Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Special Holiday Post: Christmas List, Krampus List and Links

A jack o' lantern wearing a Santa Claus hat.
Happy Hallow-Days/Scary Nightmare Before Christmas!
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

I apologise for posting so late again, but I wanted to make this a special Holiday edition. And after spinning the gears to the point of going brain dead over what to include in this post, I overloaded the stocking with so many ideas that I couldn’t even put them all here due to lack of time. So I’ve included both a Christmas list and a Krampus list of chain-jingling links. What’s a Krampus you say? You’ll soon find out, and better here than in your room at night during this Holiday Season. But first I want to update you a little on The Hidden.

Amazon's Preview Tool and  The Hidden

I had said a while back that I’ll be releasing The Hidden for beta readers but I may release an excerpt of it for previewing first. Just this weekend I found out about Amazon’s Create Space’s Preview tool which allows authors to post excerpts of their books before publication so people at large can read the excerpts over and provide feedback. This helps us authors get an idea whether the general direction of our books are working or not. As a previewer, I tried the tool out and it wasn’t bad. It classifies the book excerpts into several categories similar to how Amazon's  store does with its books. However, the “fiction and literature” category isn’t subdivided like it is on the store. There is a separate science fiction/fantasy category but it includes both fiction and non-fiction about the genre, and, like “fiction and literature” it is not sub-categorized.

Krampus’s List

Now to answer that question from earlier: What’s a Krampus? Actually, it’s more a who than a what. Krampus has been called an anti-Santa Claus, more like a “Santa Claws” if you will because that’s exactly what he has: claws instead of hands. He is a nightmare before Christmas for bad little kids who do not receive presents from Santa. In Germanic folklore he rides with Santa in his sleigh on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, which is celebrated December the 5th in many Germanic countries. While St. Nick delivers gifts to the good children, Krampus kidnaps the bad ones and scares them with nightmares. This creature is coming into American pop culture more, and stories about him can be likened to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. You’ve probably already heard of or maybe even seen the Universal horror film that came out at the beginning of the month, Krampus. I wouldn’t be surprised that there will be more of that kind of holiday big screen film next year and the years to come.

Parents in Europe have been known to tell their kids horror stories about Krampus to scare them into being good. Maybe that’s what we need more of in our own country of overly commercialised holiday events that take the focus off of the true meaning of the season--which is love, peace and goodwill to all humanity--and spoils our kids because of. Well anyway, because Krampus is relatively new to pop culture in our own country, I thought I’d provide you a list of links to more information about this fierce but fascinating creature.

My friend, David Watson, writes up a great explanation of Krampus here. He also provides links to further reading and some neat images of the half goat, half man monster.

This and the next article at the link below talk about the festivity of Krampus. Yes, people give this demon his own celebration like they do with St. Nicholas. It’s kind of like a Halloween of the Christmas season and so kind of does for St. Nicholas day what Halloween does for All Saints Day, purges people of their tensions to prepare them for the following festival of light.

“13 Terrifying Christmas Traditions” 

This is fellow Examiner.com writer Mary Parker’s article on both Krampus and other like-frightening legends of the yuletide season from around the world.

“A Krampus Carol” 

And here’s a short animated film about Krampus by an Anthony Bourdain. This is not your Rankin-Bass or even your Nightmare Before Christmas holiday animated tale so I would suggest watching it by yourself before showing it to your younger kids (11 and younger?). Unless, of course, your kids need some scaring so they will behave themselves this holiday season. To do otherwise would defeat the purpose of the Krampus legend, wouldn’t it?

A vintage holiday card depicting the busts of St. Nicholas the bishop and Krampus grinning at each other.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Christmas Viewing/Reading List

Speaking about frightening Christmas creatures, I wanted to give you a Special Hallow-Day list of links to strange viewing and reading:

Yours truly’s list (within a list) that I wrote several Christmases ago for the sci fi column at Examiner.com.

There are so many similar elements in the 1960s B-rated kids’ flick, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. I wouldn’t be surprised if the former inspired the latter. In Santa Claus, St. Nick gets abducted by Martians so the Martians can bring Christmas to Mars.  Nightmare also involves Santa getting abducted, only not by Martians but by ghouls so they can bring Christmas to Halloween Town. Even though Santa was played by live actors, it was cheaply made even by its own time’s standards yet, like Nightmare, it’s become a cult classic as with many B-rated flicks (though I wouldn't call Nightmare B-rated).

So a couple seasons ago, I wondered and speculated about what Santa would look like today, especially in the toy battle scene “ripped off” from Disney’s Babes in Toyland, and then drew a parody of it. If you haven’t seen Santa then you probably won’t get the humour in the drawing. If you’re not the kind of person who can take sitting through a B-rated movie from a time before you were born, then you can catch an episode of horror hosted movie show Cinema Insomnia that features it, and skip over to the scene at about 1:43:29 where the bad Martians break into the toy factory on Mars and then watch it up through the toy battle scene. Then view the cartoon drawing at the above mentioned link and you’ll probably get the humour.

“A Cosmic Christmas” 

This half hour Canadian-made animated film came out about the time the very first Star Wars movie released, 1977, only during Christmas (Star Wars released May of that year). No, I haven’t seen The Force Awakens yet, but regardless of what I said about it about four posts back , I’m willing to give Abrams’ direction of it a chance and so will try seeing it around New Year’s. Anyway, this half-hour holiday feature is basically a sci fi version of the story of the Magi (a.k.a. the Three Kings). It’s not bad. I enjoyed it when I saw it as a kid and still enjoy it as an adult.

