Tuesday, December 22, 2015

You'd Better Watch Out: Two Christmas Stories

[National Union Catalog Christmas Tree at the University of San Francisco.]

As with my Halloween post earlier this year, I came across a single Christmas story that I liked so much that I immediately wanted to do a post about short Christmas and holiday fiction. However, I started reading for this much too late, which means there are so many Christmas stories I'd hoped to read but that I didn't get to. The rest will have to wait for next Christmas, I'm afraid, but in the meantime, here are two Christmas stories that I hope folks will enjoy as much as I did.

"St. Roomba's Gospel" by Rachael K. Jones

This delightful story is told from the point of view of a Roomba that cleans a church and has come to share the parishioners' faith. What I liked best was the way the narrative carried the Roomba's unique interpretation of the world consistently throughout the entire story. Speaking of points-of-view, I came to this story as an atheist who enjoys reading thoughtful fictional examinations of religion (such as Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow). As such, I found this very satisfying.

[SPOILER AHEAD.] The aspect of the story I didn't quite understand was the significance of the Roomba's message at the end, when the little machine painstakingly sweeps the word "AND" into the scattered pine needles from the Christmas tree. So (magic of the Internet), I asked the author, who gave me permission to post her reply here:

Roomba's theology operates on set theory logic, where for Roomba, the Christian faith is the common set that unites it to the humans in the church, and gives it equal standing with them. The "AND" is the distillation of this [and] is a combo of programming logic (where AND, NOT, OR, etc set boundaries and dictate groups and behaviors) and another Bible verse indirectly referenced earlier in the piece (Galations 3:28 - "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus). For Roomba the AND would have such obvious and important meaning in its understanding of the Christian faith that it could stand in for anything else it had to say on the matter. At least, that's my take on it.

This makes me enjoy the story even more. Read here in the December 2015 issue of Diabolical Plots.

"And a Cup of Good Cheer" by C.L. Holland

This dark fantasy flash piece explores what might happen if being Santa Claus is a curse -- or even a sentence -- rather than a blessing. I don't want to say much more because it's a quite short piece, but I thought it nailed the tone perfectly, and had me rooting for the main character.

Published in the January 2011 issue of 10 Flash Quarterly here.

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