I get it. Lots of people watch Harry Potter numero uno at Christmas.
You: Watch? Don’t you mean ‘read’?
Me: Don’t be naive.
Every year, whether it shows up in streams or Apple’s top movies or on a broadcast station, Hogwarts is on the holiday travel agenda. But it’s not like this phenomenon happened for no reason:
It hit the theaters just before Thanksgiving, so it was the family must-see movie of the 2001 holiday season.
There are a couple of scenes depicting Christmas presents and snow.
Hang on, I’m thinking. Oh, yeah:
There are no other high fantasy/holiday genre mashups.
Really? Do I believe people watch Sorcerer’s Stone at Christmas because there’s no other holiday fantasy option?
Damn right, I do. Can we get some elves up in this bitch? Not toy-making elves or house elves. I mean real shoots-arrows-from-horseback-hates-humans-dwarves-and-dragons e-l-v-e-s. Elves conjuring massive snow storms with their primordial magic whilst baking cookies, falling in love, and teaching all grinches the meaning of the season.
Think about it. What mainstream story can you think of that successfully blends high fantasy and the classic holiday season tropes? If you know of one, you’re in the minority. (Actually, if you know of one, send me an email right now - firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll update this article post haste). And don’t give me that Santa Claus is a high elf with magical powers crap. Until he has a fur-lined broadsword on his fat, black belt, it doesn’t count.
The closest I’ve come to a legitimate high fantasy holiday story is playing World of Warcraft during the Feast of Winter Veil. Knee deep in snow, I can travel the land awash in pink light and purple shadows. My favorite part is probably the holiday decorations in Ironforge, so pretty whilst arming myself to the teeth before heading out to kill the Abominable Grinch.
I think people are starved for this idea, and they don’t even know it. Look at the number of quirky romance books set entirely around Christmas. Look at the number of Christmas movies they release weekly (WEEKLY) during the holiday season. Look at the number of quirky romance books set around Christmas that have been made into Christmas movies they release weekly.
I ask you, where ’s our representation? Where are the fantasy and science fiction and dystopian vampire holiday books? You can’t just write a bunch of Krampus stories and tick that box. (Those are usually horror anyway).
As a genre, the grown-up holiday stories are remarkably uninventive, but we eat them up. Why? I suspect it has something to do with the parade of traditions, the easy-going tug of champaign consequences, and the confidence that getting up to use the bathroom in the middle of a scene won’t stop you from believing the kiss at the end. It’s also likely that they offer a simpler, kinder programming alternative to salacious adult programming and divisive news media. (The Hallmark Channel has got to be poised for record viewership this year). Because of this, some holiday tropes have become traditions in themselves. Holiday movie bingo is a thing. Have you done this? These concepts are so heavily trodden that you’re nearly guaranteed to get the ‘well-timed snowfall’ square half-way through. (I had a friend who tried this as a drinking game and was hospitalized - stop laughing, it’s not funny).
What does all of this mean? It means - I think you know where I’m going with this - that we need to layout the mashup. First, the Fantasy rules:
The story doesn’t take place in ‘our world’ - I know that kills urban fantasy out of the gate, which really isn’t great for my career. But if we’re going to do this, we have to commit..
There has to be legit magic - Not the magic of family traditions or big guys that fit in chimneys. I’m talking lightning from the fingertips and controlling fire type magic. And don’t skimp on the magic system just because this is a holiday piece.
There need to be at least two humanoid races and one non-humanoid - Diversity is a healthy message. For reference, humans, elves, dwarves, and shapeshifting dragons are considered humanoid. Regular dragons are not.
The story centers on a holiday that is like our own but definitely different - and it should have a cool origin story, whether all the details make it into the piece or not.
Okay, now the Holiday rules:
The protagonist is career-minded - No scrubs. The specific career doesn’t matter, but it should have a trajectory for which the protagonist can have both love and a career.
The protagonist must have a love interest - No duh. Or two or three. I’d be interested to see what can be done with the reverse-harem trope.
One romantic partner must brim with overwhelming holiday spirit, while the other is a grinch that needs to be changed - Easy enough.
The surly one in the relationship is actually very good with kids - Better yet, all romantic characters need to be good with kids by the end. Bonus points if the surly one is a single parent.
You must include four or more of the following:
Holiday decorations, lots of them
Wise elderly person who might be Santa Claus (or something like it)
Interrupted kiss (maybe more than one)
Holiday party scene
City slicker gets stuck in small town
Picturesque, holiday-obsessed town with weirdly on-the-nose name
Love interest is a monarch (let's be honest, we were probably doing this one anyway)
Someone owns a catering business
Corporation wants to buy/close family business
Family business feud
6. You must include The Misunderstanding - The Misunderstanding is the critical will they/won’t they moment (pst, they will), the passing of ships in the night, the reason one of them goes back to the city thinking their love interest doesn't care only to return at the eleventh hour, the final obstacle that the romantic characters overcome before choosing love AND a career. Bonus points if it aligns with the true meaning of the holiday.
… NOW! …
Send me your short stories, screenplays, or even a clever back-cover blurb or theatrical trailer script. (email@example.com) My wife, my mother, and I (with a combined 12 consecutive years of Holiday movies and book reading to our credit) will be the panel of judges. I’ll post the winning concept on my follow-up blog and send the winner a signed paperback copy of one of my novels (winner’s choice). And if we can get 10 or more submissions, I’ll bind them all into one ebook and distribute them to all members of Reading Culture by the C (which you can join here). I’ll do cover art and everything! It’ll be awesome!
The Deadline is Feb 1, 2021.
(FYI, if we do the ebook thing, I’ll contact the writers to acquire necessary permissions. There will be no money involved, either. This is just for our collective.)
Conversely, you could always convert the holiday trope list to a drinking game. Just do yourself a favor and thin out your schnapps with hot chocolate, or you’re going to have a rough night.
Go forth my holiday angels! Find for us the true meaning of an Elfin Festivus!
Christian Andreo is an author of Young Adult novels spanning contemporary fiction, science fiction, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance. You can find his books on Amazon.
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