Free Fiction

Finally, I know I’ve featured this before in past Christmas posts but want to give it to you in as much as one place as possible. It’s a free version of The Fool’s Illusion, my special gift to you. Okay, not quite; it’s actually an excerpt of my short story collection because I’m only presenting the links to one story here. But if you read it and like it then you will probably like the other stories in the collection and you might consider buying it as a holiday gift for that special fellow sci fi fan in the family, or for yourself, or, better yet, both. Right now, you can get the Kindle version for only 99 cents. (It will not remain at this price for long so don't delay too much. You don't need a Kindle device to read it.) Why did I include this story in a Holiday post? If you go to the first link of this three part story, and read my intro to it, you’ll find out.

I’m going to take a week or two off from the Fantastic Site to celebrate the Hallow-days with family. But these lists of links should give you plenty to occupy yourselves with until then. I’ll talk about my plans for the new year when I come back and will have more updates on the progress of The Hidden.

But I thought I’d conclude with telling you one of the things I’m asking Santa or the Three Kings to bring me for Christmas. And that is the graphic novel adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s original script of Star Trek’s “City On the Edge ofForever” episode. So, what are you asking for Santa or the Three Kings (or even Krampus?) to bring you? Feel free to drop your answers in the box below.

Happy Hallow-Days to you all, and until next time . . .

Monday, December 14, 2015

4 Far Out Sci Fi and Fantasy Finds

I apologise for the delay in posting. My car had been in the garage/shop for a full two weeks and I just got it back Friday. I was going back and forth to the shop to find out what was wrong and then I had to wait around for the tow truck to have it towed to a different garage. So that pushed me back in many of my projects including my short stories I’m working on for The Hidden and the cover illustration I’m making for it. Oh, yeah and after all that fuss I was told nothing was wrong with my car to begin with! Maybe it’s playing tricks on me because it’s jealous and doesn’t want me to succeed in my writing career and so has a mind of its own like Christine or that ‘70s horror flick The Car. Then Saturday I was at a holiday charity drive held at Empire ComicsVault in Sacramento. They were collecting for Toys for Tots and artists were there doing work on commission for a children’s home. So I haven’t really had time to get together a topic for an article this weekend and so decided to give you a list of some Far Out Fantastic Finds in sci fi and fantasy news.

This is an interview with the above mentioned author who talks about his novel which I wouldn’t mind checking out. I just don’t know if I dig the “novel-writing apps” he says he used to write his story. But he doesn’t say exactly how he used them, so how can we really know?

Very few female authors in the 1950s were known for writing science fiction, but here’s one who wrote some good ones and then, later in the late ‘70s, contributed to the script for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back! Speaking of which, the next find is . . .

“Thing” number six gives a little detail of an early draft that Brackett wrote. So there’s two little-known Star Wars facts you can take with you when you see Episode 7: The Force Awakens which opens Thursday! But now here’s another one, one that really struck me: “Thing” number nine: “Stanley Kubrick nearly killed the set.” Kubrick happened to be making The Shining, a favourite of yours truly, in the same studio space as Lucas’s Empire. No wonder why the setting for the former resembled the planet Hoth so much!

A space squadron fighter fires its laser cannon in battle.
Photo Credit: Patrice Audet/Pixabay.com

This is probably the most far out fantastic of the finds! You may have heard about the new annual science fiction/fantasy anthology that came out not too long ago: The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Inspired by the long-time running annual The Best American Short Stories, it’s an example of how science fiction and fantasy have become not only more mainstream but also more accepted as literature rather than simply escapist entertainment. This article talks about that major turning point in the genre and the people behind the anthology, including horror author Joe Hill who acted as guest editor. This would make a great holiday gift for science fiction/fantasy readers.

That’s it for now. Until next time . . . 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Du Bois' Recently Found Sci Fi Story and a Call for Beta Readers

What's the ideal Christmas present for a hardcore science fiction/fantasy reader to open up? Maybe it's a newly discovered sci fi/fantasy story but not necessarily by today's greatest authors such as Ben Bova and Corey Doctorow. Perhaps it's not even by any of yesterday's greatest yet today's classics such as Heinlein. It may be by someone who was never that well known to write in the genre yet who had a major influence in U.S. history, particularly on the Civil Rights movement. The ideal Christmas present for a hardcore reader of sci fi may be a story by W.E.B. Du Bois who actually wrote more science fiction than probably most of us speculative fiction geeks would ever have thought. I was so amazed when I found out about his most recently uncovered story, that I had to do an article on it at Examiner.com. Why the Christmas present analogy? You might find the answer in the article which I encourage you to read.

A photo portrait of W.E.B. Du Bois in his later years.
Photo Credit: Carl Van Vechten/Wikimedia Commons

Du Bois' story is said to be a major contribution to Afrofuturism, a social criticism movement against racism, one that anticipates black society's future in light of technological advancements and so often uses science fiction by black authors as a tool of study. I discussed this movement in a post about a year ago which you can read but I must warn you that the links in that section go mostly to empty destinations since the website was a convention's that already passed. But Afrofuturism has definitely not passed. You'll find links in my article at Examiner.com to source articles that discuss the subject in more detail. Also, here's an interesting article I found that talks about the subject.  

I just started the sketch for The Hidden's book cover illustration just yesterday and I hope to have it completed by next weekend but I can't promise anything; I still have some stories to revise for the book. Not to mention that we are entering into one of the busiest seasons of the year and so Christmas shopping and decorating are going to add to my schedule. I still have to select beta readers for the book so if anybody's interested please let me know in the box below. A beta reading will get you a free copy of the book, a beta copy of course, but maybe even a free copy of the final version too as a reward for the time you would take and the feedback you would give me; I'll have to see how that works out with Amazon.

Until next week . . .