Welcome back. For those of you just joining the fun, this is part two of The Audio File’s look at speculative fiction stories all about Christmas. Part one can be found over here. This time we’re taking a look at stories from The Moonlit Road, The Journey Into Podcast, The Truth, Pseudopod, StarShipSofa, Dunesteef, Edward French’s Fiction Fantastique, and LibriVox. Well, that’s enough preamble from me. Once more tis story time…
"A Christmas Haunting" by Craig Dominey
Narrated by Thomas Fuller
This story follows a man who is spending Christmas alone for the first time in years. He’s recently become divorced and the death of his parents has left him to care for his old childhood home. He had a rough childhood, though the family dog always tried to show him affection. He’s about to find out the unconditional love can come from many places, even beyond the grave.
Have a box of tissues handy, because this story is a heartwarming tearjerker. This story especially hits close to home if you have a beloved dog, or any beloved pet in your life. There’s not too much more I can add to this, other than that Thomas does an amazing job with the narration.
A Christmas ghost story that sure to put a tear in your eye. I couldn’t recommend it more.
"The Missing Cookies" by Craig Dominey
Narrated by Babs Bagriansky
This story follows a young girl whose family has moved into a new home just south of Nashville, Tennessee. Well, it’s a historical Victorian home, but it’s new to her. Ever year the plate of cookies her family leaves out for Santa disappears, only it doesn’t seem like Santa’s the one eating them. So then who is eating the cookies?
This one’s another heartwarming Christmas haunting story. If you’ve got some family members who you haven’t visited in a while, perhaps take inspiration from this story and give them a visit. I’d tell you a bit more, but I wouldn’t want to give the story away. I can, however, tell you that Babs does a good job with the narration.
Another heartwarming Christmas story that you won’t want to miss out on.
"Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry
A Full Cast Production
A Public Domain Story
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard this one before. It's the one where the man sells his watch to get his wife hairbrushes, and the woman sells her hair to get her husband a chain for his watch. Like I said, a well-known tale, but still worth giving a listen. It isn't too long, and the narrators all do an excellent job. Though, personally, I always though the wife got the better deal. At least her hair will grow back, and it does grow fast. Not like the husband can grow a new watch. Still, the point is that it is the thought that counts.
A well-loved Christmas classic, and on that is still worthy of your time.
"If Dragon's Mass Eve be Cold and Clear" by Ken Scholes
A Full Cast Production
Originally Published on Tor.com
This story follows a half-troll named Mel Farrelly. She's coming to terms with her father's recent death. This is getting harder as Dragon's Mass, a holiday near and dear to them both, draws near. Throughout the story we also hear of the legend of the Santaman. He is a legendary mystical hero who, when times grew dark and hopeless, lead humanity to a new home.
Okay, it didn't sound like much, but I promise that it is good. This one really stuck a cord with me. I lost my maternal grandfather several years ago a few days before Christmas. I was listening to this story not long after I lost my maternal grandmother. I originally listened over on Far-Fetched Fables, where it is narrated by Graeme Dunlop. A great narration, but I always listen to a full cast production whenever I get the chance. I'm certainly glad that I listened to this one. I thought it was interesting how the legend of the Santaman combined the secular and religious aspects of Christmas. Also, in this world, apparently hope is a physical substance than can be mined.
When I was a kid, I found a lot of my family's holiday traditions hokey and contrived. As the years have passed, I wonder if perhaps my grandparents, in their own way, trying to give my siblings and I a way to remember them when they were gone. Throughout her life, Mel fought with her father about whether or not she ought to settle down and start and family. She was always opposed, but after her father's passing, begins to reconsider. I've frequently had those debates myself. I'm not sure I'd be much good as a parent. Yet I also wonder if I might regret not starting a family when I'm older.
It is a very emotional story, and the entire cast delivers it well. A more melancholy Christmas tale, but more than worth your time.
"Naughty or Nice" by Jonathan Mitchell and Seth Lind
A Full Cast Production
Featured on NPR's All Things Considered
This story follows an elf named Spark. He works at the Naught and Nice division of Santa's workshop. He and his coworkers sort all children onto either the Naughty or Nice list. Lately, however, more and more children are winding up on the Naughty list for misdemeanors. Something's going on, and Spark is going to get to the bottom of it.
This was a really fun story. Of course, in order to discuss it we're going to have to talk about the twist. Why are so many children getting coal? Santa is in bed with the coal industry, that's why! You'd think he'd be concerned about Global Warming, due to living in the Arctic and all. Maybe he has enough magic where it wouldn't be a problem? In any event, Santa was well-written, and seemed believably nice before the big reveal. I love these stories that give a more technological edge to Santa's workshop and its employees. Also, great sound editing to make the actors playing elves sound convincing.
A fun, slightly satirical tale that I'm sure you'll enjoy. This one is on the nice list.
"Mall Santa" by Louis Kornfeld
A Full Cast Production
This story follows a longtime mall Santa named Al. He's growing increasingly disillusioned with the cheeriness of the holidays. However, he's about to have an encounter with an amateur Santa that just might help him rediscover the magic of Christmas.
