OBIR: Occasional Biased and Ignorant Reviews reflecting this reader’s opinion.
Wight Christmas: Holiday Horror and Seasonal Subversion
Published by tdotSpec Inc. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 2021.
Lead Editor: Martin Munks. Managing Editors: David F. Shultz, Don Miasek, & Andy Dibble.
Cover art: “The Wrong Prey” by Eran Fowler
Note: There are 30 stories in this anthology. That is too many for me to review in one column. Hopefully my choices will represent the “flavour” of this anthology which is devoted to the topic of Christmas interpreted in a genre vein.
Also, received my Moderna booster shot on Wednesday. Spent most of today (Thursday) asleep. Other projects prevented me from getting the review done last week in time for Christmas. Side effects of Moderna may keep me from reading more than a few of the stories for this post-Christmas look. What the heck. I’ll give it a shot.
Title: As I understand it, a Wight is an unlucky or unfortunate being, either human or supernatural in nature. So, in addition to making a clever pun, the use of the word offers a wide spectrum of failed or frightening Christmas story possibilities. Qute a thematic challenge for the authors. Hopefully a treat for the readers.
The Island in the North – by Andrew Majors
Five men are the only survivors from a ship searching for the NorthWest passage in the dead of winter. They are cast ashore on an obscure island in the Canadian archipelago. There they discover the truth about a certain jolly, fat man undeservedly beloved by all.
The extremely formal and ornate language, especially the description, lets you know you are reading a Lovecraftian tale. As in many of its ilk, the protagonist, when confronted by unspeakable, indescribable horror, seeks to flee. Never has a Christmas present seemed so sinister. The lack of plot and exponential growth of dread are faithful to Lovecraft’s style. I quite enjoyed it. Pretty sure Lovecraft would have, too.
Snowman – by Rainie Zenith
Surprising how mean children can be, especially at Christmas.
Sort of “Lord of the Flies” before Christmas Dinner. Not a good tale to recite on Christmas day. Would make one heck of a Christmas carol, though.
Puts me in mind of the time I explained the origins of certain Christmas customs to an immigrant Taxi Driver eager to learn more about his adoptive country. For some reason the martyrdom of St. Nicholas (died in prison—Santa’s tomb a major pilgrimage and tourist attraction) and the burning of sacrificial trees (and people) by the pagan Prussians (the origin of Christmas trees), seemed to creep him out. Also the origins of Krampus. Well, he asked. He did like Saturnalia, though.
A Christmas Cake – by Kara Race-Moore
Josh is quite the jerk. Christmas Eve dinner and sex with Natalie, only to cast her aside because she was getting “too serious.”
The story quickly evolves into some of the more esoteric origins of Christmas. Unlike my shallow approach, being concerned with historical oddities because amusing, the story examines the larger picture of patriarchy subverting the far older and more relevant matriarchy. If it was good enough for generations of Grandmothers, then it’s good enough for me. That sort of thinking. It’s the kind of topic people can debate endlessly. Long ago I read “The Golden Bough” by Fraser and “The White Goddess” by Graves, so I am relatively open to this view of history and religion. However, it doesn’t matter, in both the scheme of things and also in terms of what the story is about, what I think. Just one person’s opinion.
The point of the story is not to deliver an info dump on current anthropological thinking (I hold to the view the human race has always been a bunch of jerks), but that the “powers” of the past still exist and can be used for revenge. In that sense the ending of the story is very satisfying.
The Child – by Carson Buckingham
A short tale recounting the experience of the three wise men when they come into the presence of the child in the manger.
Possibly the most subversive short story I have ever read.
Being an atheist, I find it an amusing bit of whimsy, a clever take, an original piece of fiction.
But, about half a century ago, I read a couple of versions of the Bible from cover to cover, Bishop Eusebius’ “The History of the Church,” and all the writings of the early Church Fathers I could get my hands on, from Augustine to Jerome, Clement, Origen, Polycarp, etc. Though not a Catholic, or even a Christian, I have a healthy respect for the Catholic Church as a historical institution and the origin of much interesting philosophy.
Consequently, to a small degree, I have some idea of what Catholic faith involves. I see reaction to this story, among Catholics, as probably falling into two categories. First, That the story is not meant as a serious refutation of Catholic doctrine and can be either ignored or appreciated as a mild horror story. But second, to the more literal-minded, this story could be construed as hostile and outrageous. I don’t believe that was the author’s intention. But who knows how people will react?
