“Joy to the Worlds” by Maia Chance, Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak, G. Clemans
Looking for an antidote to the commercialized preoccupation with treacly holiday traditions? If you’re a dystopian at heart, “Joy to the Worlds” may be the remedy for you.
Seattle’s Grey Sun Press has rounded up four Western Washington writers – Maia Chance, G. Clemans, Raven Oak and Janine A. Southard each contribute two stories to this speculative fiction anthology. Variously employing time travel, space travel, fantasy and folklore, each of these tales gives the holiday theme a contrary twist.
Historical mystery author Maia Chance of Bellingham has written “Odysseus Flax & the Krampus.”
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Mind you, this penchant for perverting holiday mirth is nothing new. E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story about “The Nutcracker,” written in 1816, featured an evil Mouse King, after all, and Charles Dickens’ ghosts in “A Christmas Carol” still can chill the blood.
So Cleman’s psychotic Frau Holzheim and Oak’s mob-affiliated Santa are variants in that literary tradition, as are are Southard’s delinquent pixies and Chance’s cloven-hoofed Krampus.
To give you a sampling of these stories, let’s start with G. Clemans’ “Escape from Old Yorktown.” A Seattle art and design instructor, Clemans recently has turned to writing apocalyptic fiction. Her inclusion in this anthology marks her debut as a published writer of fiction.
The story is set in Old Yorktown, a faux Victorian-era village reconstructed on Earth following a Nuclear Fusion Incident “way back in 2101.”
To teenaged Lizzie, whose mom manages Old Yorktown as a living history museum, it is just a hokey tourist trap for visitors from around the galaxy, a place “where misplaced sentimentality and technological repression are alive and well.” It’s especially unbearable at Christmastime, when Lizzie is pressed into service as a hoop-skirted, bonneted caroler.
But when the good-looking son of the Galaxy President crash-lands in Yorktown and enlists Lizzie to help him evade the security detail coming after him, she begins to realize that behind those anachronistic storefronts, her town holds deep secrets.
This is a nice mash-up of cozy mystery and science fiction.
Seattle writer Raven Oak’s “The Ringers” is a winter’s tale of a town that is held in the thrall of a demented Yuletide tradition. The Ringers are fearsome, horse-riding specters that annually terrorize the populace during the darkest days of winter. (You may never hear jingle bells in the same way again!)
When Elise moves into town with her family, she is loathe to bow to their reign of terror, but she has few resources at her disposal to combat them.
This story may compel readers to think about issues such as access to information, and how to effect change when confronted with entrenched social, political, and economic systems. It is a gripping and disturbing read.
In a similar vein, best-selling historical mystery author Maia Chance, based in Bellingham, has written “Odysseus Flax & the Krampus.” This steampunk tale brings Odysseus, a train-traveling thief, into a snowy alpine village on Krampusnacht, where he has a reckoning with the local bogeyman.
“Joy to the Worlds” won’t be for everyone, but it definitely offers a spunky alternative to traditional holiday fare.
The Bookmonger review appears each week in Take Five. Contact her at email@example.com.