Stupefying Stories recently published my short story Seven Minutes to Bangor, and I’ve had a few people ask my about it in the past, so I thought I’d give some background for it here. If you have been living without the joys of this story, it’s in the December 2011 issue.
I’m a big fan of the modern holiday of Christmas. As invented in the late 19th and early 20th century, it’s pretty cool. Stripped of all religious meaning, it has become a winter festival of color and light, pushing aside the deary weather and isolation so many dread during the coldest months. It’s got family gatherings, presents, and lots of bric-a-brac. The practical traditions, such as decking out your house with difficult and often dangerous-to-install lights, fragrant and messy wreaths, and tactically-placed mistletoe make it unique in other ways. Just seeing the trappings of this holiday evokes strong memories, even among those who have never celebrated it directly, like me.
But the best thing about it is how completely nonsensical the mythology surrounding it is. It’s unabashed fantasy. A jolly fat man rides in a flying sleight pulled by twelve giant arctic deer, who also fly. He delivers toys to the world’s children*, in a single night. These toys are constructed and assembled at the north pole. By elves.
Yeah, freakin’ elves. Awesome.
How can this be improved upon? Well, I love the adventurous style of this holiday story. It’s got a kinetic frenzy completely lacking in every other holiday. If you think about it, what other celebration is kicked off by such a mythic worldwide race against the clock?
Seven Minutes just looks at what might go into the actual execution of such an absurd event. Who is the man at the center of this whole thing? How can he do so much in one night? And what’s the deal with those elves?
I wrote this years ago, in a writing group I started with some friends in Chicago, and then let it simmer for a while. Santa Clause wasn’t going anywhere, I reasoned, and I couldn’t seem to find the right platform to submit it until I started working with Stupefying. Also, the story came pre-dated, as the whole affair was powered by super technology that would never exist laid over a foundation of the antiquated and the obsolete.
I’m not one to include popular references in my writing, and Seven Minutes is one of the only times I’ve done so. This sort of thing never ages well. But I include a lot of small detail that make the story feel like it takes place somewhere in the early nineties. In the end it won’t matter much, since the story is, of course, about a guy delivering presents made by elves and flying deer. And those never go out of style.