch it, taste it or otherwise sense it - you can only hear it if it's brought to life by a musician. The music exists, but not in the same way you or I do. Someone made it up.
There's no doubt that someone made up Santa Claus. Well, it's more like the concept started out as something else and evolved over time, through contributions from many different imaginations. Our current Santa, for example, owes his looks largely (see what I did there?) to a Coca-Cola ad campaign back in the early part of the last century.
So, too, Santa's helpers: Rudolph got added late to the "eight tiny reindeer" celebrated in the poem.
Things change, shift and morph. This is the nature of mythology, especially an active mythology. The story gets told, retold, embellished, changed, made relevant to whatever current situation exists.
But remember... someone made it up to begin with.
And what do you know? That's what we writers of fantasy and speculative fiction do. Now, we don't necessarily want other people to run with our creations (copyrights and all that), but that's what would be necessary, I think, to make the jump from fiction to mythology. Some fantasy writers have achieved this, though: Shelley with her Frankenstein's monster; Stoker with his vampire; Lucas with his Jedi and Sith Lords; Lovecraft and the Elder Gods.
All made up. All took on a life of their own. An existence of their own, just like Santa Claus.
So don't let anyone tell you that Santa Claus doesn't exist. He does.
Imagination is a powerful thing, and the most important gift you have, in the holiday season or otherwise. Now go use it!
Some other takes on Santa Claus:
And though I don't usually feature my own items, an exception:
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Last time, in "Fantasy Newsletter (November 23, 2010)" , I talked about the Blue Moon we had last month, and calendars in general - though we had some comments on the previous newsletter, about costuming. This month's feedback was about a bit of both, and more besides:
I enjoyed your time column. My Nano Entry is an "alternate history" story set on Earth in 54 BC. I had the historian who wrote the forward note the dates were changed to conform to the "modern calendar" so not to confuse the readers... Then I proceeded to change the calendar to 12 months of 30 days, dividing each month into three "ten-day" periods, and adding a few extra "intra-calendar" "non-days" devoted to festival between Dec. 30 and Jan. 1.
Consequently my characters are frequently referring to "the past two, ten-day" or "past month".
Harder to remember was the Romans' "days" had 12 hours, beginning at dawn and ending at sunset, and 12 "night" hours beginning at dusk and ending at dawn...and that I kept in the novel.
It added to the feeling that the novel IS NOT "our" world, but another world entirely.
It's much fun!
I'm fond of intercalated days, myself. In particularly regimented cultures, they can be one chance out of the year to go wild, let loose, put away social prohibitions - or, conversely, they can be days demanding quiet reflection and somber prayer. Basically, they can serve the same function as our "holidays" but without carving them out of the standard calendar. As for the hours being variable, calculated between sunrise and sunset or vice versa - well, we've had cultures that do that. If I'm not mistaken, the Jewish liturgical calendar mandates this. Yet another thing the Romans stole from the Jews, I suppose, at least in your story...
My 54 BC Roman Era Nano Novel: Most characters wear simple tunics (male and female) but have a wide variety of sandals ranging from the equivalent of rubber flip flops to fancy fur boots. The women, for a dressy event, spent a great deal of time on their hair with golden nets and jewel-tipped hair pins. The men...heck, a shave and a haircut, some olive oil slopped on the hair and brushed and the hair was finished.
Men also had leather belts and a wide variety of swords, knives, pouches etc. to help distinguish them. In earlier novel I had an entire chapter devoted to a shave and a haircut scene!
Thanks. Now I have "shave and a haircut" stuck in my mind.
I greatly hope you would read this and add it to the newsletter! This is Chapter 1 of my Fantasy Epic, novel Marlsbeth.
I've been working on this book for several years now and it is nearly complete! Right now it stands at approximately 196,000 words.
My publisher offers no content editing so the read-thru's and rewrites have been grueling, but hopefully worth the final product...
Thanks, Steve Sims
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Midnight Dawn :
Wait... there was a time when people actually went outside? I don't believe you! And actually, I happened to be outside on Sunday(one has to go outside to take out the trash sadly) and due to some weird haziness the moon was a creepy reddish color. Naturally I hurried back inside fearing it was about to plunge down on me and explode...
Naturally. And I hope you were out Monday night / early Tuesday morning for the rare and beautiful Solstice Lunar Eclipse which, though I'm writing this before the event, should have been a creepy red color, like it's about to be destroyed by the Death Star or something. It was the first lunar eclipse to fall on the (northern hemisphere) Winter Solstice day since 1638, and, according to Wikipedia anyway, only the second in two millennia. (Actually it doesn't look much different from other lunar eclipses, but the coincidence with the solstice is still pretty cool.)
Fiona Hassan :
I loved your article on the blue moon!! I am also a "calendar geek" - and obsessed with the cycles of the heavenly bodies from an astronomer's point of view. lol! I love trying to rework the calendar in a more logical way (whichever happens to strike me as more logical at the moment :D) for my stories. Thanks for a great newsletter!
Lynn - Goal - 2013 publication :
Secret Scribe asked: "how do I give them a little bit of personal flare without being too extravagant?" Sometimes my characters dress for the occasion, so I slip in what they're putting on. Some wear clothes just to keep warm or to avoid jail. I mention something frumpy or a hand/paw gesture including pulling down a shirt over an ample gut. For the fashion divas, I compare someone else's outfit to theirs, or his/her reaction to a smudged shoe. Worse comes to worse, there's always a reflection, but that's been done to death, so, if I have to go that way, there are two watching the reflection and discussing the differences. ("I'm fat." "Your face is nicely round." "My nose is the size of a melon." "It's softly sloped and regal." "My lips are fat." "They're sensual.") In the end, it's up to the reader to decide who is being honest. ;)
Yeah, the reflection thing... I was at a con somewhere and one author - I'm sorry I forgot who, but it was a chick, so I'd be inclined to believe her - said you can only get away with the "describing yourself in the reflection" thing once in your career. So make it count.
And that's it for me for this year, folks! I hope everyone had a great Solstice (and got to see the eclipse), and I wish you a wonderful Christmas and joyous New Year. Until next year, keep the creativity flowing and...
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