It is cliche, but true, that giving is better than receiving. There's is a certain magic that can be found in helping your fellow man. This magic isn't exclusive to the holidays. It can be found any time of the year. I think that's really the take away from this story. You don't have to move mountains to make the world a better place. Spare some time for those who need someone to talk to, and perhaps could use a few kind words.
Not much more to say here, other than that I recommend this one.
“Saint Nicholas’ Helper” by D.K. Thompson
Narrated by Marie Brennan
A Pseudopod Original
This story follows a girl named Greta who wants nothing more than to have her deceased father brought back. She’s gone everywhere, even meeting Saint Nicholas himself, but to no avail. Then her sister Heike gets kidnapped by Krampus. Greta must embark on a quest to get her sister back, but it will be perilous, and not even Saint Nicholas can protect her.
I liked how this story featured the darker side of Krampus. In many ways it almost felt like Krampus could be read as a metaphor for the forces beyond our control. Specifically, those uncontrollable forces that harm our loved ones. This is a horror story, but like the song says, scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmas long, long ago. D.K. Thompson is better known as Dave Thompson, former editor and co-host of PodCastle. Dave is just as much an amazing writer as he is an editor and host. I always look forward to seeing new stories from Dave.
As far as the narration goes, I thought Marie did a great job. It’s another Krampus story that I happily recommend.
"Tis The Season" by China Mieville
Narrated by Charles Marvin
Original Published in The Socialist Review, collected in Looking For Jake
This story is set in a slight dystopian near future in which holidays have become privatized and require special licenses to celebrate. The rich celebrate Christmas while the working class have to settle for cheaper knock-offs. The story follows a man who has finally saved up enough to buy a Christmas license, but he soon finds himself swept up in a revolution to take back Christmas from the bourgeoisie.
As you may have guess, this is a story where Mieville’s Marxist views really shine through. That being said, it doesn’t make this story any less enjoyable. I read it as satire on privatization by taking that concept to its logical extreme. And hey, it’s a story that feature an organization called The Gay Men’s Christmas Liberation Choir, it’s just crazy awesome like that. I especially like the little sound effects that go with the little badges all the characters where to remind them that Christmas is a Yule co trademark, among other intellectual property. The little high-pitched voice sounds really funny.
I don’t know if Charles was the one who did that particular voice, but I do know that he did a great job with the narration. Do I need to say that I recommend this one?
"A Princes of Earth" by Mike Resnick
Narrated by Rish Outfield and Big Anklevich
Originally Published in Asimov's
2005 Hugo Award Finalist
This story follows a an old man whose wife has recently died. One Christmas Eve night he receives a strange visitor. The stranger claims to be none other than John Carter of Mars himself. Is the stranger just blowing smoke, or might he be telling the truth after all?
Not a Christmas story in the traditional sense, but it takes place at Christmas, so I'm counting it. There are times in our life when the world makes us grown cynical, and we lose our sense of wonder. We're so concerned about living in the gutter that we fail to look up and see the stars. As the story itself notes, many of the great innovators, explorers and thinkers were often thought to be fools or insane. Yet they persevered, and the world is better for it. Sometimes you just need to take a crazy chance. As our protagonist learns, there are wonders just waiting for you to discover them.
Once again, Big and Rish do an excellent job with the narration. A story about rediscovering your sense of wonder. I happily recommend it.
"The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus" by Ogden Nash
Narrated by Edward E. French
We're changing gears slightly for this one and reviewing a poem. It's about a naughty boy who doesn't believe in Santa Claus. I can't tell you much more, but I can tell you that Santa gets the last laugh in the end. Not really much more to add on this one. I always love a poem with a good rhyme scheme, and with a good narrator. Check it out for yourself. You'll be glad that you did.
"Christmas Everyday" by William Dean Howells
Narrated by Brain Hostage and Jessica Mells
A Public Domain Story
This story follows a young girl who loves Christmas very much. So much that she wishes for it to be Christmas every day. A fairy decides to grant her wish on a trail basis of one year. However, the girl soon comes to find that her wish might not be such a good thing after all.
This is another story that you might have heard before, but it is still worth going over. As I've said before, any virtue carried to an extreme becomes a vice. That's really the moral of this story. Along the way we do get some darkly comedic moments. There's mass deforestation due to everyone needing Christmas trees, everyone is in the poor house because of spending money on presents, but then get sent home after the poor house exceeds capacity. Also, turkey and cranberries now cost $1000 due to high demand. Keep in mind, this story was written over 100 years ago. Luckily, my family eats ham and finger foods for Christmas, so we'd be good in that regard. There also a particularly funny scene where everyone tries to celebrate the 4th of July, but all the firecrackers and cannons turn into candy and presents. I guess Christmas in July didn't go so well that year.
This is one of those stories that emphasis not getting caught up in the commercialism of Christmas. However, it does so without being preachy or moralizing. Both of a narrators did an excellent job, especially give that this was an amateur production.
A humorous Christmas classic that you won't want to miss out on.
Well here we are at the true end of the list. These two editions of The Audio File were a long time coming, and I hope they were worth the wait. I think the greatest present of all I getting to write these articles, and to know that you guys love them so much. That’s enough for now. Up the chimney I go, and to my sleigh to fly. With a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye, happy listening to all, and to all a good night. I will see you all next time.