I suspect many evangelicals won’t like it either. Oh, well. I’d hate to see it decreed that literature should never offend the ultra-religious. That wouldn’t leave much in the way of literature exploring the human condition. Perhaps I should mention that I dislike religious fanatics, or fanatics of any kind, for that matter.
To little old atheist me, this story is short, precise, and possesses a kicker of an ending. That’s what makes it a good story.
The Santas – by David F. Shultz
Christmas Eve and Jacob’s family has been killed in an automobile accident. He takes preliminary measures to commit suicide. Then Santa Murggis shows up.
I like this creepy horror tale. I consider it a wonderful story. But then I published it in the December 2018 issue of Polar Borealis Magazine (#8). Happy to see it here. It deserves a wider readership.
David has done his research. He describes no less than six Santas, namely Claus, Murggis, Piotr, Tobias, Sephtis, and Yeti. I suspect not all are “genuine.” What David seems to have has done is riffed on the theme of multiple Santas and come up with plausible incarnations given the premise of the story. It works. The story is quite unsettling.
And yet, and yet, no matter how bizarre or weird, all of these Santas exist to serve ordinary people depending on their need. You just have to slot the right Santa into place. Reassuring, that.
Santa’s Little Helpers – by Donna J.W. Munro
What if Santa and his helpers are evil demons? How do you protect your family?
Daddy is trying to keep is daughter alive. He’s done extensive research on Santa’s reign of terror. He has photos, art works, centuries old accounts, but his daughter’s friends are convinced he’s crazy. She is beginning to believe that, too. Besides, pulp culture is so alluring.
More or less, Daddy comes across as a conspiracy theory cultist. I dislike such. But his defence is the one they all use. What if what I believe is true? His daughter needs to work this out for herself.
So many cultists are eager to spread “the truth.” So what? It doesn’t matter if, as some believe, that the Queen of England is really an alien reptile from Outer Space, or if the Martians have taken over Congress; there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Might as well carry on as best one can. After all, both the Queen and Congress have been no more or less competent than mere humans, so more power to them if they are aliens.
Or consider that idiot mailman who flew an ultralight onto the grounds of the Capital building in Washington a few years back. He genuinely thought it would bring down the American government and shake the American people out of their complacency and into accepting his views on Life, the Universe and Everything. What a moron. All it did was get him a jail sentence. He’s been forgotten already.
Truth is, there are far too many cranks running around with delusions of grandeur and self-importance. In actual fact they are utterly insignificant.
And yet, for fictional purposes, a ludicrous conspiracy theory that turns out to be horrifyingly true is good drama. What makes this story stand out is that the evil forces after Daddy are not some generic villains on a rampage; they have a personal reason to go after Daddy and his daughter, a reason quite logical but also quite original. A brilliant touch.
Frankenclaus – by Rhian Bowley
What if Santa’s trip is a combat mission?
A short, amusing and rather bloody version of the Santa Claus myth. I’ll just say that she who keeps the home fires burning is the key to victory.
The Selfless Gift – by Rio Murphy
A man visiting his elderly mother in a care home on Christmas eve. She tries to warn him about not crossing over the line. But he’s just stumbly enough to do it.
This story speaks a great deal to me because the last ten years of my mother’s life were spent in care homes. They’re all pretty much alike, especially when dementia sets in. You do your best, desperately strive to inspire cheerfulness and happiness, but reality is far grimmer than that. The Christmas movies lie. Love does not conquer all. Still, one tries.
This story captures the despairing mood of watching loved ones slowly slip away. Questions of the value of life and the value of death are raised. Yet, though this story brought me close to tears, it offers a fictional hope of sorts. What if the old folk’s struggle to stay alive is part of a larger battle to preserve the lives of the family who love them? What if there is something heroic in an old woman’s insistence on living one more day?
That is what fiction does best. Offers you a new way at looking at things. Call it therapy.
My Moderna-induced side-effect of extreme fatigue is kicking in again. I have to crawl off to bed now. No choice.
Still, managed to review eight stories. More than I thought I could.
I think you can tell, reading the reviews, that I liked them all and found them quite interesting, even entertaining. A lot of originality on display in this anthology. Well worth reading.
I can see it becoming a Christmas tradition, reading these stories to your children on Christmas Eve, but only if you want to Combine Christmas with Hallowe’en and terrify the hell out of them.
I like it.
Check it out at: < Wight Christmas >